Dear Mr. Alterman: I generally appreciate your columns. But I will echo the complaints of the “most fanatical anti-Zionist extremists,” as you call us. I haven’t read Blumenthal’s book (although I have read his articles) yet, but your article and responses contain enough stand-alone inaccuracies to be addressed without even defending Blumenthal’s book.
1. The textbooks. This is a favorite and tired trope. It has also been disproven in multiple studies, by researchers who actually bothered to translate those textbooks. See Electronic Intifada’s recap. Given that Israel controls basically everything that makes it into the Occupied Territories, including textbooks, it would really be quite difficult to include anti-Israeli propaganda in said texts. But then there’s also the issue that when an occupying army has destroyed your home, arrested your brother and killed your neighbor, you don’t really need a book to incite animosity, do you?
2. You spoke at an ADC conference and are a two-stater. “I have black friends!” The ADC is hardly a radical organization, although it is an Arab one. As for being a two-stater, oy vey. Go visit the West Bank and tell me where, in the 200+ separated enclaves (by the Wall, by checkpoints, by Jews-only bypass roads) you see a Palestinian state potentially existing. Please see B’Tselem’s (an Israeli human rights organization) maps and documentation of freedom of movement and resource allocation in the OPT. Presumably this is also to prevent the universally recognized right to return (in order to maintain Jewish demographic majority, which I would think would strike any American as very suspect, like Texans wanting to keep a white majority).
3. Blumenthal’s book is highlighted on a neo-Nazi website. Just because some wackos agree with some legitimate ideas doesn’t make those ideas wacko. Ron Paul occasionally has the same ideas as me (and I bet as you too); that does not make me a crazy libertarian.
4. Responding to metaphors as though they were supposed to be exact parallels so as to avoid the illustrated point. A pro-con take on birtherism is not meant to be taken literally. A far more accurate comparison would be a pro-con take on apartheid South Africa, which would have no place in a publication such as The Nation. In the wake of Nelson Mandela’s death, and the recognition by leaders like Mandela and Archbishop Tutu that the Israeli system is apartheid, it might be time to wake up to the reality, although it is a painful reality for American Jews (I didn’t love going through that process initially either, but lots of Palestinians and allies held my hand).
You occupy an increasingly tenuous position, that of the “liberal Zionist.” It’s a tough fence to sit on, especially given that one’s balance is compromised by the blinders that one must wear to do so. Should you choose to come down from there, please check out an organization to which I belong for more resources, Jewish Voice for Peace. I think you’ll find that us radical extremists are actually pretty well-educated and reasonable, although we do hold the radical position of human rights for all. I think you’ll also find that we are not motivated by hatred of Israel (or of Israelis), although as American Jews we do feel a special responsibility for the actions of the state.
Should you choose to continue to write off the many progressives who would like to correct your misconceptions, well then, my letter just serves to add more weight to that pile.
Dec 10 2013 - 1:27pm