Max Blumenthal talks about his new book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel:
Rania Khalek: Challenging the pro-Israel narrative, as your book does, isn’t the most lucrative career move for an American journalist. With that in mind, why did you write this book?
Max Blumenthal: I was following a really successful book called Republican Gomorrah that got me on MSNBC, Air America [and] NPR, and I had a big liberal Democrat-oriented audience who were eager for my analysis of the radical right. I could’ve leveraged that into another book deal about Republican racism, made loads of money and sold tons of books. But this isn’t why I’m in journalism. I don’t look at journalism as a career. I look at it both as a profession and a craft and also as a means for exposing injustice. I’ve been watching the increasing violence and racism of Israeli society for most of my adult life, especially in their treatment of Palestinians. Having been born in 1977, I came of age during the First Intifada and then watched during the Second Intifada as Israel destroyed the Jenin Refugee camp. And then the Second Lebanon invasion happened. Israel basically carpet-bombed southern Lebanon, turning one-quarter of the country into refugees. Then there was Operation Cast Lead, the three-week assault on the besieged Gaza Strip that left 1,400 dead. It was so hard to watch, and it occurred after Barack Obama had been elected, someone I was deeply skeptical of. During the slaughter, I went to midtown New York and filmed a few hundred Jewish-Americans celebrating the attack. They were dancing a hora line outside the Israeli consulate and offering very clearly genocidal statements about the need to eradicate the cancer in Gaza. I put this online as a video, and it went viral. Before long, I was contacted by all kinds of people from across the Middle East who are directly affected by the Israel-Palestine crisis, inviting me to come there to see the situation on the ground. I agreed, and I put a lot of my book advance into the first extended reporting trip there in May 2009. That’s what led to me getting the deal to write Goliath and to spending the last four to five years of my life writing about this situation. It definitely changed my life in a lot of ways that I never expected, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to see things the same way again.
RK: Goliath came out October 1. What has the reception been like so far, compared with that for Republican Gomorrah?
MB: Pro-Israel partisans in the US typically get hysterical about books like this because the real Israel is really impossible for them to grapple with. It shatters the dream castle Israel that goes to the heart of their identity as tribalistic, secular American Jews. I really believe that they are determined to ignore this book for as long as they can. It may take me going on national TV with one of those foam giant fingers and twerking on Abe Foxman for them to pay attention.
The other more obvious and salient reason why I’m not getting the same mainstream attention I got with Republican Gomorrah is because people like Rachel Maddow and Terry Gross, who can really move books, are simply afraid of the Israel issue and what it can do to their careers and the kind of pushback they’ll get from pro-Israel partisans behind the scenes. What we’re seeing is cowardice at the top of a hollow media establishment that extends into public radio. I think if shows like “Fresh Air” were to host me about Goliath, the response would be massive and mostly positive because I’m presenting the facts on the ground. Even people who don’t agree with my conclusions about what should happen in Israel-Palestine are hungry for this kind of information. [Continue reading…]