A friend recently sent me a review of Max Blumenthal’s recent book “Goliath”, which appeared in Counterpunch
Along with the link, he added a note saying “IMO, Blumenthal is the most perceptive and courageous Western critic of Israeli society. Have you considered inviting him to speak?”
I have not read Blumenthal’s book, but have read a few reviews, and by all account it is a blockbuster attack on Israel. It has provoked a lot of controversy in the USA, and several moves to prevent him from speaking.
But somehow I was not comfortable with inviting him as a speaker, yet couldn’t articulate clearly why I hesitate.
Then I read this review by M.J Rosenberg which compared Blumenthal’s book to another written by well known Israeli writer Ari Shavit.
I have not read Shavit’s book either, but have read Shavit’s recent article in the New Yorker (Lydda, 1948) about the Lydda massacre carried out by Zionist forces during the Nakba. Shavit’s article was remarkable for two reasons. First because it was in the New Yorker, a widely circulated mainstream liberal/Jewish US publication. Secondly, because he described the massacre in grisly, gory detail… and then ended up saying “well, its too bad, but they did the dirty work that was necessary for us to have the State of Israel”.
Shavit’s article appears to have fallen like a bomb in the liberal New Yorker readership, judging by the letters to the editor that appeared in the next issue.
However, in the Rosenthal review of the two books, one line really struck me. It reads:
“But Blumenthal is simply not credible, even though the facts are on his side, because the book drips with hatred of Israel.”
I think Rosenberg put his finger on what it was (and is) that makes me uncomfortable with Blumenthal, and more generally with broadside attacks on Israel. To most people they are incredible… even if they are true, because they seem to be motivated by something darker than just trying to tell the truth.
Put another way, I think Blumenthal is trying to “blow the other guys out of the water”. No doubt this will work with a certain section of the population. But I think the Shavit book (and his article) are much more effective in “starting a conversation”. Shavit is credible. He certainly does not hate Israel. But he is profoundly anguished over what Israel has done.
I would like to give a personal example. Over Christmas, one member of my family asked me what I thought about the Shavit article. She knows I am concerned about the Palestinian issue, but normally avoids discussing it with me because my enthusiasm makes her uncomfortable. But the Shavit article, coming from an anguished Zionist, planted a doubt in her mind that I have never been able to sow.
I do not think that Bluementhal is wrong, or that his book should not be written (or read). But I am convinced that our main task in Canada at this time is to “start a conversation”. In this I think that Shavit is much more helpful.