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U.S. Jews Battle Over Blumenthal's "Goliath"

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Max Blumenthal is a young Jewish American journalist whose father, Sidney Blumenthal, was a senior adviser to President Bill Clinton from August 1997 until January 2001.

Preparing to write his latest book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, Max Blumenthal (shown here) spent four years reporting from Israel and occupied Palestine.

His father's political connections did not pave the way for his interviews. All the son needed was his American passport and Jewish identity. Both Palestinians and Jews wanted to tell their stories.

In his research, Blumenthal had easy access to major Israeli literary figures like Israeli novelist David Grossman. In his interview with Grossman, which he reports in his book, Blumenthal refers to his father's earlier career in the Clinton administration.

What provoked this rare reference to his father was Grossman's emotional defense of Israel as an essential safe haven for Jews.

Blumenthal writes:

"For Grossman and liberal Zionists like him, the transformation of Israel from an ethnically exclusive Jewish state into a multi-ethnic democracy was not an option.

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"'For two thousand years,' Grossman told me when I asked why he believed the preservation of Zionism was necessary, 'we have been kept out, we have been excluded. And so for our whole history we were outsiders. Because of Zionism we finally have the chance to be insiders.'"

In response, Blumenthal had an answer few are more qualified to give...

"I told Grossman that my father had been kind of an insider. He had served as a senior aide to Bill Clinton, the President of the United States, the leader of the free world, working alongside other proud Jews like Rahm Emmanuel and Sandy Berger. I told him I was a kind of insider and that my ambitions had never been obstructed by anti-Semitism.

"'Honestly, I have a hard time taking this kind of justification seriously,' I told him. 'I mean, Jews are enjoying a golden age in the United States.'"

Blumenthal then reports that Grossman, a man of words, "found himself at a loss. He looked at me with a quizzical look. Very few Israelis understand American Jews as Americans, but instead of belonging to the Disapora. But very few American Jews think of themselves that way, especially in my generation, and that too is something very few Israelis grasp." (p. 276)

The gap is wide, and growing wider, between American and Israeli Jews, a fact that Blumenthal, with his cultural and political background, is uniquely qualified to understand and describe.

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Blumenthal knows radical politics however it is disguised. Before he began exploring the Israeli-Palestinian divide, Blumenthal wrote Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party, an examination of the takeover of the Republican Party by its right wing faction.

Blumenthal's book has suffered the twin burden of being ignored by mainstream media and, at the same time, drawing harsh criticism from within the liberal Zionist faction of American Jewry. Losing exposure in mainstream media is regrettable, since Blumenthal's book, as one non-mainsteam reviewer writes, "is erudite, hard-hitting, and with the potential to influence American public opinion on Israel."

When he appeared on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now,  Blumenthal offered his take on his book. Click here for a ten-minute video cliip from that program.

In the Goodman interview, Blumenthal gives details of his journey through Israel and Palestine. Since he searched over a period of four years for the personal impact of the occupation on its Palestinian inhabitants, his highly negative reportorial conclusions are both enlightening and not surprising.

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James Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Many sources have influenced Jim's writings over (more...)

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