After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered an anti-Iranian tirade at the United Nations General Assembly, he received a warm welcome at the White House from President Barack Obama, who toughened his own language to get it more into sync with Netanyahu's belligerence.
This pattern of Netanyahu trying to dictate U.S. policy toward Iran, including a possible military clash over its nuclear program, has been going on for years. Meanwhile, most U.S. politicians and journalists mute any criticism of Israel's harsh treatment of the Palestinians and other controversial practices.
One of the few journalists who won't temper his criticism is Max Blumenthal, who has written extensively about Israel and the Palestinians, and specifically about Netanyahu, including in his latest book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel.
Blumenthal is a biting critic of what he calls Israeli apartheid toward the Palestinians and has reported on the harm that the illegal Israeli occupation continues to have on the Palestinian community. A former Daily Beast writer, Blumenthal is also the author of Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party. He was interviewed recently by Dennis J Bernstein on "Flashpoints."
DB: Netanyahu is a little nervous about the new [U.S.] relationship and possible negotiations with Iran. Can you talk about what he's been saying since he showed up in the U.S., and why he's so jumpy about this new relationship?
MB: Netanyahu at the U.N. General Assembly ... delivered a typically hysterical speech which was significant because it was conducted in the wake of Barak Obama's historic phone call with his Iranian counterpart, the new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, a reformist who acknowledges the Holocaust and has brought a Jewish lawmaker from Iran to the U.S. to be interviewed on CNN with his delegation.
He is reversing the damage done by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was Netanyahu's best friend and who is hated in the foreign policy establishment in Iran. Netanyahu likes to use animal metaphors. A few years ago he referred to the Iranian nuclear duck. He's warned of the insatiable crocodile of militant Islam. This time he said Ahmadinejad is a wolf in wolf's clothing, but Rouhani is a sheep in wolf's clothing who is trying to pull the wool over our eyes so he can have his yellow cake and he eat it too.
He must have been in a mixed metaphor competition. He's saying Iran is still the evil-doer, the insatiable crocodile of militant Islam. Rouhani, he says, is a nicer more western-friendly guy, but Israel still reserves the right to take unilateral military action, though it would prefer the U.S. to do so. He still wants tighter sanctions on Iran, and wants the U.S. to end its historical efforts at diplomacy with Iran. This is classic Netanyahu -- not taking his case to the Israeli public but to the American public.
He thought this speech would work well with the American public but it was a disaster. It revealed a very desperate and diminished figure. His speech showed his limitations, both politically and culturally. He talked about the Jewish people being an ancient people. There is some truth to it because the speech seemed aimed at a geriatric crowd of AIPAC activists and not at the American public, which welcomes this diplomacy with Iran.
In my book Goliath, I tried to get past the geopolitics. I did a lengthy profile of Netanyahu, presenting him as he really is and describing his long history in public relations and in the Likud party. I show who he really is and how he tried to advance this mythology of greater Israel and Israel's place in the world. He has basically gotten away with it, possibly, until now.
DB: This contradiction drives me the most insane. In Israel, if I'm not overstating it, we have a nuclear renegade, not allowing anybody, anywhere, to see their nuclear weapons stock or chemical weapons -- if they have them -- I assume they do. The portrayal in the U.S. media is that Israel is restraining itself, doing its best not to bomb Iran. Maybe they need to nuclear bomb Iran to stop them from getting the nuclear bomb. This contradiction is so huge, and I'm still looking for Rachel Maddow to raise the issue.
MB: Rachel Maddow, instead of raising the issue, has praised sanctions on Iran and taken the Democratic Party line that sanctions on Iran led to the diplomacy with Iran, which is absolutely not only false, but destructive -- it shows a lack of compassion for average Iranian people whose lives have been shattered by the sanctions. Israel, as you said, is the only Middle Eastern country with nuclear weapons. ...
Israel has 250 nuclear warheads. Germany has given Israel at least six dolphin-class submarines with launching tubes specifically retrofitted to allow Israel to launch nuclear weapons from the Red Sea, potentially reaching Iran or even Europe. Germany did this as part of its reparations for the Holocaust, which is incredibly perverse.
Israel also has massive stocks of chemical weapons, weapons of mass destruction. It refuses to submit itself to international atomic agency inspectors, and the U.S. never pressures Israel to do so. This is the stunning hypocrisy that Netanyahu represents at the podium at the U.N. General Assembly. The Iranian government quickly pointed this out -- unlike Israel, Iran hasn't attacked another country militarily and they don't have nuclear weapons.
According to Israel and U.S. intelligence assessments, Iran may not have a nuclear weapons program in earnest. These are big problems for Netanyahu that are increasingly exposed. Netanyahu's attitude is that with lies so big, no one is going to call you out on it. Almost Nixonian.
DB: Let's talk about the book now. You refer to Netanyahu as a transferist (someone who favors expelling Palestinians from Israeli-controlled territory). What does that mean? Is it hyperbole? What is the documentation?