Max Blumenthal takes rhetorical aim at Israel

By Andrew Shull

Max Blumenthal, a best-selling Jewish author and journalist, launched a scathing verbal assualt…Max Blumenthal, a best-selling Jewish author and journalist, launched a scathing verbal assualt on “liberal Zionism,” or the group of liberals in Israel who support the Jewish State.

Blumenthal, speaking for an hour in Posvar Hall to a crowd of about 100 people, argued that liberalism and Zionism are incommensurate ideals. He said Israel, from the launching of its state, was formed to be an ethnic state, a state that favors the ethnic majority.

“It was essentially founded to become an apartheid state,” Blumenthal said.

However, Sam Mellits, the president of Panthers for Israel, a pro-Israeli advocacy group, characterized Blumenthal’s invocation of the South African system in application to Israel as “absurd” and “offensive.”

“Arabs in Israel can ride on the same busses [as Jews]. They are members of Parliament. They sit on the Supreme Court. They can hold high ranks in the military,” Mellits said.

Mellits contended that the Apartheid in South Africa was based on race and that no such program exists in Israel. Mellits did not attend the event because of the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur.

But Blumenthal argued that the apartheid conclusion is valid. He said that the Israeli presence in the West Bank and Gaza was meant to be a permanent feature of Israeli society, not a temporary condition.

Blumenthal’s conclusion focused on the nature of the two-state solution, which would feature a Jewish majority in Israel and a Palestinian majority in Palestine. He maintained that a two-state solution, favored by most peace seekers on the Israeli left, amounts to segregation, and the liberal ideal of multiculturalism isn’t shared by liberal Zionists.

“That puts them to the right of neo-fascists [in the West],” Blumenthal said.

He said that even far right figures in America and Europe would not adopt the policies the Israeli liberals adopt toward Palestinians.

He also maintained that the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, two autonomous Palestinian areas to the south and west of Israel, were always intended to be “pseudo-states,” closely monitored by Israel.

Again, Mellits disagreed with Blumenthal’s assessment. Mellits said that Israel’s borders were never supposed to be permanent. He favors a two-state solution that features fair land swaps in terms of population and the quality of the land.

While Mellits agreed with Blumenthal that forming states along ethnic borders might seem offensive to Western, liberal thinking, he said it was a matter of fact on the ground.

“The world is made up of nation-states,” he said, adding that it makes sense to draw borders according to which people would like to live in which state.

Blumenthal also aimed to take down a few key myths he said exist regarding liberal Zionism.

First, he argued that the “golden age” of Israel, the period between its founding and the start of the Six-Day War in 1967, was marred by ethnic cleansing, massacres and a “war of expulsion” precipitated by a pervasive “colonial” mentality.

He pointed to numerous liberal leaders who committed war crimes and expelled Arabs from their homes.

Blumenthal said that while right-wing Zionists are often blamed for the tension between the Israelis and Palestinians, the Israeli right and Israeli left cooperated throughout all of Israeli history.

During this time period, Blumenthal said right-wing Zionists held the attitude that “Secular Zionism is the donkey. They will ride the donkey until they establish a Jewish theocracy.”

Blumenthal also argued that it was a myth that the liberal Zionists were “pro-peace.”

“Their kind of peace is different than our kind of peace,” he said.

For evidence, he pointed to mandatory military service even for the children of hardcore liberal Israelis who comply with Israel’s compulsory military service alongside his claim that Israel wants to create a permanent occupation in the West Bank and Gaza.

Finally, he brought 40 pages of quotes featuring Israeli liberals saying that “time is running out” before Israel will become an apartheid state.

“That’s like saying this table could become a table,” he said.

Students for Justice in Palestine president Ryan Branagan said the event was a success. Even though Blumenthal’s rhetoric put him, by his own admission, outside the mainstream dialogue, Branagan thought it was warranted.

“I think it’s the way forward,” he said. “We need to have this conversation now.”