GOLIATH a Tale of Modern Israel

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It has remained for our time to separate the Jewish people from…today the nation is on the rise. The religion however is on a steep downward fall…By opposing Hebrew humanism to a nationalism which is nothing but empty self-assertion,I wish to indicate that, at this juncture the zionist movement must decide either for national egoism or national humanism.

Martin Buber 1942

Chris Hedges recently wrote in Truthdig about Max Blumenthal’s Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel.

Israel has been poisoned by the psychosis of permanent war. It has been morally bankrupted by the sanctification of victimhood, which it uses to justify an occupation that rivals the brutality and racism of apartheid South Africa. Its democracy—which was always exclusively for Jews—has been hijacked by extremists who are pushing the country toward fascism. Many of Israel’s most enlightened and educated citizens—1 million of them—have left the country. Its most courageous human rights campaigners, intellectuals and journalists—Israeli and Palestinian—are subject to constant state surveillance, arbitrary arrests and government-run smear campaigns. Its educational system, starting in primary school, has become an indoctrination machine for the military. And the greed and corruption of its venal political and economic elite have created vast income disparities, a mirror of the decay within America’s democracy.

Hedges should know, a Pulitzer Prize winner who was stationed in Israel and saw the ugly face of this pseudo-democracy.

I share Hedges’ appreciation of this brave book. We should be grateful that an American Jew had the guts to tell the truth in readable prose.

He writes:

There are very few intellectuals or writers who have the tenacity and courage to confront this reality.  This is  one of the most fearless and honest books ever written about Israel. Blumenthal burrows deep into the dark heart of Israel. The American journalist binds himself to the beleaguered and shunned activists, radical journalists and human rights campaigners who are the conscience of the nation, as well as Palestinian families in the West Bank struggling in vain to hold back Israel’s ceaseless theft of their land. Blumenthal, in chapter after chapter, methodically rips down the facade. And what he exposes, in the end, is a corpse. 

The book is unremitting in its evisceration of modern Israel, its callousness and daily humiliation of a people under occupation.

Blumenthal in many ways is an insider he is the son of Sidney Blumenthal, a former administration presidential aide to Bill Clinton. He knows how to navigate the terrain. And he lived in  Israel for three years and had ongoing contact with Palestinians, something which local Canadian  Jews never have.

The great Jewish philosopher Martin Buber always made this point even before the founding of Israel.

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Israel”, he wrote, “is a people and a religious community  in one…He who severs this bond  severs the life of Israel.”(Hebrew Humanism, 1942).

This has happened. Israel is a total secular country in its orientation and make up. It knows only power politics. In this case organized thuggery against a veritable defenseless population. It, in Blumenthal’s words, has become Goliath.

And much of the world knows this.

Pollsters reveal  that most countries have a negative view of Israel. Large majorities  have negative views in Europe, including Germany (77%), Greece (68%) and France (66%). Indonesia (71%), Australia (68%) and South Korea (62%) are the most negative in countries in the Asia/Pacific region. Brazilians (72%) are the most negative in Latin America. The massive propaganda of the Jewish state is not fooling those outside Israel. The internet, solidarity trips of church groups and internationals, the principled work of a small corps of Jews of conscience inside Israel have ripped the cover off the brutal reality.

The persistent association of Israel with the world’s most negatively viewed countries comes as a disappointment to Israeli government and other hasbara officials who have invested millions of dollars in recent years to  greenwash  and pinkwash Israel as an enlightened, democratic and technological “Western” country.

Too many Canadian Jews have resorted to what former speaker of the Knesset Avraham Burg calls “genetic Judaism.”—the knee jerk support of Israel simply because it is Jewish. This is akin to Catholics slavish response to everything coming out of the Vatican. There are higher values than blind loyalty and obedience.

For both Jews and Catholics the kingdom, the malkuth shammayim which Jesus proclaimed trumps everything.

As Psalm 85 suggests, justice and peace have kissed each other in God’s world

In Israel today they are far apart

Goliath is a must read for anyone still under the idea  that Israel is a font of justice, humanism and democracy.

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