In Pt 4/4 of Reality Asserts Itself, Paul Jay and Max Blumenthal discuss whether some criticism of Israel is racist and analyze the recent peace talks to nowhere
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay. And welcome back to Reality Asserts Itself. We’re continuing our series of interviews with Max Blumenthal.
Max is an award-winning journalist, best-selling author of the book Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party. And his new book coming out soon will be Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, published by Nation Books.
Thanks for joining us.
MAX BLUMENTHAL, AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST: Thanks for having me.
JAY: So in the last segment, I ended by saying we’re going to talk about is criticism of Israel anti-Semitic. And I think for most of our audience, I think we all know that, that it’s not. You know, inherently, critiquing Israel is not anti-Semitic. And the fact that some of the Israeli leaders and Zionist leaders want to claim it is, it doesn’t take too much to know that that isn’t the case.
But there’s something, I think, in this that doesn’t get talked about very much and should. Some is. Some criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic.
BLUMENTHAL: Well, some who criticize Israel are anti-Semitic.
JAY: Yeah. I mean, I know when we put up stories on–you know, where we do stories about Israel on YouTube, we actually had to turn comments on Israeli stories on YouTube off ’cause it was so filled with racist filth, and that much of criticism–it’s not whether the substance is anti-Semitic or not, but much of people who are criticizing Israel, there is a real trend there, there is a pool of people there that are thoroughgoing haters of Jews and thoroughgoing racists. And I don’t think that gets talked about enough, because for Jews that went–you know, that have the experience of genocide in World War II and had the experience of being ostracized, you know, they have to know that we’re not unaware that there is this kind of racist current within those people that critique Israel. Of course, I don’t think it’s the majority. But what you make of that?
BLUMENTHAL: There’s a minority among–I wouldn’t call them critics of Israel, but there are anti-Semites out there who happen to be neofascists and racists, who are building connections with a larger movement of Islamophobes, and who are sort of preternaturally or viscerally Islamophobic. They’re just–and racist and afraid of the other. And Jews, of course, have been otherized, European Jews have been otherized for centuries. So, they’re–you know.
And, you know, I’ve covered white supremacists, white nationalism, neo-Nazis. I’ve interviewed, you know, leaders and rank-and-file. And I remember I interviewed–I forget his name now, but I spoke to the publisher of the Institute for Historical Review, which is the leading publisher of historical revisionism or Holocaust denial, and I said, why do you–what do you have against the Jews? He said, you know, essentially, in a nutshell what he told me is that they’re responsible for liberalism.
So this kind of anti-Semitism flows from il-liberalism or anti-liberalism. And a lot of the Jews who are attracted to Palestine Solidarity come from liberal backgrounds and are very, you know, tolerant. Many of them are queers. Many of them are, you know, anarchists. Many are standard liberals or leftists. But they’re all people who would actually be hated by these kind of figures, these anti-Semites. And so what we’ve been witnessing in the Palestine solidarity movement–and I’ve been an active part of this–from Palestinians and from, you know, Jewish supporters of Palestine Solidarity is an effort to completely clean the movement out of these kind of people.
And one person–I think one of the leading anti-Semitic critics of Israel–you couldn’t even call him a critic of Israel. He’s an ex-Israeli who pretends to be an anti-Zionist but is actually just a pure anti-Semite and who believes that all of the problems of Israel flow not from colonialism but from Judaism, is Gilad Atzmon. And I signed a Jewish letter denouncing him and basically telling him to get lost. There’s been a Palestinian letter organized by Ali Abunimah and, you know, a who’s who of Palestine solidarity activists who say anti-Semitic freaks, get the hell away from us; we don’t want any part of you. And there have been other efforts to castigate people who have advanced anti-Semitic critiques of Israel and of Jews in general.
So, I mean, that’s how I would respond is just judge the Palestine solidarity movement, which is an organized movement advancing, I think, a principled form of anti-Zionism, judge them by what they’re doing. And they don’t need pressure from pro-Israel groups. They don’t need to be shamed to do this. This is how they feel and this is how I feel. It’s just we’re genuinely disgusted by any form of racism. It’s why we’re disgusted by the Israeli government and by the structure of Israeli apartheid.
JAY: Okay. Let’s jump to some current politics. Can you understand why John Kerry wants to restart these peace talks? I mean, they seem doomed. One would think everyone would know they seem doomed. What the heck does Kerry get out of this, and what does the Obama administration get out of another round of failed talks?
BLUMENTHAL: I want to talk about what Israel gets out of it first, because AIPAC has endorsed–AIPAC, which is the, you know, key arm of the Israeli lobby, has sort of endorsed these talks, endorsed Kerry’s trips, his constant trips over to Israel, Palestine, and Jordan. And, you know, then you have groups like J Street, sort of a liberal Zionist group, like AIPAC lite, which is enthusiastic about these talks. So you have pro-Israel groups that are really into these talks.
And then you have Netanyahu’s pretending to be sort of reluctant. But Netanyahu early in his career was an aide to Yitzhak Shamir, who was the prime minister of Israel during the late ’80s and early ’90s from the Likud Party. And Shamir openly admitted that he had a ten-year plan to continue perpetual negotiations, making interim agreements while building settlements as rapidly as possible, because as long as you have then the PLO, now the Palestinian Authority, at the negotiating table locked into all these timelines and frameworks, there’s nothing they can do about the fact that you’re expanding settlements at a rapid rate.
And so in the last–well, going into these talks, the State Department announced there will be settlement growth during these talks, which, you know, goes back to our discussion of the paradox of grace. Like, we can’t go into these talks without doing harm. And the Palestinian Authority has, you know, complained, but they’re continuing to go along with the talks. They’re meeting with Kerry. They’re meeting with Martin Indyk, the former AIPAC staffer who is the manager of these talks for the U.S.
And Netanyahu has authorized at least 2,000 new settlement units, including outside the major settlement blocks, which according to a plan for a two-state solution, or what I would consider a bantustan solution, remains part of Israel. He’s building these settlements in settlements on hilltops outside the blocks. This is remarkable. And the U.S. has been able to do nothing about it, and the Palestinians are locked into a nine-month framework of talks. So, you know, what we’re going to see is just a rush on settlement building.
And then the U.S. has set it all up to blame the Palestinians again, as it did after Camp David, which will be a disaster and will give Israel the justification to annex Area C, which is the 60 percent of the West Bank. It was granted under the Oslo Accords, where most of the settlements are. I don’t know if they’ll do that, but that seems to be the plan to me. And they already exercise full control over that area and allow no Palestinian building there. So it’s all heading towards disaster.
And you asked, why would Kerry want to do this?
JAY: Yeah, I can understand the Israelis wanting to do it, including to appease–it looks good in terms of Israeli domestic public opinion that Netanyahu’s doing this again. But, yeah, what’s in this for Kerry to have a–to be able to say, I started the talks and failed?
BLUMENTHAL: Well, I mean, yeah, the way out is, of course, as I said, to blame the Palestinians.
But Kerry, I don’t know if he completely understands what’s going to happen or–and he has a real vision. The U.S. doesn’t have a policy beyond these talks and beyond the idea of two states, even though there’s never, in my opinion, been a plan for a real Palestinian state where they control their own borders, can raise an army, control their airspace, control their water like any normal country can. So what they’re doing is just providing Israel with cover, with diplomatic cover through these talks.
Kerry gets to appear on the world stage. The Washington pundit class, the Beltway class, is cheering Kerry on, because they desperately want to see this kind of thing succeed. And I think he’s let it get to his head.
So the insanity of these talks is really a reflection not just on John Kerry, who spent the last two decades in Washington hanging out with all these think tankers at the Wilson Center and Brookings, and just how hollow his vision is, but on the entire structure of the Washington intelligentsia, which has been advancing this for over 20 years.
Then you have people like Martin Indyk, who said–Martin Indyk is Kerry’s choice to manage these talks. And he said–I reported this recently for Mondoweiss–that he moved–he was volunteering in Israel during the ’73 War, and he saw the carnage of war and worried about Israel, and he said, I made aliyah to Washington to protect Israel’s security. Aliyah is the Hebrew term for immigration. So he really sees himself as a pro-Israel operative. And so this is the guy that you’re appointing to be the honest broker. It really says it all.
JAY: Now, you were in the Middle East recently. You spent lots of time in Israel, you spent a lot of time in the West Bank. When I was there a couple of years ago, my experience was is most Israelis, when they think about it, ’cause most Israelis don’t even think about it, don’t even really want a two-state solution. And when I was in West Bank, I found most of the young Palestinians don’t want it either. In fact, other than the official classes on both sides, nobody wants it. And the Palestinians, I think ordinary Palestinians rightly think it’s going to be a bantustan fraud, and the Israelis, I mean, I found–I don’t know your experience. My experience was Israel’s gotten so racist. They would just, like, throw all the Palestinians, Arabs out of Israel and let it be whatever it’s going to be.
BLUMENTHAL: A majority favor that.
JAY: Yeah. So in terms of the population, neither side really wants it. But in the end, the great fear of the Israeli official class is that there’s going to be a demand at some point–and I think, you know, some of the Israeli leaders have said this–a South African style, you know, one person, one vote. You know, you’re going to have to. If you’re going to not have two states, you’re going to have to say it’s one state, and all these people are going to have to be part of it, which is even a bigger threat. Or do they think they can just go on forever like this?
BLUMENTHAL: Israel’s trying to buy time, and that’s with these talks are about. That’s what its attacks on Gaza are about. And they can only buy so much time. But the U.S. is determined to buy it as much time as possible.
Right now it is a one-state reality. Israel controls every person between the river and the sea and dictates their lives. And it will never relinquish that control. It never will.
That’s–and so the plan is to keep the illusion of a temporary occupation going, to preserve the hope that this kind of system will end, and therefore the occupation will end, and Israel won’t become an apartheid state. So you consistently hear this rhetoric from Israelis out of the Labor camp or, you know, out of–you know, from the center of Israeli politics, like Ehud Olmert, that Israel, if it doesn’t make a deal, could become an apartheid state. And that’s a way of denying the current reality, which is that it already is. But they don’t want to have to be–to have the control they exert over all Palestinian lives be recognized and be forced to either say we are an apartheid state or we give them full rights. So that’s the agenda.
When you talk about two states, I get so–you know, when I hear the rhetoric of two states and a two-state solution, it irritates me, because as I said before, no two-state solution has ever been proposed in any negotiations led by the U.S. Never. The proposal never allows the Palestinians to control their own borders, doesn’t give them full water rights. The settlement of Ariel is built on top of the Palestinian aquifer. They don’t control their own airspace. They don’t get to raise an army. No Israeli who’s been prime minister during the peace process has ever supported giving the Palestinians any substantial part of East Jerusalem. No one in the current Israeli government does. And the Israelis want the Jordan Valley as well, which is where all the arable land is in the West Bank. So you’re talking about a bantustan state. And they’re continuing to build settlements in Area C. And if you go to Ramallah and just hang out at a coffee shop, you get up to a high enough floor, you’re going to see settlements that practically look like they’re inside Ramallah, which is, you know, this city in the heart of the West Bank. Nablus, the largest city in the West Bank, is absolutely surrounded with settlements. It’s actually, like, strategic that they build settlements to keep people in and ghettoize them.
So it’s finished. There never will be two states. There never has been a proposal for it. There never has been a real peace process. And in my opinion, the peace process ended when the right-wing terrorist Stern gang assassinated Count Folke Bernadotte in Jerusalem, who was dispatched by the United Nations during the Nakba, during Israel’s project of ethnic cleansing in 1948, to try to prevent the Palestinian refugees from leaving and bring those who had left back. His assassination ensured that that would never happen. And since then, there’s never been a proposal to bring them back in order to preserve Israel’s ethnocracy. They can’t do that. In fact, the peace process is an effort to consolidate the exclusion of millions of Palestinians from not just their ancestral homeland, but from a place where they have legal titles and where they hold property.
So let’s just–the illusion has been exposed for a long time. But with Kerry’s talks, I think it’s really starting to be exposed before people who are unwilling to acknowledge these facts on the ground before, like, people like The New York Times editorial board.
JAY: Now, when I was there, there was a fair amount of activity going on amongst the Palestinians in the West Bank, which were a fight for civil rights. And one would think that leads to this demand that it’s one person, one vote, if you’re going to have this single state, which essentially is really what it is. It’s just several million people can’t vote. When you were there, what’s going on in terms of the Palestinian movement, apart from Fatah, the PA, or Hamas?
BLUMENTHAL: It’s hard to address it apart from Fatah or the PA, because the PA suppresses a full-scale civil rights–I wouldn’t use the–.
JAY: But I mean a movement that isn’t led or organized by Fatah.
BLUMENTHAL: The PA suppresses deliberately any kind of full-scale uprising against apartheid and occupation. And Hamas is increasingly doing that in Gaza. And we saw that when they crushed the May 15 movement, which was a youth movement demanding a unity government and some kind of strategy of resisting occupation. Both of these groups are, you know, at war with each other. The situation in Egypt has, like, increased factionalization in Palestine. And they’re concerned with their own power.
But there are hundreds of thousands of young Palestinians who are eager to engage in some kind of protest movement, I think. Many of them are. And what I saw with the popular struggle, which was based in villages along the Green Line, which had their land annexed by the Israeli separation wall and inaugurated a sort of unarmed protest struggle against the Israeli army and against Israeli settlements, and, you know, it’s been featured in movies like the Oscar-nominated 5 Broken Cameras, this movement has been kind of spreading out and getting more creative.
So the last time I was in Palestine, they erected a protest village called Bab al-Shams, or “the gate of the sun”, in land that was soon to be taken for an Israeli–an expansion of the Israeli mega settlement Ma’ale Adumim. And that land would complete the encirclement of Jerusalem and it would end a two-state solution, which never began. But when I went there and, you know, met with the mostly young Palestinians who had set up these tents, they said, we’re not fighting for a two-state solution; we’re fighting for our right to live on our own land. That’s what this is about. And they were swept away by Israeli riot squads, who brought twice as many soldiers to the scene as young people. And, you know, they’re sort of defenseless against the Israeli army without the Palestinian Authority, you know, engaging more openly in this kind of struggle.
And, you know, I’m not Palestinian, so I have to recognize that after the Second Intifada, there was a level of exhaustion and trepidation about confronting the Israeli military directly. It’s not for me to tell them what to do, because I’m not going to suffer the consequence, and the consequence is going to be harsh. I think Moshe Ya’alon, the current Israeli defense minister, said that the violence that they used to suppress the Second Intifada was designed to sear into the Palestinian consciousness a sense of defeat, so that, you know, when they did approach the negotiating table, it would be like Native Americans after the Wounded Knee massacre, just a completely defeated people. And so if there’s one thing that we can, you know, give the popular struggle credit for, it’s demonstrating that the Palestinians are not going to be defeated by even the finest, most aggressive military in the Middle East.
JAY: And just sort of quickly, to end up, what do you think North Americans, and particularly North American Jews, what should they be saying to, demanding from their governments in relation to Israel?
BLUMENTHAL: They should be demanding a complete cessation of aid to Israel until Israel abides by international law and ends the occupation and stops speaking on behalf of world Jewry, because it’s corrupting world Jewry and provoking a moral freefall. And we can see that. We don’t need to look to Israel to see that. We can see that in our own–you know, we’ll see that in 2016 during the presidential campaign. And we saw that during this last campaign with the role of Sheldon Adelson and the kind of hatred and racism that he injected into the campaign. This is a guy who’s acting completely on behalf of the state of Israel. And it should outrage and repel any Jewish-American who holds liberal values.
JAY: Alright. Thanks for joining us.
BLUMENTHAL: Thanks for having me.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on Reality Asserts Itself on The Real News Network.
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