Thanks to the Israel lobby’s slander campaign against Max Blumenthal and his new book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, I not only learned things about the Jewish state that I never knew, I also made a wonderful discovery – but more about that later. I confess I probably wouldn’t have read Goliath if not for the controversy it has generated: those squeals of pain coming from Israel’s apologists had to mean something, I figured. Either the book was egregiously unfair to the Jewish state or else a brilliant chronicle of its depredations against ordinary human decency. I had to read it in order to find out – and what I discovered both shocked and uplifted me, furthering my understanding not only of the Jewish state and its people but also of my own philosophy of libertarianism.
Goliath is an easy read on a subject that makes many very uneasy: although it’s fairly long, it consists of many short vignettes told in the first person, chronicling Blumenthal’s travels across the length and breadth of the Holy Land – and the story it tells is alarming, especially for those who count themselves among Israel’s friends.
For years, the Israeli body politic has been moving rightward – i.e. toward militarism, ultra-nationalism, and religious fundamentalism – to such a degree that it seems unrecognizable to those of us who belong to the older generation. We remember – or think we remember – the Israel of Exodus, the brave little upstart that defied the odds and, surrounded by enemies on every side, made the desert bloom with the verdant fields of a liberal democracy.
Goliath proves that liberal democracy is now, for all intents and purpose, defunct: indeed, it may have never existed in the first place. The book demonstrates this on every page with brutal real-life firsthand reporting. Starting off slowly, Blumenthal paints a portrait of a society living in a bubble, with the Israeli Ashkenazi aristocracy on top, the Mizrahi drone-workers charged with police work and other non-elite tasks near the bottom, and the Palestinian helots on the lowest rung, eking out a problematic existence with all the legal and economic factors pointing to their eventual expulsion from Israeli society. As the rightist wave engulfs what had been the dream of socialist Zionists to build an egalitarian society, and turns it into a bastion of religious nationalism and outright racism, Blumenthal moves through this society-in-transition with the unforgiving eye of a born documentarian, mercilessly exposing the hypocrisy, mendacity, and criminality of a country that is coming unhinged.
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