Max Blumenthal’s ‘Goliath’ and the Mainstreaming of Anti-Semitism

Blumenthal GoliathActivists devoted to promoting boycott campaigns against Israel and maligning the Jewish state as illegitimate and uniquely evil knew already what to expect when Max Blumenthal’s book Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel was published last October. As Blumenthal himself emphasized in the acknowledgements at the end of his book, sites like the Electronic Intifada and Mondoweiss had “provided essential outlets for much of the reporting” presented in Goliath, while “less courageous publications” had “shied away” from publishing this material. What kind of “courage” it took to publish Blumenthal’s “reporting” on Israel was illustrated when the Simon Wiesenthal Center released its 2013 list of the “Top 10 Anti-Semitic/Anti-Israel Slurs” at the end of December and included Blumenthal in the category “The Power of the Poison Pen.”

The Louis D. Brandeis Center (LDB) is publishing today a Research Article that provides a detailed documentation of Blumenthal’s efforts to depict Israel as an utterly evil state that can only be compared to Nazi Germany and should be treated accordingly. Entitled “Another Milestone for the Mainstreaming of Anti-Semitism: The New America Foundation and Max Blumenthal’s Goliath,” the paper highlights how inappropriate it is to promote a book on Israel by an author whose related work had been shunned by mainstream outlets for good reason. After all, Blumenthal’s writings and video clips not only appealed to activists campaigning for the delegitimization and elimination of Israel as a Jewish state, but were also promoted on all the major sites popular among conspiracy theorists, Jew-haters, racists and neo-Nazis: from Stormfront to David Duke’s site, Rense, and Veterans Today. Moreover, Blumenthal himself endorsed reviews that praised his book for presenting Israel as the Nazi Germany of our time, thereby arguably undermining the mainstream legitimacy bestowed on Goliath by the New America Foundation’s (NAF) unfortunate decision to provide him a platform for promoting the book.

Blumenthal at UPennWhile Blumenthal was perfectly capable to adjust his presentations according to the audience he was addressing, he provided a chilling demonstration of what he hoped to accomplish with Goliath during an event at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was hosted on October 17 by political scientist Ian Lustick to promote his book. Lustick noted at one point in the discussion that Blumenthal showed in Goliath that “Israel is not just a little bit fascist, Israel is a lot fascist,” and according to Lustick, this was the “ultimate delegitimizer,” because after World War II, “nothing fascist can even be allowed to survive.” Referring to the biblical story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha, Lustick invited Blumenthal to fancy himself in the position of God in order to decide whether there are enough “good people” in today’s Sodom-like Israel to save it from destruction. Blumenthal, who clearly didn’t need convincing that Israel as a Jewish state shouldn’t be allowed to survive, responded by explaining that his first concern was relieving “the suffering of the indigenous people of Palestine.” According to him, the only way to achieve this was by placing “external pressure” – such as the BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) movement is advocating – on Jewish Israelis in order to force them to choose between emigrating and agreeing to “become indigenized” by accepting Arab dominance in political, cultural and social terms.

French Courts Treat BDS as a Hate Crime

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) has an interesting article on successful French efforts to prosecute BDS activists for hate crimes.  The article, appearing this weekend in Ha’aretz and elsewhere, is entitled, “BDS a hate crime? In France, legal vigilance punishes anti-Israel activists.” JTA reports that “some 20 pro-BDS activists have been convicted under the so-called Lellouche…

BDS Fail at Riverside

Jewish students and activists are claiming victory this morning after beating back yet another anti-Israel boycott resolution at the University of California at Riverside in the early hours of this morning.  Professionals at StandWithUs, a leader in the battle against Israel boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS), report that the final vote on this divisive measure was…

First Amendment Experts Debate Anti-BDS Bill

Can Congress withhold funds from universities that adopt anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) policies?  Two widely respected First Amendment experts disagree.  Floyd Abrams, a leading First Amendment practitioner, argues that the new Roskam-Lapinski Bill is unconstitutional.  Eugene Volokh, a leading First Amendment scholar at UCLA, disagrees.

Readers of the Brandeis Center Blog will remember that Representatives Roskam and Lapinksi’s newly introduced bill, HR4009, and provides, part that:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, an institution of higher education shall not be eligible to receive funds or any other form of financial assistance under this Act [not including student aid funds] if the Secretary determines that such institution is participating in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions or scholars….

For purposes of this section, the Secretary shall consider an institution of higher education to be participating in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions or scholars if the institution, any significant part of the institution, or any organization significantly funded by the institution adopts a policy or resolution, issues a statement, or otherwise formally establishes the restriction of discourse, cooperation, exchange, or any other involvement with academic institutions or scholars on the basis of the connection of such institutions or such scholars to the State of Israel.

Mr. Abrams has reportedly argued that Roskam-Lapkinski would be unconstitutional:

The notion that the power to fund colleges and their faculties may be transformed into a tool to punish them for engaging in constitutionally protected expression is contrary to any notion of academic freedom and to core First Amendment principles…. I believe that academic boycotts are themselves contrary to principles of academic freedom but that does not make the legislation being considered any more tolerable or constitutional.

Volokh disagrees, arguing that the bill is likely constitutional.  His arguments, posted at the Volokho conspiracy at WashingtonPost.com, include the following:

1. Most important, the bill doesn’t restrict university speech based on content or viewpoint — a university doesn’t lose money just for condemning Israel or even praising a boycott, but only for actually boycotting Israel: refusing to deal with Israeli institutions or scholars….

2. Now the bill may affect a university’s speech decisions. A university department’s choice of speakers for a conference, for instance, is a decision about what speech to present, and is thus potentially protected by the First Amendment: It constitutes exercise of the university’s freedom of speech, and the related right of freedom of expressive association, which is triggered by association restrictions or association mandates that “affect[ a] group’s ability to express its message.” … If the government made it a crime for universities to refuse to invite Israeli speakers, that might well be unconstitutional.

But the question is whether the government can say, “if you take our money, you can’t discriminate against people or institutions because they are connected to Israel.” (Note that the bill would be narrower than an anti-discrimination provision, because it bans only outright boycotts, and not all discrimination, but it’s comparable enough to an anti-discrimination rule that I’ll treat it similarly.) And as to such questions, the Court has generally said yes….

Introducing BICOM and Fathom: working to provide a more supportive environment for Israel in Britain

BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an independent British organisation dedicated to providing a more supportive environment for Israel in Britain.  BICOM pursues its objectives through a range of activities, one of which is the publication of the quarterly Fathom journal under the editorship of Professor Alan Johnson. With its aim stated…

Roskam & Lipinski Introduce Federal Anti-Boycott Legislation

Yesterday Congressmen Peter Roskam and Dan Lipinski introduced anti-boycott legislation to prevent academic boycotts against the State of Israel. This bill would supplement existing federal and state anti-boycott statutes that were passed decades ago in response to the Arab boycott of Israel. Specifically, this bill would block federal funding for universities that engage in anti-Israel boycotts.  Rep. Roskam’s press release appears in full below:

Feb 6, 2014

Oren: “I strongly support this courageous initiative.”

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, Reps. Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL) introduced the bipartisan Protect Academic Freedom Act (H.R. 4009) to address the growing threat of unjustified boycotts against the Jewish State of Israel. In December 2013, the American Studies Association (ASA) became the second major educational organization to adopt an academic boycott of Israel. This measure would block federal funding for American universities engaging in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions or scholars to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to fund bigoted attacks against Israel that undermine the fundamental principles of academic freedom.

“This bipartisan legislation seeks to preserve academic freedom and combat bigotry by shielding Israel from unjust boycotts. It is ludicrous for critics to go after our democratic friend and ally Israel when they should be focusing on the evils perpetrated by repressive, authoritarian regimes like Iran and North Korea,” said Congressman Roskam, the Chief Deputy Whip and co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus. “These boycotts not only threaten educational cooperation between the United States and Israel, but ultimately undermine the academic goals of all nations. Congress has a responsibility to fight back against these hateful campaigns, which contradict academic freedom and are designed to delegitimize the Jewish State of Israel. I’m so thankful for the wisdom and leadership of Ambassador Michael Oren, who has helped raise awareness for this important effort.”

News from London

Our friends at UK Lawyers for Israel  have just issued another impressive newsletter chock-full of interesting information (UKLFI Bulletin No. 62) under the leadership of Jonathan D. C. Turner. Several highlights from the current Bulletin appear below:

UKLFI BULLETIN NO. 62

Hope University Liverpool allows the truth to be told


Mike Fryer of Christians for Zion has written to Jonathan Turner:

I want to report some good news.

 Hope University have agreed this morning to our request to display an exhibition in the University which will give the true facts regarding the security fence.

I believe this is a unique situation and is a testimony to the many people who wrote in support for our request to have this display exhibited but not least a testimony to the encouragement we received from you and David Lewis which helped us to press in and persist in our desire to see the truth taught in our communities.

So a Big Big thank you to you for the time and advice you gave and to David and UKLFI who are such a blessing to all of us who work in the field of advocacy. 

In congratulating Mike, Jonathan noted: “It is good of you to thank us, but I think this success is essentially down to your efforts.” Which neatly encapsulates our aim of helping our activist supporters to be more effective in their work.



Barry Rubin, R.I.P.

I was saddened this morning to learn that Barry Rubin, a brilliant and prolific scholar of Israel and Middle East Studies, had passed over the weekend.  Barry had been struggling with cancer for quite some time, and his continued surge in productivity over the last year, while battling serious illness, was nothing short of heroic. …