Monthly Archives: June 2009

Youtube Bans “Feeling The Hate In Jerusalem”

Feeling The Hate In Jerusalem — The Censored Video from Max Blumenthal on Vimeo.

Youtube has removed my video, “Feeling The Hate In Jerusalem,” on the baseless grounds that it contains “inappropriate content.” They have offered me no further explanation and have stonewalled my inquiries and attempts to rectify the situation. Thus they have censored a video that contains far less inflammatory content than thousands of video they are already hosting. Why? I won’t ascribe motives to Youtube I am unable to confirm, but it is clear there is an active campaign by right-wing Jewish elements to suppress the video by filing a flood of complaints with Youtube. At the same time these elements have attempted to paint me as a self-hating Jew determined to foment anti-Semitism. I answered this last charge to Ha’aretz (read the barely coherent article here) last week: “I have received death threats from people, mainly ones calling me a self-hating Jew. I am self-hating, but my self-hatred has nothing to do with me being Jewish.”

Jewish Voices for Peace (the parent organization of the excellent website Muzzlewatch) is preparing an action for tomorrow to pressure Youtube into restoring the video. They are asking their members to email to demand an explanation for the censorship. For now, I have reposted the video on Vimeo and urge everyone to distribute it widely

Israelis To Obama: “Save Us From Ourselves”

On June 5, when several hundred Israelis marched from Tel Aviv’s Yitzhak Rabin Square to the Israeli Defense Ministry to protest the anniversary of the Six Day War, I was able to meet some of the country’s most vociferous cheerleaders of Barack Obama. In complete contrast to the characters who appeared in my video report, “Feeling the Hate in Jerusalem,” those I interviewed at the demonstration (organized by the Israeli left-wing party Hadash) were invigorated by Obama’s speech in Cairo, and excited by the prospect of an American president who would pressure Israel into making meaningful concessions towards peace. As one demonstrator remarked to me, “[Obama] must save us from ourselves.”

Whether the two-state solution Obama proposes is possible is another story. Israelis view Obama’s policies towards Israel with extreme negativity, and consider him biased towards the Palestinians, though they simultaneously believe Benjamin “Yahoo” Netanyahu should bend to Washington’s will.

“You see how few we are,” said a demonstrator holding a sign reading “Obama, Yes-U-Can.” “This is about all the Israelis who really oppose the Occupation — it’s very small. Most of the Israelis don’t care about the Occupation and what goes on in the Occupied Territories and about the suffering of the Palestinians. I think it must come from the — the pressure must come from the outside… From here, there’s not enough.”

This video report is the sequel to my hotly debated, heavily trafficked “Feeling the Hate.” Many bloggers who focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict urged me to make a video that showed the “other side” of Israel, the culturally progressive element that believes in peace and international cooperation. Well, here they are. There are very, very few of them, they are marginalized, even persecuted, and in desperate need of American support. I will send this video to all the bloggers who linked to my last one and continue to obsess over it (Jeffrey Goldberg is apparently so short on new ideas he has posted a collection of incoherent comments from 50 Cent’s link to the video). Will they post it? Unlike Obama, I’m not hopeful.

Loyalty and Democracy in Israel: My Interviews with Knesset Members Alex Miller and Ahmad Tibi

On Wednesday, June 3, I went to the Knesset to speak to two of the deliberative body’s most ideologically opposed members. First, I spoke to Alex Miller, a backbencher in Avigdor Lieberman’s incipient far-right Yisrael Beiteynu party, and at 28-years-old the youngest ever member of Knesset. At behest of his party’s leadership, Miller introduced a now-notorious bill that would criminalize public observance of the Nakbah, and which succeeded in a committee vote. After meeting with Miller, I discussed the growing repression of Israel’s Arab population with MK Ahmad Tibi, leader of the Raam-Tal party and one of the Knesset’s most consistently demonized figures. For years, Lieberman and his far-right allies sought to ban Tibi from the Knesset, accusing him of treasonous rhetoric and crimes against the Jewish state. Their campaign against him and his constituents continues unabated.

Despite Miller and Tibi’s political differences, they agreed on one fundamental point: the Zionist project is in crisis. Miller and his party appear terrified that the Arab minority in Israel, a marginalized and oppressed element, could undo the Jewish state simply by exercising their right to commemorate their history. Thus they seek to ban any expression of sorrow regarding Israel’s founding and, in the words of Tibi, “impose happiness” on already demoralized victims of Zionism. Tibi described the rise of Beiteynu and its stridently anti-Arab platform as a reflection of the weakness of the Zionist narrative and the shambolic state of Israeli democracy.

Miller and Tibi’s personal demeanors presented a study in contrast. When I entered Miller’s office, a small, spartan space, he sat at his desk playing computer games beneath a framed portrait of the Dear Leader, Lieberman. The baby-faced Russian immigrant seemed uncomfortable with my presence, refusing to allow me to videotape the interview and deferring routinely to his aide, Tsah, a young political science graduate fresh out of Tel Aviv University. Throughout the interview, Tsah rushed to Miller’s desk with handwritten notes urging him to harp on the threat of “radical Islam” or to assure me of his belief in the strong bond between the US and Israel. Miller seemed bereft of political independence; he had all the trappings of an Eastern bloc communist cadre eager to impress his party elders with total loyalty. “The Israeli public believes in loyalty,” Miller grumbled towards the end of our talk. “Duties must be equivalent to rights.”

Tibi agreed to an interview after a brief request while he rushed to a plenum vote. He met me and my friends Joseph Dana and Mairav Zonszein (who translated Miller’s comments) in the Knesset cafeteria, ordered an orange juice, and sat down to take our comments. Unlike Miller, Tibi spoke fluent English, engaging us for thirty minutes with cleverly phrased observations on the flawed nature of Israeli democracy. “Right now I would say Israel is a Jewish democracy,” he remarked. “It is democratic towards Jews and Jewish towards the Arabs.” Afterwards, Tibi offered me his card so we could arrange a videotaped interview. To survive in the Knesset as its most vilified, routinely scapegoated member, as Tibi has, requires unique levels of charisma and political resiliency. To rise through Israeli political ranks as Miller apparently intends on doing requires no more skill than amplifying the howls of a gathering mob.

A full transcript Miller and Tibi’s interviews follows:

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Censored by the Huffington Post, Imprisoned by the Past: Why I Made “Feeling The Hate in Jerusalem”

On Wednesday, I walked around central Jerusalem with my friend, Joseph Dana, an Israel peace activist who has lived in the country for three years. We interviewed young people on camera about the speech President Barack Obama planned to deliver to the Muslim world the following day in Cairo. Though our questions were not provocative at all – we simply asked, “What do you think of Obama’s speech” – the responses our interview subjects offered comprised some of the most shocking comments I have ever recorded on camera. They were racist, hateful, and incredibly ignorant, and were mostly couched within a Zionist context – “this is our land, Obama!” The following day, we edited an hour of interviews into a 3:30 minute video package and released it on Mondoweiss and on the Huffington Post.

Within a few hours, I received an email from a Huffington Post administrator informing me he had scrubbed my video from the site. “I don’t see that it has any real news value,” the administrator told me. “For me it only proves that one can find drunk people willing to say just about anything.  Especially drunk, moronic people.” For the first time, the premier clearinghouse for online news and opinions had suppressed one of my posts. 

Other bloggers and commenters criticized the video on similar grounds. Their complaints generally went like this: In order to advance an agenda, Max Blumenthal exploited the wild remarks of a bunch of drunk Jewish frat-boys innocently showing off in front of their friends. The footage contained in his video in no way reflects what the Israeli public thinks. If Max went to a bar in any college town in the United States he would find the same level of ignorance and racism. Ron Kampeas at the JTA has written that I need “to grow up and put [my talents] to good use.” (While Kampeas praised some of my other video reports exposing right-wing Christians, this latest video revealing the extremism of some Israeli and American Jews seemed to hit too close to home.) 

The criticism of my video raised an interesting journalistic issue: Is reporting any less credible when interview subjects are drinking alcohol? Of course not. Journalists interview people at bars all the time, especially in broadcast packages. Beer does not, to my knowledge, contain a special drug that immediately infects drinkers with white supremacist sentiments, violent rhetoric, and anti-democratic tendencies. I get drunk as much as any social drinker and I have never called for “white power” or declared, “fuck the niggers!” as one of my interviewees did. No amount of alcohol could make me express opinions that were not authentically mine. If anything, alcohol is a crude form of truth serum that lubricates the release of closely held opinions and encourages confessional talk. 

The notion that the racist diatribes in my video emerged spontaneously from a beery void is a delusion, but for some, it is a necessary one. It allows them to erect a psychological barrier against acknowledging the painful consequences of prolonged Zionist indoctrination. And it enables them to dismiss the disturbing spectacle of young Jews behaving like fascist soccer hooligans in the heart of the capitol of Israel and the spiritual home of the Jewish people. 

The people in my video were not white trash, nor were they the “extreme right-wing fringe” as some bloggers have called them. They were the college-educated sons and daughters of middle and upper class American Jews from cosmopolitan metropolises and genteel suburbs. Some had come to Israel on vacation, some had made aliyah, and some told me they were planning to move to Israel in the near future. Many were dual citizens of America and Israel. They may have behaved in a moronic way, but they will not grow up to toil in the custodial arts. Many of these kids will move into white-collar jobs and use their influence to advance Israeli initiatives. Programs like Birthright Israel  — a few of those in my video were on Birthright tours — exist for the exclusive purpose of indoctrinating American Jews into unyielding, unthinking supporters of Israel. Thus the kids in my video represent at least one aspect of the Zionist project’s future base of political sustenance.

I do not and have never claimed that the characters that appeared in my video were representative of general public opinion in Israel. They reflect only a slice of reality, which is reality nonetheless. On the other hand, a new Yedioth Aronoth poll finds a vast majority of the Israeli public holds a negative opinion of Obama and believes he is biased toward the Palestinians. A top minister in Israel’s government has compared Obama to Pharaoh, claiming his call for a settlement freeze is like casting Jewish children into the river. A group of rightists have launched a campaign against “the anti-Semitic Obama,” apparently convinced they can make inroads with the general public. 

Behind the Israeli view of Obama lies a climate of extremism that exploded into the open when the country attacked Gaza. Today, extremist sentiment hovers well above the surface. A groundbreaking study of Israeli attitudes published in the wake of the Gaza war by the Tel Aviv University political psychologist Daniel Bar-Tal, who I recently interviewed, found that “Israeli Jews’ consciousness is characterized by a sense of victimization, a siege mentality, blind patriotism, belligerence, self-righteousness, dehumanization of the Palestinians and insensitivity to their suffering.” Bar-Tal commented to me that the army is the primary vehicle for stoking the nationalism of young Israelis. “Some countries are states without armies,” he said. “But Israel today is an army without a state. There is no civilian institution capable of restraining the army’s influence.” 

In an interview with me two days ago, the famed Israeli author David Grossman echoed Bar-Tal’s findings, remarking, “The country is trapped in one legitimate narrative: that of the government, which is of paranoia, and every event serves this narrative. Those events that don’t are simply overlooked.”

I have been in Israel for over a month; almost every day I hear expressions of paranoia about Arabs, historical delusions, and the constant refrain that “the world is against us.” I hear this even from some close friends — young, cosmopolitan Israelis living the good life in the so-called “bubble city” of Tel Aviv. Last week, a friend I play basketball with in a working class suburb of Tel Aviv (he is a high-tech worker from a fifth generation Israeli family) calmly informed me while we sat in the shade by the court: “I’m a Zionist, so of course I prefer the bloodshed on the other side.” While sitting at a bar with an elegant and otherwise charming young woman, she described to me while sipping a mixed drink how she arbitrarily shot at Arabs while serving in the army because “they want to come and steal my house.” On a leafy Tel Aviv street, a friend of a friend who splits time between spinning at local hip-hop clubs and patrolling the streets of Gaza City told me if Israel has to kill 800 Palestinians to save one Israeli Jew, then so be it. “If we wanted to, we could completely wipe Gaza out,” he said. “But we don’t because the IDF is pure.” 

Since Gaza, vocal opponents of the Occupation have found themselves increasingly marginalized and are hounded by the authorities (see the New Profile raid, Ezra Nawi, Sami Jubreir, and on and on). Meanwhile, Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteynu party’s unapologetically racist campaign has taken the form of a stream of bills working through the Knesset that would criminalize observance of the Palestinian Nakbah, ban public discussion of a bi-national state, and allow towns to ban people from entering their limits who do not subscribe to Zionist ideals. The bills keep coming like a flood; already, the Nakbah ban has passed a committee vote. 

A straight line can be drawn from the rhetoric depicted in my video to the rise of Lieberman, a proto-fascist who draws a startling degree of political strength from Israel’s youth by channeling their innermost fears and resentments. In fact, the author of the Nakbah ban is a 28-year-old named Alex Miller – the youngest ever member of the Knesset and the chairman of Beiteynu’s youth wing. In an interview, Miller told me he introduced the bill simply because, “the Israeli public believes in loyalty.” He added, “Since the founding of our party we have grown in strength. We have never changed our platform and we are seeing increasing support from the public.”

Despite the Huffington Post’s rejection of my video report, it has exploded across the blogosphere. Even the rapper 50 Cent posted it prominently on his official website. It two days it has garnered 100,000 views. I hope those who have watched it, especially those predisposed to dismiss it as anti-Israel propaganda or shock video with “no news value,” will at least ask how vitriolic levels of racism are able to flow through the streets of Jerusalem like sewage, why the grandsons of Holocaust survivors feel compelled to offer the Shoah as justification to behave like fascist street thugs, and how the sons and daughters of successful Jewish American families casually merged Zionist cant with crude white supremacism. The willful avoidance of these painful questions by self-proclaimed supporters of Israel is setting the stage for the complete delegitimization of the country they claim to love. As Obama said, “any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners of it.”

Feeling The Hate In Jerusalem on the Eve of Obama’s Speech in Cairo

Max Blumenthal writes: On the eve of President Barack Obama’s address to the Muslim world from Cairo, Egypt, I stepped out onto the streets of Jerusalem with my friend Joseph Dana to interview young Israelis and American Jews about their reaction to the speech. We encountered rowdy groups of beer sodden twenty-somethings, many from the United States, and all eager to vent their visceral, even violent hatred of Barack Obama and his policies towards Israel. Usually I offer a brief commentary on my video reports, but this one requires no comment at all. Quite simply, it contains some of the most shocking footage I have ever filmed. Watch it and see if you agree. (This video was removed from the Huffington Post on the grounds that it had “no news value” and “did not move the conversation forward.”)


Update:  Joseph Dana, one of the co-creators of the video above, has written the following to explain why he and Max Blumenthal made the video, and what he thinks it shows:

It’s about entitlement, stupid.

Max and I went on to the streets of Jerusalem at ten o’clock on a Wednesday to ascertain the feelings of the young population about Obama’s upcoming speech in Cairo. As is often the case, the streets of central Jerusalem were not filled with native Israelis but American Jews. Doubtlessly anyone who has visited Jerusalem has encountered the droves of American Jewish kids that are sent to Israel to study for a period of time from Teaneck or Westchester. We asked people a simple question, “What do you think of Obama and Israel?” Most of the people that we talked to were dual American Israeli citizens. The answers in this video reflect the education and worrisome perspectives that many American Jews harbor towards Israeli politics. The sense of entitlement that the American Jewish community has when it comes to Israeli policy is on full raw display in the words of these young adults.

Based on our interviews these people were from high socio economic backgrounds and had developed thoughts about current Israeli politics. The question is why more journalists are not covering this story. All you have to do is walk the streets of Jerusalem and you will find dozens of people that harbor the same beliefs. As a resident of Jerusalem, I can say that the people represented in this video are not members of a fringe group or simply drunk college kids. These people reflect the sentiments shared by many people in this country and this city. These people and their families are the core of the opposition to meaningful peace between Israel and her neighbors. This is what Obama is up against.