Monthly Archives: October 2013

Goliath visits Los Angeles, November 4

On November 4, I will be discussing “Goliath” in Los Angeles with UCLA’s Gabriel Piterberg, the author of the excellent intellectual history of the Zionist movement, “The Returns of Zionism.” I will post a complete schedule of book tour related events in the coming days, including several more Los Angeles-area appearances. LA event

Here’s the complete video of my discussion of Goliath and Israel-Palestine at University of Pennsylvania with Ian Lustick (read Phil Weiss’s coverage of the event here):

Another Problem From Hell? Adelson and Wiesel Laud Rwanda’s Kagame at NYC Genocide Panel


 
At New York’s Cooper Union, where Abraham Lincoln launched his presidential campaign, I witnessed pro-Israel Republican billionaire Sheldon Adelson laud the “military genius” of Rwandan strongman Paul Kagame while a crowd consisting mostly of Jewish Americans cheered. Organized by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the popular TV personality and failed New Jersey congressional candidate whose hapless campaign was bankrolled by Adelson, and hosted by NYU’s Bronfman Center for Jewish Life, the bizarre event centered a discussion of the “strong protecting the weak” from genocide. 
 
The evening’s guest of honor was Elie Wiesel, the 85-year-old Nobel prize winning author who Boteach compared to Nelson Mandela and hailed as “the prince of the Jewish people.” Wiesel joined Adelson in celebrating Kagame, lending his reputation as the world’s most famous Holocaust survivor to a man accused of propelling the worst genocide since World War Two and described by leading Rwanda expert Philip Reyntjens as “probably the worst war criminal in office today.” 
 
When Wiesel urged the audience to speak up against injustice, a young human rights activist named Rob Conrad rose from the crowd, attempting to interject facts about Kagame’s role in supporting the M23 rebel militia that has fueled the genocide in the Congo, relying on child soldiers in a conflict that has left millions dead. Wiesel watched in silence as Kagame’s personal security detail ripped the protester from his seat, covered his mouth and manhandled him all the way to the exit door. The Congolese human rights activist Kambale Musavuli told me he was removed from the event by Rwandan security before it even began, raising questions about whether NYU’s Bronfman Center shared its list of attendees with Kagame’s personal detail. 
 
After Boteach delivered a lengthy treatise on shared Israeli-Rwandan values, highlighting countless UN condemnations of both nations’ human rights violations as a positive trait, me and Alex Kane of Mondoweiss attempted to question him and his fellow panelists (no questions were allowed from the crowd during the event). Besides being the man Boteach described as “the very conscience of the six million martyred in the Holocaust,” Wiesel has been the chairman of Elad, a pro-settler organization that is orchestrating the demolition of Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem to build a biblical theme park. And Adelson was perhaps the most generous patron of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political career. We wanted to know what could be done to protect Palestinians from the individuals and ventures they supported. Naturally, they did not want to answer, though Adelson volunteered a dark fantasy to Kane: “You should have your mouth duct taped!” 

October 17, Goliath comes to UPenn, with Ian Lustick

I will be speaking on October 17 with Ian Lustick, professor of political science at UPenn and author of the widely discussed New York Times op-ed on the two state illusion. Lustick recently responded to critics of his piece here, writing:

The most important message in my article was not that two states are absolutely impossible—indeed I did not say that and do not believe it. Rather, my argument is that paths to political decisions in Israel and the United States that could result in that outcome via negotiations are so implausible that the negotiations themselves end up protecting and deepening oppressive conditions. In addition, by diverting energies from the difficult search for alternatives, however painful they may be, fixation on the tantalizing mirage of the two-state solution’s imminent arrival increases the likelihood that when transformative change comes, that change will be catastrophic.

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Please join us for a lunchtime talk with award-winning journalist Max Blumenthal, author of the new book GOLIATH: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel. Max will discuss his book and the future of Israel-Palestine with Professor Ian Lustick, author of a recent, explosive opinion piece in the New York Times Sunday Review, “Two-State Illusion.” The discussion will be followed by a book signing and light snacks on the Van Pelt 6th floor balcony.

Netanyahu’s Terrible Tale

On October 1, at the conclusion of a lengthy speech demanding prolonged sanctions against Iran and pledging Israel’s willingness to take unilateral military action against Iran’s nuclear program, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turned back to the nightmare of 19th century Europe. He told of how an anti-Semitic mob brutalized his grandfather, Natan Milikovsky and his younger brother, Judah, using the story to present Israel as the only sanctuary for Jews in an eternally hostile world:

Ladies and gentlemen, one cold day in the 19th century, my grandfather Nathan and his younger brother Judah were standing in a railway station in the heart of Europe. They were seen by a group of anti-Semitic hoodlums who ran towards them waving clubs, screaming death to the Jews. My grandfather shouted to his younger brother to flee and save himself and he then stood alone against the raging mob to slow it down. They beat him senseless. They left him for dead. And before he passed out covered in his own blood, he said to himself, “What a disgrace. What a disgrace. The descendants of the Maccabees lie in the mud powerless to defend themselves.” He promised himself then that if he lived, he would take his family to the Jewish homeland and help build a future for the Jewish people. I stand here today as Israel’s prime minister because my grandfather kept that promise….

Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit described the moment as “chilling,” citing the story as proof that Netanyahu “meant every word” of his threats against Iran. But Bibi has deployed the harrowing tale at least once before, and in a far less dramatic setting than the UN General Assembly.

In January 2011, at the July 2011 Manufacturers Association Conference in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu described his grandfather’s beating during the conclusion of a diatribe in which he demanded the mass expulsion of non-Jewish African asylum seekers to save Israel’s Jewish demographic majority and declared his refusal to remove an illegal settlement outpost.

Complaining that Israel has “turned into almost the only first-world country that refugees can walk to from the third world,” Netanyahu warned, “A stream of refugees threaten to wash away our achievements and harm our existence as a Jewish and democratic state.”

Currently, Saharonim Prison in the Negev Desert holds around 2000 African migrants and asylum seekers, including women and children who have fled genocide and war. Under an amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Act, which Netanyahu supported and signed into law, but which was recently overturned by Israel’s Supreme Court, the state was authorized to arrest any non-Jewish African resident without charges or trial and hold them in prisons like Saharonim for as long as three years. Reuven Rivlin, the former speaker of the Knesset, has called the prison a “concentration camp[].”

Netanyahu brought his speech to the Manufacturers Association Conference to a close with the story of his grandfather’s beating. According to the Jerusalem Post, Netanyahu recalled:

“[My grandfather] said that once he was at a train station with his brother, and rioters yelled ‘Yid’ at them and beat them with clubs. They threw his brother into the mud, and he jumped in the mud to save him. Then, my grandfather said to himself – what an embarrassment that the descendants of King David and the Maccabees are stuck in the mud. If I live, I will move to the Land of Israel.”

Saharonim and Ketziot prisons for non-Jewish Africans (photo by Noam Sheizaf)

Saharonim and Ketziot prisons for non-Jewish Africans (photo by Noam Sheizaf)