No 874 Posted by fw, October 07, 2013
“[Netanyahu has] returned to the U.S. to sell the Israeli position to an American public that wants diplomacy, that welcomed Barack Obama’s historic phone call with Hassan Rouhani. And Obama has been forced to sit with Netanyahu for 2.5 hours in the White House, during a government shutdown, to hear Netanyahu’s complaints and lecturing. He’s [Obama has] effectively become the Bibi-sitter, meeting with Netanyahu more times than any foreign leader, the head of this country the size of New Jersey. And so, Netanyahu really looks kind of desperate and diminished at the U.N….And he has concocted this very belligerent and stentorian speech that really would maybe appeal to elderly evangelicals or an AIPAC crowd, but it’s not resonating with the American public.”—Max Blumenthal
To watch a two-part video interview with Max Blumenthal, an articulate journalist with an insider’s perspective on life in Israel and the Occupied Territories, and access a full transcript of the discussion, click on the following linked title. (A link to Part 2 appears under the heading “Related”, in the left column of the title webpage).
Alternatively, embedded versions of both video parts are below, along with long (over 4,400 words) abridged transcripts. Subheadings, text highlighting and a couple of hyperlinks have been added.
[Unless otherwise indicated, the speaker in the abridged transcripts is Max Blumenthal]
[Introduction] — As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is continuing a public campaign to cast doubt on U.S. diplomatic engagement with Iran, we speak to journalist Max Blumenthal, best-selling author of Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party. His new book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, looks at life inside Netanyahu’s Israel and the Occupied Territories. He is on a book tour to paint this intimate portrait of Israeli society for Americans who don’t see what it really is.”
Netanyahu markets himself as the salesman; he’s in the US to market a lemon – himself
Max Blumenthal — Well, with my book, what I really aim to do is—this is a culmination of four years of my reporting from inside Israel-Palestine, from inside Netanyahu’s Israel. He came to power in 2009 at the helm of the most right-wing government in Israeli history. And he’s kind of occupying the center in Israel. He markets himself to Israelis as—you know, he appears in my book as the salesman, and he markets himself as a man who can go to the U.S. and market a lemon, who can sell a lemon to the American public, because he speaks English perfectly, he was educated at MIT, he worked at Boston Consulting with Mitt Romney.
And here he’s returned to the U.S. to sell the Israeli position to an American public that wants diplomacy, that welcomed Barack Obama’s historic phone call with Hassan Rouhani. And Obama has been forced to sit with Netanyahu for 2.5 hours in the White House, during a government shutdown, to hear Netanyahu’s complaints and lecturing. He’s effectively become the Bibi-sitter, meeting with Netanyahu more times than any foreign leader, the head of this country the size of New Jersey. And so, Netanyahu really looks kind of desperate and diminished at the U.N., and he’s—but, I mean, he loves these animal metaphors. And he has concocted this very belligerent and stentorian speech that really would maybe appeal to elderly evangelicals or an AIPAC crowd, but it’s not resonating with the American public.
[VIDEO CLIP – Charlie Rose interviews Netanyahu on CBS news, October 1, 2013]
Bibi’s interview style on parade – If asked a question he doesn’t like, he immediately changes the subject
Charlie Rose — I don’t understand why you think building settlements in—
Benjamin Netanyahu — Now let me talk to you.
Charlie Rose — East Jerusalem is necessary—
Benjamin Netanyahu — Now let me tell you something. First of all, what—
Charlie Rose — to find a solution—
Benjamin Netanyahu — Let me—let me tell you something.
Charlie Rose — when the world believes it stands in the way of a solution.
Benjamin Netanyahu — Yeah, well, the world believes a lot of things, but the world doesn’t get it. And here’s what they don’t get.
Charlie Rose — I think the American president believes that.
Benjamin Netanyahu — Well, let me—let me tell you what I think is the issue, and then you can judge whether you agree with me or not, and the same thing I say to everyone in the world. The settlements in the territories are not the cause of the conflict. They’re—they’re—
Charlie Rose — Nobody says that. But they are—
Benjamin Netanyahu — It’s the result.
Charlie Rose — stand in the way of a solution.
Benjamin Netanyahu — But—but here’s the way you get a solution. They don’t stand in the way, either. Ninety percent of the Jewish population is clustered in the—in Judea, Samaria, the West Bank, is clustered in a tiny fraction of that land. It’s not an issue. It’s a bogus issue.
A lot of Jewish Israelis believe and cheer Netanyahu for saying what he said to Rose
Max Blumenthal — Well, a lot of Jewish Israelis believe that, and they might cheer Netanyahu for saying that. A majority of Jewish Israelis are against massive pullouts from the West Bank, and so this is also part of Netanyahu’s appeal. And we also have to recognize—you know, I went into the Knesset, and in my book I interviewed a lot of the rising stars in Netanyahu’s party.
For Israeli politicians, the more pro-settlement they can be, the more extreme they can be, the more votes they can get
Israeli politicians want PR. And this younger generation feels like the more pro-settlement they can be, the more extreme they can be, the more votes they get. And so, the younger generation in Netanyahu’s party, the future of Likud, favors annexing 60 percent of the West Bank. So does his economy minister, Naftali Bennett. This is the future of Israeli politics. And that’s what is really appearing in the pages of my book, Goliath.
Israel’s strategic deterrence is completely contingent on its direct line to Washington
Well, Israel’s strategic deterrence is completely contingent on its direct line to Washington. That’s partly why Netanyahu is there. As I said, he’s the salesman.
Netanyahu knows Israel is committing human rights crimes in the West Bank, but he seeks to depict the situation as just
And, you know, I went into Netanyahu’s early writings, when he was just emerging on the world stage, in my book, and I dissect them, and I talk about how he says that, you know, “It doesn’t matter if your position is just; you have to depict your position as just.” He actually understands that Israel is committing human rights crimes in the West Bank, but he is completely focused on the West, and the world does matter to him.
Party right-wingers have said: “We don’t need the peace process. It’s over.”
So, it’s interesting to see him come here and actually face a little bit of tough questioning and see him kind of—you can see the desperation on his face. I don’t think this is helping Netanyahu. But ultimately, it does help the right-wingers in his party, who are to Netanyahu’s right, like Danny Danon or like Naftali Bennett, who have said, “We don’t need the peace process. It’s over. It’s a failed—we don’t even need to talk to the Palestinians. Let’s annex 60 percent of the West Bank and give them Jordanian citizenship.” And that’s getting more and more popularity in Israeli society.
Rise of settler racism — A recent poll shows a majority of secular Israeli youth favor settler terrorism, vigilante attacks against the Palestinian population in the West Bank
I devote a lot of my book—actually, most of my book—to what’s happening behind the Green Line, to the area of Israel that will be legitimized under a two-state solution. And there is an active process in Israel of actually kind of moving the occupation back into Israeli society. I talk about how I lived in Jaffa, which is one of the—you know, the remnant of the Palestinian community before 1948, which has now been incorporated into the Tel Aviv municipality. And a religious nationalist settlement has been built in the center of this Palestinian-Israeli area, creating an enormous amount of friction. My favorite restaurant in my neighborhood was firebombed by hoodlums from the West Bank. Homes have been attacked by hoodlums from the West Bank, I mean religious nationalist settler youth who stage marches through this neighborhood, provocative marches, chanting “Jaffa for Jews!” And when I was there, they were doing so almost on a weekly basis. This is occurring in Jerusalem, not just weekly, but even daily. And then you look at the polls, you look at the attitudes of Israeli youth. According to a poll by Camille Fuchs, who’s one of the most reputable pollsters in Israeli society, a majority of secular Israeli youth, high-schoolers, say that they would refuse to have an Arab neighbor. A majority of Tel Aviv residents favor the total expulsion of African migrants from Tel Aviv. Forty-eight percent of Israelis, according to a Ynet poll, which is a poll conducted by Israel’s most popular newspaper, favor—are in support of settler price tag attacks—in other words, settler terrorism. Price tag attacks are basically vigilante attacks carried out by settlers against the Palestinian population in the West Bank. And whenever a settler outpost is demolished, there will be a retaliatory attack with graffiti on the Palestinian home that says “price tag.” Only 33 percent of Israelis in this poll oppose that. A majority of Israelis in another poll agreed with the statement by Miri Regev, who’s a rising star in the Likud party, that Africans are a cancer in Israel’s body. So this is the kind of racism coursing through the heart of Israeli society, and it’s encouraged from the—by the central institutions of Israeli society.
Racist policies against Bedouins – 40,000 to be removed from homes and forced into reservation-style communities
There are 80,000 Bedouins living in the Negev desert who are Israeli citizens, who serve in the Israeli army. They live in unrecognized communities. Because they’re not Jewish, they can’t hook up to the electricity grid, they can’t get public services, they can’t have health clinics. And now, under a new plan called the Prawer Plan, which was just approved in the Israeli Knesset, 40,000 of them will be removed from their homes, ethnically cleansed, and forced into communities where they’ll be “concentrated” — this is the government’s language, to “concentrate the Bedouin” — in these Indian reservation-style communities.
I just visited one of them, called Umm al-Hieran, when I was in the Negev two weeks ago. Almost every building in this community has been marked for demolition. It is a real town. I mean, when you think of Bedouins, you think of nomadic people. No, these are people who have been there before the state of Israel was established, and they will be replaced by a Jewish community that had gone in the night before I was there to stake out plots and decide where they would live. And they’re living in an artificial forest created by the Jewish National Fund in a barb-wire compound, preparing to take over. This is the plan for the Negev desert under Netanyahu, and it’s been approved across the political spectrum in Israel.
What surprised Blumenthal most was the daily racism and violence that is hidden from Americans
I was most surprised at the banality of the racism and violence that I witnessed and how it’s so—it’s so widely tolerated, because it’s so common. And I’m most surprised that, you know, in my reporting on this, it hasn’t made its way to the American public. And so, that’s why I did this book. When we hear about this kind of daily violence, you don’t read about it on the pages of The New York Times. And I really asked myself why, and that’s why I set out to do this endeavor, this journalistic endeavor, to paint this intimate portrait of Israeli society for Americans who don’t see what it really is.
[Note – At the very beginning of Part 2 of the interview, Blumenthal is asked about his book, Republican Gomorrah, in which he painted a picture of a minority party that was in deep decline. That part of the interview has not been included in this abridged transcript].
Part two of a conversation with journalist Max Blumenthal on his new book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel. Blumenthal looks at life inside Israel and the Occupied Territories.
Netanyahu’s hypocrisy: He rages on about Iran’s nuclear research but refuses to talk about Israel’s nuclear arsenal and other weapons
Max Blumenthal — Israel has 250 nuclear warheads that are produced in Dimona at a place they officially refer to as a “textile factory”, [but is where] they enrich uranium there. Israel has several Dolphin-class submarines given them by Germany as part of Holocaust reparations. The launching tubes have been retrofitted to launch nuclear weapons that can reach Iran from the Red Sea. Israel has a massive stock of weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons. It’s used bizarre experimental weapons, like dense inert metal explosives, on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. And this is really the secret of the Israel arms industry, is that they market their weapons, including these bizarre weapons, as field-tested. They’re one of the few countries that can do that. So, this is hypocrisy on Netanyahu’s part.
Netanyahu doesn’t want to talk about the Palestinians, the settlements, the citizen arrests
But then there’s the Iran issue, which you mentioned, Juan. He mentioned Iran 50 times in his speech. He mentioned Palestinians maybe five or six times and the word “peace” three times. He doesn’t want to talk about Palestinians. And over 2,000 new settlement units have been authorized, in religious nationalist settlements, outside the major settlement blocs in the West Bank since negotiations began, along with thousands of arrests of Palestinians.
He uses Iran as a distraction to whitewash what’s happening in the Occupied Territories
So Netanyahu is using Iran to whitewash what’s actually happening in Israeli-controlled territory. It’s what he’s always done. Actually, at AIPAC, in his speech at AIPAC in 2011, he didn’t mention Palestinians once, and this was an enormous PR coup for him. So, the question is, how can he be forced to talk about this issue? Clearly, the U.S., which has set this nine-month timetable for negotiations, is not forcing him to do it.
Well, the Peace Camp is sort of—has faded. Their moment has gone, and they’re hanging on to a two-state delusion. And they are being exposed. The problem is they are well paid. They’re part of this peace process industry that never seems to go away. And as long as the two-state solution is—the hope of the two-state solution remains, they keep their paychecks.
Small group of Israeli Jews have dedicated their lives to bearing witness to and fighting against the Occupation
But what I tried to do in my book, Goliath, is to talk about the Jewish Israelis who are engaging in acts of civil disobedience, who are, as the—as the Israeli philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who tried to organize a movement of mass army refusal in Israel, said, “to organize mass insubordination.” So I talk about the group Anarchists Against the Wall. I spent lots of time with them going in and out of the West Bank, watching how they operate at protests, using human-shielding tactics, visiting Palestinian children who had been arrested at night in the military courts, and just bearing witness. And these are a small handful of Israeli Jews who have basically dedicated their lives to bearing witness and exposing the occupation and fighting it, literally with their hands. When Anarchists against the Wall was born, it was in a Palestinian town that was facing mass demolitions and expropriation because of the construction of the separation wall. It was called Mas’ha. So these Israeli Jews just came and set up camp with Palestinians—they were invited there—and the popular struggle was born, this unarmed protest movement. And the first thing they did was attempt to tear down the separation wall with their bare hands. And Israeli Jews had their legs shot out, with live ammunition, standing beside Palestinians.
Most of Israel is surrounded by walls; now there is talk of building sea walls covered by an iron dome
The wall is the separation wall, which is the—which has expropriated over 100,000 acres of Palestinian land and really serves as sort of a demographic wall. It actually has no real security value. And so, the point of it is to accomplish what Netanyahu warned would be—to prevent what Netanyahu warned would be demographic spillover. It’s an incredibly racist and bizarre concept that is sort of unfamiliar, I think, to real democracies.
It’s enormously tall, and it extends for hundreds of kilometers across the West Bank. I think anyone who visits Israel-Palestine has to see it. But there’s not just that wall. The entire Gaza Strip is surrounded by walls and electric fencing. Netanyahu has authorized $360 million, cutting social spending, to build a wall against the border of Jordan. The entire border between Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Syria is mined. Netanyahu has just built a wall against the Sinai desert to prevent African migrants and asylum seekers, who are fleeing genocide, from getting to Israel. So almost all of the state of Israel, the Jewish state, is surrounded by walls. And one of Netanyahu’s advisers, Arnon Soffer, has proposed sea walls. They are covered by an iron dome, an anti-missile system provided by the U.S., by U.S. taxpayers. It sounds—it’s an absolute dystopian situation that fulfills the prophecy in the Book of Numbers, that the people of Israel will stand alone and not be reckoned among the nations.
The Jewish establishment wants to ignore reality and talk instead about Israel, the “dream castle”
But right now, you know, I think that what the Jewish establishment wants to do and what pro-Israel groups want to do is ignore me. They want to ignore this narrative, and they want to ignore the real Israel. They want to ignore the facts on the ground and not talk about it, and keep focusing on this dream castle Israel, because it not only harms their political efforts, it harms them on a personal psychological level, because this goes to the very heart of their identity.
Facts on the ground on this, the 20th anniversary of the Oslo Accords
The 20th anniversary of the Oslo Accords, I was there weeks after the 20th anniversary, in Ramallah, which is going to be, if there is a Palestinian state, the de facto capital. East Jerusalem is now off-limits to most Palestinians, which was supposed to be the capital. Sixty percent of the West Bank, it belongs to the Israeli military. There are massive demolitions being carried out in that part of the West Bank. The West Bank and Gaza are separated. Over 150,000 settlers, Jewish settlers, have been moved into the West Bank since the Oslo Accords, I think over 80,000 arrests of Palestinians.
As long as Israel remains obsessed with propaganda and covering everything up, the occupation will not end
There’s a person I quote in my book who is the first Jewish ambassador of the United Kingdom to Israel, Matthew Gould. And he went on Israeli TV, and he said, “You’re obsessed with these hasbara, or propaganda, efforts to explain your position to the world and to cover everything up. You have to recognize that Israel is now seen as the Goliath, and Palestinians are seen as the David. Cut the hasbara, the propaganda, out, and end the occupation. Maybe then you won’t be seen that way.” And that’s the problem. That’s the problem with Netanyahu. It’s the problem in Israeli society. This occupation will not end as long as this current system is intact. And so, I think Goliath is the perfect title.
[AUDIO CLIP – NPR’s Steve Inskeep interviews Netanyahu, October 4, 2013]
Bibi’s interview style on parade again – If asked a question he doesn’t like, he immediately changes the subject
Steve Inskeep — People will ask, “Why can’t we have nuclear weapons, since Israel has them?” What is a reasonable answer to that question?
Benjamin Netanyahu — Well, I’m not going to say what Israel has or doesn’t have, but I will say Israel has no designs to destroy anyone. We have not called for the destruction of a people, the annihilation of Iran or any other country. But that’s exactly what Iran’s doctrinaire, messianic, apocalyptic regime—it’s a terrorist regime. A terrorist regime bent on world domination, seeking to navigate their way cleverly to the point where they have awesome power, should not be allowed to achieve it.
Steve Inskeep — What’s the answer to that question about what people see as a double standard?
Benjamin Netanyahu — Well, Israel—I think Israel is not the issue. And in general in the Middle East, the issue is not those who have signed the NPT, the Non-Proliferation Treaty—
Steve Inskeep — People also ask why Israel hasn’t signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Benjamin Netanyahu — Well, you should look at those who signed it. See, the signing of it is meaningless, because Syria signed it. It was developing, you know, facilities for nuclear weapons. Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, signed it. It was developing nuclear weapons—twice, actually—from the 1970s on. And Iran signed it, and it’s developing these nuclear weapons, developing ICBMs.
Final thoughts on Netanyahu’s Israel, a rogue state funded by $30 billion US taxpayer dollars every 10 years
Final comment is, you know, that—you know, in my book, I try to get past the geopolitics and talk about Netanyahu’s Israel, and it reveals the projections in his statement. He talks about wiping a country off the map. Well, where I lived in Jaffa, a nation had been wiped off the map where I jogged in an—it was to Tel Aviv, where these grassy dunes called Charles Clore Park, which used to be the Palestinian neighborhood of Manshia. So, the state of Israel has already done this. Netanyahu talks about militant, theocratic medievalists in Iran, but in his own country he has state-funded rabbis, like Dov Lior, who have urged human experimentation on Palestinian prisoners, or like Shmuel Eliyahu, the state-funded chief rabbi of Safed, who has called for a genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. He has people like Yitzhak Shapira, the state-funded rabbi of the yeshiva in Yitzhar near Nablus on the West Bank, who published what is literally a manual for how and when to kill non-Jews. And when he was—when he was summoned to an interrogation by the Shin Bet, he didn’t show up, nothing happened, and Netanyahu said nothing. So this book is really about what’s happening in Netanyahu’s backyard. I don’t doubt a lot of things that are said about Iran, but let’s talk about what’s really happening inside Netanyahu’s country, because we’re funding it, $30 billion every 10 years. And Israel is the issue.
Max Blumenthal, award-winning journalist and bestselling author of Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party. His new book is called Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel.