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June 8, 2015 5:31 pm

No Truth in Advertising: Max Blumenthal’s New Book on Gaza

avatar by Petra Marquardt-Bigman

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Anti-Israel activist Max Blumenthal. Photo: Wikipedia.

Anti-Israel activist Max Blumenthal. Photo: Wikipedia.

With his last book Goliath published in fall 2013, Max Blumenthal hoped to popularize the antisemitic comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany. But he and his fans evidently feel somewhat frustrated: anticipating the publication of a new book by Blumenthal that accuses Israel of war crimes and wanton cruelty in Gaza, they now complain that Goliath “was virtually blacked out by American mainstream media” and demand in particular that the “NYT needs to end blackout on Blumenthal.” Blumenthal himself seems to feel strongly on this point and has repeatedly re-tweeted this specific demand.

Apparently, Blumenthal is not embarrassed that this demand comes from a website that has been described as a “hate site,” and which promotes anti-Semitic material. But for a writer who has built a reputation as a “gonzo journalist” and has fans on neo-Nazi forums and many other outlets that attract Jew-haters,  it’s perhaps best not to be too picky about where the cheers come from.

Despite his well-earned notoriety, Blumenthal has managed to get his new book endorsed by Reza Aslan, who is a professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside and describes himself as “an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions.” While Aslan is no stranger to controversy,  his endorsement of Blumenthal’s new book is not only noteworthy for the disreputable company he joins so willingly, but also for the rather preposterous claim that Blumenthal is among “the most vital voices in journalism today, always speaking truth to power with fearlessness and integrity.”

I first came across Aslan’s praise of Blumenthal – together with proof (if any was needed) of how ridiculous this praise is – when Blumenthal retweeted the advertisement for a talk to market his new book. Even if Blumenthal may not have provided the text for the announcement himself, his supposed journalistic “integrity” justifies the assumption that he at least checked it. In any case, the gushing announcement includes the false claim that “Max Blumenthal was in Gaza throughout this catastrophe” (i.e. the 2014 Gaza war). At Amazon, the announcement is a bit more ambiguous, but still misleading with the claim that “Max Blumenthal was in Gaza and throughout Israel–Palestine during what he argues was an entirely avoidable catastrophe.” The book description, again misleadingly, claims that “Max Blumenthal was on the ground during what he argues was an entirely avoidable catastrophe.”

If you write a whole book that you want to market as an “explosive work of reportage” about a recent war that lasted some seven weeks, it is of course tempting to claim that you actually witnessed what you “report” about. However, as Blumenthal himself stated when he “testified” at an anti-Israel kangaroo court in September 2014, he came to Gaza only “at the onset of a five-day humanitarian ceasefire on August 14.”

Interviews he gave towards the end of July identify him as being in Washington, D.C. So at least for the first two or three weeks of the conflict, Blumenthal was not “on the ground” in Gaza or Israel. He went to Gaza only some two weeks before the end of the fighting on August 26.

But once Blumenthal entered Gaza on August 14, it took him just a few hours to “report” via Twitter that “Shujaiya [a Gaza neighborhood] is not a war zone, it is a crime scene. And evidence is plentiful.”

For a professor of creative writing, that may sound very good, though it obviously reflects more creativity than serious reporting or journalism. Blumenthal may well have conceived his new book right then and there, in his first few hours “on the ground” in Gaza; in any case, the indictment of Israel that is the book’s main message was formulated already in the evening of Blumenthal’s very first day “on the ground” in Gaza.

Needless to say, Blumenthal didn’t mean to implicate Hamas when he called the Gaza neighborhood that the terror group had turned into its heavily fortified stronghold “a crime scene.” While Blumenthal was safely “on the ground” in the U.S., Hamas used the neighborhood to fire some 140 rockets into Israel. Considering the amount of weapons and terror infrastructure embedded in the densely populated neighborhood, it would indeed be entirely appropriate to describe it as a “crime scene.” But as far as Blumenthal is concerned, it was of course Israel that was committing the crime when it defended its citizens against the rocket barrages and terror attacks launched by Hamas from this and other civilian neighborhoods in Gaza.

On the other hand, it seems that for Blumenthal, Hamas – a terror group with a genocidal fascist charter – can do no wrong. When a Palestinian acquaintance or friend quoted Blumenthal on Twitter as saying: “If I was Palestinian I would want to live in Gaza, where true resistance is,” Blumenthal retweeted the statement.

This tweet not only indicates Blumenthal’s sympathies for Hamas, but it also tells us that Blumenthal had left Gaza by August 22. So it seems that during the war, he spent just one week “on the ground” there, and even though the Israeli army had withdrawn its ground forces almost ten days before Blumenthal arrived in Gaza, and despite the fact that there was a ceasefire for most of his stay there, the book description claims that “Blumenthal brings the battles in Gaza to life, detailing the ferocious clashes that took place when Israel’s military invaded the besieged strip.”

So getting an endorsement from a professor of creative writing was perhaps entirely appropriate.

But while Blumenthal apparently tells tales of “ferocious clashes” in his new book, he indicated in March that he felt Hamas fighters had an easy time when he used a social media PR effort by Hamas to ask on Twitter: “Why did the elite Golani Brigade retreat in fear when young men in Shujaiya came out to defend their homes?”

Once again, this tweet illustrates Blumenthal’s enthusiasm for Hamas and his uncritical acceptance of the terror group’s propaganda. But there is a series of tweets Blumenthal himself helpfully collected on Storify that provide an even more revealing glimpse of his admiration for the “resistance.” He apparently returned to Gaza shortly before or after Hamas finally accepted an open-ended ceasefire (on terms almost identical to those offered by Israel already soon after the start of the fighting in July) and documented the subsequent “victory rallies.” In one of the tweets, Blumenthal describes the Al Qassam Brigades spokesman mocking the Israeli army as “losers” who failed to defeat the Hamas fighters – and this is, of course, exactly the message Blumenthal echoed in his #AskHamas tweet in March of this year.

There are many other examples of similarly revealing echoes of Hamas propaganda, including one tweet from the same series where Blumenthal claims that Israel destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza “as part of strategy to turn Gaza’s educated middle class against Hamas. State terror.” Of course, Blumenthal completely ignored the Israeli army’s stated reason for targeting the building – it was “a center of terror activity” that “housed several Hamas operation rooms.”

But as far as Max Blumenthal is concerned, Hamas is just a noble “resistance” movement rightly admired by many Palestinians, while Israel is a monstrous terror force that should be rejected by the whole world. Whether it is equating Israel with Nazi Germany or with the terror group Islamic State, or, most recently, endorsing the preposterous conspiracy theories of an utterly discredited writer who fantasized that Israel is “allied” with Al-Qaeda, Blumenthal can always be relied upon to translate the Nazi slogan “The Jews are our misfortune” into its 21st-century version: “The Jewish State is our misfortune.”

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