Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel

by Max Blumenthal

Hardcover, 2013




New York : Nation Books, [2013]


2014 Lannan Foundation Cultural Freedom Notable Book Award In Goliath, New York Times bestselling author Max Blumenthal takes us on a journey through the badlands and high roads of Israel-Palestine, painting a startling portrait of Israeli society under the siege of increasingly authoritarian politics as the occupation of the Palestinians deepens. Beginning with the national elections carried out during Israel's war on Gaza in 2008-09, which brought into power the country's most right-wing government to date, Blumenthal tells the story of Israel in the wake of the collapse of the Oslo peace process. As Blumenthal reveals, Israel has become a country where right-wing leaders like Avigdor Lieberman and Bibi Netanyahu are sacrificing democracy on the altar of their power politics; where the loyal opposition largely and passively stands aside and watches the organized assault on civil liberties; where state-funded Orthodox rabbis publish books that provide instructions on how and when to kill Gentiles; where half of Jewish youth declare their refusal to sit in a classroom with an Arab; and where mob violence targets Palestinians and African asylum seekers scapegoated by leading government officials as "demographic threats." Immersing himself like few other journalists inside the world of hardline political leaders and movements, Blumenthal interviews the demagogues and divas in their homes, in the Knesset, and in the watering holes where their young acolytes hang out, and speaks with those political leaders behind the organized assault on civil liberties. As his journey deepens, he painstakingly reports on the occupied Palestinians challenging schemes of demographic separation through unarmed protest. He talks at length to the leaders and youth of Palestinian society inside Israel now targeted by security service dragnets and legislation suppressing their speech, and provides in-depth reporting on the small band of Jewish Israeli dissidents who have shaken off a conformist mindset that permeates the media, schools, and the military. Through his far-ranging travels, Blumenthal illuminates the present by uncovering the ghosts of the past--the histories of Palestinian neighborhoods and villages now gone and forgotten; how that history has set the stage for the current crisis of Israeli society; and how the Holocaust has been turned into justification for occupation. A brave and unflinching account of the real facts on the ground, Goliath is an unprecedented and compelling work of journalism.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Jotto
For readers such as myself who hope and pray that there will continue to be a place in the Middle East where Jewish people and culture flourish, this book is a painful read. Blumenthal in one short chapter after the other documents how Israel is sliding towards an exclusivist, racist society. While
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he also provides a good number of stories involving those Israelis who continue to struggle for a more open, truly democratic society, his interviews with a number of the rightest and ultra-rightist politicians now in power make clear that there is little basis for hoping that the current peace process will succeed. Even more regrettable (at least from my point of view) is the obscuring of the core values of Judaism that current Israeli legislation, highlighted by the author, represents. For those who wish to puncture the still all-to-common glorification of Israeli society as a "light unto the nations," this book provides ample ammunition. For those of us who hope and pray that the day where Israelis and Palestinians will live together in a peaceful and just society will soon come, Blumenthal's Goliath bodes ill.
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LibraryThing member gregorybrown
Cataloguing the current political situation in Israel, Blumenthal's Goliath is an important and damning work. Unlike most books on Israel-Palestine affairs, Blumenthal is less concerned with proving which ideology is right or wrong (or whether the definition of “apartheid” matches the
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situation), and more aimed at using the brute facts of the situation to illustrate the incredible devastation wrought by the Israeli right-wing. I regard myself as a pretty news-conscious guy of the Left, but so much of the book's events came as a shock to me; you do hear some about the plight of the Palestinians in publications such as the NY Times, but even then it's typically couched in what it means for US-Israeli relations. (The most famous book about Israel of the last two decades is specifically about the Israel lobby in US politics, side-stepping any discussion of the occupation itself.)

While Blumenthal isn't concerned with laying out a discrete comparison to apartheid, as mentioned earlier, the stories he tells makes it hard to not think of the parallels to a part of America's history that we're more familiar with: the Jim Crow-era South. Like then, Palestinians and Israeli Arabs face a mixture of both de jure and de facto structural racism, discrimination that not only depresses their economic futures but also exacts a deep personal cost such as police harassment, jail time, separation of families, and violent eviction from their homes.

Some of the stories are so stunning as to make me think of the Indonesian public in The Act of Killing: a sort of blasé indifference that's just as morally damning as if they were directly responsible. And in many cases, they are directly responsible through the universal conscription that makes many execute the practical roles of the occupation. Blumenthal especially indicts the Zionist Left in this aspect; they often willingly enter service as “change from within”, but whatever change they enact is impossible to see, and they often disengage afterwards from any sort of moral responsibility for their actions.

If the book has any flaws, it's in a messy structure. The book is a series of short chapters or episodes that illustrate aspects of the day-to-day reality in Israel and Palestine, sort of like The Forever War by Dexter Filkins. Unlike Filkins, though, Blumenthal isn't evocative enough (and succinct enough) to keep this technique from grinding the reader down. I had to take several breaks of a few days, since the book is so unremittently bleak. (It didn't help that I was concurrently reading a book on the AIDS crisis!) But under full consideration, the book is Important in a way that excuses the flaws, determined to thoroughly catalogue the current Israeli state of affairs, and warn of how it's spiraling out of control.
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LibraryThing member mnorfolk49
How depressing - how ironic that a people that suffered so grievously at the hands of the Nazi's should visit such xenophobia and apartheid on others. And oh how we in the West have these facts obscured and hidden from us. Eye opening.



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