Max Blumenthal on the isolation of Netanyahu and fortress Israel

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking recently before the U.N. General Assembly, claimed that although “Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf’s clothing; Rouhani [the new Iranian Prime Minister] is a wolf in sheep’s clothing; a wolf who thinks he can pull the wool over the eyes of the international community.”

On October 4th, Democracy Now! interviewed journalist Max Blumenthal, author of a new book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, which is the culmination of four years of reporting from inside Israel-Palestine. They began by asking him to respond to Netanyahu’s latest statement:

[Netanyahu] came to power in 2009 at the helm of the most right-wing government in Israeli history. And he’s kind of occupying the centre 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 two and a half hours in the White House, during a government shutdown, to hear Netanyahu’s complaints and lecturing. He’s effectively become the Bibi-sitter1, 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.

Click here to read a full transcript or watch the interview at the Democracy Now! website.

Blumenthal goes on to speak about the isolation both of Netanyahu, with the right wing views of his Likud party falling out of favour with Democratic voters, and also the State of Israel itself, which, due in large part to its expansionist policy of building illegal settlements, feels a growing need to strengthen its borders, surrounding all of its territories (legally recognised and not) with walls to the extent that it is becoming a fortress – not that security alone is the reason for the walls:

I was dying to see the Syria vote take place, because Obama had compelled AIPAC, the central arm of the Israel lobby, to actually come out in favor of this war that was overwhelmingly unpopular with Americans. And it exposed the Israel lobby as acting sort of on behalf of Netanyahu against the will of the American public. And, of course, the vote was canceled, so this rift wasn’t exposed. But we see—we can see the Republicanization of pro-Israel support in the recent Pew poll of Jewish attitudes, where 82 percent of evangelicals believe that Israel is the promised land, that it was given to the Jews by God. Only 16 percent of secular Jews believe this. And so there’s—so the future base of Israel, as long as it’s under the control of people like Netanyahu and those to his right, like Naftali Bennett, is the Bible Belt. That’s Israel’s safety belt, Christian Zionism. And so, this is a dynamic that’s really going to develop in American foreign policy and play out in the next presidential campaign.

The wall is the separation wall, 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.

With regards to the Biblical reference in the title of his book, Blumenthal says:

Well, I chose it because of the biblical tale of David and Goliath, and also because my editors forced me to choose it. And I think it’s a good title, especially because my last book, Republican Gomorrah, has, you know, biblical resonances and begins with the letter G. But there’s an interesting quote in my book. 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.

Click here to read a full transcript or watch the interview at the Democracy Now! website.

1 Bibi is an affectionate nickname given to Benjamin Netanyahu.

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Filed under analysis & opinion, Israel, Palestine, Syria

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