Max Blumenthal on destruction and discrimination in modern Israel

OCALA, Fla., November 5, 2013 — Today, what the Middle East needs more than anything else is civilization.

Since the World War II era’s close, governments of many different backgrounds — from socialist dictatorships to secular liberal democracies — have tried to provide long-term stability. By and large, even the greatest of success stories do not last for more than a few decades.

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Amidst this chaos, often violent as it is complex, the State of Israel has been considered a beacon of liberty. Some would argue that it is a civilizing influence on the surrounding region.

“This is a deeply colonial, 19th century attitude that is still advanced by people like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” explains journalist Max Blumenthal to The Washington Times Communities. He has written extensively about Israel’s unique situation, which has generated immense controversy.

A video Blumenthal made in which young Israelis were asked about sensitive political issues was banned from YouTube. His latest book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, seems on its way to securing a place among the most politically incorrect nonfiction works of our time.

Blumenthal continues: “As a state that defines itself in opposition to its Arab neighbors, and which supports policies that destabilize and weaken them, often at the behest of the United States, Israel has helped drive trends of radicalization in the Arab world while immiserating the millions of Palestinians living under its control. 

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“It is up to citizens around the globe to bring civilization to Israel, to generate grassroots pressure towards removing it of its anachronistic and self-destructive system of institutional discrimination. In the end, this may be the only means to help it become better integrated into the region where it exists.”

Beyond its treatment of Arabs, Israel does not offer non-Orthodox Jews the same opportunities which their more fundamentalist neighbors enjoy.

“The Orthodox Chief Rabbinate wields exclusive control over all Jewish aspects of the secular state of Israel,” political columnist Allan C. Brownfeld noted in this fall’s edition of Issues, a publication of the non-Zionist American Council for Judaism. 

“Each city and town also elects its own Orthodox chief rabbi. Through a national network of Batel Din (‘religious courts’), each headed by approved Orthodox Au Beit Din judges as well as a network of ‘Religious Councils’ that are part of each municipality, the Chief Rabbinate retains exclusive control and has the final say about all matters pertaining to conversion to Judaism, the kosher certification of foods, and the status of Jewish marriages and divorces. 

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“The Israel Defense Forces also relies on the Chief Rabbinate’s approval for its own Jewish chaplains who are exclusively Orthodox.”

No small number of politicians, foreign policy analysts, and pundits believe that if Israel were to end its Jewish ethnocentrism, Islamist militants would hold no less of a grudge against Western society. Others think something altogether different.

“Israel’s policies of institutional discrimination against Palestinians are only one of many factors driving Islamic militancy and anti-Western attitudes, but it is a factor nonetheless,” Blumenthal says.

“It is important to note that the United States has sustained and defended these policies, implicating it in the occupation of Palestine, and inspiring a deep wellspring of anger, not only among Muslims, but among people across the world. It is also important to note that militant groups in Palestine are byproducts of Palestinian dispossession, but that groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have not expressed any intention to attack American assets. 

“Islamic militants in Syria, Pakistan, and parts of Africa often exploit the Palestinian cause to rally followers, but their principal grievances relate to the West and especially to the United States, which is ironically allied with the country providing the bulk of funding to Al Qaeda-linked groups: Saudi Arabia.

“[Goliath] does not directly delve into geopolitical questions like this. Instead, it shows from an on-the-ground view the corrosive impact of decades of US support for Israeli occupation and institutional discrimination has had on both Israeli Jews and Palestinians. Americans need to know what they’re paying for, without sentimentality or sanitizing bromides.”

American support of Israel extends far beyond foreign aid. Brownfeld also noted that “American Jewish organizations, which promote separation of church and state in the United States, and have led court actions even against voluntary, non-sectarian prayer in our public schools, are largely silent when it comes to the lack of religious freedom in Israel for non-Orthodox forms of Judaism which, in fact, are practiced by the majority of American Jews. 

“Are they in favor of religious freedom only in societies in which Jews are a minority? Unlike Jefferson, Madison, and Roger Williams, among others, who advocated religious freedom and separation of church and state in our own country as a matter of principle, Jewish leaders seem prepared to accept — and to promote and financially support — a society in Israel in which non-Jews are second class citizens and in which American values of equality and religious freedom are rejected. 

“For non-Orthodox Jews, Israel remains the least free society in the Western world. It should be high on the American Jewish agenda to move Israel on the path to genuine pluralism and religious freedom. At this time, sadly, it is not.”


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Joseph Cotto

Joseph F. Cotto is a social journalist by trade and student of history by lifestyle choice. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he was a contributor to Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications. He is currently at work on a book about American society.

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