On this week’s episode of Unauthorized Disclosure Kevin Gosztola and I spend the entire hour speaking with Max Blumenthal, author of Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, about his visit to Gaza during Israel’s summertime assault, the out-of-control genocidal racism within Israel and the rising fanaticism of Zionist ideologues in the United States. (Download the episode here or subscribe for free on iTunes here).
As always, Kevin’s got the details:
At New York City’s Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Opera staged the opening performance of “The Death of Klinghoffer.” It is based on the story of Palestinian militants who hijacked a ship and demanded the release of 50 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails in 1985. Initially, their demands were not met so the Palestinians threw a 69-year-old American Jew in a wheelchair, Leon Klinghoffer, overboard. They eventually managed to negotiate safe passage in return for the release of passengers aboard the ship.
The opera was received fairly well by critics, who acknowledged the nuanced portrayals of Jewish and Palestinian people. But that is exactly what infuriated right-wing Zionists with the Americans for Safe Israel, a far-right pro-settler organization that organized protests against the opera (which, by the way, was first staged in 1991).
Max Blumenthal, journalist and author of Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, joined “Unauthorized Disclosure” this week to talk about the fanatical protesters he encountered when he went to the Lincoln Center on the opening night, who seek to perpetuate the “spirit of the Holocaust” to maintain their status and preserve their occupation of Palestinians. He also shares his experiences in Israel and Gaza in the midst and aftermath of Israel’s summer assault, which killed over two thousand Palestinians and damaged infrastructure more severely than Israel’s two previous wars on Gaza.
Blumenthal describes how the Lincoln Center was surrounded by “fanatics,” who had been incited to a “near-riot frenzy” by the fact that this opera was being performed. Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, who is the money manager for George Pataki who once called writer Tony Kushner a “Kapo” or a Jewish concentration camp guard, footed the bill for the protest. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani spoke against this opera.
“They were heckling people going in including Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I saw David Remnick, the editor-in-chief of The New Yorker, and get screamed at by these demonstrators calling him a Nazi pig,” Blumenthal shares. He saw a 90-year-old woman being pushed around in her wheelchair by her African-American “caretaker.” He was recognized walking by a woman, who “tried to summon the worst insult she could” and wound up calling a “disgusting Jew.” She summoned a “geriatric mob” of people to surround him.
“These Zionist fanatics were hurling anti-Semitic insults at me,” Blumenthal states. He managed to get away.
Blumenthal noticed a “strange obsession with beheading.” They had signs imagining that journalist James Foley, who was beheaded by the Islamic State, had been beheaded at the Lincoln Center. “This was part of their phantasmagorical macabre imagery.”
“The most bizarre thing I saw, something I’ve never seen in my life, was yellow badges were distributed,” Blumenthal describes. “Jews living in Nazi-occupied areas in World War II were forced to wear these yellow badges that were shaped like Stars of David and read Juda or Jew on them so the could be racially classified and singled out for discrimination and ultimately extermination. You saw mostly older Jewish people voluntarily walking around with yellow badges that read ‘Never Again,’ singling themselves out on the streets of New York, suggesting that they were victims of a second Holocaust because of like an opera showing at the Lincoln Center.”
There was a lot of media coverage of the protests against the opera in the New York Times, the New Yorker and the New York Daily News. All the New York TV networks were there for the scene. However, the fact that Zionists were handing out yellow badges did not make news reports.
“It was like they went out of their way to avoid showing this sickening symbol that abuses and exploits the memory of the Holocaust. And it suggests that these [Jewish State in Israel in the Levant (JSIL)] fanatics are actually seeking to live the Holocaust in spirit in order to confirm their evanescent identity in a multicultural tolerant society that confers upon them unlimited privilege and entitlement.”
Blumenthal addresses the presence of mobs in Jerusalem, particularly organizing by a group called Lehava, “an anti-miscegenation group dedicated to the prevention of relationships between Jewish women and Arab men. Hundreds of people “besieged a wedding” to protest a Jewish woman marrying an Arab man near Jerusalem.
“I managed to talk to one of the people organizing with them in English,” Blumenthal recounts. “He was obviously a colonist whose parents were from the West, who is an Anglo colonist, and he said that we’re here to tell scum that they’re not wanted in this place. We’re here to fight scum and we’re doing it to make the Jews strong. Basically, that was his message until he was told to stop talking to me by the leadership, top cadres of the organization.”
“What I noticed when I went out with the few leftists willing to protest the war in a really forceful way in Tel Aviv,” Blumenthal adds, was the “sense of fear that the right had created among them. It was kind of a parallel to the fear that Israelis in the south had of Hamas terror tunnels.”
Following a left wing rally in Tel Aviv, organizers called out to everyone to disperse because right wingers were coming to hunt them. Blumenthal remained in the area and no right wingers came. However, the “fear factor was so high” that they believed they would be attacked.
Blumenthal spoke to people in Gaza who survived Israel’s assault. For example, he talks about how Israel unleashed its “full malevolent fury” on Rafah after one of its soldiers was “momentarily captured.” They killed about two hundred people and threatened to bomb the main hospital. Everyone had to evacuate and went to work at a tiny dental clinic in the center of town called the Kuwaiti Hospital, which only had twenty beds. This was where dead children were stored in ice cream coolers because there was nowhere to store the bodies.
“Chief doctor, Dr. Samir Homs, who I met, had to store body parts in meat lockers of nearby butchers. He was doing operations on the floor. He was doing amputations in dental chairs. And that was what Israel did to Rafah on August 1 and it was all under the command of someone named Commander Ofer Winter,” Blumenthal recalls.
Blumenthal mentions that Winter regarded the people of Gaza “not as enemy combatants or civilian enemies, which is bad enough,” but called them “blasphemers of God.” This religious fanatic led a top Israeli infantry division into Gaza during the summer. He embodies the “religious messianism that is overwhelming Israeli society and the genocidal approach to a Palestinian population that is ghettoized and unknown to most Israelis.”
When Blumenthal visited Gaza, he met many Palestinians who had never met someone who was Jewish.
There’s a deliberate conflation of European anti-Semitism, of classical anti-Semitism with Arab anti-Semitism and Palestinian anti-Semitism is an entirely different phenomenon. Palestinian anti-Semitism doesn’t require anti-Semitic textbooks or fanatical Islamist preachers to encourage. All it requires are Israeli combat jets and tanks and soldiers bearing the symbol of the Jewish State in Israel in the Levant on their uniforms to encourage it.”
You go to the Gaza Strip. It’s a literal walled-off ghetto, and the only people there who have met Jews are the older folks cause many of them used to work in Israel. And they don’t have the friendliest attitude either because the Jewish State, which claims to be acting in the name of all Jews in the world, is carpet bombing them but they do have a more tolerant attitude. Then you talk to the younger people who’ve never met a Jew, who didn’t confront them in a tank and they’re not the most philo-Semitic people. And I got to say that’s not their fault.
However, most of them that I met don’t really seem to be that sectarian. Many of the educated people have an understanding that there are other Jews in the world that have different attitudes. And some of them express a yearning to meet Israeli Jews on a neutral field, to meet Israeli Jews who aren’t pointing weapons at them. But that’s been rendered impossible by the militant sectarian leaders of JSIL and it’s really unfortunate.
Blumenthal traveled among the ruins of homes in places that were bombarded and saw Stars of David spray painted on walls or etched into furniture, where soldiers “marked their territory.” Effectively, they are “spreading hatred of Judaism.”
“They are abusing the symbol of the oldest monotheistic religion in the world and narrowing it down to the miserable seventy-year experience of an apartheid state. That is incredibly dangerous and it reflects the attitude that is inculcated in these young people in the Israeli education system, which is that the whole world is against them.”