||This article may lend undue weight to certain ideas, incidents, or controversies. (July 2016)|
Blumenthal on RT America on December 8, 2011
December 18, 1977 |
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Pennsylvania (B.A.)|
|Subject||Israeli–Palestinian conflict, politics|
The 51 Day War
|Relatives||Jacqueline and Sidney Blumenthal|
Max Blumenthal (born December 18, 1977) is an American author, journalist, and blogger. He is a senior writer for Alternet and formerly a writer for The Daily Beast, Al Akhbar, and Media Matters for America. He is the author of two books including Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party (2009), which appeared on The New York Times bestsellers list, and Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel (2013).
Blumenthal was born on December 18, 1977 in Boston, Massachusetts to Jacqueline (née Jordan) and Sidney Blumenthal, a writer and former aide to President Bill Clinton and aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He has one brother. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1999 with a B.A. degree in history.
Blumenthal joined Lebanon's Al Akhbar in late 2011 primarily to write about Israel-Palestine issues and foreign-policy debates in Washington, noting, upon leaving in mid-2012 in protest of its coverage of the Syrian Civil War, that it "gave me more latitude than any paper in the United States to write about ... Israel and Palestine". He ended his association with Al Akhbar in June 2012, over what he viewed as the newspaper's pro-Assad editorial line during the Syrian Civil War that he said was spearheaded by Amal Saad-Ghorayeb.
Blumenthal contributes weekly articles to Alternet where he has been a senior writer since September 2014. He focuses on the deepening crisis in the Middle East and its role in shaping political dynamics and public opinion in the US, particularly the special relationship with Israel. He occasionally covers domestic issues such as corporate media consolidation, the influence of the Christian right and police brutality. His reporting from the Gaza strip in 2014 was developed into a book, The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza.
Blumenthal's articles and video documentaries have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, The Nation, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Independent Film Channel (IFC), Salon, The Real News, and Al Jazeera English, among other publications.
Blumenthal won the Online News Association's Independent Feature Award for his 2002 Salon article, Day of the Dead. The piece revealed that the killing of hundreds of women in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico was connected to the policies of corporate interests in the border city. Blumenthal contributed to The Huffington Post from 2009-11.
In 2014, Blumenthal covered hunger strikes in the privatized Northwest Detention Center by undocumented migrants for The Nation. He had written about the rise of the so-called "Minuteman" movement for Salon.com in 2003, describing its members as “border vigilantes” who “have harassed and detained hundreds, perhaps thousands, of migrants suspected of entering the country illegally.”
In 2010, he covered the federal immigration enforcement program known as Operation Streamline for Truthdig. "The program represents the entrenchment of a parallel nonproductive economy promoting abuse behind the guise of law enforcement and crime deterrence", he wrote. He also testified as a prosecution witness in the civil trial of Vicente v. Barnett, in which Arizona businessowner Roger Barnett was forced to pay $73,000 for assaulting a migrant on the US-Mexico border.
Israel and Palestine
Known for his reporting in Israel and in Palestine, leading up to Goliath and The 51 Day War, Blumenthal was one of the reporters in the Gaza Strip during the Israeli offensive during the summer of 2014. He later provided testimonies by local Palestinian residents who said they had been used as human shields by the Israeli army during Operation Cast Lead and furnished details garnered from interviews with Rafah residents who said they had evidence of Israel's application of a Hannibal Directive. Blumenthal stated that the offensive had killed 190 Palestinians in Rafah and that the Israeli army seemed to have "aimed to kill one of its own. Indeed, Israeli forces had invoked the Hannibal Directive, opening up an indiscriminate assault on the entire circumference of the area where one of its soldiers, Lt. Hadar Goldin, was allegedly taken captive by an ambush team from the Hamas military wing known as the Qassam Brigades", violating a cease fire agreement between Israel and the militant Palestinian groups. It is unclear whether Goldin had been killed (along with two comrades) by a suicide bomb one of the militants exploded, or later by friendly fire in the Israeli assault on the area to hunt for him, nor is it known if his remains were recovered. Blumenthal postulated that the goal may have been to "den[y] Hamas the leverage it might have gained at the negotiating table with a live soldier in its possession."
However, according to an IDF investigation of the incident, while the phrase "Hannibal Procedure" was mentioned on the IDF field radios, the procedure was not implemented nor was there indiscriminate fire towards Rafah homes. The IDF investigation concluded that 41 people were killed, 12 of whom were Hamas combatants. Blumenthal said he had reported from the Gazan city of Shuja'iyya on Israel's "destruction of their neighborhoods and the killing of civilians."
Blumenthal subsequently appeared before the Russell Tribunal on September 25, 2014, in Brussels, Belgium, to testify before a jury examining allegations of war crimes and genocidal intent by the Israeli military against residents of the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge. According to his testimony, he was:
"...able to gain unfettered access to residents [of Gaza] who had borne the brunt of the Israeli ground invasion in the hardest hit border areas, places like Khuza'a, Shujaiya, Beit Hanoun, Rafah, and the villages surrounding Beit Lahiya. I recorded testimonies from scores of residents of these areas, documenting war crimes committed by the Israeli armed forces. The atrocities formed an undeniable pattern, suggesting that the crimes committed by Israeli forces in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge were the product of stated military policies, or at least rules of engagement that enabled massacres, summary executions, wholesale residential destruction, the use of civilians as human shields, and abductions."
In 2011, Blumenthal wrote a story alleging that Israeli forces trained American police departments in anti-protester techniques, including torture, quoting Fordham University Law Professor Karen J. Greenberg. Contacted by Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic and Adam Serwer of Mother Jones, Greenberg told Goldberg that "I never made such a statement", while she told Serwer that "I did not intend to assert these allegations as fact…the entire sense of the quote is inaccurate." Blumenthal responded that he had quoted Greenberg accurately, adding that he believed she had been "intimidated by Goldberg and the pro-Israel forces he represents".
During the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, Blumenthal made a comparison between Israel and ISIL. In a follow-up, journalist Rania Khalek created the Twitter hashtag JSIL; "The Jewish State of Israel in the Levant".[better source needed]
In 2013, Blumenthal appeared in ninth place on that year's Simon Wiesenthal Center list of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel slurs, reasons given being that chapter titles in the book Goliath were used to "equate Israel with the Nazi regime" and that Blumenthal had quoted "approvingly characterizations of Israeli soldiers as 'Judeo-Nazis.'" Blumenthal responded to being awarded ninth place on 'Top Ten 2013 anti-Semitic, anti-Israel slurs' list published by The Simon Wiesenthal Center, noting he was tied with Alice Walker. Blumenthal noted that he, Richard Falk, and Roger Waters (who also appear on the list) "had stiff competition: Ayatollah Khomeini was number one."
James Fallows argues that Goliath "is no more “anti-Israel”, let alone anti-Semitic, than The Shame of the Cities and The Jungle and The Grapes of Wrath were anti-American for pointing out "extremes and abuses in American society."
On November 12, 2014, after being invited by Inge Höger and Annette Groth, members of the Parliamentary Left, to talk with them in the German parliament, the Bundestag, Blumenthal and Canadian-Israeli journalist David Sheen learned that senior German left-wing politician Gregor Gysi, himself critical of what he termed Israel's violation of international law, in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank after 1967, tried to cancel the meetings on the grounds that Blumenthal and Sheen held radical views on Israeli settlements, while Gysi wished to dissociate the Parliamentary Left party from anti-Israel campaigning.
Blumenthal reported in a later article that Volker Beck of the Green Party considers Blumenthal's work "consistently anti-semitic", while neoconservative writer Benjamin Weinthal accused him of "public abuse of Jews".
An incident ensued later that day, later dubbed "toiletgate", in which Blumenthal and Sheen waited for Gysi to "confront him about Israel's crimes in Gaza and the smears that Gysi and his acolytes had disseminated against them". Gysi, followed by the two other parliamentary members, left his office and crossed down a corridor to enter a restroom, where Sheen and Blumenthal followed him. He entered a stall but the journalists refused to leave. After this event, Blumenthal and Sheen were banned from ever setting foot in the Bundestag again. In an e-mail explaining the ban, Bundestag president, Norbert Lammert stated: "Every attempt to exert pressure on members of parliament, to physically threaten them and thus endanger the parliamentary process is intolerable and must be prevented”.
Ali Abunimah wrote that an investigation by Blumenthal led him to uncover a "smear campaign against him and Sheen – and more importantly the effort to prevent discussion about Israel’s crimes in Gaza - was the product of the anti-Palestinian network funded by American billionaire Sheldon Adelson. (…) Blumenthal notes that it was Benjamin Weinthal, a Berlin-based anti-Palestinian activist, who initiated the campaign with an article in the right-wing Berliner Morgenpost, and later in The Jerusalem Post, falsely claiming that the Bundestag meeting would not take place. Weinthal is a fellow of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD)."
Blumenthal says there has been a rise of Islamophobia in the world today, which, in TomDispatch, he attributes to an alleged trans-Atlantic Islamophobic political network that "spans continents, extending from Tea Party activists here to the European far right. It brings together in common cause right-wing ultra-Zionists, Christian evangelicals, and racist British soccer hooligans."
Blumenthal made a short video which he titled Generation Chickenhawk. It featured interviews with convention attendees at the July 2007 College Republican National Convention in Washington, D.C. Blumenthal asked why they, as Iraq War supporters, had not enlisted in the United States Armed Forces.
In 2007, Blumenthal made a short video called Rapture Ready, about American Christian fundamentalists' support for the State of Israel. He attended the June 2007 Take Back America Conference (sponsored by the Campaign for America's Future), where he interviewed Barack Obama supporters and 9/11 conspiracy theorists. Blumenthal says that conference organizers were angered by the video, and refused to air it.
"Feeling the Hate" (2009)
In 2009, Blumenthal posted a 3-minute video on YouTube, titled Feeling the Hate in Jerusalem on the Eve of Obama's Cairo Address. The video was a photo montage of drunken Jewish-American young people in Jerusalem in June 2009, shortly before Obama's Cairo address. The youths used expletives and racist rhetoric about Barack Obama and Arabs, which included referring to Obama as a "nigger" and "like a terrorist". According to The Jerusalem Post, the video "garnered massive exposure and caused a firestorm in the media and the Jewish world". A Bradley Burston op-ed in Haaretz described the video as "an overnight Internet sensation".
After YouTube removed the video from its website, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency quoted Blumenthal as stating: "I won't ascribe motives to YouTube I am unable to confirm, but it is clear there is an active campaign by right-wing Jewish elements to suppress the video by filing a flood of complaints with YouTube". Blumenthal said that he had received death threats for his publication of the video. He identifies the radicalism of the interviewees with the "indoctrination" of Birthright Israel tours, a program in which several of the interviewees were participating.
Blumenthal says his 2009 book, Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party, was inspired by the work of psychologist Erich Fromm, who asserted that "the fear of freedom propels anxiety-ridden people into authoritarian settings." Blumenthal says that a "culture of personal crisis" has defined the American "radical right".
He released Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel in 2013, a look at what he described as Israel's aggressive shift to the far-right, and its crackdown on local activism. Goliath was awarded the 2014 Lannan Foundation Cultural Freedom Notable Book Award.
In the preface to the book, Blumenthal says "Americans' tax dollars and political support that are crucial in sustaining the present state of affairs" in Israel and that, in the book, he wanted to show what that money is paying for and to present the facts "as they really are today, in unadorned and unsanitized form, without sentimentality or nostalgia."
Recommended by Glenn Greenwald and Charles Glass, the book received great critical acclaim. Among many reviews, Goliath was praised by Akiva Eldar, a veteran Israeli political correspondent, in Al-Monitor. According to Eldar, “a significant part of the book’s strength lies in the effect that is naturally created when a foreign correspondent describes the reality of your life and surroundings. Thus, as if from a bas relief, details are raised to which the local eye has become so accustomed that it no longer notices their existence.” The book also received heavy criticism.[from whom?]
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With journalist David Neiwert, Blumenthal wrote about Sarah Palin's links to the secessionist Alaska Independence Party and how that party reportedly “played a quiet but pivotal role in electing Palin as mayor of Wasilla and shaping her political agenda afterward.”
CBS reported that Palin responded to the story in an email to John McCain's campaign manager Steve Schmidt: "Pls get in front of that ridiculous issue that's cropped up all day today - two reporters, a protestor's sign, and many shout-outs all claiming Todd's involvement in an anti-American political party ... It's bull, and I don't want to have to keep reacting to it ... Pls have statement given on this so it's put to bed."
Blumenthal caused controversy in late 2014 and early 2015 when he compared decorated Navy SEAL Chris Kyle to mass murderer Lee Malvo via Twitter, and in an interview on The Real News, criticized the film American Sniper, which depicts Kyle's tours of duty in Iraq. He said the film heavily distorts the historical, political and social truth of the war on Iraq, that the film falsely portrays all Iraqis, including children and women, as "endemic terrorists," and that the movie is a "bogus whitewash of the atrocities committed by U.S. troops in Iraq and Fallujah."
Comments on Death of Elie Wiesel
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On July 3, 2016, Blumenthal commented on the death of Holocaust survivor, author, and Nobel Peace laureate Elie Wiesel by tweeting: "Elie Wiesel is dead. He spent his last years inciting hatred, defending apartheid & palling around with fascists." Jake Sullivan, policy advisor to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, responded, "Secretary Clinton emphatically rejects these offensive, hateful, and patently absurd statements about Elie Wiesel.... Elie Wiesel was a hero to her as he was to so many, and she will keep doing everything she can to honor his memory and to carry his message forward."
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I was forced to conclude that unless I was prepared to spend endless stores of energy jousting with Assad apologists, I was merely providing them cover by keeping my name and reputation associated with Al Akhbar.
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