Max Blumenthal (born December 18, 1977) is an American author, journalist, and blogger. He was awarded the 2014 Lannan Foundation Cultural Freedom Notable Book Award for his book Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel. He was formerly a writer for AlterNet, The Daily Beast, Al Akhbar, and Media Matters for America, as well as a Fellow of the Nation Institute. He is the author of three books, one of which, Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party (2009), appeared on The New York Times bestsellers list.
Blumenthal on RT America on December 8, 2011
|Born||December 18, 1977|
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Pennsylvania (BA)|
|Subject||Israeli–Palestinian conflict, politics|
The 51 Day War
The Management of Savagery
|Relatives||Jacqueline Jordan (mother)|
Sidney Blumenthal (father)
Blumenthal was born on December 18, 1977, in Boston, Massachusetts, to Jacqueline (née Jordan) and Sidney Blumenthal, a writer who was later an aide to President Bill Clinton and 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. When he left in mid-2012 in protest of its coverage of the Syrian Civil War, he wrote that it "gave me more latitude than any paper in the United States to write about ... Israel and Palestine" and that "In the end, Assad will be remembered as an authoritarian tyrant". He ended his association with Al Akhbar in June 2012, considering the newspaper to have a pro-Assad editorial line spearheaded by Amal Saad-Ghorayeb. In 2013, Blumenthal reported from the Za'atari refugee camp on the conditions in which Syrian refugees were living. Blumenthal has since changed his position on Syria since leaving Al Akhbar. In 2015, he began to claim the White Helmets were connected to Al-Qaeda and anti-Assad Syrians were members of the group. In his opinion they are also a Trojan horse for "70,000 American servicemen" to invade Syria.
Blumenthal contributes weekly articles to Alternet where he has been a senior writer since September 2014. He focuses on the 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, Salon, The Real News, Al Jazeera English, Sputnik, and the Columbia Journalism Review.
Blumenthal founded The Grayzone in 2015 to examine "America’s state of perpetual war and its dangerous domestic repercussions".
Blumenthal won the Online News Association's Independent Feature Award for his 2002 Salon article, "Day of the Dead". The piece's research concluded 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 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, 'Vicente v. Barnett,' in which Arizona businessman Roger Barnett was forced to pay $73,000 for assaulting a migrant on the US-Mexico border.
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 the Salon website 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, Blumenthal wrote there had been a rise of Islamophobia in the world. In TomDispatch, he attributed 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." In The Nation, he alleged that philanthropist and activist Nina Rosenwald funded Islamophobic organizations.
Some prominent Muslims have disputed this allegation. Dr M. Zuhdi Jasser, founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, said, "It goes without saying, but to those who may not know Nina, and having known her now for many years, it is clear to me that she has the highest respect for Muslims who love their faith, love God, and take seriously our Islamic responsibility to defeat the global jihad and its Islamist inspiration." Writer and film-maker Raheel Raza said, "If Muslims guided by CAIR could take the time to read and reflect on efforts of people like Nina, they would broaden their horizons and gain a lot of insights into the betterment of Muslims." Blumenthal referred to Ayaan Hirsi Ali as a "Somali-born author and anti-Islam activist" with "a history of fraud".
Following the Charlie Hebdo shooting, Blumenthal made a documentary film titled Je ne suis pas Charlie about government crackdowns against Muslims in France and anti-Muslim sentiment's alleged roots in French colonialism.
Israel and Palestine
Blumenthal has written two books of the period he spent in Gaza and the Occupied Territories documenting what he says are Israeli and Palestinian war crimes: Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel and The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza. In The 51 Day War, Blumenthal writes he was in Gaza during and following Operation Protective Edge, an Israeli military offensive in Gaza during the summer of 2014. In Blumenthal's interpretation the event cited as sparking the 2014 Gaza War, was the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by a Hamas cell. He argues that the massive West Bank operation that followed it was not aimed at rescuing the teens, who were known to be dead, or to capture their killers, but to destroy a political agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian National Authority by targeting the Palestinian Unity Government.
Blumenthal later relayed statements from Palestinian residents who said they had been used as human shields by the Israeli army during Operation Protective Edge. He furnished details garnered from interviews with Rafah residents who said they had evidence of Israel's application of the "Hannibal Directive". According to Blumenthal, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) invocation of the "Hannibal Directive" resulted in the IDF carrying out a large-scale military operation that included bombing all possible escape routes from Rafah tunnels. Ha'aretz reported this action to have killed scores of Palestinians and to have been the "most devastating" execution of the Hannibal Directive:
On Friday morning, when the IDF still believed that Lieutenant Hadar Goldin may have been taken alive by Hamas into an attack tunnel beneath Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, the Hannibal Directive was activated to its most devastating extent yet – including massive artillery bombardments and air strikes on possible escape routes.
Blumenthal wrote that the offensive killed 190 Palestinians in Rafah and that the Israeli army seemed to have "aimed to kill one of its own". Only partial remains of the three Israelis were found. An IDF inquiry concluded Lt. Hadar Goldin probably was killed during the initial battle. Goldin, was taken captive by an ambush team from the Hamas military wing known as the Qassam Brigades, It is unclear whether Lt. Hadar 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 hypothesized 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."
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.
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] JSIL became a popular Twitter hashtag after Blumenthal introduced it alongside Khalek. It was covered in many publications including Israel's Ha'aretz, New York magazine and Al Jazeera.
On November 12, 2014, after being invited by Inge Höger and Annette Groth, members of The Left (Die Linke) party, to speak with them in the German parliament, the Bundestag, Blumenthal and Canadian-Israeli journalist David Sheen stated that their party political colleague 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 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 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)."
In discussions surrounding Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, Blumenthal expressed skepticism of the extent of the operation and remarked that MSNBC host "Rachel Maddow's dots may never connect." He expressed concern that use of such a narrative prevented the Democratic Party in the United States from being able to "do anything progressive". Peter Beinart wrote in The Atlantic that Blumenthal and Glenn Greenwald "minimize Russia’s election meddling to oppose what they see as a new Cold War." Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone cited Blumenthal among a group of journalists who'd expressed "healthy" skepticism of Russiagate, and defended them from common accusations that they embodied horseshoe theory.
Blumenthal has publicly supported the work of RT, the Russian-funded television propaganda network. In 2015, Blumenthal attended RT's 10 Years On Air anniversary party beside then-Lieutenant General Michael Flynn of the United States and English politician Ken Livingstone. New Politics, a socialist journal, stated that "Max Blumenthal is ... found almost every week defending Russian foreign policy on platforms such as RT and Sputnik", and that he has defended Russia's role in the Syrian Civil War. Janine di Giovanni, fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations, described Blumenthal as being part of the website 21st Century Wire–which she compared to InfoWars–stating that his work and affiliated group is "spread by a spectrum of far-left, anti-West conspiracy theorists; anti-Semites; supporters of Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah; libertarians; and far-right groups".
In regards to Ukraine, the head of the Polish left-wing intellectual group Krytyka Polityczna, Sławomir Sierakowski, included Blumenthal on his list of "Putin’s Useful Idiots", stating his work "distorts" the events of Euromaidan. The Ukrainian fact-checking organization StopFake describes Blumenthal as a "pro-Russia American journalist" who is used by Russia to "spread its propaganda message".
On 24 February 2019, Blumenthal wrote an article for the Grayzone website about clashes on 23 February on the Colombia–Venezuela border during the 2019 Venezuelan presidential crisis and the shipping of humanitarian aid to Venezuela. In the article, Blumenthal dismissed the assertion that tear gas employed by Venezuelan security forces loyal to Nicolás Maduro had set humanitarian aid trucks attempting to enter Venezuela from Colombia on fire, citing footage from Bloomberg News that showed opposition protesters on the Francisca de Paula Santander bridge in the border preparing Molotov cocktails, "which could easily set a truck cabin or its cargo alight", citing similar situations during his reporting on the West Bank. On 10 March, The New York Times wrote that their reconstruction using both public information and previously unpublished video evidence contradicted the version that the use of tear gas by Maduro's forces had caused the trucks to burn and "suggest[ed] that a Molotov cocktail thrown by an antigovernment protester was the most likely trigger for the blaze". Glenn Greenwald in The Intercept commented that the report vindicated Blumenthal's analysis and that of other independent journalists.
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 supporters of (then) Senator Barack Obama 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 President 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".
Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel
Blumenthal's book Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel was published in 2013. It is an examination of what he describes as Israel's aggressive shift to the far-right, and its crackdown on local activism. Foreign Policy described it as an "indictment of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians". 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.
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." The book was positively reviewed by Glenn Greenwald who described it as "eye-opening and stunningly insightful" and Charles Glass who wrote that “anyone who thinks he knows what is happening in Israel and its occupied territories will think again after reading this great work".
Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center stated that the center ranked Blumenthal ninth on its Top Ten 2013 Anit-Semitic, Anti-Israel Slurs, with Hier stating "we judge him by what he wrote. He crossed the line into outright anti-Semitism" and that "he quotes approvingly characterizations of Israelis soldiers as 'Judeo-Nazis'". Blumenthal responded by saying the Simon Wiesenthal Center's list included him with people such as Alice Walker. Blumenthal also said that he, Richard Falk, and Roger Waters (who also appear on the list) "had stiff competition: Ayatollah Khomeini was number one." Eric Alterman, writing in The Nation, said "Goliath is a propaganda tract...this book could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club (if it existed)". Blumenthal called the Alterman review a smear, loaded with inaccuracies that are refuted by several authors, and defended his comparison of Israel with Nazi Germany. Alterman wrote a total of nine critical pieces on Goliath. The book also received criticism from J.J. Goldberg in The Forward, Petra Marquardt-Bigman in The Jerusalem Post, and Jim Miles in Foreign Policy.
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 he believed she had been "intimidated by Goldberg and the pro-Israel forces he represents".
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."
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- Max Blumenthal (2019): The Management of Savagery: How America's National Security State Fueled the Rise of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Donald Trump. London/New York: Verso Books; ISBN 9781788732284
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