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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 (2013).[1][2] He was formerly a writer for AlterNet,[3] The Daily Beast, Al Akhbar, and Media Matters for America,[4] and was selected as a Fellow of the Nation Institute.[5] Blumenthal established The Grayzone in 2015 and continues to edit and write for the website.[6]

Max Blumenthal
Blumenthal on RT America on December 8, 2011
Blumenthal on RT America on December 8, 2011
Born (1977-12-18) December 18, 1977 (age 41)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
OccupationJournalist
Blogger
Filmmaker
NationalityAmerican
Alma materUniversity of Pennsylvania (BA)
GenreNon-fiction
SubjectUnited States politics, Israeli–Palestinian conflict
Notable worksGoliath
Republican Gomorrah
The 51 Day War
The Management of Savagery
Years active2002–present
RelativesJacqueline Jordan (mother)
Sidney Blumenthal (father)
Website
maxblumenthal.com

As of 2019, Blumenthal has published four books. His first, Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party (2009), made The New York Times bestsellers list that year.[7][8]

Background

Blumenthal was born on December 18, 1977, in Boston, Massachusetts, to Jacqueline (née Jordan) and Sidney Blumenthal. His father was a writer who later served as an aide to President Bill Clinton. Blumenthal graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1999 with a B.A. degree in history.[9]

Career

Blumenthal joined Lebanon's Al Akhbar newspaper in late 2011, primarily to write about Israel-Palestine issues and foreign-policy debates in Washington, DC. 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".[10][11] He ended his association with Al Akhbar in June 2012, considering the newspaper to have a pro-Assad editorial line led by Amal Saad-Ghorayeb.[10][11][12]

In 2013, Blumenthal reported from the Za'atari refugee camp on the conditions in which Syrian refugees were living.[12][13] 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.[12] In his opinion they were being used as a Trojan horse, an excuse for the United States to propose having "70,000 American servicemen" invade Syria.[14]

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 US domestic issues, such as corporate media consolidation, the influence of the Christian right, and police brutality.[3] He developed his reporting from the Gaza Strip in 2014 as a book, The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza(2015).[15]

Blumenthal's articles and video documentaries have been published 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,[7] Sputnik,[16] and the Columbia Journalism Review.[17]

Blumenthal founded The Grayzone website in 2015 as a vehicle to examine "America’s state of perpetual war and its dangerous domestic repercussions".[18]

Immigration

Blumenthal won the Online News Association's Independent Feature Award for his 2002 article, "Day of the Dead", published in Salon.[19][20] He concluded that the homicides of hundreds of women in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico was connected to the policies of corporate interests in the border city.[21] He wrote 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."[22] Blumenthal contributed to The Huffington Post from 2009-11.[8]

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.[23] He 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.[24]

In 2014, Blumenthal covered hunger strikes by undocumented migrants held in the privatized Northwest Detention Center for The Nation.[25]

Condemnation of Islamophobia

In 2010, Blumenthal wrote about the rise of Islamophobia in the world since the 9/11 attacks in the US and other terrorist events in Europe. In TomDispatch, he described what he said was a 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."[26] In The Nation, he suggested that philanthropist and activist Nina Rosenwald funded Islamophobic organizations.[27]

Some prominent Muslims have disputed this report. 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."[28] 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."[28] Blumenthal referred to Ayaan Hirsi Ali as a "Somali-born author and anti-Islam activist" with "a history of fraud".[29][30]

Following the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris, Blumenthal made a documentary film titled Je ne suis pas Charlie about government crackdowns against Muslims in France. He explored what he believed were the roots of anti-Muslim sentiment in French colonialism in Muslim-majority territories.[31]

Blumenthal has opposed President Trump's travel ban against seven majority-Muslim countries.[32]

Syria

While Blumenthal had initially expressed criticism of the Syrian government in the early stages of the country's civil war, after 2015 he started promoting views supportive of Bashar al Assad.[12] Blumenthal had allegedly mocked Syrians for preparing plastic bags to protect against alleged Syrian government chemical weapons attacks.[33] In 2019, he visited Damascus to take part in a trade union convention. He received criticism from some Syrians for allegedly promoting views that favour Assad during his visit.[34]

Israel and Palestine

Blumenthal has written two books based on the period of time which he spent in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied territories in the West Bank. He documented what he classified as Israeli and Palestinian war crimes in these books: Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel (2013) and The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza (2015). 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. Blumenthal believed that the catalyst was the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by a Hamas cell. He argues that the massive West Bank operation that Israel initiated was not aimed at rescuing the teens, who were known to be dead, or capturing their killers, but destroying a political agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian National Authority by targeting the Palestinian Unity Government.[35]

Blumenthal later reported statements from Palestinian residents who said that they had been used as "human shields" by the Israeli army during Operation Protective Edge, which is considered an abuse of civilians.[36] His details came 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 their forces carrying out a large-scale military operation that included bombing all possible escape routes from Rafah tunnels.

Haaretz 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.[37]

Blumenthal wrote that the offensive killed 190 Palestinians in Rafah and apparently resulted in the deaths of three Israelis. The partial remains of the three kidnapped Israelis were found. An IDF inquiry concluded that 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.[38] It is unclear whether Goldin had been killed (along with two comrades) by a suicide bomb of a militant, or by "friendly fire" in the Israeli assault on the area. It is not known if his remains were recovered. Blumenthal said that the Israeli IDF 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."[38]

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 against Rafah homes. The IDF investigation concluded that 41 people were killed, 12 of whom were Hamas combatants.[39] Blumenthal said he had reported from the Gazan city of Shuja'iyya on Israel's "destruction of their neighborhoods and the killing of civilians."[40]

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.[41]

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".[42][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.[42][43][44]

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,[45][46] while Gysi wished to dissociate the Left Party from anti-Israel campaigning.[46]

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".[47] 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".[48] 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".[49][50][51] 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)."[48]

Russia

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".[52] 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."[53] 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.[54]

Blumenthal criticized anti-Russian xenophobia in the United States. He wrote:

Throughout the saga of Russiagate, Americans have been indoctrinated to fear not only the Russian state, but “the Russians” as a whole. Once the narrative of Trump-Russian collusion formed in mid-2016, liberal media quickly filled with terrifying headlines about Russian anchor babies, scary lists of Russian people at Davos, warnings of Russian Jewish emigres in America, and horror stories about the brain-contaminating green meddling rays of RT projecting outwards from flatscreens. According to James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence and now part of CNN’s armada of on-air former intelligence contributors, Russians “typically are almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique.”[55]

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.[56][57][58] 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.[57] 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".[59]

In regards to Ukraine, Sławomir Sierakowski, the head of the Polish liberal, pro-European group Krytyka Polityczna, has included Blumenthal on his list of "Putin’s Useful Idiots". He has said that Blumenthal's reporting "distorts" the events of Euromaidan.[60] The Ukrainian fact-checking organization StopFake describes Blumenthal as a "pro-Russia American journalist" who is used by Russia to "spread its propaganda message".[61]

Venezuela

On 24 February 2019, Blumenthal posted an article to the Grayzone website about clashes on 23 February on the ColombiaVenezuela border during the 2019 Venezuelan presidential crisis and the shipping of humanitarian aid to Venezuela. In the article, Blumenthal dismissed the assertion that Venezuelan security forces loyal to Nicolás Maduro had used tear gas to set humanitarian aid trucks on fire that were attempting to enter Venezuela from Colombia. He said footage from Bloomberg News showed that opposition protesters on the Francisco de Paula Santander bridge in the border were preparing Molotov cocktails, "which could easily set a truck cabin or its cargo alight". He referred to having seen similar situations during his reporting on the West Bank.[62]

On 10 March, The New York Times reported that their reconstruction, using both public information and previously unpublished video evidence, did not support accounts that the use of tear gas by Maduro's forces had caused the trucks to burn. It "suggest[ed] that a Molotov cocktail thrown by an antigovernment protester was the most likely trigger for the blaze".[63] Glenn Greenwald in The Intercept commented that the report affirmed Blumenthal's analysis and that of other independent journalists.[62]

Saudi Arabia

Blumenthal criticized U.S. involvement in the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen.[32] According to Blumenthal: "In Yemen, the special relationship between Washington and Riyadh has helped generate perhaps the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Thanks to the extensive assistance provided to the Saudi military by both the Obama and Trump administrations, Yemen now faces a rapidly spreading cholera epidemic while child malnutrition is at an “all time high,” according to the UN. By reducing the country to a failed state, the U.S. and its Gulf allies have provided a critical shot in the arm to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula."[32]

Videos

Blumenthal made a short video which he titled Generation Chickenhawk (2007). 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.[64][65][66]

In August 2007, Blumenthal made a short video called Rapture Ready, about American Christian fundamentalists' support for the State of Israel.[64] He attended the June 2007 Take Back America Conference (sponsored by the Campaign for America's Future), where he interviewed both supporters of (then) US Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) and 9/11 conspiracy theorists. Blumenthal says that conference organizers were angered by the video, and refused to air it.[64]

In 2008, he posted video footage of Christian preacher Thomas Muthee praying over Sarah Palin (then a candidate for Governor of Alaska) and asking God to keep her safe from witchcraft.[67]

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 US President Barack Obama's Cairo address. Some youths used obscenities and racist rhetoric about President Obama and Arabs, referring to Obama as a "nigger" and "like a terrorist".[68] According to The Jerusalem Post, the video "garnered massive exposure and caused a firestorm in the media and the Jewish world".[69] A Bradley Burston op-ed in Haaretz described the video as "an overnight Internet sensation".[68]

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".[70] Blumenthal said that he had received death threats for his publication of the video.[71] He identifies the radicalism of the interviewees with the "indoctrination" of Birthright Israel tours, a program in which several of the interviewees were participating.[71]

Selected books

Blumenthal says his 2009 book, Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party,[72] was inspired by the earlier work of 20th-century psychologist Erich Fromm. The latter asserted that "the fear of freedom propels anxiety-ridden people into authoritarian settings."[73] Blumenthal says that a "culture of personal crisis" has defined the American "radical right".[73]

He noted, "The GOP has become subsumed by dysfunctional personalities with no capacity for restraining themselves, either from acting out hysterically or from their most devious urges. For these internally conflicted figures, who will continue to produce new and increasingly bizarre scandals, right-wing political crusading is simply a form of self-medication."[74] This book was on the New York Times bestseller list.[7]

His The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza (2015) was awarded a Palestine Book Award that year by the Middle East Monitor.[75]

His Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel (2013) examines what Blumenthal characterizes as Israel's aggressive shift to the far-right, and its crackdown on local activism. In the preface, Blumenthal says that "Americans' tax dollars and political support [that] are crucial in sustaining the present state of affairs" in Israel.[76] John Hudson in Foreign Policy described the book as an "indictment of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians".[77]

Controversies

In 2013 Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said that the center ranked Blumenthal as ninth that year for one of the Top Ten 2013 Anit-Semitic, Anti-Israel Slurs. Hier said that "we judge him by what he wrote. He crossed the line into outright anti-Semitism" and that "he quotes approvingly characterizations of Israeli soldiers as 'Judeo-Nazis'".[78] Blumenthal responded by saying the Wiesenthal Center's list associated him with such people as American writer Alice Walker.[79][80] He noted that he, Richard Falk, and Roger Waters (who also appear on the list) "had stiff competition: Ayatollah Khomeini was number one."[79][80]

In 2011, Blumenthal reported that Israeli occupation forces and Bahraini monarchy guards trained American police departments in anti-protester techniques, including torture, and quoted Fordham University Law Professor Karen J. Greenberg.[81] Contacted by Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic and Adam Serwer of Mother Jones, Greenberg told Goldberg that "I never made such a statement". She told Serwer that "I did not intend to assert these allegations as fact ... the entire sense of the quote is inaccurate."[82][83] Blumenthal said that he had quoted Greenberg accurately, and believed that she had since been "intimidated by Goldberg and the pro-Israel forces he represents".[84][85]

In 2019 Blumenthal wrote: "I argue that if the CIA had not spent over a billion dollars arming Islamist militants in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War, empowering jihadist godfathers like Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden in the process, the 9/11 attacks would have almost certainly not taken place. And if the Twin Towers were still standing today, it is not hard to imagine an alternate political universe in which a demagogue like Trump was still relegated to real estate and reality TV."[86]

Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin

With journalist David Neiwert, Blumenthal wrote in July 2008 about the links of Sarah Palin, Alaska governor and Republican vice-presidential candidate, to the secessionist Alaska Independence Party. He described how that party "played a quiet but pivotal role in electing Palin as mayor of Wasilla and shaping her political agenda afterward."[87]

CBS reported that Palin responded to the story in an email to Republican presidential candidate 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."[88]

Books

  • Max Blumenthal (2009): Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party New York. Nation Books; ISBN 978-1568583983
  • Max Blumenthal (2013): Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel. New York: Nation Books; ISBN 978-1568586342
  • Max Blumenthal (2015): The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza. New York: Nation Books; ISBN 978-1568585116
  • 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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