Decades ago, Israeli humorist Ephraim Kishon wrote about how the world press edits its reports of Israel to make it look bad. As an example, he presented a British reporter asking an Israeli about his opinion of counterterrorism efforts that accidentally kill Arab children. The reporter naturally went to one of the wealthier suburbs of Tel Aviv to better contrast the vivid images of the Arab refugee camp. He found a fat, European looking resident, again to imply that Israelis aren't really local folks, not like those poor Arabs. And then he got the answer to his question: "Well, I don't like it when that happens but they are trying to kill us and when it comes to protecting my children, I can't be too careful about my methods."
When the interview hit the BBC, the question was asked, and the carefully editted answer was presented: "I can't be too careful about my methods." Not a word of a lie but presented with damning footage of poor "refugees" and completely out of context. What impression would the British viewer receive?
I thought about this when I watched Max Blumethal's now infamous "We hate Obama" video as well as his pathetic justification for creating such a piece of twisted trash in the first place. In many ways, he is no different than the BBC reporter Kishon wrote about.
Blumenthal starts by describing how he created this video:
On Wednesday, I walked around central Jerusalem with my friend, Joseph Dana, an Israel peace activist who has lived in the country for three years. We interviewed young people on camera about the speech President Barack Obama planned to deliver to the Muslim world the following day in Cairo. Though our questions were not provocative at all – we simply asked, “What do you think of Obama’s speech” – the responses our interview subjects offered comprised some of the most shocking comments I have ever recorded on camera. They were racist, hateful, and incredibly ignorant, and were mostly couched within a Zionist context – “this is our land, Obama!” The following day, we edited an hour of interviews into a 3:30 minute video package and released it on Mondoweiss and on the Huffington Post.
Having been to Yerushalayim a few times, I was immediately struck by the crowd he found. It's a big city and like all metropolitan areas has a wide variety of people in it. Yes, there are some idiots like those on the video but they generally come out at night when the bars are all opened. Other parts of the city are the example of civility and culture. Funny they didn't show up in the show. In fact the crowd seems to be taken from a very select part of the local population - the drunken idiot American tourists.
Blumenthal seems to notice this:
Other bloggers and commenters criticized the video on similar grounds. Their complaints generally went like this: In order to advance an agenda, Max Blumenthal exploited the wild remarks of a bunch of drunk Jewish frat-boys innocently showing off in front of their friends. The footage contained in his video in no way reflects what the Israeli public thinks. If Max went to a bar in any college town in the United States he would find the same level of ignorance and racism. Ron Kampeas at the JTA has written that I need “to grow up and put [my talents] to good use.”
But then he dismisses his critics with the most idiotic thought:
The criticism of my video raised an interesting journalistic issue: Is reporting any less credible when interview subjects are drinking alcohol? Of course not.
Excuse me? It's one thing to interview someone over a glass of red wine, quite another to find a drunken student who is probably not that thoughtful or mature when completely sober and ambush him with a video camera. Nobody credible would use information received in such a way in a serious manner. The implications of Blumethal's statement are staggering. According to him, if I go to some redneck bar in deepest Texas and videotape some of the less reputable and more inebriated patrons swearing and saying the "N" word, then I am completely justified in writing about how America is a hotbed of Neonazis just waiting for the chance to slaughter their black population. In intelligent circles, I'd be laughed out of the room. But Blumenthal doesn't move in intelligent circles. He hangs around with lefists.
Blumenthal goes on:
Beer does not, to my knowledge, contain a special drug that immediately infects drinkers with white supremacist sentiments, violent rhetoric, and anti-democratic tendencies. I get drunk as much as any social drinker and I have never called for “white power” or declared, “fuck the niggers!” as one of my interviewees did
No, he would just shout "F--k the Israelis, how bad can I make them look?" But Blumenthal goes and undermines his entire thesis (although, of course, he doesn't see it that way) by noting the nationality of his targets. It turns out they're not even Israelis. They're Americans, in Israel for a good time. Do many of them say they might move there one day? As a frequent visitor there, let me assure you: it's a defence mechanism to make the Israelis who keep asking "So when are you making aliyah?" go away.
So here's what the video comes down to: a bunch of guys who came to Israel to party, caught in mid-party, trying to one up each other for how outrageous they can be. From this very select crowd, Blumenthal goes on to describe his view of everything that's wrong with Israeli society:
Behind the Israeli view of Obama lies a climate of extremism that exploded into the open when the country attacked Gaza. Today, extremist sentiment hovers well above the surface. A groundbreaking study of Israeli attitudes published in the wake of the Gaza war by the Tel Aviv University political psychologist Daniel Bar-Tal, who I recently interviewed, found that “Israeli Jews’ consciousness is characterized by a sense of victimization, a siege mentality, blind patriotism, belligerence, self-righteousness, dehumanization of the Palestinians and insensitivity to their suffering.” Bar-Tal commented to me that the army is the primary vehicle for stoking the nationalism of young Israelis. “Some countries are states without armies,” he said. “But Israel today is an army without a state. There is no civilian institution capable of restraining the army’s influence.”
So off to top, it's the Israeli view that these drunken Americans have shown us. Israel, of course, has no right to feel victimized. Not a word about suicide bombers, or the endless rain of rockets and missles from 'Aza, or the unending promises from Tehran about getting nuked. We are told, in a deliberate vacuum, that Israelis are essentially paranoid and have no reason for feeling the way they do. And the interviewee? Well, Blumenthal was just as selective this time. Daniel Bar-Tal is a known anti-Israel leftist, the kind that has more sympathy for the Arabs who would kill him without a second thought than for his own people, all in the name of being an enlightened intellectual. For Blumenthal, it must have been a comfortable afternoon, knowing that the person he was speaking to would confirm his biased prejudices. After all, when the goal is to indoctrinate people into believing that all Israelis are militaristic, Arab-hating savages, it helps to have a united message.
Kishon's Israel would provide the perfect justification for this video: I can't be too careful about my methods.