A rich, roiling examination of “the State of Israel during a period of deepening political and societal crisis.”
From the gory details of Operation Cast Lead, when Israel pummeled the Gaza Strip with laser-guided missiles in late 2008, through the right-wing election sweep soon afterward of Bibi Netanyahu and the unleashing of racist, nationalist elements and rushes for new settlements, Blumenthal (Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party, 2009) tracks the escalating rhetoric and violence in episodic fashion. Having established himself in various parts of Israel over the ensuing years to observe and flush out the action—he recognized he could sail through airport security since, as an Ashkenazi Jew, he “would be automatically afforded special rights according to the designs of Zionism”—Blumenthal is an enterprising reporter, finding lessons in vanished Palestinian neighborhoods, such as once-thriving Jaffa, before the Israelis drove out the residents, razing homes and appropriating land; and hanging out at the Knesset, which he sarcastically calls the “Fortress of Democracy,” where he chased down various cronies of right-wing Avigdor Lieberman’s party to explain a series of alarming proposals enacted to suppress Palestinian expression. With acquiescent support of the left as well as the general Israeli public, the legitimization of (to Western readers) frightening cultural concepts like homogeneity and Judaization has instigated what Blumenthal and some of his left-leaning interviewees call fascist measures in a once-lively democracy, where a dissenting version of the official narrative is not permitted. Government officials, young educated Arabs, border police, journalists, Army refuseniks and rabid nationalists: Blumenthal taps them all in this vivid and relentlessly negative portrait of Israel.
Dense, in-the-trenches reportage revealing details that go from grim to grimmer.