My sister recently stumbled on a blog post by a far right pseudo-journalist that accused me, her peace-love-and-justice baby sister and the keeper of our family’s terrible Holocaust history archives, of being a Nazi sympathizer. Her reaction was a mix of horror at the viciousness of the post, and amusement at its unintentional camp hilarity. My response to her was, “Welcome to my world. This is what it’s like to work on Israel-Palestine issues. Every day.” (I am on staff with Jewish Voice for Peace, which works to end Israel’s 41-year occupation.)
Most journalists don’t cover Israel-Palestine every day, and so they are unaccustomed to the inevitable tsunami of hyperbolic nastiness sure to come their way should they dare to touch the topic.
Bill Moyers, however, one of America’s most respected journalists and moral voices, could not have been surprised by the response last week to his powerful video commentary in which he condemned Hamas and asserted Israel’s right to defend itself, but also said,
Brute force can turn self defense into state terrorism. It’s what the US did in Vietnam with B-52s and napalm, and again in Iraq with shock and awe. By killing indiscriminately, the elderly, kids, entire families… Israel did exactly what terrorists do and exactly what Hamas wanted. It spilled the blood that turns the wheel of retribution.
He presciently went on to describe exactly the muzzled world in which we live here in the U.S.
Our political elites show neither independence nor courage by challenging the consensus that Israel can do no wrong. Although one recent poll found Democratic voters overwhelmingly oppose the Israeli offensive by a 24 point margin, Democratic party leaders in Congress nonetheless march in lockstep to the hardliners in Israel and the White House. Rarely does our mainstream media depart from the montonous monologue of the party line. Many American Jews know, as Aaron David Miller writes in the current edition of Newsweek, that the destruction in Gaza won’t do much to address Israel’s longer term needs. But those who raise questions are accused by a prominent reform rabbi of being “morally deficient“. One Jewish American activist told me this week, that never in 30 years has he seen such blind and binding conformity in his community. You’d never know, he says, that it is the Gazans who are doing most of the suffering.
Moyers’ analysis, it turned out, was prescient because the backlash of calls and letters calling him a rabid anti-Semite, and one would presume Nazi-sympathizer, was so strong–even good old Abe Foxman of the ADL got into the fight– forced him to take the rather unusual step of addressing the onslaught of criticism at the top of his next show. (Sorry Bill, welcome to my world.)
A satirical columnist for the SF Chronicle learned a similar lesson this week an off-hand reference about “recalcitrant Israelis,” part of a humorous litany.
I knew I’d hear from American supporters of Israel, because that’s what happens. Any journalist can tell you that – pro-Israeli journalists, Jewish journalists, any writer who says anything that might be taken by somebody as a criticism of Israel or its current policies is gonna get reamed out. Dead babies are frequently mentioned, and crazed Palestinian fanatics – these folks go right for the top of the rhetorical ladder.
Finally, we can only imagine what awaits 60 Minutes’ Bob Simon for this generally fantastic and in the U.S, downright courageous piece of journalism, Time Running Out for a Two-State Solution? (I say generally, because at times it erroneously gives the impression that “reasonable” voices like Tzipi “there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza” Livni are drowned out by the extremist settlers. In fact, Likud, Labor and Kadima have all been deeply complicit in the settlement project and the violation of human rights of Palestinians.)