The proxy war between Israel and its critics is growing more intense, more desperate, more anti-democratic, more comically absurd.
Just a few weeks ago, and with a straight face, professional defender-of-Israeli-human-rights-violations Hillel Neuer of UN Watch happily compared Naomi Klein to Goebbels and said she was “today’s leading opponent of Israel in the Western world.”
The Goldstone Report goes further than Ahmadinejad and the Holocaust deniers by stripping the Jews not only of the ability and the need but of the right to defend themselves. If a country can be pummeled by thousands of rockets and still not be justified in protecting its inhabitants, then at issue is not the methods by which that country survives but whether it can survive at all. But more insidiously, the report does not only hamstring Israel; it portrays the Jews as the deliberate murderers of innocents–as Nazis. And a Nazi state not only lacks the need and right to defend itself; it must rather be destroyed.
Yglesias points out, “the Goldstone Report just doesn’t say anything remotely like this.”
But these uncommonly vicious, nasty and unintentionally campy attacks are no coincidence.
In The Nation, Adam Horowitz and Philip Weiss have a very important article detailing the range of human rights groups that are being targeted by Netanyahu’s right-wing government.
“For the first time the Israeli government is taking an active role in the smearing of human rights groups,” says Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch.
Human Rights Watch workers had long been a target of Gerald Steinberg’s NGO Monitor, which seeks to gut the international law enforcement infrastructure because they believe it is a threat to the Israeli status quo- which of course it is. (They call journalists, diplomats and human rights workers part of the ‘axis of evil.’) Steinberg has been busily scanning the internet to build extensive dossiers on anyone who has worked in the Middle East division at HRW, and is also part of the campaign to defund human rights groups in Israel that get EU funds. But there’s more:
The Israeli government has also sought to quash domestic dissent. In April it targeted the anti-militarism organization New Profile, seizing computers and detaining activists. In July, when a group of Israeli veterans called Breaking the Silence released dozens of anonymous soldiers’ testimonies from the Gaza assault describing indifference to civilian targets, the Israeli government went, well, ballistic. It threatened to cut off the financial support the group receives from the Dutch, Spanish and British governments and warned those governments that their support was illegal. Israel indicated that it would look into foreign support that Israeli human rights groups B’Tselem and Machsom Watch receive as well.
Ron Dermer, a Netanyahu adviser who was raised in Florida, struck a fearsome tone: “We are going to dedicate time and manpower to combating these groups. We are not going to be sitting ducks in a pond for the human rights groups to shoot at us with impunity.”
Meanwhile, Isi Leibler, writing in the Jerusalem Post, ominously wants to “exorcise the [Jewish] renegades from our midst,” through some form of excommunication.
In Toronto, Jews were at the forefront of a campaign to boycott Israeli films at a film festival because the anniversary of Tel Aviv – ‘built on the destroyed villages of Palestinians’ – was being celebrated; two Israeli women who evaded national service are conducting a North American campus tour under the auspices of ‘Jewish Voice for Peace’ to persuade students to intensify their role in the “resistance movement”; in San Francisco the local Jewish Federation is providing funds for a film festival which promotes the vilest anti-Israel films; radical Rabbi Michael Lerner invited a woman who justifies suicide bombings to address his synagogue on Yom Kippur; and so on.
IM EIN ani li mi li? If we are not for ourselves, who will be? We are engaged in a battle against fiendish enemies committed to our destruction. The Israeli government must now take steps to neutralize the impact of renegade Jews who present themselves as legitimate alternative Jewish viewpoints. Such an initiative by a country which provides genuine democratic rights to all its citizens, including Arabs, could hardly be categorized as eradicating freedom of expression. It would rather represent a highly overdue effort to exorcise such odious groups from the mainstream and expose them as unrepresentative fringe groups with no standing.
The heightened discourse of nastiness is matched on the ground by what many observers believe is an intentional effort by Netanyahu to trigger a third intifada.