Monthly Archives: November 2009

Sue them already, Israeli TV host suggests new tactic to silence media

Israeli television news personality Yair Lapid offers a rather remarkable idea for dealing with the international media when they say things the Israeli government doesn’t like: “sue them.” Of course, in the United States, going this extra mile may not be worth the effort. Just last night, I was chatting with a journalist friend who works for a major news outlet. She acknowledged that the right-wing media advocacy group, CAMERA, had been so successful in harassing the outlet every time they covered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that no one wants to touch the story. (Another favorite CAMERA tactic is jamming up public radio station lines during member drives to make 1 penny bids. Who thinks of this stuff?)

From Ynet:

Just sue them

Yair Lapid offers new tactic in international struggle against new anti-Semites

We sat in the small and well-kept backyard at the home of Israel’s ambassador in London, Ron Prosor. Light rain was falling intermittently, leaving behind it fresh English air, yet the expressions around the table remained grim. The conversation focused on the British media’s takeover by anti-Israel elements.

Prosor is a large and smiling man, with a soft base voice, but his smile was gone when he spoke of the way he is being welcomed by pro-Palestinian protestors every time he arrives for a lecture at a British university.

You need to read some of the things they write about us here, he sighed. I don’t even know how to start responding to them.

Don’t respond, I said. Sue them.

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I am not afraid of people discussing the Nakba. I am afraid of people not being allowed to discuss it.

In the “credit where credit is due” department, I was very impressed by Hagai El- Ad, who was representing the Association of Civil Rights in Israel on the J Street Conference panel about the New Israel Fund. He provided what I believe was the only mention of the Nakba [Catastrophe] at the J Street conference, in the context of the Nakba Law, which he opposed in powerful, articulate language. This law, covered here on Muzzlewatch, was originally intended to criminalize with up to three years in prison anyone who dared commemorate the Nakba. The new version was ‘softened’ to bar the Israeli government from providing funding to activities that deny Israel’s definition as a Jewish or democratic state — in essence sanctioning a government boycott of Nakba-related cultural and educational activities.

El Ad opposed this law not just on behalf of the 20% of Israel’s population who is Palestinian, but referred to the Nakba as part of the history of the entire country. El Ad said “I am not afraid of people discussing the Nakba. I am afraid of people not being allowed to discuss it.”

This is a reminder of the stake we all have in opposing muzzling: the threat posed to everyone by those who would suppress or even criminalize criticism. All the more reason to use the privilege we have here to raise our voices as loudly and effectively as we can.

– Jesse Bacon

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Kudos to the Daily Show, but a breakthrough? or the exception proves the rule

Recently the Daily Show (see the full interview here, part 1 and part 2) had two seemingly really controversial guests. Not John Bolton, the notorious UN-hating US ambassador to the UN, nor the deposed Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, or any one of a host of far right blowhards or neo-cons such as, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Kristol, Cliff May, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith (so responsible for the debacle in Iraq), all former guests.

No, these two guests had always advocated for peaceful solutions to really dreadful problems, and they had done so in the face of an implacable and violent enemy.  The Jewish American Anna Baltzer and the Palestinian Mustafa Barghouti have been formidable in confronting, with dignity and courage, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.  Either, on their own, would have made worthy guests for Jon Stewart.

Anna Baltzer has written a book about her experiences working for peace in the West Bank, “A Witness in Palestine”, and spent a great deal of time doing non-violent resistance. Dr. Barghouti, in so many ways, medically through his heading of the Union of Palestinian medical relief societies (UPMRC) and politically through his unsuccessful run for the Palestinian presidency on the “third way” platform, has been involved in trying to counter the occupation and promote civil society in Palestine. They are both well-spoken and it was, given the current media environment, unambiguously,  a very courageous act for Jon Stewart to have them on.

Indeed, we at JVP and Muzzlewatch, heartily applaud their appearance. But the question arises, why should this be considered such a brave/perilous step?  The Daily Show has had war criminals, scurrilous demagogues, people whose stock and trade are the offering of vicious lies and calls for violence.   The appearance of Baltzer and Barghouti was unprecedented for several reasons.  The Daily Show never has two guests on at once and there was an actual heckler!?! (the first in 11 years). Similar to the right-wing representative  who called Obama a liar in his speech to congress, the Daily Show heckler called out ‘liar” during the taping of the show, a comment that, interestingly, was not edited out.

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