Category Archives: About Muzzlewatch

Toronto, London, Berkeley: new axis of evil, declares Reut Institute

My Muzzlewatch stump speech has long talked about the parallel Middle East battle happening on the level of language and imagery:

While Israelis and Palestinians struggle over land, water and basic human rights in the Middle
East, a proxy battle is being waged here in the United States. Instead of Qassam rockets and
F-16s, the weapons are words, images and the internet. Instead of orchards and city streets, the battlefield is academia, journalism, politics, arts and publishing. And instead of calling it what it is–a struggle between those who unconditionally support often disastrous US-Israeli policies, and those who do not– the debate is framed as being about national security, the war on terror, and the clash of civilizations.

This battle is actually global, though the stakes in the US are obvious- unconditional diplomatic and financial support for Israel while it pursues its dream of a Greater Israel. But either way, it is framed as a battle between those who care about Israel/Jews, democracy and Western values, and those who threaten them. This framing benefits right wing Israel advocacy groups by erasing any legitimate Palestinian claims, collapsing all forms of resistance, including nonviolent civil society, under the banner of ‘terrorism.” Further, it means that Israel’s human rights record, and the US support which makes it possible, is removed from consideration

Recently, the Israeli think tank, the Reut Institute, has come up with its own version of this analysis which it is presenting to Israeli diplomats. Their frame is that this is a grassroots battle over the legitimacy of Israel (whatever that means), thus delegitimizing virtually any resistance to human rights violations and systemic inequality.

Substitute “Enemy Command HQ” for “Hubs of Delegitimacy.” Instead of “enemy armor outflanking our infantry,” use “resistance networks outflanking the IDF to attack Israel’s very legitimacy.” Instead of bombing Israeli embassies – picketing Israeli stores and taking Israeli products off supermarket shelves.

Pair Iran’s nuclear program, an existential threat to Israel, with the simultaneous creation of an existential political threat, and you are talking in a new type of language, and a new type of warfare in which the IDF is not equipped to engage in, and perhaps shouldn’t be engaging in.

A new report by the Reut Institute, a Tel Aviv-based national security and socioeconomic policy think tank, maps out the “new battlefield” in which Israel finds the legitimacy of its very existence attacked by a wide array of organizations and individuals in global centers like London, Toronto, Brussels, Madrid and Berkeley.

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Play nice or don’t play at all: comments on Muzzlewatch

OK, as careful readers have observed, Muzzlewatch has made a point of allowing a wide range of comments on the blog, including those that fall uncomfortably outside of the bounds of normal civil discourse. But there is a difference between heated but principled debate, and simply calling people names or threatening them.

I realize the safe anonymity of the internet (many Muzzlewatch commenters use false names and registrations) gives many people permission to communicate more freely than in person. This can be freeing, but also destructive.

Today is sad for me because it marks the very first time I have ever deleted a comment on Muzzlewatch. I did not do so for political reasons, but because the comment clearly crossed the line,making an endless personal attack on one person. That the person who made the attack registered with false information made the attack even more despicable.

PLEASE: disagree and debate to your heart’s content. But be substantive about it. Simply calling people names, no matter what side you are on, diminishes your dignity and your credibility, and debases all of us. If we’re serious about making this a better world where all of us can live side by side, and I believe that many of us on all sides of this issues do have that in common, then we can practice what we preach.

If the level of discourse continues to erode, I will not hesitate to delete further posts.


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Muzzlewatch hits the Jewish Media Trifecta

Yesterday, we were excited that stories about Muzzlewatch appeared on the same day in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Jewish Daily Forward, and J, the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish magazine.

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Muzzlewatch in the Forward today

Rebecca Spence at the Forward wrote about the blog. She also cites our friend and dauntless researcher Richard Silverstein at Tikun Olam, who published our story about Adam Horowitz getting an “anonymous” harassing email at home from a high level American Jewish Congress staffer. As Richard pointed out, why was she monitoring Adam’s private emails in the first place? (Richard has done more original reporting on the story.)
I should point out, however, that our biggest beef isn’t the many hate mails we get. Really, who can count them? The biggest beef is getting disinvited to speaking engagements, seeing media stories get killed (yes, it happens), getting barred from major Jewish institutions, pulling down art shows, seeing supposedly reputable Jewish organizations pressure third parties not to speak to groups like JVP or Tikkun. The list goes on and on. Not to mention the general practice of tarring and feathering of non-Jews who dare begin to speak the truth we all know about our miserable foreign policy and Israel’s shameful history of violating the human rights of Palestinians.

In fact, this whole issue became such a problem for us at JVP, getting in the way of our ability to do our actual work, which is about ending the conflict, that last year our board approved a proposal to launch a campaign to help publicize and put an end to these kinds of attacks.

But I should emphasize that this is happening because these folks are afraid. They are afraid of the growing number of Jews, all over the world, including many of the sacred symbols of the Jewish community like rabbis, Holocaust survivors or IDF soldiers, all willing to speak the truth in public settings. The 40th anniversary of Israel’s occupation is coming up. The last 6 or 7 years has been a remarkable period of devastation for both Palestinians and Israelis. On these issues, our so-called leaders have let us all down.

Left-wing Critics of Israel Launch Blog To Combat Alleged Intimidation | Fri. Feb 09, 2007

In the wake of an increasing flurry of attacks leveled against left-wing Jewish groups by their right-wing counterparts, one dovish group is fighting back.

Jewish Voice for Peace, a San Francisco-based organization, recently launched a blog to track what it describes as a growing epidemic of intimidation and harassment from fellow Jews seeking to stifle open debate over Americas policy on Israel. The inception of the daily blog, MuzzleWatch.com, comes as one influential centrist organization, the American Jewish Committee, is facing fierce criticism for publishing an essay charging that Jews on the left, with their vocal criticisms of Israel, are helping to breed a virulent new form of antisemitism.

As weve become more effective and more visible, theres definitely been an increase in the backlash, said Cecilie Surasky, communications director of Jewish Voice for Peace, which in the last year has grown from a local Bay Area group into a national organization with five chapters in major cities, including Boston and Washington. Groups arent fighting fair, she said.

While internecine squabbles within the Jewish community are nothing new, the tenor of hostilities between groups on opposite ends of the political spectrum seem to be reaching a fever pitch not felt in years. As left-wing activists contend that they face increasingly hostile attacks from hawkish groups, right-wing critics charge that their Jewish foes present a growing danger to Israel, already under siege from the international community and facing the prospect of a nuclear threat from Iran. Even a branch of the Israeli government has weighed in, with the consul general of Los Angeles, Ehud Danoch, asserting in a report he issued to the Israeli Foreign Ministry that Jewish groups, presumably left wing, are harming Israels image by sponsoring tours of ex-Israeli soldiers who speak out against alleged Israeli human rights abuses in the Palestinian territories.

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Muzzlewatch team is growing, introducing Andrew Schamess

Muzzlewatch was always meant to be a team blog. Now it turns out we’ll soon have not just new bloggers, but also various researchers and more. It’s also been wonderful, to work with our friend Richard Silverstein over at Tikun Olam. A longtime activist and thinker in the Jewish peace community, Richard is deeply concerned about these issues and has helped Muzzlewatch immeasurably.We plan on doing original research and more joint projects with him.

Today we’re adding a new, though busy and therefore less frequent blogger on these pages. Andrew Schamess is an uncommonly thoughtful person who has been blogging over at Semitism.net for quite some time now (his mother Stephanie has now joined him as a blogger). Andrew Schamess is a physician in Lenox, Massachusetts and a member of Ahavath Sholom synagogue. He is active in Israel-Palestinian issues. He has traveled to Israel and the West Bank to teach medical students and provide free medical care. In his spare time, he reads medical texts and the Tanakh (Hebrew bible).

There are so many interesting posts at Semitism.net about Jewish scripture, God, losing children and the Combatants for Peace tour, I hardly know where to begin. I am so thrilled to have him join the team.

Today, Andrew offers this tongue-in-cheek post, “Moses: the First Jewish Anti-Semite (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the AJC)” about the AJC’s new pamphlet.

With the new perspective that his pamphlet has given me, I have found evidence of anti-Semitism in some of the most important figures of Jewish history. Its even there in Jewish scripture!

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Welcome to the new MuzzleWatch blog

Welcome to MuzzleWatch, the new blog dedicated to tracking efforts to muzzle critics of US-Israeli foreign policy. We, the folks at Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), decided to start this blog because we’ve simply had enough.

We found ourselves getting disinvited from too many speaking engagements. We saw too many groups we like get called anti-Semitic. We encountered too many people who capitulated to pressure to simply shut up.

MuzzleWatch is dedicated to creating an open atmosphere for debate about US-Israeli foreign policy by:

  • shining a light on incidents that involve pressure, intimidation, and outright censorship of critics of US-Israeli policy
  • showing that there is an environment of intimidation that keeps far too many people from speaking honestly and openly
  • demanding accountability from groups that use silencing tactics

It is simply absurd that these issues can be debated much more openly in Israel than in the United States. Continue reading