Category Archives: Right-Wingers

Buyer Beware

by Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark

In the unusual category of GOOD news for discourse around Israel and Palestine, Patrick B. Pexton, ombuds for the Washington Post until last March, gave new owner Jeff Bezos some excellent advice in an open letter he published in the Washington City Paper: Fire Jennifer Rubin.

Rubin, as Muzzlewatch readers may recall, occupies a place in the crowded precinct of rabid Islamaphobes on the Zionist right. Here’s how Pexton puts it:

“Have Fred Hiatt, your editorial page editor—who I like, admire, and respect—fire opinion blogger Jennifer Rubin. Not because she’s conservative, but because she’s just plain bad. She doesn’t travel within a hundred miles of Post standards. She parrots and peddles every silly right-wing theory to come down the pike in transparent attempts to get Web hits. Her analysis of the conservative movement, which is a worthwhile and important beat that the Post should treat more seriously on its national pages, is shallow and predictable. Her columns, at best, are political pornography; they get a quick but sure rise out of the right, but you feel bad afterward. Continue reading

Fighting Anti-Semitism with Islamophobia at Yale

Audre Lorde used the metaphor of the masters tools not being able to dismantle the masters house to explain why racism could not be used to fight sexism. Unfortunately, no one told many of the scholars who attended the recent Yale conference Global Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity. In no case can one oppression effectively or ethically used to combat another, but particularly in the case of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, where one is threatening to take the place of the other.

Yaman Salahi writes about the virulence of many of the speakers. First up

Among the many anti-Arab and anti-Muslim speakers was Itamar Marcus, a member of the Israeli settler movement who offered a keynote speech on “The Central Role of Palestinian Antisemitism in Creating the Palestinian Identity.” The title alone reduces an entire people and its history to irrationality and hatred; worse, it was but one of dozens of talks with a similarly problematic theme.

It is hard to imagine any other conflict where Yale would allow a front line and privileged member of a conflict to hold forth on their opponent. Would Yale invite Chinese settlers in Tibet to hold forth about the inferiority and irrationality of Tibetans? Members of Sudanese militias to criticize the perfidity of people of Darfur?  Salahi gives several other examples of speakers’ problematic past records and then points out to the larger problem.

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The center’s failure to adhere to consistent anti-racist principles makes it vulnerable to the charge that it is motivated by a political agenda. Indeed, many of its speakers hailed from partisan, right-wing, pro-Israel organizations including NGO Monitor, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and Palestinian Media Watch — not to mention the Israeli government. In addition, many talks functioned as apologia for recent controversial Israeli actions, including an attack that killed nine civilians on a humanitarian aid flotilla to Gaza this summer that one speaker called “the Jihad flotilla.”

Using Arabic terms as a slur does not seem like an effective way of combating Anti-Semitism, to say the least, but hardly suprising from this crew. And neither is their rigid view of acceptable Judaism.

In addition, speakers at times seemed to conflate anti-Israel sentiment with anti-Semitism. For example, in a plenary about anti-racist Jewish critics of Israel titled “Self Hatred and Contemporary Antisemitism,” Richard Landes’ speech asked, “What Drives Jews to Loathe Israel Publicly?” as if those dissidents’ claims were based not on merit but on some pathological psychosis. Landes and others were not speaking about radical organizations but rather reputable human rights organizations, prominent Jewish dissidents and international student activists — exactly the kind of people a center purporting to fight bigotry should celebrate.

Instead Jews who differ from these groups view of Israel are marginalized and their Judaism question.

the same logic, inverted, often provides a pretext for racist ideas about Jews around the world, for those who imagine that Jews, no matter where they are or what they say, form a monolithic body that can be blamed for Israel’s actions.

Of course, Arabs and Muslims are the primary targets of Islamophobita, but Salahi also realizes the cost to Jews of this kind of mindset.

While the center’s failure to abstain from inflammatory anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric is offensive and dangerous, the real tragedy is its failure to recognize that a successful and principled stand against anti-Semitism requires a principled stand against all kinds of racism, including anti-Muslim/anti-Arab bigotry in America and anti-Palestinian racism in Israel.

So Jews who have differing views on Israel cannot count on these self appointed fighters of anti-Semitism, We would not be welcome at such a conference, and such bigotry will not protect us. Fortunately we have allies like Salahi who we can partner with to fight both our oppressions together.

Magnes ZIonist also reporting on the conference, asks where were the progressive Jews who study Anti-Semitism?

Do only hard-line Zionists care about anti-Semitism? No, not really. But the study of anti-Semitism has gravitated in that direction because it has been taken over by Israelis and Zionists, and is supported mostly by hard-line Zionist money. Sorry to be blunt, but I can think of no other explanation.

–Jesse Bacon

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Hudson’s co-founder, the Israeli academic purge and the subversion of US Middle East policy


Reposted from Didi Remez’s Coteret blog.

Evidence is mounting that the Institute for Zionist Strategies (IZS) — an Israeli NGO at the forefront of an ongoing campaign to purge Israeli Universities of faculty and programs deemed “left-wing” — is a creature of  The Hudson Institute, a major Washington based neoconservative think-tank, which played an active role in shaping the Bush administration’s Middle East policies.

Hudson is the primary financial backer of the IZS, providing at least half of the organizations’s total reported multi-year funding, but the connection does not end there.

Max SingerMax Singer

Max Singer, co-founder of the Hudson Institute, its former President and current Senior Fellow, is also the IZS’s Research Director. At least according to his bio on the Hudson website: The IZS site only identifies him as a member of the Advisory Committee. Its 2006 brochure (page 8), however, states that he is a member of the International Board of Governors and as one of the ex-officio members of the Projects Committee, which “as such, are invited to all deliberative sessions and events.” According to the IZS’s verbal report to the to the Israeli Registrar of Associations for 2008 (the last one filed), Singer’s wife, Suzanne, is one of three members of the NGO’s “Council”, the sovereign decision-making body under Israeli law.

As the IZS’s Research Director, Singer would presumably be responsible for the research that pressured the President of Tel-Aviv University to take the extraordinary step of examining the syllabi of his institution’s Sociology Department for “left-wing bias”. The introduction to the IZS’s 2006 brochure (page 1), which Singer co-signed, indicates that he saw this type of activity as part of the organization’s strategic purpose:

IZS 2006 Brochure

The IZS will help liberate the public discourse in Israeli society from the self-imposed constraints of the prevalent dogma and internalized notions of the politically correct. Israeli society needs to be freed from the acceptance of double standards so that we can become comfortable asserting our own national purpose as a sovereign Jewish community.

This goal would fit well within the stated purpose of a Hudson Institute project, which was launched at the same time as funding of the IZS began (emphasis in the original):

The Future of Zionism. The Center for Middle East Policy is launching a multi-year project to examine the future of Zionism and its implications for the State of Israel. Israel faces an ideological crisis: As the recent Gaza pullout showed, societal divisions between secular and religious Israelis and between left and right wing camps have become so pronounced that they threaten to overpower the Zionist consensus that traditionally unified the nation. [Hudson Institute Form 990 Report to the IRS for 2005, page 23].

For a generation, Singer has been involved in designing and promoting aggressive US foreign policy. In the early 1980′s he was on the board of Friends of the Democratic Center in Central America (PRODEMCA), a controversial organization involved in the Iran-Contras scandal. In 2002, he published The Many Compelling Reasons for War with Iraq.

A Democratic administration is in power in Washington and Singer has moved to Jerusalem, so he has found a new instrument for beltway influence: The government of Israel. From a July 17 policy note published by the Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University (emphasis mine):

To prevent Obama from bringing America behind his different view of the world, Israel needs to help Americans appreciate the way that Obama sees things differently than they do. The views of most Americans, and of most of the American political world, are much closer to Israel’s understanding of Middle Eastern realities than to Obama’s perceptions. Israeli actions can help Americans to recognize the conflicts between what they believe and the premises of Obama’s proposed policies. The critical element in Israel’s policy concerning the US is the degree to which Israel is able to recognize, stimulate, and get the benefit of the parts of the American policy-making system that do not share President Obama’s radically different ideas about the world. Israel does not have to act as if Obama’s views will necessarily determine the policy of the US, and it certainly does not have to assume that Obama’s current views will dominate US policy-making for many years. Israel has the power, if it has the fortitude, to influence the degree to which Obama is able to make the tectonic change in American policy that he would like to make.

Netanyahu’s Senior Diplomatic Adviser, Ron Dermer, seems to have acted on this advice, incurring the wrath of Rahm Emanuel. From Ben Caspit’s August 19 column in Maariv:

Emanuel was angry, he claimed, because Dermer briefed certain Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish, against the President and and Emanuel himself.

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Isi Leibler explains what he meant…

Here’s isi Leibler, now in Haaretz, all shocked that people are upset by his call to exorcise and excommunicate Jews that disagree with him. This is how he reports in Haaretz what he had previously said:

I observed that self loathing Jews are not a new phenomenon in Jewish history. During the Middle Ages, Jewish apostates were exploited by the church to promote the most obscene libels against their kinsman. That paved the way for subsequent pogroms and massacres. I noted that during that period, such renegades were excommunicated. To suggest as did Burston and Strenger that I seek to reintroduce “excommunication” to deal with “doves” or critics of Israeli policy is an unconscionable misrepresentation of what I wrote.

And this is how he said it in the Jerusalem Post:

The exploitation of Judge Goldstone’s Jewish background by our enemies intensifies our obligation to confront the enemy within – renegade Jews – including Israelis who stand at the vanguard of global efforts to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state. Such odious Jews can be traced back to apostates during the Middle Ages who fabricated blood libels and vile distortions of Jewish religious practice for Christian anti-Semites to incite hatred which culminated in massacres. It was in response to these renegades that the herem (excommunication) was introduced.

Sorry if you got us all confused, Mr. Leibler. This renegade Jew still reads the original paragraph as a call to excommunicate Judge Goldstone and other Jews that do not agree with your point of view.

Let’s try again, this time going forward, from the J Post to Haaretz.

Here’s Leibler in the Jerusalem Post:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is currently riding a wave after his superb United Nations address. He should summon a global Jewish solidarity conference encompassing Jewish leaders, opinion makers, philanthropists and activists similar to that organized in 1989 under the auspices of then prime minister Yitzhak Shamir and then defense minister Yitzhak Rabin in order to demonstrate the unity of the Jewish people.

At a time when we desperately seek allies, in addition to encouraging millions of Jews in the Diaspora who remain committed to Israel to become more actively engaged in our struggle, such a gathering would also provide an opportunity to exorcise the renegades from our midst.

And here is his ‘clarification’ in Haaretz:

I have no doubt that had Rabin been alive, he too would have endeavored to “exorcise” (Thesaurus “disentangle” or “remove”) from the mainstream, those Israelis and Jews who actively seek to demonize the state, defame the IDF, lobby foreign governments against Israel or oppose a Jewish democratic state.

Isn’t nice and clever? Let me give you synonyms of ‘exorcise’ even as I talk about ‘demonizing’ the state. Very nice juxtaposition, Mr. Leibler.

Even with this neat clarification, some questions remain: Disentangle from where? Remove to where?

Lastly, this is how Mr. Leibler describes J Street (who by the way, should also be excommunicated, exorcised, disentangled, and removed):

J Street whose principal objective was to persuade their president to exercise “tough love” on Israel because they decided that the Jewish state needed to be treated like a parent who treats a drug addicted child.

If only that description of J Street were true!

Now, if Mr. Leibler does not believe that Israel should be treated like is a drug addicted child, he should — under risk of excommunication and exorcism — join the call to suspend, or at least condition, the 3 billion dollars a year that Israel receives, no strings attached. That’s quite a drug right there.

– Sydney Levy, renegade Jew

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Israeli law makers move to outlaw free speech: The noose tightens

This just in. Its, unfortunately, of a piece with other similar efforts to censor speech in Israel.   In the recent past there have been, on a number of fronts, attempts to silence Palestinian Israeli voices, both in the political arena and at the individual level.   The almost annual attempts to ban Arab Knesset members and political parties who do not pledge allegiance to the Jewish state of Israel have been well documented.  Now we have something new, the beginning of an attempt to ban any official commemoration of the Nakba, this kind of “noose tightening” or muzzling of an alternative narrative, the freedom to express oneself is ominous for any healthy democracy.  Such efforts to silence voices that disrupt a triumphalist national narrative hearkens back to another time and era, and I do not mean this in a salutary manner.  Not only do the Palestinians have to live with the brute facts of settler colonial dispossession, on-going racism and second-class citizenship, but they are increasingly limited in how they may express their disapproval/outrage/counter-narrative.  The extremely strange Haaretz headline “Israel moves closer to banning mourning of its independence” speaks volumes.  Indeed, other questions are also raised regarding the limits of free speech when discussing the “reality” of the Palestinian predicament.

Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, gave preliminary approval to a bill that would mandate a year jail term for anyone who speaks against Israel’s status as a Jewish state on Wednesday morning.

The bill, which still needs final approval before coming law, passed after a heated debate with a vote of 47 to 34 and one abstention. The measure was originally introduced by Zevulun Orlev, a member of a right-wing religious nationalist party, Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home).

The bill’s passage comes three days after lawmakers advanced a bill that would ban all commemorations of Nakba Day, on which Palestinians, including those who are Israeli citizens, remember their expulsion of 1948.

According to news reports, a Palestinian member of the Knesset, Jamal Zahalka, was removed from the auditorium during an argument after the vote.

During the debate preceding the vote, Chaim Oron, the chair of the left-wing Zionist party Meretz, decried the bill, according to the Ynet news agency: “Have you lost your confidence in the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state? This crazy government – what exactly are you doing? Thought Police? Have you lost it?”

Jamal Zahalka said, also according to Ynet’s report, “Many intellectuals in the academia who talk about a country belonging to all its citizens belong in prison, according to MK Orlev. Arab and Jewish leaders who seek real democracy in Israel also belong in jail, according to Orlev… He wants to put anyone who doesn’t agree with him in jail.”

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Free Speech Also Means Responding To Hate Speech

A short while ago, I received an e-mail requesting support for a speaker appearing at a forum in Oregon. Included was an op-ed which apparently appeared in the local newspaper which was essentially making the point that free speech was absolute. It was headlined “Freedom of Speech Threatened When Speakers Are Attacked.” The author was defending the appearance of Mark Weber, the director of the Institute for Historical Review, an organization whose primary goal is to “prove” that the Holocaust either never happened or was greatly exaggerated.

Needless to say, the request for support was refused. That the author of the op-ed mentioned above would conflate a holocaust denier like Weber with Desmond Tutu and Norman Finkelstein, however, also reflects the dangers of spurious accusations of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Tutu has been accused of the former, Finkelstein of the latter. When such people, however deeply anyone disagrees with them, are painted with the same brush as someone like Weber, the parable of the boy who cried wolf is proven.

Muzzlewatch is, of course, dedicated to opening up debate and defending both the right and ability of individuals to speak from their conscience about Israel and the conflicts in the Middle East without fear of professional and personal attacks. That includes those who support current American and Israeli policies, and Muzzlewatch has defended such people in this space.

But the issue of free speech is taken to absurd lengths when one argues that hate speech must have a platform. That is very different from arguing, as I certainly would, that even the most hateful bigot has a right to his or her views and the right to be free from government restriction on the expression of those views. But that doesn’t mean that a public, private, educational or media institution must provide a platform for hate speech.

Indeed, the very premise the op-ed author uses to defend Weber’s appearance, that “free speech is threatened when speakers are attacked” is the height of absurdity. Public speakers are attacked all the time. In my own case, as someone who has been critical of Israeli and American policies as well as those of the Arab states, Iran and the various Palestinian factions, I have been attacked from all sides of this debate. I’m still speaking as freely as ever. Continue reading

Barak Wants Professor Fired For Nasty Words to IDF Officer

It is becoming more and more obvious, whether it’s here in the US, in Europe, or in Israel that the heated emotions that surround the question of the occupation are leading too many into contemptible acts of suppression. If we are ever to get to a resolution, to a better future for Israelis and Palestinians, we need to stop being so very afraid of words.

Yesterday, our staunch Muzzlewatcher, Cecilie Surasky, reported on the cancellation of a talk by controversial professors Steven Walt and John Mearsheimer. In Israel, we can look at another, rather different example today, as Defense Minister Ehud Barak has called for the dismissal of a Bar Ilan University Professor of Hebrew Literature, Hillel Weiss. Barak called for Weiss’ dismissal over remarks Weiss made to an IDF soldier evacuating some settlers from the market area in Hebron.

Without a doubt, Weiss words to the soldier were thoroughly contemptible. The Jerusalem Post reports: “Weiss, who was seen by reporters talking to Fuchs privately during the evacuation, was asked by a Ynet reporter what he had told the IDF commander. ‘I said I hope his mother is bereaved, his wife is widowed and his children are made orphans,’ said Weiss before the news camera. ‘And I told him that I hope my grandchildren will take revenge against him and against all Jewish scum like him.’”

These are truly revolting comments, and Weiss’ specification of “Jewish scum” might well reflect the self-hatred so common on the right that they like to accuse those working for justice and peace of. Bar Ilan University may decide for itself whether it wants someone on its faculty who is making public statements so full of hatred and venom. One would hope, however, that Bar Ilan would use the same standards it should be using with any other academic–their scholarship in their field, not their political views.

It is not, however, the business of government to dictate such things. In fact, the suppression of Prof. Weiss’ speech only fuels and strengthens the settlers, reinforcing their sense that they are persecuted victims. But the practical issue there is not the point; fundamentally, Weiss has a right to his view. He was not attempting to incite any violence against the soldier in question or anyone else. His view may be hateful but it is his view, and he has a right to express it, no less than those who believe that every settlement in the West Bank should be removed. That Weiss is facing a police investigation over this is simply revolting.

This entire incident is part of a larger matrix, where even the tiniest move by Israel to rein in the wildly expanding settlements and their zealous supporters and inhabitants is met with fanatical opposition. How all of this is working to defeat any hope for a resolution to the occupation and the Israel-Palestine conflict will be a topic I will be writing more on later this weekend on my own blog, The Third Way.

But any way you cut it, it is open dialogue, where all views are presented in an atmosphere where speech is free and unfettered that is the most necessary pre-condition for finding some agreement that a wide swath of people can agree to. Silencing views harms us all, whether it is done by individuals pressuring institutions with their donations, or by institutions themselves limiting the bounds of debate. But nothing can be more harmful than governmental interference in speech, however hateful. Israel has always been far better about open debate than the United States. If it maintains that advantage today, it is only because of how far the US has fallen in this regard, not because Israel has remained as open to debate, as Ehud Barak has demonstrated.

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