Tag Archives: Muzzling

Muzzling Roundup: Attacking Iran, Dershowitz v. MJ Rosenberg, Harvard One-State Conference

It’s been a few weeks of major Muzzling attempts on Israel/Palestine. Last week in Washington, DC, AIPAC held their annual conference, or shall we say chorus, where over half the US Congress and thousands of Likud supporters cheered on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s assertion that Iran’s potentially-maybe-would-be nuclear capacity is the same thing as Auschwitz, a move some keen observers see as making it that much harder for Netanyahu not to attack Iran. As Jon Stewart makes only too clear, American politicians do not – cannot? – oppose Netanyahu. (In this excellent essay, Peter Beinart lays out the history of Obama’s failure to stand up to Netanyahu, warning that the cost of this failure may be war with Iran.)

JVP activists were among the hundreds of activists who occupied AIPAC from within and without, reminding attendees and the media that AIPAC does not speak for Jews, and that many, many Jews, allies and others oppose the Israeli government’s planned war on Iran and policies of occupation and oppression of Palestinians. Though JVP’s truck ad was silenced, JVP’s voice came through loud & clear, both displayed on the outside wall of the Convention Center on the night of the AIPAC Gala and as JVP Board Member and general badass Liza Behrendt directly challenged AIPAC, StandWithUs, the David Project and Hillel for silencing young Jews on the issue of Israel/Palestine.

And beyond AIPAC, the campaign to silence the indomitable, indispensible MJ Rosenberg (whose analysis of Netanyahu, Obama and AIPAC is the only glimmer of light we’ve seen) continues. The Emergency Committee for Israel (a truer McCarthyite organization there never was) published an attack in the NYTimes against MJ’s employer, Media Matters, as well as the Center for American Progress, two organizations with close ties to the Democratic Party. The ad quotes Alan Dershowitz’s critique of Media Matters and CAP, and Dershowitz didn’t like that – and in his articles and interviews opposing the ECI’s use of his words, Dersh has been very clear that he won’t stop until Media Matters fires MJ or the White House fires Media Matters. MJ is the latest target of this chief muzzler, or “heresy hunter from Harvard,” as Jeremiah Haber calls Dershowitz, whose targets have included Richard Goldstone, Norm Finkelstein, Shlomo Sand, Anat Matar, Rachel Giora – at least MJ is in good company. JJ Goldberg of the Forward defends MJ here and MJ’s latest column is as smart, impassioned, insightful and indispensible as ever, proving, once again, how much we need his thinking, his intuition, his guts, and his voice. May he only get stronger and louder.

And last, the March 3 & 4 One State Conference at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government was a success even before it took place, before an array of fascinating, bold thinkers,  including JVP Advisory Board member Sarah Schulman and Rabbinical Council co-founder Brant Rosen, aired nuanced, thoughtful and difficult ideas to a sold out crowd.

This conference was a success simply because it happened. No less a powerful figure than Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown tried to get it shut down, while the ADL led the charge among dominant Jewish organizations in demanding that Harvard denounce the conference and the legitimacy of discussing a one-state solution. More than 4,000 “students, alumni and friends” of Harvard signed a petition calling for the university to effectively prevent the conference by denying it funding and facilities. The AJC called it a “non-starter”.

The condemnation of the conference took the same forms, calling the discussion of a one state solution anti-Semitic, and worse: organizers are “soft eliminationists” (Jeffrey Goldberg) who seek Israel’s “elimination (ADL) through a “Final Solution” that will lead to the “extermination” and “annihilation” of Israel (FrontPage Magazine). As the ADL put it in a letter to Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust, “there can never be any legitimate discussion” about a one-state solution. Yet do they lob the same critique at Knesset members calling for one state – one Jewish supremacist state, that is – or the state legislatures of Florida and South Carolina, which recently passed resolutions supporting one state, meaning the state of Israel in the greater land of Israel?

No, on the topic of a viable solution for Israel/Palestine, these muzzlers reserve their muzzling for perceived leftists. What they’re doing is trying to make it impossible for anyone but speakers they’ve vetted and chosen to speak about Israel’s future. Palestinians need not apply – and nor should anyone who thinks there’s more to the story than “why the Palestinians have inflicted so much unnecessary suffering on themselves, as the ADL’s New England Regional Director put it.

Harvard hosted the conference in spite of the attacks, yet it did something else, too. Dean David Ellwood of the Kennedy School issued a statement regarding the conference, saying “We would never take a position on specific policy solutions to achieving peace in this region, and certainly would not endorse any policy that some argue could lead to the elimination of the Jewish State of Israel.” Does “the Jewish State of Israel” ring any bells? That’s the new language / negotiation precondition imposed by Netanyahu in 2007. Never before did Israel demand official recognition as “the Jewish state;” this demand flummoxed diplomats and threw a wrench in potential negotiations with Palestinians. Israel as the “Jewish state”: what impact would this declaration have on discrimination against Palestinian citizens? Or civil rights for Jewish Israelis, who also suffer from ultra-orthodox domination? On negotiations over the Palestinian right of return? In short, Dean Ellwood’s use of that language is a victory for Netanyahu and a loss for democracy, equality, civil rights and justice. Congratulations, ADL. Congratulations, Harvard.

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How to be a Muzzler.

The sad case of Iman Rauf is bringing the practice of muzzling to a much wider audience. The potential target is literally concrete: a thirteen story building rather than someone’s job or right to speak. And the victim, is unusually well connected, an envoy of the US Government.

But the process is much the same. So for all the people who’ve joined us late, it would be a good time to write the definitive guide to “muzzling” debate on the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

First, pick someone whose crime is not their outlandish views, but their very reasonableness. A few out-of -context quotes, and that very reasonableness can appear sinister, evidence of a hidden agenda!

Second, in addition to being reasonable, this person should have some particular influence credibility. There is no percentage in gagging a random nut on the internet. Particular points will accrue to you if the person is seeking an expanded role for Arab or Muslim Americans in public life or an expanded debate within the Jewish community about Israel. Neither development can be tolerated, for the Jewish community must remain utterly lockstep on Israel. Who knows to what use Jewish Americans with dissenting views might put their ethical traditions or feeling of connection to others? And what would occur if Arab and Muslim Americans could report on the Middle East, raise money for charities in their countries of origin, or build community centers like everyone else?

If you have done your homework well on the first and second points, this third should go without saying, but the person you are targetting should actually care what other people think. While hard line lunatics can sometimes be useful, they only derive gratification on your attacks on them. Whereas the tolerant liberalism of the muzzlee and their actual opposition to anti-Semitism can be their own undoing! It’s no fun if they don’t cry.

Once the first three conditions are met, mazel tov, you have your victim, now go get ‘em! Here’s a tip, if you are a liberal-seeming organization, let conservative blowhards do your dirty work. Their accusations will be eagerly reported by journalists who believe the only “real Americans” are white rural protestant blowhards and the people they like, not coffee drinking liberals like themselves. Once the reporters do their work, good liberals will be earnestly repeating slanders, after all they read them in the New York Times!

If this muzzling attempt is an internal Jewish community affair, you can either use the Jewish version of the right wing blowhards or if the community is small enough, create a new group! You could name it something like “Jewish Americans for Peace, Kugel, and Continuity” or something equally heart-tugging. In the post-Madoff age where so many Jewish organizations have gone belly-up, there is valuable community growth to be had from muzzling!

Ok, now to actually apply the muzzle. Make sure you begin your speech/ blogspot/ oped by saying how against the thing you are doing you are. You are NOT against Muslims or an Open Debate on Israel, just THIS Muslim or Open Debate. And every other one you have met. The word “BUT” can be given a world of innuendo and meaning here.

Congratulations, you are now a muzzler. But sadly your work is not done. In the good old days, it would have been but now the other side has blogs of their own, and plasma televisions. They will complain. You should also be prepared to alienate everyone in your community, many of them younger, who are disgusted that you engage in such activity. This should be your cue to lament how “we are losing the young people” and plug the indoctrination program of your choice.

Your work is finally done. Your reasonable, open-minded opponent will now lack a platform for their speech/reportage/Islamic community center and you can lament how there is no one to talk to. Your supporters will be suitably terrified by the enemies you have conjured under every rock and lower Manhattan block. Any backlash against your group for bullying and moral blindness will only feed those fears. Most meaningfully of all, Israeli government officials will thank you, for you will have provided an invaluable distraction from their latest outrage against Palestinians. So everyone will be happy.

Until the day when this game no longer works. When your community begins to hold you accountable to their actual needs and values. When Israel’s abuses can no longer be justified as self-defense. When Muslim and Arab in the United States and Israel/Palestine no longer accept second class citizenship or none at all.

So your last move should be to hope that day has not yet arrived, and repeat the entire cycle until you no longer can.

–Jesse Bacon

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