Nothing to fear but truth itself: Criminalizing criticism of Israel
"The theory of the free press is not that the truth will be presented completely or perfectly in any one instance, but that the truth will emerge from free discussion"
—Walter Lippman (1889–1974)
A rather frightening and totally ridiculous reality, one that has been with us for many years now, is currently in the process of becoming even worse, at least down in the United States. This reality—the labeling of all criticism of Israel as "anti-Semitic"—threatens not only free speech and open debate, but the search for peace in the Middle East itself. Check out this article by Paul Craig Roberts and see if you don't agree: "The End of Free Speech? Criminalizing Criticism of Israel".
Roberts, it should be noted, is no left-wing radical. He's the former assistant secretary of the treasury in the Reagan administration and he's even referred to as the "Father of Reaganomics".
We're all well aware of this idea, put forward by the pro-Israel lobby and much of the media, that any sort of criticism of Israel, no matter how deserving, is indicative of one thing and one thing only: anti-Semitism. However, it doesn't take a genius to see this argument for what it really is: A load of nonsensical bullshit and highly irrational buffoonery.
And what, you ask, would these same people have you think of the many Jews, both inside and outside of Israel, who are highly critical of Israel's actions, particularly when it comes to the treatment of the Palestinians? Well, they're all clearly nothing more than "self-hating Jews", of course.
Convenient, isn't it? Anyone who dares criticize Israel—again, even if they happen to be Jewish—must be a hate-filled racist, anti-Semite. And probably a pedophile too, come to think of it.
The truth, of course, is that criticizing Israel makes you no more of an anti-Semite than criticizing the regimes in Zimbabwe, North Korea, Burma, Iran, or Saudi Arabia makes you a racist (or criticizing Dick Cheney makes you anti-bald or an ageist, for that matter). It's simply a rather desperate tactic that's used to try and deflect criticism away from horrific human rights abuses, not to mention outright war crimes.
Don't like Robert Mugabe's glorious leadership in Zimbabwe? You must be a racist!
Think Saddam's gassing of the Kurds was a war crime? You anti-Arab bigot!
Don't like the Saudi Arabian practice of jailing and whipping women for the "crime" of being raped? You xenophobic, hated-filled, anti-Arab, bigoted racist!
Feel somewhat sickened by Israel's slaughter in Gaza at the beginning of the year? Well, clearly, you're nothing more than a lowdown, no-good anti-Semite!
Hate Is Real
Make no mistake, anti-Semites are very real, as are racists, homophobes, misogynists and the rest of their small-minded, bigoted ilk. But none of that has anything to do with legitimate criticism of Israel.
Hell, I'm sure there are even one or two self-hating Jews out there too (current Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs—and Chief Cabinet Secretary of Hate—Avigdor Lieberman comes to mind. Hell, why not? He hates everyone else, it's a good bet he's probably pretty full of self-loathing as well). But, whether the phantom "self-hating Jew" really exists or not, that too has nothing to do with our discussion here regarding legitimate criticism of Israel.
And, while we're on the topic, why don't we ever hear about the dreaded self-hating Zimbabwean?
Or the sly, sinister self-hating Korean?
Or the seething, venomous self-hating Burmese?
Roberts is certainly dead-on in much of what he has to say. However, I would disagree with his assertion that throughout the rest of the Western world—outside of the U.S.—it's getting harder and harder for anyone to criticize Israel's actions when it comes to the treatment of the Palestinians. I'd actually argue the opposite: that in Europe and here in Canada many more people now seem quite willing to question the brainwashing and whitewashing they've been force-fed in regards to the Israeli-Palestinian situation.
It would seem that the slaughter in Gaza a few months back really opened the eyes of a lot of people to what's actually going on over there and to the fact that one side is indeed terrorizing and victimizing the other—and that the whole situation is quite the opposite of what our governments and most of the media would like us to believe.
In fact, I'd even argue that this is becoming clearer to a lot more Americans these days as well, which would explain the push-back by the Israel Lobby that Roberts describes in his piece.
This particular part of the Act, I'm quite sure, will never stand up in court. But the fact of the matter is it'll take years to wind its way through the judicial system and finally make its way to the Supreme Court. And in the meantime a lot of people will either be silenced or charged, which is a pretty fucked up situation, if you ask me.
As many others have noted before, one of the main threats—if not the main threat—to a real, healthy, functioning democracy in America is the massive money, power and influence wielded by large lobby groups, such as the NRA and AIPAC (the main Israel lobby group in America).
On so many important issues it doesn't seem to matter all that much what the electorate thinks, it only matters that you, as a candidate for elected office, don't upset the lobbyists. For if you do, for instance, speak some truth about Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people, you can be 100 percent certain that AIPAC will throw everything they've got (including tens of millions of dollars) into defeating you.
That this reality has had the desired (chilling) effect on political debate in America is indisputable.
But the question remains: Why? Why would anyone want to stifle any and all debate on this one topic?
The only thing I can think of is a clear fear of the truth getting out.
Then again, maybe I'm wrong. Perhaps, as you read Roberts' article, you can come up with some other explanation. But I doubt it.
And, no, don't worry, the simple act of reading this article will NOT make you an anti-Semite—or a self-hating Jew.
Mike Cowie is a freelance writer who writes about politics, music, film, travel and much more. You can read more of Mike’s views on his Web site.
May 16, 2009 at 12:38pm
100% agree with Paul Roberts. It's naí¯ve in the extreme to treat all criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic and gives the Israeli administration a kind of 'cloak of invisibilty' that no government deserves.
May 16, 2009 at 6:00pm
Amazing that you think there's anything profound in this ridiculous article. If you aren't anti-semitic people won't call you anti-semitic. The occasional person may call someone a racist if they're not, but very few innocent people spend time pre-emptively protesting their right to criticize without being called a word. There are a lot of antisemites in the world persevorating over ways to make their hatred sound more palatable. Here's a thought. Such an unhealthy obsession is a self-fulfilling prophecy and leads to what you invariably want to prove your thesis, the claim that you're antisemitic. The only problem is that by the time you've gotten your audience to say it, it's clear you are lol
May 17, 2009 at 5:20am
Mr. Cohen writes: "The occasional person may call someone a racist if they're not" but he also writes:"If you aren't anti-semitic people won't call you anti-semitic" This is very nice and convenient. However, it is also incoherent, naive, and perfectly serves to prove the argument of Mr. Cowie to be correct.
May 17, 2009 at 11:30am
Bullshit Steve, but thanks for your reactionary, desperately defensive sounding post. It just illuminates the fact that legitimate criticism of Israel is almost always going to be attacked by Zionists and branded as anti semitism. Meanwhile...back at the Kibbutzim...there are countless Jews praying for the Zionists and all their reactionary supporters in America to be whisked away in the Rapture along with their fundaMENTAL xian, lunatic bretheren so that cooler heads can be given a chance to prevail.
May 17, 2009 at 6:38pm
Mr. Cohen must have overlooked the fact that there are a lot of Muslim haters in the world "persevorating over ways to make their hatred sound more palatable," such as by attempting to justify the actions of the terrorist state of Israel. We will be sure not to call him stupid unless he is. Stupid.
May 18, 2009 at 2:29am
Speaking of Zionism. They're really going to be pulling out all the stops in Toronto May 31 at the 'Spirit of Hope' Benefit. Ex US/UN Ambassador John Bolton, the equally odious Homeland Security Czar, 'Mr Mossad' Michael Chertoff, and Australian Bushpuppet John Howard, topped off with Zionist rabbi Marvin Hier. Yes that's right I said "Zionist". Most definitely. See for yourself: http://www.fswc.ca/spirit_of_hope.aspx Get ready to hear all about why we must bomb Iran and cluster bomb Palestinian kids. Oh, and one of the directors is Bob Rae MP and media will be handled by Ben Mulroney, son of Brian. The same weekend in T.O. George Bush and Bill Clinton will be in town: http://www.nowar.ca War criminals must like it here. Perhaps it reminds them of Austria. Or maybe Spain just wasn't on. If we were really the people we pretend we are instead of the neocon colony we have become, we would arrest these war criminals the moment they got off their airplanes at Pearson.