If you read nothing else this week, read this post by Glenn Greenwald that details the Lobby’s efforts to go after the Center for American Progress and Media Matters for daring blog about Israel in a way that is not Israel-Lobby Approved, ie. objective reporting/commentary about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the side of all involved.
Greenwald traces the censorship back to the MSM shills who enforce it and he provides an update on the AIPAC/Josh Block/Jen Rubin/Politico efforts to smear all critics of Israeli policy (or American foreign policy towards Iran) as per se anti-Semitic.
Here are some excerpts:
Last month, my Salon colleague Justin Elliott revealed that AIPAC’s former spokesman, Josh Block, had been encouraging neoconservative journalists and pundits on a private email list to attack as “anti-Semites” various Middle East commentators employed by two of the most influential Democratic-Party-aligned organizations: the Center for American Progress (CAP) and Media Matters (MM).
Block’s once-secret email campaign followed a Politico article by Ben Smith which accused (or, rather, credited) these CAP and MM writers with deviations from “the bipartisan consensus on Israel” and voicing “a heretical and often critical stance on Israel heretofore confined to the political margins”; moreover, Smith wrote, “warm words for Israel can be hard to find on [CAP's] blogs.” Block was quoted in that article accusing the two progressive groups of publishing “anti-Israel” and “borderline anti-Semitic stuff”; Smith subsequently acknowledged that it was Block who had fed him files containing the supposedly anti-Semitic posts in order to enable the article to be written.
But despite Block’s public humiliation, the disgusting smear campaign against these CAP and MM analysts rolls on undeterred, and the form it is taking reveals some very important points. In late December, The Jerusalem Post published an article about what it called “the anti-Israel writings of the ThinkProgress bloggers.”
Earlier this week, Front Page Magazine singled out two of the targeted CAP writers with Arab-sounding names — Ali Gharib and Zaid Jilani — and accused them of being anti-American and driven by allegiance to Iran and Pakistan (that article also referred to them as “Muslim bloggers” even though Gharib, an Iranian-American, is an atheist). Yesterday, The New York Post published an Op-Ed by Commentary‘s Alana Goodman (under the headline “The White House’s Israel-bashing pals“) reporting that “three leading Jewish groups — the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the Simon Wiesenthal Center — have accused CAP and its staff of publishing ‘anti-Israel,’ ‘hateful’ and ‘toxic anti-Jewish’ material.”
Then there’s Jason Issacson of the American Jewish Congress, who told The Jerusalem Post that “references to Israeli ‘apartheid’ . . . are so false and hateful they reveal an ugly bias no serious policy center can countenance.” Make sure to write that down: unless you want to stand revealed as an anti-Semite, you’re not allowed to point out the stark and tragic similarities between South African bantustans and the way in which residents of the West Bank are walled off into tiny enclaves and Gazans are forcibly confined to ghettos. Those guilty of anti-Semitism on this ground not only include the President of Turkey, the Foreign Minister of Finland, and a former American President – all of whom have made that comparison – but also the publisher of Haaretz, who last year repeatedly compared Israeli treatment of the Palestinians to South African apartheid; the Israeli writer Yitzhak Loar, who has argued that the situation in the occupied territories is actually worse than South African apartheid in material ways; and also, once again, Israel’s own Defense Minister (and former Prime Minister), who last year warned that the only alternative to peace is apartheid: “If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”
But the most revealing decree comes from Abe Foxman’s Anti-Defamation League, which said this when arguing that these anti-Semitism smears against CAP and MM are warranted:
Most of their blogs come from a perspective of blaming Israel for the lack of progress in Israeli-Palestinian affairs and minimizing or rationalizing the Iranian threat.
So, if you disagree about whether or not pre-emptive war against Iran is justified based on the specious intelligence we have or if you believe that the Netanyahu government is not serious about peace with the Palestinians based on his decades long history opposing the two state solution and his statement, caught on video, that he used the Oslo peace process to expand settlements and undermine the peace process, you are an anti-Semite. Talk about diminishing the travesty and scourge of ACTUAL anti-Semitism. By using the label “anti-Semite” and “anti-Israel” as a political weapon to stifle all debate about US foreign policy, not only are these shills undermining the very democratic notion of free debate in an open society, they diminish and trivialize incidents of real anti-Semitism by crying wolf for political expedience. Their tactics also play right into the hands of people who do harbor anti-Jewish sentiments by reinforcing the belief that the Israel Lobby (and Jewish organizations) use their perceived power and access to unduly influence US foreign policy in a manner inconsistent with US goals, objectives and values. These tactics also play into the anti-Semitic trope that the media is “controlled” by Jews.
None of this of course justifies actual anti-Semitism, but people like Jen Rubin, Josh Block and Abe Foxman make a mockery of discrimination when they demand unquestioning ideological purity from the media, political pundits, Congress and the rest of us, only to turn around and scream “anti-Semite” when someone dares to offer a political opinion with which they disagree.
UPDATE: Robert Wright over at the Atlantic has a good post up about this whole issue and about how the charge of anti-Semitism is used to distract attention away from legitimate criticism of foreign policy.
Unfortunately, the Israel Lobby smear machine is working because one of the Think Progress/CAP bloggers has quit and the site’s coverage of Israel and Iran has clearly changed and become less critical, objective or two-sided. In addition, the White House is aligning behind the Lobby, naturally, and trying falling right into the Lobby’s trap. The WH is doing a full court press to try to convince Jewish groups that questioning Israeli policies will not be tolerated- and they are using the MSM to play the Lobby’s game.
Unfortunately, the Lobby uses these fear-mongering, dishonest tactics for one reason and one reason only- they work.
UPDATE II: Stephen Walt