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  • Self-censorship over Israel


    by Sunny
    9th October, 2007 at 4:52 pm    

    I’ve always believed that fear of offending the “Muslim community” over something a bit controversial is a form of soft racism; the belief that they are likely to start rioting or blowing things up the minute some get annoyed. Unfortunately there have been far too many real examples (and plenty fake ones around Christmas) of organisations, especially local councils, changing things for “fear of causing offence”.

    Of course it’s not limited to them. On comment is free today there are two articles on self-censorship by groups on the basis that Jews are so sensitive that any criticisism of Israel is likely to invoke cries of anti-semitism (ok, Melanie Phillips is that crazy, but let’s ignore her for the moment). In both cases two sets of people complain: the organised lobbies/groups (Muslim Council of Britain, Hindu Forum, Anti-Defamation League, AIPAC etc) who make it their job, and their supporters who rarely come from the community that is supposed to be offended. It’s the modern way to show how right-on you are: put a ‘Support Israel or else…‘ or a Palestinian / Hamas button on your blog.

    David Golberg ends with:

    In the obsession to find anti-semites lurking under every stone, you can no longer differentiate between the important work of supporting Jewish students intimidated on campus by Muslim and far-left groups, resisting the pernicious proposal to boycott Israeli academics - or gratuitously insulting, in the name of Jewry, the brave, decent and morally upright Desmond Tutu.

    Richard Silverstein’s article is even better:

    When Israel lobby defenders respond to the censorship issue they point out that the victims of lobby pressure often benefit from controversy stirred up. But that misses the point. In a fair, reasonable and tolerant world none of these victims would have to expend the enormous energy needed to combat the campaigns against them.

    Liberal Jewish bloggers who report on these outrages understand that the Israel lobby retains enormous reach in its ability to pre-empt speech and manipulate the public debate. But our conviction is that the more these incidents see the light of day, the more the power of the lobby to stifle debate will wane.

    Now, play nice kids! I don’t want to ban more of you for being abusive.


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    Filed in: Current affairs,Middle East,Moral police






    16 Comments below   |  

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    1. israel » Self-censorship over Israel

      [...] Read the rest of this great post here [...]




    1. Rumbold — on 9th October, 2007 at 5:21 pm  

      Sunny:

      “The organised lobbies/groups (Muslim Council of Britain, Hindu Forum, Anti-Defamation League, AIPAC etc) who make it their job, and their supporters who rarely come from the community that is supposed to be offended. It’s the modern way to show how right-on you are: put a ‘Support Israel or else…‘ or a Palestinian / Hamas button on your blog.”

      Good point. I consider myself a strong supporter of Israel, but am annoyed when a few people start accusing everybody of anti-semitism just because they criticise Israel. There are certainly anti-semites out there (large numbers of the UN delegates for example), but Israel, like any other state, will ultimately benefit from criticism, because it is healthy.

    2. douglas clark — on 9th October, 2007 at 5:32 pm  

      Rumbold,

      So it’s not worth pointing out to Gareth Griffiths that it was Mr Siverstern that made the comment, and that he seems to be an all round good bloke if his CiF biog is anything to go by?

      Richard Silverstein runs Tikun Olam, a peace blog dedicated to a negotiated resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict. He also created Israel Palestine Blogs, an aggregator of 50 peace blogs written by Israelis, Palestinians, American Jews, Arab Americans and Lebanese.

      He earned a Bachelor of Hebrew Literature degree from the Jewish Theological Seminary and an MA in Hebrew Literature at UCLA.

      He served as a communal fundraiser at Jewish federations in New York and California, and Brandeis University. He also worked as administrator of a Los Angeles Reform temple.

      He has been a proponent of Israeli-Arab peace since 1968, and currently lives in Seattle with his wife and three children.

    3. douglas clark — on 9th October, 2007 at 5:33 pm  

      Oh, it wasn’t ;-)

    4. ZinZin — on 9th October, 2007 at 5:37 pm  

      I am waiting for Anas to turn up :)

    5. Natty — on 9th October, 2007 at 6:47 pm  

      I think there is long term harm in the approach taken by loggy groups. This is shown in US Politics where lobby groups are able to enforce policy above the will of the people.

      In the long term this can only harm the lobby group itself. When a lobby group becomes a govt within a govt that is when things have gone too far.

      Personally I think that the ADL, AIPAC and LFI over here are doing harm to the Jewish Community with this approach. It can create a false impression of life in a country and can destablise what the lobby group is trying to achieve.

      With regards to the MCB - ditto - it is causing harm.

      Where the ADL, AIPAC and LFI have gone beyond anyone is that people that support what they are trying to do then start speaking out against them. This has serious implications. This is now happening.

      I think lobby groups are a bad idea when left to become too strong. They become a government within a government. In this case the ADL and AIPAC will dictate policy not just to the US Government but on occassions to the Israeli one as well. They have stifled the peace process.

      This isn’t good for the community they claim to represent and the community then rebel. This is the implosion we are seeing.

      I think the ADL and AIPAC are playing too much politics and not focussing on the issues they were founded to combat such as anti-semitism. If you keep cryin wolf over everything then when anti-semitism does occur and you cry wolf people don’t take you as seriously.

      In the USA some rich people are thinking of setting up alternatives to the ADL and AIPAC. This then dilutes the message and can only cause harm to the community.

      what is scary is other lobby groups are using the same model of approach as the ADL and AIPAC.

    6. Sunny — on 9th October, 2007 at 9:39 pm  

      Personally I think that the ADL, AIPAC and LFI over here are doing harm to the Jewish Community with this approach.

      What do you think about the Muslim lobby groups in this country Natty?

    7. Bleh/Morgoth — on 9th October, 2007 at 10:10 pm  

      the brave, decent and morally upright Desmond Tutu.

      Hahaha. Maybe 20 years ago, but he’s totally lost his marbles nowadays.

    8. douglas clark — on 9th October, 2007 at 10:13 pm  

      Sunny,

      Oh, dearie me, how to run a web site, 101.

      Y’know, we have to move on from debating with Natty. This, “my grievance is better than your grievance” nonsense has to stop.

      Natty, whom I’ve come to like, has a chip on her shoulder that makes any sort of dialogue difficult. I happen to think that Natty represents a selfish view of what it is to be human, specifically the idea that one group is right and another wrong. That is ‘taking sides’ and I’d argue that that is what messes us up.

      Natty, you really ought to see a bigger picture. I am not against you, and I doubt Sunny is either. But I am a white atheist, and he is a short sighted Sikh. Try to engage on the basis that:

      a) we don’t hate you, and,

      b) we consider your views as worthwhile as anyone else’s, including mine.

      c) and that we think you are a worthwhile human being.

      Try taking this on board.

      Respect.

    9. Sunny — on 10th October, 2007 at 12:18 am  

      and he is a short sighted Sikh.

      Heh. I hope you mean that on the basis that I wear glasses. Not that I don’t have long-term vision.

    10. Desi Italiana — on 10th October, 2007 at 1:59 am  

      Natty:

      “I think there is long term harm in the approach taken by loggy groups. This is shown in US Politics where lobby groups are able to enforce policy above the will of the people.”

      Some people say this, but I personally do not think it is true- at least from my research (and part of my graduate school work was on lobbies, especially ones that involved other countries). Many lobbies cater to US “national interests” because they know that this is one of the primary ways to get a warm reception from Congress. I’m too tired to pull up all the sourcing to back up what I am saying, but it suffices to say that a lobby can have as much money as it wants, but it doesn’t “dictate” US foreign policy. US foreign policy takes much more into consideration, like political-economic webs, having military allies.

      Of course, you can argue that wealthy lobbies are able to market the countries of concern well enough. But it’s not as easy as you make it out to be. And there is no doubt that lobbies don’t make a difference. But in the end, it ultimately matters whether it fits into US objectives.

      “They become a government within a government. In this case the ADL and AIPAC will dictate policy not just to the US Government but on occassions to the Israeli one as well.”

      In depth studies of the actual workings of Congress, oversight committees, different agencies, political-economic objectives, etc reveal a more complicated picture than you paint here.

    11. Natty — on 10th October, 2007 at 8:35 am  

      Sunny - I did say that the Muslim Lobby groups were doing harm to the community as well. I said “ditto for Muslim lobby groups.” However they are not as big or as powerful or even as well organised.

      I have said before and I’ll say it again I think Jewish Lobby Groups have done a tremendous job over the past 100 years highlighting anti-semitism. I think the job many did with Holocaust reperation was exceptional, the only think I don’t apprve of is the fact that not enough of the money went to the survivors. The work they have done has been very good. But in the past few years they have lurched too far to the right and the Jewish community are begining to react.

      As for the MCB as I have said I don’t like them, they are ineffective and have little community appeal. As you may have seen on the News Sir Iqbal Sacranie when he went to Dewsbury spoke to the community elders and the youngsters who wanted to speak to him were ignored. That isn’t effective and is self-defeating.

      As with all lobby groups some of what they do is good.

      Douglas - I don’t have a chip on my shoulder. I try here to provide a counter argument which you don’t like. What is the point of a political debate site if we can’t all debate from different points of view?

      Desi Italiana - I think the recent political apathy, the way that candidates appeal to voting blocks etc all show the influence - detrimental - that lobby groups have. I am not just talking about foreign policy.

      There isn’t a complicated picture either, if you read what most ex-congressman and ex-senators say then they outline the power of these groups.

      The people within the system say this. Look at the candidates and how thye are trying to appeal to the Evangelical voting block? Is there ever and ADL or AIPAC meeting where most of congress and the senate are not in attendance. The Oil Companies and their lobby is incredibly powerful.

      As an example even the Israeli Govt complained to congress and the senate saying that the laws being passed restricting US Aid to Palestinians had become so restrictive that it was too difficult to give aid to anyone. Why were they passed to please the lobbies.

      Because your system is so reliant on campaign funding then lobby groups have massive influence. It isn’t democracy anymore especially when you give way to lobbies.

      Also I think in the USA there have been cases in court against the pwoer of lobby groups.

      A few links to show the power of lobby groups:

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/3530001.stm

      http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/753010c8-c0e4-11da-9419-0000779e2340.html

    12. douglas clark — on 10th October, 2007 at 9:03 am  

      Natty at 11,

      Douglas - I don’t have a chip on my shoulder. I try here to provide a counter argument which you don’t like. What is the point of a political debate site if we can’t all debate from different points of view?

      Point. You actually have become a lot better at the debating thingy :-)

    13. douglas clark — on 10th October, 2007 at 9:10 am  

      Sunny @ 9,

      Heh. I hope you mean that on the basis that I wear glasses. Not that I don’t have long-term vision.

      Of course. I’m here because I think you are probably the best politician we don’t have. Although Leon and Sonia could run you close ;-)

    14. Kulvinder — on 10th October, 2007 at 12:56 pm  

      Hahaha. Maybe 20 years ago, but he’s totally lost his marbles nowadays.

      What makes you say that? Hes one of the few people left in the world i genuinely respect; Mandela may have slowed down in recent years and tried to apply discrete pressure on certain issues, but Desmond Tutu has always been amazingly forthright. Hes far more progressive on homosexuality than many christians in the west, he openly criticises mugabe. It’s bizzare to suggest hes stuck in the past.

    15. Anas — on 12th October, 2007 at 5:20 pm  

      heh sorry to disapoint you ZZ, I’ve been too busy recently to plunge myself into another Israel discussion on PP. However I will say that things are changing on this front, people are starting to discuss things openly now where maybe a few years back the risk of being labelled an anti-Semite (or self-hating Jew) for daring to criticise Israel was too great for most. I mean you only have to look at the Walt and Mershiemer book which despite the best efforts of Israel’s defenders has had a substantial reception on both sides of the Atlantic.

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