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Self-censorship over Israel

Posted By Sunny On 9th October, 2007 @ 4:52 pm In Current affairs, Moral police, Middle East | 10 Comments

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.

[1] 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.

[2] 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.


10 Comments To "Self-censorship over Israel"

#1 Comment By Rumbold On 9th October, 2007 @ 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 Comment By douglas clark On 9th October, 2007 @ 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 Comment By douglas clark On 9th October, 2007 @ 5:33 pm

Oh, it wasn’t ;-)

#4 Comment By ZinZin On 9th October, 2007 @ 5:37 pm

I am waiting for Anas to turn up :)

#5 Comment By Natty On 9th October, 2007 @ 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 Comment By Sunny On 9th October, 2007 @ 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 Comment By Bleh/Morgoth On 9th October, 2007 @ 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 Comment By douglas clark On 9th October, 2007 @ 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 Comment By Sunny On 10th October, 2007 @ 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 Comment By Desi Italiana On 10th October, 2007 @ 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.


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URLs in this post:
[1] David Golberg: http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/david_goldberg/2007/10/madness_this_way_lies.html
[2] Richard Silverstein’s article: http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/richard_silverstein/2007/10/land_of_the_free.html