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Israel lobby resorting to censorship and blacklisting as it loses control of mainstream discourse

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From Seattle to Kuala Lampur, via Khartoum, Osaka, and Hamburg,  activists around the world participated last week in a “Boycott Hewlett-Packard Week of Action,” setting up mock checkpoints and apartheid walls, doing flash mobs, and cheerfully belting out BDS carols. In busy shopping centers, on Main Streets, at heavily-trafficked intersections, and university campuses, we were visible, we were loud, we were proud of our activism, our numbers, our global community.  There was nothing hushed up about our actions.

The Week of Action, timed around the annual November 29 Global Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, was in stark contrast to a bill that was passed in the US Senate on December 1st, equating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.  The deceptively named “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act,” (H.R. 6421) was passed by a “unanimous consent” agreement resulting from behind-the-scenes maneuvering by the Zionist lobby, evading any and all discussion.  In fact, the bill, with its sweeping criminalization of student activism, passed before it was even made public.

The Israel lobby may think it scored a victory with this bill, but there is every indication their underhandedness is backfiring, as allies and even some Zionists immediately expressed concern over the bill, its conflation of political expression with hate speech, and its potential stifling of activism and freedom of speech.  Indeed, the bill will not pass Congress in 2016, and will have to go through the Senate and House next year.  It immediately ran into major opposition, from multiple quarters.  As one (Jewish) writer put it, in an editorial defending Keith Ellison from the latest charges of anti-Semitism, and the Zionist attempt to end his political career: “The mode of condemning legitimate political opinions as affronts to Judaism, which had grown familiar to the point of dreariness before the election, is freshly outrageous in the age of Trump.”

In the aftermath of the Senate passing of the bill, which is clearly intended to intimidate anti-Zionists into silence, undeterred Palestine activists promptly took to the media to denounce this deceptive move.  Palestine Legal attorney Liz Jackson wrote an OpEd explaining that the bill is not about anti-Semitism, and the Los Angeles Times published a strongly worded editorial denouncing this potentially serious blow to free speech, and calling on President Obama to veto the bill, should it also pass the House. An OpEd in Counterpunch argues that the bill criminalizes all criticism of Israel, adding that “What the [Zionist] lobby wants most is to stifle debate about Israel.”  The ACLU denounced the bill, and called on the House of Representatives to oppose it, when it reaches them.   And thousands of “ordinary citizens” called and emailed their legislators demanding that the bill be stopped at the House level, where it will indeed come under close scrutiny, as we keep up the pressure on safeguarding our First Amendment rights.

The contrast between the behind-the-scenes maneuvering of the Zionists, and the rambunctious visibility of dissent and creative protest of Palestine activism, reveals the gradual weakening of the Zionist grip on the mainstream narrative, which once held Israel to be the victim—a discursive change due in large part to BDS. It is this change that is worrying the Zionist lobby so much that they are resorting more than ever to aggressive censorship and blacklisting.

Zionists and Palestine activists’ diametrically opposed modes of resistance have long been known to anyone paying attention to the question of Palestine.  As Steven Salaita pointed in a 2014 comment:  “The appeal to authority is reliant on the cultural and political elite and on legislative bodies to offer a corrective to grassroots agitating.  While BDS continues to generate support among students, activists, and performers, the opposition cultivates patronage from centers of power:  university presidents, politicians, state senates, financiers, and so forth.” Indeed, the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act” was introduced by Tea Party Republican Senator Tim Scott, who had most recently visited Israel in August 2016, and Democratic Senator Bob Casey Jr, who had also visited Israel earlier this year.  Both had also received funding from pro-Israel groups.

Today, more than ever before, Zionists are focusing their energy on “lawfare,” in the centers of power, behind closed doors, as their claim to victimhood no longer resonates with society at large.  Thus it is not surprising that many events by Israel apologist organizations such as StandWithUs are by invitation only, whereas BDS activism is not only open to the public, but also most frequently performed in public, and circulated as widely as possible on social media. And it is ironic, at best, that groups such as the Canary Mission, whose mission is to “out” young Palestine activists, do not reveal the identity of their own members, hiding instead behind the anonymity of social media.

But it is also important to note that the primary targets of the latest Zionist attacks are the younger generation, mostly students, including young Jews who find themselves alienated from their parents’ Zionism, and flock to the inclusivity of BDS, which welcomes, indeed hinges on, solidarity.   It is no coincidence that SJP chapters around the nation have a disproportionate number of Jewish members.  This is because while the Israel lobby empowers corrupt politicians, BDS empowers the otherwise disenfranchised.  And while Zionism is a supremacist ideology, BDS seeks equality for all.

The lines are very clearly drawn: One on side, serving as timely reminders of the shared values of the two countries’ power elites, we have Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exultation at Donald Trump’s election, and the US “alt-right’s” embrace of Israel and the Zionist aspiration to ethnic homogeneity.

On the other side, the fact that the first baby born during the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s historic standoff with DAPL was bundled in a kuffiyeh is a welcome sign that, at the grassroots level, where “radical” movements germinate, there is an understanding of our shared values:  decolonization, demilitarization, indigenous sovereignty, environmental sustainability, human dignity.  As the world becomes more polarized, the two sides are also more clearly defined: violence, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism, versus an aspiration to long-delayed justice, and a determination to heal the world.  The first side works in deceitful, secretive, corrupt ways, rejoicing in pyrrhic victories, while the latter unabashedly rejoices in the visibility of youthful dissent.

And only one welcomes all those who seek radical equality and an end to oppression, regardless of race, religion or lack thereof, gender, or social status.

Nada Elia

Nada Elia is a Palestinian scholar-activist, writer, and grassroots organizer, currently completing a book on Palestinian Diaspora activism.

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18 Responses

  1. amigo on December 12, 2016, 1:06 pm

    The folly of Zionism!!.

    Zionists believe that bullying has served them well for decades and will continue to do so into the future.This is their greatest error.

    They will insult anyone who opposes in any small way their criminal behaviour and in doing so will generate more and more opponents who will in turn speak out with greater intensity.Israel is playing a game of harikari – (ritual suicide by self-disembowelment on a sword .) and will have no one to blame but itself.

    I think will grab a bottle of wine , a bag of popcorn and a deck chair and enjoy the show.

  2. Ossinev on December 12, 2016, 3:19 pm

    It would appear that the spirit of Mr.McCarthy lives on amongst American Zionists or at least they have forked out sufficient funds to US “politicians ” to buy an updated model.
    “Are you now or have you ever been a critic of Israel ? “. with perhaps live “committee ” hearings on Fox TV ? interspersed with Land of Creation Tourism ads.

    Have I missed something in all of this – has there been a further amendment quietly added to the US Constitution specifying that US citizens have no right to criticise Israel ?

    • Citizen on December 13, 2016, 5:38 pm

      Yes, at least a dozen US states, & the governor of NY have amended the US 1st Amendment to exclude constitutional protection for free speech critical of ISRAEL.

  3. Trygve on December 12, 2016, 3:58 pm

    A minor correction to this story is required for those Mondoweiss followers who read Congressional bills. The Senate version of the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act” is S-10. That bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent approximately two days after its introduction. H.R.6421 is a House resolution with the same content. It was introduced by Representative Peter Roskam of Illinois but died because the House of Representatives took no action before adjournment.

    What may be of equal interest about the Senate bill can be found in the Forward article (December 9, 2016) cited by Nada Elia. The man who wrote the definition of anti-Semitism on which S-10 is based, Kenneth Stern, opposes the bill’s provisions. According to the Forward, Stern said, “If this bill is passed, its proponents will have the ability to threaten federal funding at colleges and universities where political speech against Israel occurs, and where administators then don’t try to stop it, or fail to put the university on record calling such speech anti-Semitic. Think of the precedent this would set.” In an earlier article, also written by Josh Nathan-Kazis of the Forward (December 6), Stern is quoted as saying the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016 is “both unconstitutional and unwise.”

    • Mooser on December 12, 2016, 8:14 pm

      Thanks, “Trygve”.

    • Talkback on December 14, 2016, 9:14 am

      Another minor correction. Kenneth Stern didn’t write the definition, the EUMC wrote it based on his proposal. But there’s an important difference. The EUMC definition says that the examples concerning Israel (which Stern wanted to be considered as antisemitic per se) only “could” be antisemitic and only “taking into account the overall context”. And being a “working” definition it was just a definition to collect data, not to finally define antisemitism.

      The EUMC allready had a real definition three years early, but it couldn’t be abused by Hasbara trolls to accuse others of antisemitism:

      So far it is the best and most rational definition I have read.

  4. RoHa on December 13, 2016, 1:26 am

    “Israel lobby resorting to censorship and blacklisting”

    Always has done.

  5. AddictionMyth on December 13, 2016, 9:34 am

    The bill is very dangerous. One of the clauses prohibits challenging Israel’s right to self-determination. Meaning if you suggest, “Israel should end its apartheid regime,” the Zionists can respond: “Israel has a right to decide for itself what to do and if you disagree then you are interfering with their right to self-determination and that is ILLEGAL.”

    It’s easy to defeat: Jewish students can simply pretend to be ‘anti-Semite’ or ‘anti-Zionist’ – thereby threatening their university’s funding.

  6. Elizabeth Block on December 13, 2016, 7:46 pm

    Canada tried the same thing. A resolution in the House of Commons passed; but it has no legal force. A bill in the Ontario legislature – which completely misrepresented BDS – failed, because it was correctly seen as an attack on free speech.
    If there ever is an actual law, I will be prepared to be a sample defendant, and I don’t for a moment suppose I’ll be the only one.

    • ritzl on December 16, 2016, 2:30 pm

      Yup. I volunteer too.

      A good lengthy public hearing on this is just what is needed and the Zio-Lobby fears the most.

      I keep saying that there’s nothing the Zios can do ro counteract growing BDS awareness and action that doesn’t backfire on them. They CANNOT invite public scrutiny but yet they MUST invite it by going the legislation/court route to counter it – their last remaining option.

      DOOMED I says. It’s over.

  7. mcohen. on December 14, 2016, 6:08 am

    a good photo of a black listing

    check out the guy on the left listing to the left.

    • Talkback on December 14, 2016, 9:40 am

      Are you proud of the fact that Israeli Jews sell weapons to commit genocide?

  8. Talkback on December 14, 2016, 9:35 am

    Israel’s equivalent to a constitution called the “Basic Law” is an absolute joke. First of all it can be changed anytime by a simple majority. It is not enshrined in any way. Secondly, a violation of fundamental rights can be considered “constitutional” according to the same Basic Law with regard to its “limitation clause”, if the Supreme Kangaroo Court of Israel rules that the violation is “proportional” and more importantly befitting to the state of Israel as a “Jewish and democratic” state. Though the Judges keep ruling that a right to equality right can be interpreted into Basic Law it was explicetely removed from it from the get go. There was even a ruling in which the majority of the Judges considered a law (which discriminates Nonjews) to be violating equality and this violation to be disproportionate and therefore unconstitutional, but still uphold the law, because it was better to have this racist law than to abandon it and wait for a new one (which never came).

  9. ritzl on December 16, 2016, 2:19 pm

    OT but speaking of keffiyehs, did anyone see the proud keffiyeh-waving during the Ohio State – Michigan post-game interviews? 20M viewers. Very pleasant to see/witness.

    (PS. Go Bucks!)

  10. Jerry J on December 16, 2016, 6:05 pm

    “And only one welcomes all those who seek radical equality and an end to oppression, regardless of race, religion or lack thereof, gender, or social status.”

    Nada: What about an end to oppression against sexual orientation? Oh, I forgot . . . gays are discriminated against in Palestine……

    • annie on December 16, 2016, 7:32 pm

      jerry, oppression against sexual orientation is already covered in nada’s statement under “gender”.

    • Mooser on December 16, 2016, 8:36 pm

      ” gays are discriminated against in Palestine”

      Yeah, the desire to end discrimination against gay Palestinians was and is a big motivator for Zionists.

    • eljay on December 16, 2016, 9:41 pm

      || Jerry J: … What about an end to oppression against sexual orientation? Oh, I forgot . . . gays are discriminated against in Palestine…… ||

      That’s unjust and immoral and should be condemned. I condemn it. It’s interesting how you Zio-supremacists look to the worst in human behaviour for guidance and/or for justification of your own acts of injustice and immorality.

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