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Crossing AIPAC leaves writers smeared, politicians’ careers ‘suddenly stalled’ — Sullivan

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Andrew Sullivan has long been a singular critical voice on the Israel question among U.S. mainstream columnists and he plays that role again at New York Magazine in a column blasting Chuck Schumer for leading the charge on “creeping authoritarianism” with the new “Israel Anti-Boycott Act”. Sullivan ascribes the bill to the “complete… grip of AIPAC” in Washington. Crossing the lobby leaves writers smeared as “anti-Semites” and politicians’ careers “suddenly stalled.” Here’s the whole bit:

One of the features you most associate with creeping authoritarianism is the criminalization of certain political positions. Is anything more anathema to a liberal democracy? If Trump were to suggest it, can you imagine the reaction?

And yet it’s apparently fine with a hefty plurality of the Senate and House. I’m referring to the remarkable bill introduced into the Congress earlier this year — with 237 sponsors and co-sponsors in the House and 43 in the Senate — which the ACLU and the Intercept have just brought to light. It’s a remarkably bipartisan effort, backed by Chuck Schumer and Ted Cruz, among many solid Trump-resisting Democrats and hard-line Republicans. And it would actually impose civil and criminal penalties on American citizens for backing or joining any international boycott of Israel because of its settlement activities. There are even penalties for simply inquiring about such a boycott. And they’re not messing around. The minimum civil penalty would be $250,000 and the maximum criminal penalty $1 million and 20 years in prison. Up to 20 years in prison for opposing the policies of a foreign government and doing something about it! And, yes, the Senate Minority Leader is leading the charge.

Look: I’m not in favor of boycotting Israel when we don’t boycott, say, Saudi Arabia. But seriously: making it illegal? Every now and again, you just have to sit back and admire the extraordinary skills of the Greater Israel lobby. You’ve never heard of this bill, and I hadn’t either. But that is partly the point. AIPAC doesn’t want the attention — writers who notice this attempted assault on a free society will be tarred as anti-Semites (go ahead, it wouldn’t be the first time) and politicians who resist it will see their careers suddenly stalled. I doubt a single sponsor of this bill will go on the record to oppose it (so far, none has). That’s how complete the grip of AIPAC is. And pointing out this special interest’s distortion of democracy is not the equivalent of bigotry. It’s simply a defense of our democratic way of life.

A couple of comments. Sullivan long ago asked, Why are there no anti-Zionist columnists in any U.S. journal of any clout? This remains the most telling symptom of the stranglehold of the Israel lobby over our discourse, the complete absence of dissent (and it’s not just the Greater Israel lobby; it’s the Zionist ideology). Here he says that this power extends to stalling politcians careers and destroying writers’ reputations. When will this argument be picked up on Chris Hayes’s show, or Chris Matthews’s? Before long, I believe; because the cat is out of the bag inside the Democratic base, and the Chrises are feelin the heat.

Next, let’s answer Sullivan on why boycotting Israel is of greater moment than boycotting Saudi Arabia.

–In the Saudi case, we already have 47 Democrats and Republicans, including Schumer and Connecticut’s righteous senator Chris Murphy, opposing U.S. policy and citing such issues as women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. In the Israeli case, the dissenters are a mere handful; Schumer is Israel’s guardian; and Murphy does a jeckyll-and-hyde on human rights. This underlines the origins of the boycott: Governments have utterly failed to apply pressure on Israel– in the U.S. case, because of that Israel lobby, which has no likeness in the Saudi case.

–In the Israel case, the boycott call arose 12 years ago from Palestinians living under occupation and under second-class citizenship and in exile. Their call followed the failures of Oslo and Partition to deliver international promises of sovereignty and decades of American governmental failures to enforce policies against Jim Crow colonization and apartheid (and policies for the return of refugees). The moral urgency of a people asking for help to be liberated after governments have failed them is not to be trivialized.

–As Yousef Munayyer and other Palestinians and solidarity activists have made clear: If there is a Saudi boycott call, they’ll join up.

P.S. The bill was first exposed 3 months ago by Josh Ruebner at Electronic Intifada. Credit where it’s due.

Thanks to Scott McConnell.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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14 Responses

  1. Rooster on July 24, 2017, 12:14 pm

    Great article. Glad these questions are leaking more and more frequently into MSM.
    The hermetic seal is breaking down.
    Why no antizionist columnists, indeed?
    Why (until recently) few question why no antizionist columnists?
    Even in Sullivan’s article, his AIPAC comments are third of three, under article headline of “Obama’s Long Game.” But his message is very clear and breath of fresh air.

    Frustrated-editor comment:
    “Jekyll” and Hyde.

  2. YoniFalic on July 24, 2017, 12:58 pm

    Saudia may be obnoxious, but it simply has not hurt the USA in the way Israel has.

    From Bill making it a federal crime to support BDS sends shockwaves through progressive community.

    The total cost of Israel to the USA according to my cousin is about $30 trillion 2015 US dollars — close to 2/3’s of that for Germany, but Germany is a much smaller country. Israel has cost other Euro countries less but the amounts are significant.

    To make the issue clearer, I state that without the alliance with Israel the USA would probably have a surplus and an economy in much healthier shape.

    Saudia is accused of destroying antiquities, but such action seems associated with intellectual crudity. Zionist destruction of antiquities is associated more with ideological malevolence.

    • Keith on July 24, 2017, 4:30 pm

      YONIFALIC- “The total cost of Israel to the USA according to my cousin is about $30 trillion 2015 US dollars….”

      Who is your cousin? I think that this assertion requires a little more development to be even remotely believable.

      YONIFALIC- “To make the issue clearer, I state that without the alliance with Israel the USA would probably have a surplus and an economy in much healthier shape.”

      Israel constitutes a relatively small percent of military spending, most of which goes to US companies in a form of military Keynesianism. Military spending would be high in any event, the US being an empire and all. And since we have a debt money system, deficit spending is to a significant degree built in. I can’t imagine the US or global economy being significantly different without US support for Israel. Also, we are at the end of the hydrocarbon era and neoliberal globalization is much more significant than anything involving Israel. I would suggest that a greater threat to us is the neocon/Zionist influence upon the US doctrinal system and the effect that will have upon the global elite’s plans for the future.

      • RoHa on July 25, 2017, 3:05 am

        Perhaps the price includes the cost of all the wars that the US has fought for Israel.

      • Citizen on July 25, 2017, 8:44 am

        I agree that the neocon/Zionist agenda is the greater threat to USA & the world, but remember that Israel is the #1 welfare client of the USA in USA’s history, no strings attached, and that, currently, aid to Israel is the only foreign aid exempt from budget cuts.

        I have never heard any cable TV news or infotainment show, where most Americans get their news, entertain either issue. Has anyone?

        Most Americans have never even heard the word “Zionism.” Yet both main political party platforms have an explicitly Zionist agenda in terms of what they explicitly support. This despite a recent poll showing 3/4ths of Americans do NOT support those platforms on those issues.

    • US Citizen on July 25, 2017, 1:31 am

      “Saudia may be obnoxious, but it simply has not hurt the USA in the way Israel has.” Quite right. Whatever its shortcomings, Saudia Arabia is not occupying anyone’s land and trying to ethnically cleanse the land of it’s indigenous people. That is the difference.

      The day American politicians feel they don’t have to bow to AIPAC – that they don’t have to support Israel and provide Israel with a blank check every year– that will be the day that things change.

      This bill – which has enough co-sponsors to pass the House – would criminalize the entire Green Party, which has long endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. Criminalizing a rival party is the worst case scenario of a free-speech violation, a direct attack on democracy itself.

      Furthermore, every Congress member who signed on to this bill is sacrificing the rights of their own constituents and all Americans to the interests of a foreign government. This is the height of disloyalty – and a measure of just how much power AIPAC has. Every one of them should be removed from office.

      All new House members have to sign a loyalty oath to Israel. That in itself should tell you something. As for me ? Now, this? As a citizen of the US I’m going to be arrested for telling the truth about Israel?

      • Citizen on July 25, 2017, 8:45 am


  3. DaBakr on July 24, 2017, 8:24 pm

    Oh right. Like KSA doesn’t have enough clout in the US legislature to make sure there is no press that would spur any investigation. Obama just made the Iranian mullahs and the irg filthy stinking rich and they have squads of morality police and basij to beat women with clubs of they have slightly uncovered hair. So why would Americans give a real shit about KSA women not being able to drive? considered legally ‘minors’ with no rights except what their male relations deem . Americans may complain but I the end they just consider it irritating news from a nation that, because of political correctness to blame religion, is just portrayed as a quaint nation with old fashioned standards that’s creeping into the present. Of course there wouldn’t be an investigation as there are no obsessive/compulsive ksa-haters and especially not the kind that israel has to deal with.

    • RoHa on July 25, 2017, 3:04 am

      “there are no obsessive/compulsive ksa-haters and especially not the kind that israel has to deal with”

      If Israel has them, why not the KSA?

  4. Qualtrough on July 25, 2017, 12:08 am

    Thank you DaBakr for making a convincing case for boycotting Saudi Arabia as well as Israel.

  5. Kay24 on July 25, 2017, 9:19 am

    Speaking of the media:
    Jon Oliver explains the other danger spreading among weak minds and into American homes. Some would say the threat is worse that Fox News…

    The Sinclair Broadcasting Group is spreading lies, and unsubstantiated information, which will negatively influence Americans through their hometown news channels. It is very alarming to say the least.

  6. James Canning on July 25, 2017, 1:07 pm

    How absolutely disgusting, for Chuck Schumer to seek further suppression of free speech in this country, and abroad, to “protect” Israel.

    • US Citizen on July 25, 2017, 3:20 pm

      Memo to Schumer and the rest of our “Congress” – Your loyalties lie with israel, you’re free to leave the States; just surrender your US citizenship at the border. No man can serve two masters.

      A patriot will never sells his freedom at any price. A sucker – what they call a “fraier” in israel — sells it cheap. Again, no man can serve to masters. Are you an American or an israeli? If you are an israeli, move there.

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