June 23, 2003

The campaign to criminalize criticism of Israel
by Justin Raimondo

Last week, after Israel targeted Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi – and, instead, got a woman passer-by and a three year-old child, while 27 others were injured. – George W. Bush came out with some very mild criticism of Israel:

"I am troubled by the recent Israeli helicopter gunship attacks. I regret the loss of innocent life. I also don't believe that the attacks help Israeli security."

From the hysterical reaction, one might have thought that he had uttered a blood libel, or suddenly taken to wearing a kaffiyeh. Such a commotion! House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), reportedly strode into the Oval Office and threatened to push a resolution through Congress offering unconditional support to Sharon and implicitly rebuking the President.

God forbid the President of the United States should mourn the death of a three-year-old child whom the Israelis say was inadvertently killed. That this troubles him troubles DeLay – and that is more than a little troubling. I mean, what are we talking about here: aren't we supposed to be against the taking of innocent life? And why, pray tell, shouldn't an American President say out loud what he really thinks about the immoral and self-destructive behavior of a foreign government, albeit one that is ostensibly our faithful ally?

We hear constantly about the supposed rise of anti-Semitic sentiments in Europe: this is not neo-Nazi activity, or the "old" anti-Semitism of the Protocols, but the "new anti-Semitism," which boils down to criticism of Israel and its supporters. As officials of the Anti-Defamation League recently put it in the Denver Post:

"Today's strain of anti-Semitism usually targets Israel in some form. The most socially acceptable way to vent anti-Semitism today is to criticize Israel, the only state controlled by Jews, by holding Israel to standards not applied to any other country. Of course, it is not anti-Semitic to express sympathy with the Palestinian people or to disagree with Israeli government policies. But a hateful bias is revealed when critics subject Israel, and Israel alone, to invective and demonization, while human-rights abuses of other countries are overlooked or excused."

If you criticize "the only state controlled by Jews" you aren't necessarily anti-Semitic – but you probably are. And just what are these standards that Israel alone is held to? Any other country that separated out the majority of the population on the basis of ethnicity, and subjected them to draconian controls, controlling their movements, and keeping them penned up in special ghettos, would long ago have been declared an international pariah. How has Israel managed to get away with it – and, not only that, but how have they managed to go on the offensive, and target their critics as "bigots"?

Make no mistake about it: they are indeed on the attack, and not only in the occupied territories. At a recent international conference on anti-Semitism called by the O.S.C.E. , addressed by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, a number of Orwellian proposals were floated

"Another idea advanced by some delegates that would certainly provoke disagreement if it ever became actual policy by O.S.C.E. governments was that ways need to be found to control publications and Web sites that promote anti-Semitism. One delegate, for example, Jean Kahn, president of the Union of French Jewish Communities, argued that the Arab television network Al Jazeera fomented anti-Semitism and that it should be suppressed."

The American representatives, far from dissenting, sat complicit with this totalitarian proposal, and hailed others just as bad if not worse. Giuliani, whose Mussolini-like reign in New York City made the trains run on time, endorsed the totalitarian spirit of the proposals:

"Words aren't going to suffice to turn the tide of anti-Semitism, which is once again growing in Europe and other parts of the world."

Israel's international amen corner is hoping that criticism of the Jewish state is now going to be made a "hate crime," at least in Europe. So that if harsh words for Ariel Sharon aren't accompanied by equally harsh words for, say, Yasser Arafat, the author may find him- or herself fined, jailed, and silenced. The ever-expanding definition of "anti-Semitism" is certain to put a chill on Israel's critics, as the socialist EU imposes limitations on speech throughout the continent: even, now, in England. The campaign to stamp out all but the mildest criticism of Israel is also likely to impinge on the Internet, as the New York Times reports:

"That idea [the banning of Al Jazeera] was not challenged, given the nature of the conference proceedings, but it also did not become a main theme of the conference, though worries about the power of the Internet to spread anti-Semitism did. 'Hypertexts and cybertexts are mostly imitations through which the social deviancy present in society speaks,' Jacques Picard, a professor at the University of Basel in Switzerland told the conferees. His point was that the ideas being expressed on the Internet hate sites are imitations of old anti-Semitic notions but that they have gained new force both by the power of the Internet and by the anonymity of many of those who use it.

'What's new here is that the Internet disseminates these ideas with the protection of anonymity,' Mr. Picard said. 'Anonymity should be lifted.'"

This pompous frog flapping his lips about "hypertexts and cybertexts" is the voice of the new Euro-commies, at once absurd and deadly dangerous. "Hate speech" as defined by some committee of commissars is a crime throughout Europe, including the once-free British isles, as well as Canada. And our own would-be commissars on this side of the Atlantic are all too eager to start implementing the same totalitarian methods here.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, to its ever-lasting shame, has been especially active on this front, leading the charge to enforce and extend "hate speech" laws that could never be enacted in the United States without first overturning the First Amendment. That hasn't happened, as yet. They can get away with banning newspapers and prohibiting speech in Iraq on the grounds of an "incitement" to violence, but treating U.S. citizens like the inhabitants of a conquered province is still out of bounds. For how much longer is an open question….

What really disgusts me is the silence of the so-called "libertarians," who are so quick to pounce on instances of censorship, both real and imagined, especially when it comes to the Internet. Yet a campaign that seeks to ban plain speech about Israel and its supporters is ignored. If only Israeli radio had been forbidden to play the music of Eminem, perhaps then the gang over at Reason might have noticed what's up. And then there's that fearless defender of freedom, Glenn Reynolds, who hails the "liberation" of Iraq, but can't be bothered to notice a major American politician's endorsement of Ba'athist methods. As the Thought Police go after the Internet, the fake "libertarians" have nothing to say, because they're just soooo wound up over Senator Orrin Hatch's anti-"rave" legislation.

The goal of this O.S.C.E. initiative is to apply the same standards to criticism of Israel that have been enforced in regard to matters of race, religion, and ethnicity. Taki Theodoracopoulos, the British columnist and socialite, is now under "investigation" for his politically incorrect remarks in The Spectator on Britain's growing criminal underclass. In Europe, today, opposition to an open borders policy on immigration is for all intents and purposes an illegal act, along with displaying Nazi paraphernalia and denying the Holocaust.

The enemies of Israel are supposed to be infused with an ungodly hate, and in the socialist utopia of a united Europe, such nasty emotions are verboten. This has historically been a leftist idea: if we ban hateful expressions, we can socially engineer society in a less hateful direction. That's what campus "speech codes" are all about. But who really hates whom? Who is trying to shut up whom? And who has now arisen to parrot the politically correct thought control methods once confined to the multi-culti left? Giuliani is a Republican politician, albeit one from New York City, and not just any Republican, mind you, but one who has been prominently mentioned as a candidate for high national office – as a replacement for Cheney on the national ticket, if the Vice President should be felled by health problems, or even in the top spot in 2004.

The passage of a constitutional amendment forbidding Giuliani from holding any office higher than mayor is, perhaps, just a thought. Short of that, however, I cannot think of a single measure that would ensure us protection from the draconian designs of Manhattan's Il Duce, unless it's an outcry from the supposedly oh-so-influential "blogosphere," whose yipping and yapping drove Trent Lott from the Republican leadership. If only we could somehow shame Giuliani into retracting or somehow modifying his rash endorsement of a radically anti-American proposal. After all, he's advocating the abolition of the First Amendment – and he did it on foreign soil! So, where's the outrage, bloggers?

The tactics of the pro-Israel crowd are bound to backfire. Americans don't like to be told what they can read, or hear, and they aren't easily intimidated, either physically or intellectually. Israel's amen corner can scream "anti-Semitism" all they want, but the actions of the Israeli government in the West Bank and Gaza are not winning them any friends in the U.S.

When the President of the United States can be forced to make an abrupt about-face, is it a "hate crime" to point to the power of the Israeli lobby? Is it "anti-Semitic" to wonder how and why Tom DeLay can threaten the President of the United States, the leader of his party – and win? Is it a "conspiracy theory" to observe that Israel always gets what it wants from the U.S. government, come hell or high water, and to wonder out loud: now, why is that?

Israel's supporters are well-organized and well-funded; what's more, they are strategically placed within the Republican coalition, with unconditional support for the policies of the ruling Likud party coming from fundamentalist Christians and the influential neoconservative faction, which dominates the making of foreign policy at the highest reaches of this administration. What amounts to an Israeli fifth column in the U.S. is not only well-placed, but exceedingly militant: they don't just attack their enemies, they go for the jugular, branding them with the stain of alleged "anti-Semitism" and cutting off all debate. Increasingly, they are seeking to use the power of the State to silence their enemies.

Stanley Kurtz, writing in National Review, is right on the cutting edge of this battle: he recently testified before Congress that "one-sided" criticism of Israel in publicly funded institutions of higher learning must be banned. Mideast scholars are "anti-American," avers Kurtz, especially the followers of Edward Said, and he proposes nothing less than a "supervisory board" to conduct investigations of scholars who might be guilty of a "hate crime." Senator Rick Santorum is also on board this Orwellian campaign to purge the universities of voices not amenable to the Amen Corner.

Ruthless, single-minded, and increasingly desperate, Israel's lobby, in the U.S. and internationally, is a force for evil. In the realm of foreign policy, its advocates are the loudest and the shrillest calling for war. In the domestic policy arena, too, the pro-Israel camp is increasingly unafraid to call for outright repression. We all remember what the outspokenly pro-Israel New York Sun had to say about denying a parade permit to the anti-war protests: they opined, furthermore, that in the event the protest was allowed to proceed, the FBI ought to have shown up and started taking names.

As even a wartime President at the height of his popularity cowers before the power of the Lobby, it's almost as if the perpetrators of this dangerous nonsense realize that it will provoke real anti-Semitism, and fuel the fires of hate – to what end, is hard to say. But let them consider, for a moment, the possible consequences of their success. This kind of stuff can backfire all too easily on the would-be ayatollahs of Middle East scholarship and deniers of parade permits.


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– Justin Raimondo

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.

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