Thursday, July 30, 2009

MuzzleWatch: Muzzling Understandable if Targeting Pro-Israel Speaker

Maybe they don't see the hypocrisy; or maybe they just don't care.

Either way, MuzzleWatch continues to provide evidence exposing the fact that its real interest isn't free speech, but rather to promote a narrow view of the Arab-Israeli conflict while attacking opposing views.

The byproduct of the discord that comes from being an anti-Israel organization while pretending to be a free speech defender seems to be — it's hard to think of a nicer word to describe it — hypocrisy.

Take the following statement, which was expressed by "a member of JVP’s Advisory Board" and approvingly relayed by MuzzleWatch not once, but twice in the past few days:

"The fact that the vast majority of people in the crowd at the Castro Theatre would not let the Voice of Israel representative speak his mind without interruption ..."

... is another example of muzzling? Is condemnable? Is unfortunate?

Nope. It's understandable, or even commendable. Here's how the JVP leader (Jewish Voice for Peace is the parent organization of MuzzleWatch) justified what is apparently, in their view, the good kind of muzzling:

“The fact that the vast majority of people in the crowd at the Castro Theatre would not let the Voice of Israel representative speak his mind without interruption reflects growing frustration with the use of pubic slander, character assassination, cancellation of speakers, firing of faculty and demand for resignations by the so-called defenders of Israel. Since when are people with views that differ from AIPAC, for instance, invited into mainstream circles to speak for five minutes before a pro-Israel speech or film? The representative of Voice of Israel was not there to dialogue. Only to chastise. The crowd refused to be chastised.

So let me get this straight: If a crowd refuses to let anti-Israel vitriol pass without critique, they are, as per the raison d'etre of MuzzleWatch, smeared as muzzlers. But if a crowd refuses to let a supporter of Israel speak in peace — check out the video below to see what happened — they are celebrated as noble resisters who "refuse to be chastised"!

Got it.

(This, by the way, is hardly the only instance of blatant hypocrisy by MuzzleWatch. For another telling example, click here.)

Here's the video of the speaker being muzz... err... shouted down... I mean... chastised... no, no. Here's the video of the speaker being the justified-target-of-good-aka-anti-Israel-frustration-as-opposed-to-bad-aka-pro-Israel-frustration:

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hate and The Daily Planet

I got a note today in my inbox about Berekeley, California's small-time local newspaper The Daily Planet.

In a nutshell, the note calls for people to read and sign a petition calling on the newspaper's publisher to "display integrity and responsibility to ensure that their pages are devoid of irresponsible misstatements of facts whose sole malicious intent is to besmirch Jews at large, the State of Israel, and individual citizens who decry the Daily Planet’s practices."

The petition also links to a website that can help you decide whether there is indeed something rotten with the newspaper. Although a few of the points raised on that website fail to move me as much as they move the site's editor, much of it is extremely damning. There is, for example, the following passage quoted from the Daily Planet that blames the Jews for antisemitism:

One should ask why anti-Semitism has persisted throughout the centuries. Let us go back to 539 BC, when Cyrus the Great, King of Persia, went to Babylonia and liberated Jews. One can ask why Jews were enslaved by Babylonians. Also, one can ask why Jews had problem with Egyptians, with Jesus, with Europeans, and in modern times with Germans? The answer, among other things, is their racist attitude that they are the 'Chosen People.' Because of this attitude, they do wrong to other people to the point that others turn against them, namely, become anti-Semite if you will.
I checked, and yes, the Daily Planet did indeed publish this on Aug. 8, 2006. I don't want to boost their google ranking by linking to it, but if you really want to read it at the source, go to berkeleydailyplanet (dot) com (slash) issue/2006-08-08/article/24823?headline=Commentary-Zionist-Crimes-in-Lebanon&status=301.

Below is the relevant portion of the email I received, which includes a link to the petition. It introduces

a new online petition statement decrying the weekly inclusion of extreme anti-Israel screeds in the Berkeley Daily Planet. As you may already be well aware, the Berkeley Daily Planet (which is supposed to be a locally focused community newspaper) has turned itself into an open sewer for bashing Israel in any form, Zionists and Zionism in all its guises and sometimes Jews quite nakedly.

The statement now being circulated under the auspices of the Israel Action Committee of East Bay claims:


We abhor the deliberate and willful publication of anti-Semitic and other hateful rhetoric and screeds by the Berkeley Daily Planet.

We stand with the free speech rights of those who would criticize the Berkeley Daily Planet for its obsessive and one-sided campaign against the State of Israel.

We join these people in insisting that the publisher and editor of the Daily Planet display integrity and responsibility to ensure that their pages are devoid of irresponsible misstatements of facts whose sole malicious intent is to besmirch Jews at large, the State of Israel, and individual citizens who decry the Daily Planet’s practices.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Black is White, and Israel's Cellcom Commercial is Racist

"They — those on the other side, the ones we are at war with — are actually exactly like us. They don't all want to hurt us."

You'd think that message would be welcome, even if it's in an advertisement meant to sell products. Or maybe especially in an ad, since it reaches so many people and, if the ad agency's consumer research is any good, reaches more than just their TV screens.

But in some quarters, the message isn't welcome. Because the message is in... Hebrew.

I'm breaking from the usual topic of this blog because I just can't help myself. The scandal caused by the ad is so contrived, and so absurd, I just can't help myself.

First, the commercial:

And now, the scandal. Reuters reports:
A television advert for an Israeli cellphone firm showing soldiers playing soccer over the West Bank barrier has sparked cries of bad taste and prompted Arab lawmakers on Sunday to demand it be taken off air. ...

Since the ad went out last week -- as Palestinians marked the fifth anniversary of a World Court ruling that Israel's walls and fences in the West Bank were illegal -- some Israelis have taken to blogs and social networking sites to voice dismay. ...

A Hebrew-language Facebook group called "I too got nauseous watching the new Cellcom ad" had signed up 218 members. They demanded "take this racist commercial off the air immediately."
Et cetera, et cetera.

Now I understand that most Palestinians don't like the barrier, whatever their reasons may be. I also understand that most Israelis are thankful that it prevents suicide bombers from making the short walk into Israeli cities so that they can kill kids on buses and in cafes.

So? In the end, the message is that we're all human. It is the opposite of demonization. In fact, I'd contribute a fair sum toward getting ads like this to air in the West Bank, Gaza, and across the Arab world...

(transition with foggy, wavy lines and wind chimes)

Some Lebanese soldiers are patrolling the border with Israel. They're invited by some Hezbollah gunmen to join them for some Turkish coffee. Once in the bunker, the soldiers and the gunmen start loudly singing The Beatles. Somehow, from across Hezbollah two-way radio, we hear faceless Israelis join in the singing. The Lebanese soldiers are initially startled by the sound, but when the figure out what's happening, they gleefully continue the song, taking the harmony part. The voice over says: "We all like good music and good times. Buy Pepsi!

(transition with foggy, wavy lines and wind chimes)

Okay, it's a shitty commercial. Hezbollah fighters probably don't sing The Beatles. But racist? Worthy of uproar? Worthy of a news article?? Give me a break. And give me an address where I can contribute to getting my version of the commercial aired. (Or at least a better version of one with the same message.)

Because I'd be heartened if that's what kids in the Arab world are taught about the faceless enemy. It sure beats this:

Friday, July 10, 2009

"Censorship" Loses Its Meaning

From CAMERA Snapshots:

bowen censorship.jpg

Some anti-Israel commentators, hoping to ward off criticism, charge those who scrutinize their claims as being guilty of censorship, intimidation, or otherwise stifling debate.

The thinly-veiled subtext is that criticizing someone is the same as censoring them. (See, e.g., CAMERA's Op-Ed "Asserting Mideast facts isn't the same as censorship.")

But why bother to thinly veil or to imply? One journalist recently did away with those formalities.

About the BBC Trust's ruling that Mideast editor Jeremy Bowen violated the BBC's ethical guidelines, a Guardian journalist wrote, simply:

"Criticising Bowen could affect his reporting of the region, which surely amounts to a form of censorship itself."

And that is how inane the "censorship" argument looks when stripped down to its essence and expressed in straightforward language.