Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Jung, Yewish and Plod...

Our good friends at Jewish Voice for Peace have unleashed their most fearsome campaign yet: Young Jewish and Proud, the declaration of young Jews that they are mad dag-nabbit, and they don’t plan to take it anymore.

Fortunately, an intrepid dumpster diver who is also a Divest This fan stumbled across an earlier version of their manifesto which I thought I’d post for those who can’t get enough of those intrepid schmendricks of JVP. And so, we bring you:

The Young Jewish Declaration (original draft)...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Jewish Voice for Peace Watches the Muzzlers in the Mirror

This blog has often shown how MuzzleWatch's purported concern over "muzzling" in fact amounts to nothing more than promoting anti-Israel rhetoric while attacking views they don't like. But I've also been forced to correct my views on the group.

You see, I first thought that MuzzleWatch and Jewish Voice for Peace merely "looked elsewhere" when anti-Israel activists attempted to disrupt the free speech of moderate pro-Israel voices. Then I realized that JVP went so far as to "cheer" when the open exchange of ideas was stifled, so long as it's ideas they don't like that are targeted.

Now I know better. JVP, it turns out, actually engages in the very muzzling they purport to watch.

"Hecklers interrupted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to a prominent American Jewish group on Monday," the AP reports. But AP, who exactly were these hecklers?

"The hecklers, members of the Young Leadership Institute of Jewish Voice for Peace, stood up and shouted at different times during Mr. Netanyahu's speech to the Jewish Federations of North America."

Seems that MuzzleWatch should watch itself. Maybe next time members of its parent organization think of stifling the open exchange of ideas, they should take a deep breath, gaze at the looking glass, and sing:

I'm Starting With The Man In
The Mirror
I'm Asking Him To Change
His Ways
And No Message Could Have
Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself And
Then Make A Change!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Professor Kicked Off Panel; Dissent Not Tolerated at Queen’s University Belfast

Professor Geoffrey Alderman, a historian who has defended Israel, was disinvited from a panel discussion about the Middle East conflict, apparently because the two other invited panelists, Avi Shlaim and Beverley Milton-Edwards, objected to his views.

Shlaim is well-known for his harsh, one-sided criticism of Israel, while Milton-Edwards has argued, in blatant contradiction to Hamas's own charter and repeated statements by its leaders, that the Islamist group "is not anti-peace" nor "anti-negotiation," and are not "anti-Israel" but rather "anti Israeli occupation."

 CiF Watch posted Professor Alderman's statement about the incident: 
On 20 September 2010 I received an email from the Director of the Belfast Festival, Mr. Graeme Farrow, inviting me to join a panel convened to discuss “Conflict in the Middle East” as part of the 2010 Belfast Festival, held under the auspices of Queen’s University Belfast. Mr. Farrow’s exact words were: “I would be delighted if you would join our panel.”

I was naturally pleased to accept this invitation.
The panel discussion is due to take place on Monday evening, 18 October 2010, in Belfast.

On Friday afternoon, 15 October 2010 I was shocked to receive an email from Mr. Farrow informing me that “a mistake” had been made in extending the invitation to me  and that although I could join the audience the event was to go ahead without my panel participation.

In effect, I was being “disinvited.”

In a series of email exchanges with Mr. Farrow I refused to accept this situation, and I have made it clear to him that I intend to travel to Belfast tomorrow and shall expect to participate fully as a member of the panel.< I am frankly appalled at the way I have been treated, for which I hold Queen’s University, Belfast, responsible.

And as of this writing, we hear not a peep from MuzzleWatch. Why? Why don't the purported opponents of this type of "muzzling" have anything to say about this?

Well, that's because MuzzleWatch doesn't really care about muzzling.As thoroughly documented on this site, their purported concern for the open exchange of ideas is no more than a selectively-utilized vehicle for their radical anti-Israel activism — fine china filled with trans-fat. Yum.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Rarefied Jewish Voice for Peace

Congratulations are in order to Jewish Voice for Peace. The parent company of MuzzleWatch (definitely not to be confused with MuzzleWatch Watch — see below for the distinction between the two) came in 7th place on the Anti-Defamation League's list of top anti-Israel groups in America.

Of course, because the list is alphabetical, we don't know exactly where they stand relative to the others. But we do know they're in some pretty distinguished company. The ADL's list follows:
* Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER)
* Al-Awda
* Council on American-Islamic Relations
* Friends of Sabeel-North America
* If Americans Knew
* International Solidarity Movement
* Jewish Voice for Peace
* Muslim American Society
* Students for Justice in Palestine
* US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

And as promised above, here's a cheat sheet to help you understand the difference between MuzzleWatch and MuzzleWatch Watch.

MuzzleWatch watches for anything it can find to cast Israel or its defenders in a negative light (See Bad News from...); supports BDS campaigns (including one whose website slurs Israel as a practitioner of apartheid, www.caldivestfromapartheid.com); backs Israel's most extreme defamers (e.g, Ali Abunimah, the International Solidarity Movement), claims that criticism of radical anti-Israel activists is akin to "muzzling," and poo-poos the intimidation of those who support Israel's right to self defense (you can find that type of poo here).

MuzzleWatch Watch, on the other hand, watches Muzzle Watch.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

MuzzleWatch's Sister Site Also Muzzling

Like MuzzleWatch, TheOnlyDemocracy is a web site run by the anti-Israel advocacy organization Jewish Voice for Peace. And as on its MuzzleWatch blog, JVP sees no irony in censoring other opinions even while accusing those in the holders of those opinions "muzzling."

TheOnlyDemocracy's comments policy:
We read all comments, but only publish a select few that we believe will contribute to the overall discussion about the struggle for democratic rights in Israel and Palestine.
Interestingly, all articles on the website conclude with the welcoming phrase, "Comments are closed." So in other words, if you email Jewish Voice for Peace, and your email is sufficiently in lockstep with their narrow, fringe viewpoints, they might just publish your email on their blog. Otherwise, shaddup.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sydney and Omar's BDS Journey

Well it seems that Muzzlewatch finally roused from its slumber after a blissfully quiet slumber.

Before going over what the new Genralisimo of MW, Jesse Bacon, has to say I thought some MWW readers might be interested in this little bit of warped fantasy which stars one of the key players at Jewish Voice for Peace (the puppeteer behind Muzzlewatch). Enjoy:

Sydney and Omar's BDS Journey - Part 1
Sydney and Omar's BDS Journey - Part 2
Sydney and Omar's BDS Journey - Part 3

Friday, July 23, 2010

Right! Right! Right! Right? Wrong.

Check out the introduction to MuzzleWatch's July 16 posting. Anything stick out? (It will, because I'll bold the relevant text!)

Fenton Communications is a well-known liberal, Democratic public relations firm that caught the “adoring” eye of the Israeli Likudnik crowd because liberal Zionist lobby group J Street founder Jeremy Ben Ami is a former Senior Vice President. Back in March, 2009 Fenton signed a contract with the Qatar based Fakhoora campaign to advocate for accountability over Israel’s attacks on Gaza. Accountability and Israel-now that’s a no-no for the pro-settler lobby. But back then, the right wing echo chamber couldn’t do anything with that information, Ben-Ami had left the year before and denied any connection.

Fast forward over a year and The Israel Project and their right wing buddies are after Fenton (and Ben Ami) again. Amazingly, this time, they were successful and Fenton dropped the account. Completely.

Yes, it's the smoke-and-mirrors technique that casts anyone opposed to demonization and other types anti-Israel bigotry as a loyal minion of Dick Cheney. MuzzleWatch's version (though, to be fair, they're hardly the first anti-Israel activists to try this) is a subset of the practice by extremists of all stripes who act as if they represent the sober mainstream while everyone else represents the fringe.

So let's clear something up: The bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable. It encompasses our national security interests, our strategic interests, but most importantly, the bond of two democracies who share a common set of values and whose people have grown closer and closer as time goes on.

Actually, those aren't my words. They are the words of well-known Likudnik, pro-settler, right wing echo chamber member President Obama.

Republicans support Israel, yes. And so do Democrats. In a January 2009 poll, a convincing plurality of liberal Democrats sympathized more with Israel than with the Palestinians or "neither." Liberal Democrats. During the Gaza War. Over twice as many Democrats of all stripes expressed sympathy with Israel vs. the Palestinians in that same poll.

So MuzzleWatch can pretend that people like me — pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-environment, pro-gay rights and pro-Israel — don't exist. But we very much do. On the other hand, MuzzleWatch types — pro-Norman Finkelstein, pro-Stephen Walt, pro-BDS, and staunchly anti-Israel? Not so much.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Blue and Whitewash

Muzzlewatch seems incapable of letting the whole issue of gay rights go, possibly because they realize what might happen to their self-anointed characterization as progressive heroes if the fact that they are allied with the most murderous anti-gay forces on the planet becomes widely discussed. Alternatively, they may simply be giving the latest term in the anti-Israel lexicon “pinkwashing” a drive around the block.

“Pinkwashing” refers to Israel’s alleged scheme of demonstrating its progressive cred (vs. that of its adversaries including, or should I say, especially, with those forces in the Middle East – such as Hamas - most beloved by Muzzlewatch’s Jewish Voice for Peace masters) by pointing out that Israel is the only place in the Middle East with genuine gay rights.

In the area of gay rights, similar to women’s rights, there is such a glaring contrast between Israel and its neighbors that any direct discussion of the matter must be avoided at all costs by JVP and its allies, and so they come up with creative terms (such as “pinkwashing”) to make the discussion of the reactionary attitudes of JVP friends and allies seem like a nefarious plot.

Under the circumstances, their choice is understandable, especially since their entire endeavor is an attempt to “blue-and-whitewash” the atrocious human rights record of those societies most at odds with the Jewish state. After all, JVP’s pose as humanitarians doesn’t hold up quite so well if they stated honestly that – in their opinion – the rights of gays, women, religious minorities and (in the cases of places like Sudan) ethnic minorities must all be thrown under the bus in favor of their holy cause of Palestinianism, regardless of how many gay (or female, or Christian) Palestinians find themselves forced to flee into Israel to escape death at the hands of their clansmen.

The thing I find most amusing about Cecile’s latest post on the subject is the notion that she and members of the fringe Queers Against Israel Apartheid (QAIA) group they’ve allied with are now involved with “Healing the Gay-Jewish Divide.” After all, there was no Gay-Jewish divide, at least in Toronto, until the QAIA group pulled out all the stops to ensure its divisive message was inserted directly into Toronto’s gay pride parade.

And so the divide they are trying to bridge is one they have created, a conflict they have chosen to cause through their own single-minded, selfish, obsession. And if the rest of the gay community in Toronto has to suffer for JVP/QAIA actions, they can at least comfort themselves with Muzzlewatch willingness to heal the breach they were responsible for opening.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Yoo hoo! Muzzlewatch!

Just a quick thought for today.

Whenever I periodically Google “Muzzlewatch” as part of this or that research project or ego trip, the Muzzlewatch-watch Web site periodically comes up second only to the site we’re watching. And we’ve even gotten above them periodically on the blogsearchers.

I have no doubt that an organization as Web media-savvy as Jewish Voice for Peace (which, despite its despicable nature and program are reasonably good at leveraging Web 2.0 PR to help them punch above their weight) can see these same results and thus is fully aware of the existence of a site that has been taking apart each and every one of their accusations quite neatly for nearly a year and a half. And yet I don’t recall one mention of this fact (even a condemnation) in any of the volume of accusations JVP hurls at its critics on a daily basis.

Now I’m not making the claim that JVP/Muzzlewatch is under any obligation to pay attention to us, or even defend itself in our (still open!) comments section. But it is interesting that an organization that claims to crave debate over every issue it throws out has both shut down its own comments in order to prevent critical voices from challenging their claims and continues to ignore some folks who have offered them exactly what they supposedly desire more than anything else: a debate over the Middle East on their terms.

Sorry for the interruption – back to what you were doing.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Muzzlewatch vs. Consequences

Muzzlewatch’s Commander-in-Chief Cecilie Surasky returns to the issue of the UC Irvine students who decided to shout down Israel’s ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, when he attempted to speak on campus last spring. Having never brought herself to consider the irony of a web site allegedly dedicated to free speech having nothing to say when her allies deny that right to those with whom they disagree, Surasky again chooses to focus on the punishment allotted to the Muzzlers.

At least this time, she’s dealing with realty vs. speculation, although the punishment meted out by the Irvine administration (suspension of the group responsible for the incident – the Muslim Student Union or MSU –for one year, plus a year on probation) could very likely be turned around via appeal or even legal challenge. The ability of the Middle East dispute to generate actual hard costs (in the form of legal bills) to student government is just one more aspect of the expensive chaos that tends to ensue when Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP – the organization that actually works the Muzzlewatch hand-puppet) decides to import the Arab-Israeli conflict into every institution in the land.

When reviewing Muzzlewatch’s selectivity on campus muzzling mattes previously, I pointed out my personal discomfort with campus administrators telling students what they could and could not say while also commenting on the challenges such administrators face when one person (or group) decides that their own free speech rights include the right to harass, intimidate, or put a halt to the free speech of others.

JVP/Muzzlewatch (as usual) also misses a bigger picture in which the type of debate they have dragged into campus after campus has a 100% track record of coarsening conversation, turning student against student, dividing the school along racial and religious lines, leading inexorably to a poisoned college atmosphere that administrators (not JVP) must deal with.

Naturally, Surasky presents “context” for the Irvine decision by pointing out a number of alleged (and undocumented) instances where people with whom JVP does not agree (supports of Israel, Republicans) supposedly behaved in ways Muzzlewatch’s friends always do. (And just as naturally, she hides this unproven set of accusation behind the quote from someone else, in this case the MSU’s lawyer.)

But even presuming these accusations are true, shouldn’t that trigger some spark of reflection on the part of those behind Muzzlewatch regarding the degeneration of discourse on our campuses to which they have contributed so much? When I attend events that require me to run a gauntlet of protestors (or cops), and have to pull myself closer to the stage to hear over protestor’s bullhorns, it depresses me that another place where a conversation could have taken place has been turned instead into an infantile shouting match.

Is there any similar sentiment to be found at Muzzlewatch? Any thought that their activity (including attempts to accuse critics of censorship for having the temerity of criticizing them) might be doing more harm than good? Not a chance. Just the usual self-righteousness and childish attempts to restate their ongoing case which can be boiled down to: “Free speech for me, but not for thee.”

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gay Pride and Prejudice

Time to close out this month’s review of Muzzlewatch misfires with a discussion of their most bizarre accusation to date: that Israel supporters are somehow trying to stifle discussion of “Israel Apartheid” within the gay and lesbian community.

I say “bizarre” because if there’s one issue where Israel’s human rights record shines with supernova-scale light when compared to its neighbors (the folks who, among other things, support and fund Israel=Apartheid campaigns) it’s in the area of gay rights.

After all, it’s one thing to sweep the repression of women in the Muslim world under the carpet with a turn of the head and some feeble muttering about “understanding cultural differences” that implies that it is only the kept, hajibbed women trailing along her owner/husband by ten paces that is truly “free.” But there really is no way to ignore that gay pride parades that take place routinely in Israel would be met with machine gun fire if it took place in Cairo or Tehran (the latter being spared such concerns since, according to the Iran’s President, there are no homosexuals in that country – so much for 1 in 10).

Now I know that within Israel there are Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox individuals groups who rail against homosexuals, lesbians and the "Sodom and Gamorah" of Tel Aviv’s gay scene. But that’s simply because Israel has a gay scene to verbally rail against. And I know that some defenders of Israel with no track record of defending gay rights in the US will often draw a Muslim homophobia arrow from the quiver during political debate. But if only non-black pots were allowed to debate the subject of kettles, well there would be no Muzzlewatch or Jewish Voice for Peace, now would there?

The ludicrousness of trying to use the gay issue as a bludgeon against the Jewish state came home when someone forwarded me a letter begging Elton John to not play a concert in “Apartheid Israel,” claiming that, despite its supposed open-mindedness regarding homosexuality, Israel has in the past yielded to demands of Palestinians families to have their fleeing gay children returned to them. Yes, you heard that right. Partisans of the Palestinian cause now list, among Israel’s crimes¸ the Jewish state’s alleged choice to send gay men and women into the clutches of the very Palestinians these partisans spend their lives fighting for, and then blame Israel when said gay Palestinians are beaten to death by their brethren.

This nonsense makes sense only if you realize that the entire point of Muzzlewatch is as a preemptive strike. Remember, Jewish Voice for Peace wants to be able to say whatever it wants and do whatever it wants, whenever and wherever it wants. Yet it also wants to claim that anyone else exposing its lies or hypocrisy, or battling against its causes (such as BDS) are “muzzlers” trying to stifle debate on the Middle East. This moral inversion can only be accomplished because supporters of Israel actually possess a respect for open discussion and debate that JVP and its friends simply feign. And so, Muzzlewatch hopes that they can get their critics to question their own rights to engage in political activity, leaving JVP et al free to do their dirty work unhindered.

Extending this tactic to a gay pride matter is simply Muzzlewatch’s childlike way to try to preempt the facts stated above, notably that it is Jewish Voice for Peace that unquestionably supports a culture that tortures and murders gay people against an Israeli society that welcomes them. Hiding behind a “Queers Against Israeli Apartheid” splinter group that’s even more marginal that JVP itself is simply their clumsy way of hiding their own opinions behind someone else's.

Now that I think about it, if gay rights are such a vital issue with which to bash the Jewish state, why hasn’t Jewish Voice for Peace taken up this matter with gay leaders in JVP’s own North California stronghold? Could it be that local gay pride groups know how to respond to narrow partisans trying to morally blackmail them into embracing a cause they know is not theirs (with a hearty FU)?

Or perhaps the Muzzlewatchers haven’t gone down this route simply because, as in Tehran, there are no gay people in San Francisco.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Muzzlewatch: Lost at Sea

God how I miss those weeks in May and June when the Jewish Voice for Peace crew were busying themselves with trying to spin the dogshit of defeat of their failed BDS campaigns in California into the gold of fantasy victory. For four blissful weeks, Muzzlewatch stayed silent, allowing me to do something other than shooting their latest “fish-in-a-barrel” arguments.

Alas, four accusations in one week require four responses. One and two can be found in last week’s postings, so today we take on Muzzlewatch’s take on the “Freedom Flotilla” in which a boat load of Turkish mercenaries suffered the fate that inevitably comes to those who bring a knife to a gunfight.

Muzzlewatch has a sticky problem with regard to portraying the recent Flotilla incident as nothing more than Israeli butchers dropping down to peaceful aid ships for Gaza and massacring or beating everyone in sight.

It’s not just that the world has seen video evidence demonstrating what happened before and after Israeli soldiers boarded the Mavi Mavera. After all, JVP and friends can simply rant on about how such evidence was “obviously” doctored (quoting like-minded Web sites as their only source for de-legitimizing overwhelming, clear-cut evidence regarding how violence broke out on that ship). After all, when JVP and its pals act as judge and jury (as they do at Muzzlewatch), it goes without saying any evidence Israel and its supporters provide for the defense will be immediately thrown out of court.

No the trouble for JVP is evidence those participating in the Flotilla provide. After all, there were six ships in that convoy (seven if you include the Rachel Corrie which rode on the wake of the previous week’s mayhem). And on all those ships except one, no one was shot, no one was wounded. Like every other ship that tried to run the legal, legitimate Israeli blockade of Gaza (including at least two gun running ships from Iran), the crew and passengers of all ships that did not go on the attack were brought safely to an Israeli port and sent home.

Israel’s video evidence is not all that’s needed to show the difference between the many blockade running ships where no one was hurt, and the one ship where several people were killed. For once the survivors of Mavi Mavera returned home to Turkey, they were not wailing about how they had been victimized. No, they were bragging about how they had drawn the blood of Israeli soldiers.

In other words, just as JVP and other friends and allies of the Flotilla are painting a picture of pristine victims on every boat that’s sailed towards the Gaza coast, crews full of nuns and orphans who would never lift a finger against anyone, other Flotilla friends (including those that participated) are boasting in national newspapers that attacking Israelis was why they set sail in the first place.

Here you have an interesting example of the dual role proponents of violence and propaganda play in the Arab-Israeli conflict with some parties (like Turkey’s IHH terrorist organization or Hamas) providing the muscle, the blades, the bullets and the rockets that allow the folks at JVP to get off on surrogate violence. In the meanwhile, JVP’s job is to turn the propaganda volume up to 11, trying to turn self-proclaimed warriors into the reincarnation of Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Jesus Christ.

According to JVP and Muzzlewatch, their hands are clean (except, perhaps, for the whitewash).

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Don't Sanction Me!

I guess another month of silence on the Muzzlewatch front was too much to hope for. Once again, they seem to be in the business of throwing accusation after accusation up against the wall in dim hope that at least one will stick.

Having dealt with their laughable attempts to make victims of themselves and Helen Thomas, one of Muzzlewatch’s most recent postings attempts to turn Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and all their allies in the BDS “movement” into martyrs of a scale never seen since Rome threw Christians to the lions.

Once more, a quick clarification. Muzzlewatch is not an organization, but a tactic used by the organization Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a group whose main missions are to (1) pronounce anyone accused of anti-Semitism “not guilty” (with a Jewish accent) and (2) getting everyone in the world to boycott, divest from and sanction the state of Israel as the leading BDS organization with the word “Jewish” in its name.

Let’s think a moment about what BDS stands for (literally and conceptually). By “Boycott” (the “B” of BDS), that means they would like every retail organization on the globe to stop selling Israeli products. They would also like academics and artists to boycott the Jewish state, meaning researchers and professors (in any field) should stop sharing information with Israelis, stop inviting them to conferences, stop allowing them into graduate programs. And by “Israelis,” I mean just the Jewish ones. Palestinian “academics” like Omar Barghouti are, in contrast, free to not only skip such a boycott, but to enjoy a subsidized lifestyle at an Israeli university of their choosing while they jet around the world advocating for all other academics in the world to boycott their Israeli colleagues. And any attempted boycott of people like Barghouti is denounced as a form of bigotry.

Divestment (BDS’s “D”) means all institutions that in any way invest in Israel or in companies that do business with Israel should drop those investments in protest of this or that policy of the Jewish state. And Sanctions (“S”) extends this call for punishment to governments and international organizations, all of which are called upon by BDS advocates (like Jewish Voice for Peace) to take official action denouncing and punishing (economically and otherwise) Israel, using their government power and authority to pass judgment and take action against one and only one nation: the Jewish one.

But apparently, JVP has a problem when a government follows their advice to the letter, only this time turning that advice about “sanctions” against BDS activists themselves. Yes, after a decade of BDS activity targeting Israel, some Israeli parliamentarians are trying to create consequences for that activity, calling for Israelis who take part in a boycott to pay for any damages caused to those being boycotted, and not continuing to give BDS advocates all the privileges they have enjoyed entering and leaving Israel to spread their poison at will.

Now truth be told, I’m not personally a big fan of any government taking action against political activity inside or outside of their borders. And, while I could definitely be wrong, the resolution Muzzlewatch has gotten its panties bunched up over looks a lot like “get tough” posturing that rarely becomes law (or stays law) within a democracy (unlike, say, outlawing drawings of Mohammed which Muslim nations seem to be succeeding in turning into a global blasphemy law – to the silence of “Muzzlewatch,” of course).

The problem is, any case that such laws do more harm than good is undercut by the activities of Jewish Voice for Peace which clearly stands for universal jurisdiction of every country against every other through its incessant calls that all governments everywhere (not to mention all other institutions everywhere) drop their core missions to focus instead on JVP’s top priority: punishment of the Jewish state.

It gives me no pleasure to say “sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander,” and I would prefer that all governments stop shaking their fists at one another for reasons of political posturing. But if JVP finds the notion of government sanction turned against it and its allies so repellent, perhaps they should have a talk with the folks they see in the mirror every morning regarding how their own activity has made an Israeli response inevitable.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Words, words, words

Well those delicate flowers at Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) seem so bent out of shape (or so busy jumping for joy) over events from the last few weeks that they have lost track of the fact that their Muzzlewatch site, which pretends to be advocating for free speech and open discussion of the Middle East, has broken into a huff over the fact that someone dares say things with which JVP does not approve.

First off, after nearly a month’s blissful hiatus, Muzzlewatch posts this disturbing video and transcript about angry voices allegedly raging against them by supporters of Israel protesting an event held by JVP and its friends denouncing the Jewish state for piracy and murder.

Naturally, we are required to take JVP at their word that this alleged hostility was the Alpha and Omega of the response to their protest, and that the hostility they encountered was only one-way. Those of us who have attended pro-Israel events where vile epitaphs are routinely shouted at us through megaphones (not to mention events where such protests degenerate into “direct action” to disrupt Israeli speakers and entertainers) may be a bit skeptical of Muzzlewatch’s self-serving account of the SF event.

And then we move onto Helen Thomas. After making the requisite criticism of “The Grand Dame of White House journalists” as “offensive and wrong” for calling for the Jews of Palestine to go back to Poland, they then dedicate the following 14 paragraphs to condemning all of their critics as contemptible racists. (Funny how a site which claims that its critics routinely try to shut down discussion of the Middle East through cynical accusations of anti-Semitism seem to have a hair trigger when it comes to stifling use of the “R-word.”)

What is missing from all of their discussion of the hurtful impact of words is commentary on this language:

“Shut up! Go back to Aushwitz!”

or the only slightly more tasteful:

"We're helping the Arabs go against the US, don't forget 9/11 guys!"

No, these are not recently discovered lyrics from John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance.” They are, in fact, the words spoken by “peace activists” aboard the one (and only one) ship in the recent “Peace Flotilla” that decided to attack Israelis with deadly force, leading to deadly force directed against them, leading to a crisis, leading to a JVP march against “Israeli barbarism,” leading to people protesting against JVP and its friends.

And what has Muzzlewatch distilled this entire episode down to? Selective excerpts of people saying mean things to them on the streets of San Francisco.

Unlike the boiling, hate-filled rage that spews daily from the Middle East media and educational curricula, Jew-hating incitement that has led directly to the death of thousands and doom for any hope of peace, any hostility JVP and its critics hurled at each other is not likely to ever go beyond angry rhetoric.

So the question is, does Muzzlewatch point its radar only at its critics, rather than its allies, because it feels it can impact the former, but not the latter? Or does it actually approve of the bile associated with those JVP supports, and hopes it can shame those who have the audacity to point out their hypocrisy into silence?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Muzzlewatch's Broken Record

I suspect that Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is having trouble finding a way to portray the defeat of its beloved Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolutions up and down the State of California as a form of “censorship,” which is why JVP’s Muzzlewatch mouthpiece has had to suffice with acting like a broken record over the last month.

The groove on they seem stuck is their reaction to the fact that the organized Jewish community of San Francisco is starting to exercise some judgment with regard to whom it gives money to and how people are allowed to present themselves when traveling under the official Jewish Federation banner.

You see, last year JVP and its friends managed to hijack the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, turning it into an event created in their own image where films and lectures depicting Israelis as intentional murderers were welcomed and hailed, while those defending Israel against such outlandish charges were heckled and jeered.

Members of the community naturally asked what had led to such behavior and what mechanisms were in place to ensure that people were not using the community’s money, facilities and name to assault the very things that community held most dear (including not being accused of being accomplices to war crimes).

Despite the enormous bureaucratic inertia that usually prevents institutions like the Federation from enacting changes of this type, the behavior of JVP and its allies was so outrageous that reforms began to be put in place. And, right on cue, the notion that an establishment Jewish organization would not automatically continue to underwrite the defamation of the Jewish people brought howls of “censorship” from JVP/Muzzlewatch’s Cecilie Surasky.

Naturally, Muzzlewatch’s outrage is portrayed in the form of statements made and petitions signed by local Jewish organizations who are understandably concerned with decisions of this type. The fact that these statements/petitions need to be seen in the context of equally valid statements supporting the Federation’s position (not to mention the reasons for the change in which JVP was so intimately involved) are dealt with at Muzzlewatch by simply pretending they don’t exist. And thus their cartoon of Federation fat cats suppressing a silent majority of peace-loving Jews prevails (at least in the minds of the 30 or so people who regularly read Muzzlewatch for something other than a laugh).

Friday, May 7, 2010

Columbia Unbecoming

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) has taken a few minutes off from injecting itself into every campus on the West Coast (where it’s been providing a Jewish face to the divestment votes currently failing all over the state), to have its Muzzlewatch mouthpiece issue a condemnation of Jewish organizations daring to play a role in the Middle East debate at Columbia.

This condemnation, a stretch even by Muzzlewatch standards, involves an actual Columbia student attending an actual Columbia class (gasp), even though he was not enrolled in it. Allegedly, his job in the classroom was to monitor what was said by a controversial teacher, supposedly at the behest of one or more super-duper-powerful Jewish organizations like CAMERA and (queue the mad-scientist organ music): AIPAC!

What do I think about that type of campus monitoring activity? In truth, I’m not particularly happy that it goes on. But I’m also not particularly happy that the phenomenon that triggered such activity (the politicization of the classroom by a number of professors who have abandoned academic principle for advocacy) takes place in far too many campuses, a fact known to all despite the best efforts of Muzzlewatch et al to cover it up.

I would far prefer it if the college campus was a place where important issues like the Middle East conflict were discussed civilly and rationally, where the best minds of the coming generation could be applied to the problems of the region, or at least taught enough understanding to prepare the way for peace sometime in the future.

But there’s not much chance of that with JVP/Muzzlewatch in the mix peddling its brand of toxic, uncompromising, dishonest rhetoric on every campus it can reach. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if it bothers the delicate souls at Muzzlewatch that those with whom they politically disagree are engaging in political activity on campuses that JVP considers it owns, they have a choice. They can keep turning these colleges into war zones year after year and live with the fact that their actions will cause an opposite reaction, or they can actually spend a few minutes reflecting on how much their activity is exacerbating and extending rather than solving conflict and behave accordingly.

Try as they might to get their political opponents to question (and censor) themselves via the ugly accusations that are the Alpha and Omega of Muzzlewatch, opposition to the assaults JVP and its friends have organized on college campuses is growing. And with every posting that appears on the Muzzlewatch site, the hypocritical “we get to do anything we want, but if you respond you’re censoring us” message becomes more laughably transparent.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The "Good Jews" of JVP Make Mearsheimer's List

Congratulations to MuzzleWatch! The group's parent organization, which calls itself Jewish Voice for Peace, made Mearsheimer's list of good Jews, alongside such notables as Richard "Israeli 'holocaust-in-the-making'" Falk and Norman "Israel is a 'satanic state' from 'the boils of hell' which 'is committing a holocaust in Gaza'" Finkelstein.

Mearsheimer divides Jews into three categories: Mainstream Jewish leaders and journalists are dubbed "new Afrikaners"; the majority of Jews who are simply not savvy enough to realize Israel is satanic are called the "great ambivalent middle"; and then there are the righteous Jews:

To give you a better sense of what I mean when I use the term righteous Jews, let me give you some names of people and organizations that I would put in this category. The list would include Noam Chomsky, Roger Cohen, Richard Falk, Norman Finkelstein, Tony Judt, Tony Karon, Naomi Klein, MJ Rosenberg, Sara Roy, and Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss fame, just to name a few. I would also include many of the individuals associated with J Street and everyone associated with Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as distinguished international figures such as Judge Richard Goldstone. Furthermore, I would apply the label to the many American Jews who work for different human rights organizations, such as Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch.

It seems that to be righteous, you have to be anti-Zionist, either in intent or in effect.

Likely "new Afrikaner" Jeffrey Goldberg would remove a couple of Jews from the List, but he keeps JVP in the lineup. I guess I can understand Goldberg's demotions. But if we do scratch Cohen and Goldstone, can we at least replace them with Neturei Karta?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Muzzlewatch: Stop Doing as I Do!

As Jewish Voice for Peace’s beloved Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) projects continues to crash and burn in JVP’s own backyard of California, the organization’s Muzzlewatch mouthpiece is having a bit of trouble finding new issues over which to declare its martyrdom.

For this week’s installment, Muzzlewatch lead Cecilie Surasky returns to one of Muzzlewatch’s favorite chestnuts: having been prevented from holding their umpteenth propaganda event at a forum of their choosing (an event that easily found another home), Surasky – as always – cries “censorship.”

Never mind that similar events have been held up and down the California coast at every college and university in the land all year long. Never mind that when Israel’s supporters held their own events, they were the subject of disruption, with Muzzlewatch waving their tattered free-speech banner in support of the disruptors. And never mind that Jewish Voice for Peace guards its own public spaces as jealously as a fanatical cock guards its roost (up to and including eradicating Muzzlewatch’s comments space to ensure that no dissenting voices will even be given minimal ability to respond to their endless charges).

While there’s nothing much new in Muzzlewatch’s latest empty accusation of “muzzling,” Cecilie seems to have reserved her hysteria for the fact that Jewish students protested the UC Santa Cruz event by characterizing the proposed talk as hurtful and threatening, something which led college administrators to ask the organizers of the program to find another location.

Still lacking the ability to look into anyone’s soul (and not knowing anyone at UC Santa Cruz), I cannot say for sure whether these student’s were presenting accurate accounts of their feelings, or if they were simply taking a page out of the playbook of JVP and its allies in attempting to trump the opposition by appealing to emotion rather than reason. But it seems to be the fact that Israel’s supporters have chosen to fight back using tactics that Israel’s defamers reserve for themselves that has gotten JVP’s panties in a bunch.

Which leads me to yet another appeal to my modified version of what I’ve been calling “The Surasky Formulation.” This is named after the head of Muzzlewatch who routinely claims that Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions projects are not the result of JVP and its allies working to get them enacted across the land seven days a week. No, according to “The Surasky Formulation,” Israel and its supporters are responsible for BDS which will only end when we do what we’re told.

To which I would counter: UC students fighting back at Santa Cruz, Berkeley and Davis is the direct result of JVP and its friends turning those campuses into war zones. If the whole Students for Justice in Palestine/Al-Awda/JVP axis didn’t force these kids to run the gauntlet between Israel Apartheid Week events, student council divestment resolutions and daily barrages of “Israel is an Apartheid War Criminal” propaganda morning, noon and night, there would be no need for these students to organize themselves and fight back.

Like most militant organizations, JVP would prefer that it be given free reign to do whatever it wants, wherever and whenever they like with no opposition and in full control of the language. Thus the need for a propaganda arm like Muzzlewatch designed to get Israel’s defenders to question their own free speech rights, a campaign that plays off the understanding that those defenders actually possess the concern for free speech that Muzzlewatch only feigns for their own political purposes.

In short, if students using their own free speech rights to fight against JVP propaganda so offends the delicate souls of Muzzlewatch, they have an easy out: stop shoving their nastiness in those student’s faces from dusk to dawn. There’s nothing written in any holy book saying that American college campuses must become an endless front of the Arab-Israeli conflict. This is a choice JVP and its allies have made. And if they don’t like the results, they and only they have the power to make the pain stop.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Canada Post Likes Israel

Further proof that the Jews control the media? Nope. The Canada Post isn't a newspaper, but rather that country's USPS equivalent.

In other words, it's further proof that the Jews control the government.

I can't help but wonder, though, if the Canadian postal service is merely trying to make some money from the Buycott movement. (Read Jon's take here.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Boycott Fails at Davis - Muzzlewatch Cries "Foul"

I was wondering if Muzzlewatch would get around to denouncing the latest defeat of their beloved Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) “movement” at the Davis Food Co-op (DFC - one of the most successful Co-ops in the country).

The BDSers have been targeting food co-ops of late and, as noted here, the Davis Co-op’s board of directors recently voted unanimously that a ballot of members on whether or not to boycott Israeli products would not be appropriate for the organization. Needless to say, Muzzlewatch has cried “foul,” and – like the failed boycotters they echo – bemoaned the death of democracy at the Co-op.

If you can wade through the cement-like prose of Muzzlewatch guest author Jesse Bacon, he claims that DFC’s board rejected a ballot for two reasons: (1) fears that it was illegal and (2) fears of financial repercussion if members left the Co-op over the issue. Due to these fears, Muzzlewatch claims, DFC allegedly bypassed its own bylaws to prevent members from having their say on the issue.

Pretty damning, unless you know the actual details of the story which, unfortunately for Muzzlewatch, some of us do. For you see, the Co-op bylaws include an important clause requiring that any question must fulfill a “lawful and proper purpose” to get onto the ballot. And when they recently reduced the number of signatures needed to get a question onto the ballot from 15% to 5%, they explicitly stated that this easing would be accompanied by stricter enforcement of whether or not such a question passed the “lawful and proper” threshold.

Muzzlewatch chose to focus on the “lawful” part of the Co-op’s decision (and, indeed, the Co-op did issue a statement questioning whether or not a boycott at their store might fall afoul of US anti-boycott legislation). But by far the most critical decision by the Co-op (one that Muzzlewatch has chosen to ignore) was this statement as to why an anti-Israel boycott proposal was not considered “proper.” It was this decision that spelled the end of the Davis boycott project.

The Davis statement regarding the inappropriateness of a boycott of Israeli goods is remarkable in articulating every reason why a civic institution like the Co-op is not obliged to embrace boycott, divestment and sanctions just because the BDSers tell them they must. Such a motion, they state, demands that the organization hand over the “authority and discretion in the management and operation of the DFC to BDS, a third party entity that owes no [fiduciary] duty to the DFC or its members…” In other words, the BDSers are asking for a vote as to whether they vs. the Davis Co-op’s management have the final say over the store’s business practices.

Furthermore, the question would demand that the Davis Food Co-op accept the boycotter’s characterization of the Middle East as its own (the old BDS tactic of stuffing their words into someone else’s mouth), something the Co-op leadership rejects (especially since that characterization is dubious at best, one-sided and fraudulent at worst). The proposal is vague, they accurately claim, and creates no mechanism and sets no limits on how or when a third party (BDS) could veto the Co-op’s business decisions. And finally, the boycott would be in violation of principles Co-ops around the country (and world) have signed onto as the Co-op movement has grown over the last decades.

While the statement does include concerns over members leaving the Co-op over this boycott issue, this was just to highlight the fact that a boycott move would threaten the unity of the organization which the Co-op’s board is required to uphold.

In other words, a decision that Muzzlewatch would like to characterize as being based on questionable concerns over legality and fears of financial loss was actually based on sound, well-articulated principles (which may explain why Muzzlewatch decided to exclude the critical statement regarding the improperness of the boycott motion in their article on the subject).

Regarding decrying the death of democracy, it’s interesting to note that just last week Muzzlewatch was hailing a divestment decision by the Student Senate at Berkeley, a representative body comparable to the Davis Board, as the epitome of democratic decision-making and denouncing the decision of the equally elected Student Senate President to veto the measure. As usual, Muzzlewatch’s definition of “democracy” seems to change on a weekly basis depending on who is following the boycot party line on any given day.

Now Mr. Bacon does point out that several other Co-ops did put boycott questions to the ballot, only to see them overwhelmingly rejected by voters. And this does bring up a good point, albeit not the one Muzzlewatch might have thought. For these Co-op voter rejections of Israel boycotts simply join other near-unanimous votes by organizations like the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches to reject divestment from Israel, as well as decisions by representative bodies or individuals at places like Davis and Berkeley to give BDS the heave-ho.

Sometimes these decisions are made by voters, sometimes by elected officials, sometimes other types of decision-makers (like the management of Trader Joe’s). But in all cases they lead to the same place: boycott, divestment and sanctions being overwhelmingly rejected by everyone who gets a say in the matter (which, interestingly enough, includes the most progressive organizations in the country).

Friday, April 9, 2010

Death to the Moderate! Death to her Family! (And: Save Tufts from Temperance!)

From the UK's Zionist Federation:
Death threats force Arab Israeli Eurovision singer to cancel London appearance at Israel Independence Day show – Mira Awad, the Arab Israeli singer who represented Israel at the last Eurovision Song Contest, has been forced to withdraw from the ZF Israel Independence Day Concert in London due to death threats made against her and her family. The singer is half of a duo with Achinoam Nini, also known as Noa, another of Israel’s top artists, and they perform internationally to packed audiences, promoting a unique message of peace and co-existence. The ZF who have organised annual Israel Independence Day events in Britain for many years took the decision to invite them to headline the show and celebrate the diversity of the Israeli population, of which almost 20% are non-Jewish citizens, mainly Arabs. Mira Awad’s Manager said: “Mira and Noa’s message is about finding a peaceful way forward. It is tragic that when both sides try to come together by any means possible to build a better future for Israel and its citizens, there are those prepared to use violence and intimidation to destroy it.” Mira will remain in Israel whilst Noa performs at the London concert, her first appearance in 6 months since giving birth to a daughter. The ZF’s Executive Director Alan Aziz said: “Our concert is a celebration of independence but it’s also about building understanding. Mira wanted to be the Arab Israeli voice promoting a peaceful way forward, and the threats to her life expose the real truth behind the conflict - that everyone is hostage to extremism, and it is a dangerous and growing phenomenon that denies Israel’s right to exist, and the world’s right to democracy.”

Needless to say, the death threats, surely the most dreadful type of muzzling short of actual physical harm, are not the type of intimidation that MuzzleWatch and Jewish Voice for Peace tend to concern themselves with. They fail JVP's ideological litmus test. It is, after all, an Israeli Arab moderate, someone who genuinely and boldly supports coexistence in Israel, who's being so brutishly intimidated.

Before and after fliers advertising the Zionist Federation's Independence day concert.

Speaking of moderates, a planned lecture by Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh's at Tufts University has been derailed. Not by violent extremists opposed to coexistence with Jews. This time, it's the student group Tufts Friends of Israel (!!) that's preventing the moderate voice from being heard on campus.

Abu Toameh is soon to arrive in the US for a lecture tour sponsored by Hasbarah Fellowships, but the planned stop at Tufts requires sponsorship by a campus group. Tufts Friends of Israel pulled out, apparently worried that a speaker who is, well, a friend of Israel (and of the Palestinian people) would be seen as "controversial" by less temperate members of the Tufts community.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Oh no! AIPAC (mwuhu ha ha ha!)

I knew it was just a matter of time before my old friends at Muzzlewatch stumbled on this video that’s been floating around the Internet, usually bracketed with frightening text announcing that AIPAC is trying to take over America’s college campuses.

Naturally, Muzzlewatch throws in its own little flourish, trying to add a level of paranoia to the student government elections at UC Berkeley by musing about an “AIPAC-Manchurian candidate” which they bet (only in jest, of course) that everyone at Berkeley should be looking for.

Now I have a little perspective on this issue since (1) I’ve been dealing with the Berkeley divestment issue for many weeks; (2) I’ve been dealing with Muzzlewatch for many years; and (3) I attended the session on the video Muzzlewatch is using to try to whip up hysteria on yet another college campus (yes, I attended my first AIPAC Policy Conference this year – Boo!).

To put thing into context, AIPAC’s involvement with college campuses began as a way to connect with students who are interested in student government with the expectation that the political and leadership skills that would lead them to take part in student councils at the high school and college level mean these people may become the political leaders of tomorrow. As a lobbying group (one that takes part in the American political system alongside thousands of such groups), AIPAC stands out for thinking long term (something I see very little of in either public or private enterprise) by investing in tomorrow’s leaders today.

With regard to the comments Jonathan Kessler makes in this video, this was in response to a question from the floor (one I heard repeated at nearly every Policy Conference session I went to) with regard to what AIPAC was going to fight against divestment resolutions like the one that was vetoed recently at Berkeley. In response, Kessler said that AIPAC would do nothing with regard to protesting the vote, bringing pressure to bear on the university or organizing letter-writing or other lobbying to existing student leaders. Rather, their goal (again, thinking long-term) is to ensure that student leaders who support Israel develop the skills they need to succeed politically, and that student leaders who are not interested in Middle East politics at least have a strong enough understanding of the issues to not fall into the often brain-dead party line that passes for a Middle East debate on many college campuses.

Now here I have to return to what I will call the Surasky Formulation, named after Muzzlewatcher-in-Chief Cecilie Surasky who repeatedly claims that the BDS activity that Jewish Voice for Peace and allies groups spend their mornings, noons and nights campaigning for on campuses across the country is the direct responsibility of not JVP but of Israel. If Israel just did what it was told, Surasky has said, these activities would stop immediately.

But in the case of Berkeley, the only reason AIPAC has anything to say about campus politics is because friends of JVP (such as Students for Justice in Palestine) are perpetually inserting the Middle East conflict into those campuses by, among other things, drafting divestment resolutions and pressuring the Berkeley student government to pass them.

If they were not engaged in these activities, then AIPAC’s role on campuses would be limited to establishing relationships with student leaders with an eye towards the future, and most other Jewish organizations wouldn’t be involved with campuses at all beyond educational and cultural matters.

But as it turns out, JVP and its pals have put decades of effort into ensuring that America’s campuses become hotbeds of anti-Israel activity with Apartheid Week protests, divestment resolutions, teach ins that tell one side (and only one side) of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and so on and so on and so on. In other words, AIPAC’s activities on campus would have nothing to do with day-to-day campus politics if those that follow the Muzzlewatch line didn’t make it their business to make condemnation of Israel the business of student politics.

Now Cecile and her allies, like the rest of us, live in a democracy where they are free to take part in the political process in any way they see fit. I only wish that they would show enough respect for those with whom they disagree to let them do the same without declaring that anyone’s political activity outside of their own is part of an illegitimate “Manchurian Candidate” conspiracy.

Monday, April 5, 2010

For JVP but not for Thee

A recent Muzzlewatch entry distills perfectly the “Constitutional Rights for Me, but Not for Thee” philosophy that undergirds the entire Muzzlewatch project.

Remember that Muzzlewatch is just one project/tactic of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), an organization that runs its own Web site, Muzzlewatch and another recently started site that is meant to question the characterization of Israel as the Middle East’s only democracy. In addition, the organization has been involved with every Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) project you can name, trying to push third parties (the Davis Food Co-op, UC Berkeley, etc.) to boycott or divest from Israel. This is in addition to its non-stop propaganda activities (in partnership with anti-Israel groups across the world) to continually characterize the Jewish state as the epitome of modern-day sin.

In other words, JVP is fully exercising its rights of free speech and assembly both domestically and internationally. And I would never challenge JVP’s exercise of those rights, even as I use my own free-speech rights to point out that JVP is using theirs to behave like whining, hypocritical assholes.

But apparently this respect for rights is not a two-way street. For in this piece, Muzzlewatcher-in-Chief Cecilie Surasky once again lets loose on the Reut Institute research report that dares to identify Jewish Voice for Peace and its friends and allies as doing exactly what they are doing (organizing to push for BDS against Israel as part of an overall de-legitimization strategy). In other words, JVP demands full freedom to engage in its political campaigns, but insists that anyone discussing what they do (much less organizing politically to counter them) is part of a sinister conspiracy.

If I were following Cecilie’s logic (which always comes back to her challenge that there would be no BDS or other anti-Israel activity if Israel simply followed JVP’s dictates), I think it’s safe to say there would be no Reut Report if JVP et al did not give the Reut organization something to write about.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

There's no "me" (or JVP) in "democracy"

Unsurprisingly, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is in the thick of the latest BDS controversy going on at UC Berkeley. I say unsurprisingly because, as has been pointed out before, the entire purpose of Jewish Voice for Peace is not peace but propaganda, their primary mission being to provide a Jewish face to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) “movement.”

I’ll be providing running commentary on the Berkeley story here, but here at Muzzlewatch-Watch, I’d like to comment on how the JVP-BDS campaign is being portrayed at the JVP-mouthpiece “shut up our enemies” arm, otherwise known as Muzzlewatch.

In a piece bemoaning the fact that all commentary on the subject of Israel and its detractors does not conform to the JVP-Muzzlewatch world view, Muzzlewatcher-in-Chief Cecilie Surasky takes umbrage (as in Delores) with the fact that critics of the recent Berkeley divestment motion are not toeing the JVP party line that this vote is simply a commentary on “The Occupation” (queue scary organ music).

In other communication, JVP rails against the fact that BDS votes like the one at Berkeley are being described as part of a campaign “to delegitimize Israel,” rather than simply being taken as legitimate criticism of specific Israel policies.

Here Surasky and Company are being rather cute about highlighting just the parts of the Berkeley resolution that suit their purpose. If you read the resolution in its entirety, you’ll note that the vast majority of its 1700-word length is dedicated to a recitation of every accusation that can be dredged up about the loathsomeness and criminality of the Jewish state. Naturally, the text hides behind organizations like the UN when delivering its charges (never once noting that an organization that spends half its time and resources condemning just one country – at the expense of every other person on the planet – might be a wee bit biased). In other words, the Berkeley divestment resolution is a crystal clear example of an attempt to de-legitimize the Jewish state, which is no doubt why JVP-Muzzlewatch chose to hide most of its text (and actual purpose) in its public communication on the issue.

I also find it amusing that JVP is hailing the vote of the Berkeley Student Senate (which voted 16-4 in favor of the divestment proposal) as the height of democracy, while condemning the Student President for vetoing the resolution as an example of democracy being stifled. I say amusing because it was just last week that an elected board of the Davis Food Co-op (politically comparable to the Berkeley Senate) unanimously rejected a boycott of Israeli products, yet in this case the boycotters condemned this elected body’s action as – you guessed it – an example of trampling on democracy.

In other words, for JVP, Muzzlewatch and their friends and allies (such as the Students for Justice in Palestine organization behind the Berkeley vote), democracy has a new definition: them getting their way. To the Muzzlewatchers and their friends, anything short of people doing what they say is an example of censorship and democracy denied.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Consider the Muzzler...

Looks like there’s a bit of catching up to do on the old Muzzlewatch monitoring front.

To start off, I noticed that our old MW pals have finally had something to say about the assault on free speech that took place at UC Irvine last month, the one which featured an orchestrated attempt to shout the Israeli ambassador off the stage to prevent his words from being heard from a large audience of UC students, most of whom (presumably) were there to hear him speak.

Now the Muzzlewatchers have stayed mum about this topic until now (keeping with their general refusal to acknowledge occasions when disruptive tactics – up to an including violence – have been used to prevent Israelis or their supporters from being heard at public gatherings). That said, as Adam has pointed out, Jewish Voice for Peace’s second “front” site (the first being Muzzlewatch) did mention the Oren incident, but only to demand understanding for those who tried to shut down free speech at Irvine.

Well a couple of days back, Muzzlewatch itself finally managed to chime in on the incident in a piece which focused exclusively on the punishments being contemplated for the perpetrators of the incident.

Now I don’t claim to be fully aware of how seriously school authorities are about making the incident an expellable or even prosecutable offense. Nor will I speculate (as does Muzzlewatch) on the involvement of parties outside the university in either planning the disruption of the Oren event or in attempts to influence how the perpetrators of that disruption are to be treated.

But I will note how interesting I find it that after 3-4 years online, the only statement I believe Muzzlewatch has ever made on the subject of people trying to stifle the free speech of Israeli or pro-Israel speakers (something that’s become routine in recent years, especially at West Coast universities) has been to ignore this clear-cut example of “muzzling” and instead ask us to consider only the (so far, theoretical) fate of the muzzlers.

You would think that an organization posing as champions of speech would at least be willing to acknowledge the achingly obvious fact that those with whom JVP/Muzzlewatch politically agrees might take part in attempts to stifle discussion of the Middle East (even if they can’t bring themselves to admit that virtually all attempts to shut down debate via tactics of intimidation and violence come from those they support).

But, once again, this question would assume that Muzzlewatch actually exists to promote free and fair debate which – as we’ve been proving here again and again – they most clearly do not.

Rather, Muzzlewatch is simply a tactic: a pre-emptive strike against any and all who might question the activities, motives, alliances or behavior of Jewish Voice for Peace and its allies.

While, to most of us, “muzzling” consists of actual attempts to limit free speech of others (much like what happened in Irvine), Muzzlewatch (as always) takes an opposite approach: defining as “muzzling” any attempt by their political adversaries to use their free speech rights to say things JVP would prefer never get spoken or heard.

Monday, March 8, 2010

BDS: The Hobgoblin of Tiny Minds

I had considered setting up a Google Alert to tell me if the San Francisco Jewish Federation took action after last year’s Jewish Film Festival fiasco to ensure that groups like Jewish Voice for Peace could no longer exploit the community’s resources for their own narrow-minded ends. But then, I figured, why bother? If the Federation did pass such a measure, an audible shriek would reach my East Coast ears from Northern California far faster than Google could deliver the news.

Sure enough, the Federation did decide that if JVP and similar organizations wanted to defame the Jewish state, they would have to do so with their own money. And a split second later, Muzzlewatch was on the air describing this decision as a McCarthyite call for ideological purity on the subject of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Aside from the pot calling the kettle black vis-à-vis narrowing conversation to just one point of view, Muzzlewatch spokesperson Cecilie Surasky seems to have forgotten that just a few weeks ago she was announcing their independence from the elites, declaring herself a general in some sort of Army of Davids that would win the war without the need to suck up to groups like the SF Federation.

But, of course, if they cannot infiltrate or attach themselves to more mainstream organizations, Jewish Voice for Peace remains exposed as the minority of the minority of the Jewish community, increasingly committed to just two tasks: advocating boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and declaring any non-Jewish individual or organization accused of anti-Semitism “Not Guilty” (with a Jewish accent). And so, the Muzzlewatch Army continues it's Battle Whine of accusations against those who have the audacity to stop writing them checks.

Which gets me to Muzzlewatch’s second response to the Federation decision: their challenge to have Omar Barghouti debate Rabbi Doug Kahn, head of the SF, on the subject of BDS.

As background, it’s an old tactic to challenge your political enemies to a debate on your own narrowly restricted terms. For example, today I call on Cecilie Surasky to debate me on the following topic: “Muzzlewatch: Censoring Hypocrites, or Simply Self-Righteously Delusional.”

The purpose of such a “debate” is to put your political foes a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose situation of either fighting on someone else’s territory, or being declared too cowardly to address the issue. Now usually this tactic is not used in such a laughably obvious way, but here again we’re dealing with Muzzlewatch, a closed circle that has walled itself off from feedback that might make them realize how ridiculous they sound.

Take Barghouti’s challenge that the SF Federation, having established filters to avoid funding the defamation of the Jewish state, has demonstrated itself to be in favor of “boycotting” Israel’s defamers, and thus – in order to prove their consistency – must also support the notion of boycotts and divestment targeting Israel. But by that same token, shouldn’t JVP/Muzzlewatch/Barghouti then be in favor of US sanctions against Iran and Sudan (not to mention previous sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq) to avoid accusations of hypocrisy?

Taking it one step further, aren’t Israel’s actions against Hamas-controlled Gaza simply an application of the BDS formula Barghouti and his friends would like to inflict on Israel and thus consistency demands that the entire BDS movement support Israel’s Gaza-related choices as well?

Now the whole Barghouti issue is complicated by the fact that this champion of sanctions, who travels the world demanding (among other things) that colleges and universities sever all ties to Israeli academia is currently a heavily subsidized graduate student at an Israeli university. So if we are all to follow his demands for consistency, shouldn’t JVP be boycotting Barghouti or (to be completely consistent) shouldn’t Barghouti boycott himself?

If this is all starting to sound like a trip through the looking glass, remember that Jewish Voice for Peace (in its various guises) is actually quite consistent: If you agree with their political opinions, then everything is allowed (boycott, blacklist, censorship, shouting people off the stage, etc.). But if you don’t agree with the JVP point of view or (God forbid) have the temerity to criticize the organization then you’re guilty of hypocrisy and censorship.

To anyone at Muzzlewatch who disagrees with my analysis, the invitation to debate me on this topic, here or anywhere else, remains open.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Blog War Brings a Lesson on the Difference Between Criticism and Censorship

I won't weigh in here on Blogwars: Wieseltier v. Sullivan — I haven't followed it especially closely, and besides, enough has been said on the topic already.

But one particular line in one's response to other's reply to a response to — well, whatever it was, one particular line is of some relevance to this blog's theme:

Sullivan makes the erroneous, and self-glamorizing, assumption that criticism is a call for censorship. His heroes Mearsheimer and Walt have made a career out of this mistake....

Anyway, they, and Sullivan, have the right to say any damn thing they want about AIPAC, and Israel, and Jews. And I have the right to respond as strictly and as definitively as I can. I do not wish to silence them, I wish to refute them.

I'd suggest that the MuzzleWatch crew would benefit from reading that passage over and over again. But I just can't get myself to do it; I'm too afraid that they'll respond by calling me a Muzzler.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Camel Joke-y

Another Muzzlewatch semi-regular, Sydney Levy, seems to have his panties in a bunch over a recent Israeli government program to recruit the million Israelis who travel abroad each year as ambassadors for communicating an Israeli perspective on their country. This program, whose Hebrew-language Web site can be seen here, is part of an ongoing effort to try to portray the Jewish state in terms other than those approved by Muzzlewatch and its sponsors, Jewish Voice for Peace.

Now I have heard a number of reasonable critiques about not just the Masbirim program, but the entire effort to “brand” Israel based on the country’s contributions to the world (advances in computing, bio-tech and green technology, for example), as well as attempts to “normalize” the Israeli situation in the eyes of the world by highlighting the country’s cultural and social aspects. But most of these complaints focus on whether Israel should be talking about what a nice place it is vs. aiming its fire directly at the hypocrisy and bigotry that pass for discussion on the Middle East, best exemplified by the odious Israel Apartheid Week and by Muzzlewatch/JVP itself.

But the problem for Levy is not that Masbirim might be ill suited for the times (or even potentially lame). Rather, he seems most bent out of shape by the thought that anyone should be trying to tell a story about the Middle East that does not meet his demands, demands that Israelis and their supporters start any discussion by pronouncing themselves guilty.

As ever, the self-righteous seem impervious to things that the rest of us would recognize as irony. In one video segment, the Masbirim Web site portrays a fake British reporter yammering on about camels as the primary means of transportation in Israel, used by (among others) the Israeli cavalry. Once again, I’m not entirely sold on either the program or this joke (although the cavalry gag did make me smirk). But having spent time reading and watching (and even writing for) the British media in the past, the image of the dip-shit English scribbler way out of his depth in the Middle East, getting all the facts wrong while rhapsodizing melodically about the exotic landscape seems a fair target for ridicule.

Getting back to the main issue at hand, however, Muzzlewatch’s problem seems not to be with the details of the effort, but with the fact that Israelis are being asked to step up to tell their real, human stories in the first place. As this site has chronicled, Jewish Voice for Peace does accept Jewish voices that hue strictly to their party line, continually highlighting the Jewish last names of their members as “proof” that Jews support their cause.

But once the voice of vast majority of the Jewish and Israeli people try to get another word in edgewise, then – as far as JVP is concerned – they must be dismissed, ridiculed or shouted off the stage, with this censorship dismissed as an example of legitimate rage (coupled with accusations of “muzzling” against anyone who dares point out this reality).

For a site that pretends to be yearning for a free exchange of ideas, I’ve yet to discover any source more committed to stifling and limiting debate that Muzzlewatch. No doubt now that the site is only open to true believers they can continue to spend their time congratulating themselves on their virtues and courage, oblivious to the fact that most of us wised up to them years ago.

Friday, February 26, 2010

JVP Cheers Muzzlers. Really. (And: "They" Could Have Made A Two-State Solution Possible)

Here's a correction. An earlier post on MuzzleWatch Watch suggested that Jewish Voice For Peace, the self-proclaimed watchers of muzzling, "looked elsewhere" after Israeli ambassador Michael Oren's speech was stopped by hecklers at UC Irvine.

How wrong I was. On MuzzleWatch's sister site -- the one with the title that casts Israel as not being a democracy (MLK be damned) -- Jewish Voice for Peace actually celebrated the assault on open debate: "Well, kudos to the protesting UCI students, let us support them if the authorities try to punish them, and let us hope that more and more diverse groups of protesters will face Michael Oren...." Wow.

Finally, I'll add one thing to Jon's comments about MuzzleWatch chief Cecilie Surasky's latest attack (targeting an organization that recently shed some light on the "anti-Israel lobby").

It's just too hard to resist saying something about this particular assertion by Surasky, in the same way it's difficult for circus-goers not to stare at a bearded lady. Here's the outlandishness: "If the Israelis really wanted the Palestinians to have a state of their own, they could have made it happen years ago..."

Are they even trying anymore? Surasky's statement is a testament to the piddling faith she has in the intelligence of her readers, or the enormous faith she has in their stubborn dogmas. Because, in the real world -- the world occupied by most of us, the people don't dwell in the fringe-left or -right revisionist circles, and consider facts and the historical record to be of some value, it's Israel that has accepted or offered peace plans that would have ended the occupation and created a Palestinian state, not once, not twice, but three times in the past ten years, and it's the Palestinian leadership which has rejected each offer.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Calm Yourself Cecile

The level of hysteria over at Muzzlewatch seems to have reached fevered pitch lately.

As has been continually demonstrated, the mission of Muzzlewatch has nothing to do with free speech, and everything to do with getting those of us who actually care about free speech to question ourselves when criticizing political positions embraced by Muzzlewatch’s “parent company” Jewish Voice for Peace.

Similarly, Jewish Voice for Peace gets rather hot under the collar when it’s pointed out that – despite their name – their organization is dedicated to war with propaganda as its chosen method of militancy.

It makes no difference whether Muzzlewatch attempts to stifle debate and JVP plays its Orwellian game of “Peace is War” out of a deep cynicism or self-righteous fury. Whether they include themselves in the list of people they are trying to bamboozle is of no material interest.

Which gets us to Cecile Surasky’s latest tirade against yet another organization that has dared to use its free-speech rights to point out the truths Surasky and her friends so desperately want to remain hidden. In this case, an Israeli think tank has simply pointed out that, just as there exists an organized pro-Israel community of individuals and institutions dedicated to support of the Jewish state, so too there exists an organized anti-Israel community dedicated to the marginalization, demonization and (for some members of this group) elimination of said Jewish state.

JVP/Muzzlewatch frequently acknowledge the existence of a pro-Israel “scene,” imbuing it with as much sinister motive and scary implications as they can manage to cram into any paragraph that includes the acronyms ADL or AIPAC. But when someone else dares make mention of the obvious: that Israel’s critics are also organized into a community of individuals and institutions with a coordinated (if somewhat loose) organizational structure, out comes a new round of accusations and hilariously impotent threats.

“It’s not our tireless efforts on behalf of boycott, divestment and sanction that’s behind the BDS movement,” shouts Muzzlewatch (I’m paraphrasing): “It’s you lousy Israel supporters who refuse to do what you’re told and continue to insist that your political, civil and free speech rights include criticizing us in any way.”

“End the Occupation!” they shout, “The Occupation” being not so much a political state as it is a sacred talisman to members of Jewish Voice for Peace, a holy totem which magically washes away every sin of the Palestinians they claim as their moral lodestone: from rejecting countless offers of peace to starting one war after another.

It may seem petty to keep reminding people of Muzzlewatch’s choice to shut down their comments section on the flimsiest of pretexts, all to avoid the scrutiny of motives they demand as their right to dish out, but refuse to take. But now that the cat has escaped the bag, with the true nature of Muzzlewatch, JVP and its friends and allies becoming clearer by the day to more and more people, can you blame them for refusing to engage in the type of open dialog they pretend to crave?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Where do the Muzzlewatch Censors find the time?

In his two most recent posts, the creator of this Muzzlewatch-Watch site has pointed out two very clear-cut examples of actual attempts to squelch debate on the Middle East: the pulling of an invitation to Professor Benny Morris to speak at a British university, and (yet another) attempt to shout down an Israeli official invited to speak on a campus that Israel-haters have decided is “theirs.”

Needless to say, Muzzlewatch has nothing to say about either of these cases of real “muzzling,” as opposed to the stories they generally post to demonstrate their own martyrdom (normally consisting of nothing more than people having the audacity to criticize the opinions of Jewish Voice for Peace, the organization for which Muzzlewatch is simply a mouthpiece).

It is interesting to look at two stories Muzzlewatch did find time to highlight during the same period when their friends and allies were either smearing Benny Morris in Britain or shouting down Oren at Berkley.

The first is simply another in a long line of Cecile Surasky’s incoherent rants set off by the fact that one blogger accused another of anti-Semitism. That’s it. No repression, no firings, no calls for government investigation. Simply one blogger using his free speech to criticize a public figure (albeit sloppily), much like Surasky and her friends at Jewish Voice for Peace/Muzzlewatch do every day.

Once again, it helps to keep in mind that the Surasky/Muzzlewatch/JVP crowd have different definitions for terms such as “censorship” and “muzzling.” While most of us view “censorship” as the use of government power to shut down political discussion, and “muzzling” as a more vague catch-all bucket in which some authority (such as a school’s administration) sets inappropriate limits on certain types of speech, Muzzlewatch has a much simpler definition of both of these terms. For them, censorship and muzzling consists of anyone doing or saying anything counter to the JVP agenda, a crime committed by anyone who has the audacity to criticize JVPers in any way.

The second story they found time to post on while Morris and Oren were dealing with attempted political stoning was this piece, written in a chilling tone, about how the American Jewish Committee is looking to expand its presence in Europe. The fact that the organized American Jewish community has always been involved with overseas partners (on projects such as the three-decade rescue effort of Soviet Jewry), or that resurgent anti-Jewish violence in Europe might give American Jews a reason to help out their landsmen overseas seems to have escaped Surasky’s attention.

Instead, she plays the old trick of citing a like-minded news service to push the point she really wants to make: that the Jews are trying to stifle debate in Europe, just as they have in the US. Which must explain why Surasky is drawing a paycheck for doing her blogging, rather than hiding under her bed from the AJC stormtroopers.

It’s interesting to note that at the same time Muzzlewatch was shrieking its condemnation of American Jewish groups reach out to their equivalents overseas, Jewish Voice for Peace was starting a new project designed to prove that Israel is not a democracy. And who are they working on with this project? Why numerous pro-Palestinian organizations in Israel and beyond. In other words, Israel’s critics are free to do whatever they want and work with whomever they want, but if Israel’s supporters do the same they’re guilty of censorship or worse.

At this hour, I don’t think it requires any more effort to demonstrate that JVP/Muzzlewatch, despite their posing as a peace organization committed to free speech, is simply a militant propaganda group dedicated to squelching all voices that do not agree with their party line.

While I presume they will not allow comments on their new site, JVPers are always free to comment here and show us where we’ve gotten anything wrong. Otherwise, readers can assume that this analysis stands unchallenged.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Oren "Muzzled" at UC Irvine, MuzzleWatch Looks Elsewhere.

"Tracking efforts to stifle open debate about US-Israeli foreign policy." That's MuzzleWatch's tag line.

Maybe they are actually tracking such efforts. But what's certain is that they're not saying anything about attempts to stifle open debate when the ones being muzzled are moderate pro-Israel voices.

From UC Irvine, we have some more evidence that the Jewish Voice for Peace considers some muzzling to be condemnable, and some commendable, some types of speech to be good, and some bad.

This video shows what JVP and their MuzzleWatch blog seem to categorize as "commendable" muzzling of "bad" free speech:

Friday, February 5, 2010

Morris Muzzled, MuzzleWatch Silent

Benny Morris has pissed off all sides of the debate about the Arab-Israeli conflict. But, as far as I can tell, he's only been "muzzled" due to pressure from the anti-Israel side. And as usual, being that the muzzling comes from Israel's critics, there's not a peep from MuzzleWatch.

Cambridge University's Israel Society had invited Morris to speak, only to disinvite him following pressure by critics, including "the university’s Islamic and Pakistan societies who claimed he was an 'Islamophobic hate speaker'."

The Israel Society's explaination:
Ultimately, we place respect for those who have been offended above the importance of hosting this speaker. As such, in response to complaints about this speaker, we have cancelled this proposed event, and apologise for any unintended offence.

Controversial and potentially offensive as some remarks by Morris might have been, the allegation that he is an Islamophobe seems pretty dubious to me. In any rate, even those who see in Morris's mind "highly disagreeable" views make no bones about describing this affair as a "stifling free speech."

Not so MuzzleWatch, which has a history of winking at, or even speaking highly of, the censorship of pro-Israel voices.