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.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

(UPDATE: Video Footage Casts Doubt On Story) On Canadian Campus, Pro-Israel Students Muzzled... With Fists

See important update, titled Update II, below.

Is it irony? Or is violent intimidation of pro-Israel students on Canadian campuses so common that the odds of such coincidence are favorable? Only hours after MuzzleWatch Watch co-blogger Jon was writing his post about difficulties faced by pro-Israel students in Canada, we have a new physical attack at York University.

It's not Jon's fault, really. His typed words simply couldn't have conjured this incident. It's impossible (even if there are a couple of fantasy movies with that premise). But the news is disturbing nonetheless.

York's rather vague account of what happened is as follows:
York University is looking into an incident that occurred on Monday,

Feb. 1 at about 4pm in Vari Hall at the University’s Keele campus.

York Security personnel were summoned to that location, where they found two groups involved in a dispute. Order was restored and both parties indicated that they did not want to involve the Toronto Police Service. Security agreed to their request and provided information about further dispute resolution options. Subsequently, three people gave statements of their version of the incident.

York deplores any comments and actions that are racist or anti-Semitic in nature. An investigation is currently underway, with the potential for disciplinary action. The University is reviewing closed-circuit video of the incident and is speaking to students who may have been involved. If there is evidence of a crime, the matter will be referred to the Toronto Police Service.

York University is committed to respectful discourse and civil engagement and is encouraging the parties to avail themselves of the services of the University’s Human Rights Centre.

Ah, that helps clarify things. It was an incident. But wait... something something something "anti-Semitic in nature"? What really happened here?

More details were provided by the Canadian Jewish news website ShalomLife:
Two Jewish students at York University were assaulted on Monday during a pro-Israel program.

Tyler Golden, Co-President, Hasbara Fellowships at York University, who was on the scene when the incident occurred, described the happenings in a conversation with Shalom Life: “Hasbara was tabling for Gilad Shalit. We run a campaign called Free Palestinians from Hamas. It was a very peaceful day and we had permission from the university to table. At around 4 o’clock, several anti-Israel known faces on campus came to start questioning us and debate with us.”

Golden said that the debate that had sprung up between the Hasbara people and the anti-Israel individuals quickly escalated into an angry mob of around 50 students, who surrounded his group and chanted anti-Israel and anti-Semitic slurs. “Security has asked us, when we come across these types of things, to call them which we did, as well as videotape it so they can see the faces and hear the voices of the people that do it. A few students on the other side were upset that there were cameras in their faces, so they started yelling and screaming. As they were trying to push cameras out of the way, they actually hit two students.”

Two York Security officers arrived on the scene. “They took down stories and students were allowed time to file complaints. I heard from the president’s office this morning that an investigation is under way,” said Golden.

But there's more. According to some very reliable hearsay that comes my way, one of the students that was slapped was a young female undergrad.

And despite York University's sanitized version, campus security apparently laughed at the two Jewish students when they asked if they should report the incident to Toronto police, thus discouraging them from taking action. The camera was apparently damaged during the fracas after falling to the ground as the student was being smacked.

Update: The reliable hearsay also suggests involvement by York University student Jesse Zimmerman. Zimmerman is said to be one of the "anti-Israel individuals" who initially was debating with the pro-Israel students. According to the account, Zimmerman stepped away from the debate to made a phone call, after which the 50 students quickly appeared and started bullying the two students. If true, this wouldn't be the first time Zimmerman headed an angry mob — see more at Jewlicious.

Update II: As noted in the comments to this post, I should have been more precise with my language, and more skeptical about an account relayed to me, indirectly, from a student involved in the incident.

The word "reliable," which I used to describe the hearsay, was meant to suggest that the source was someone very close to the action — like I said, a student directly involved in the incident. But I should have chosen a different word, since "reliable" wrongly suggests that I vouched for the honesty of this source, whom I don't know personally.

The more I look into it, the more it seems as if the source was dramatically embellishing what happened. If so, the misinformation is unfortunate in-and-of itself — lying is bad — and also because it's just not necessary for Israel's moderate defenders to invent things. The facts work just fine.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Poster Child

Cecilie Surasky once more draws her sword of righteousness to smite a grave violation of free speech. And lo and behold, yet again her ire is aimed at those who respond to provocative materials (in this case a poster) in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement!

It goes without saying that Muzzlewatch is the Website of Cecilie and her friends at Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and they are free to do with it as they want. Similarly, we here at Muzzlewatch-Watch are free to point out that the only times that Cecilie and Co seem to get hot and bothered about free speech issues is when anti-Israel partisans (particularly those in Club BDS) are limited (or even mildly criticized).

Back in the day before Muzzlewatch muzzled their audience by removing their comments section (from a recent visit, it looks like they’ve recently removed access to their archives as well so that people cannot even peruse exchanges from the past when other voices were allowed in), some of us asked rather pointed questions about the Muzzlewatchers reaction to frequent attempts by JVP supporters to shut down events featuring pro-Israel speakers through heckling, harassment and – occasionally – physical violence. I also responded to two pieces in which JVP members celebrated getting (presumably obnoxious) pro-Israel Web sites shut down, as well as asked why JVP was taking part in a muzzling lawsuit against local activists and the press in Boston.

With the exception of this final issue, Cecilie and Co never saw fit to explain this apparent contradiction, although they did find time to post dozens of entries before, during and since that characterized even mild criticism of the JVP party line as some kind of censorship.

Now getting back to the Carleton University issue, I will admit that my preference to telling students they cannot use this or that poster is to allow all voices (and posters) in the debate. In fact, this version of the controversial Israel-Apartheid Week poster would seem the appropriate antidote to the ugliness of those who are trying to hide their own nasty agenda behind suffering schoolchildren.

But that is just my opinion, and until I become the administrator of a large and diverse university (which is free to place certain limits on the student body, even in areas related to speech), it’s not entirely clear to me where to draw the line. No one would argue that racial slurs and sexual harassment have no place on a college campus (or anywhere else), but beyond that the grown-ups responsible for college campuses face tough choices when dealing with student activists who feel that their own cause is so important it gives them the right to trample on the opinions and feelings of others.

And keep in mind that Carleton is a Canadian (not a US) university and in Canada the debate over free speech has been dominated over the last year by discussions and even trials of people who have dared to speak or publish materials critical of radical Islam. And unlike 99% of what Muzzlewatch presents as stifling of free speech (most of which consists of other people using their free speech rights to criticize the opinions held by JVP), what’s been going on in Canada is a textbook definition of censorship (i.e., the use of government power to shut down discussion of a particular topic).

No doubt, divestment will fail at Carleton as it has in every college in North America over the last ten years. But that will never deter JVP and its allies from either declaring victory or claiming that the umpteenth failure of BDS was due to an administration that refused to allow them to launch a campaign based on childish provocations of the rest of the student body.