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.