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.