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?