February 22, 2009

World Wide Web wises up to antisemitism smear. The answer? Censor the World Wide Web

Many thanks to Gene in the comments for linking this Glenn Greenwald article in Salon denouncing the increasingly used antisemitism smear. It's one of those articles where I struggle to find a chunk to act as a soundbite for the whole thing. So here's a big old chunk of it:

The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg -- in a paragraph he entitles "Where the Left and Right Always Seem to Agree" -- writes (emphasis added):

Joseph Epstein's excellent essay in The Wall Street Journal about I.J. Singer's The Brothers Ashkenazi . . . contains this penetrating observation: "Politics taught I.J. the bitter lesson that, however much the extreme left and the extreme right might disagree, the one common ground upon which they met comfortably was anti-Semitism." This is an evergreen phenomenon, unfortunately. We see the brown-red coalition aligned against Israel in Europe, of course, and, in less dramatic, but still disturbing fashion, we [sic] The American Conservative, Pat Buchanan's paleo-con magazine, featuring the writings of doctrinaire leftists on Buchanan's least-favorite country, the one he recently compared to Nazi Germany. The Buchananites have even recruited Jews to do their Israel-bashing for them. This particular development falls in the category of shocking yet not exactly surprising.

His link to "Israel-bashing" in the penultimate sentence -- as in: "The Buchananites have even recruited Jews to do their Israel-bashing for them" -- is to an article I wrote for the January 26, 2009, issue of The American Conservative, an article in which I documented and criticized the lack of any disagreement or genuine debate in the U.S. Congress over America's ongoing, one-sided support for Israel generally and for Israel's attack on Gaza specifically.

As an initial matter, the rank guilt by association technique Goldberg employs here is not only painfully transparent but also factually false. Pat Buchanan has had no involvement with the publication or editing of that magazine for many years. But why let facts get in the way of rabid attempts at character assassination?

And even if Buchanan were still involved with that magazine, which he isn't, it's intellectual dishonesty of the lowliest kind to toss around epithets based on Buchanan's views aimed at anyone and everyone who writes for that journal, regardless of what they write. They publish writers as diverse as Andrew Bacevich, James Pinkerton, Philip Weiss, Dainel Larison, and Rod Dreher. Pat Buchanan spends his day opining on virtually every MSNBC program that exists; are all MSNBC commentators and hosts responsible for Buchanan's views? Is it now fair to blame all Atlantic writers for Goldberg's 2002-2003 extreme dishonesty in spewing blatant propaganda and outright falsehoods in order to persuade the American public to support the attack on Iraq? This is all just Smear Tactics 101.

More notably, what Goldberg is doing here in unusually unconcealed (though otherwise characteristic) fashion is relying on the most standard, by-now-clichéd debate-suppressive tactic of neoconservative Israel-fanatics in the U.S. Anyone who criticizes the actions of the Israeli Government will, for that reason alone, have "anti-Semite" tossed in their vicinity and attached to their name (just as those who criticized the actions of the Bush administration -- say, for attacking Iraq -- were branded "anti-American"). Any American citizen who argues that we are acting counter-productively with our unquestioning, full-scale support for Israel -- the use of American money, arms and diplomatic tools to enable anything the Israeli Government does -- is guilty of the crime of "Israel-bashing" and is condemned as being "anti-Israel" (or, worse still, will have the phrase "Sheikh Hassan" disgustingly placed before their name by Goldberg and his friends). These rancid equations are too familiar to require any elaboration or refutation.

But what is worth noting -- and celebrating -- is that a significant and palpable change has occurred. Whereas these smear tactics once inspired fear in many people, now they just inspire pity. They no longer work. Very few Americans are going to refrain from expressing their views on American policy towards Israel out of fear that the Jeffrey Goldbergs of the world are going to screech "anti-Semitism" at them. Neocons are far too discredited and their policies far too self-evidently destructive for them to intimidate anyone out of questioning their orthodoxies. Now, watching neocons recklessly spew their bitter little epithets in lieu of (and in order to suppress) debate is like watching an old, dying dragon sadly trying to breathe mighty fire from its mouth but collapsing in a debilitating coughing fit instead -- or is like watching a disgraced, post-censure Joe McCarthy in 1956 stand in an empty Senate chamber and rail against hidden Communists. Nobody cares.

So what to do about this recalcitrance? After all, the zionists have the traditional media mostly sewn up, though they have lost their monopoly of late. But the web is a different story. Nick Cohen was right that blogs are the punk rock of the media. They give ordinary bods the opportunity to challenge the dinosaurs in writing.

So what are the zios gonna do about that?

Well there was a conference about how to stop criticism of Israel. Hang on, what was it called? Ah yes, The London Conference on Combatting Antisemitism and at the end of their triumph of getting more than half a dozen people to take them seriously they issued a declaration that Dr Hirsh feels should take pride of place on the home page of the Engage site.

Now, what's this about the web?
30. Governments should take appropriate and necessary action to prevent the broadcast of antisemitic programmes on satellite television channels, and to apply pressure on the host broadcast nation to take action to prevent the transmission of antisemitic programmes;

31. The OSCE should seek ways to coordinate the response of member states to combat the use of the internet to promote incitement to hatred;

32. Law enforcement authorities should use domestic “hate crime”, “incitement to hatred” and other legislation as well as other means to mitigate and, where permissible, to prosecute “Hate on the Internet” where racist and antisemitic content is hosted, published and written;

33. An international task force of Internet specialists comprised of parliamentarians and experts should be established to create common metrics to measure antisemitism and other manifestations of hate online and to develop policy recommendations and practical instruments for Governments and international frameworks to tackle these problems.

And what are they calling antisemitism? I cheekily saved that surprise.
29. Media Regulatory Bodies should utilise the EUMC ‘Working Definition of antisemitism’ to inform media standards;
And let's remind ourselves of what the EUMC says is antisemitic. It says that it's antisemitic to claim that there should not be a state specifically for Jews. It says that it's antisemitic to call Israel a "racist endeavour" in spite of the ethnic cleansing and segregationist laws without which, Israel wouldn't exist. It further says that it is antisemitic to accuse Israel of behaving like the nazis or of being an apartheid state. Finally it says it is not antisemitic to criticise Israel as long as you criticise other states for the same thing or things. That's very clever because no other state openly mobilises foreigners to come and live their whilst denying that right to people who actually come from there. Also, the stupid working definition has already disallowed criticising Israel for things that other states have been criticised, boycotted, sanctioned and even invaded for.

And Engage wants that to be the yardstick when it comes to censoring the web.

Now that was posted on Friday and there are only 3 comments on it, one of which proves the point that I am making. See this:
Point 1 in the declaration appears to equate ‘political actors who engage in hate against jews’ and those who ‘target the State of Israel as a jewish collectivity’. As Israel is a jewish state, presumably anyone who strongly criticises the State of Israel or advocates any kind of action against the State of Israel could be interpreted as ‘targetting the State of Israel as a jewish collectivity’. This phrase appears to offer indefinitely wide scope for suppressing any form of criticism of and action against the State of Israel, including legitimate criticism and actions motivated by concerns for human rights and international law, not by any form of racism or antisemitism.

Point 6 in the declaration includes in its definition of antisemitism ‘the singling out of Israel for discriminatory treatment in the international arena’ - would this include the international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement?

Has this person (called Never again for humanity, presumably as distinct from Never again for Jews only) never seen Engage before? Of course it offers "indefinitely wide scope for suppressing any form of criticism of and action against the State of Israel, including legitimate criticism and actions motivated by concerns for human rights and international law, not by any form of racism or antisemitism". That's the point. Or was the guy just making the obvious point more obvious? Or was he joking even? But since Dr Hirsh posted the post and since he allowed the question through, and it's rare for him to allow something that embarrases him through, when and what is he going to answer?

But Hirsh is claiming that he wants "antisemitism" banned from the web. He has openly accused this blog of being antisemitic, though both he and his partner have posted here before and he has used the antisemitism smear as an excuse to ban a comment that linked back here. Of course he only made his false allegation since I exposed his "Alf Green" persona but logically Hirsh is seeking to have blogs like this one banned from the World Wide Web. Thankfully people are wise to this nonsense but then, with regard to Israel, the gulf is widening between what people want and what governments do, so who knows what might happen. I'd better get backing up.

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