Dear Israel Lobby, we give up — please give us an acceptable way of insulting you

Joshua Holland writes: The latest round in the long and nasty debate over Israel, Palestine and our own government’s Mideast policy began with a coordinated campaign — initiated by a former AIPAC staffer and eagerly picked up by the conservative media — to marginalize a handful of progressive bloggers at the Center for American Progress and Media Matters who wrote critically of Israel’s hard-right government and called its enablers in the United States “Israel Firsters.” (I wrote about the dust-up in December.)

The back and forth has continued since then, and it’s now become clear that we need to offer a simple challenge to those who say that such terms are beyond the pale because they bear some vague resemblance to some old “anti-Semitic trope” or another. What, exactly, is an acceptable way of mixing it up with these people? How can we marginalize their malign policy preferences without being smeared as anti-Semites or self-loathing Jews?

America’s political discourse is not a garden party. We’re factionalized, and we throw sharp elbows, especially online, where conservatives call liberals “moonbats,” and accuse them of hating America, and liberals lob back terms like “wingnut,” and accuse their counterparts of being morons.

In the debate over Israel and Palestine – and U.S. policy in the Middle East – one side has been disarmed, their derogatory labels rejected as singularly unacceptable, while their opponents remain free to use the coarsest insults against them with impunity.

The problem stems from the objective fact that there are a group of Americans – disproportionately represented among right-wing Christian evangelicals and older generations of Jewish-Americans – who ally themselves with the Israeli government. They do so regardless of its ideological bent at the moment and deny that the Palestinians have legitimate grievances (sometimes going so far as to deny their existence). They wish away the cruelty of the occupation, pretend that there are only rejectionists on the Palestinian side and Israel only wants peace, claim Israel has never violated international law or trampled on human rights, insist that Israeli Arabs don’t face hostility and discrimination and go around calling everyone who disagrees anti-Semites and terror supporters.

And despite the fact that their views are totally out of sync with most liberal Israelis, and many of the policies they favor, like a military attack on Iran, would likely result in an utter disaster for Israel as well as its neighbors, they insist on calling themselves “pro-Israel.”

People who do not accept these arguments have attempted to characterize the views of this group and to come up with a variety of typically rough-and-tumble labels to apply t it. But all of them have been condemned as entirely out of bounds because, if held up to the light in just the right way, they kind of, sort of resemble some old anti-Semitic stereotype.

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Comments

  1. You’ve said it perfectly and I call it Holocaust leverage. Because we all feel at the least ashamed of that terrible historical event, Zionists have run with it by taking full advantage of the fact that any comment regarding Jews in a negative way is uncomfortable. Take any statement about people as a group – Irish, Vietnamese or what have you and people make comments all the time that don’t give pause in the way that the same statement would if “Jews” were substituted while in the US, the Arabs are subject to all manner of outrageous statements without a second thought.

    Norman Finkelstein got it right when he said that Zionists use the Holocaust as a club with which to beat the Palestinians. The height of irony – the suffering of innocents in history is fashioned into a shield to protect those who cause the suffering of innocents.
    Israel is unique in history for this factor and explains in large part the fact that it has pulled off overt racism in direct contradiction to the trend of modern times.

    It’s only now that this invisible shield is crumbling. It’s crumbling because those who use it are becoming so strident and the factual evidence of what they are doing so obviously hypocritical that only money and other-worldly Christians keeps the project going. The exemplar of the whole phenomenon is Abe Foxman, a terribly overweight guy who sees himself as the voice of the skin-and-bones Holocaust victims as he tours the world dining in the finest restaurants, lecturing those in power on how they can be more righteous in the eyes of the ADL. The self-righteousness is staggering. Hypocrisy, thy name is Israel.

  2. delia ruhe says:

    Cliff Brown has a good point. The holocaust fetish is powerful, and Israel Firsters are its chief fetishizers.

    But not to worry. Antisemitism is no longer a question of ethics or morals but is rather, a matter of opinion. And we all know that great minds can differ. It’s just amazing the success with which Israelists have completely blunted the antisemitism weapon. Now they’re left with only “delegitimizer” — which is quickly losing any potency it might have had — while “nazi” and “kapo” are getting pretty tiresome. I wonder what the Department of Hasbara will come up with next.