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Those of us who believe that the Israeli government has finally gone too far in its slaughter of Gazan civilians because the whole world, including most Americans, finally recognize something called ethnic cleansing at a level approaching genocide when they see it, should be aware that pushback has arrived. Israel and its powerful friends in both the US and international media as well as in government circles are energetically rewriting the story, not only regarding Gaza, to restore Israel’s status as the beleaguered little democracy in the Middle East and America’s only true friend and ally.
The reconstructed narrative is backed up by a not so subtle system of punishments and rewards for those who either deviate from or support the new orthodoxy. Indeed, politicians in general are leading the charge because they have the most to benefit from being perceived as friends of Israel, particularly if they are ambitious. Criminalization of criticism of Israel is also on the agenda in a number of countries. A current bipartisan congressional resolution with 93 co-sponsors is seeking to limit what might or might not be said regarding actions undertaken by the Israeli government. It “decries and condemns the comparison of Israel to Nazis perpetrating a Holocaust or genocides as an insult to the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust.” The bill is one of a number that have been floated in several countries, including Canada, to make any criticism of Israel a hate crime.
Republicans are lined up solidly in support of Israel. Senator Ted Cruz even felt compelled to sing the praises of Israel during a dinner hosted by Middle Eastern Christians, who have been victimized by Tel Aviv, before he was booed off the stage. Senator Rand Paul, who occasionally and unsuccessfully tries to talk like his principled non-interventionist father, thinks that Israel’s regular military interventions into the shrinking Palestinians territories are just fine because they are “defense.” Five hundred dead Palestinian children are apparently just a footnote for the eye doctor from Kentucky and the lawyer from Texas.
And it is also notable how professional “bleeding heart” advocates of protecting suffering humanity worldwide routinely make an exception for the Middle East. Reliably liberal Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, always “progressive except for Palestine,” has felt compelled to describe Israel’s shelling of schools and hospitals as a response to Hamas’s alleged use of those buildings to launch rockets, justifying Israel’s “right…to defend itself.” Per Warren, killing civilians is the “last thing Israel wants.” It might be noted that Warren, like Paul, just might be harboring presidential ambitions.
And the reward system is international. North of the border the benefits derived from talking nice about Israel are perhaps more palpable. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who defended the bombing and shelling of Gaza, has described Israel as a light that “…burns bright, upheld by the universal principles of all civilized nations – freedom, democracy justice.” He has also said “I will defend Israel whatever the cost” to Canada. Harper has been nominated by Canadian B’nai Brith for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, an honor he would share with “change we can believe in” President Barack Obama for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” Yes, that is how the Nobel citation actually reads .
And not talking nice about Israel can sometimes bring down real punishment. Here in the United States the Yale University Episcopalian Chaplain Reverend Bruce M. Shipman who wrote in a letter to the New York Times suggesting that there is a “relationship between Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza and growing anti-Semitism in Europe and beyond” fell afoul of the Israel thought police, who descended on him immediately, forcing him to resign. It would seem to be common sense to make the connection that behavior influences perceptions, but one has to wonder how many “big donors” might have contacted Yale to suggest that such a paradigm is unthinkable at a leading institution of higher learning. Just speculating, mind you.
Across the pond, British Member of Parliament George Galloway was recently attacked and beaten in London by a man wearing an Israeli Defense Forces t-shirt who shouted about the holocaust as he dislocated Galloway’s jaw and broke his ribs. The attacker had been stalking Galloway and had written on his Facebook page that he would like to cut his throat. During the Israeli onslaught on Gaza, the parliamentarian had declared that his district in Bradford should be an “Israel free zone” and he urged his supporters to boycott all Israeli goods, services, academics and tourists. He was subsequently “interviewed under caution” by the police and investigated after complaints were received, during which he was questioned regarding “inciting racial hatred.” Galloway’s attacker has had a defense fund set up for him and the British government and media have been notably silent concerning rewarding someone for a premeditated assault on an elected official.
The latest effort also has its propaganda wing, promoting in the media the old argument that Israel should be judged by a different standard than other nations, which has meant in fact no standard at all. One particularly bizarre commentary comes from Michael Gerson of the Washington Post, who argues that it is the Palestinians who have benefited from a friendly mainstream media, not Israel, and that anti-Semitism is behind it all.
In fact, Israel’s friends get away with saying things that would not pass muster for any other ethnic or religious group. They do not hesitate to make the racist claim that all Muslims and Arabs in particularly have terrorist DNA which presumably justifies whatever Israel insists it has to do to keep them in line. The propaganda line goes something like this: Israel wants peace but the Arabs do not. Israel has suffered from Arab terrorists for many years even though it has done nothing wrong and has offered the hand of friendship. Israel is a democracy whereas the Arab states are all one form or another of autocracies, making it a natural friend and ally of the United States and Europe.
Regarding Gaza, the apologists claim that Israel was attacked and only defending itself. The United Nations and other international bodies are biased against Israel and can safely be ignored. The Arabs are so heedless of the value of human life that they deliberately used their own children as human shields while the Israeli army “the most moral in the world” reacted humanely and only returned fire when fired upon. In support of that line, Israel is disputing reliable United Nations statistics, obtained on the ground in Gaza, revealing that three quarters of the victims of the Israeli assault on Gaza were civilians, including 495 children and 253 women. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is instead insisting that 1000 of the more than two thousand dead were “terrorist operatives,” the preferred Israeli term, even though Israel has had no access to the actual casualties.
Of course the new “Stand by Israel” narrative is wrong in nearly every detail: the Israelis have rejected Arab offers for a comprehensive peace agreement; Israel started terrorism in the Middle East when it ethnically cleansed the Palestinians starting in 1948; the Israeli army epitomizes state sponsored terrorism in its brutal and illegal occupation of the West Bank; Israel is a true democracy only for its Jewish citizens; Israel provoked the carnage in Gaza; and there is no actual evidence of Palestinians using children as human shields. Israeli gunners killed civilians indiscriminately in their attack on Gaza just as they did in 2009 and, it might be added, that Israel has frequently been accused of other assorted crimes against humanity as well as war crimes over its oppression of the Palestinians. It has escaped any consequences because it is protected by the United States. Most recently Tel Aviv has announced plans to steal 1,000 more acres of land on the Arab West Bank for a new settlement, a violation of the Geneva conventions.
The most recent onslaught using the media to spread disinformation is attempting to demonstrate that groups like Hamas are pretty much the same as groups like ISIS. A full page ad that appeared in both the Washington Post and the New York Times on September 2nd, paid for by This World: The Values Network, an organization run by “America’s rabbi” Shmuley Boteach, claimed that radical Islam, which “threatens humanity,” is “beheading and crucifying children in its genocidal war,” while in Iran “the gay hating, women-stoning, free speech suppressing mullahs continue to fund murderous attacks against Americans and Jews worldwide, threatening Israel with nuclear annihilation.”
Boteach also informs the reader that “…bloodthirsty Hamas terrorists fire rockets at Israelis from homes, schools and mosques. Hamas sacrifices Palestinians babies as human shields, and uses Palestinian children as slave labor to builds terror tunnels in its never ending genocidal war against the Jews.”
To what end? The United Nations continues to “…castigate the Middle East’s only democracy as it acts in self-defense against the Hamas death cult.” The solution? “Join our fight against the UN making suckers of Americans. Join our fight against the Israel haters…”
One might rejoin, if rejoinder were invited by Rabbi Boteach, that many of the claims that he makes about wicked Arabs come straight from the hasbara propaganda mill at the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Also, for one who claims to be an American citizen he fails to make any legitimate case that his own countrymen are in any way threatened by Iran or the Palestinians. He does cite Congressional support for recent Israeli war crimes but as everyone inside the beltway knows, that is low hanging fruit that can be plucked by anyone who cheerleads for Israel.
Indeed Boteach’s passion for another country blinds him to what US interests actually might be. He also chooses to ignore the fact that even if one is uncritically partisan it is indisputable that the Israelis have not exactly been innocents amidst all the death and destruction, that indiscriminate shelling and bombing of Gaza have killed more than 2,000, one quarter of them children, and that it will cost nearly $8 billion to repair all the physical damage inflicted by the humane Israeli Army.
So if you listen to the politicians and media you will be bombarded with one vision of Israel, but if you actually pay attention to what is going on you might come to a different conclusion. Rabbi Boteach urges his supporters to stop the UN from “making suckers of Americans.” Actually, it is Israel and its friends that have been making suckers of the rest of us for a long time, a process that must end if the United States is ever to salvage any moral high ground from the disasters of the past thirteen years.