Tracking the consequences of Israel’s apparent conviction that it should never be bound by the rules and conventions that constrain the behavior of other countries sometimes leads one into dark places. The daily torments inflicted on the Palestinians is increasingly a horrific tale that has no apparent end, while Benjamin Netanyahu struts and boasts of his power to do more and even worse, openly calling for war with Lebanon, Syria and Iran on a world stage where no one seems willing to confront him.
I have chronicled how Israel does terrible damage to the United States, through inciting war, its financial demands, and its unparalleled ability to make Washington complicit in its war crimes and general inhumanity. But, as bad as it is, in some areas the worst is yet to come, as Israel and its hubristic leaders know no limits and fear no consequences, thanks to the uncritical support from the American Establishment, a large percentage of which is Jewish, that is unwilling to take a strong stand against Netanyahu and all his works.
Israel has been particularly successful at promoting its preferred narrative, together with sanctions for those who do not concur, in the English language speaking world and also in France, which has the largest Jewish population in Europe. The sanctions generally consist of legal penalties for those criticizing Israel or questioning the accuracy of the accepted holocaust narrative, i.e. disputing that “6 million died.”
Those attacking Israeli government policies can be found guilty of antisemitism, which is now considered a hate crime in Britain. Under the new law, passed in December 2016, Britain became one of the first countries to use the definition of antisemitism agreed upon earlier in the year at a conference of the Berlin-based International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).
A statement from British Prime Minister Teresa May’s office explained that the intention of the new definition was to “insure that culprits will not be able to get away with being antisemitic because the term is ill-defined, or because different organizations or bodies have different interpretations of it”.
May went on to elaborate how the law“…means there will be one definition of antisemitism – in essence, language or behavior that displays hatred towards Jews because they are Jews – and anyone guilty of that will be called out on it.” The Guardian, in covering the story, added that “Police forces already use a version of the IHRA definition to help officers decide what could be considered antisemitism.”
The British government’s own definition relies on guidance provided by the IHRA, which asserts that “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews” and elaborated that it could be considered antisemitic to accuse Jews of being “more loyal to Israel or their religion than to their own nations, or to say the existence of Israel is intrinsically racist.” In other words, even if many Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the countries they live in and even though Israel is intrinsically racist, it is now illegal to say so in Great Britain.
The British government’s subservience to Jewish and Israeli interests is nearly as enthusiastic as in the United States, though it is driven by the same sorts of things – Jewish money and Jewish power, particularly in the media. A majority of Conservative Party members of parliament have joined Conservative Friends of Israel and the Labour counterpart is also a force to be reckoned with on the political left.
Last November there was a major scandal when Britain’s Overseas Development Minister Priti Patel was forced to resign after she held 14 “unofficial” meetings with Israeli government officials, including Netanyahu. The meetings were during a “vacation trip” in Israel arranged by a British Jew with the improbable name Lord Polak who functions as a lobbyist for the Jewish state. During her visit, Patel visited an Israeli military hospital in the occupied Golan Heights. When she returned to Britain, she began to work on the feasibility of sending U.K. aid money to the Israeli Army for its alleged humanitarian work. None of the meetings were reported to the British Foreign Ministry.
Here in the United States, the friends of Israel appear to believe that anyone who is unwilling to do business with Israel or even with the territories that it has illegally occupied should not be allowed to do business in any capacity with federal, state or even local governments. Constitutional guarantees of freedom of association for every American are apparently not valid if one particular highly favored foreign country is involved.
Twenty-four states now have legislation sanctioning those who criticize or boycott Israel. And one particular pending piece of federal legislation that is also continuing to make its way through the Senate would far exceed what is happening at the state level and would set a new standard for deference to Israeli interests on the part of the national government. It would criminalize any U.S. citizen “engaged in interstate or foreign commerce” who supports a boycott of Israel or who even goes about “requesting the furnishing of information” regarding it, with penalties enforced through amendments of two existing laws, the Export Administration Act of 1979 and the Export-Import Act of 1945, that include potential fines of between $250,000 and $1 million and up to 20 years in prison
According to the Jewish Telegraph Agency, the Senate bill was drafted with the assistance of AIPAC. The legislation, which would almost certainly be overturned as unconstitutional if it ever does in fact become law, is particularly dangerous and goes well beyond any previous pro-Israeli legislation as it essentially denies free of expression when the subject is Israel.
Israel is particularly fearful of the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement because its non-violence is attractive to college students, including many young Jews, who would not otherwise get involved on the issue. Benjamin Netanyahu and his government clearly understand, correctly, that BDS can do more damage than any number of terrorist attacks, as it challenges the actual legitimacy of the Israeli government and its colonizing activity in Palestine.
Israel has recently passed legislation criminalizing anyone who supports BDS and has set up a semi-clandestine group called Kella Shlomo to counteract its message. The country’s education minister has called BDS supporters “enemy soldiers” and has compared them to Nazis. Netanyahu has also backed up the new law with a restriction on foreigners who support the BDS entering the country. This has included a number of American Jews who have been critical of Netanyahu, bringing home to them for the first time just how totalitarian “the Middle East’s only democracy” has actually become.
The British experience as well as a recent case involving New Zealand illustrate just how insensitive Israel is to the interests of other nations and should serve as a warning to Americans of how Netanyahu and company are heedless of fundamental rights like freedom of speech and association. A prominent New Zealand singer who goes by the name Lorde canceled a planned tour to Israel based on her concerns about the mistreatment of the Palestinians. End of story? No. She was promptly lambasted by the usual suspects including Howard Stern and “America’s Rabbi” Shmuley Boteach and was then punished by the Grammys ceremony in New York City on February 8th, where she was told that she would not be allowed to sing one of her own songs even though she was up for album of the year. She was the only finalist who was blocked in that fashion and no one in the media, predictably, linked the two events and recognized that she was almost certainly being punished for not performing in Israel.
Now Lorde is in the middle of a lawsuit initiated by the Israeli government supported lawfare organization called Shurat HaDin. In line with its own anti-boycott legislation, Israel now believes it has the right to sue anyone who supports BDS no matter what country they live in or where they indicated their support. In this case, Israel is intent on silencing New Zealanders who exercised their freedom of speech in New Zealand.
Shurat HaDin is no stranger to foreign courts, though it has lost more cases than it has won. In February 2015, a lawsuit initiated by it led to the conviction of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization of liability for terrorist attacks in Israel between 2000 and 2004 even though there was no evidence demonstrating that there had been any direct involvement by either body. A New York Federal jury and judge, always friendly to Israeli or Jewish litigants, awarded damages of $218.5 million, but under a special feature of the Anti-Terrorism Act the award was automatically tripled to $655.5 million. Shurat HaDin states that it is “bankrupting terror.”
In the New Zealand case two New Zealand women who used publicly accessible social media to convince Lorde to cancel her concert are being blamed by Shurat HaDin for the mental anguish of several Jewish concertgoers who apparently have been in a state of shock since the Lorde cancellation was confirmed. They are suing for “moral and emotional injury and the indignity” and also for the New Zealanders having violated the anti-BDS legislation “to give real consequences to those who selectively target Israel and seek to impose an unjust and illegal boycott against the Jewish state.”
Based on past experience, Shurat HaDin might even win the case inside Israel while finding that the ruling will not be accepted or enforceable in New Zealand as it is in violation of that country’s constitution. But the real intent is to intimidate critics and, as in some cases brought in the U.S., to force opponents to spend money on defense lawyers, making critics of Israel reluctant to go public or even willing to settle out of court. Friends of Israel make sure that any criticism of the country they love above all others becomes toxic. Florida State Senator Randy Fine is, for example, currently demanding that Tampa and Miami cancel upcoming April concerts by Lorde to punish her for her “anti-Semitic boycott” of Israel. He is abusing his position as an elected public official to silence someone he doesn’t agree without of deference to a racist foreign country that has nothing to do with the United States.
It is important for Americans to realize that Israel not only spies on the U.S., digs its paws deep into our Treasury, and perverts Washington’s Middle East policy, it is also attempting to dictate what we the people can and cannot say. And Congress and much of the media are fully on board. This is absolutely insufferable and must be stopped. Groups like Shurat HaDin flying into New York to exploit friendly Manhattan judges and juries to advance Israel’s toxic agendas should be told to go home upon arrival.
Israel’s complete hypocrisy was highly visible in yet another news story last week. The Polish government has passed controversial legislation, subject to judicial review, to criminalize any claims that Poles were responsible for the Second World War prison camps that the Germans set up in their country. This has been strongly and vociferously opposed by Netanyahu speaking for the Israeli government, which is apparently concerned that its claim on perpetual and universal victimhood is being challenged. Washington is also, to no one’s surprise, lining up with Israel, threatening that the new law might damage bilateral relations with Warsaw.
Characteristically, no one in the U.S. mainstream media, which is generally supportive of Bibi’s complaints, is noting that the proposed Polish legislation is not too dissimilar to any number of existing anti-free speech laws criminalizing holocaust denial in Europe or criticism of Israel in the United States. Nor is it different than some laws in Israel, including the criminalization of anyone who speaks or writes in support of BDS. As usual, there is one standard for Jewish issues and Israelis and a quite different standard for everyone else.