First Published: 2012-05-01

 

Slandering Critics of Israel

 

Even as some ex-officials in Israel question the “messianic” behavior of Prime Minister Netanyahu, his hard-line American supporters are escalating a propaganda war against US academics who challenge Israel’s abuse of Palestinians. One ugly smear appeared on the New York Times’ editorial page, writes Lawrence Davidson.

 

Middle East Online

On April 24, the New York Times rented out part of its editorial page to the propaganda of right- wing Zionist David Horowitz, thereby taking the “newspaper of record” down into the gutter for the price of a quarter-page advertisement. The ad, which purported to be “a public service” by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, told the following libelous story:

“The Holocaust began with boycotts of Jewish stores and ended with death camps. The calls for a new Holocaust can be heard throughout the Middle East and Europe as well. In the wake of the murders of a rabbi and three children in Toulouse, it is time for the supporters of the Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel movement (BDS) to ask themselves what they did to contribute to the atmosphere of hate that spawned these and other murders of Jews.”

What is wrong with this story?

1. The analogy of BDS with Nazi-led “boycotts of Jewish stores” is (no doubt purposely) misleading. The Boycott movement is directed against Israel as a racist state and the economic and social agents (Jewish and non-Jewish) who support it. The notion that the BDS boycotts lead to death camps is fantasy. Whatever the crazy logic of the Nazis on the one hand and David Horowitz on the other, the BDS movement is an effort to prevent persecution of innocent people and not to promote it.

2. The notion that the BDS movement either “calls for a new Holocaust” or is associated with those supposedly doing so is nonsense. In reality, it is the right-wing Israeli fanatics who are calling for, and actually carrying out, their own small-scale version of a holocaust against the Palestinians, who have been forced into ghettos and Bantustans and who suffer homelessness, cultural genocide and periodic pogroms.

Indeed, the same week Mr. Horowitz placed his ad, Israel launched 57 military raidsinto Palestinian territory resulting in multiple injuries and death, destroyed at least 13 Palestinian shelters while beginning construction on 20 illegal settler houses. Yet the perpetrators of these crimes persist in portraying themselves as victims because once, under completely different historical circumstances, their ancestors were victims. But that was in the past. In the present the Zionists are the culprits and BDS movement seeks to bring out this tragic and ironic fact.

3. It is a gross misrepresentation to accuse those supporting BDS of contributing to “the atmosphere of hate that spawned … murder of Jews.” The BDS campaign has nothing to do with this atmosphere, but the actions of the Israeli leadership has everything to do with it.With the Zionist persecution of the Palestinians ongoing, one does not need a boycott movement to explain the upswing of anger.

Some may unfortunately fail to make the proper distinction between political Zionists and Jews in general, just like Horowitz and his ilk fail to make the distinction between terrorists and Palestinians in general. Yet, if the Israeli leaders and their supporters want to know where this anger is coming from, they need look no further than their own behavior.

However, they refuse to look. Instead they attempt to confuse matters and shift the blame from fanatic Zionist settlers and racist Israeli politicians onto those who would publicly expose the viciousness of Israeli policies. That is one of the aims of the Horowitz ad in the New York Times and it pursues it in very specific ad hominem fashion, singling out 14 academics by name.

When in November 1938 the Nazis launched the pogroms which became known as Kristallnacht, they painted Jewish stars on the sites to be attacked. In a similar way, Horowitz seeks to identify and label those he wishes to be “publicly shamed and condemned.” What does that mean? Should they lose their jobs just like the Jews who were forced out of their occupations by the Nazis? Should they be segregated out and impoverished like Palestinians? Perhaps Mr. Horowitz would applaud physical attacks? Just how Nazi-like does he wish the situation to get?

William Thomsonof the University of Michigan, one of 14 academics slandered by the Horowitz advertisement, notes that “groups and individuals will resort to unfounded character assassination and ad hominem attacks when reasoned discussion is beyond their abilities.” However, the country’s major national newspaper is not supposed to be an accomplice in such attacks. Yet, that is the case.

Ali Abunimahhas pointed out that the New York Times has “advertising acceptability guidelines” which require advertisements to “comply with its (the NYT’s) standards of decency and dignity” and not be “misleading, inaccurate or fraudulent.” Horowitz’s offering is blatantly all of this.

Yet there it was, in the April 24 edition of the “paper of record.” Horowitz’s propaganda was placed on the editorial page and not identified as an ad. What are we to make of this? It seems clear that the editors actually believe that the piece meets their standards of acceptability. But is the Times also telling us that this libel is an acceptable editorial? The entire affair calls into question (not for the first time) the judgment of the people who run this famous newspaper.

David Horowitz probably wrote this propaganda piece not only to shift blame but also to scare people – to frighten those named and scare off others from getting involved in the BDS movement. Yet he may well have overstepped and made himself the subject of critical attention rather than those he rails against.

That is what happens when your message reflects a viewpoint that is ideologically driven and fanatical. Cast this viewpoint in a more normal light and it looks weird and distorted.

The 19thcentury British essayist William Hazlitt once remarked that prejudice can only be convincing when it can pass itself off as reason. This is Horowitz’s rather gross effort to do just that. But identifying those opposed to Israeli behaviorwith Nazis is wildly unreasonable. Hopefully, at this stage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, most Americans recognize this to be so.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.

Consortiumnews

 

Turkey, Saudi Arabia could launch anti-ISIS ground operation in Syria

Saudi Foreign Minister: No Assad in the future, period!

Sadr loses patience with stalled progress on Iraq reform package

French PM warns major terrorist attacks will hit Europe again

Pope mends 1,000-year-old rift with Russian Patriarch

Russia sees ‘new Cold War’ amid strains with West

Assad vows to retake whole of Syria ‘while negotiating’

Israel denies dropping controversial Brazil envoy pick

Yemen loyalist forces advance towards Sanaa

Italian PM warns Egypt friendship on the line

Tunisia prepares for possible intervention in Libya

UAE to deploy jets, commandos in anti-IS campaign

100,000 refugees in Syria border camps near Turkey

Greece given three-month ultimatum to remedy border ‘deficiencies’

Ankara hails world powers' Syria ceasefire plan

Five Yemen police killed in ‘Qaeda’ attack in Aden

Kuwait to finalise Eurofighter jet deal with Italy

S.Sudan president names arch-rival his deputy

Berlin film fest competition kicks off with Arab film

War-torn Syria gears towards 'cessation of hostilities'

Iraqi PM urges Kurdistan to drop any plans for independence

Russia accuses US planes of hitting Aleppo

Anti-ISIS coalition looks to decisive new phase

Turkey, Israel open new normalisation talks

Assault on Aleppo displaces tens of thousands

Moroccan King inaugurates Aquaculture Farm in Oued Ed-dahab

Turkish forces end operation in southern town

NATO launches unprecedented Aegean migrant naval mission

Erdogan threatens to send millions of refugees to EU

Suspected PKK militants attack two Turkey pro-govt newspapers

Train derails in Egypt’s Bani Sueif province

Iranians mark 37 years since Islamic revolution

Moscow ready to discuss modalities of ceasefire in Syria

Egypt hires UK firm to review Sharm security

Tunisia makes $500 million from assets of ousted president

Turkey dismisses pressure to open borders as 'hypocritical'

Efforts to form Libya unity government stumble over defence portfolio

Iran blames failure of Syria peace talks on participation of ‘terrorists’

Syria opposition hopes for end of sieges

UAE names women state ministers in major government shake-up

French Foreign Minister steps down with criticism of US role in Syria

Germany hopes Syria talks in Munich will agree to provide aid

Syrian Kurdish separatists open Moscow representation

Jordan rejects France extradition request for 1982 terror attack suspects

Libya parliament extends deadline for formation of new unity government