How the Media Cracks Down on Critics of Israel
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I was fired as a newspaper columnist after I joked about U.S. military aid to Israel on social media.
It is widely recognized that critics of Israel, no matter how well-founded the criticism, are routinely punished by both public and private institutions for their speech. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has documented a pattern by which “those who seek to protest, boycott, or otherwise criticize the Israeli government are being silenced,” a trend that “manifests on college campuses, in state contracts, and even in bills to change federal criminal law” and “suppress[es] the speech of people on only one side of the Israel-Palestine debate.” The Center for Constitutional Rights has shown that “Israel advocacy organizations, universities, government actors, and other institutions” have targeted pro-Palestinian activists with a number of tactics “including event cancellations, baseless legal complaints, administrative disciplinary actions, firings, and false and inflammatory accusations of terrorism and antisemitism” and concludes that there is a “Palestine exception to free speech.”
The effort to keep critics of Israel quiet sometimes takes the form of explicit government action—there is an open campaign to criminalize speech critical of Israel and some states even require oaths from government employees promising not to boycott Israel. But as Israeli journalist Gideon Levy notes in the Middle East Eye, it often comes in the form of baseless (and offensive) accusations that criticisms of Israel are definitionally anti-Semitic. In the United States, academic critics of Israel have had job offers rescinded or been otherwise kept from teaching, and CNN fired academic Marc Lamont Hill over his call for a free Palestine. In Britain, there has been a years-long absurd campaign to tar former Labour leader (and critic of Israeli government policy) Jeremy Corbyn as an anti-Semite. Human Rights Watch notes that the United States government has wielded unfounded accusations of anti-Semitism against it and against other human rights groups like Amnesty and Oxfam that have exposed Israel’s shoddy human rights record. Within Israel itself, the free speech rights of Palestinians are brutally suppressed, and even Jews supportive of Palestinian rights are regularly harassed by the state. Abeer Alnajjar of OpenDemocracy wrote last year about how “major, mainstream news media outlets are sensitized against any reference to Palestinian rights or international law, and any criticism of Israel or its policies.”
Personally, I had never thought about the question of whether I could suffer consequences for criticizing the government of Israel (and U.S. support for it). I have just about as much “free speech” as you can get in this world. Perhaps I should have thought about it more, though, because as soon as I crossed an invisible line, it was very quickly made clear to me. The moment I irritated defenders of Israel on social media, I was summarily fired from my job as a newspaper columnist.
I have been writing for the Guardian US since 2017, first as a contributor and then as a full columnist. I write almost exclusively about U.S. politics. I have never written about Israel. My editor has always been satisfied with my work, which is why I kept getting commissioned. I am good at putting out sharp, well-sourced, political commentary quickly, and needed little editing. (I only had a column spiked for content reasons once, as far as I can remember, which occurred when I criticized Joe Biden over Hunter Biden’s corrupt business ties.)
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February 12, 2021 at 2:26 PM #402834Ohio BarbarianModerator
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Mossad opened a file on me. I find out about that when I got my CIA file in the mid-90s, I think, and it mentioned Mossad had a file on me before the CIA did because I was a member of a college campus group that supported Palestinian independence. I attracted the CIA’s attention when I was in some anti-Contra and pro-Sandinista protests in the 1980s.
The tire-slashing, egging, and death threats came after my little group made the local news for asking an Israeli consul some hard questions at a public event. Well, I personally did as well. My parents received some as well, and they even had police protection for a few days. We were labeled with all of the usual nonsense.
It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it.--Eugene Debs
You can jail a revolutionary, but you can't jail the revolution.--Fred Hampton
February 12, 2021 at 4:01 PM #402862game meatParticipant
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Guy who argued that there is no cancel culture gets cancelled. Doesn’t exist, he says. https://www.currentaffairs.org/2020/07/the-right-wing-myth-of-the-left-wing-mob
Sometimes you really do reap what you sow. And now that this has spread further with the demonetizing of relatively tame youtubers…
Who could ever have predicted this would extend beyond Alex Jones and co.? Was stopping some freak from ranting about gay frogs and false flags worth it?
February 12, 2021 at 6:55 PM #402899
February 12, 2021 at 4:03 PM #402863RCW2020Participant
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February 12, 2021 at 4:29 PM #402866closeupreadyParticipant
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Thus, simply becoming part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.
I need my income, and while it was deeply frustrating to me to have the Guardian policing my tweets, I grudgingly felt I would have to accept the new limits I expected would be imposed on my public speech. I knew that the censorship would be aggravating, but it seemed unavoidable and I hoped it would be limited. At-will employment means employers exert coercive powers over employees’ speech, even off the job, and I have to pay my rent like anybody else.
Nobody can reasonably begrudge him the fact that he feels obligated to observe “unreasonable” censorship rules for off-clock tweets in exchange for a paycheck. But then when he breaks those rules and gets fired, I’m not so sympathetic to his complaints. That was the deal, he knew it, he agreed to it, he got published and paid, but he broke the deal and he got fired.
It sucks that this is where we are today, but this is where we are today. Not feeling for him, to be honest. If he had gotten fired for plainly criticizing (not scare quote “joking”) Israel’s conduct in the West Bank and Gaza, his complaints would have resonated, IMO.
The opinions and personal views expressed herein are solely those of the author, and should never be taken seriously.
February 12, 2021 at 5:15 PM #402876mrdmkParticipant
- Total Posts: 2,875
At this moment, Israel is not to be criticized in any shape or form.
If you cannot dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit WC FieldsWarning DO NOT CLICK HERE!
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