posted on Nov, 5 2009 @ 02:45 PM
Column One: Silencing dissent in America
October 30, 2009
Caroline Glick, THE JERUSALEM POST
Former ambassador to the UN Dore Gold should probably buy himself a
flak jacket. Gold is scheduled to debate Richard Goldstone at
Brandeis University next Thursday and the anti-Israel forces are
organizing quite a reception for him.
Goldstone, who chaired the UN Human Rights Council's commission
charged with accusing Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza during
Operation Cast Lead, has become a darling of the anti-Israel Left in
the weeks since his report accusing Israel of committing both war
crimes and crimes against humanity was published last month. And
anti-Israeli leftists don't like the idea of someone challenging his
libelous attacks against Israel in a public debate at a university.
In an e-mail to a campus list-serve, Brandeis student and anti-Israel
activist Jonathan Sussman called on his fellow anti-Zionists to
disrupt the event that will pit the "neutral" Goldstone against Gold
with his "wildly pro-Zionist message." Sussman invited his list-serve
members to join him at a meeting to "discuss a possible response."
As the young community organizer sees it, "Possibilities include
inviting Palestinian speakers to come participate, seeding the
audience with people who can disrupt the Zionist narrative, protest
and direct action." He closed his missive with a plaintive call to
arms: "F**k the occupation."
Apparently the aspiring political organizer never considered another
possibility: listening to what Gold has to say.
It seems rather unfair to pick on a small fry like Sussman. A brief
Web search indicates that Gold's would-be silencer divides his time
fairly equally between publishing rambling, Communist verses to
paramours and calling for the overthrow of the US government.
The problem is that Sussman's planned "direct action" against Gold is
not an isolated incident. On college campuses throughout the US,
Israelis and supporters of Israel are regularly denied the right to
speak by leftist activists claiming to act on behalf of Israel's
"victims," or in the cause of "peace." In the name of the
Palestinians or peace these radicals seek to coerce their fellow
students into following their lead by demonizing and brutally
silencing all voices of dissent.
This, by the way is true regardless of where the speaker fits on the
pro-Israel spectrum. Earlier this month former prime minister Ehud
Olmert - who during his tenure in office offered the Palestinians
more than any of his predecessors - could barely get a word in
edgewise above the clamor of students at the University of Chicago
cursing him as a war criminal.
While many commentators claim that the situation on college campuses
is unique, the fact is that the attempts of leftist activists on
campuses to silence non-leftist dissenters regarding Israel and a
host of other issues is simply an extreme version of what is
increasingly becoming standard operating procedure for leftist
activists throughout the US. Rather than participating in a battle of
ideas with their ideological opponents on the Right, increasingly,
leftist activists, groups and policy-makers seek to silence their
opponents through slander, intimidation and misrepresentation of
their own agenda.
CASE IN point is J Street. The 18-month old, multi-million dollar
American Jewish political action committee held its inaugural
convention this week in Washington. J Street seeks to present itself
as the representative of a silent majority of American Jews. However,
its signature positions - while in line with the Obama
administration's policies - are deeply discordant with mainstream
American Jewish views.
J Street asserts that Israel must freeze all Jewish construction
beyond the 1949 armistice lines; that Israel should withdraw to the
1949 armistice lines, including in Jerusalem and expel all Jews now
living beyond the 1949 armistice lines; that the absence of peace is
due to the absence of a Palestinian state; that Israel used excessive
force in Operation Cast Lead and the Goldstone Report is legitimate.
J Street also opposes both sanctions on Iran and military strikes
against Iran's nuclear facilities.
Just how profoundly out of synch these positions are with the
American Jewish community was made clear with last month's
publication of the American Jewish Committee's 2009 Annual Survey of
American Jewish Opinion.
According to the survey, a majority of US Jews oppose the Obama
administration's call for the prohibition of Jewish construction in
Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. Similarly, the vast majority of US Jews
rejects the call for Israel to surrender parts of Jerusalem to the
Palestinians; believes the cause of the Palestinian conflict with
Israel is the Arabs' desire to destroy Israel rather than the absence
of a Palestinian state; and supports Israel's right to defend itself
against Palestinian terror. A whopping 94 percent of American Jews
believe the Palestinians should be required to accept Israel's right
to exist as a precursor to any viable peace. Finally, a solid
majority of American Jews supports either a US or an Israeli military
strike against Iran's nuclear installations.
But no matter. Facts are no obstacle for J Street. Just as Sussman
smears his opponents to discredit dissenting views, so J Street has
not only misrepresented its own place on the American Jewish
ideological spectrum. It has misrepresented the position of
mainstream American Jewish groups on the ideological spectrum. Owing
no doubt to the fact that most American Jews self-identify as
liberals, J Street condemns organizations like AIPAC and the ADL as
right-wing or conservative or hawkish to try to make American Jews
feel uncomfortable supporting them.
At its conference this week J Street's radicalism was on full
display. According to the JTA account, one panel discussion featured
members of Congress debating the proposition that American Jewish
money controls US foreign policy. Congressman Bob Filner
(D-California) was reportedly the darling of the crowd for arguing
that indeed, Jewish money exerts inordinate and destructive influence
over US foreign policy.
Filner related how in 1994 he was one of the few members of Congress
who refused to sign onto a resolution condemning an anti-Semitic
speech given by Nation of Islam lieutenant Khalid Abdul Muhammad.
Filner claimed that by refusing to condemn a public figure's calumny
against the Jewish people he lost some $250,000 in electoral
contributions in each subsequent election cycle. "That kind of money
is an intimidating factor. I raised a lot less in succeeding years,
but my conscious was cleared," he bragged.
Filner went on to condemn pro-Israel lobbyists in general. Indeed he
insinuated that the act of lobbying on behalf of Israel is inherently
treacherous. Filner argued that unlike labor lobbyists who provide
some public benefit, pro-Israel lobbyists are dangerous because they
convince legislators to take "positions that can lead to war."
Then there was the self-professed "pro-Israel, pro-peace" group's
panel discussion on Iran's nuclear program. As James Kirchick
reported in The New Republic, the panel included two of Iran's most
outspoken apologists in Washington. Both former National Security
Council staffer Hillary Mann Leverett and National Iranian-American
Council head Trita Parsi asserted a moral and security equivalence
between Iran, Israel and the US. Leverett accused opponents of Iran's
nuclear program of racism. In her words, those calling for Iran to be
denied nuclear weapons are "reinforcing stereotypes of Iranian
duplicitousness," and their warnings are "fundamentally racist."
Here we see how just as Sussman seeks to demonize dissenting views,
so J Street gives an open forum to radicals who castigate their
opponents as illegitimate, racist and treacherous.
Perhaps the most outstanding feature of the far-left's behavior is
its trenchant refusal to acknowledge that it is the far-left. Just as
J Street fatuously claims to represent the American Jewish majority,
so it claims to be the American Jewish equivalent of the Kadima
Party. J Street's Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami told The
Jerusalem Post, "The party and the viewpoint that we're closest to in
Israeli politics is actually Kadima."
This of course is pure nonsense. Kadima - like every other Zionist
political party in Israel - supports strong sanctions on Iran.
Indeed, Kadima supports taking whatever steps are necessary to
prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Beyond that, Kadima waged two wars while it was in office. Both
Operation Cast Lead and the Second Lebanon War were opposed by the
far-left. J Street was outspoken in its criticism of Cast Lead.
Moreover, Kadima's leaders have emphatically opposed the Goldstone
So other than its support for the rapid establishment of a
Palestinian state, Kadima shares none of J Street's positions.
THE FACT that J Street represents neither mainstream Israeli thinking
nor mainstream American Jewish thinking is of little concern to its
leadership. J Street represents the Obama administration. In his
keynote address before the conference, National Security Adviser
James Jones told his cheering audience that J Street has a friend in
the Obama White House. As he put it, "You can be sure that this
administration will be represented at all other future J Street
In recent weeks we have discovered that like its agent J Street, and
indeed like Sussman at Brandeis, the Obama White House is also
dedicated to silencing opposing voices by marginalizing and
demonizing dissent. In fact, the White House's modus operandi is
startlingly similar to theirs.
There are six national television networks in the US. Five of them
support President Barack Obama. One - Fox News - does not. Rather
than rejoice in what is an overwhelmingly favorable state of affairs
for it, in recent weeks, the Obama White House has gone to war
against Fox News. Obama's senior advisers have castigated the network
as "the research arm of the Republican Party," and claim daily that
it is "not a news organization."
Obama as well as top administration officials boycott Fox programs
and are seeking to intimidate friendly news organizations into
joining them in isolating Fox. In a spate of recent statements on the
subject, Obama's top advisers have warned the other networks not to
follow Fox's lead on any of the stories it reports, lest they
discover they have allowed themselves to become the tool of the
A straight line connects Sussman's rants, J Street's lies and the
Obama administration's attempt to destroy a news organization. In
each case, actions aimed at silencing debate are falsely
characterized as the brave moves of an underdog seeking to confront
the evil powers that be. Sussman writes of the need to overthrow the
"oligarchs." J Street claims to be breaking the "right-wing
stranglehold" on US Israel policy. And Obama's adviser Valerie
Jarrett claims that by attacking Fox News, the White House is
"speaking truth to power."
Luckily, the falseness of all of these claims has not been lost on
the American public. Despite the actions of the likes of Sussman,
"wildly pro-Zionist" voices still resonate on college campuses just
as they do throughout the US. J Street has been unable to convince
American Jews that its anti-Israel positions are the true expression
of American Jewish Zionism. And Obama's approval ratings now stand at
a mere 51%.
But the fact that these views have not become dominant in America is
no reason to be sanguine about the future. That opponents of free
speech today occupy the top echelons of power in Washington and are
represented at all levels of American society constitutes a critical
challenge to the continued vibrancy of American democracy.