The notion that legitimate criticism of a lobbyist group and of Israel’s government is somehow anti-Semitic is absurd. Both the Democrats and the Republicans in the US, however, firmly believe this is the case, as does Israel. So much so that they have introduced laws in defence of Israel that actually restrict the actions of states to participate in any kind of boycott of Israel, laws that stifle freedoms in the land of the free.
What makes me bring this up is two things. The first is how Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar was forced to apologise for a tweet she made in response to Glenn Greenwald’s comment about why the US is so intent on defending Israel. The second is the book I am currently reading: Gaza Unsilenced.
Omar made reference to the fact that political donations and lobbying were the culprits behind legislation (like the above) being passed, in this case specifically AIPAC, a powerful and, as described by some, intimidating pro-Israeli lobbyist group. Almost immediately there was backlash, with screams of rampant anti-Semitism and the injustice faced by Jews. If you read her comments and the first thing you think of is of race and religion, then you’re an idiot. It is no secret that Israel and the Jewish lobby has a fair amount of power over US foreign policy in the Middle East, and over its internal policies in relation to Israel.
I agree with Glenn Greenwald when he said (in an interview with Democracy Now!) that saying that should not be controversial. He goes through a list of lobbyists – big pharma, Silicon Valley, Saudi Arabia, the NRA – that the people and the press are allowed to freely criticise for any reason, but as soon as it involves Israel and/or AIPAC it suddenly becomes a sin to question them. Never mind the brutality they push onto the Occupied Territories, or how AIPAC has influenced US laws to make peaceful boycotts illegal – to say that apparently equates you to a racist bigot that hates Jews. I do not think Omar should have apologised – I think she should have made a stand and called out the hypocrisy of the situation.
The book I am reading, Gaza Unsilenced, is not a book so much as it is a collation of essays, articles, and images by and about the Israeli attack against Gaza, called (for PR reasons) Operation “Protective Edge”, in 2014. Only fifty pages in and already I have had to put the book down a few times to simply comprehend the pure horror of what those people faced, and still face in the endless blockade. What is so startling is how this event was played out in the Western media, and how similar coverage is taking place on the peaceful protests that have been taking place since May last year. At best the Gazan people are a nuisance being used by Hamas to score political points, and at worst they are all enemy combatants.
Reading those stories, it is hard to believe that anyone can still support Israel’s apartheid policies against the Palestinian people, but that just goes to show how potent propaganda is. If calling out Israel’s government for their human rights abuses and calling out AIPAC for being just another political lobby group, is grounds for being anti-Semitic, then so be it, those who will fling that label around shall do so. But another label fits that same description if you ever so slightly shift your viewpoint: human decency.
Liked this? Read Zionism: A Quick Observation
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