Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Theme: Israel is Collapsing; Losing Its Democracy. Evidence? None

Barry Rubin

It is truly amazing how anti-Israel forces generate so many false stories every day. At a time when revolutionary Islamists are taking over most Middle Eastern countries and the democracy dream in the region is collapsing, one would think that the main threat and evil force in the region is Israel. After all, we live in a time when Thomas Freedman, court jester for Middle East issues, can openly write antisemitic canards in the New York Times (the Israel lobby bought a standing ovation for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Congress!) and nobody in the Jewish establishment bats an eyelash.
What is even more remarkable is how new anti-Israel themes are generated without any evidence whatsoever.

The new one is the idea that Israel, and its democracy, are in danger (moderate version) due to internal extremism or are (radical version) falling apart altogether. At least two new commercially published books make this claim, as do scores of articles and even a speech by the secretary of state. The New York Times publishes an op-ed saying that gays are persecuted in Israel while, of course, they aren't but are murdered in every other county in the region. Yet what actual evidence can be accumulated for all of this campaign? The Knesset had a bill to supervise foreign money received by non-government organizations, a law not so dissimilar from those in Western democracies. And? And? What else happened? Well, nothing at all.
Oh yes, a bus driver took it upon himself to tell a woman to sit in the back of a bus because her sitting elsewhere might disturb Haredi men. She took it to court and, of course, won. A Haredi man in a town spit at an eight-year-old girl, apparently he belongs to some extreme sect or is somewhat disturbed. Even the strictest reading of Jewish law does not justify such an action. Yet the doings of individuals supposedly prove that Israel is illegitimate or non-democratic. It would be fascinating if other countries were to be judged by such standards.
As previously noted an op-ed in the New York Times claims Israel--by far the country in the Middle East (and even in the world) that treats gays fairly--Israel's army medical corps was commanded by an openly gay man when gays couldn't even serve openly in the U.S. military, for example--is said to be persecuting homosexuals. A Palestinian teenager is said to be imprisoned for just throwing stones when the published indictment shows he was arrested for the possession of weapons and explosives. Israel is accused of being insufficiently enthusiastic and actually critical of the "Arab Spring," a claim proven correct by events without anyone so admitting that they were wrong and the Israeli assessment was correct.
The list is endless. Every day hundreds of stories are invented, distorted, or magnified. Hundreds of reporters and researchers are dedicated to searching out some alleged crime or evil in Israel, magnifying the tiniest incident into an international headlined story. Yet this same army of scribblers and talkers can't seem to discover the radicalism of the Muslim Brotherhood or the intransigence of the Palestinian Authority.
The near-monopoly in the mass media and in academia for a narrow range of opinion (in the "age of diversity"!); the dominance of ideology over professional ethics (in which the New York Times, for example, can run op-eds 90 percent of which are anti-Israel without no shame); and the failure of most Jewish organizations (the Anti-Defamation League has not yet discovered that left-wing antisemitism exists and actually tries to intimidate people from criticizing Obama!); along with other factors have created a bizarre atmosphere of conformity or else.
America and Europe are now divided into two groups, and I don't mean "left" and "right." There are those who think that the school and university system along with the mass media function just fine. Nothing has changed from, say, twenty years ago. And those who understand that these institutions have been incorporated into a propaganda apparatus.
There are those who understand that the main threat in the Middle East is revolutionary Islamism, and those who think that the main threat is Israel. There are those who understand that Obama has done more than any previous president to undermine Israel's security and those who believe he is the great defender of Israel because he keeps saying so.
How does one deal with this mess? The answer is to build and strengthen an alternative elite, an alternative media, and alternative ways of educating people. It is to demand evidence to prove claims that are made and logic in setting forward arguments. In short, what's needed is to restoe academic and journalistic ethics; Enlightenment values; and logic from those who have abandoned these things.
We are not dealing mainly with Israeli sins--though these exist in proportion to those of other countries (and a lot less so than in most) but with anti-Israeli propaganda disguised as news, analysis, and scholarship. This is not a series of regrettable errors but rather a war consciously aimed against Israel and not just Israel.
In one of my recent lectures in the UK, a member of the audience asked: We understand that one of the reasons the European left has allied itself with Islamists is because they both hate the United States. But why do people in the United States do this?
I answered: Same reason. They also hate the United States.

Professor Barry Rubin, Director, Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center
The Rubin Report blog
He is a featured columnist at PJM
Editor, Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal
Editor Turkish Studies,

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