About four years ago, controversial reporting over the creation of a mosque in Boston caused the leadership of the mosque to sue various newspapers and individuals responsible for bringing controversy related to mosque to the public’s attention. Details of that story can be found here.
Jewish groups, and individuals and organizations committed to freedom of speech and freedom of the press deplored this attempt to silence mosque critics through “lawfare” (the use of frivolous legal action to bankrupt and stifle critics). One exception was an obscure group called Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) which signed onto the mosque lawsuit, providing an amicus brief in support of the mosque’s suit against its critics.
At the same time JVP was joining in an attempt to silence those who dared bring up troublesome questions in Boston, the same group started a new Web site called MuzzleWatch, committed to the dubious assumption that critics of Israel are routinely stifled by a Jewish political establishment dedicated to silencing anything negative said about the Jewish state.
Visitors to the site’s lively comment section immediately began asking obvious questions, such as how criticism of Israel, shouted from every street corner in the United States, and enshrined as a holy truth on most college campuses (which maintain competing organizations dedicated to exclaiming Palestinian rights and Israel wrongs in all matters, in contrast to Kurds, Tibetans and other suffering people who get virtually no airtime at universities) is somehow being “repressed.”
Muzzlewatch made it a point to never respond to these questions, simply throwing new accusations after their previous ones was effectively countered time and time again.
In most cases, Muzzlewatch defined as “muzzling” any criticism of people who held identical political views as Jewish Voices for Peace. In other words, criticism of Israel (no matter how outlandish or inaccurate) was protected free speech, but other people using their free speech rights to challenge JVP dogma was somehow a form of censorship.
Eventually, the site owners were forced to respond to questions regarding why an organization supposedly dedicated to freedom of expression was joining in a muzzling lawsuit against mosque critics in Boston. After months of stonewalling, the group eventually produced a convoluted argument that tried to make the case that their suit was actually an attempt to open up debate (huh?). Once the ridiculousness of that explanation was exposed, the sites sole defenders ended up being some of Boston’s most notorious anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists. The arguments that inevitably broke out gave Muzzlewatch the chance it needed to shut down its comment section, permanently removing any hint of criticism (or dialog) from its little sheltered corner of cyberspace.
While postings to Muzzlewatch (and, I presume, it’s readership) slowed once it transitioned from dialog to diatribe, they still continue to post now and then. And unsurprisingly, they are none too happy with Alan Dershowitz for speaking out with regard to the Hampshire divestment controversy described in a recent entry here on Divest This!.
For some reason, MW is obsessed with Dershowitz, endlessly accusing him of hypocrisy for making outspoken statements against Israel’s critics while maintaining his reputation as a historic civil libertarian. It does not seem to occur to them that Dershowitz’s (or anyone else’s) free speech rights should be afforded the same protection as the even louder loudmouths of JVP.
The free speech argument has always been a dodge for the Divest-nista crowd on campuses and elsewhere. While redefining “free speech” to mean freedom from criticism, the Muzzlewatchers and their supporters never seem to want to draw attention to the threats of violence used to prevent pro-Israeli speakers from appearing on campuses, or their own muzzling lawsuit – i.e., these real examples of censorship – which they either ignore or full throatily champion.