Muzzlewatch Gets Miffed

Sorry, but I’m going to have to take a day off from exposing the Hampshire divestniks for what they are in order to respond to this hilarious posting from my old friends at Muzzlwatch.

Given that Muzzlewatch, a blog ostensibly created to remove barriers to conversation about the Middle East, no longer tolerates two-way dialog (after shutting down their comments section when the kitchen got too hot), this reply will have to suffice as a rejoinder to Cecilie Surasky’s (the Muzzlewatch/Jewish Voice for Peace point person) hysterical response to a recent decision by the San Francisco Jewish Federation to stop underwriting the demonization of Israel.

The irony-challenged Ms. Surasky has to perform some pretty heavy contortions in order to fit the San Francisco story into a JVP narrative, so allow me to untangle the tale.

As regular readers know, infiltration is a theme I come back to again and again in my anti-divestment writing. Whenever BDS has posted a brief-lived “success” (such as with the Presbyterian Church or the British Teacher’s Union), it’s been because a small group of single-issue partisans have been willing to join an organization and use any means necessary (moral blackmail, parliamentary maneuvering, etc.) to tie an institution’s “brand” to the BDS propaganda message of “Israel = Apartheid,” regardless of the damage it might cause a church or other group in the process.

While many institutions have managed to avoid this type of manipulation, several have not. And the most recent victim was the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival which was hijacked and turned into a propaganda fest where the victimhood of Rachel Corrrie was trumpeted in film and lecture, while supporters of Israel were booed and jeered.

Unsurprisingly, this caused mayhem within the Film Festival organization and opened up enormous rifts within the San Francisco Jewish community. Once Israel’s detractors (including Jewish Voices for Peace) got what they wanted (tying their message to a respected Jewish institution), they were – as usual – not the least bit concerned with the wreckages their reckless activities caused. But once the organized Jewish community (in the form of the local Federation) decided to respond to the matter, there was the same Jewish Voice for Peace using their Muzzlewatch mouthpiece to scream “foul!”

Now consider for a moment the argument being made in Surasky’s piece. JVP is at the forefront of the US boycott, sanctions and divestment movement, which has attached itself at the hip to the goals of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). In other words, their fondest dream is to see Israeli academics shunned by their international colleagues, their papers refused entry into journals, their invitations to conferences revoked, their students refused entry to US and European graduate programs.

Yet while JVP works tirelessly to see Israeli academics and artists censored, they also run Muzzlewatch which exists to accuse anyone of challenging JVP orthodoxy of censorship. In the case of San Francisco, Surasky’s problem is not that the Federation is dragging anyone into court to get them to shut up (as JVP did in Boston). Nor are they hiding from criticism for their decisions (as Muzzlewatch did when they shut down their comments section). Rather, she is furious that the Federation has decided that defamers of Israel no longer have an automatic right to the community’s money.

Normally, the wannabe censors of Muzzlewatch simply hurl their accusations of censorship at those who have the temerity to use their own free speech rights to criticize the political positions of Jewish Voice for Peace. But in this case, their rage rises to the highest pitch I’ve ever seen because another organization that does not share JVP’s opinions refuses to write them checks, and refuses to tolerate a local Jewish film festival being subverted in order to accuse the Jewish state of murder.

At first I thought Surasky’s piece could never sustain the hilarity it achieved when the author was comparing its heroes (Judith Butler the “true academic rock star,” Ronnie Gilbert the former Weaver, and Aurora Levins Morales – both Latina and Jewish!) with the top-hat wearing, moustache-twirling, evil-doers of the Federation. But then she got to the threat (once again: Bogga! Bogga! Bogga!).

For you see it is we (meaning the SF Federation and other supporters of Israel) that are driving good and decent people into the arms of the boycott movement (not the tireless efforts of Jewish Voice for Peace who have been pushing BDS for close to a decade). And if we don’t reconsider and start those checks coming again, we will only have ourselves to blame when JVP keeps doing what it was planning to do anyway.

It’s been a couple of weeks since Halloween, but I can’t help but conjure up the image of one of those ten year olds who decided to costume up by wearing their parents or grandparents clothes. (In this case, I’ve got an image stuck in my head of Surasky and her JVP colleagues dressed in oversize trenchcoats and fedoras, with beards drawn on their face in marker, pretending to be scary gangsters.) “You mind your place Mister Federation Fatcat,” comes the real voice of Jewish Voice for Peace “or you’ll be wearing concrete golashes!”

Fortunately this site still accepts comments, so any Muzzlewatchers are more than free to let me know if I missed anything.

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6 Responses to Muzzlewatch Gets Miffed

  1. Anonymous November 19, 2009 at 4:54 am #

    “For you see it is we (meaning the SF Federation and other supporters of Israel) that are driving good and decent people into the arms of the boycott movement (not the tireless efforts of Jewish Voice for Peace who have been pushing BDS for close to a decade).”

    JVP and its partners in crime, the American Friends Service Committee PRETEND not to take a stand on BDS publically, while they work tirelessly behind the scenes to promote it. They use their office space to host BDS meetings, send their staff members out pushing BDS, send out emails and distribute flyers and when confronted say “No. Not us. We don't take a stand on BDS”.
    Yep. Sydney Levy of JVP just made that claim at yet another Israel bashing event, in spite of the fact that the venue was full of handouts promoting BDS. “Its not us. We don't know how they got here. Pay no atttention to the man behind the curtain”.

  2. Rebecca November 22, 2009 at 12:18 am #

    Why SHOULD the San Francisco Federation fund anti-Zionist activities? The people who give money to the federations (whether a lot or a little) are generally quite pro-Israel and wouldn't want their money used to promote the BDS agenda. Jeesh, these people are idiots. As far as I'm concerned, having Judith Butler on one's side is a negative, since she's incapable of writing a comprehensible sentence.

  3. BTZalel June 16, 2010 at 6:03 pm #

    It's not about writing checks, its about the legitimacy to raise certain issues in a certain way within one's own community, without being labeled traitors and and worse. In my humble opinion, BDS, or whatever it takes to get Israel to change course is the only thing that will save it's life as a nation, and for that matter save the Jewish nation from a crazy moral abyss from which there may be no way out.

  4. BTZalel June 16, 2010 at 6:08 pm #

    Furthermore, comparing the JVP/Muzzlewatch comment section on their website to organziations that claims to represent the interests of the entire Jewish community is absurd. JVP is not trying to silence the voices of those with whom it does not agree in public forums. It is agitating to change political policies. JVP does not have the power or scope, nor does it seek to suppress mainstream Jewish voices, only to have a small chance of having its voice heard without being distorted and misrepresented.

  5. Jon June 18, 2010 at 12:39 am #

    BTZalel – First off, I respect that your attitudes about what is best for Israel is more than “your humble opinion,” but is in fact your very strongly and sincerely held opinion. I know many people who share your passion, and just as many who feel equally (if not more) passionate in fearing that a fusion of religious fundamentalism and 20th century totalitarianism into the lethal hybrid of Islamism is the greatest threat to the world today, aided, abetted and apologized for by organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace.

    Now I would fully expect that someone who shares this latter attitude would not be welcomed as a member of the Jewish Voice for Peace organization and certainly would not have his or her opinion given equal weight with the majority of JVPers who think like you.

    Which is why I find it strange that an exclusive club like JVP gets so riled up against astronomically more inclusive Jewish organizations who do not automatically give you a seat at the table you’ve not earned, and with individual like myself who have the audacity to use our free speech rights to, among other things, criticize Jewish Voice for Peace.

  6. Jon June 18, 2010 at 12:46 am #

    In response to your second comment, I realize that it can seem petty to harp on Muzzlewatch’s decision to close its comments section so that the only voice that appears on the site is Jewish Voice for Peace’s. At the same time, it is a telling step given the nature of both Muzzlewatch and JVP.

    Muzzlewatch, after all, is a site dedicated to the proposition that any criticism of the opinions held by JVP (which I presume includes you) are not examples of other people using their free speech rights to contribute to debate. Rather, they are held out as examples of other people trying to censor, stifle or muzzle voices in that debate (i.e., the voices of JVP).

    But point of fact, the opinions of JVP and like-minded organizations are not the least bit stifled. In fact, in places like colleges campuses they are received wisdom shouted from the rooftops of every college and university in the land.

    The problem you seem to be having is not that your speech is curtailed, but that your opinions are not accepted uncritically by other audiences, and that people in those other audiences have the audacity to challenge you. Which is why Muzzlewatch was created – to get others to doubt their own free speech rights, lest they be accused of muzzling. It was only after I and others were succeeded in pointing this out that Muzzlewatch shut down its comments section, ensuring that no voices would interrupt its own forums as it demanded immediate access to everyone else’s.

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