What Often Happens To Israel's Critics I
Johann Hari recounts his own experience at the hands of a variety of intellectuals whose fundamental desire is not to engage in debate about Israel and Palestine, but to control the debate with smears and character assassinations.
Note Johann's credentials as a writer and reporter, whose brave and extensive record exposing vile Islamist anti-Semitism cannot be denied. Hari won Britain's Orwell Prize for journalism last year, and has been nominated for columnist of the year in Britain for the last two years. He is a friend of mine, and, along with Irshad Manji and me, one of a small group of non-Jewish socially liberal writers who have devoted a great deal of their time exposing the anti-Semitism in Europe and the Muslim world, and the evil of Jihadism. We have done this because we care passionately about the poison of anti-Semitism:
I have worked undercover at both the Finsbury Park mosque and among neo-Nazi Holocaust deniers to expose the Jew-hatred there; when I went on the Islam Channel to challenge the anti-Semitism of Islamists, I received a rash of death threats calling me "a Jew-lover", "a Zionist-homo pig" and more.
Ah, but wait. I have also reported from Gaza and the West Bank. Last week, I wrote an article that described how untreated sewage was being pumped from illegal Israeli settlements on to Palestinian land, contaminating their reservoirs. This isn't controversial. It has been documented by Friends of the Earth, and I have seen it with my own eyes.
The response? There was little attempt to dispute the facts I offered. Instead, some of the most high profile "pro-Israel" writers and media monitoring groups including Honest Reporting and Camera said I an anti-Jewish bigot akin to Joseph Goebbels and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, while Melanie Phillips even linked the stabbing of two Jewish people in North London to articles like mine. Vast numbers of e-mails came flooding in calling for me to be sacked.
Any attempt to describe accurately the situation for Palestinians is met like this. If you recount the pumping of sewage onto Palestinian land, "Honest Reporting" claims you are reviving the anti-Semitic myth of Jews "poisoning the wells." If you interview a woman whose baby died in 2002 because she was detained in labour by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint within the West Bank, "Honest Reporting" will say you didn't explain "the real cause": the election of Hamas in, um, 2006. And on, and on.
The former editor of Israel's leading newspaper, Ha'aretz, David Landau, calls the behaviour of these groups "nascent McCarthyism". Those responsible hold extreme positions of their own that place them way to the right of most Israelis. Alan Dershowitz and Melanie Phillips are two of the most prominent figures sent in to attack anyone who disagrees with the Israeli right. Dershowitz is a lawyer, Harvard professor and author of The Case For Israel. He sees ethnic cleansing as a trifling matter, writing: "Political solutions often require the movement of people, and such movement is not always voluntary ... It is a fifth-rate issue analogous in many respects to some massive urban renewal." If a prominent American figure takes a position on Israel to the left of this, Dershowitz often takes to the airwaves to call them anti-Semites and bigots.