The Israel Lobbies and Breitbartism: Dirty Tricks, Taboos and the threat to American Democracy

Phil Weiss notes that another of the Dirty Tricks divisions of the Israel lobbies in the US, CAMERA, has denounced CNN´s Ben Wedeman for retweeting a post of mine on Turkey-Israel relations.

By the way, I am particularly proud of that posting, which examines the political economy of “re-Ottomanization” and Turkey´s emergence as a significant and independent player in the Middle East in the past decade. I haven´t seen a similar analysis elsewhere, of the way in which Turkish external trade intersects with its various policy initiatives.

Whenever a journalist is attacked for referencing an academic, it is an attempt to make that scholar´s work taboo and to forbid its public mention. It would be perfectly all right for an advocacy group to say “In that blog posting, Cole gets the Turkish economy and its impact on relations with Israel wrong for reasons X, Y and Z.¨” But CAMERA did not engage with my substantive points. They simply propagandized.

CAMERA wrote,

“Cole’s article claimed: “[Israel's] isolation derives from Israeli policies, of illegal blockades … and systematic land theft and displacement of occupied civilians under its control, along with aggressive wars on neighbors, which target infrastructure and civilians and are clearly intended to keep neighbors poor and backward.” In other words, Cole and Wedeman promote the argument that Israelis send their sons and daughters to war not for the country’s security and preservation, but out of sheer malice. The Six-Day War, according to this view, did not stem from Egyptian acts of war and threats of annihilation. “

But the article was not about 1967. It was about now. The reference was obviously to Lebanon and Gaza. Moreover, Mr. Wedeman specifically pointed to my comments on Israel-Turkish relations as what he found interesting, and did not anyway say I was right about everything. He certainly said nothing about the 1967 war (nor did I in that posting)! Yet CAMERA has invented such a statement and then damned him with it falsely.

Wedeman has risked his life to cover the Middle East for us for many years and has long experience of the region on the ground. The CAMERA offices are not filled with similar people and they have no idea what they are talking about most of the time. They have no standing to go after Wedeman. All they are doing is trying to mark him with a taboo (me), which is a fundamentally undemocratic tactic. Liberal democracy is about open discussion and substantive debate, not about saying “Voltaire cannot be quoted in the press because he was a harsh critic of the Christian Church.” That is the form of CAMERA´s discourse, and it is against everything the Founding Generation of America stood for.

CAMERA is not in fact an organization devoted to fairness in journalism. It incorrectly and dishonestly maintains that only the Carter administration ever said that Israeli colonization of the Palestinian West Bank is illegal. Its members also mounted a covert and conspiratorial attempt to edit all Wikipedia articles to slant them toward a rightwing Zionist perspective, and they were banned from Wikipedia when the plot was outed. The organization occasionally succeeds in correcting errors, but only in the same way that a fanatical Khomeinist would easily be able to find and correct errors in US journalism about the Islamic Republic of Iran. It isn´t that ideologues want fairness– they want to impose their blindered narrative on everyone else. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

The insidious damage that CAMERA and other such far rightwing organizations do to the United States of America is incalculable. They try to get journalists fired for not being as fanatical and narrow-minded as themselves, and they often succeed. We do not know their full impact because such decisions are taken behind closed doors by cowardly editors or corporate middle managers.

By accusing Mr. Wedeman of saying that all Israeli wars have been aggressive in character, when he said no such thing, CAMERA is functioning in his regard just as Andrew Breitbart did to Shirley Sherrod. Selective editing of texts and videos, innuendo, framing statements unfairly, trying to make certain authors taboo, and other such dirty tricks are the bread and butter of the far right, because they do not have truth on their side to begin with.

Luckily, in this case CAMERA over-reached and as far as I can tell nobody cares what they think about my analysis of Israel-Turkish relations or about Mr. Wedeman´s citation of it. Nobody should care what they think of anything else, and should be doubly careful when they accuse journalists in future of getting some fact wrong about Israel, because they have repeatedly shown themselves dishonest.

25 Responses

  1. It is also worth noting that Jewish organizations like CAMERA not only go after people who are in the spotlight, they also attack ordinary joe blow citizens who they can set their dishonest, mean minded, un-American sights on.

    I have been the object of such religious hate campaigns for years, as have my family.

    I have a certificate in my safe thanking me for my generous support of the “Wall of Tolerance” which is co-signed by the joint chairs of The National Campaign for Tolerance; Morris Dees and Rosa Parks.

  2. Your commentaries are refreshing. Most white Americans are so brainwashed they don’t want to think. The Tea Party’s the latest scam: its promoters talk about shrinking government but they back the creeping militarization of government and they want to keep the handouts they enjoy today. They just don’t want other folks to benefit.

  3. Mark Braverman in his “Fatal Embrace” book demonstrates the Antisemitism of the neo-cons

  4. I follow Stephan Walt’s blog at Foreign Policy, which The Lobby has had probably at the top of its hit list since Walt & Mearsheimer did the first really methodical take-down article on right-wing Israeli influence. (Sorry Juan, I’m sure you rate high as well, but then, comments on THIS website are monitored!)

    What I’ve noticing over the last year or so is how the tone of responses to Walt has shifted, in several subtle and not-so-subtle ways, to intimidate his supporters and otherwise confuse any rational comments re Israel and its policies.

    First there are a (very) few outright apologists, who must have no other job than to attack what Walt says along with anyone who otherwise supports him. Only a deeply experienced retired regional analyst with NOTHING else to do, or someone with a dedicated staff to support them, would be able to put together those posts, with their combination of selectively chosen substance and rhetorical misdirection. But along with the content they attack other posters with a vitriol that is extraordinary, and effectively they seem designed to intimidate, in the crudest ways imaginable, anyone with an opinion that is not supportive of Israel.

    Then there are just a huge number of posts by the ostensibly illiterate that seem designed to dominate through sheer numbers, who at least appear to be foreign commentators with poor English, who misrepresent the case for Walt and come-off as dangerous crackers. They are difficult and tiring to read, and often don’t make a lot of sense, regardless of their specific comment. Their net effect is to confuse, tire, muddy the waters, and make the blog unreadable.

    Maybe 20% of the posts are on a par with the respondents I read here, so even if you allowed some of his more informed and virulent respondents to attack your own posts (at least they’d be substantively-based), that’d still leave a huge number of others that appear to me to be disingenuous by design. Apparently the FP staff went back and edited-out a number of these obvious shills, and on one of his more controversial threads reduced it from something like 260 to 160 respondents.

    The point I’m trying to make is that there appears to be a organized effort to dilute the influence of Walt’s blog. The overall impact of these posters does not appear to be erratic or spontaneous when you look at them as part of a whole. There are a handful of other people who are clearly professionals with substantive backgrounds who check-in and make thoughtful and illuminating comments (and objections) to Walt’s posts during what could be spare time (before class or whatever, they’re never that long, but always cogent), but they are more than offset by people with similar backgrounds who seem to be free to post all day.

    It is so cheap, relatively speaking, for a Cole or Walt to have a blog that has a impact, that I think there exists a concerted effort to smear you guys, and this work doesn’t have to cost a lot more than yours. At some level there are people who view this all as a existential issue and I’m not sure there’s anything they wouldn’t do, so I sense this behavior to be not only appalling, but potentially dangerous.

  5. “The insidious damage that CAMERA and other such far rightwing organizations do to the United States of America is incalculable. They try to get journalists fired for not being as fanatical and narrow-minded as themselves, and they often succeed. We do not know their full impact because such decisions are taken behind closed doors by cowardly editors or corporate middle managers.”

    Thanks for all of your work Prof Cole.

  6. Your criticism of CAMERA and other partisan organizations are spot on, but I really do think that this:

    “Selective editing of texts and videos, innuendo, framing statements unfairly, trying to make certain authors taboo, and other such dirty tricks are the bread and butter of the far right”

    is an incomplete statement. Many on the left as well are guilty of this offense. It’s a huge mistake to ignore or dismiss that, as that implies acceptance which also therefore implies hypocracy on our part.

    Moreover, to invoke the founding fathers as a bastion of free speech is somewhat misplaced. “Free speech” taken in a liberal (liberal in the sense of classical liberalism) context is such a purist and abstract notion divorced from reality that it’s effectively meaningless. Sure, the founding fathers spoke extensively of “free speech” but they also worked hard at smashing any form of dissent to their new government.

    You have to place these things in context. All states have a purpose, and that purpose is to perpetuate both itself as a means of rule and the current state of society. Freedom of speech is tolerated as long as it isn’t perceived to be a threat.

    To take “freedom of speech” out of context is just as reductionist as the “clash of civilizations” ilk who blame everything on Islam.

    Finally, once we put “freedom of speech” in the proper context (which I have very simply and rudimentarily done in this post), we can gain insight into the reasons that these groups and people do what they do, and what freedom of speech actually means.

    • Walt ” it is quite clear that some of the same groups and the same people who dreamed up the idea of going into Iraq in the first place way back in the late 90’s are now the loudest voices calling for a very hard line including the possibility of using military force against Iran.”

      Same campaign going to be waged over the next six months

  7. Propaganda and the related manipulation of media often relies on espionage and infiltration by agents working for Mossad. The recent rolling-up of Israeli spys in Lebanon and their wholesale compromising of the ALFA moblie communications network is a part of the effort that includes CAMERA and AIPAC. In a very important item, Rannie Amiri connects the uncovered Mossad spy network in Lebanon with Israel’s attempt to manipulate the evidence of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), and how the Israeli’s have tipped their hand regarding the expectation that the outcome will provide it an opportunity to atttack Lebanon again. Here is the relavent excerpt from a very useful news item:

    “Giving credence to Nasrallah and Aoun’s assertions, Commander in Chief of the Israel Defense Forces Gabi Ashkenazi, predicted “with lots of wishes” that the situation in Lebanon would deteriorate in September after the STL indicts Hezbollah for Hariri’s assassination.

    “Ashkenazi’s gleeful, prescient testimony to the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs Committee betrays what Israel hopes the fallout from the STL’s report will be: fomentation of civil strife and discord among Lebanon’s sectarian groups, generally divided into pro- and anti-Syria factions. Ashkenazi anticipates this to happen, of course, because he knows Israel’s unfettered access to critical phone records will have framed Hezbollah for the crime.

    “Israel’s agents and operatives in Lebanon and its infiltration of a telecom network have been exposed. At the very least, the STL must recognize that evidence of alleged Hezbollah involvement in Hariri’s death (a group that historically enjoyed good ties with the late premier) is wholly tainted and likely doctored.”

  8. As a matter of fact there was quite a bit of Israeli provocation prior to the Six-Day War, directed in particular at Syria. See _Defending the Holy Land_ by Zeev Maoz. The theme of this huge, well-researched book is that from the start Israel has defaulted to the military option in its neighborhood relations.

    • In standard histories/interviews of participants in the 6-day war, its easy to find Moshe Dayan nonchalantly explained how the IDF initiated the majority of incidents with Syria as a way of intimidating them and gaining tactical positioning edges for when they finally got the civilian leadership under control and could do what they really wanted.

      My personal read of the history, along with that of historians (often Israeli) who know far more, is that Nassar was doing a lot of dangerous posing and acting tough for PR purposes, that played into their hands. The Israelies had started pushing the issue (with water generally) pretty much when Egypt withdrew its genuinely competent military from the Sinai in 65 to go fight in the civil war in Yemen. Seriously, disinformation becomes accepted fact through retelling….land without a people for people without a land, etc: it’s appalling how this sortof thing has been sold through the years. Correct me if I’m wrong, although clearly there is more nuance and drama than what I’ve just sketched out.

      Frightening thing, going along with Prof Cole’s post, is how these patterns of aggressive momentum build and recur in such a consistent way. With Iran there really does seem to be a same song second verse scenario looming.

      IMHO, Obama at least knows better (versus Dubya), and he is a smart guy trying his best to deflect/manage the situation. But the power of the warmongers, principly through their relentlessness, is frightening.

  9. I sent around this post and Turkey post, and every friend agreed that you were just right in the Turkey post and that this is typical of the approach of the Israeli government and supporters. The Israeli-Israel government supporter game is intimidation.

  10. Yes, thank you for all your work. Don’t forget, bullies must always be confronted !

  11. I also really liked the original post. Started me thinking about the consequences to Israel’s current government for their violence toward the Palestinians vis a vis Turkey and the additional burden that regional discord places on the US in its support of Israel.

    As far Israel Lobbies excesses and the recent Breitbart lunacy, I also agree with you as to the destructive nature of those activities on our democracy. The part I find suprising is the widespread appearance and aggressive nature of these behaviors. It is clearly violence based. Thank you for pointing it out and call attention to it.

  12. I am afraid that old saying “Don’t get in a pissing match with a skunk” if you want to stay clean comes to mind. As someone who has great respect of Juan, I realize how difficult it must be for him to write as he does. But I am also getting the impression that the pro-Israel organizations are less and less hesitant to come out and identify themselves openly as skunks.

  13. Reading a Guardian article this evening about the supposed ill health of Mubarak and naturally wondering about his successor.

    Hosni Mubarak makes TV address in attempt to halt health rumours

    Egyptian president appears gaunt and pale on national day after postponing several scheduled meetings
    link to guardian.co.uk

    Appreciate your posts Professor Cole.

  14. Thank you, Professor Cole, for your continued blogging for exposing the misinformation (lies and slander) certan political groups use to further their games at the expense of US.

  15. I’ve provided a link from my blog to the article on Turkish-Israeli relations. Perhaps others can do the same. Seems to me like that’s a good response to folks like Camera.

  16. yes juan
    well said

    there is something about the truth
    it has a certain ring to it
    sort of like crystal

    it is easily heard
    impossible to deny
    once it makes that sound

    so much better
    than speaking a lie
    and knowing it

    catastrophic
    for the teller
    devastating
    for the recipients

    ‘always tell the truth
    it’s so much easier
    than remembering
    a lie”

    est

    p.s.
    never go to war
    on a pack of lies

  17. Professor Cole,

    This post once more exemplifies why your blog is so important. You combine scholarly insights with a willingness to confront the likes of CAMERA which rises high above what nowadays typically passes for public discourse. I can’t thank you enough for that.

    I feel that in so many critical issues, we are now dealing with a similar mix of right-wing propaganda and intimidation, mainstream media failure, and a shocking trend toward dumbing things down. That’s certainly true also when it comes to issues relating to climate and environment, social justice, and others.

    More than ever, your outstanding work makes for essential reading.

  18. These awful intimidating folks who are trying to dictate American foreign relations only for the sake of a prejudiced and anti-democratic Israeli government have to be confronted.

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