Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The slur in action

The Lobby, which doesn’t exist, and if it did, would have no power, never operates without a big plan, and the big plan to counter the John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt paper, now a best-selling book, is two-pronged.  The second prong is an attempt to pretend to battle the thesis of the book on its merits, which we can see in the efforts of Foxman and Dershowitz.  The danger in the second prong is that engaging in the debate puts the silly arguments of the Lobby to the test, and at least some of the Lobby big brains – I don’t include either Dershowitz or Foxman in that number – know that the Lobby can’t meet the test.

Hence the second prong, which is an attempt at censorship.  The more sophisticated form of this is a demand that any speech by Mearsheimer and/or Walt be met by an immediate chance of rebuttal by a Lobby member, who of course will be unaccountably busy that day.  The less sophisticated form of the censorship consists of the usual behind-the-scenes pressure coupled with the usual slur tossing.   This is a bit ironic, considering Alan ‘Free Speech’ Dershowitz:

“For responding to Mearsheimer and Walt's false charges, I was accused by The Nation contributer and Huffington Poster Philip Weiss of being a ‘vigilante’ and by Dissident Voice as being one of ‘the attack dogs of the lobby.’ So much for the marketplace of ideas! Free speech for me but not for thee!” 

The reality of Lobby speech and thought control is a bit uglier.  Via Informed Comment, the experiences of Richard Drake, chair of the History Department at the University of Montana, at trying to book Walt for a speech a year ago (emphasis throughout in red of the typical pattern of attack – we only see the slur throwing, but miss the real exercise of power from the dark back rooms):

“Soon after the publication of their article, I invited Walt to be the opening speaker in the 2006–07 President’s Lecture Series. I reasoned that our audience would profit from hearing a distinguished scholar’s arguments on a topic of moment. Not everyone in Montana thought the way I did. At the start of the school year, our publicity campaign for the series, announcing Walt’s participation, immediately produced a vehement reaction. In the twenty years that I have coordinated the lecture series, I have invited more than two hundred speakers to the campus. Walt was the first one to be welcomed with a preemptive barrage of defamatory invective from faculty members.

On September 7, 2006, four days before Walt’s scheduled arrival, three tenured full professors—two of them from my own department—denounced him in an open letter to the president of the university, George M. Dennison. The letter appeared in the student newspaper, the Montana Kaimin. Comparing his views to those expressed in the notorious anti-Semitic forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, they castigated Walt as the author of an ugly racist diatribe and demanded that the university invite Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz or some comparable defender of Israel to offer a rebuttal. Failure to do so would ‘leave a dark stain on the President’s Lecture Series and the university itself.’

One of my critics told me before startled witnesses that he would not rest until I had been stripped of my position of power, which manifestly had corrupted me. Someone as insensitive to Jewish issues as I was could no longer be entrusted to coordinate a university lecture series. He initiated a campaign to bring about my dismissal.

As the controversy over Walt’s visit heated up in the campus newspaper during the next few days, a student and a retired professor publicly defended my decision to invite Walt. any people expressed their private support for me, and some of them wrote letters to the president on my behalf. He also heard plenty from the other side, as we all did, about the loosing of anti-Semitism on the UM campus. In addition to charging Walt with being a vile anti-Semite, his detractors said that he lacked basic skills as a researcher and writer. The neoconservative media had attacked Walt for carelessness as a scholar, and letters to the Montana Kaimin echoed those criticisms.”

It’s a funny coincidence that these uncoordinated letter writers seem to all simultaneously come up with the idea of a chance for a rebuttal, with the rebutter always being Dershowitz!  Afterwards, the slur:

“After Walt’s visit, the seminar that he had given on the Israel lobby completely upstaged his lecture on the broader issues of U.S. foreign policy. In letters to the Montana Kaimin, to me, to the president of the university, and to the city’s main newspaper – the Missoulian – individuals who had not attended either of his presentations to hear what he actually said called him a liar and likened him to a Holocaust denier and Ku Klux Klansman. The vehemence of these attacks had no precedent in the twenty-year history of the President’s Lecture Series.

The charge that Walt was the moral equivalent of a Holocaust denier seemed little less than grotesque, but there it was in black and white on University of Montana stationery in one of the many bitter letters that this affair inspired: ‘It is much as if the university had brought a Holocaust denier to campus and accorded him the honors of a respected guest.’”


“Walt was also accused of having brought to campus ‘in a suit and tie what used to be the province of those who burned crosses while wearing sheets and hoods.’ To associate this eminent scholar with the church and school burnings, beatings, castrations, shootings, lynchings, and political assassinations carried out by the Ku Klux Klan required a willingness to say anything, no matter how irresponsible, against an adversary marked not for intellectual defeat but for moral destruction.


“The attempt to group Walt and Mearsheimer with the likes of Faurisson and Duke reveals the real aims behind the campaign of denigration that began on my campus last September: to shut down critical inquiry into the activities of the Israel lobby and to blacken the name of anyone with the temerity to speak up about them. In an open society, however, anti-Semitism cannot be made to include the public investigation of highly effective lobbies. It is long past time to part with the idea that the only foolproof method of defense against the charge of anti-Semitism is 100 percent support for whatever the Israeli and American governments want in the Middle East.

The founders of this country understood that public life must include discussion of the ways power works. In the Federalist Papers, James Madison wrote about factions ‘who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.’ He feared that the ‘cabals of the few’ would be a permanent problem for the republic. The invasion of Iraq is not the first war in our history to have been started by ‘men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs.’ The evidence that Mearsheimer and Walt provide constitutes a reason for a civilized debate on the role of the Israel lobby in helping to bring about the Iraq war.”

Of course, this kind of thing is happening all over the United States and, in a more subtle form, has happened for decades.  It constitutes one of the main bases of the overwhelming power of the Lobby.  Drake is one of the few angry enough, and brave enough, to write about it. 

Another very brave man to fight the slurring is Jim Moran, who received the same treatment for having the balls to state the glaringly obvious fact that the Lobby played a large part in leading to the disastrous American attack on the people of Iraq.  Moran nails the issue, which is that the slur is intended to block real discussion of the power and influence of the Lobby:

“The problem with addressing the groups who have argued strongly in favor of a long-term American military presence in the Middle East is that they raise arguments that are not related to the point.  I would like to have a reasonable, objective discussion about AIPAC's foreign policy agenda. But it's difficult to do that because any time you question their motives, you are accused of being anti-Semitic."  

The Lobby even denied it was in favor of the attack on Iraq, a game they have been playing for some time (a particularly outrageous denial, coming at the same time we are seeing another monstrous Lobby push for an attack on Iran), but a bit of a joke to anyone who has been paying attention. 

As usual, Lobby critics who make specific arguments about specific organizations, individuals and actions are met with claims that they are using “several age-old canards that have been used throughout history that have brought violence upon Jews” such as “Jewish control of the media and wealthy Jews using their wealth to control policy.”  People aren’t that dumb, and the Lobby is fooling itself if it thinks that Americans are buying this (although the – ahem – Jew-controlled media will be filled with attacks on Lobby critics following exactly the same lines).  The Jews do control the media, and are proud of it, and wealthy Jews did use their wealth to control policy, easy due to stupid American political financing laws and the power of a group of extremely rich ‘one-issue guys’.  The slur is having to bear all the weight of protecting the awesome power of the Lobby, and it is no longer up to the task.  As I’ve been saying all along, if the Lobby apologists keep pushing the misuse of the slur, they are going to permanently ruin the ability of future generations to use the term ‘anti-Semitism’ for cases of real anti-Semitism.