Slandering Critics of Israel

Even as some ex-officials in Israel question the “messianic” behavior of Prime Minister Netanyahu, his hard-line American supporters are escalating a propaganda war against U.S. academics who challenge Israel’s abuse of Palestinians. One ugly smear appeared on the New York Times’ editorial page, writes Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

On April 24, the New York Times rented out part of its editorial page to the propaganda of right- wing Zionist David Horowitz, thereby taking the “newspaper of record” down into the gutter for the price of a quarter-page advertisement. The ad, which purported to be “a public service” by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, told the following libelous story:

“The Holocaust began with boycotts of Jewish stores and ended with death camps. The calls for a new Holocaust can be heard throughout the Middle East and Europe as well. In the wake of the murders of a rabbi and three children in Toulouse, it is time for the supporters of the Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel movement (BDS) to ask themselves what they did to contribute to the atmosphere of hate that spawned these and other murders of Jews.”

Photo of Nazi stormtrooper used in New York Times ad attacking critics of Israel.

What is wrong with this story?

1. The analogy of BDS with Nazi-led “boycotts of Jewish stores” is (no doubt purposely) misleading. The Boycott movement is directed against Israel as a racist state and the economic and social agents (Jewish and non-Jewish) who support it. The notion that the BDS boycotts lead to death camps is fantasy. Whatever the crazy logic of the Nazis on the one hand and David Horowitz on the other, the BDS movement is an effort to prevent persecution of innocent people and not to promote it.

2. The notion that the BDS movement either “calls for a new Holocaust” or is associated with those supposedly doing so is nonsense. In reality, it is the right-wing Israeli fanatics who are calling for, and actually carrying out, their own small-scale version of a holocaust against the Palestinians, who have been forced into ghettos and Bantustans and who suffer homelessness, cultural genocide and periodic pogroms.

Indeed, the same week Mr. Horowitz placed his ad, Israel launched 57 military raids into Palestinian territory resulting in multiple injuries and death, destroyed at least 13 Palestinian shelters while beginning construction on 20 illegal settler houses. Yet the perpetrators of these crimes persist in portraying themselves as victims because once, under completely different historical circumstances, their ancestors were victims. But that was in the past. In the present the Zionists are the culprits and BDS movement seeks to bring out this tragic and ironic fact.

3. It is a gross misrepresentation to accuse those supporting BDS of contributing to “the atmosphere of hate that spawned … murder of Jews.” The BDS campaign has nothing to do with this atmosphere, but the actions of the Israeli leadership has everything to do with it. With the Zionist persecution of the Palestinians ongoing, one does not need a boycott movement to explain the upswing of anger.

Some may unfortunately fail to make the proper distinction between political Zionists and Jews in general, just like Horowitz and his ilk fail to make the distinction between terrorists and Palestinians in general. Yet, if the Israeli leaders and their supporters want to know where this anger is coming from, they need look no further than their own behavior.

However, they refuse to look. Instead they attempt to confuse matters and shift the blame from fanatic Zionist settlers and racist Israeli politicians onto those who would publicly expose the viciousness of Israeli policies. That is one of the aims of the Horowitz ad in the New York Times and it pursues it in very specific ad hominem fashion, singling out 14 academics by name.

When in November 1938 the Nazis launched the pogroms which became known as Kristallnacht, they painted Jewish stars on the sites to be attacked. In a similar way, Horowitz seeks to identify and label those he wishes to be “publicly shamed and condemned.” What does that mean? Should they lose their jobs just like the Jews who were forced out of their occupations by the Nazis? Should they be segregated out and impoverished like Palestinians? Perhaps Mr. Horowitz would applaud physical attacks? Just how Nazi-like does he wish the situation to get?

William Thomson of the University of Michigan, one of 14 academics slandered by the Horowitz advertisement, notes that “groups and individuals will resort to unfounded character assassination and ad hominem attacks when reasoned discussion is beyond their abilities.” However, the country’s major national newspaper is not supposed to be an accomplice in such attacks. Yet, that is the case.

Ali Abunimah has pointed out that the New York Times has “advertising acceptability guidelines” which require advertisements to “comply with its (the NYT’s) standards of decency and dignity” and not be “misleading, inaccurate or fraudulent.” Horowitz’s offering is blatantly all of this.

Yet there it was, in the April 24 edition of the “paper of record.” Horowitz’s propaganda was placed on the editorial page and not identified as an ad. What are we to make of this? It seems clear that the editors actually believe that the piece meets their standards of acceptability. But is the Times also telling us that this libel is an acceptable editorial? The entire affair calls into question (not for the first time) the judgment of the people who run this famous newspaper.

David Horowitz probably wrote this propaganda piece not only to shift blame but also to scare people to frighten those named and scare off others from getting involved in the BDS movement. Yet he may well have overstepped and made himself the subject of critical attention rather than those he rails against.

That is what happens when your message reflects a viewpoint that is ideologically driven and fanatical. Cast this viewpoint in a more normal light and it looks weird and distorted.

The 19th century British essayist William Hazlitt once remarked that prejudice can only be convincing when it can pass itself off as reason. This is Horowitz’s rather gross effort to do just that. But identifying those opposed to Israeli behavior with Nazis is wildly unreasonable. Hopefully, at this stage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, most Americans recognize this to be so.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Offical Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.

12 comments for “Slandering Critics of Israel

  1. Joost de Korver
    May 7, 2012 at 00:47

    I don’t really understand what all the fuss is about. The New York Times is a Jewish owned and operated newspaper, as are over 90% of the newspapers, and media, yes the famous Hollywood. Have these media ever been fair to non-Jewish issues? No, so let us not continue to pretend that this discourse is meaningful.
    I would be fighting to keep the internet out of Jewish control, even by their proxies in the American government. Without the internet these words that we write would not exist.
    What the Jews are doing to the Palestinian people is disgusting and no moral human being should tolerate such hateful action against people, obviously the Jews have only learned to hate. As Gadaffi so rightly said, “Israel is not a natural state and he did not expect it to survive.”. The Jews are not peacemakers, they are racists and the sooner that point is recognized, the sooner society can move forward instead of this 60 plus years of talking, murdering, and stealing people’s land, homes, farms, and livelyhood.

  2. Otto Schiff
    May 2, 2012 at 06:03

    What is needed is negotiation, not confrontation.
    Netanyahoo is a war maker, not a peace maker.
    Shooting is easier than negotiating.

  3. Nabil Bahu
    May 2, 2012 at 01:31

    Horowitz either scared the NYT to place his poisonous smear OR this newspaper succumbed instant (hopefully temporary)amnesia about what it stands for. This man full of hate and prejudice should be relegated to the yellow sheets where he belongs. I am Christian Palestinian, like tens of thousands of co-religionists, evicted and religiously cleansed from my home and my country by the victims of the holocoast, armed to their nuclear teeth and financed by hundreds of billions of dollars by US tax payers. Destroyers of Thousands of villages, creators of millions of refugees, depriving millions of Palestinians of their liberty and freedom in their own land YET still Horowitz claims victim hood because some people of conscience do not accept the tyrant of one people over another.

  4. F. G. Sanford
    May 1, 2012 at 02:42

    Some truths are never told, and others never believed. I had no part it this period of history, and I am innocent. But my father and all of my uncles were permanently scarred by the global tragedy of World War II. Most of the tragedies in my life would never have happened had it not been for that war. Neither would many of the great gifts I can claim as “success”. My father got an education, and indirectly, so did I because of that war. I was educated beyond the wildest dreams any plebeian of my father’s generation. Awareness of the manipulation of truth (and the concomitant exposure of the proprietary nature of history) by the unwashed masses was perhaps the greatest unintended consequence of global war.

    Now, with unfettered access via the internet to almost any published piece of literature, it is much more difficult, albeit not impossible, to sustain the Goebbels tactic of the “Big Lie”. Sadly, Boycotts did not prevent the attempted ethnic cleansing by Nazi Germany. If Mr. Horowitz wanted to use a realistic historical parallel in an honest way, he might have chosen The Daily Express (London) article published on March 24, 1933 announcing the launching of the Jewish boycott against Germany describing it as a forthcoming “holy war”. The Express urged Jews worldwide to boycott German goods and demonstrate against German economic interests. With their connections to banking, finance, shipping, trade and industry, that was no small threat. Edwin Black, in his book, The Transfer Agreement: The Dramatic Story of the Pact Between the Third Reich and Jewish Palestine, documents the agreement between Hitler and an organ of Zionism, which made Hitler “the chief economic sponsor of the state of Israel”. No effort has ever been made to deny the historical accuracy of this book, though it has been derided as sensationalism.

    Again, sadly, boycotts will probably not help the plight of the Palestinians. “Greater Israel” is a foregone conclusion in the Zionist mindset, and that, by necessity, requires de facto if not literal ethnic cleansing. The question is whether or not it will succeed. Goebbels would undoubtedly say, “Yes”. His “big lie” strategy is often mentioned by the Patrician class, in a cynical attempt to assert that theirs is the true and correct version of history. Orwell was not wrong when he said, “Who controls the past controls the future”. But professional liars like Horowitz forget the rest of Goebbels quote: “The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

  5. Otto Schiff
    May 1, 2012 at 01:29

    People are getting too emotional on both sides. Zionism is being slandered.
    Theodor Herzl,founded Zionism as a movement to establish a Jewish home in Palestine. Zionism had a good record. Many Jews were saved from the Nazi holocaust by being able to go to Palestine when many countries refused to help. The kibbutz movement, on land purchased by the Jewish National Fund established settlements and improved the land. This has nothing to do with the attitude of Netanyahoo who is a fascist. The tolerance for Netanyahoo can be likened to the American tolerance for G.W.Bush. It all comes down to the electorate.

    • rosemerry
      May 1, 2012 at 02:36

      Otto, the point is that there is no need for the Israeli Jews to treat the present day Palestinians, who were NOT responsible for the Holocaust, as valueless. 1948 was bad enough, but there is now a willingness to accept Israel in limited boundaries (ten years ago all Arab and Muslim groups in the region agreed a plan, which was ignored by the US and Israel, to accept and make peace with Israel in the borders before the expansion in 1967.) This has never been considered by Israel, which with US help extends its reach and refuses any chance of peace, which needs some justice to be possible.

  6. Dr Bob7227
    April 30, 2012 at 22:44

    What do the people of this country expect…When our government kowtows to the Israeli government and actually askes for permission to carry out routine issues within our country.
    Why should the USA continue to give such huge amounts of money to Israel ever year to purchase more weapons when it already has nuclear weapons that it continues to deny.
    The treatment of the Palestinians is nothing short of ethnic cleansing and has no difference to the aparthide that occurred in South Africa. It will only be a matter of time before the countries of the world will say” enough is enough” and pull the plug on Israel.
    It is Israel that is the cause of the unrest in the Middle East and the only way peace will be accomplished is with the destruction of the Israeli military and the termination of all financial assistance to this parasitic nation.
    Professor/International Law

  7. Hasbara
    April 30, 2012 at 22:42

    The time for the exposure and punishment of the evil ones (banksters, zionists, illuminati etc) is at hand. The People are coming for you conceited scum.

    See you soon, Claude, Horowitz etc etc etc

  8. John
    April 30, 2012 at 18:31

    Claude, Take a read of an article, “Masters of Their Fate? – Editor Note – The Economist – Mar. 6, 2012”. And here are some question, who (and their % pop) were legally living in Palestine before political Zionism raised its head followed by the Balfour Declaration. What are their rights? How have they been treated? Would you yourself like to lose your home your land and be treated like Palestinians today?
    As for Hezbollah, it was to promote Muslim rights in Lebanon where the West and Israel wanted a Christian minority leadership. When Israel invaded in the early 80s for no reason, Hezbollah grew quickly as a de-occupation force. I wonder if that Israeli push into Lebanon was not to move Israel’s border up to the Litani River which Jews had originally requested of the Balfour Decl. And as I’ve said before, Hamas was initially abetted by Israel to undermine Arafat and Palestinian nationalism (divide and conquor). That plan went sour as have so many devious plots.
    And as Ben-Gurion stated, no people give up their land freely. On US history, read up on the Trail of Tears, how natives who adopted Christianity were sometimes accepted and not driven away (Red Jacket asked if there was only one religion why do you white people differ so much), read how the Cherokee who adopted American political ways in Georgia were treated when white men wanted their land. It goes on and on.
    As the Economist article points out, Netanyahu policies since the 90s are driving Israel into a box it can’t escape, and in desperation and panic they are clawing for exits which will only dig them deeper (ie now Iran – despite what Israeli military experts say). These guys live on instilling fear! How come Uri Avnery has many friends in occupied Palestine; because he is above being used by dangerous nationalistic politicians.
    As I’ve said so many times before, learn to get on in this world and don’t be used for corupt political forces who use fear to enprison their stooges.
    Israel is not a democracy. Jewish people have a hard time marrying non-Jews, Palestinians don’t have equal rights politically or economically, and international law is constantly being broken for a dubious religious nationalistic end (not democracy).

  9. April 30, 2012 at 15:14

    I am extremely disappointed that this website has indulged into publishing this piece of “journalism” by Lawrence Davidson. The BDS movement is similar to what was going in Germany at the time of the Weimar Republic. If you can’t understand that, that’s unfortunate. Horowitz does a great job for defending the rights of Jews and Israelis to live in a free country, a democracy. By publishing that “article”, you are taking sides with the Hamas, the Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood and other anti-semitic organizations. Usually, I am very careful about the sites that I visit and yours was, to this day, one of the few from the Left I used to. I urge you to rethink the whole thing. Obviously, you probably think that Israelis are the agressors and not the victims but after all, that’s to be expected from “progressives”.

    • rosemerry
      May 1, 2012 at 02:27

      1.Remember the boycott of Germany instigated by US Jews BEFORE the Hitlerian actions.
      2.Jews have rights and privileges in EVERY western country.Responsibilities should come with this. Israel is there for all these Jews who already have a country and freedom. Is that fair, that the real owners are displaced, destroyed, vilified?
      3. The so-called terrorists groups arose in response to Israeli aggression, and are resisting illegal,cruel oppression by those who took their land.
      4.Try a few more sites to take you out of your NYT, murdochian, Faux news comfort zone. Look at “If Americans Knew” for some hard facts and figures, instead of keeping your victim mentality.

    • Frances in California
      May 1, 2012 at 14:10

      Dear Claude: Your sophisticated tone ALMOST belies your true reason for hovering over Consortiumnews, waiting to pounce on the first article that doesn’t give Netanyahu a standing ovation. If Consortiumnews is “one of the few from the Left” you visit, that can be your only reason. You need to visit more sources “from the Left” and try to be more circumspect.

Comments are closed.