Shutting Down Debate about Israel

Anyone who dares criticize Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians knows what to expect: accusations of being “anti-Israel” or “anti-Semitic.” In mainstream political and academic circles, the topic can be especially toxic as “pro-Israel” zealots go to great lengths to block even a debate, writes Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

Here is the situation: the threat of aggressive public protests against those assembling to critically discuss the behavior of Israel has become an excuse to shut down such gatherings. The latest example of this tactic, which is really a form of blackmail to impose censorship, took place earlier this month at the University of Southampton in the UK.

An international conference entitled “International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism” was scheduled for April 17-19, 2015, at the University of Southampton. It was to bring together lawyers and scholars to examine the legal basis for the establishment of the State of Israel and the rationales (or lack thereof) for its historical treatment of the Palestinian people.

Pope Francis praying a separation wall in Palestine on May 25, 2014. (Photo credit: Pope Francis's Facebook page.).

Pope Francis praying a separation wall in Palestine on May 25, 2014. (Photo credit: Pope Francis’s Facebook page.).

The standard by which these issues were to be judged was international law. The conference would also have examined the issue of exceptionalism when it came to the inadequate legal and diplomatic response to Israeli policies and behavior. Conference participants were to include both those critical of Israel and those who would present a defense of Israeli practices.

This conference had been planned for over a year, yet days before its opening Southampton University announced that it would not allow the gathering to go ahead on its campus because there were “risks to safety and public order.” This was due to expected protests against the conference.

Where did these risks come from? They originated with Zionists and their allies. Specifically, the Sussex Friends of Israel were ready to bring out as many as 300 peaceful protesters. In addition, there was likely to be a very small number of English Defense League members, who are anti-Muslim, pro-Israel, and potentially violent.

Certainly the Zionist rhetoric was aggressive and emotionally charged. The conference was described as a gathering of “Israel-haters,” “a rally of bigots,” a gathering of “toxic speakers,” and an “anti-Israel carnival.” It made no difference to these ideologically driven zealots that what was really planned was a sober investigation of historical patterns of behavior against the backdrop of internationally recognized legal norms.

Though the negative emotional energy ran high, the actual danger from the planned protests was probably quite minimal, and the local police declared themselves capable and ready to handle the situation. Nonetheless, instead of acting resolutely against those who would threaten free speech, the university simply gave in.

It essentially ran scared not only from exaggerated threats of violence but, as seems always to be the case, from the wrath of a small number of financial donors who threatened to stop supporting the institution if it provided a forum for open discussion of issues that cast Israel in a poor light. Essentially, Southampton University allowed itself to be blackmailed by Zionist censors.

One can speculate on what would have been the case if the situation were reversed. That is, if pro-Palestinian demonstrators had implied a “risk to safety and public order” at a Zionist conference upholding Israeli practices. The army would have been called out before such a conference was canceled.

An Ongoing Tactic

This is not the first time this sort of scenario has played out. Back in 2001 the president of the University of South Florida, Judy Genshaft, forced Dr. Sami Al-Arian, then a member of the faculty, to stay away from the campus because of negative and slanderous media publicity and Zionist threats against him.

This all stemmed from his vocal support of Palestinian rights. Here too a university administration allowed itself to be blackmailed by ideologically driven zealots. In the process it abandoned the principle of free speech and allowed censorship to prevail through threats of disruption.

There are other suspicious occurrences that may have been brought about by quieter forms of the same censoring pressures. For instance, in March, this writer was invited to address the prestigious Oxford Union in London on a topic that would, in part, cover U.S. foreign policy in support of Israel. Within five days the invitation was withdrawn.

The quick turnaround called into doubt the Oxford Union’s claim that the cause of the withdrawal was scheduling problems. While it is not possible to say for sure that the reversal was due to Zionist pressure, the present atmosphere of aggressive Zionist efforts to stymie all criticism of Israel and its supporters, makes this sort of occurrence appear suspicious.

What is going on here is not only the censoring of those critical of Israel, but the undermining of the rule of law, particularly international law. The irony is that much of this body of law was promulgated because of the savage persecution experienced by Europe’s Jews and others during the World War II.

However, the Zionist element among Jewry (not all Jews) decided that their future lay not in the support of law, but in the creation of a state through a process of imperial invasion and colonial settlement. They pursued this objective just at the time when both classical imperialism and colonialism were going out of style and the European empires were falling apart.

Thus, even at the moment it succeeded in establishing the State of Israel, Zionism was already an anachronism – an ideology that could only prevail through aggression and racist policies in a world that was trying to outlaw both types of behavior.

That Zionism has, to date, gained its goal is largely due to its having achieved for Israel an “exceptional” status in the West that has allowed it to escape the rule of law. In other words, Israel has evolved into a “rogue” state that is being protected by Western powers, particularly the United States.

Israel has achieved this “exceptional” status by two means: first, the Zionist corruption of Western governments through a lobby process involving the bribing of politicians, and second, through the exploitation of the Western fear of the Arab and Islamic world.

The Zionists always complain that Israel is being singled out. For instance, one of the gambits used to attack the Southampton conference was as follows: “no academic conference on Pakistan, for instance, founded just a year before Israel, would consist solely of discussion on whether it should have been created and how to end it.”

Putting aside the fact that this is an overly simplistic, and thus distorted, description of the Southampton conference, the comparison with Pakistan is off base. Pakistan was created as part of a process of decolonization. Israel was created in defiance of that same process. Zionist ideology, like any form of dogmatic thinking, ends up skewing history to its own needs.

Actually, as long as Israel insists on being “a Jewish state” instead of a democratic state of all its citizens, it must walk the path of apartheid. And, it can only get away with that through successfully maintaining an exceptional status – a status that puts it above international law.

The Southampton conference would have exposed this situation in a factual and sober way – in a way that would be hard for any fair-minded person to doubt. That is why the Zionists went to such lengths to shut it down.

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 Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.

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21 comments for “Shutting Down Debate about Israel

  1. Abbybwood
    April 29, 2015 at 09:01

    Apparently the Los Angeles Zionists are all in a dither now that Cornel West has been scheduled to deliver a keynote address at an upcoming UCLA conference celebrating the life of civil rights activist Rabbi Abraham Heschel on May 3-4.

    UCLA officials say they are sticking with West:

    http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-ln-ucla-west-20150424-story.html

  2. Abbybwood
    April 29, 2015 at 08:50

    Here is a case where the Zionist mad dogs and their little sycophants tried to get Professor Robinson of UC Santa Barbara fired on trumped up charges and FAILED:

    http://m.independent.com/news/2009/jun/26/robinson-cleared-ucsb-academic-senate/

  3. art
    April 28, 2015 at 19:13

    Somebody shuts down debate about Israel? What a nonsense. You, Jew-haters, have no arguments, only lie, distortion and harassment including physical one, of those who dare to refute your falsehoods and fraud. Israel is the most vilified by mass media and hated nation for the only reason. They want to survive after 2000 years of horrendous unimaginable persecution by the wicked. I wonder that Muslims and non-Muslims totally ignore Muslim atrocities resulting in murder and expulsion of millions of victims all over the world and foul-cry if Jew-murder is not successful in Israel where Jews try to protect themselves and kill a few Arab terrorists. Muslims murder Christians who in Middle East prosper only in Israel but Christians still root for Muslims hoping they finish their Jew-murder task. What other nation is demanded to give their own land after shedding blood for it and winning five defensive wars all unleashed with clearly stated purpose to eliminate Jews. If Arabs stop Jew-murder it will be peace. If Jews stop to defend themselves they will be annihilated. One lost war for Israel means six more million Jews murdered. Arabs can lose five more wars and nothing changes. Israel has to beg for peace. And world is indignant that Jews don’t give up all territories to so-called suddenly appeared in 1964 Fakestinians. Your Jew-hatred will destroy you. You brought parasitic Muslims into Europe to expel Jews. Rejoice you succeed. But they also subjugate you and rape your wives and daughters. And you richly deserve it, cowardly scum. You could only murder unarmed Jews and are mad that Jews can resist now. Die with it.

    • April 28, 2015 at 21:10

      u mad bro?

    • Zachary Smith
      April 29, 2015 at 21:53

      What other nation is demanded to give their own land after shedding blood for it

      Translation: we stole the land fair and square and we’re going to keep it!

      and winning five defensive wars all unleashed with clearly stated purpose to eliminate Jews.

      I know of one “defensive” war – that was in 1973 to “defend” the thefts of 1967.

      But it all sounds sort of pretty, doesn’t it?

    • Carroll
      April 30, 2015 at 10:44

      People like S Rihari
      and Art whether they are christian or Jewish Zios are members of ‘The Cult.’

      The Cult, both the religious and secular wing, holds that God favors one grou of people over others and deeds land to his chosens and that Jews have *always* in every case been irrationally persecuted, not for any of the typical group or tribal conflicts for resources throughout history they might have been involved in or caused themselves. But because they are a group of collective people ‘beings’ who are somewhat above ‘mere’ human others and incapable of being guilty of any wrongdoing or hostility to others themselves that would provoke others against them.
      Hence the Cult’s eternal and totally innocent victims myths.

      What the Cult demands the world believe is that there ‘exist on earth a single distinctive group of ‘inherently’ higher humans with none of the vices or evils of ordinary humans. That they are always good, that all others on earth are always evil.

      You would have to be insane or certified mentally deficient to believe this is even a possibility in the earthly world.

      It is Cult thinking, Typical Cult mythologizing.

  4. Zachary Smith
    April 26, 2015 at 22:28

    It’s not just the fundies who stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Holy Israel. The British medical journal Lancet had the gall to criticize Israel’s Gaza Murder Spree, and look what is happening to them.

    Israel’s War against The Lancet: When Medicine and Politics Mix

    By the way, the offending letter is in a link at the bottom.

    • F. G. Sanford
      April 26, 2015 at 23:46

      Fundies are living proof that psychiatry and psychology are failed disciplines with no actual ability to describe, diagnose, analyse or treat delusional psychosis. That they will not confront the lunacy of rapture raving loonies demonstrates a complete lack of faith in their own professional abilities. Humanity is rapidly descending into an irreversible state of mass psychosis as these bugnuts screwballs continue to undermine rational thought and basic human decency in order to placate an imagined deity who, by their own description, has no moral or rational purpose for us other than to provide some obscene form of cosmic entertainment. Sick indeed.

  5. Carroll
    April 26, 2015 at 16:48

    I will not submit to censorship, period. Luckily I am American and the US hasnt yet criminalized criticism of Israel or the Zionist or even of Jews or even labeling our politicians traitors to the US on Israel’s behalf.. Luckily also I am bullet proof in that I dont need a job, dont need money and dont have any blackmailable skeltons in my closet that anyone can use to shut me up.
    And after 12 years of research on the US-Israel-ME-Palestine abomination since 911 put the ME on my radar I’ve got plenty to tell the less informed among us.
    So I have reached the point where I could care less about being called an anti semite by Zionist and Israel defenders or anyone else.

    Just tell the truth and nothing but and let the chips fall where they may.

    • Stefan
      April 26, 2015 at 18:59

      True, USA hasn’t reached to the extreme levels like in Germany to take one example.

      But still, you are small fish, seen as someone who can’t cause much harm to any misinformation out there. ADL or some other organisation may keep an eye on you, maybe even have you on file, but hardly care that much.

      Have someone higher up say something “inappropriate” and/or “off the script”, then watch the witch hunt. That person may lose his job, having his career destroyed, might even be murdered.

      The presidential candidate running for election or reelection may lose the necessary funds to run a campaign, the candidate will be squashed by the monopolised media.

      Professors lose their tenure ( Steven Salaita ? There are many other cases ), journalists lose their jobs, their character gets assassinated, any one challenging the script is playing with fire, but only if the person is influential, and can change or create opinion, or having people to relearn, or rethink, or even scrutinize what they are fed.

      If your rep, is restrained by such fears as those above, or whose character cannot resist the temptation of bribery or blackmail, then how free are you?

      • Carroll
        April 27, 2015 at 00:52

        ” any one challenging the script is playing with fire, but only if the person is influential”

        The point of the little people refusing to be censored on Israel is to start fires in the public and put the “influential” on the hot seat.

        ” If your rep, is restrained by such fears as those above, or whose character cannot resist the temptation of bribery or blackmail, then how free are you?”

        Free to pubically call him out for it,
        Traitor trumps anti semite every day of the week in every nation in the universe, always has, always will.

    • Joe
      April 28, 2015 at 05:47

      Your courage and honesty are admirable, but then so is your situation. Let us hope that more find the courage to speak without the safety, and that others have the courage to vote. But the economic coercion that has destroyed our democracy, controlling the mass media, elections, and the judiciary, must be overthrown before justice can be done.

    • Anonymous
      April 28, 2015 at 09:23

      Amen.

  6. Joe Tedesky
    April 26, 2015 at 16:41

    I have written my concern of how the average Jewish person could suffer dearly from the actions of Benjamin Netanyahu. Since Netanyahu forced himself upon the American public via our U.S. Congress, I have encountered many average folk who now ‘hate him’. These same people would have supported Israel all but two years ago. Ever since last years Israeli attacks upon the Palestinians, along with Netanyahu’s quest for war, people are truly being turned off. Plus the more time that passes between now and the holocaust is diluting this tragedy to a fraction of what it once was. Younger people do not just learn about the holocaust through history books, but they also see a Zionist government punishing the Palestinians for their being nothing but Palestian. Netanyahu may find strength in the GOP, but he would be wise to take note that those very same Republican’s were elected by a ‘gerrymandered’ system. In case you haven’t noticed American’s are not happy. This means that U.S. citizens whether they are blue or red, are dissatisfied with their government leaders. If there is to be in our future a great enough catastrophe there will certainly be a hell to pay. My hope is we may all remain calm and rational enough to to not start persecuting just anyone due to their religion or ethnicity.

  7. S Rihari
    April 26, 2015 at 16:19

    I for one am a supporter of Israel. It is the only country in the world where Jewish people can live without fear of persecution. More power to them I say. God gave them that land and long may it remain.
    For a far more articulate response to the above article than I can provide watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_u2dJBrkAo or
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=beDnue9AVkA. Also read The World Turned Upside Down by Melanie Phillips. This will help to give the other side of the story so people can make a more informed decision around the topic of the existence of Israel, amongst other issues. I am not Jewish. I am a Christian who believes that Israel plays a huge role in end time events and deserves to have its voice heard within the global community.

    • Zachary Smith
      April 26, 2015 at 20:41

      For a far more articulate response to the above article than I can provide watch:

      No, thank you. Actually, you’ve managed to say plenty. You’re a “christian” who doesn’t give a damn for anybody but yourself. And you have wacko fantasies about a God who did the Right Thing during the Exodus. You know, ordering the murder of entire cities so as to remove them for his very favorite people.

      And you close your eyes to the second murder spree by that same favorite people. No, that’s wrong. You actually endorse the ongoing Zionist murders of the subhuman Palestinians and the constant degradation of those people illegally occupying the God-Given Property of the murderers and thieves.

      All so YOU can preen about the End Times you are so desperately hoping for.

      Well the truth is out. Evangelical Christians want Israel for Jesus and his followers while they live it up somewhere up above. The fact that Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and all the other faiths that don’t accept their belief system will be burning below, doesn’t seem to bother them one bit. So please – don’t tell me that evangelical Christians are raising millions upon millions of dollars for Israel to help the Jews. Their motives are clear if you just open your eyes and mind to see them. Most of their money in Israel goes to form centers run by evangelical Christians to help Jews accept Yehoshua (Jesus). The leaders in Israel are blinded by the money and look away from the truth of these people. They are not our friends, they are our nemesis.

      http://keepingjudaismjewish.com/2011/12/05/jews-and-the-rapture-why-they-want-so-desperately-to-convert-us/

      Fanatics are the same the world over – no matter what they call themselves. Every single one of them KNOW they’re right and the rest of the world is wrong.

    • Paul
      April 27, 2015 at 10:27

      The Jews are all in Palestine, bud.

    • Gregory Kruse
      April 27, 2015 at 12:05

      I’m an idiot, and I agree with everything in the comment above.

    • Chuck
      April 27, 2015 at 12:30

      If you really took a step back and subjectively looked at some of their actions lately, then you would have a different viewpoint. Your religious bias makes this impossible. It’s this bias, which is prevalent throughout the US congress, that puts us at a disadvantage in the world. Our one sided treatment of the Israel – Palestinian issue is what helps to fuel extremism and further guarantee the special status Mr. Davidson states in this piece.

    • sam
      May 7, 2015 at 20:43

      The Israeli government stole most of the land from indigenous populations in Palestine. If someone stole your house or uprooted your crops, you wouldn’t be singing “Happy Days Are Here Again”. Jews are not the only people that had hardships over the centuries. Many races colors or creeds were persecuted. They do not have a monopoly on persecution. Middle Eastern countries such as Syria, Iraq and Iran had many Jews live there in peace. Furthermore, being Jewish is of a religion and not a people. There are Syrian Jews, Iraqi Jews, Italian Jews, Russian Jews, Iranian Jews and do on. There are no more Hebrews. There are no more Phoenicians or Assyrians. Most Jews today ate not semitic and are not descendants of Abraham. The only semitic Jews are Arab Jews who are treated as second class citizens in Israel. Most of the European Jews refused to assimilate when they migrated to Palestine.
      Some German Jews resisted the Nazis from stealing their homes or confiscating their possessions. Were they terrorists? Why is Hamas considered at Terrorist organization when they are defending their homeland and possessions? Has anyone heard of the Stern Gang or the Irgun or the Haganah? These were all Jewish terrorist groups who conducted heinous acts before Israel was Israel.

  8. Zachary Smith
    April 26, 2015 at 14:21

    There are a couple of obvious ways to shut down criticism of Israel. One is to use the courts to bankrupt the critic, for there would be the potential of enormous liability if he lost the case. But the best part of this strategy is that merely defending against the charges will destroy most people from the cost of the legal expenses. That strategy has already been tried in Australia. A university professor was sued because of his support for BDS (boycott/divestment/sanctions).

    xttp://electronicintifada.net/content/major-setback-israel-backed-groups-efforts-criminalize-bds-australia/13495

    Another is to pass actual laws. In Canada a government official declared earlier this year that the national government was going after ANY critic of Israel.

    Shortly after the MOU was signed, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney announced to the UN General Assembly that the Canadian government would exercise “zero tolerance” toward “all forms of discrimination including rhetoric towards Israel, and attempts to delegitimize Israel such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.”

    http://mondoweiss.net/2015/04/organizations-government-criminalize

    The link account describes how they’re working hard to actually criminalize any criticism at all of the shitty little apartheid nation-state at the east end of the Med.

    Would the toe-licking US Congress pass a law to send anybody who criticizes Holy Israel to prison? That one is easy – they’d do it in a heartbeat if ordered by their Zionist Neocon paymasters. Of course the legislation would be all dressed up in highfalutin phrases, but the net effect would be to kiss Israel’s heiny yet again.

    And to neuter sites like this one.

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