US Attacks BDS for Same Reason Nixon Started Drug War

This weapon will continue to be used against the left, not only to support Israel but to prevent the rise of any political movements in powerful Western nations, writes Caitlin Johnstone. 

Protest against Israel’s Gaza blockade and attack on humanitarian flotilla, Melbourne, Australia, June 5, 2010. (Takver via flickr)

By Caitlin Johnstone

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Arkansas’ law against BDS — the use of boycott, divestment and sanctions as a means of protest against Israel —violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, because it plainly does.

The Arkansas Times has successfully challenged a law that prohibits the state from doing business with companies that boycott Israel,” Mondoweiss reports. “The Little Rock-based weekly filed the lawsuit in 2018 and was represented by the ACLU. The paper takes no official position on BDS, but it launched the legal challenge after the University of Arkansas Pulaski Technical College refused to sign an advertising contract with The Arkansas Times, unless it signed the pledge. A U.S. district court judge dismissed the case in 2019, but last week the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals found the law unconstitutional in a 2-1 decision.”

“One of the greatest threats to free speech are laws banning state contracts with any company or citizen advocating a boycott of Israel,” tweeted journalist Glenn Greenwald of the ruling. “Every court to review them, except one, declared them unconstitutional. That sole court just got overruled: good news. These laws, which proliferated in numerous states, haven’t received the attention they deserve given what a grave threat to free speech they pose.”

This is an important victory for civil rights defenders and for Palestinian rights activists, but it’s just one battle in a much larger war.

In a recent article titled “Biden officials pledge to fight BDS,” Electronic Intifada‘s Josh Ruebner documents the “vitriolic opposition” which various members of the current administration have voiced against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions protest movement against the Israeli government’s flagrant violations of international law and its apartheid abuses of the Palestinian people, and the administration’s support for the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism which civil rights advocates criticize as “a pretext to smear and censor supporters of Palestinian rights.”

Ruebner writes:

“The Biden administration ’embraces and champions’ the so-called IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, a State Department official said on Monday.

Kara McDonald, deputy assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, praised the definition ‘with its real-world examples’ as ‘an invaluable tool’ to ‘call hate by its proper name and take effective action,’ according to the JTA news agency.

McDonald is serving temporarily as the Biden administration’s point person on the issue until it names a special envoy on anti-Semitism.

The IHRA definition has been promoted by Israel and its lobby groups.

It has been strongly opposed by civil libertarians and Palestinian and Jewish organizations which see it as a pretext to smear and censor supporters of Palestinian rights.

Its use as a tool of censorship has even been criticized by the definition’s original author.

This is because some of the definition’s accompanying examples equate legitimate criticisms of Israeli government policies and actions with anti-Jewish bigotry.”

So, we can definitely expect the attacks on BDS and other Palestinian rights activism to continue with extreme aggression. Anti-imperialists often attribute this forceful campaign to Israel’s central role in the western empire’s geo-strategic agendas in the Middle East, and that’s certainly a big part of it; if Palestinians are able to obtain equal rights in Israel the nation’s government and behavior will look drastically different from the way it looks today.

Undermining the Left

But another major motive behind these attacks which doesn’t get enough attention is to sabotage and undermine the left in the Western world, in much the same way as the “war on drugs” was originally intended to do.

In 2016 the late journalist and author Dan Baum revealed something that he’d been told in 1994 by former top Nixon advisor and Watergate co-conspirator John Ehrlichman (emphasis added):

“At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. ‘You want to know what this was really all about?’ he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. ‘The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.’ ”

In much the same way, those in charge of the capitalist empire could never get away with outlawing support for socialism or opposition to imperialism, but they can target things that socialists and anti-imperialists happen to support in order to disrupt the left.

John Ehrlichman on a British TV talk show in 1987. (Open Media Ltd, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Last month the prominent Israeli civil rights organization B’Tselem published an analysis titled “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid,” finding that “the bar for labeling the Israeli regime as apartheid has been met.”

Anyone who moves a sufficient distance to the left of the mainstream “center” will necessarily find themselves in opposition to a right-wing government with institutionalized apartheid. The true left’s inherent opposition to injustice, racism and imperialism necessarily means a leftist will inevitably find their way into that position once they learn enough and move far enough outside of imperialist mainstream indoctrination.

Anti-Semitism Bludgeon 

By taking this natural consequence of sincere leftism and labeling it “anti-Semitism,” as the aforementioned IHRA definition of anti-Semitism effectively does, the imperial propaganda engine has given itself a bludgeon with which to attack every part of the ideological spectrum which opposes capitalism and imperialism.

Whether or not Ehrlichman’s account of the origins of the drug war is accurate (some dispute its exact nature), it cannot be denied that minorities and political dissidents have been affected far more adversely by the drug war than the white right-wingers who comprised Nixon’s base. Their leaders absolutely were arrested. Their homes absolutely were raided. Their meetings absolutely have been broken up. They absolutely were vilified night after night on the evening news.

In the same way, it hasn’t been neo-Nazis and other right wing extremists who’ve wound up targeted by the dishonest conflation of antiZionism with anti-Semitism, it’s been peace activists and the left, whether that be on college campuses or in politics.

The strongest example of the latter is of course the UK’s Jeremy Corbyn, who through a series of odd accidents found himself within spitting distance of leading a major Western power as an anti-imperialist socialist. This could not be tolerated, so an entirely bogus narrative about an epidemic of anti-Semitism in Corbyn’s Labour Party, largely aided by Corbyn’s history of support for Palestinian rights, was hammered day after day by the mass media with unbelievable force until his party lost and his faction was subverted.

Anyone of sufficient influence who is far enough outside the capitalist, imperialist consensus worldview will necessarily find themselves similarly targeted for their inevitable opposition to Israeli apartheid, with the shrieking narratives of the political/media class as shrill, urgent and hysterical as they need to be to undermine their subject into impotence.

This weapon will continue to be used against the left, not only to support Israel but to prevent the rise of any political movements in powerful Western nations which would threaten the capitalist, imperialist world order.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium.   Her work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking her on Facebook, following her antics on Twitter, checking out her podcast on either YoutubesoundcloudApple podcasts or Spotify, following her on Steemit, throwing some money into her tip jar on Patreon or Paypal, purchasing some of her sweet merchandise, buying her books Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone and Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.

This article was re-published with permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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17 comments for “US Attacks BDS for Same Reason Nixon Started Drug War

  1. February 20, 2021 at 03:17

    I’m one of your loyal readers and I would like your comments about the following issues as this is something I do not really understand. The whole world is pressing Iran about their present nuclear activities. I would appreciate you explain the following, 1) What gives the right for countries like the US, UK, France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Israel to have nuclear weapons? 2) During the development of their nuclear programs the world did not question India and Pakistan, let alone imposed the salvages sanctions on these two countries known for their a belicose past? 3) France, in the 60’s conducted nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean destroying islands and the environment ignoring the UN. 4) Israel has secretly developed an atomic arsenal with the assistance, both, technical and financial from the USA, what right do they have to deploye atomic weapons? 5) Some argue that Iran is a rogue state and shall be stopped fron developing a nuclear arsenal, what about Israel violating daily the air space of Lebanon and Syria and the Saudis bombing Yemen? are not these two states rogue? How many countries has Iran invaded in modern history? 6) If Israel is not a member, thus, not obliged to follow their rules of the Nucleat Treaty, could Iran renounce to their membership and procedd just like the israelis did? I would really appreciate yor views. Keep the good work. Best regards.

  2. Zalamander
    February 19, 2021 at 23:43

    B’tselem’s report is a real game changer, Biden and his neoliberal imperialist administration ignores it’s findings at their own peril because the real anti-imperialist left is gaining strength.

  3. Cadogan Parry
    February 19, 2021 at 19:21

    “But another major motive behind these attacks”… as if the UK and US pro-Israel Lobby motives receive anywhere near the attention they deserve.

    The ruthless pro-Israel Lobby anti-BDS campaigns aren’t motivated by “the capitalist, imperialist consensus worldview” and have very little to do with “imperial propaganda engine” efforts to “sabotage and undermine the left in the Western world”.

    Useful idiots on “the left” do prattle on “in much the same way”. Meanwhile, UK and US (see Jamie Stern-Weiner’s December-12-2013 article, “J Street: Israel’s Loyal Opposition” at Jadaliyya) pro-Israel Lobby operatives continuously strive to strangle opposition to Israeli interests.

  4. Andrew Thomas
    February 19, 2021 at 16:44

    Mr. Simpson, I don’t believe BDS is about Israeli identity now. It is about the actions of the state of Israel. And, sadly, I doubt that focusing on that clarification will make a bit of difference. The conflation of what is called ‘antisemitism’ but which should really be called ‘hating Jews because they are Jews’, given that there are lots of non-Jewish semites, with criticism of the actions of the Israeli state is a knowingly dishonest fraud. No clarifications will discourage the perpetrators of that fraud.

    • James Simpson
      February 20, 2021 at 03:03

      @Andrew Thomas: You could well be right. However, I’m thinking that the recent B’Tselem report designating Israel an apartheid state was an important step forward and might be the start of an international campaign similar to that against apartheid in S Africa in the 1970s/80s. That was highly controversial and was fiercely opposed by much of the corporate media and centrist/right wing politicians using most of the same arguments being used against BDS now – but it succeeded.

    • robert e williamson jr
      February 20, 2021 at 16:28

      Thank you very much Mr. Thomas!

    • Mark Recchia
      February 20, 2021 at 16:28

      One tragic consequence of mis-equating Semitism exclusively with Judaism is the denial of genuine anti-Semitism, e.g., discrimination against Palestinians simply because they’re Palestinians, who are Arabs, and, therefore, genuine Semites.

  5. Anonymot
    February 19, 2021 at 16:18

    Brilliant article. So why do the Democrats always pussyfoot around everything. Why can’t they/don’t they use hardball tactics like the republicans do all the time? Are they secretly beholden to the Republicans.

    But listen to Biden. Where he’s riskily hard-nosed is in promoting war with Russia and Iran and China
    ; having created wars throughout the Middle East when he was just a VP standing next to Obama and Hillary.

    They are all in the service of the same people and it isn’t us!

    • robert e williamson jr
      February 19, 2021 at 22:17

      The history seems to indicate the Democrats amount to little more that being the paid opposition of the republicans.

      Biden is a Zionist he will bow to the will of BiBi & Co. again reinforcing the bad behavior of Israel. You know running an apartheid government.

      Cal Lash I’m 72. I suppose I do appose the enormous blood letting over the centuries in the name of and through the various beliefs in a higher being or a higher order. What I am fervently opposed to is arming religious hysterical radical terr0rists. The U.S. government has given Israel hundreds of billions of dollars during my life time and I’m opposed them getting one more penny.

      Biden might say he wants to forgive and forget when dealing with the republicans. This shows me Uncle Joe is clueless to what the country wants and needs.

      Now forgiving and forgetting, why is it Israel cannot be expected to do the same thing. They have gotten away with murder since 1947 and still those in power in D.C. humor blood thirsty leaders like Benie “the Blade” Neitinyahoo.

      As things sit today as I stated earlier , the democrats being little more that the paid, very well paid, opposition of republicans. It is a rigged game and a very dangerous one for this country. This make believe game called the two party system.

    • Anne
      February 20, 2021 at 11:21

      Ummmm…when, pray tell, did the Reps (the Red faces of the Janus Party) ever stop our financial support of the OAP (Occupiers of All Palestine, known as Israel)? When did they ever, ever seek to prosecute them (Zionistas) as war criminals, human rights abusers? Ever seek to stop what has been going on for over 70 years, all perpetrated by the Zionistas???? When exactly. I must have missed that fleeting millisecond…

  6. Cal Lash
    February 19, 2021 at 14:43

    At 80 my take is still as it has been for 66 years.
    I am opposed to organized religions.
    All 4300 of them.

    • Helga I. Fellay
      February 19, 2021 at 18:03

      Cal – nothing in this article has anything whatsoever to do with religion. Not even with race or ethnicity, not really. It has everything to do with zionism, a ruthless political ideology, with land theft, and with genocide of a nation whose land was stolen, who are actually semites.

  7. John D Zeigler
    February 19, 2021 at 13:54

    Many people conveniently overlook the fact that Palestinians are a Semitic people, too, while modern day Isarel, certainly post 1947 and back to the late 1800s, is a neo-colonial state, populated largely by Eastern Europeans.

  8. michael888
    February 19, 2021 at 07:58

    Cardin and Rubio seem to stick a paragraph making BDS a crime into legislation every year. SCOTUS should invalidate any law with anti-BDS screeds as unconstitutional, but it is a slow process.
    Zionism cannot be criticized in Europe. Idiots go to jail for denying the Holocaust, yet today’s journalists make up fake news and “facts” citing anonymous sources, yet face no consequences (many are promoted for foisting the CIA narratives upon us.)
    The hated Nixon put a man on the moon, opened China, created the toothless EPA and OSHA, and was booted for office for covering up a break-in by supporters (seems quaint compared to what Obama and the Intelligence Agencies did to help Hillary).
    And the Foundation for Economic Education names “Joe Biden: The Architect of America’s Disastrous War on Drugs”, April 25, 2019, not Nixon.

  9. James Simpson
    February 19, 2021 at 02:38

    Perhaps one element in a response to this successful anti-left strategy would be, in BDS and pro-Palestine campaigns, to emphasise the apartheid actions over the Israeli identity. That might tend to undermine the accusations of antisemitism.

    • Jan Jaap de Ruiter
      February 20, 2021 at 13:23

      Where do you get the idea that Palestinians are leftists? They are just as bigoted as American evangelist Christians. Neither Palestinian faction allows democracy, dissent or criticism of Islam. If you call them leftists because they oppose US imperialism, then Adolf Hitler was a leftist too, because he was one of the greatest opponents of US imperialism in the 20th century.

  10. Jörgen Hassler
    February 19, 2021 at 02:00

    Imortant piece. Many seem to think Israel is running US policy. The fact is the opposit: the territory is still under colonial rule, providing a number of services at home and abroad for the current masters.

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