Friday, May 9, 2008

THE HATE CAMPAIGN AGAINST CRITICS OF ISRAEL

JOHANN HARI, INDEPENDENT, UK In the US and Britain, there is a campaign to smear anybody who tries to describe the plight of the Palestinian people. It is an attempt to intimidate and silence - and to a large degree, it works. . .

My own case isn't especially important, but it illustrates how the wider process of intimidation works. I have worked undercover at both the Finsbury Park mosque and among neo-Nazi Holocaust deniers to expose the Jew-hatred there; when I went on the Islam Channel to challenge the anti-Semitism of Islamists, I received a rash of death threats calling me "a Jew-lover", "a Zionist-homo pig" and more. . .

I have also reported from Gaza and the West Bank. Last week, I wrote an article that described how untreated sewage was being pumped from illegal Israeli settlements on to Palestinian land, contaminating their reservoirs. This isn't controversial. It has been documented by Friends of the Earth, and I have seen it with my own eyes. . .

Some of the most high profile "pro-Israel" writers and media monitoring groups - including Honest Reporting and Camera - said I an anti-Jewish bigot akin to Joseph Goebbels and Mahmoud Ahmadinejadh, while Melanie Phillips even linked the stabbing of two Jewish people in North London to articles like mine. Vast numbers of e-mails came flooding in calling for me to be sacked. . .

The former editor of Israel's leading newspaper, Ha'aretz, David Landau, calls the behavior of these groups "nascent McCarthyism". Those responsible hold extreme positions of their own that place them way to the right of most Israelis. Alan Dershowitz and Melanie Phillips are two of the most prominent figures sent in to attack anyone who disagrees with the Israeli right. . .

These individuals spray accusations of anti-Semitism so liberally that by their standards, a majority of Jewish Israelis have anti-Semitic tendencies. Dershowitz said Jimmy Carter's decision to speak to the elected Hamas government "border[ed] on anti-Semitism." A Ha'aretz poll last month found that 64 per cent of Israelis want their government to do just that. . .

Are the likes of Dershowitz and Phillips and Honest Reporting becoming more shrill because they can sense they are losing the argument? Liberal Jews - the majority - are now setting up rivals to the hard-right organizations they work with, because they believe this campaign of deionization is damaging us all. It damages the Palestinians, because it prevents honest discussion of their plight. It damages the Israelis, because it pushes them further down an aggressive and futile path. And it damages diaspora Jews, because it makes real anti-Semitism harder to deal with.

We need to look the witch-hunters in the eye and say, as Joseph Welch said to Joe McCarthy himself: "You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"

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