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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Who is Really Suppressing Debate on Israel?

Good article about the "Israel Lobby is shutting us up" complaint.
      Who is Really Suppressing Debate on Israel?   

By Jeffry V. Mallow, Phd.
Sitting up here in Scandinavia reading the International Herald Tribune, I came upon yet another claim that American Jewry stifles debate on Israel. This time it was a piece by IHT columnist Roger Cohen, entitled "Time for U.S. boldness on Israel and Palestine," in which he urges America to push Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians. Well, that's a case I might support, although I am less sanguine about the role of Hamas than Cohen seems to be.

But what troubles me is Cohen's quoting of an Israeli professor. "Since 2000, there has been no real interest on the Israeli side in settling with anyone," says Professor Fred Lazin. (Maybe so, maybe not. The Gaza withdrawal could hardly be called a negotiation, but surely it was a huge positive step towards a settlement.) But then, relates Cohen, "Lazin...attended a meeting of the American Jewish Committee... and said that if he wrote a favorable review of Jimmy Carter's recent book...he'd be 'blackballed as a speaker in many American Jewish venues.'"

Say what? An Israeli professor critical of Israel's policies, speaking to one of the pre-eminent American Jewish organizations, says that if he lauds the book of former President Carter, who just spoke to an SRO crowd at Brandeis, America's pre-eminent Jewish university, he will be blackballed by American Jews? Hello Planet Earth.

But seriously folks, this is getting serious. Cohen in the same IHT article decries "post 9/11 American taboos that have lowered debate of Israel to the scurrilous (and paralyzing) if-you-back-Palestinians-you-back-terrorists level"; Professors Mearsheimer and Walt have a fat contract for their soon-to-be-published book claiming that they are being muzzled; hardly a day goes by without someone somewhere criticizing Israel, in print or blog read by millions, then moaning that he or she is being censored by "the powerful Israel lobby." If it's so powerful, how come it's so ineffectual at shutting anyone up? (Indeed, one day after Cohen's piece, the IHT ran op-eds by Henry Siegmann and H. D. S. Greenway, harshly critical of Israel.)

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