One of thegreatest free speech threats in the West is the growing, multi-nation campaign literally to outlaw advocacy of boycotting Israel. People get arrested in Paris — the site of the 2015 “free speech” (for Muslim critics) rally — for wearing pro-boycott T-shirts. Pro-boycott students on U.S. campuses — where the 1980s boycott of apartheid South Africa flourished — are routinely sanctioned for violating anti-discrimination policies. Canadian officials have threatened to criminally prosecute boycott advocates. British government bodies have legally barred certain types of boycott advocacy. Israel itself has outright criminalized advocacy of such boycotts. Notably, all of this has been undertaken with barely a peep from those who styled themselves free speech crusaders when it came time to defend anti-Muslim cartoons.
But now, New York’s Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo (above, in the 2016 Celebrate Israel Parade) has significantly escalated this free speech attack on U.S. soil, aimed at U.S. citizens. The prince of the New York political dynasty yesterday issued an executive order directing all agencies under his control to terminate any and all business with companies or organizations that support a boycott of Israel. It ensures that citizens who hold and express a particular view are punished through the denial of benefits that other citizens enjoy: a classic free speech violation (imagine if Cuomo issued an order stating that “anyone who expresses conservative viewpoints shall have all state benefits immediately terminated”).
Even more disturbing, Cuomo’s executive order requires that one of his commissioners compile “a list of institutions and companies” that — “either directly or through a parent or subsidiary” — support a boycott. That government list is then posted publicly, and the burden falls on them to prove to the state that they do not, in fact, support such a boycott. Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, told The Intercept: “Whenever the government creates a blacklist based on political views it raises serious First Amendment concerns and this is no exception.” Reason’s Robby Soave denounced it today as “brazenly autocratic.”
To read the relevant provisions of Cuomo’s order is to confront the mentality of petty censoring tyranny, flavored with McCarthyite public shaming, in its purest form. See for yourself: (...)
(...) I’ve been trying to be in front of a functioning TV set on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, at about 21.30, to see – at the same time as other Israelis I’m prone to meet and chat with – the three programs on Israeli TV that make fun of the news: “It’s a Wonderful Country” (Channel 2, Thursday), “The Jews are Coming” (Channel 1, Friday) and “Back of the Nation” (Channel 10, Saturday). (...)
Israel did not invent or start the trend. For some years now the most interesting way to follow what is happening in the world is not by getting the facts right and in their proper perspective, but by having them thrown in the air, juggled about and juxtaposed with others that are seemingly irrelevant, and acquiring a perspective that is different, intriguing and – most importantly – weird-as-can-be and funny, (at least to some). That is the field that Jon Stewart and John Oliver have been mining on American TV screens. (...)
Of the three satirical Israeli programs, “It’s a Wonderful Country” is the veteran. It is based in a TV studio, with an anchor who looks and behaves very correctly (Eyal Kitzis). He reigns over a bunch of very talented actors and impersonators, who visit (or barge into) the studio as various politicians, exposing for viewers those sides of reality that we are usually loathe to contemplate.
The uneasy – but fascinating – relations between the satirical mirror and the politicians reflected in it is a theme worthy of a PhD dissertation. (...)
“The Jews are Coming” on Channel 1, produced by Yoram Gross, is based, to a large extent, on the same principle. It presents biblical scenes with wild twists: for instance, last week we had Moni Moshonov (one of the best and most inventive actors and comedians, a veteran of God only knows how many comic TV shows) as Naomi, returning from Moab to the Land of Israel with her widowed daughter-in-law, Ruth, and the Immigration Police arresting Ruth at the point of entry as an illegal alien. In a series of figures from Jewish history answering a question about their dreams, “The Jews are Coming” had Dr. Freud (played brilliantly by Yaniv Biton) confiding to the viewers: “My dream is to murder my father and sleep with my mother. But it’s a very common dream, isn’t it?”
“The Jews are Coming” is not a topical satire. Rather, it has a lot of fun ridiculing the most sacred cows of Jewish culture; not slaughtering them, but rather milking them for laughs, no holds barred. About three years ago, when Channel 1 was still run by the Israel Broadcasting Authority, with its label of public service, its directors postponed the first season for almost a year, for fear of offending viewers. (...)
“Back of the Nation” got its weird title when it moved four seasons ago from Channel 2, where it was called “State of the Nation” to Channel 10. Its host and main show-runner is Lior Schleien, who delivers a closing monologue each week, very much in the style of Stewart or Oliver. A team of comedians – Orna Banai, who used to be one of the stars of “It’s a Wonderful Country,” Einav Galili, or Ido Rosenblum – deliver punchlines based on questions or ideas presented by Schleien (for instance, coming up with ideas for Bibi on how one can live and thrive without a credit card). No theme or subject is off limits (sex, the Holocaust, you name it), and the panel works very hard to rub it in, even in barbs passed between themselves. The fact that Schleien shares his life (but not a flat) with the feminist MP Merav Michaeli (of Zionist Union) and Rosenblum is married to Channel 2 news anchor Yonit Levi adds to the general mirth, since the private lives of the panelists are very much up for grabs when one strives for a joke. (...)
The Israeli defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, has resigned, saying, "I fought with all my might against manifestations of extremism, violence and racism in Israeli society." His resignation comes only days after Ya’alon’s deputy chief of staff, Major General Yair Golan, compared modern-day Israel to "nauseating trends" in Nazi-era Germany. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has now offered the position of defense minister to the right-wing, ultranationalist politician Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman is considered to be one of the most hawkish politicians in Israel.
An Israeli soldier was arrested on Thursday after a rights group published clear video images of him shooting a wounded, immobilized Palestinian suspect in the head following a knife attack in the West Bank city of Hebron earlier in the day.
Several Palestinian and Israeli observers were struck by the fact that no one around the soldier who fired the shot seemed to treat the incident as unusual — suggesting that such extrajudicial killings of suspected attackers have now become “routine,” as critics have charged.
Asked to comment on the video evidence, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, confirmed in an email to The Intercept that the army took it to be genuine. “The IDF views this incident as a grave breach of IDF values, conduct and standards of military operations,” he wrote. “A Military Police investigation has commenced and the soldier involved has been detained. All of the soldiers involved will be investigated as will the orders given.”
Similarly graphic still images and a second video posted online suggested that the other suspect, al-Qasrawi, was also shot in the head.
Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties in Israel’s parliament, wrote on Twitter: “Israel has turned in recent months into a place in which executions are carried out in public with the encouragement of cheering mobs.” (...)
Extrajudicial killings are getting to be quite the fashion around the world, whether by cop, drone or soldier...
The UK Government today announced that it is now illegal for “local (city) councils, public bodies and even some university student unions . . . to refuse to buy goods and services from companies involved in the arms trade, fossil fuels, tobacco products or Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.” Thus, any entities that support or participate in the global boycott of Israeli settlements will face “severe penalties” under the criminal law.
This may sound like an extreme infringement of free speech and political activism – and of course it is – but it is far from unusual in the west. The opposite is now true. There is a very coordinated and well-financed campaign led by Israel and its supporters literally to criminalize political activism against Israeli occupation, based on the particular fear that the worldwide campaign of Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) – modeled after the 1980s campaign that brought down the Israel-allied apartheid regime in South Africa – is succeeding.
The Israeli website +972 reported last year about a pending bill that “would ban entry to foreigners who promote the (BDS) movement that aims to pressure Israel to comply with international law and respect Palestinian rights.” In 2011, a law passed in Israel which “effectively ban(ned) any public call for a boycott — economic, cultural or academic — against Israel or its West Bank settlements, making such action a punishable offense.”
But the current censorship goal is to make such activism a crime not only in Israel, but in western countries generally. And it is succeeding.
his trend to outlaw activism against the decades-long Israeli occupation – particularly though not only through boycotts against Israel – has permeated multiple western nations and countless institutions within them. In October, we reported on the criminal convictions in France of 12 activists “for the ‘crime’ of advocating sanctions and a boycott against Israel as a means of ending the decades-long military occupation of Palestine,” convictions upheld by France’s highest court. They were literally arrested and prosecuted for “wearing shirts emblazoned with the words ‘Long live Palestine, boycott Israel'” and because “they also handed out fliers that said that ‘buying Israeli products means legitimizing crimes in Gaza.”
In the U.S., unbeknownst to many, there are similar legislative proscriptions on such activism, and a pending bill would strengthen the outlawing of BDS. As the Washington Postreported last June, “a wave of anti-BDS legislation is sweeping the U.S.” Numerous bills in Congress encourage or require state action to combat BDS.
Eyal Press warned in a must-read New York Times Op-Ed last month that under a Customs Bill passed by both houses of Congress and headed to the White House, “American officials will be obligated to treat the settlements as part of Israel in future trade negotiations,” a provision specifically designed “to combat the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, a grass-roots campaign.” But as Press notes, under existing law – which is almost never discussed – “Washington already forbids American companies to cooperate with state-led boycotts of Israel.”
The real purpose of this new law, as Press explains it, is to force American companies to treat settlements in the West Bank – which virtually the entire world views as illegal – as a valid part of Israel, by outlawing any behavior that would be deemed cooperative with a boycott of companies occupying the West Bank. U.S. companies would be forced to pretend that products produced in the occupied territories are actually produced in “Israel.” The White House announced that it will sign the bill despite its opposition to the AIPAC-backed pro-settlement provision. (...)
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Feb 16, 2016 - 1:08am
R_P, I did not know for sure you had something against Israël, but predicted it in the other topic because most leftists are pretty predictable. Now I know for sure, but I don't understand it very well. For example the article you posted. Yes it's bad that a president and a prime minister had to go to jail. But to me it is a proof of a functioning democracy and justice system. In Italy the same should have been applied many times now, but the high politicians all got away because of corruption, friends or sort of owning the judges/justice system. Also the antithese of Israël - Palestine - has widespread fraud and corruption, but this has never resulted in jail time which also can be said for the surrounding countries scoring considerably worse on the corruption index.
So what do you have against Israël and why do you favour the other countries around Israël? Is it based on facts or just feelings? Or is it just fitting for a leftist to be against Israël and be pro muslim countries? Or is it just an underdog thing?
I admit that I never believed the moment would come. I was certain that the authorities would somehow find a way to keep the former prime minister, with all the secrets he carries in his head, out of prison. Something, a last-minute pardon, a whopping fine and community service – anything but having him serve time. But a few minutes before 10 A.M. on Tuesday morning, it indeed happened.
There is some grim satisfaction to be derived from the footage of Ehud Olmert getting out of the Shin Bet security services jeep, and walking to the door of Maasiyahu prison to start his 19-month sentence for bribe-taking and obstruction of justice.
As he entered, he exchanged his VIP protection unit bodyguards for Israel Prison Service officers. The IPS refused his request to be allowed to go in from the rear entrance, where the camera crews would not be able to record the precise moment Olmert ceased to be a free citizen.
This was a moment of satisfaction because for all its many faults and limitations, Israel’s democracy is the only one to have put a prime minister and president in prison for their crimes. Without a violent revolution or coup. Much more mature democracies have failed to do so. Even the United States pardoned Richard Nixon, rather than see a president behind bars. But it has to be only a fleeting moment. Because this is not just about Olmert and the reign of corruption he facilitated in Jerusalem City Hall and the ministries he headed. (...)