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Israeli censorship increasingly engenders a self-defeating backlash

January 12, 2019 at 12:28 pm

Pro-Israel protesters try to disrupt a protest held to support the “Great March of Return” and mourn the Palestinians shot and killed by Israeli forces along the Gaza border at Union Square in New York, United States on April 6, 2018 [Atılgan Özdil / Anadolu Agency]

It might not look like it, but in many ways Israel is in a bind.

Of course, Israel is a fundamentally oppressive, racist, apartheid state which is increasingly in bed with some of the world’s worst regimes – including Saudi Arabia’s brutal absolutist monarchy, and the anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi-arming government in Ukraine

Yet in terms of Israel’s propaganda, in the long term it is really only sticking its finger in the dam, delaying the inevitable deluge.

Israel’s image among the general population is in terminal decline, and there is no going back. Behind closed doors, professional propagandists for Israel admit as much. In 2017, the Electronic Intifada obtained a leaked report co-authored by Israeli think tank the Reut Institute and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which desperately tried to suggest solutions to the problem.

The ADL was once – a long, long time ago – founded as a civil rights organisation to combat anti-Jewish bigotry. It has long since neglected this mission in favour of acting as one of American’s most vicious Israel lobby organisations – court cases in the 1990s revealed decades of covert spying activity the ADL had carried out in the US to infiltrate, survey and sabotage solidarity groups which supported the peoples of Palestine and South Africa against their respective apartheid regimes.

The Reut Institute is an influential think tank with close links to the state of Israel. In its report – which was intended only for internal consumption, and was not posted online for fear of giving away too much information – the authors fretted about the “impressive growth” and “significant successes” of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Despite the fact that Israel and its affiliated lobbyists have increased their spending 20-fold to combat BDS in recent years, the report wrote that “results remain elusive”.

Read: Muslim civil rights group files lawsuit against anti-BDS order in Maryland

Another anti-Palestinian organisation which recently recognised the terminal decline in Israeli propagandists’ fortune is The Israel Project (TIP). In Al Jazeera’s suppressed documentary, “The Lobby – USA,” the network sent an undercover reporter to infiltrate TIP. The secretly-filmed footage gives a fascinating insight into how such groups see themselves.

On one hand, these groups clearly have no problem in the financial department, with mega-rich, fanatically anti-Palestinian funders like Adam Milstein and Sheldon Adelson donating huge sums to their cause. Furthermore, groups like TIP, and the far bigger American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), clearly still have a lot of sway over most American politicians.

On the other hand, these groups are losing even this long-held influence, as the recent election of more left-wing, progressive Democrats like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez show. In Al Jazeera’s documentary, a TIP director frets about “the Bernie Sanders people” increasingly entering the Democratic Party and eroding Israel’s “bipartisan” support in Congress.

Polls have been showing for years now that in the United States – where anything less than total, unquestioning support for Israel was once considered beyond the pale – the issue is increasingly becoming a partisan one. In historical terms, support for Israel is eroding rapidly, a trend which seems likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

In the documentary Eric Gallagher, a senior TIP staffer who formerly worked at AIPAC,  laments that “the foundation that AIPAC sat on is rotting”. I couldn’t have put it more succinctly myself – and may this foundation continue to rot until it utterly collapses.

“There used to be actual, widespread public support for Israel in the United States,” Gallagher explained, “so I don’t think that AIPAC is going to remain as influential as it is”. He added: “I don’t think that AIPAC is the tip of the spear anymore, which is worrisome, because who is?”

Read: Bernie Sanders slams ‘absurd’ introduction of anti-BDS bill in Congress

Zionist fanatics are becoming increasingly desperate, as they helplessly observe such trends.  This means the acts of bullying, censorship and harassment that so often pass for “Israel advocacy” around the world are getting ever more reckless, and are increasingly engendering backlashes.

From the point of view of the Palestinians and those of us who act in solidarity with them, this is a hopeful trend. It means our enemies are making more and more forced errors. One clear example is the pattern of anti-BDS laws that the Israel lobby has been trying to cajole onto the books around the world – but especially, and most outrageously in the US.

These have had an effect, no doubt, and with ridiculous results. One such example is people in Texas being forced to sign a loyalty pledge not to boycott Israel before receiving hurricane aid. However, they also have a backlash effect.

The silver lining of the proposed Israel Anti-Boycott Act is that it increasingly means that BDS is becoming a household term in the US. More and more Americans are questioning the seemingly-undying loyalty to Israel that far too many US lawmakers hold.

As this trend grows, so erodes Israel’s long-term standing. The fundamentally anti-democratic and unconstitutional nature of these anti-BDS laws means that Israel may have overplayed its hand.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.