The Israel Lobbies and Breitbartism: Dirty Tricks, Taboos and the threat to American Democracy
July 23, 2010
by Michael Leon
CNN Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman Smeared by Israeli Lobby
– If Israel told the truth, the whole cabinet would run screaming into the Mediterranean –
By Juan Cole at Informed Comment
Phil Weiss notes that another of the Dirty Tricks divisions of the Israel lobbies in the U.S., CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America), has denounced CNN´s Ben Wedeman for retweeting a post of mine on Turkey-Israel relations.
By the way, I am particularly proud of that posting, which examines the political economy of “re-Ottomanization” and Turkey´s emergence as a significant and independent player in the Middle East in the past decade. I haven´t seen a similar analysis elsewhere, of the way in which Turkish external trade intersects with its various policy initiatives.
Whenever a journalist is attacked for referencing an academic, it is an attempt to make that scholar´s work taboo and to forbid its public mention. It would be perfectly all right for an advocacy group to say “In that blog posting, Cole gets the Turkish economy and its impact on relations with Israel wrong for reasons X, Y and Z.¨” But CAMERA did not engage with my substantive points. They simply propagandized.
“Cole’s article claimed: “[Israel’s] isolation derives from Israeli policies, of illegal blockades … and systematic land theft and displacement of occupied civilians under its control, along with aggressive wars on neighbors, which target infrastructure and civilians and are clearly intended to keep neighbors poor and backward.” In other words, Cole and Wedeman promote the argument that Israelis send their sons and daughters to war not for the country’s security and preservation, but out of sheer malice. The Six-Day War, according to this view, did not stem from Egyptian acts of war and threats of annihilation. “
But the article was not about 1967. It was about now. The reference was obviously to Lebanon and Gaza. Moreover, Mr. Wedeman specifically pointed to my comments on Israel-Turkish relations as what he found interesting, and did not anyway say I was right about everything. He certainly said nothing about the 1967 war (nor did I in that posting)! Yet CAMERA has invented such a statement and then damned him with it falsely.
Wedeman has risked his life to cover the Middle East for us for many years and has long experience of the region on the ground. The CAMERA offices are not filled with similar people and they have no idea what they are talking about most of the time. They have no standing to go after Wedeman. All they are doing is trying to mark him with a taboo (me), which is a fundamentally undemocratic tactic. Liberal democracy is about open discussion and substantive debate, not about saying “Voltaire cannot be quoted in the press because he was a harsh critic of the Christian Church.” That is the form of CAMERA´s discourse, and it is against everything the Founding Generation of Americas stood for.
CAMERA is not in fact an organization devoted to fairness in journalism. It incorrectly and dishonestly maintains that only the Carter administration ever said that Israeli colonization of the Palestinian West Bank is illegal. Its members also mounted a covert and conspiratorial attempt to edit all Wikipedia articles to slant them toward a rightwing Zionist perspective, and they were banned from Wikipedia when the plot was outed. The organization occasionally succeeds in correcting errors, but only in the same way that a fanatical Khomeinist would easily be able to find and correct errors in US journalism about the Islamic Republic of Iran. It isn´t that ideologues want fairness– they want to impose their blindered narrative on everyone else. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.
The insidious damage that CAMERA and other such far rightwing organizations do to the United States of America is incalculable. They try to get journalists fired for not being as fanatical and narrow-minded as themselves, and they often succeed. We do not know their full impact because such decisions are taken behind closed doors by cowardly editors or corporate middle managers.
By accusing Mr. Wedeman of saying that all Israeli wars have been aggressive in character, when he said no such thing, CAMERA is functioning in his regard just as Andrew Breitbart did to Shirley Sherrod. Selective editing of texts and videos, innuendo, framing statements unfairly, trying to make certain authors taboo, and other such dirty tricks are the bread and butter of the far right, because they do not have truth on their side to begin with.
Luckily, in this case CAMERA over-reached and as far as I can tell nobody cares what they think about my analysis of Israel-Turkish relations or about Mr. Wedeman´s citation of it. Nobody should care what they think of anything else, and should be doubly careful when they accuse journalists in future of getting some fact wrong about Israel, because they have repeatedly shown themselves dishonest.