The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald again smears pro-Israel American Jews

While the baffling support given to a far-right conservative (deemed hostile to women’s rights, gay rights and civil rights) named Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary by many on the far-left represents an interesting topic, the narrative advanced by Hagel defender Glenn Greenwald is especially worth exploring.

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Greenwald’s latest post, titled ‘Who paid for the Log Cabin Republicans’ anti-Hagel NYT ad?‘, primarily focuses on the question of who’s funding an anti-Hagel ad published by a well-known gay Republican group in the US (the Log Cabin Republicans), but also touches on one of Greenwald’s favorite themes: the alleged “stifling of debate” by the Israel lobby.

After floating the theory that a pro-Israeli lobby group may have funded the Log Cabin Republican ad, Greenwald pivots to one of his favorite targets:

While I agree with those who insist that a Hagel nomination would not meaningfully change administration policy, the goal of the anti-Hagel smear campaign is to ensure that there can be no debate and no diversity of views on Israel when it comes to top government officials.

As we noted, Greenwald similarly complained last week, on MSNBC, about the supposed “smear” campaign against Hagel by the pro-Israel lobby, and accused such activists of having a “stranglehold” over the American debate about Israel.

More importantly, it’s impossible to properly contextualize Greenwald’s complaint about the injurious effect of the Israel lobby on the US body politic without recalling previous comments by Greenwald which evoke the same theme.

Here are a few examples from his old blog at Salon.com:

“So absolute has the Israel-centric stranglehold on American policy been that the US Government has made it illegal to broadcast Hezbollah television stations.” 

Not even our Constitution’s First Amendment has been a match for the endless exploitation of American policy, law and resources [by the Israel lobby] to target and punish Israel’s enemies.”

The real goal [of the Israel lobby], as always, was to ensure that there is no debate over America’s indescribably self-destructive, blind support for Israeli actions. [Charles] Freeman’s critics may have scored a short-term victory in that regard, but the more obvious it becomes what is really driving these scandals, the more difficult it will be to maintain this suffocating control over American debates and American policy.”

“The point is that the power the [Israel lobby] exercises [is] harmful in the extreme. They use it to squelch debate, destroy the careers and reputations of those who deviate from their orthodoxies, and compel both political parties to maintain strict adherence to an agenda that is held by a minority of Americans; that is principally concerned with the interests of a foreign country.”

I have written previously about the dark history of the broader narrative Greenwald advances about the undue influence of the pro-Israeli/Jewish lobby, but beyond the odiousness of imputing such malevolence, and ill motives, to such (largely Jewish) pro-Israel activists, there is a fatal flaw in his argument.

When pro-Israel advocates in the US contact the media to make their voice heard, lobby for or against congressional legislation, or contact their representatives to express their concerns about a nominee for an important position, they are merely exercising their First Amendment rights as all Americans have the right to do.  

They aren’t “stifling”, squelching, or exercising a stranglehold over debate – and, despite the dark, conspiratorial musings of some, don’t possess the power to do so – but, rather, are participating in the political process, confident in their freedom to do so as citizens who are equal under the law.

Pro-Israel activists (and Jews as such) in America who legally use the levers of democracy to express their concerns about Chuck Hagel – regardless of the merits of their argument – are not denying the rights of Glenn Greenwald, Peter Beinart, Andrew Sullivan, Richard Silverstein, and others, to advocate on behalf of Hagel.

In short, free speech isn’t a zero-sum game.

Moreover, plain decency – and, it would seem, a liberal sense of fairness – would at the very least demand that Hagel’s defenders debate the issue on its merits, and avoid engaging in what amounts to nothing more than a vicious ad hominem attack on the Jewish community.

The stranglehold on the US by one lobby: One minute with Glenn Greenwald

The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald is evidently traveling and has been unable to write over the last couple of days, but was decent enough to post a few clips from his appearance on MSNBC’s “Up With Chris Hayes, ‘The Israel Lobby’s smear campaign and Dark Zero Thirty, Dec. 22.

Greenwald was on the show to discuss (among other issues) the possible nomination of Chuck Hagel as US Defense Secretary.  Talk of Hagel’s nomination has come under fire due to the Nebraska Senator’s views on Israel and the Middle East. 

In this brief clip which follows (which I edited from a longer segment on the MSNBC show) Greenwald is seen reacting to a speech Hagel gave about the 2nd Lebanon War on the Senate floor (on July 31, 2006), in which he demanded that “the sickening slaughter on both sides must end”.  

Though it’s arguably true that Israel’s supporters in the US have indeed over-reacted to the possible Hagel nomination, MSNBC’s  Hayes framed the row in a manner which allowed Greenwald the opportunity to denounce the Israel lobby, and he didn’t disappoint.

What you’re “allowed” to say:

In the first 15 seconds, Greenwald claims that you’re “allowed” to criticize Israeli policy more in Israel than you are in the United States, representing one of the central conceits of such critics: that pro-Israel lobbyists stifle debate.  

Of course, Greenwald, MJ Rosenberg, Andrew Sullivan as with Chuck Hagel, Congressman Keith Ellison and Dennis Kucinich, and academics like Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, are “allowed” to be as critical as they’d like about Israel.

However, defenders of Israel are equally entitled to voice their views and use the democratic process in hopes that their side prevails over US policy decisions.  

The fact that critics of Israel face moral opprobrium doesn’t mean their voice is being silence. Freedom of speech does not require that such speech be immune from criticism.

Israel bombs ‘a longstanding ally’ of the US.

At the 25 second mark Greenwald complains how unfair it is that Senator Hagel wasn’t “allowed” to criticize Israel for bombing “a longstanding ally of the United States” – which refers to Lebanon (in the context of the 2nd Lebanon War) and conveniently ignores that Israel was at war, not with the government of Lebanon, but with the Iranian backed Islamist terror movement, Hezbollah.  

US public opinion was overwhelmingly supportive of Israel’s action, which was prompted by Hezbollah rocket attacks on northern Israel, as well as a cross-border raid in which they killed eight Israeli soldiers and abducted two others.

Israel wasn’t bombing an ally. The citizens of an ally, Lebanon, were being held hostage to the terror committed on its soil by an illegal militia funded, armed and trained by Iran.

Israel lobby has a “stranglehold” over the American debate about Israel 

At the 40 second mark he goes even further, claiming there is a “stranglehold” over US debate about Israel.  In fact, Greenwald has used the term “stranglehold” before in the same context.

“So absolute has the Israel-centric stranglehold on American policy been that the US Government has made it illegal to broadcast Hezbollah television stations.” – Greenwald, Salon.com, 2009

Greenwald, in the 2009 quote, is referring to Hezbollah’s TV station, Al-Manar, which was banned by the US in 2006 – labelled a ‘Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entity.  

Greenwald believes not only that the Israel lobby controls the debate about Israel in the US, but, evidently, that is also controls much of US national security policy as well.

Interestingly, Al-Manar has also been banned in France and Germany, and to varying extents in the UK, Canada, Netherlands, and Australia, which would evidently suggest, per Greenwald’s logic, that the Israel lobby has pulled off a feat that Hezbollah could not – achieving a truly global penetration.  

In fairness, Greenwald likely would not buy into theories about Zionist global conspiracies.  

However, when you carelessly use the language and tropes of those who do, you further legitimize their toxic narratives about the dangers of Jewish control.