We are approaching a pivotal time in America. With the aging of the older generation–that is to say those who grew up prior to the age of the Internet–the percentage of the population relying mainly upon mainstream media for its news will slowly diminish. A younger generation, consisting of those accustomed to getting most of their news and information off the Internet, will gradually begin to outnumber them.
What this means in practical terms is that Israel and its supporters will find it increasingly harder to dominate mainstream political discourse.
If we take 1990 as the base year or starting point of the information age, those who today are 26 years of age or younger will have grown up in households where computers, for the most part, are/were as commonplace as were TV sets in the 1960s.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, America’s population at the time of the last census, in 2010, stood at 308,745,538. Those aged 29 or younger comprised 125,955,404, or roughly 40.8% of the population. And that was in 2010. Today the US population is estimated at some 323,000,000–meaning those in the post-1990 age group are likely to make up an even higher percentage of the population. At some point in the near future, their numbers are going to top the 50% mark. That this has been discussed with a sense of gravity by Israeli lobbyists and strategists is almost certain.
Certainly we have seen a proliferation of disinformation websites, but truth has a way of resonating in a way that lies do not–and even when people don’t immediately recognize it as truth per se, the resonance is still there. What the Internet offers, then, is a means by which truth can be viewed on an equal footing with lies, much as it once was in the centuries before mass media began to play such a dominant role in society. And this is obviously having its impact upon the public.
According to a poll conducted last year, 70 percent of Americans disagree with the statement that the media “tries to report the news without bias.” The poll was conducted by the Newseum Institute, which found that trust in the media had dropped by 17 percentage points from a similar poll conducted just the year previous, and by 22 points since 2013. “In fact, the 24% who now say the media try to report news without bias is the lowest since we began asking this question in 2004,” the study states. Perhaps most significant of all, confidence in the media was lowest among those ages 18 to 29–only 7 percent.
A sense of desperation clearly is overtaking Israel and its supporters in the West these days. This is most visible in the multitude of attacks we have seen recently on the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, or BDS movement. And there are indications now that the Jewish state may be about to carry these attacks to a higher level.
According to a report here, Israel will pour $26 million this year into covert cyber operations aimed at combating BDS, with Israeli tech companies planning to introduce, among other things, “sly algorithms to restrict these online activists circle of influence.” The initiative will be accompanied simultaneously with distribution of a flood of “content that puts a positive face on Israel,” a nonprofit called Firewall Israel being the main spearhead of this latter. Presumably Israel’s already-considerable force of paid Internet trolls is about to be increased–perhaps substantially. Firewall Israel, by the way, is sponsored by the Israeli think tank, the Reut Institute.
“The delegitimization challenge and the BDS Movement are global and require a global response,” Reut asserts on its website. The site goes on to add:
Victory will be achieved when there is a political firewall around Israel and the right of the Jewish People to self-determination, meaning that delegitimization of Israel brings with it a heavy political, societal, and personal price due to its being seen and framed as an act of prejudice and anti-Semitism. Because of its anti-Semitic foundations, delegitimization cannot be eliminated, but it can be contained and kept at bay. As mentioned, because of the network architecture of the BDS Movement, there is no silver bullet against it, and victory will be achieved incrementally through countless of small wins.
In other words, BDS will be “framed” as anti-Semitic, a tour de force that will be achieved through cyber attacks as well as mainstream media power, with BDS supporters paying a heavy “personal price” by result. The final victory, Reut believes, will be achieved not all at once but through “countless small wins” racked up by the Zionists, wins that will erect a “political firewall” around the apartheid paradise, making it immune or insulated from global criticism.
That’s the theory at any rate. How it all plays out in reality remains to be seen, but clearly new BDS battles are cropping up virtually everyday. One of these is a movement at Vassar College, whose student body association, the VSA, just this past Sunday voted to approve a resolution expressing support for the BDS movement. The resolution was accompanied by an amendment that would also have prohibited purchases from 11 companies that profit from or explicitly support the occupation. While the resolution itself passed by a wide majority, 15 to 7, the amendment, which needed a two-thirds majority to pass, failed by a vote of 12 in favor to 10 opposed. Were you to take a wild guess that the amendment’s failure was due to pressure by the college administration, you would be right.
“The VSA could stand to lose all funding if the student body votes to pass the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Amendment, the center of an ongoing campus-wide debate,” the student newspaper reported on March 5, one day before the scheduled vote.
The article reports on a meeting between the college president and the VSA’s Executive Board, with members of the latter being specifically warned of the cutoff in funding. After the meeting, the president and one of the college deans issued a joint statement clarifying their position on the matter.
“All along, we have said that the VSA has the right to endorse the BDS proposal, given our commitment to free speech. But the college cannot use its resources in support of a boycott of companies,” they wrote. “Were the VSA to adopt the amendment currently proposing such a policy, the college would have to intervene in some way.”
Vassar College is located in Poughkeepsie, New York. Last year in June, the New York State Legislature passed an anti-BDS measure, and then in November a second measure, creating in effect a blacklist of BDS supporters, was also introduced and is now in committee. The language of the measure passed in June is Orwellian, citing BDS– rather than Israel’s occupation–as being “damaging to the causes of peace, justice, equality, democracy, and human rights for all peoples in the Middle East.” And similar measures are making their way through legislatures in other states as well.
Obviously, the Vassar College administration has seen the writing on the wall, but at the same time, Vassar faculty members are summoning the courage to push back in a show of support for the BDS movement and the vote taken by the VSA. Forty-one of them have signed onto a statement of support that reads in part, “We emphatically condemn any form of intimidation tactics from all individuals or parties who have threatened students supporting BDS or any other form of conscientious objection.”
While BDS quite obviously is high on the Zionist list of priorities, what’s also emerging now is a drive to clamp down on any criticism at all of Israel or voicing of support for Palestinian rights–and colleges and universities dependent upon wealthy private donors seem especially vulnerable to this.
A case in point is Harvard Law School, which recently saw $250,000 yanked by a funder who took exception to a panel discussion entitled “The Palestine Exception to Free Speech: A Movement Under Attack,” sponsored by the campus Justice for Palestine group. The program reportedly began with a “3-minute video of students and professors discussing how they were censored, punished or falsely accused of anti-Semitism for taking a principled stance for Palestinian rights.”
But it isn’t only speech that can arouse Zionist ire. The public display of a piece of art can also result in loss of funding. Such happened at York University in Toronto when Canadian TV and film industry executive Paul Bronfman took exception to a painting hanging in the university’s student center. The painting depicts a Palestinian holding rocks in his hand as an Israeli bulldozer is about to destroy an olive tree.
The text at the bottom of the painting features the words “justice” and “peace” written in various languages. Bronfman complained about the artwork to the university’s president, and, after failing to win a commitment to have it removed, accused the school of “allowing hate propaganda to be displayed” and pulled all assistance to its Cinema and Media Arts department.
“The upshot is that if that poster is not gone by the end of day today,” fumed the media mogul, “then William F. White (Bronfman’s film company) is out of York. York is going to lose thousands of dollars of television production equipment used for emerging student filmmakers…”
But much like at Vassar, the faculty at York has come out in favor of freedom of expression, noting–in a statement signed by 91 full-time faculty and nine retired faculty–that the painting depicts “one artist’s response to the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians under Israeli occupation and the feeling that there is no end in sight.”
Roger Waters has also waded into the controversy with an open letter sent to the York University Graduate Students Association in which the musician accuses Bronfman of “trying to use his economic muscle” to have the painting removed. He also observes:
The figure in the foreground appears to be a protester considering throwing a stone or stones at a bulldozer about to destroy an olive tree. The protester may be Palestinian. If the scene depicted is anywhere in the territories occupied since 1967, this person has a legal and moral right, under the terms of article 4 of the Geneva conventions to resist the occupation of his homeland.
As may be expected, a concerted effort appears underway in some media outlets to exact the aforementioned “heavy political, societal, and personal price” upon York, with the Toronto Sun, for one, publishing charges that the university “has been infiltrated with anti-Semitism” and has become one of the “most hostile campuses” in North America.
But in the attack on academic freedom, universities aren’t the only entities being hit with smear campaigns. Individual professors are also being singled out. Attacks on professors who criticize Israel of course are not new. Steven Salaita lost his job at the University of Illinois after posting tweets against Israel’s Gaza onslaught in the summer of 2014, and other professors have faced similar repercussions over the years. But what seems to be emerging now is an intensification of the character assaults, with Jewish and mainstream media ganging up en masse on targeted academics.
One such academic is Oberlin College Professor Joy Karega, who, like Salaita, has taken heat over social media postings. But the hostilities directed at Karega have incorporated a level of volume and viciousness not formerly seen in the Salaita case. This in part is because Karega’s criticisms of Israel have been stronger. She has accused the Zionist state of being behind 9/11. She has also discussed the Rothschild banking empire, depicted ISIS as a CIA/Mossad front group, suggested the Charlie Hebdo attack was a false flag, and she has even, courageously, taken on the issue of Zionist control of the mainstream media.
But her comments on 9/11 are probably the ones that have set off the most alarm bells, or at least seem to be among the most consistently cited. Accusations that her views are “anti-Semitic and abhorrent” have been aired by the New York Times, while Fox News posted an article referring to her, in the headline no less, as a “crackpot prof.” The Washington Post, Slate Magazine, the Times of Israel, and others have also piled on.
Karega has her defenders, however, and one of them is Kevin Barrett, author of the book We Are Not Charlie Hebdo. In two articles published at VT (see here and here ) Barrett accused the Oberlin professor’s detractors of hurling ad hominem insults at her rather than “using logic and evidence.” In one article he particularly took to task the Jewish newspaper, The Forward, which published a singularly virulent attack piece entitled, “Inside the Twisted Anti-Semitic Mind of Oberlin Professor Joy Karega.” The piece quotes an Oberlin alumna who says, patronizingly, that she thought Karega had perhaps expressed her views out of “ignorance” and that maybe she was “not educated on the history of anti-Semitism.” Barrett’s response was that The Forward article itself “drips” with a certain amount of “implicitly racist condescension toward proud African-American intellectual Joy Karega.”
The piece also accuses Karega of spreading “anti-Semitic conspiracy theories,” which leads us to wonder: Is it really possible The Forward’s writers haven’t heard of the 5 dancing Israelis or that their virgin eyes never saw a controlled demolition video on the Internet? Is it conceivable their suspicions were not aroused in the slightest by Larry Silverstein’s $4.5 billion pay-out bonanza on a property filled with asbestos and worth not nearly what it was insured for? If so, then the editorial staff at The Forward must surely be among the most credulously uninformed in the province of professional journalism.
Barrett also sent an email to a number of recipients at Oberlin, including the president and key faculty and administrators, defending Karega and offering to meet any one or more of her slanderers in an on-campus debate on “these critically important issues.” The email was sent February 29. Barrett says he still has not received a response. His defense of the embattled professor has, however, led to an attack–on both him and VT–in a Jewish media outlet, The Tower Magazine.
“Kevin Barrett, a writer for VT, a website that prominently features anti-Israel conspiracy theories, offered his support for Karega and her 9/11 theories last week,” Tower said in an article that makes no mention of Barrett’s debate challenge but which attempts to link him to “the neo-Nazi website Stormfront.”
And so the ad hominem attacks flow like lava down the side of a spewing volcano while the Zionist defamers and detractors don surgical masks to avoid any and all dangerous contact with “logic and evidence.” Meanwhile the societal pivot draws closer.
Creating a “firewall” around Israel in effect means a concerted assault upon free speech, or at least upon the freedom to speak freely, if we might phrase it that way. It means making sure a “heavy personal price” is paid by anyone who criticizes Israel. As Voltaire said, “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you’re not allowed to criticize,” and as more and more Americans learn who they’re not allowed to criticize (many of course already know), the inevitable result will be an increasing spread of “anti-Semitic conspiracy theories” about Jewish power. Has the Reut Institute thought of this? Or was that maybe the general ideal all along?
At any rate, by publicly aligning themselves with politicians widely viewed as corrupt, Israel is probably speeding up the process of its own “delegitimization.” What after all is the net effect when Americans watch their Congress members routinely expressing their fervent support for Israel, extolling its putative “shared democratic values”–the same Congress members who day after day go on capitulating to Wall Street and other big-moneyed interests? Does this result in Israel’s gaining support among the public…or losing it? I would say probably more of the latter. And the fact that the very same state–which people like Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton voice their adoration for–engages in relentless war crimes and extrajudicial executions while spitting on international law with impunity only serves to aggravate the situation even further.
Yet in spite of all this, Israeli strategists somehow believe, or at least are hoping against hope, they can put a “firewall” around the Jewish state by attacking BDS, flooding the Internet with “content that puts a positive face on Israel,” and exacting a “heavy personal price” from outspoken critics like Karega. It is either, a) a naive hope, or, b) a vastly overblown confidence in the extent and reach of their own power.
Or maybe it’s a little of both. Yes, they may achieve some “small wins” in the short term. But one fact cannot be hidden, no matter how much hasbara you try to bury it under, and that is that Israel stole the land upon which its state was founded in 1948. And not only did it not pay reparations to the land’s rightful owners, but it has gone on stealing more and more from them, bit by bit, piece by piece, settlement by settlement, up until this very day. And if support for Palestine is growing, it probably, at least in part, has to do with the fact that most of us have little trouble imagining a scenario in which we, ourselves, could be forced out of our homes and end up in the streets homeless.
As for the allegations about 9/11, the evidence that the buildings were brought down by controlled demolition, and that one of them never was even hit by an airplane, is irrefutable, and the more people become aware of this (which is happening because of the Internet), the harder it’s going to be for Israel to keep the lid on everything. And the more stridently and vociferously the media gang up to attack scholars and academics for simply talking about the matter, the more it’s ultimately going to serve only to raise public consciousness even further.
Perhaps it’s time for Israel’s supporters to take some anti-anxiety medication and to start looking at reality. And maybe, too, in addition to Voltaire, they should keep in mind the words of P.T. Barnum as well: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all of the time.”
Richard Edmondson is an author, novelist, poet, and journalist whose writings often focus on Middle East issues, the Zionist lobby, and religion. His latest novel is The Memoirs of Saint John: When the Sandstone Crumbles, a story about an archaeological team doing a dig in Syria and set amidst the current conflict in the country.
In 2014 Richard attended an International Conference on Combating Terrorism and Religious Extremism, held in Damascus. The book is part two in the Memoirs of Saint John series.
Two other books by Richard are Rising Up: Class Warfare in America from the Streets to the Airwaves, relating his experiences founding and operating an unlicensed or “pirate” FM radio station in San Francisco in the 1990s, as well as a volume of poetry entitled American Bus Stop: Essay and Poems on Hope and Homelessness.
Richard is cognizant of the words of the early Christian writer Tertullian, who in the second century-basically prognosticating the fall of the Roman Empire-wrote: “We have made merry amid the ludicrous cruelties of the noonday exhibition.”