Monday, July 18, 2011

Jeffrey Goldberg vs. The Truth

Former IDF prison guard Jeffrey Goldberg has an updated post on supporting the boycott of Netanyahu here in the US. It includes this tidbit:

"...all I can say is this: Since 1948, Israel has been a besieged state that nevertheless has, with rare exceptions, defended the right of people to say whatever they have wanted to say. This is why Israel has the freest press in the world[*], and why Arab members of Knesset can scream down the prime minister and not get shot. Israel's defense of freedom of speech, even in wartime, is one of the many reasons to be proud of it. (emphasis added)
Okay, beyond the weirdness of the sentiment (an elected government official not getting shot in a country's parliament for opposing occupation, ethnic cleansing, and discrimination is cause for celebration?!...calling all strawmen!), is this inconvenient fact, from Ha'aretz today:
Israeli Arab MK Hanin Zuabi will be stripped of her right to address the Knesset and to participate in committee votes until the end of this parliamentary season, the Knesset Ethics Committee ruled on Monday.

The decision to penalize Zuabi, a lawmaker from the Balad party, comes in the wake of her participation in the Gaza-bound flotilla last year. Zuabi, who sailed on the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, had already had certain parliamentary rights revoked by Knesset last July.
The rights previously revoked are "her diplomatic passport, entitlement to financial assistance for legal assistance and the right to visit countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic ties."

Last week, "Zuabi was being ushered out of the parliamentary session after interrupting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech and after being called to order three times by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin."

It's true that "being ushered out" is not the same as not getting shot. But it's also true that physically preventing a Knesset member from voicing her views is certainly not an example of what Goldberg describes as Israel's defense of "the right of people to say whatever they have wanted to say". Apparently, for Goldberg, anything short of murdering a Palestinian in cold-blood is grounds for lauding Israel's democratic character...unless, of course, you count Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Golan, or the past.



It should also be pointed out that, while Goldberg writes that "Israel has the freest press in the world," the largest press freedom organization in the world, Reporters Without Borders (RSF - Reporters sans frontieres) disagrees. It ranks Israel as having the 86th freest press in the world, nestled snugly between Serbia and the United Arab Emirates.

This is unsurprising considering how much power the Israel's "Chief Military Censor" wields. During Israel's devastation of Lebanon in 2006, the censor, Col. Sima Vaknin, speaking with the Associated Press, boasted, "I can, for example, publish an order that no material can be published. I can close a newspaper or shut down a station. I can do almost anything."

Now read Goldberg again: "Israel's defense of freedom of speech, even in wartime, is one of the many reasons to be proud of it."


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