Recently there has been a great deal of talk by self styled "Progressive" Jews about feeling "muzzled" in their attempts to criticize Israel. Although open discourse is of course valued, in most situations, only truthful open discourse is helpful in advancing thought. Therefore when I began to notice that much of what is said about Israel, Jewish history and Jews simply wasn’t accurate, I began to question the value of open discourse where only one side was connected to the facts and the other to some sort of undefined ideology and characterized by historic distortions, myths and popular buzz words. Oftentimes, the entirety of the recitation is just as repetition of propaganda generated by avowed enemies of Israel. Is there any value to having dialogue where one side presents a point of view unsupported by truth, facts, or history?
Among the many odd, un supported ideas that I hear recited regularly is that "Palestinians are the indigenous inhabitants of the land" some time supplemented with the assertion that the "Palestinians are the descendants of the Canaanites, or Phillistines. " This bold and unsupported assertion is transparently designed to give the Palestinians an early claim to the land of Israel, but requires one to believe, as if somehow millenia of history somehow managed to overlook only these people. As if the armies of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Persians Ummayyads, Abbassids, Fatamids, Saljuqs, Crusaders, Ayyubids, Mamelukes, and Mongol invaders, not to mention the Black Plague managed to wipe out all th eother inhabitnats of that area and missed only the Palestinians. Of course, this fantasy doesn’t explain the lack of any supporting history or archeology of the Palestinians. Although there are Arab families that can trace their history back for hundreds of years, the vast majority of the ancestors of today’s Palestinians were immigrants to pre-state Israel in recent historic times. Arab immigration during the British Mandate period has been well documented, notably in "Rape of Palestine" (1938) William Ziff.
It is typical for the discussion to then go on to talk about Israeli "occupation" of "Palestinian lands." Of course this pre-supposes the outcome of negotiations as to a future Palestinian state as to "Palestinian lands. Similarly, it has become stylish to use the phrase "apartheid", a phrase referring to the old South African of separating people based on their color to describe Israel’s policies in the West Bank. But what makes the use of these phrases more sinister, is that the use of these words really means that one must ignore the Oslo Agreement transferring authority for the West Bank and Gaza to the Palestinian Authority and the "Intifada" that followed. The Palestinians elected their own government and that government administers the West Bank. However, when Israel is attacked by Palestinians in an "Intifada", of course Israel has to defend itself. Lets all recall that before the Oslo and the "Intifada", that there were no check points or Israeli only roads. The real phrase that should be used isn’t "occupation" or apartheid". A better phrase would be "another phase in the Arab -Israeli War."
Among other strange things that I’ve heard "progressives" assert is that "only Jews are allowed in Israel." This is often repeated but shockingly ignorant. A little reading will reveal that not only is Israel 20% Non-Jewish but that Arab Israelis serve as members of Israel’s Parliament, ("the Knesset") as well as in the judiciary.
Often its said or implied that Israel was once an Arab country called "Palestine". This baseless assertion has even gone so far that I once listened to a man wearing a tee-shirt with a picture of a British Mandate postage stamp, assert that the stamp pictured was from Arab Palestine. Somehow, the understanding of history omits everything between the crusades and 1948, including 500 years of the Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate . Its seems hard for these people to accept that there has never been an Arab country called "Palestine"in all of history.
I’ve also been present when a self-proclaimed "progressive’ explained that as "Jews are Europeans and the Arabs must be indigenous" followed soon after with the usual attempts to racially distinguish Askenazi Jews from Sephardi Jews. When pressed, this explanation usually draws on the discredited notion (although quite popular in the Arab world) that all Ashkenazi Jews are of purely European ancestry and are descended from the Khazars, a long lost, obscure Turkic kingdom that vanished in the 8th century c.e.. and thus by inference, only Sephardi Jews are actually descended from the ancient Israelites. Of course, this social theory flies in the face of recent genetic testing which has shown that, throughout the world, modern Jews are genetically more closely related to groups from the north of the Fertile Crescent Kurds, Turks and Armenians) than to their European or Arab neighbors. This strangely racialist theory is apparently designed to distance and delegitimize any connection to the land of Israel on the part of European Jews.
However, of all the wacky things said by "progressives’ about Israel is that "all criticism of Israel is called ‘anti-semitism’ ." The only times that I’ve ever heard this said was by someone about to say something outrageously anti-semitic, using Israel as an excuse. As to those people how could the charge of anti-Semitism silence their vitriolic criticism of Israel anyway? If only it were true. Its those same people who are always the first to inappropriately sling the accusation of "racism" at Israel supporters in an attempt to trump any discussion. Its funniest of all, because of course, criticizing Israel is the favorite pastime of Israelis.
It’s a positive thing when people have strong feelings about Israel and a desire to express themselves. However, its strangely misguided to assert that one is being "muzzled’ when really, everyone would agree that there should not be a forum provided for the dissemination of distortions, half-truths and misinformation about Israel.