WHAT IS IT about dystopian political thrillers that we find so compelling? You know, the stories depicting the descent of civilized, democratic societies into darkness, laced with themes of brainwashing, thought police, and the suppression of individual freedoms… Could it be that they cause us to think critically about our own very real world? More likely, it’s that they allow us to walk out of the theater, or switch off the tube, thinking: That could never happen here.
Consider the following improbable story-line, from a major production which reliable sources say is already well underway but not yet completed:
The setting is modern times. The pivotal, opening scene focuses on a teacher, employed by a public school system in a southern U.S. state, who has just lost her job for declining to sign an oath of loyalty– loyalty not to the welfare of her students, or to the state where she works, not to America’s Constitution, ideals and system of governance… but to a foreign nation!
Then in flash-back sequences, the screenplay unfolds how this twisted, dangerous state of affairs evolved: It seems that several decades before, a very small country had appeared on the world stage and quickly, inexplicably, come to exert enormous global influence. One element in the narrative involves a world body (akin to the real-life UN) serving as the global arbiter of international law and human rights, an entity repeatedly forced to cast scrutiny upon the small country’s questionable practices and policies. However, early in the story, American political leaders decide they must protect the small country at all costs from potential criticism, vetoing any meaningful censure that would sometimes arise from the global community.
The script goes on to describe how the small country — by then already highly developed and heavily armed, including with undeclared nuclear weapons — convinces the American government to hand over to it the largest portion of its foreign aid budget, not for humanitarian projects but solely in the form of ever more high-tech weapons systems and munitions. Amazingly, neither America’s citizens nor her political leaders seem to object, or even notice.
(All this stretches credulity, I know, but it’s just a story. Stay with me. By the way, the version of the project I’ve been privy to never fully explains how the small country comes to wield such monumental sway over the American body politic and popular mind. Maybe this will become clearer as the story is fine-tuned — as I say, it’s still a work-in-progress.)
Anyway, in one jaw-dropping scene the small country’s head-of-state — unbidden by the U.S. president but invited by the political opposition — addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress and brazenly argues against established American foreign policy, receiving in response round after round of tumultuous, nearly unanimous, ovations. Then in a later scenario, the same foreign leader (the prime minister) is seen in a joint White House press conference with yet another president, this one so ignorant, foolish and easily manipulated that the minister can only laugh in response to the president’s inane blathering on grave matters of international diplomacy.
And so it goes. As the latter part of the narrative unfolds, the small country has essentially hijacked and subverted American’s public discourse and system of government. Thus, the U.S. Congress, with strong bi-partisan support, starts crafting shocking new legislation that actually imposes criminal penalties on their own citizens who dare criticize the small country, who merely insist that it abide by the established norms of international law. (Leading up to this unthinkable coups, agents of the small country had repeatedly brought to bear a devious tactic: Any criticism of the small country’s government policies or actions was immediately and forcefully re-cast as a hateful, racist rejection of that country’s people, especially their ethnicity, religion, and rich heritage. This simple yet clever tactic, however twisted and dishonest, proved unimaginably powerful.)
Anyway, by this point in the story the descent into a post-democratic nightmare was well advanced, since a majority of the U.S. states had already enacted laws forcing people to take what amounted to a loyalty oath to the small country: Unless they signed, public school teachers would lose their jobs, companies large and small would be shut out of government contracts, and so on. (This shocking takeover, we learn, had been achieved in part by ALEC, an Orwellian-sounding entity which regularly spewed out repressive legislative templates to gullible state lawmakers.)
Thus it was that some American citizens — those who sought a measure of Truth beyond America’s corporate media — started seeing reports like the following, a bit of realistic-looking newscast footage about the fired school teacher. (This sneak preview comes from one of my trusted sources.)– CLICK on the image:
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OK, by now many of you have realized that this is no dystopian fairy-tale but absolutely real — all of it. Everything I’ve just described, yes, has actually happened, or is now unfolding, in the realm of American relations with the State of Israel:
- The historic,nearly air-tight U.S. protection of Israel from international censure, through use of its veto power in the UN Security Council, is well known.
- The United States gives Israel (in round numbers) a whopping $4,000,000,000 a year — 10,000,000 dollars a day — in 100% military aid, more than is given to any other single country, for any purpose. Israel not only has the region’s most robust military, and a burgeoning weapons industry of its own, but its nuclear arsenal, after more than 50 years, remains undeclared and subject to no international oversight whatsoever.
- The U.S. Congress’ shameful (and repeated) fawning over Israeli PM Netanyahu is well-documented.
- Netanyahu’s Laugh I have posted about before.
- The clearly unconstitutional federal legislation, seeking to punish Americans for exercising their freedom of expression, is being bandied about in Congress RIGHT NOW. (See the full text of the Haaretz print story (below), plus this commentary by journalist Glenn Greenwald.)
- Unbelievably, 39 U.S. states have already enacted or had introduced some form of such legislation — all in a misguided attempt to protect a foreign state, Israel, from criticism. This has been done almost completely “under the radar”, unreported by the mainstream press. (It is disconcerting, but not surprising, to learn that in my own state of NC such a measure was signed into law by our Democratic governor in 2017. Again, under the radar.) What about your state?
- Oh, yes– ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council — flush with funding from the Koch brothers and other corporate interests — is absolutely real. ALEC-“owned” legislators are constantly pushing through repressive, regressive, anti-democratic measures, especially on the state level– probably in your state. They so twist the issues (or when necessary, as in their push for voter suppression laws, invent the issues) that a constitutionally-protected boycott, for example, is painted as “discriminatory” and, by implication, un-American.
This brings us to the story about the certified Texas school teacher, a U.S. citizen, who refused to sign away her constitutional rights and swear loyalty to a foreign entity — and thus lost her job (she was a long-time contracted specialist, a speech pathologist). Is this possible in America?? Yes it is — it’s happening right now! If you have not viewed the entire video piece (above), I urge you to do so.
This present assault on Americans’ civil liberties, and their right of non-violent dissent, specifically targets the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. BDS (of which there are a number of variant “flavors”) is a loosely-organized, worldwide movement whose goal is to pressure the State of Israel to end its 50-year occupation of the Palestinian Territories and reach a just resolution with their Palestinian neighbors, a stateless people who live under virtually complete Israeli control.
BDS has emerged as a non-violent form of direct action– and, as it gains worldwide traction, it’s seemingly becoming a genuine thorn in Israel’s flesh! But it’s not really about economic pressure at all. The robust Israeli economy certainly faces no real threat. Look beyond the surface and it’s more about Israel’s image and standing within the world community. BDS embodies the same kind of organized action which once helped shine the spotlight on the system of legalized racial discrimination in America, as well as on the legally-sanctioned Apartheid regime in South Africa. And we all know how those played out, with the undoing of historic injustices under growing pressure from the world community.
Just as with those historical analogs, BDS is really about Israel’s global image, and being exposed to honest scrutiny. (Example: a boycott of Caterpiller, whose Israeli military D-9 bulldozers have demolished many of the 48,000 Palestinian homes and other buildings reduced to rubble since 1967.) Well, Israel can’t stand it, hence the push-back, now with the help of Americans’ elected representatives!
For the push-back, Israel’s representatives and die-hard supporters invariably trot out the old, cynically false equation: Criticism of Israel equals anti-semitism, period. For added impact, there’s a corollary accusation: Among all the world’s miscreants, why do you single out Israel? (Implied answer: it’s anti-semitism). These are time-tested ploys, and are used because they work! Indeed, in a post-Holocaust world, they carry unimaginable weight as a sort of emotional blackmail. (In the UK, the same tactics have been brought to bear against opposition leader Jeremy Corbin, for the supposed “anti-semitism problem” within his Labour Party– when it’s really all about Corbin’s vocal support for Palestinian rights.)
In short, almost no American lawmaker, either state or national, is willing to risk appearing as anything other than a stalwart “friend of Israel”. And they will go to almost any length to prove it, even if it means trashing the constitutional rights of the very people they’ve been elected to serve. To them, it’s just not worth it– one murmur from the ADL or AIPAC and they could well be out of a job at the next election.
Informed observers of the wider American scene are now starting to talk about the “Palestine Exception” to the exercise of free speech in our society. Consider that, just in recent weeks, an otherwise progressive California city was pressured to cancel a documentary screening and panel discussion on the events in Palestine in 1948. A public figure has had a prestigious award rescinded — before it was even officially bestowed — because of her outspoken support of Palestinian rights. A university professor and sometimes CNN commentator was fired for making a reasoned address on Israeli-Palestinian issues before a UN panel. At a major university, students are being denied permission to even organize a group promoting Justice for Palestine…
It seems as though “anything goes” in Western media and public discourse — no matter how raunchy, twisted, frivolous, misleading, or outright false — anything except an honest discussion about the Palestinian people, their history and status, their human rights, and their bleak and uncertain future.
Sorry, but when free speech is tamped down in this way, and constitutionally protected dissent not only squelched but legally penalized — all to protect some foreign country from embarrassment on the world stage… that’s not my America.
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UPDATE / February 2019
So, here we go… The U.S. Senate, by an overwhelming majority, has now voted to lend federal backing to the repressive anti-BDS measures already passed by state and local governments (26 states) and pending in 13 additional states. See HERE >>
A Week Into New U.S. Congress, Tense Debate Erupts Over anti-BDS Bills
Debate centers on two bills against boycotts of Israel and its settlements, with some claiming that ‘a significant number of Democrats now support BDS and leaders want to avoid a floor vote that reveals that’
UPDATE / February 2021
Federal Court Overturns Arkansas Law Requiring Pledge Not to Boycott Israel
NEW / October 2022
The Arkansas legal case, push-back against that state’s anti-BDS law, is still unresolved and has now been submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court. Plus, background on and excerpts from an important new film, “Boycott”. View the 17-minute video segment (and transcript) from Democracy Now, here:
“Free Speech Issue”: Meet the Arkansas Publisher & ACLU Lawyer Asking SCOTUS to Overturn Anti-BDS Law
AND ON IT GOES… / January 2023
Long-time Head of Human Rights Watch Loses Harvard Fellowship Over Criticism of Israel
FOLLOW-UP, 20 JAN 2023: In response to a public outcry, especially within the academic community, Harvard’s Kennedy School has renewed its offer of a fellowship to Kenneth Roth. See the report from Democracy Now! HERE. More on this story from NPR, HERE.
It’s Not Just in America… / FEB 2023
Anglican cleric Dr. Stephen Sizer has been de-frocked by the Church of England in reaction to his criticism of the State of Israel and his strong advocacy for Palestinian rights. See the story as reported on Mondoweiss HERE.
NEW / February 2023
Silencing Critics of Israel: Biden Pulls Nomination of Human Rights Lawyer For Decrying Apartheid
The item above regarding the withdrawal of a major civil rights award has to do with Prof. Angela Davis. For further developments on this story, see HERE: https://www.democracynow.org/2019/2/18/birmingham_civil_rights_group_reoffers_award
A judge has now upheld the right of students at Fordham University (referenced above) to form a
campus chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. Though the outcome is encouraging, it’s a sad commentary that they had to resort to the courts to be allowed to exercise their basic rights. See HERE: https://www.democracynow.org/2019/8/7/headlines/students_win_legal_fight_against_fordham_university_in_bid_to_create_club_for_palestinian_rights