By David Schulberg
As we well know, there is a huge battle taking place on the internet for the hearts and minds of people who care about what happens in the Middle East. With the potential to sway our foreign policy, as we have seen with the recent UN vote on non-member status of a Palestinian state, this internet battleground can be very important to Israel’s position in the world.
The 2012 Country Ratings Poll, conducted annually for the BBC among 24,090 people around the world, and published on 10 May 2012 asked respondents to rate whether the influence of a number of different countries is ‘mostly positive’ or ‘mostly negative. Israel, already one of the world’s most negatively viewed countries, saw its reputation last year sink even lower. In particular, Israel lost ground among traditional allies and emerging powers like Australia, where negative rating rose 7 points to 65% compared to the previous year. This may be viewed as showing how out of step public perceptions in Australia are from ‘official’ pro-Israel government policy.
One website, Mondoweiss, is a typical microcosm of generally rabid anti-Zionists, who argue fervently for the dismantling of Israel as a Jewish state and the establishment of some idealised model of a non-religious democratic single state where Jews, Christians and Muslims mingle together in perfect harmony. My article will essentially consider the mission of Mondoweiss and how that translates into practice.
Here is the professed raison d’être for Mondoweiss as expressed in the site’s Comments Policy :
One of the goals of this site is to promote critical discussion and debate on US foreign policy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We want Mondoweiss to be a place that everyone feels comfortable visiting, to read and comment, regardless of political perspective. People might not always like what we post, but everyone should feel invited and encouraged to join the discussion, share their opinions, and engage in debate. (Emphasis added).
Mondoweiss, with its voluble array of anti-Israel contributors largely resident in the US, concentrates on the US context, but interestingly Australia receives quite a lot of attention. I discuss here some of the Australian topics covered to illustrate how Mondoweiss strives to push its relentless anti-Israel agenda.
The BDS campaign is without a doubt one of the most prominent issues. Annie Robbins, one of the main authors, writing from her San Francisco location, feeds on information that she gathers from the socialist left collective that operates in Australia. Vashti Kenway, a leader of Students for Palestine, has helped her to provide a local perspective. Kim Bullimore, Anthony Lowenstein and Samah Sabawi have assisted, pushing the BDS as a vital legitimate pro-Palestinian tactic.
A small entourage of like-minded individuals pop up regularly with comments to corroborate the strident views of pro-BDSers, echoing the same sentiments. Here are a couple of examples:
Many ‘ordinary’ and normally apolitical people will be dismayed and furious to discover how much influence Israel has in Australian domestic politics.
Zionist Council of Victoria (ZCV) is a very nasty right wing pro-settler organisation.
Sometimes a brave opponent of the glut of one-sided viewpoints climbs aboard to try to counter the incessant stream of propaganda. They are frequently dismissed as mere ‘hasbara’ mouthpieces, mocked and derided. Their efforts seem futile against a torrent of anti-Israel vitriol, prejudiced by the site’s moderators, who manipulate what does get through. One might imagine that if a large number of supporters of Israel came on board at the same time, they could potentially give the pro-Palestinian vanguard much more to deal with. Involvement in such a biased forum is a good place to test your views and on occasions expose the hypocrisy of those who try obsessively to delegitimize Israel.
After one brave soul announced how co-operation was to continue between Ben-Gurion University and the University of Johannesburg on their joint water and biotechnology research projects, major contributor Annie Robbins responded:
untemporarily perhaps. we’re growing. if we weren’t israel wouldn’t be splashing it’s apartheid anti democracy all over the msm thru their draconian fascists anti freedom of speech knesset legislation. worried? israel on the run, lovin’ it. (sic)
When Philip Mendes accused the BDS of racially-based ethnic stereotyping of all Israeli Jews, Robbins suggested he was bloviating. When she has nothing particularly erudite to say one of her favourite comments is “yawn”. Sometimes she adopts a haughty attitude when she is challenged, choosing to avoid responding to questions that might corner her.
One regular blogger Shingo claimed:
The Victorian government is resorting to some desperate measure to try and stifle protest, but it won’t work.
I countered by saying, “Shingo, how do you get to be such an expert! This insinuation is pure left-wing gutter sniping propaganda as well as being completely false. There are laws in Australia that have existed so that the country runs with a semblance of order, which the socialist left alliance misfits don’t appreciate because they tend to be anarchists.”
I suggested that Shingo’s insinuation was wrong that the police charging the BDS protesters of “breaching bail conditions” was merely pretence to arrest them, as I had witnessed the events personally. I said, “The protestors could stand in any public forum in the state of Victoria and present their case for Palestine. Just please no bullying, no intimidation and no teasing the cops. The intemperate behaviour demonstrated at the frequent BDS rallies certainly won’t help persuade the Australian government to vote for a Palestinian state in September.”
Shingo said in defence of the rights of pro-Palestinian protestors:
They are legally allowed to yes, but O’Brien is asking the ACCC to investigate all groups that endorse BDS, including those that weren’t even present or represented when the arrests were made. (O’Brien was Victorian Consumer Affairs Minister at the time)
I’m sure the fact that Julia’s uhum, “partner” is an Isreli lobbyists won’t influence her descision right? Thatnks for demiostraitng that even Ozzy Zionists are half wits. (sic)
And another blogger chimed in
LOL. Not so surprising, I guess, that the usually suspects are rooting for, and excusing, the jackboots against the people. I guess the color of the shirt – – black, brown, red, white — doesn’t matter, as long as the boot keeps crushing that human head, forever.
I responded that the law of the land would decide whether there was an issue for the ACCC, reminding them how they were such sticklers for ‘international law’ and should abide by due legal process.
Kathleen, another writer at Mondoweiss, remarked:
Way over the top. Sounds illegal. But when did “illegal” stop the lobby
Kim Bullimore, a local pro-Palestinian activist, after the furore over the NSW Greens support for BDS, complained about Bob Brown’s announcement that the Greens nationally did not support BDS, accusing him of ‘racist colonialism’.
Opponents of the blatantly biased Mondoweiss dialogue eventually disappear, probably believing it to be more worthwhile to withdraw from discussion groups at Mondoweiss rather than be continually insulted and abused. Before I was excommunicated from Mondoweiss after a period of time under the alias ‘davidsc’, I tussled single-handedly with a bunch of protagonists on the topic ‘Victoria (Australia) threatens further crackdown on boycott activists’. Having witnessed first-hand the way that the demonstrators outside Max Brenner chocolate shops had heckled the police, I faced a barrage of criticism and antagonism. It was all too difficult in the end to have a discussion standing alone before a flood of derogatory language:
Umm, I know you’re from Victoria David, but you can’t keep blaming the weather for your idiocy.
The Palestinians Papers, leaked by Al-Jazeera and exposed by the Guardian newspaper in January 2011, suggested the Palestinians were ready to make big concessions, despite public claims to the contrary. After I posted at Mondoweiss “Typical Palestinians tactics – say one thing and do another. Arafat was a champion at that kind of tomfoolery” I got the response:
As for Arafat, do you think that crap is going to wash here? Try it with your limp brained school buddies or the other ignoramuses you hang out with.
My ban from Mondoweiss followed after Mikomikeyz had commented
I would think this would be a great blog for a Zionist. This blog was started with 4 aims, and I would think that nothing would be more healthy than non-provincial perspective. I am reminded of WWII films taken from the Japanese point of view. This IS a progressive blog, no?
This comment had remained without a response for many months, so I took up the mantle saying, “Dead silence reigns – so I guess the answer is NO.” This raised the ire of Robbins to such a level:
not really. the site does ban both sides of the spectrum. the site makes no pretenses of being anything but what it is. why don’t you be more specific wrt what you perceive as unclear or unanswered
as i mentioned earlier if you are one of those people that enjoy community moderation go to dkos. they have endless threads there about what is or isn’t ok. here, people are just banned and nobody seems to notice their absence that much as far as i can tell. the hasbrats are a dime a dozen. ban one another replaces him the same day. the israel project sees to that. and then there are those ‘special trolls’. the ones that come at you from the left and push the envelope w/anti semitic crap. of course we never know whether they are ‘real’ or here to set up the site. but they go either way.
Mikomikeyz came to my defence
I think David was answering my rhetorical question, “This IS a progressive blog, no?”, Annie.
which led to these blunt revelations from Robbins
yes, it covers issues from a progressive pt of view. but i don’t think it is moderated ‘progressively’. but i will tell you one thing, it isn’t run in a zionist fashion. no one gets detained and held w/no charges for unknown periods of time. there are no gag orders iow if someone does asks where someone went they do not get banned for it. it’s not as if we treat it like the zionist gov treats the freedom theatre. so we’re a damn sight better than those policies we abhor. at least we do not pretend to be a democracy. i wonder how the 18 year old daughter of the mayor of bethlehem is doing today? what is she eating in prison held w/no charges. did she sleep well? is someone torturing her today, or questioning her? we’re sure as heck more progressive than that. and look on the bright side. no endless comment section filled w/CRAP about what is or is not anti semitic..unlike other blogs we know. what brings you here tonight miko? long time no see.
This ends Part I of this Two-part article. Part II will be published within the next week.