While the baffling support given to a far-right conservative (deemed hostile to women’s rights, gay rights and civil rights) named Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary by many on the far-left represents an interesting topic, the narrative advanced by Hagel defender Glenn Greenwald is especially worth exploring.
Greenwald’s latest post, titled ‘Who paid for the Log Cabin Republicans’ anti-Hagel NYT ad?‘, primarily focuses on the question of who’s funding an anti-Hagel ad published by a well-known gay Republican group in the US (the Log Cabin Republicans), but also touches on one of Greenwald’s favorite themes: the alleged “stifling of debate” by the Israel lobby.
After floating the theory that a pro-Israeli lobby group may have funded the Log Cabin Republican ad, Greenwald pivots to one of his favorite targets:
While I agree with those who insist that a Hagel nomination would not meaningfully change administration policy, the goal of the anti-Hagel smear campaign is to ensure that there can be no debate and no diversity of views on Israel when it comes to top government officials.
As we noted, Greenwald similarly complained last week, on MSNBC, about the supposed “smear” campaign against Hagel by the pro-Israel lobby, and accused such activists of having a “stranglehold” over the American debate about Israel.
More importantly, it’s impossible to properly contextualize Greenwald’s complaint about the injurious effect of the Israel lobby on the US body politic without recalling previous comments by Greenwald which evoke the same theme.
Here are a few examples from his old blog at Salon.com:
“So absolute has the Israel-centric stranglehold on American policy been that the US Government has made it illegal to broadcast Hezbollah television stations.”
Not even our Constitution’s First Amendment has been a match for the endless exploitation of American policy, law and resources [by the Israel lobby] to target and punish Israel’s enemies.”
The real goal [of the Israel lobby], as always, was to ensure that there is no debate over America’s indescribably self-destructive, blind support for Israeli actions. [Charles] Freeman’s critics may have scored a short-term victory in that regard, but the more obvious it becomes what is really driving these scandals, the more difficult it will be to maintain this suffocating control over American debates and American policy.”
“The point is that the power the [Israel lobby] exercises [is] harmful in the extreme. They use it to squelch debate, destroy the careers and reputations of those who deviate from their orthodoxies, and compel both political parties to maintain strict adherence to an agenda that is held by a minority of Americans; that is principally concerned with the interests of a foreign country.”
I have written previously about the dark history of the broader narrative Greenwald advances about the undue influence of the pro-Israeli/Jewish lobby, but beyond the odiousness of imputing such malevolence, and ill motives, to such (largely Jewish) pro-Israel activists, there is a fatal flaw in his argument.
When pro-Israel advocates in the US contact the media to make their voice heard, lobby for or against congressional legislation, or contact their representatives to express their concerns about a nominee for an important position, they are merely exercising their First Amendment rights as all Americans have the right to do.
They aren’t “stifling”, squelching, or exercising a stranglehold over debate – and, despite the dark, conspiratorial musings of some, don’t possess the power to do so – but, rather, are participating in the political process, confident in their freedom to do so as citizens who are equal under the law.
Pro-Israel activists (and Jews as such) in America who legally use the levers of democracy to express their concerns about Chuck Hagel – regardless of the merits of their argument – are not denying the rights of Glenn Greenwald, Peter Beinart, Andrew Sullivan, Richard Silverstein, and others, to advocate on behalf of Hagel.
In short, free speech isn’t a zero-sum game.
Moreover, plain decency – and, it would seem, a liberal sense of fairness – would at the very least demand that Hagel’s defenders debate the issue on its merits, and avoid engaging in what amounts to nothing more than a vicious ad hominem attack on the Jewish community.
- The stranglehold on the US by one lobby: One minute with Glenn Greenwald (cifwatch.com)
- US Congressional resolution supporting Israel makes Glenn Greenwald’s head explode (cifwatch.com)
- Glenn Greenwald admits that “anti-Semitism plays role in some hostility toward Israel”. (cifwatch.com)
- Glenn Greenwald criticizes Bibi AND Obama’s “policies” of intentionally killing innocent Muslims (cifwatch.com)
- Minutes after Tel Aviv terror attack, Glenn Greenwald praises Seumas Milne’s defense of ‘armed resistance’ (cifwatch.com)