On CiF contributor Jonathan Guyer’s “chilling relations” with truth, context, and proportion

The assault on Israel’s legitimacy at the Guardian typically takes one of three forms:

1. The demonization of Israel as a cruel, oppressive state.

2. Questioning whether Israel is legally (and morally) entitled to exist as the state of the Jewish people (typically in the form of a proposal for a one-state solution).

3.  Characterizations of Israel which question its democratic and liberal nature.

One of the more extreme examples of this latter category was Mya Guarnieri’s CiF essay in Dec. of 2010 which warned of a Jewish state (which, per #2, she believes shouldn’t exist) in the grip of a wave of religious fascism.

Similarly hysterical rhetoric at CiF included Carlo Strenger’s polemical assault on an Israeli Knesset he claimed was adopting “totalitarian measures” in a broad critique of recent legislation which merely required NGOs to more accurately report foreign funding.

The latest attempt at CiF to chisel away at Israel’s status as the only true liberal democracy in the Middle East was written by Jonathan Guyer, “Israel’s chilling relations with the U.S.“, Dec. 6.

Guyer used the recent dire concern expressed by U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton for the future of Israeli democracy to lambaste a couple of proposals currently being debated in the Knesset.  

One such bill, which will likely be severely watered down even in the event that it passes, would strip NGOs which receive a significant amount of their funds from foreign governments of their tax exempt status – debatable for sure, but hardly an ominous threat to the basic democratic nature of the state.

Guyer also cites, as evidence of Israel’s lurch into political darkness, a Defamation Prohibition Law which, if passed, would raise the amount of punitive compensation for libel.  Again, an increase in the amount one can be penalized for being found guilty of  libel is questionable but hardly an assault on democracy.

But Guyer descends into rank dishonesty when he cites – to buttress his broader narrative – what he claims is “restrictions on women singing in public”.

What Guyer is alluding to is a proposal” by some in the religious community to bar female soldiers from singing at IDF ceremonies, which has not been adopted and has been strongly criticized by prominent Israeli leaders.  Guyer’s suggestion that there are currently any restrictions on women singing in public is demonstrably false.

Finally, clearly uninterested in soberly analyzing and contextualizing such proposals in Israel’s (democratic) legislature, Guyer hysterically concludes:

If the NGO bill goes forward in Israel’s parliament, watchdog groups like ACRI would be taxed at a punitive rate. In fact, a wide range of NGOs, today fully compliant with Israeli law, would suddenly come under an Orwellian regime.

While I’m certainly not a literary critic, I’d venture to say that when Orwell was writing his prolific book, Nineteen Eighty-Four, about  a repressive (Soviet-style) government which tortures and executes citizens who question the order of things, he didn’t have in mind an increase in the marginal tax rates for Non Government Organizations.

But, then again, why let such quaint notions as truth, context and proportion get in the way of advancing a desired Guardian-friendly narrative of an increasingly undemocratic Jewish state?

11 replies »

  1. My life is an open book. Want my opinion, I will tell you. I don’t cheat on my taxes by even the smallest amount, I don’t get traffic tickets because I obey the law, and I don’t care if the library keeps a list of the books I take out because I have nothing to hide.

    If these NGO’s have nothing to hide then why do they care so much if anyone knows who supplies their money? And if they are taking foreign money to subvert the nation, why should they get a tax break from the Israeli taxpayers to do so?

    And doesn’t anyone find it a bit hypocritical that all of these Israel-bashers, who are forever whining and moaning about the “Israeli Lobby,” and “Zionist tentacles” and the like, influencing other governments, seem to think it is just dandy when other governments or people with agendas want to influence the people and government of Israel?

    Once again, it appears that only Jews have no right to express their opinions, or take part in the political system. And only Jews have to agree that foreigners and strangers have the right to dictate how the Jewish state is to be run.

  2. Israel needs to ignore chilling and unsolicited advice and tell these people who meddle in our affairs to get lost.

    The only thing that Hilary Clinton needs to worry about is to make sure that Bill Clinton has his pants zippered.

  3. What about the allegation of gender segregation on buses? Is there anything to that?
    (just asking)

  4. For a pertinent analysis of the Pretzelberg Phenomenon (aka liberal cognitive egocentrism; plumb stupidity; and so on) , here is Richard Landes:

    quote: this is a good example of an aggressive assertion of liberal cognitive egocentrism. pretzelberg apparently assumes that the idea of religiously sanctioned rapes by muslim men of infidel women is a scurrilous defamation of islam. alas, the evidence is strong. Alas, we have fatwas that permit jihadis to capture and rape infidel women, in Pakistan we have Christian women as Muslim sex-slaves, in London we have demonstrators promising to rape Danish women as spoils of Jihad (at 2:29), in France we have Muslim youth gang raping French women (called tournantes – passing arounds), and on and on.

    These things are really quite unimaginable to the modern western sensibility, and since nothing in even extreme versions of Jewish or Christian fundamentalism come anywhere near this kind of permission/encouragement, it’s hard for us to imagine that this goes on in Islam. Of course, to get aggressive with your ignorance and accuse people who are not covering their eyes of “scandalous muslim bashing” is perhaps taking aggressive naivete several notches too high. endquote.

  5. Hmm. Not sure whether you are being entirely straight with us, there, Pretzelberg? For someone who comments so regularly on Israel, you are surely well-enough informed to know the situation – that there are certain bus routes that pass through ultra-orthodox neighbourhoods in Jerusalem, on which some of the community would like women to sit seperately, but that this is not officially sanctioned and is actively discouraged.

    It is therefore a gross distortion to characterise segregation on buses (and to compare it to the status of black people in the southern US in the 50s and 60s) as a general problem and indicative of a decline in the liberal democratic nature of Israel.

  6. Thanks for your feedback. I urge you to read the NGO law draft text for yourself.
    Jonathan Guyer

    The Eighteenth Knesset
    Sponsors: MK Faina Kirshenbaum,
    MK Ofir Akunis
    Bill on income of public institutions receiving donations from a foreign
    state entity (legislative amendments) 2011
    1. Amendment to the Associations Law
    In the Association Law 1980, in Clause 36A

    Amendment to Clause 36A
    (1) In sub-clause (a), the definition of “a
    foreign state entity” shall be followed by:
    “A restricted association” – an association
    whose goals, or actions, directly or by
    implication, include one of the following:
    1. Denying the existence of the State of
    Israel as a Jewish and democratic state;
    2. Incitement to racism;
    3. Supporting an armed struggle, by an
    enemy state or a terrorist organization,
    against the State of Israel;
    4. Support for trying elected representatives,
    IDF soldiers, and government officials before
    international or foreign judicial instances, for
    activities carried out on duty;
    5. Calling for refusal to serve in the IDF or in
    the national service;
    6. Supporting a boycott of the State of Israel
    or of its citizens.
    (2) Sub-clause (a) will be followed by: “(a1)
    A restricted association shall not receive
    donations from a foreign state entity;”
    (3) In sub-clause (b1), “association” will be
    followed by “which is not a restricted
    2. Amendment to the Income Tax Order
    In the Income Tax Order (hereafter: the
    Order), in Clause 3,
    Amendment of Clause 3 Sub-clause (10) will be followed by:
    “(11) The income of a public institution,
    which is a donation from a foreign state
    entity, will be taxed at a rate of 45%; for this
    purpose, “foreign state entity” is as defined
    in clause 36A of the Associations Law 1980.
    (12) Despite what is stated in sub-clause
    (11), that clause shall not apply to donations
    to a public institution that is also budgeted
    by the State of Israel.
    (13) If the public institution is not budgeted
    by the State of Israel, as described in clause
    (12) above, and was not budgeted during
    the last three years, the institution shall be
    allowed to file a request to the Minister of
    Finance, with the approval of the Knesset
    Finance Committee, for an exemption from
    the 45% tax rate, as stated in clause (11).”
    3. Amendment of Clause 9
    In Clause 9(2) of the Order, in subparagraph
    (a), the words “a group of people who
    control the operator of the business,” shall
    be followed by “except for an income that is
    a donation from a foreign entity as stated in
    Clause 3”.”
    Explanatory Notes
    In Israel, there are many organizations whose purpose is to defame the State of Israel in the eyes of
    the world and to encourage the persecution of IDF officers and soldiers, while harming their
    reputation. These organizations, which often refer to themselves as “human rights organizations,”
    receive funding from states and other obscure sources, whose sole purpose is to cause harm and to
    alter Israel’s political discourse from within.
    As part of the activities of these organizations, we can note their major contribution to the findings
    of the Goldstone Report, participating in the filing of indictments against Israeli army officers and
    senior officials and around the world, attempting to brand IDF soldiers as war criminals,
    encouraging people to refuse military service, and calling for an economic and political boycott of
    the State of Israel.
    Some of the known data regarding the funding of these organizations reveals that their funding
    comes from states or governmental authorities on the European Union, Great Britain, Switzerland,
    Norway, Spain, Germany, and Ireland.
    These are foreign states that intervene in the internal political discourse of the State of Israel in an
    attempt to delegitimize the IDF’s activities and its soldiers. Foreign money pays for the activities of
    these organizations that call themselves ‘Israeli” against the IDF.
    This bill aims to limit this kind of intervention through support of Israeli associations.
    Therefore, this bill seeks to completely prohibit donations from foreign states to associations that
    deny the existence of the State of Israel; incite to racism; support an armed struggle against the
    State of Israel; support trying elected officials and IDF soldiers by international judicial instances;
    call for draft refusal; and support a boycott of the State of Israel. The bill further seeks to revoke the
    right to income tax exemption that is given to these organizations in Israel and to set a 45% tax rate
    on them.
    Due to the fact that many decent organizations, which seek to advance Israeli society in such fields
    as welfare, education, and civil society, which are budgeted by both the State of Israel and foreign
    states at the same time, may be damaged by this amendment, this proposed bill seeks to exclude
    them from it.

    • Well, smart guy, I have read it, and I agree with everything in it.

      No one’s right to free speech is being abrogated in any way. There are no threats of lawsuits, or arrest, or any other sort of punishment. This law would simply not force the taxpayers to support through their taxes the activities of those who collude with foreigners to bring about the extinction of the state.

      Certainly the desire of foreigners to subvert the government and people of Israel will no longer be permitted to be fulfilled. But foreigners do not have rights unless they are granted by the Israeli government, just as is true for every other government.

      If you don’t like it, move to Israel, go through the steps to become a citizen, and run for office. Otherwise, mind your own business.

  7. And I urge you (and your hamass-licker friends at the rag, which has become useful only if you are out of toilet paper) to check out some real anti-democratic and blood-thirsty regimes: Iran, Hamas, Syria, etc, before you bark about orwellian regimes.

    But of course you won’t do that. Many of your comrades are working for them (see George Galloway at Press TV for example).
    Finally, check out Koran 3:61. The last part of the verse is about you and your friends.