No Free Speech on Israel

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Mohamed Khodr’s Column

The late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote in one of his opinions (Whitney vs. California 1927), “It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears.” Ironically, Justice Brandeis was the main founder and ardent supporter of Zionism in the United States, an ideology premised on exclusivity of others. No more evidence of “exclusivity” is apparent in our country than in the enormous bias of our media.

The ease and access of Jewish Americans to the op-ed and letters page is extraordinary to the almost utter exclusion of Arab Americans is nothing short of a fascistic journalistic practice.

There is no Arab American representation on any of the political TV talk shows but plenty of Jewish Americans who simply regurgitate Israel’s line.

Even Jewish Americans who have the courage to challenge our doormat pandering to Israel have no access to the media nor appear on any TV political talk show. Thus the American public is constantly subjected to the same “cliches” and Pro-Israel viewpoints over and over ad nauseum. Stupifyingly, despite their enormous hold and clout in our media, Jewish Americans complain that our media is biased AGAINST Israel thereby ensuring that no level of criticism of Israel will be tolerated.

Americans will speak up and campaign against Apartheid-Human Rights Violations-Injustice-Animal Rights-Destruction of Statues and Properties-Deforestation: you name it and we’ll challenge it–but we will not speak up or Challenge ISRAEL that commits all of these atrocities including murder. Why? Fear and Intimidation of the Jewish Lobby–Indoctrinated hatred of Arabs and Islam due to our media–Enormous Ignorance on the issue due to our cultural isolation and the constant barrage of Pro-Israel messages.

Recently in the Chicago Tribune two American Jews wrote letters mildly critical of Israel. The Zionist rapid response letter writers overwhelmed the paper with letters castigating these people as not true “Jews”. To them to be Jewish means don’t question Israel and give up your independent thought, money, vote, and fall in line. Something obviously learned from the Nazis.

The tragic Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been protracted due to a lack of historical truth, Pro-Israel image and spin doctors with easy access to the media, a lack of humane images of Palestinian victims and their squalor camps, and an intense powerful Jewish lobby that rewards and intimidates politicians with a simultaneous demonization of Arabs and Islam that has permeated America’s psyche.

Any media outlet that dares to show any sympathy to the Palestinians is deluged with attacks of Anti-Semitism. Our intimidated silence has empowered Israel to defy 90 UN Resolutions, international and legal norms, and every American administration since 1949. Travelling overseas one becomes acutely aware of the disparate media coverage on Israel abroad and in our country. Americans who travel to Israel, Palestine, and the Arab world return with a keen awareness of the injustice done to the Palestinians and the role our country plays in supporting Israel financially, militarily, and politically. Currently, Israel is using American Apache helicopters to assassinate Palestinians in direct violation of our Arms Export Act, yet our government is silent. Israel enjoys a unique standard and status in our Congress not afforded any other nation.

I personally experienced two incidents of Jewish power, influence, and backlash (among many others) during my residency at a prestigious east coast university that hammered the point that freedom of speech is respected unless its directed against Israel. The first incident occurred when after months of hearing Israeli and American Jewish speakers at the university present a pro-Israeli viewpoint, I and two Palestinian female doctoral students decided to put on a media display of cartoons favorable to the Palestinians in western papers and magazines in the student lounge. We got the requisite permission from the Dean’s office and pasted the cartoon strips on four boards and stood by to answer questions. Immediately after placing the exhibit an American Jewish student came up and told us to take it down. When we refused he came back later with an American Jewish Professor, the Assistant Dean and the Director of Student Affairs who insisted we take it down. We argued even to the point of tears that this is unfair, that we had permission, and that these are western media cartoons.

Nevertheless, we were forced to take it down. The Assistant Dean pulled me aside and quietly apologized and said there’s nothing he could do. With a painful lump in my throat I asked him about our Constitutional guarantee of Freedom of Speech, he simply shrugged and left. One year later, one of these Palestinian females finished her doctoral degree and returned to Palestine to help her oppressed people. She was stabbed a few months later to death in Jewish West Jerusalem. No investigation was conducted. It was simply a loss of a meaningless Palestinian life.

The other incident occurred when I was teaching a course on International Health to seventy five undergraduate students. I invited speakers from fifteen countries to speak on health issues in their respective country. The students enjoyed the experience until the Palestinian speaker came to discuss health issues under Israeli occupation. Suddenly, two Jewish students, one male and one female, got up, disrupted the class with shouts, threw cans in the trash cans and made quite a scene. Shockingly, all the other students were intimidated and left the room. No one spoke up against this obscene interruption. I later went to the Dean’s office to complain. He informed me that I should not have had a controversial speaker in the class. He ignored the student’s behavior and blamed me.

For decades whenever I’ve been invited to speak on the conflict I’ve found universities, libraries, and churches anxious and fearful about the event.

Americans will privately tell me of their anti-Israel opinion, of their disgust that billions of our dollars are going to rich Israel, that Israel commits crimes against us and gets away with it (USS Liberty attack in 1967), that our politicians are bought by the rich Jewish lobby, and that our media is controlled by the “Pro-Israel” view; but they are unwilling to ever speak or write against Israel publicly out of fear of being labeled an “Anti-Semite”.

Interestingly, this intimidation also permeates most of the American Jewish community that supports Israel but disagrees with its policies against the Palestinians but who are reluctant to speak out for fear of alienated and ostracized in their community. 

It seems our First Amendment is ethnically defined. Where is the “home of the free, land of the brave.”?

Our silence is costing American lives, money, prestige, world credibility, and an injustice perpetrated with our support upon the Palestinians.

Mr. Mohamed Khodr is an American Muslim physician and a native from the Middle East. He has worked in Academic Medicine and Public health with national and international health experience. He is a freelance writer who often writes columns on the Palestinian cause, Islam and on America’s Foreign Policy in the Middle East. He lives in the Washington DC area.

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