When It Comes to Talking About Israel, Free Speech Is Dead in America Today

By Philip Giraldi

There is little appreciation inside the United States for the grave damage being inflicted on our country by President Joe Biden’s foreign policy being conducted through the mechanism of starting or sustaining a new war every year. The justifications provided by the White House, State Department, and Pentagon are so vacuous that they have succeeded in creating a new low standard for the art of government lying.

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The country is burdened by unsustainable debt yet we have so-called Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen declaring in October that another war beyond Ukraine, presumably to directly intervene to support Israel in destroying Gaza, can “certainly” be afforded. And, with the current U.S. military build-ups near China and in the Middle East to confront Iran, there presumably is enough gas in the tank to pick up on another conflict or two before Genocide Joe stands for reelection later this year.

But in spite of the damage to our economy, which is quite real, some of the gravest threats come from within, from the attacks delivered by special interest groups directed against our fundamental liberties. The most significant assaults have of late been directed against the First Amendment and freedom of speech, which is the bedrock of all the rights and which is currently being assailed continuously by that most protected of all protected groups, America’s Zionist and pro-Israel lobbying network.

Hardly a minute of the day passes without a new article in the mainstream media about “surging anti-Semitism.” The journalists involved, most of whom are Jewish, hardly ever observe that Israel’s slaughtering of over 20,000 Gazans, mostly women and children, just might have something to do with how the public is beginning to regard the behavior of Israel and its leaders.

What actually fuels a response that groups like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) choose to regard as anti-Semitism is Israel slaughtering ten thousand children under a flag displaying the Star of David and stating its intention to continue the massacre until all the Palestinians have fled to other countries or been killed. We are talking about over 2 million people but Israel’s friends in the U.S. regard them as little more than “sub-humans” or “terrorists.”

The pro-Israel lobby in America does not forgive and forget. Witness the continuing attacks on America’s universities for not rolling over and purging all suspected “anti-Semites” among faculty and students.

Claudine Gay, who recently resigned as president of Harvard, was aggressively targeted by Israel’s friends in the U.S. Congress because she did not accept that all criticism of Israel in the context of Gaza is based on anti-Semitism, which she was apparently required to do. Sure, Gay is not a top-level academic and probably was an affirmative action hire, but has anyone ever heard of a congressional committee going after an academic for the sin of plagiarism before?

The ADL’s revolting director Jonathan Greenblatt is demanding that there be more “consequences” for “anti-Semites on campus” and the media is hot on the story. So are the many U.S. government entities whose sole task is to root out anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers. The Department of Justice, headed of course by Jewish Attorney General Merrick Garland, is reportedly investigating a number of leading universities including Tulane and Rutgers for failure to “protect the civil rights of Jewish students.” It is a typical pattern where Jewish officials investigate alleged crimes against other Jews.

The universities are scrambling to comply with the government demands to get tough with alleged anti-Semites. At Columbia University, for example, certain slogans and chants used by Palestinian students have been banned and blocked, but there is no corresponding interference with Jewish student activities.

Professor Rashid Khalidi has written a powerful response to the university administration:

Our deans state that the Columbia community should acknowledge that hearing chanted phrases such as “by any means necessary,” “from the river to the sea,” or calls for an “intifada”—irrespective of intentions and provenance—is experienced by many Jewish, Israeli, and other members of our community as anti-Semitic and deeply hurtful.

They have thus unilaterally decided that no one should rise up (the actual meaning of “intifada”) against 56 years of illegal military occupation; that Palestine should remain unfree from the river to the sea; and that the oppressed should take permission from the oppressor as to the means to relieve their oppression. They have come to this decision because hearing otherwise is “anti-Semitic and deeply hurtful” to some.

This statement amounts to a new norm that prohibits using or learning about these terms and their histories, in favor of the privileging of a politics of feeling. While perhaps appropriate to a kindergarten, it is hard to imagine an approach more contrary to the most basic idea of a university.

This statement is characteristic of a university that picks a task force nearly devoid of expertise on anti-Semitism and on Palestine/Israel (much of which exists among the faculty), but packed with outspoken advocates for Israel, a university that has decided that faculty expertise on freedom of speech or on language to be proscribed should be rigorously excluded from deliberations on such issues. With complete disregard for the principle of faculty governance, crucial matters like these are being decided upon by administrators, presumably with hefty input from trustees, donors, and politicians, who have negligible expertise, but robust and one-sided opinions.

And beyond the damage done to freedom of speech and critical thinking at the universities, there are already plenty of consequences for those who are choosing to speak up about the atrocities that are underway, but they only appear to apply to Palestinian and antiwar groups that are demonstrating against Israel’s slaughter in Gaza.

Ambitious politician wannabe Ron DeSantis was one of the first to respond, banning Palestinian groups at all state universities due to their alleged “anti-Semitism.” He did not ban a single Jewish group for cheerleading the slaughter of the Palestinians. And this has been the pattern elsewhere with the banning or denying of facilities to Palestinian and antiwar groups, while leaving Hillel and other pro-Zionist groups alone no matter what they do. Is that freedom of speech? Of course not, but it is a measure of who has power in the U.S. and who does not. Speak ill of whomever you choose but leave Israel alone or you will be in trouble!

And protecting Israel also extends to the punishing of supporters of nonviolent action, like boycotting Israeli products to put pressure on the regime of Benjamin Netanyahu. If you belong to a group that opposes Israeli policies, you could be denied goods and services for that fact alone. In more than 30 states one can be compelled, for example, to sign an agreement not to support any action against Israel if one wants a job or government services. This special arrangement is unique to Israel and there are also special trade missions often manned by American Jews or Israelis, including in my state Virginia, which create special investment opportunities for Israel that do not exist for any other country.

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But perhaps the most insidious attempt to complete America’s fall to the total control of the pro-Israel lobby and its pre-approved narratives is what is taking place in lower-level education. Many school districts and even state educational boards require courses on the horrors of anti-Semitism and the so-called Holocaust. The courses are, of course, being pushed most ardently by Jews and by select evangelicals who are sitting around waiting for the Second Coming, a prophecy that involves in their minds the return of Jews to the Holy Land as a prerequisite.

Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada (D), who is Jewish, has just introduced legislation called the “Never Again Education Act,” which has an impact nationwide. The “Never Again Education Act” was first introduced in July of 2019 before passing in the House in January 2020 with 300 co-sponsors and in the Senate in May 2020. As it is set to expire in 2025, Sen. Rosen is looking to have the act reapproved to extend it to 2030 to “provide funding for training and lessons on the ethnic cleansing of Jews.”

The problem with the act is that it rests on a contrived narrative that is essentially political in nature, including as it does many non-historical and even fabricated assertions about what took place in the 1930s and 1940s. The act is intended to bestow upon Jews a special victimhood that, in turn, conveys on them and on Israel exemption from normal rules regarding their behavior. It, of course, is part of the narrative that is giving Netanyahu and his rogues a more-or-less free pass from the United States for their crimes against the Palestinians.

The America we once knew is under siege. Free speech is being eroded and will soon be subject to criminal penalties if one says the wrong thing about Israel. This is intolerable and one prays that the American people will have their own “intifada” and wake up to the new infamy and put an end to it in 2024.

Philip Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer and a columnist and television commentator. He is also the executive director of the Council for the National Interest. Other articles by Giraldi  can be found on the website of the Unz Review.