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PACBI-Hollywood, Israel and the New McCarthyism

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9 October 2014

Hollywood, Israel and the New McCarthyism

The Israeli government and its lobby groups around the world have responded to the 2005 Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), including the academic and cultural boycott, with well-oiled propaganda, across-the-board bullying and intense repression.  In the west, nothing short of a new wave of McCarthyism is setting in, except this time around the required blind loyalty is to apartheid Israel.

A-list Hollywood stars have begun to criticize Israel, especially its latest war crimes and crimes against humanity in the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip.  The latest bombshell, from Viggo Mortensen of The Lord of the Rings fame, exposed a seldom talked about atmosphere of vilification and suppression of freedom of expression created by the Israel lobby.
“If anyone dares express any objection to the Israeli government’s acts of state terrorism against Palestinian civilians, one is rapidly vilified and censored,” said Mortensen in what many agree was an unprecedented, uninhibited moment of truth in the U.S. arts ivory tower.
As a growing number of Hollywood and music industry celebrities criticize Israel’s crimes in the occupied Palestinian territory, veering off the dogmatic and increasingly tyrannical Israel party line, Israel and its lobby groups are stridently upping the ante in a frenzied attempt to prevent any breach of the thick walls of one of the last -- and most influential -- forts of blind defense of Zionism and Israel’s regime of occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid.
With its latest 51-day massacre in Gaza this past summer, Israel seems to have triggered unprecedented vocal opposition among U.S. celebrities, making its McCarthyist war on dissent even harder to win, even if it succeeds in some battles.
At the height of Israel’s Gaza onslaught, the Hollywood Reporter stated:
“[Jon] Stewart, director Jonathan DemmeTori AmosRob SchneiderKim KardashianMark RuffaloAnthony BourdainRoger Waters, NBA stars Dwight Howard and Amare Stoudemire, Italy's goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, D.L. HughleyMia FarrowWhoopi GoldbergStephen Hawking and Annie Lennox are among the … big names who have weighed in with some degree of support for the people of Gaza or outright criticism of the Israeli government.”
Israel’s response was swift. The so-called Creative Communities for Peace (CCFP), a well-funded front for the Israel lobby that is tied to the settlement movement, has been working overtime to stifle dissent in Hollywood and rally the star troops to cover up Israel’s egregious crimes in Gaza. In September, CCFP published an ad in the New York Times with 300 Hollywood names supporting Israel’s aggression in Gaza as “self defense.”
The logic driving CCFP is summarized by one of its founders:
“If you boycott Israel in art, the next thing is boycotting Israeli manufactured goods, then a boycott of Israel as a tourist destination.  Then a boycott of anything that has anything to do with Israel.  We have to nip this in the bud.”
A leader of CCFP, which brings together influential Zionist arts executives and managers with Israeli officials to undermine the growing cultural boycott of Israel, explained the lobby group’s job as using their influence with artists to “make sure they didn’t cancel” scheduled events in Israel.
Israel realizes that, despite the still deep complicity of most western governments in its regime of oppression, it is losing the war for hearts and minds all over the world, including in Europe, as has been consistently revealed in authoritative polls of international public opinion.  Despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars over the years on its propaganda programs worldwide, including the so-called “Brand Israel” campaign which openly uses culture as propaganda to whitewash Israel’s crimes and show its “prettier face,” particularly after every massacre, Israel, in world public opinion, is competing with North Korea as the state with the third or fourth lowest popularity.
Also in apartheid South Africa, public relations campaigns -- which are largely plagiarized in Israel’s current propaganda machine -- failed to hinder the spread of international anti-apartheid boycott, divestment and eventually sanctions measures.
The sharp decline in Israel’s global standing can be attributed to several key factors, including the country’s shift in the last few years to the fanatically and overtly racist, far-right end of the spectrum, with the corresponding loss of the last masks of democracy, and the rapid growth of the Palestinian-led, global BDS movement.  In response, Israel and its pressure groups have come to rely almost exclusively on their weapons of choice: intimidation, bullying, smearing and outright threats against anyone who dares to step out of line.
This is most evident in the United States, where a new air of McCarthysim is hovering over academic and cultural institutions, as well as corporations, where any criticism of Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights and international law may be voiced. Israel and Zionist groups are trying to paint critics of Zionism or Israeli policies, let alone those endorsing BDS, as not only “anti-Semitic” and “seeking to destroy Israel,” but also as “un-American,” as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indirectly done when he lashed out at president Obama for condemning Israel’s latest phase of colonizing Palestinian territory.
Unconditional, unquestioning allegiance to Israel, right or wrong, is being imposed as the litmus test of loyalty in this new McCarthysim.  Those who fail the Israel loyalty test are mercilessly attacked, isolated, and may have their careers cut short and their characters assassinated.
When the Oscar-winning Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem joined 100 other artists in Spain condemning Israel’s crimes in Gaza as “genocide,” for instance, some Hollywood industry executives were quick to publicly “blacklist” Cruz and to swear never to hire her again.  Another top Hollywood manager accused Cruz and Bardem of “anti-Semitism,” but said he would hire them only if they continue making box-office hits.
The escalation of Israel’s McCarthysist campaign in the U.S. against celebrity critics betrays the deep level of distress prevailing in Israel and among its influential pressure groups about the shattering of what the late Edward Said called, "the last taboo" in American politics—criticizing Israel and suggesting measures to hold it accountable to international law.
But just as the first edition of McCarthyism was defeated through the persistent, courageous and creative efforts of conscientious defenders of freedom and human rights, so can this new McCarthyism.

Posted on 09-10-2014

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