The pro-Israel propaganda machine is beginning to sputter

Nowhere is the propaganda system in the US on full display than when it covers the way that Israel treats the Palestinians. There is a full-throated attempt to minimize the war crimes of Israel and maximize the threats posed by Hamas.

As an example, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday, their analyst Domenico Montenaro said that the US has been viewed as a ‘neutral third party’ in the conflict until Tump moved more in in favor of Israel. The idea that the US has been a neutral party is laughable on its face, a delusion that exists only in the minds of establishment journalists who are afraid of running afoul of the Israel lobby in the US that is swift to attack those who step outside the bounds of allowed discourse. The reality is that the US has for decades been joined at the hip to Israel, providing support and cover for its apartheid and ethnic-cleansing policies.

It used to be the case that unconditional support for Israel was bipartisan. But that is no longer the case, with many Democrats increasingly speaking out against that government’s actions. While Joe Biden and speaker Nancy Pelosi and senate majority leader Chuck Schumer continue their subservience to the Israeli agenda, the Democratic party as a whole is no longer going along with them and more voices in the party are now condemning Israeli aggression..

The prospect of forced evictions of Palestinians in east Jerusalem and a sustained rocket campaign against Israel this week have laid bare the increasingly thorny political dynamic facing congressional Democrats, more of whom are beginning to question the lockstep bipartisan support for Israel that has existed across Washington. While not abandoning America’s historically strong ties to Israel, Democrats aren’t flinching this week in their calls for a tougher posture against aggression toward Palestinians.

“There is a very strong emerging ground in the Democratic Party that wants to see an American policy that is balanced — that recognizes both Israel’s security needs and rights when it comes to defending itself from rockets and terror, but also recognizes that will never end unless Palestinians get their rights and their freedoms,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, an advocacy group founded as a progressive pro-Israel voice on U.S. policy.

“We think that this is becoming the center of the Democratic Party,” Ben-Ami added.

An example is an opinion piece by Bernie Sanders.

Offering further evidence that the rights of Palestinians are receiving more vocal support from U.S. Congress members than at any time in living memory, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday published an opinion piece in the New York Times demanding a more “even-handed” and morally consistent approach to Israel and Palestine that promotes peace.

Early in his essay, the Independent senator from Vermont posed a question: “Why do we only seem to take notice of the violence in Israel and Palestine when rockets are falling on Israel?”

Whenever this happens, Sanders noted, Democratic and Republican administrations declare, as President Joe Biden did earlier this week, that “Israel has the right to defend itself.” 

“Why is the question almost never asked: ‘What are the rights of the Palestinian people?'” Sanders continued.

The senator proceeded to highlight just some of the recent steps taken by the Israeli government and settlers to violently oppress Palestinians living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

As examples, Sanders cited the forced expulsion of Palestinian families living in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem and elsewhere in the occupied West Bank as well as the ongoing blockade on Gaza that “makes life increasingly intolerable for Palestinians.”

In addition, Sanders denounced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to “marginalize and demonize Palestinian citizens of Israel, pursue settlement policies designed to foreclose the possibility of a two-state solution, and pass laws that entrench systemic inequality between Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel.”

Sanders emphasized that “in the Middle East, where we provide nearly $4 billion a year in aid to Israel, we can no longer be apologists for the right-wing Netanyahu government and its undemocratic and racist behavior.”

Facebook is part of the propaganda effort is support of Israel. As Sam Biddle writes, there has been a push by the Israeli government and its right-wing supporters in the US to massively widen the definition of anti-Semitism to include criticisms of Israeli policies, support for the BDS movement, and to equate the word ‘Zionism’ (a political stance) with ‘Jews’ so that to criticize Zionism and Zionists is to be anti-Semitic.

FACEBOOK’S SECRET INTERNAL rules for moderating the term “Zionist” let the social network suppress criticism of Israel amid an ongoing wave of Israeli abuses and violence, according to people who reviewed the policies.

The rules appear to have been in place since 2019, seeming to contradict a claim by the company in March that no decision had been made on whether to treat the term “Zionist” as a proxy for “Jew” when determining whether it was deployed as “hate speech.” The policies, obtained by The Intercept, govern the use of “Zionist” in posts not only on Facebook but across its subsidiary apps, including Instagram.

Both Facebook and Instagram are facing allegations of censorship following the erratic, widespread removal of recent posts from pro-Palestinian users critical of the Israeli government, including those who documented instances of Israeli state violence.

Though none of Facebook and Instagram’s content removal has been tied conclusively to the term “Zionist,” users and pro-Palestinian advocates were alarmed by disappearing posts and notices of policy violations over the last week. Facebook said the sudden deletion of deeply disturbing content documenting Israeli state violence was, as the company so often claims, just a big accident. Company spokesperson Sophie Vogel, in an email to The Intercept, blamed the deleted posts, many about the recent attempts to seize Palestinian homes by Israeli settlers, on an unspecified “wider technical issue” within Instagram and on a series of “mistaken” deletions and “human error.”

“Zionism,” strictly speaking, refers to the movement that advocated historically for the creation of a Jewish state or community in Palestine and more recently for the nation that emerged from that push, Israel. A Zionist is someone who participates in Zionism. Though “Zionist” and “Zionism” can be fraught terms, deployed at times by flagrant antisemitic people as a wink-and-nod synonym for “Jew” and “Judaism,” the words also have unequivocal historical and political meaning and clear, legitimate, and non-hateful uses, including in the context of criticism and discussion of the Israeli government and its policies. In the words of one Facebook moderator who spoke to The Intercept on the condition of anonymity to protect their job, in practice the policy “leaves very little wiggle room for criticism of Zionism” at a time when precisely that ideology is subject to intense scrutiny and protest.

A further sign that the blanket support given by US elected officials to anything Israel does is now fraying is seen by those members of congress who would normally be quickly vocal about supporting Israel are largely staying silent this time around, even as progressives speak out against Israel’s actions.


  1. says

    There is a noticeable reduction in pushback in various groups I frequent. People (I or others) posting links to news stories of Israel’s past actions is no long met with “that never happened”, it’s now “oh…I didn’t know”. They didn’t know because they didn’t want to know. They refused to look because they wanted to remain ignorant (e.g. the IDF’s use of Palestinian children as human shields, cutting off all water during June 2017, the Rafah camp massacre, ad nauseum). Now they can’t pretend.

    Israel hasn’t changed its methods in decades; the regime’s current actions are nothing new to those paying attention. The difference now is that more people are becoming aware and unafraid of false claims of “anti-semitism”. Progressive democrats who support Palestine aren’t the leaders, they’re a reflection of changing public sentiment and voicing it. And thankfully some in the media are finally growing a spine, especially at NBC.

  2. Sam N says

    I’m also wondering where our propaganda friends are? Has the criticism become too big to focus on the small-timers now.

    This place used to get an occasional troll shouted out by commenters asking for reason or evidence for the pro-Israeli violence position.

  3. says

    Generally I try to avoid terms like “Zionist” or “Jew” -- we can just talk about Israel and its actions. Let Israel’s defenders defend their apartheid ethnostate’s actions. That’s tough.

  4. garnetstar says

    Wow. When you start getting some US politicians, and people (as @1 says) saying or even recognizing that Israel has gone too far (i.e., hasn’t been perfect), that means that Israel has really gone off the deep end to lower and lower depths, if those were even possible. As was said, there used to be *no* dissension from the pro-Israel stance.

    If Israel doesn’t make a change, it will creep slowly down the slope to a shunned nation, like South Africa. One can only hope.

  5. Bruce says

    For 20 years, the US view has been that any Israeli Jew who votes against Netanyahu is anti Semitic. That is, one-party states are the enemy in Latin America, yet are our natural allies in the Middle East. Democracy is judged to be bad, if it might hurt our arms sales.
    After all, we are a country of values, and we value the international rich people who own stock in our weapons makers.
    If you want to hang us, can the rope sale go to our campaign donors? They give us a 0.5% kickback, so selling out democracy is all good.

  6. Mark Dowd says

    Zionist is to Jew as Nazi is to German.

    NOT THE SAME THING. Criticism of Nazis is not bigotry against Germans. Criticism of Zionism is not bigotrybagainst Jews.

  7. Dago Red says

    The reality is : “freedom of the press” may be enshrined in the US constitution, but that seemingly noble idea (much to the chagrin of what most Americans want to believe) has absolutely nothing to do with the promoting or guaranteeing integrity, accuracy, or unbiased reporting….in fact, I would argue this “freedom” is actually the cause of US media becoming so incredibly insular, biased, and inaccurate — somewhat similar in nature to how our “freedom of religion” has lead the US to become the land of profligate religious freak shows, rather than fostering more sensible and tolerable religious beliefs. “Freedom” in these cases becomes the tool by which ignorance (and its often common bedfellow, violence) is sponsored.

  8. Silentbob says

    @ 2 Sam N

    This place used to get an occasional troll shouted out by commenters asking for reason or evidence for the pro-Israeli violence position.

    That was largely one person who got banned by Mano after suggesting airlines should segregate Muslims from other passengers into Muslim only flights -- something extreme enough to try even Mano’s near-infinite patience. 🙂

    @ 3 Marcus Ranum

    Generally I try to avoid terms like “Zionist” or “Jew” — we can just talk about Israel and its actions.

    Except Zionism, as I understand it, is not just support for Israel, it’s an ideological belief that Jewish people have a God-given right to all of Palestine, so no amount of illegal settlements or bulldozing of Palestinian homes can ever be wrong. Trying to talk about Israel’s actions without mentioning Zionism is a bit like trying to talk about anti-abortion activism without mentioning Christian conservatism or misogyny.

    Anyway, I’m glad Sanders is speaking up, because I think you’d have a hard time trying to claim this guy is anti-Semitic:

    His father, Elias Ben Yehuda Sanders, was born in Slopnice, Galicia, in Austria-Hungary (now part of Poland), to a Jewish working-class family. In 1921, Elias immigrated to the United States, where he became a paint salesman. Bernard’s mother, Dorothy Sanders (née Glassberg), was born in New York City to Jewish immigrant parents from Radzyn Podlaski, in modern-day eastern Poland, and with roots in Russia.

    Sanders became interested in politics at an early age. He said, “A guy named Adolf Hitler won an election in 1932. He won an election, and 50 million people died as a result of that election in World War II, including six million Jews. So what I learned as a little kid is that politics is, in fact, very important.” In the 1940s, many of his relatives in German-occupied Poland were murdered in the Holocaust.

    Sanders lived in Midwood, Brooklyn. He attended elementary school at P.S. 197, where he won a borough championship on the basketball team. He attended Hebrew school in the afternoons, and celebrated his bar mitzvah in 1954.

  9. DrVanNostrand says

    Zionism/Zionist is a difficult one. Antisemites use the terms constantly when talking about their crazy conspiracies, with no basis in fact. I can understand why it makes some people’s ears perk up and wonder if the user is antisemitic. However, Zionism IS an actual movement. Many people self-identify as Zionists. And the implications of Zionism are very relevant to Israel’s current military response.

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