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?

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