Silencing Occupy Wall Street and criticism of Israel through demonization

What do the efforts to silence criticism of Israel and the attacks on Occupy Wall Street have in common?

Paul Krugman has a great column today on the “panicked” reaction of the country’s plutocrats to the Occupy Wall Street protests that are spreading across the country. The protests, he writes, “have already elicited a remarkably hysterical reaction from Wall Street, the super-rich in general, and politicians and pundits who reliably serve the interests of the wealthiest hundredth of a percent.”

What struck me though was his description of the tactics used to demonize perfectly rational and sensible critiques of the disastrous way the economy is run for the benefit of a tiny number of people:

What’s going on here? The answer, surely, is that Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs. They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.

Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached. They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit federal guarantees – basically, they’re still in a game of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose. And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower rates than middle-class families.

This special treatment can’t bear close scrutiny – and therefore, as they see it, there must be no close scrutiny. Anyone who points out the obvious, no matter how calmly and moderately, must be demonized and driven from the stage.

The tactics Krugman describes struck a real chord with me – they are exactly like the tactics US-based anti-Palestinian groups are using in their campaign against so-called “delegitimization” of Israel. A “delegitimizer” you may recall is anyone who questions Israel or calls for an end to its occupation, apartheid and other crimes against Palestinians and other Arabs, in short the entire Palestinian rights and solidarity movement.

Like Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe, Israel’s anti-Palestinian supporters have no morally defensible message, no positive case to make, no way to justify the US giving billions of dollars each year to a colonial apartheid state while basic services for Americans are slashed. So their only resort is to attack and demonize all who call for common sense: ending Israel’s special treatment and working for full equal rights and decolonization based on universal human rights principles – just what the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement calls for.

Even Krugman’s fellow New York Times columnist Nick Kristof has been subjected to this kind of demonization – as Jaime Omar Yassin pointed out – for a column the other day which contained some mild criticisms of Israel. That might also be why Krugman, a very smart economist and commentator who was a leading critic of the Iraq war, steers clear of ever talking about Israel himself.




Though Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy [insert location here] in general still contains many problematic aspects, it nevertheless presents an opportunity for the Left to engage with some of the nascent anti-capitalist sentiment taking shape there. So far it has been successful in enlisting the support of a number of leftish celebrities, prominent unions, and young activists, and has received a lot of media coverage. Hopefully, the demonstrations will lead to a general radicalization of the participants’ politics, and a commitment to the longer-term project of social emancipation.

To this end, I have written up a rather pointed Marxist analysis of the OWS movement so far that you might find interesting:

<a href=“Reflections on Occupy Wall Street: What It Represents, Its Prospects, and Its Deficiencies”</a>