The solidarity era is over – On Portman, the A&ADL, and the Women’s March

An artistic rendering of Portman as Queen Amidala from Star Wars. A lot of activists think that role is more than a dramatic one, but it’s not. She’s just an actress/director (Deviant Art – Open Source).

In the alternative media landscape that I inhabit there is a common phrase known as “red-pilling” that describes the moment when someone begins to understand that they can no longer trust conventional thinking in news reporting, entertainment or in discussions with their social peers. Taking the “red pill” does not mean you begin to see things in the exact same way as everyone else that does, but rather that your skepticism of trends in society is piqued and a sort of internal rebellion ensues and results in an outpouring of dissent.

For me that moment had nothing to do with Israel, but rather with the journalistic malpractice that was uncovered in 2014-15 known as “A Rape on Campus.” This was a featured article by Rolling Stone featured writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely that, as it turned out, was based on a hoax incident and relied on the account of a “victim” who was in actuality a jilted lover of one of her fellow students at the University of Virginia (UVA). For Rolling Stone, the exposure of this shameless act of slander did lead to a hit to its reputation, but they have bizarrely chosen to retain Erdely and have only given token statements of contrition for the pathetic hit job they did on college students that were innocent of all wrongdoing. So from that moment on, notwithstanding the fact that my own blog entry did not make much of an indent, it did generate that heightened skepticism of conventional logic. It was a personal red pill moment and since then I’ve never read a news article the same way again.

So when it comes to the issues of confronting their ideological opponents on issues of Israel, Jews, or anti-Semitism many times I see the use of old-world tactics to tackle new-world issues. Israel advocates, even intelligent ones like Caroline Glick and Jonathan Tobin this weekend, are oblivious to the fact that the conversation over these topics is no longer one that depends on the Fox News vs. CNN and MSNBC crowd. There is also an over-emphasis on symbolism, as is illustrated in this weekend’s volcanic overreaction to Natalie Portman’s rejection of the Genesis Prize. More on that in a bit.

Fighting hatred for a free society

In the minds of many Israel advocates, you’re either a Democrat or a Republican, a Zionist or an anti-Zionist, an ally or an opponent. It is when any room for nuance gets eliminated that a cause and its associated community begins to lose its freedom of expression. Israel advocates in the USA, from Alan Dershowitz to Sheldon Adelson, continue to promote the AIPAC model of lobbying and working with the most powerful leaders as the keystone of their efforts. That’s a short-sighted and also extremely disingenuous approach in an era when congressional approval ratings continue to dip to record lows.Worse than that, AIPAC continues to promote an unsustainable and constraining policy of co-dependence between the USA and Israel when it comes to military aid on the basis that “this is the price to pay” in order to defend the borders. In reality, the price that is being paid is the quid pro quo that comes with the aid: compromising with a hostile entity (the Palestinian Authority) on those very borders.

So these “advocates” have limited the range of solutions over the years to those that are willing to continue to support the status quo model of American relations with the Middle East. It should be clear by now that that’s not what the American electorate want nor one that they are prepared to support. The past two presidents elected here, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, did make pledges to either withdraw from conflicts in the Middle East or not engage in new ones. Once they begin to violate those pledges, their credibility on the international scene instantly begins to crumble. They also come to be perceived among their core supporters as pawns of a technocratic controlling class that wants the USA to be constantly embroiled in wars of conquest. The most pro-AIPAC candidates in the past election cycles, Lindsey Graham being a case in point, have been total failures because their fealty is transparently illogical and pandering. For all of his virtue signalling, Graham had some embarrassing performances in debates and had to withdraw from the contests even before they began in Iowa. So if not through AIPAC, then how else to demonstrate your views?

BDS can be beaten by rebuttals, not restrictions

You should be able to support the existence and sovereignty of the State of Israel while still criticizing aspects of US-Israel relations and other elements of Middle East policy. The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement is not a reprehensible movement because of its message (which is protected by the 1st Amendment), but rather its intimidation tactics and the way that their activists act to stifle dissenting speech. A civil society is borne out of an environment of free expression, and therefore resolutions and laws that ban BDS are ineffective because they embrace the same approach to silencing free speech. 

In order to defeat this facetious and deceptive movement, opponents don’t have to be total ideological believers in political Zionism. I’m not, and neither were Thom Yorke of Radiohead who rejected BDS protests of the band’s appearance in Israel last year nor are the many of the countless visitors to the country that come there for a purpose that may not be political at all.

OK, so what to do about the actual proponents of BDS? There is no shortcut solution for that, as then one has to divide them between those that have a studied approach to the matter, committed ideologues that are completely unwilling to debate, and some people that latch out of the movement out of a genuine hatred for either Israel or its citizens. This is one of the few areas where I agree with a friend – who is one of the Fox News Charles Krauthammer style neo-conservatives – in saying that the objective of fighting BDS is to convince the undecided majority in the middle to reject its tactics and deceptions. For the committed supporters of BDS the goal is two-fold:

  1. Fire up a coalition of western progressives and third-world Islamists to create a self-regenerating activist culture.
  2. Use the fire and zeal of the members of this movement to restrict free speech and dissent not just on the Israel-Palestine topic but on a whole variety of analogous ones such as gender equality and race relations.

It’s the same game anywhere one goes, so what’s the one factor that enrages these activists and causes them to burn out and outlive their welcome?  In every case it’s free speech dissenters, NOT the ridiculous anti-BDS legal resolutions and legislative proposals made by local, state, and federal governments. The best factor that can draw supporters of BDS to abandon their movement is NOT restricting their free speech by law, but rather allowing the paranoid approach towards free speech within BDS to alienate them.

Letting go of symbolic victories and defeats

Last December I looked on in complete amusement as American Jews, many of them committed liberals and supporters of the Democratic Party, twisted themselves like pretzels while balancing celebration of the announced moving of the US Embassy to Jerusalem by President Donald Trump. One of the more amusing examples was this opinion piece in The Forward by Orthodox Jewish anti-Trump activist Elad Nehorai where he claimed “You got what you wanted, but you paid too much”.

But Nehorai completely misread the situation: The reality is that many of the top pro-Israel activists in the USA had for years lobbied American administrations from the time of Lyndon Johnson to take the symbolic step of validating Israel’s claim to Jerusalem by moving the American embassy to the historical capital of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judea. Trump realized that it was a chip-shot victory, because this decision has been approved by both houses of Congress on November 8, 1995 and has been reiterated in successive resolutions since then. Therefore, in order for his opponents to attack Trump’s decision from last year, they would have to abrogate their own past voting records. So the issue had nothing to do with American Jews “paying too much” for something of value, it was focusing on a symbolic goal for so long that once accomplished may be shown to have little long-term consequence.

Now, thanks to the symbolic focus of the pro-Israel movement in America Nehorai and other Jewish liberals in America are forced to confront the empty cooler they’re bringing home from their fishing trip for anti-Semitism and bigotry. Their doom and gloom picture of Jewish life in America under Trump has been proven to be an exaggerated flight into dystopian fantasy. But the delusion isn’t just on the Jewish left, but on the right as well.

Natalie Portman is a make-believe queen and you idiots continue to make believe.

This weekend once again the advocacy community has fallen into the quicksand of symbolic nonsense. Natalie Portman’s refusal to accept the Genesis Prize due to her discomfort with recent events in Israel has been blown out of proportion. For example Hen Mazzig, a gay pro-Israel activist, penned a pleading op-ed in the Jerusalem Post for Portman to reconsider her “mistake”.

But the truth is that this is not a mistake, but a reaction made by Portman likely out of her own personal reaction to the Gaza March of Return and to pressure from people in the community around her. A Harvard-educated actress, director, and social advocate, Portman is not a bimbo-headed moron that needs to be treated like a delicate flower. The proper reaction should have been to turn to a different representative, and give them the opportunity to accept the prize. The symbolic importance of Portman rejecting this prize do not mean that the collapse of our civilization.

Symbolic leaders are also the most fake ones

The slobbering love-fest towards Portman has been brought to a halt by a simple gesture of opposition to Israeli policy that in reality people should have seen as only par for the course from her. Like many liberal American Jews, Portman is a member of the attention-hungry echo chamber of stupidity known as intersectional feminism and the “Women’s March”. Despite that very movement being headlined by a dedicated Sharia law advocate (Linda Sarsour), an Obama administration anti-gun fanatic and racial arsonist (Tamika Mallory), and speakers like convicted murderer Donna Hylton and supermarket bomber Rasmea Odeh, Portman has continued to associate with the ridiculous movement. In January she even delivered a speech at the movement’s rally in Washington, DC that was simultaneously a complaint about creepy fan mail and movie reviews that sexualized her and her goal of a “Revolution of Desire”.

Watching that video, I instantly came to an obvious conclusion: Maybe it’s a good thing she’s declining the Genesis Prize? If these are the people that Israeli society chooses to represent itself, then I’d be glad to not be represented at all. It is the same type of “leadership” that has made George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jimmy Kimmel and Robert De Niro and other Hollywood celebrities into the moral compass of American society per the entertainment and news industries. It should come as no surprise that in response many Americans instead choose to cut the cable cord, not go to the movies, and instead tune in to alternative media.

Just deserts for both — The A&ADL vs. Women’s March

And it is the subject of representation that brings me to the last topic for today: The Aiding & Abetting Defamation League’s (A&ADL) new feud with Mallory and Sarsour. Whereas they once endorsed the Women’s March when they were only known as an anti-Donald Trump, it seems that the shoe is on the other foot. This past week Mallory and Sarsour both announced that Starbucks’ sensitivity training courses that include the A&ADL consultants are “NOT serious” as the movement has attacked “black and brown people” in the past. By that, they mean that the liberal establishment movement led by Jonathan Greenblatt has been forced by internal community pressure to issue tepid condemnations of Mallory and Sarsour’s own racist statements and support for Nation of Islam spiritual leader Minister Louis Farrakhan.

So who to support in this pathetic fight over nothing? The answer is neither. The Women’s March and A&ADL both have an abiding hatred for free speech, personal liberty, and ideological dissent; the only difference is which conventional orthodoxy they pledge loyalty to – mainstream corporate liberalism (Greenblatt) or fire-breathing intersectional feminism (Sarsour and Mallory).

They will both attempt to portray themselves as the real protectors of the underprivileged and a voice for the voiceless. They’re not. This can be a red pill moment for any one of us. Start your own blog, video channel, or other venue for expressing your beliefs and take back your agency as an advocate for your ideas on your terms.

About the Author
Ramón Epstein writes analysis of political and social issues from a libertarian perspective. He also writes for the Hard News Network.