My family and I passed Mairav Zonszein’s awful New York Times op-ed around the Sabbath table yesterday afternoon, alternately outraged and bemused. (One family member suggested boycotting the newspaper in response: another shrugged, noting that an anti-Israel op-ed from the Times is not exactly new or significant.)
Zonszein herself seems curiously proud of the piece, “How Israel Silences Dissent.” Curious, because she has blasted the Times editorial page in the past for not being anti-Israel enough. In 2013, ironically, she ripped the Times‘s for publishing an op-ed defending Israel. (To borrow her terms, she tried to “silence” the author.)
The substance of Zonszein’s article is pure nonsense. (As one relative joked: “Yeah. Next door, they behead the dissenters.”) She complains that Israelis who express sympathy for the Palestinians–in wartime, mind you, while under bombardment–face being ostracized, or possibly losing their jobs, or even encounter death threats.
Note that it’s not the Israeli government doing the alleged “silencing”–though Zonszein clearly wishes the government did more to discourage such behavior. Fair enough–yet the same goes on in the U.S., most recently in the decision to “uninvite” Ayaan Hirsi Ali from honors at Brandeis. Regrettable, but (sadly) bipartisan.
Notably, Zonszein does not discuss how the Israeli left tries to silence its opponents–as in the attempted academic boycotts that radical Israeli professors have tried to organize against their peers. Zonszein is a fellow-traveler–not supporting those efforts outright, but promoting them, at J Street conferences and elsewhere.
Ultimately, Zonszein gives the game away by attacking the “Israeli peace camp,” which she says is too focused on “stopping settlement expansion and pursuing the ever-elusive two-state solution” rather than attacking Israel for failing “to separate religion and state and guarantee equal rights [sic] for Arab citizens.”
So there are Israeli dissenters, after all, and they’re not “silenced”–they’re just not saying what Zonszein wants to program them to say according to her own radical political agenda. Apparently, that means Israel can be likened to “fascism,”a word she brings in late in the piece, trying to do her country the most damage possible.
Zonszein’s main goal here–aside from publication by the op-ed page she once trashed–is narcissistic: to be seen as a radical, as “one of ‘them.'” Unfortunately for her (and perhaps Israel), radical dissent has been a part of Israeli society since its birth. Immature? Opportunistic? Destructive? Yes. Brave? Smart? Original? No.
Update: I am reminded that Zonszein supported a ban by the New York City subway system on a provocative ad created by the American Freedom Defense Initiative. “I think this ad speaks for itself, as does the MTA’s sensible decision to reject plastering it across New York City’s subways,” Zonszein wrote at the time.