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That All-powerful "lobby" You Hear So Much About

Sderot, population 23,000, is emblematic of the daily life and death struggle with which Israel has to contend. Over 7,000 rockets have been fired on the city in the years since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, which the town borders. These attacks mainly come from Hamas, but are of course authored in Damascus and Tehran, which fund the organization committed to Israel's destruction (hey, so much for Sunnis never cooperating with Shia's, right?). I visited Sderot in March*, and met with a woman who works with disabled children. Short drives around town, she said, can turn into hour-long ordeals with alarm sirens giving only 15 second warnings of incoming rockets. What country would put up with ceaseless, unprovoked missile attacks on its people? Can you imagine what the United States government would do if terrorists, finding safe haven in Mexico, launched rockets at retirement homes in southern Arizona?

The persistence of Palestinian aggression against Sderot indicates, once again, that the obstalce to Arab-Israeli peace is not Israeli but Arab intransigence. Sderot does nothing to offend Palestinians except, of course, exist.

David Harris, president of the American Jewish Commitee, records a 60-second weekly radio spot broadcast on stations across the country. He recently devoted one spot to the situation in Sderot, which you can listen to here. Amazingly, WQXR, a classical music station owned by the New York Times, has refused to play the advertisement, even though it has played AJC ads in the past.

The station's manager, apparently attempting to imitate his contemporaries at NPR, wrote to Harris informing him that WQXR would not air the advertisement because it might be construed as “misleading, at least to the degree that reasonable people might be troubled by the absence of any acknowledgement of reciprocal Israeli military actions.” So it's "misleading" to condemn terrorist attacks on innocent people unless one simultaneously acknowledges -- and thus equates -- Israeli self-defense? "Reasonable people" are not "troubled" by the "absence" of this comparison. Moral idiots are.

The New York Sun observed in an April editorial:

When Poland, on whose soil so many millions of Jews perished in the Holocaust, canceled a talk that was to be held at its consulate in New York by a professor named Anthony Judt, who feels the creation of the Jewish state was a mistake, the politically correct intelligentsia voiced angry protests. We'll see whether Stephen Walt, John Mearsheimer, and Mr. Judt and their ilk protest the refusal of the New York Times to air the ad on Sderot. 

We're told, endlessly, by the likes of Walt and Mearsheimer, Jimmy Carter, Eric Alterman, Matt Yglesias, J Street, etcetera and ad nauseum, that it's impossible to have an "honest debate" about the Arab-Israeli conflict in this country. These profiles in courage don't know how right they are.

* This visit was part of a trip facilitated by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

--James Kirchick