Subservience to Israeli interests is stifling Americans' freedom of speech. For a country that proclaims to deeply value individual freedoms - how has it reached this point?

The disproportionate influence the state of Israel has over the United States’ political system is well known and documented in great detail by any number of academic enquiries, and none better than the details uncovered by prolific international relations scholars John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in their groundbreaking treatise The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy.

While the authors describe in meticulous detail the extent to which a loose coalition of pro-Israel organisations and wealthy donors have actively and successfully steered US foreign policy in a staunchly pro-Israel direction, they failed to forecast the depth and breadth of Israel’s near total stranglehold of political and civil life in the US today.

What we are witnessing today is the total capitulation by both political parties and the entire US federal government to the state of Israel, which has all but ensured Israel’s national interests are now placed well ahead of those of the United States – at least in the decisions made by US lawmakers.

Consider that the US Senate’s first bill of 2019, which was put forward in the midst of a federal government shutdown, was a bipartisan defence of the Israeli government from US taxpaying citizens who support the boycott Israel movement, otherwise known as Boycott, Divestment,  and Sanctions (BDS).

Significantly, the bill, known as S.1, is the top legislative priority for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), better known as the tip of the Israel Lobby’s spear, and as noted by The Intercept, the bill is neither designed to protect US workers, nor deal with any of the country’s pressing problems, or even reopen the government. Its sole purpose is to protect Israel from Americans exercising their constitutionally protected right to boycott, which in itself is a speech act.

For the past half-dozen or so years, a slew of Republican Party sponsored anti-BDS Israel bills have made their way into state legislatures all across the country, with 26 states now basically criminalising any act that calls for the support of boycotting Israel owned companies or institutions.

Even newspapers in the US are now being pressured into pledging not to support a boycott of Israel. Last week, for example, the publisher of the Arkansas Times described to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) how “letters from the state of Arkansas began drifting across my desk, demanding that our weekly newspaper, the Arkansas Times, either sign a pledge not to boycott Israel or forfeit all state advertising,” adding, “The letters were the result of an obscure, cookie-cutter law passed in 2017 by our Republican-controlled legislature.”

This anti-boycott Israel push makes a mockery of self-proclaimed American values, given the trajectory and advancement of civil rights in the country are indeed shaped by political boycotts, with the boycott of “whites only” restaurants and businesses in the Southern states instigating what would eventually become the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which put an end to racial segregation.

“Since when do American citizens have to pledge to act in the interest of a foreign power to do business with their own government?” asks Alan Leveritt, publisher of the Arkansas Times.

US subservience to Israel’s self-interests extends beyond the political realm.

Last month, for instance, CNN, the global cable news giant, fired one of its long-time and popular contributors, Marc Lamont Hill, fewer than 24 hours after he delivered a speech at the United Nations that merely expressed support for Palestinian civil rights and statehood.

The decision to fire Hill was based on the false premise, one propagated by the Israel Lobby, that equates criticism of Israel’s illegal occupation and discriminatory laws with anti-Semitism. Now consider the fact that CNN is also the same network that hires Alan Dershowitz, the Jewish American lawyer who describes Palestinians as “cockroaches” and “Nazis.”

In firing Hill, US media outlets have essentially conceded to pro-Israel pressure and have now adopted the false belief that criticism of Israel equates to hatred of the Jewish people, which ultimately is a disastrous blow to honest political debate and free speech in the country that has long championed both.

All in all, Israel’s inordinate chokehold of American civic life is fast moving from the sublime to the absurd, a realisation exemplified by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. It recently rescinded its honouring of iconic and legendary civil rights campaigner Angela Davis on Sunday, citing her support for the BDS movement, a decision she based on Israel’s stubborn refusal to comply with international law and human rights.

In the event the point needs further belabouring, we now are at a point where US civil rights organisations are dishonouring civil rights campaigners for exercising their support for Palestinian civil rights.

So, in the past month alone, we have witnessed the US Congress prioritise defending Israel from criticism above the interests of American workers and economy; the blackmailing of American newspapers at the behest of pro-Israel advocates; the firing of a journalist for supporting equal rights for Palestinians; and the stripping of an award from an iconic American civil rights activist.

It might be time for the US to update the last line of its national anthem to “Land of the free, home of the brave, and Israel’s client-state.”

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