How to handle a Zionist defamation campaign

I often work with people who have been targeted for punishment by the Israel lobby (or the Zionist establishment, if you prefer).  It’s a gratifying but difficult task because victims of Zionist smear campaigns are usually scared and confused.  That reaction is logical.  Zionists aim to render their targets unemployable (and thus destitute).  Such viciousness reflects the behavior of the state they want to indemnify from criticism. 

Mainstream journalists, administrators, and politicians are receptive to Zionist pressure because their primary obligation is to serve centers of power.  In many cases, individuals with the authority to decide a target’s fate share ideological and class interests with the people who are complaining.  A distinct political economy informs snitching, defamation, employment termination, and other mendacious practices.  That economy is calibrated to satisfy the ruling class and uses an insidious system of rewards to ensure conformity.  The flipside is a sophisticated complex of discipline and coercion assembled to ensnare people who disrupt the operation.  It’s crucial to understand that you’re not simply up against devotees of Israel, but more broadly an imperialist geopolitical structure in which pro-Israel sentiment is embedded.  You needn’t identify as a radical in order to recognize the breadth and depth of the problem. 

Before some general pointers, though, a few qualifications: 

If the lobby wants you expunged from some kind of position, there might not be anything you can do to stop it.  The ruling class, which includes the lobby, views you with contempt.  Its beneficiaries don’t care if you go hungry.  In fact, they might well enjoy it if you do.  Fighting back, then, is an existential proposition. 

Once targeted, you’ll be subject to a barrage of triteness and stupidity, along with gutter talk, unfounded speculation, and spectacular racism.  Don’t waste time wondering how management can listen to such obvious dingbats; doing so will only make you angrier.  Yes, the people complaining about you are dopey, despicable, and dishonest.  They also have power, or at least the means to communicate a language amenable to power, which in the end is all that matters.  Think of them first and foremost as class enemies.  Contempt for the lesser specimens of humanity is the basis on which they interact with management. 

Marshalling a response is intensive and time-consuming.  You may not feel motivated, which is normal, and in which case a support network becomes especially helpful.  From the lobby’s point of view, bogging people down in the tedium of self-defense is an added benefit; it precludes those people from doing the work that caught the lobby’s attention in the first place.  They’ve summoned you to a different type of work, one that’s no less important. 

Finally, each situation is different, so the suggestions that follow may not always apply.  I try to provide a sketch of issues to take into account, but your distinctive personal and professional concerns should guide your response.  The list below is meant to be roughly sequential. 

Contact Your Union:  If you’re a non-unionized worker, keep reading. 

Document Everything:  Save all emails, text messages, and voicemails.  As accurately as possible, transcribe any verbal conversations (and the accompanying dates and times).  Annotate the employee handbook and HR documents.  Find cases in which management reacted differently in a similar scenario.  It’s unlikely, but proceed on the assumption that you’ll end up in court. 

Do Not Admit Wrongdoing:  Even if you feel that you may have done something wrong—and there’s nothing wrong with condemning Israel—keep the feeling to yourself. 

Research Legal Help:  Palestine Legal is a terrific resource.  Otherwise, look around for specialists in employment law (or whichever relevant subfield) in your area.  It’s not always easy to hire an attorney, but try your best to arrange some consultations.  If anything, you’ll get a sense of whether a lawsuit is viable.  Lawyering up will also make management more hesitant to dispose of you. 

Go Quiet (Maybe):  In general, it’s a wise long-term proposition to say nothing at all, and that’s also the case at the onset of a Zionist smear campaign.  This isn’t a firm rule, just something to consider.  Sometimes talking further excites your adversaries.  Sometimes it makes you sound sillier or more defensive than you would prefer.  Sometimes you will say things that later become a source of regret.  On the other hand, speaking up can be invigorating and cathartic.  It depends on the situation.  Interjecting yourself into the debate can extend the news cycle, so it isn’t advisable if your goal is to wait for the controversy to blow over (never a guarantee).  If your goal is to vigorously defend yourself in your own words, whatever the news cycle decides to do or however upset it makes your adversaries, then it’s probably unhealthy to silence yourself.  (When I was in the news cycle some years ago, I remained silent for nearly two months on order of my lawyers.  That period was extraordinarily frustrating, but it later served me well during legal proceedings.)  Calm down and think through what you most want to express before taking to a keyboard. 

Communicate Your Version of the Story:  Once you’ve confirmed that Zionists are snitching you out, talk to your employment supervisor (start with the one you least distrust).  This isn’t to say that anyone in management can be viewed as an ally—consider yourself lucky if that’s the case—but you’ll want to register your version of the story, nevertheless.  Don’t get into a political debate.  Emphasize that you are being subject to an organized defamation campaign with no basis in reality. 

Do Not Apologize or Try to Appease:  For reasons of politics and principle, appeasement is a poor strategy.  But it’s a poor strategy first of all for reasons of pragmatism:  a Zionist mob intent on punishing an enemy has never been appeased short of destroying its target.  Keep in mind, as well:  those who do concede and appease aren’t just saving their own skin; they’re making life tougher for every future target of the mob. 

Remain Circumspect:  Or, put more plainly, don’t believe a goddamn word that management, HR, or anyone else paid by the institution says to you.  For students, the same advice applies to deans and other administrators on your campus. 

Write an Article Explaining Your Situation:  An op-ed is probably best.  Even if you don’t publish it, you’ll have the opportunity to sort your thoughts.  You can share the article with people interested in learning more about your situation. 

Decide Whether to Go Public:  If so, enlist trusted people to help:  coworkers, friends, professional colleagues.  Streamline your talking points.  Communicate to allies what you want emphasized and what is best kept private.  The message needs to be firm and concise.  Defending yourself against scurrilous accusations is important, and probably inevitable, but put a spotlight on the dishonesty and mendaciousness of your accusers.  Let them answer for the racism inherent to their enterprise. 

Be Clear:  Assuming you go public, be clear about the situation and the stakes of a favorable (or negative) outcome.  People need to understand exactly what they’re being asked to support or oppose.  Over the years, hundreds of petitions and appeals have come into my inbox or social media feeds.  The most compelling identify a specific injustice and demand a legible form of redress.  Interpersonal drama with online frenemies is not a cause. 

Give People Something to Do:  Or at least let them know that more information is forthcoming.  People want to feel as if they’re doing something useful to mitigate injustice, even if it’s only signing a petition.  While making an audience aware of a problem is a worthy cause in itself, the audience will certainly ask, “What can we do to help?”  It’s good to provide an answer.  (This suggestion functions at an individual level, too.  Don’t hesitate to privately approach friends to deploy their expertise on your behalf.)  Possibilities include writing letters to your higher-ups (a template can be helpful, but if your supervisors get a bunch of messages with identical text, they’ll be less likely to take the complaints seriously); posting links to social media; organizing boycotts and strikes; and reaching out to relevant contacts. 

Beware of Unsolicited Advice:  If you do end up in the news cycle, prepare for tons of unsolicited advice.  Some people will get angry with you for not behaving as they think they would, or as they think you should.  Ignore them.  Even if their hearts are in the right place, the demands on you to follow a program of their choosing do nothing to help.  There will be dozens of factors they don’t know or care about.  Listen to your family and your lawyers. 

Beware the Social Climbers, As Well:  Any kind of attention, even negative, will bring out opportunists looking to extract social capital from your unfortunate situation.  As soon as the spotlight dims, these new friends will disappear.  Follow your instinct.  You’ll quickly realize who is trustworthy, and you’ll come to know those people as a beloved minority in the world. 

Remember the Larger Context:  Consider the implications of your choices on the Palestine solidarity movement.  Your struggle is personal, but it isn’t individual.  (For God’s sake, never start your own hashtag.)  Make sure the conversation keeps returning to the Palestinian people (and to the world’s downtrodden in general).  The repression and punishment of anti-Zionists in North America is coterminous with Zionist brutality in Palestine.  Your actions should be aligned with the greater cause of Palestinian liberation. 

Seek out Loved Ones for Support:  There’s no shame in confiding to loved ones.  Defamation campaigns can be brutally stressful and while you want to maintain a defiant stance in public, it’s important to process fear and vulnerability in private.  You are human, after all, and empathy is the root of your outrage. 

No matter what happens, you will have won simply by emerging from the fracas with your integrity intact.  You have been targeted for punishment not at random, but because centers of Zionist power view you as somehow threatening.  Zionists don’t achieve victory from the punishment itself, but from stifling or diminishing your voice and thus removing the threat.  Forbearance is the only aspect of the situation you can control. 

Zionist smear campaigns aim to make you destitute and so they tap into some primal anxieties.  The best way to alleviate that anxiety is through resistance.  A serious, thoughtful response may not save your job, but it will salvage your sense of place and purpose—and, if done well, it will galvanize others to take up the fight.  Future generations—starting, optimally, with the next one—will enjoy the benefits of your fortitude. 

This article was originally published on Steven Salaita’s website on June 28, 2021.

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