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April 23, 2015 2

“Israel Lobby” Conference Features Anti-Israel Rhetoric

A one-day con­fer­ence titled, “The Israel Lobby: Is it Good for the US? Is It Good for Israel?” took place on April 10, 2015 at the National Press Club in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. The con­fer­ence fea­tured sev­eral anti-Israel speak­ers who chose to focus on the alleged role that the “Israel lobby” plays in the U.S.-Israel rela­tion­ship and to eval­u­ate whether it is pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive for both countries.

Miko Peled

Miko Peled speak­ing at the conference

At the con­fer­ence, there were six panel dis­cus­sions on top­ics such as “What Is the Israel Lobby and How Does It Work?,” “Are Crit­i­cal Voices Silenced?,” “Is Free­dom of Speech Encour­aged on Amer­i­can Cam­puses?,” and “Is the Lobby Good for Israel?” Speak­ers on the pan­els included Grant Smith, the founder and direc­tor of the Insti­tute for Research: Mid­dle East­ern Pol­icy (IRMEP); Israeli anti-Zionist author and activist Miko Peled; Gideon Levy, an Israeli jour­nal­ist from Ha’aretz; Richard Falk, the for­mer United Nations Spe­cial Rap­por­teur on Pales­tin­ian human rights; and Huwaida Arraf, a co-founder of the Inter­na­tional Sol­i­dar­ity Move­ment (ISM).

Dur­ing the dis­cus­sions, par­tic­i­pants spoke about var­i­ous aspects of the “Israel lobby” and groups that are involved with Israel advo­cacy work in the U.S. Below are some of the most inflam­ma­tory com­ments from par­tic­i­pants at the conference:

  • Richard Falk, in his pre­sen­ta­tion titled “Weak­en­ing and dis­cred­it­ing the UN: The work of pro-Israel NGOs,” claimed that the United Nations is biased towards Israel and that pro-Israel groups are engaged in work to dele­git­imize the UN. He spoke about the recent AIPAC Pol­icy Con­fer­ence where Sen­a­tor Lind­sey Gra­ham report­edly spoke neg­a­tively about the UN and stated that Graham’s remarks didn’t rest on facts, but instead claimed, “It rests on the rep­e­ti­tion of the defama­tion and if you repeat, as Joseph Goebbels under­stood very well…If you repeat a lie often enough it becomes a kind of pub­licly accepted truth. And that’s where the very destruc­tive effect of these kinds of tac­tics occurred.”
  • Miko Peled spoke about “How the Lobby enables Israeli Pol­icy: Views of an Israeli in Amer­ica.” In his remarks, he claimed that Israel was founded on eth­nic cleans­ing and that Israel is an ille­git­i­mate state because “Israel was cre­ated as a result of a bru­tal eth­nic cleans­ing and estab­lished itself as an apartheid regime imme­di­ately when it was formed. There was no bet­ter Israel. There was no uncor­rupt Israel. There can­not be an uncor­rupt Israel because it was built on a crime and has no legitimacy.”
  • Gideon Levy’s pre­sen­ta­tion, which was titled “Does uncon­di­tional sup­port for Israel endan­ger Israeli voices?,” addressed whether or not the U.S.-Israel rela­tion­ship is cor­rupt and whether it has had a neg­a­tive impact on both coun­tries. Levy stated, “We are deal­ing with a cor­rupt­ing friend­ship. I think that if it wouldn’t be the Israel lobby, Israel would have been today a bet­ter place to live in. Israel would have been a more just place. And I think that if there wasn’t an Israel lobby, the United States would have been a bet­ter place and a more demo­c­ra­tic place, but it’s not for me to judge the Amer­i­can politics.”
  • Grant Smith deliv­ered a pre­sen­ta­tion titled “How big is the Lobby and what does it do? An overview of the 501© uni­verse,” and in his remarks, he claimed that U.S. tax­pay­ers are “vic­tims” who are owed money from Israel for U.S. aid that he believes was deliv­ered to Israel on false pre­text. He also labeled pro-Israel groups in the U.S. as “Israel-affinity groups” and claimed that, “The edu­ca­tion and train­ing indoc­tri­na­tion seg­ment of Israel-affinity groups and orga­ni­za­tions is really involved with train­ing within the com­mu­nity, Zion­ist education.

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April 23, 2015 0

Israel’s Independence at 67: Living Up to the Ideals of its Founders

By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

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As Israel cel­e­brates its 67th Inde­pen­dence Day, it is easy to fall into one or two cat­e­gories in reaction.

One entails an “oy gevalt syn­drome” — the sky is falling.  Just look at Israel, its rela­tions with its main ally, the United States.  An Israeli gov­ern­ment is on the verge of being formed after national elec­tions that looks like it will be more right-wing than its pre­de­ces­sor which may inevitably exac­er­bate rela­tions with the U.S., pos­si­bly fur­ther iso­late Israel from the Euro­pean Union, and spur expanded BDS activ­ity on cam­puses and else­where.  And Israel’s demo­c­ra­tic val­ues may be under assault from a Haredi and right-wing politi­cians who will seek hyper-nationalist leg­is­la­tion lim­it­ing rights to those who express oppo­si­tion to Israeli policies.

The other per­spec­tive is one that says, despite all the com­plaints and crit­i­cisms, Israel has never been doing as well nor in a bet­ter place. U.S.-Israel rela­tions remain strong in spite of the spats between Pres­i­dent Obama and Prime Min­is­ter Netanyahu. Ter­ror against Israeli cit­i­zens is way down.  The regional chaos actu­ally ben­e­fits Israel in two ways:  Dis­tract­ing Israel’s ene­mies from focus­ing on the Jew­ish State, and mov­ing the Saudis and the Gulf States into a tacit alliance with Israel based on the shared inter­est of com­bat­ting Iran­ian expan­sion and aggres­sion.  And Israel’s econ­omy remains strong led by the vital high-tech sec­tor which con­tin­ues to enhance Israel’s busi­ness sta­tus in the world.

I pre­fer to look at this moment through a lens that can both enjoy the mir­a­cle of what Israel has become and still, even on a day of cel­e­bra­tion, be aware of the many chal­lenges fac­ing the Jew­ish State as it heads into its 67th year. Para­phras­ing the old Ben Gurion line, I will rap­tur­ously cel­e­brate the won­der that is mod­ern day Israel as if there were no neg­a­tive real­i­ties sur­round­ing its exis­tence, and I will see clearly and worry a great deal about the strug­gles ahead for Israel as if the mir­a­cle of Israel’s very exis­tence and its devel­op­ment were not relevant.

Another way of putting it is that I am as deter­mined as ever, on the occa­sion of this anniver­sary to com­bat the egre­giously dis­torted image of Israel that exists in too many places in the world and on too many cam­puses and main­stream protes­tant churches in the United States.  Israel is far from per­fect as a soci­ety, in its treat­ment of its Arab com­mu­nity and of the Pales­tini­ans.  But it has always been and still is the only true democ­racy and respec­tor of human rights in the region and would have made peace with the Pales­tini­ans on many an occa­sion had it not been for ongo­ing Pales­tin­ian rejec­tion­ism.

I will con­tinue to fight the BDS folks and all those who demo­nize Israel because they are deal­ing in lies about the Jew­ish State.

At the same time, and hav­ing noth­ing to do with the dis­tor­tions from out­side, I worry about some of the direc­tions Israel is going in as an activist Jew who has spent all of his adult life fight­ing for Israel and car­ing about its future.

How will Israel remain both Jew­ish and demo­c­ra­tic if it can­not find a way out of the cur­rent stale­mate?  With all the legit­i­mate con­cerns about secu­rity, par­tic­u­larly regard­ing an expan­sion­ist and poten­tially nuclear Iran, what is going to be done about the severe domes­tic chal­lenges?  I think of three that demand imme­di­ate atten­tion:  Income inequal­ity, the need for afford­able hous­ing, and the quest for reli­gious pluralism.

So on this impor­tant day, I can live with these dual feel­ings:  An immense pride as a Jew in the glo­ries of the Jew­ish State, and a real­iza­tion that the chal­lenges fac­ing Israel are pro­found and require new initiatives.

Of course, my bot­tom line as a life­long and proud Zion­ist is a belief that Israel will emerge tri­umphant and that what­ever the obsta­cles it will face will be overcome.

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April 1, 2015 2

50% of Anti-Israel Events in Illinois on Three Campuses

Anti-Israel activ­ity on uni­ver­sity and col­lege cam­puses in Illi­nois has remained steady over the last two years with student-groups actively work­ing to pro­mote Boy­cott, Divest­ment, and Sanc­tions (BDS) cam­paigns against Israel and false alle­ga­tions such as that Israel is an apartheid state.

Tweets from pro-BDS stu­dents dur­ing and after the BDS vote at Loy­ola University.

Since Sep­tem­ber 2013, more than 70 anti-Israel events have taken place on uni­ver­sity and col­lege cam­puses in Illi­nois and over 50% of those events were held on three cam­puses: Loy­ola University-Chicago, DePaul Uni­ver­sity, and North­west­ern Uni­ver­sity. So far this year, there have been two divest­ment res­o­lu­tions passed by stu­dent gov­ern­ments at Loy­ola Uni­ver­sity and North­west­ern Uni­ver­sity and 25 anti-Israel events have either taken place or been sched­uled on Illi­nois campuses.

Lead­ing up to the BDS vote at Loy­ola Uni­ver­sity, there was a week-long pro­gram called “Loy­ola Divest­ment Week,” which fea­tured sev­eral events pro­mot­ing BDS and the “Loy­ola Divest” cam­paign. Exam­ples of those events included dis­cus­sions about divest­ment, a “Pales­tine 101” ses­sion which pro­vided his­tor­i­cal con­text about the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, and a con­ver­sa­tion titled “Reclaim­ing Our Voices through Social Activism.”

ADL described the Loy­ola Divest effort as “mis­guided” and stated that it will likely serve to “divide and polar­ize the cam­pus community.”

The polar­iz­ing effect of the res­o­lu­tion could be wit­nessed dur­ing the vot­ing ses­sion and after its pas­sage, as stu­dents reacted on Twit­ter with the hash­tag “#Loy­olaDi­vest.” One stu­dent remarked dur­ing the vote that there were a “hand­ful of priv­i­leged white peo­ple on one side of room” and that the “rest of human­ity [was] on [the] other.” Another stu­dent echoed that tweet and wrote “Never under­stood ‘white tears’ more than now –white jew­ish stu­dents are ‘uncom­fort­able’ while the Pales­tini­ans are suf­fo­cat­ing,” and another stu­dent cel­e­brated that the cam­pus Hil­lel allegedly lost mem­bers “because #divest­ment made them uncom­fort­able and afraid,” stat­ing that, “That’s a win for #Loy­olaDi­vest no one should join Hillel.”

North­west­ern Uni­ver­sity, the Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine (SJP) chap­ter formed a group called “NU Divest” which worked to pro­mote divest­ment. Lead­ing up to the Stu­dent Government’s vote on their BDS res­o­lu­tion, the group spon­sored sev­eral anti-Israel events such as a pre­sen­ta­tion from Hatem Baz­ian, a founder of Amer­i­can Mus­lims for Pales­tine (AMP), on Fri­day, Feb­ru­ary 13, 2015 titled  “Colo­nial­ism is not Over: Con­tem­po­rary Move­ments.” The group also pub­lished pro-BDS arti­cles in the cam­pus news­pa­per to inform their student-body about the BDS cam­paign and on Wednes­day, Feb­ru­ary 18, 2015, the stu­dent gov­ern­ment voted to pass their BDS res­o­lu­tion with a 24–22-3 vote.

The BDS cam­paign at DePaul Uni­ver­sity was also active this semes­ter because of the campus-wide BDS ref­er­en­dum that was passed by a vote of 1,575–1,333 on May 23, 2014. To fol­low up on the vote, the DePaul Divest coali­tion sub­mit­ted a request to the DePaul Fair Busi­ness Prac­tices Com­mit­tee (FBPC) in Jan­u­ary 2015 and asked them to rec­om­mend that DePaul divest from Hewlett-Packard, Boe­ing, Lock­heed Mar­tin, Veo­lia, and Cater­pil­lar. The pro­posal was report­edly rejected by the FBPC.

Flyer from DePaul University SJP Fundraiser for Rasmea Odeh.

Flyer from DePaul Uni­ver­sity SJP Fundraiser for Ras­mea Odeh.

The SJP chap­ters at both Loy­ola and DePaul also hosted events to defend and dis­cuss the case of Ras­mea Odeh, a Pales­tin­ian accused by Israel of hav­ing taken part in two 1969 bomb­ings by the ter­ror­ist group the Pop­u­lar Front for the Lib­er­a­tion of Pales­tine (PFLP), who was just con­victed on a count of unlaw­ful pro­cure­ment of nat­u­ral­iza­tion and is fac­ing eigh­teen months in prison and depor­ta­tion to Jor­dan. While Odeh’s case was only dis­cussed at Loy­ola, at DePaul, the SJP chap­ter actu­ally hosted a fundraiser for Odeh where all pro­ceeds were to be donated to her legal defense team.

Of the more than 70 anti-Israel events on Illi­nois cam­puses since Sep­tem­ber 2013, SJP has spon­sored the major­ity of those events, which were focused on BDS cam­paigns and cas­ti­gat­ing Israeli policy.

Other recent anti-Israel events on other cam­puses in Illi­nois include:

  • Shirien D, an Exec­u­tive Board mem­ber of the Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion for Pales­tin­ian Equal Rights, spoke about alleged sim­i­lar­i­ties between Fer­gu­son and Gaza at the Illi­nois Insti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy on Feb­ru­ary 11, 2015.
  • A teach-in for stu­dents to learn about and get involved with the BDS move­ment took place at the Uni­ver­sity of Illinois-Urabana Cham­paign (UIUC) on Mon­day, Novem­ber 10, 2014.
  • Ilan Pappe, an Israeli anti-Zionist pro­fes­sor who is famous for writ­ing a book titled The Eth­nic Cleans­ing of Pales­tine, spoke at the Uni­ver­sity of Chicago on Fri­day, Octo­ber 24, 2014.

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