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May 19, 2015 3

The Distorted Image of Israel

Anti-Israel pun­dits con­tinue to invent new ways to use dis­tor­tions and half-truths to attack the Jew­ish state, pre­sent­ing Israel in a neg­a­tive light as racist, inhu­mane and entirely objec­tion­able. These Israel haters will often invert a pos­i­tive aspect of Israeli soci­ety, flip­ping it on its head in an effort to dele­git­imize the Jew­ish State.

This most well-known of these tac­tics is dubbed Pinkwash­ing by its inven­tors. It takes Israel’s proud record on LGBT issues and the open­ness Israeli soci­ety demon­strates towards the LGBT com­mu­nity, and absurdly argues that Israel uses this issue to deflect atten­tion away from its treat­ment of Palestinians.

Ken Roth, the direc­tor of Human Rights Watch, recently engaged in a sim­i­lar “deflec­tive” prac­tice with Israel’s life-saving efforts in Nepal fol­low­ing the dev­as­tat­ing earth­quake.  In response to Israel’s announce­ment that they were send­ing a del­e­ga­tion to pro­vide med­ical and search-and-rescue assis­tance, Roth cyn­i­cally tweeted: “Eas­ier to address a far-away human­i­tar­ian dis­as­ter than the nearby one of Israel’s mak­ing in Gaza. End the block­ade!”
Ken Roth

Another avenue used by Israel-hating activists is the so-called “Buz­zfeed model” of try­ing to main­stream dis­torted and overly sim­pli­fied lists of Israeli transgressions.

In a recent post­ing for Alter­net, anti-Israel writer Zaid Jilani con­cocted a list of “6 Crazy Things Israel Has Done to Main­tain Racial Purity.” The title is a dead give­away of the tac­tic — trum­pet­ing the hyper­bole and dis­tor­tions in the arti­cle to fol­low. And while there are grains of truth to each of the exam­ples listed, they all lack full con­text, and are spun in the most neg­a­tive of ways to accom­plish out­landish offence towards Israel.

One of the exam­ples listed is that only Jews are enti­tled to the right-of-return law, which pro­vides for auto­matic Israeli cit­i­zen­ship. This law does give spe­cial immi­gra­tion sta­tus to Jews and is gen­er­ally cham­pi­oned as a pos­i­tive ini­tia­tive by Israel, enabling Jews from around the world, and their descen­dants up to four gen­er­a­tions, to call Israel their home. Many of the Jews, espe­cially in the early years of the State, were sur­vivors of the Holo­caust and refugees from vio­lent expul­sion by hos­tile Arab coun­tries. Dur­ing the 1980s and 1990s, over a mil­lion Jews from the Soviet Union and tens of thou­sands from Ethiopia were able to escape oppres­sive con­di­tions and build new homes in Israel, thanks to this law. As the his­toric home­land of the Jew­ish peo­ple, Israel right­fully and proudly sees this law as one of its most impor­tant and pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tions to the safety and well-being of Jews from around the world. Other immi­grants to Israel are required to apply for cit­i­zen­ship, pur­suant to laws that are sim­i­lar to those in other democ­ra­cies, and are not guar­an­teed auto­matic cit­i­zen­ship status.

Israel is not a per­fect county. Like all West­ern democ­ra­cies, it is faced with its fair share of domes­tic and inter­na­tional chal­lenges. But it has also accom­plished a great deal in its short his­tory, and is home to a thriv­ing progressively-minded society.

It is sad that Israel can do no good in the eyes of the Pinkwash­ers and peo­ple like Roth and Jilani. No mat­ter Israel’s accom­plish­ments and con­tri­bu­tions to the world, these voices, cloaked in a mar­ble of right­eously pro­mot­ing a human-rights agenda, seem bent on invent­ing new ways to use hate-filled rhetoric hate-filled to upend Israel’s pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tions to soci­ety and the world to unjustly vil­ify the Jew­ish State.

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May 8, 2015 8

Gilad Atzmon and Yaakov Shapiro Condemn Israel and Zionism


Flyer adver­tis­ing the event

On May 6 in New York City, an anti-Israel event fea­tured Gilad Atz­mon, an Israeli-born anti-Semite based in Lon­don, and Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro, Spokesper­son for the anti-Israel group “True Torah Jews.” The stated goal of the event, titled “Judaism ver­sus Jew­ish Iden­tity Pol­i­tics: Reli­gion ver­sus Trib­al­ism,” was to help “unravel the tan­gled web of sec­u­lar Jew­ish pol­i­tics, right and left.”

In his remarks, Atz­mon claimed that there have been con­certed efforts to silence his views, but that the efforts were “not from Zion­ist bod­ies, but actu­ally from Jew­ish left bod­ies,” such as Jew­ish Voice for Peace. He stated that JVP’s stance took him “by com­plete sur­prise” because he had always worked towards “oppos­ing Israel.”

Atz­mon claimed that there are three cat­e­gories of Jews:

  1. Jews who fol­low the Torah and see Judaism as the core of their identity
  2. Those who iden­tify as Jews because they have Jew­ish heritage
  3. Those who iden­tify polit­i­cally as Jews

Atz­mon, who referred to him­self as “a devoted self-hater,” stated that the first two cat­e­gories of Jews are “inno­cent” because reli­gious Jews “have never been involved in any col­lec­tive geno­ci­dal attempt against another peo­ple,” and that hav­ing “a Jew­ish mother doesn’t make you into a war criminal.”

Accord­ing to Atz­mon, the third cat­e­gory of Jews are “guilty” because they have sup­pos­edly been “at the cen­ter of too many dis­as­ters,” includ­ing the Bol­she­vik Rev­o­lu­tion, the Span­ish Civil War, and the “Nakba.” He added that in the U.S. there was “Jew­ish influ­ence within the neo-conservative school” and that Amer­ica is “pay­ing the price for those wars,” which he stated were not “rab­bini­cal wars.”

After Atz­mon con­cluded his ini­tial remarks, Rabbi Shapiro spoke, echo­ing much of what Atz­mon said, and adding his reli­gious anti-Zionist ide­ol­ogy to the dis­cus­sion. Like Atz­mon, he spoke against the cre­ation of Israel and called its for­ma­tion “a his­tor­i­cal anom­aly.” But, rather than focus­ing on the var­i­ous cat­e­gories of Jews that Atz­mon did, Shapiro instead spoke only about sec­u­lar Jews and reli­gious Jews.

Accord­ing to Shapiro, Zion­ism was cre­ated by sec­u­lar Jews who wanted to destroy Ortho­dox Judaism because they allegedly “absorbed the atti­tudes of the anti-Semites and looked at the Jews them­selves with the same dis­gust and loathing that the anti-Semites did.” He con­tin­ued and stated “the rea­son the Jews were dis­gust­ing is because they looked like me and they acted like me. And they blamed the reli­gious Jews for anti-Semitism.”

Shapiro added, “When Gilad says ‘the Jews do this and the Jews do that,’ he’s talk­ing about one type, those are sec­u­lar Jews…The Jews that stole our iden­tity. Nev­er­mind the Pales­tini­ans say they stole our land. They stole our Jew­ish name, they stole my iden­tity, they are not real Jews!”

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April 29, 2015 0

Anti-Semitism on Campus: Old Wine in New Bottles

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

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

As some­one who has been crit­i­cal about the some­times over­heated reac­tion to what is tak­ing place regard­ing Jews on cam­pus, I also believe it is vital to mon­i­tor the sit­u­a­tion closely and to be able to reeval­u­ate as things may change.

I still believe that the vast major­ity of Jew­ish stu­dents have nor­mal lives on cam­pus where they can be com­fort­able in their own skins and with their Jew­ish iden­ti­ties. That is why a recent sur­vey sug­gest­ing that more than 50 per­cent of Jew­ish stu­dents expe­ri­enced anti-Semitism in one form or another was dis­turb­ing. This sur­vey – which in my opin­ion was flawed — was not a help­ful read­ing of what is going on.

And yet, some­thing is chang­ing.  We need to iden­tify what it is and deal with it — with­out declar­ing the sky is falling.

His­tor­i­cally, many cam­puses, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to fac­ulty, have a rep­u­ta­tion of being left-wing or at least very lib­eral. Since the vast major­ity of the Jew­ish com­mu­nity has iden­ti­fied itself in a sim­i­lar fash­ion for decades, there seemed to be no problem.

Together with this, how­ever, polls of the Amer­i­can peo­ple in the last few years appear to indi­cate an increas­ing gap in atti­tudes toward Israel between those who iden­tify them­selves as con­ser­v­a­tives and those who iden­tify them­selves as lib­er­als. The lat­ter are increas­ingly ques­tion­ing Israeli poli­cies and express­ing inter­est in a more bal­anced Amer­i­can approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is this evolv­ing phe­nom­e­non which, I believe, is lend­ing force to the anti-Israel forces on cam­pus. Let’s be clear: There has always been a mea­sure of left-wing oppo­si­tion to Israel on cam­puses, whether from fac­ulty or some stu­dent groups.

For sure they are more orga­nized today.  Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine, the main orga­niz­ing force behind the boy­cott, divest­ment and sanc­tions cam­paigns, has refined and inten­si­fied its tac­tics and is pop­ping up on new cam­puses every month or so.  Regard­less of the fact that the BDS cam­paign has not gained much trac­tion on cam­pus in terms of hav­ing any impact against Israel – many, if not most, of the boy­cott votes have been soundly defeated – it is cre­at­ing a great deal of noise on cam­pus and beyond, rais­ing a lot of atten­tion, and con­tribut­ing to the sense of dis­com­fort of Jew­ish students.

But the biggest change is the fer­tile ground in which the anti-Israel com­mu­nity is sow­ing its seeds.

The trends that are appear­ing relate to the per­cep­tion of Jew­ish stu­dents and their rela­tions with other minor­ity com­mu­ni­ties.  There are sug­ges­tions that Jews do not qual­ify for par­tic­i­pa­tion in minor­ity com­mu­nity activ­ity on cam­pus, for two rea­sons:  1) They are deemed peo­ple of priv­i­lege, not minori­ties wor­thy of spe­cial atten­tion; and 2) their assumed sup­port for “colo­nial­ist, apartheid” Israel puts them in the camp of would-be oppres­sors rather than tar­gets and oppo­nents of prejudice.

Recent inci­dents at UCLA and Stan­ford bring this dis­turb­ing phe­nom­e­non into focus.  At UCLA, a stu­dent leader had her qual­i­fi­ca­tions for a Judi­cial Board posi­tion come under ques­tion due to her Jew­ish iden­tity and affil­i­a­tion with the Jew­ish com­mu­nity on cam­pus. At Stan­ford, a Jew­ish stu­dent run­ning for a posi­tion in stu­dent gov­ern­ment was asked how her Judaism might influ­ence her posi­tion on divest­ment from Israel.

What was so stun­ning to the stu­dent appli­cants was not that they were asked about their views on Israel – they were aware that, unfor­tu­nately, these bod­ies sup­ported boy­cott actions against the Jew­ish State.  Rather, that there was no shame in intro­duc­ing the can­di­dates’ Jew­ish­ness as the crit­i­cal fac­tor in assess­ing the candidacy.

It is this link­ing of atti­tudes toward Israel and atti­tudes toward Jews that raises con­cern about the future of Jew­ish life on cam­pus.  Larry Sum­mers, when pres­i­dent at Har­vard, fore­saw this back in 2002 when there was an effort to bring a divest­ment cam­paign to the university.

He, most impor­tantly, rejected it, decry­ing the abhor­rent com­par­i­son of demo­c­ra­tic Israel to apartheid South Africa.  He then went on to explain that while not all who advo­cated divest­ment from Israel were moti­vated by anti-Semitism, even those who weren’t cre­ated a cli­mate mak­ing anti-Semitism more palat­able by the assault on the good name of the Jew­ish State.

In effect, the attacks on Israel on cam­pus are unleash­ing inhi­bi­tions against expres­sions of anti-Jewish prej­u­dice and begin­ning to legit­imize attacks on Jews on campus.

While much of this is in a nascent stage, it is impor­tant to deal with it now on sev­eral levels.

First, greater efforts must be made to gen­er­ate a more bal­anced view of Israel and the region among minor­ity stu­dents.  Some are undoubt­edly locked in to their anti-Israel per­spec­tive for ide­o­log­i­cal rea­sons.  But many oth­ers are cer­tainly open to hear­ing a dif­fer­ent take on the Mid­dle East.  Not one in which Israel is always in the right, but a com­pli­cated nar­ra­tive about com­pet­ing inter­est and needs.

Sec­ond, it must be made clear that what­ever one’s views on the con­flict, treat­ing Jews dif­fer­ently is unac­cept­able and it is what it is, anti-Semitism. Uni­ver­sity offi­cials must speak out clearly and unequiv­o­cally against even the slight­est hint of sin­gling Jews out that way.

Third, we must con­tin­u­ally assess the sta­tus of Jews on cam­pus in a calm and ratio­nal way, dis­tin­guish­ing between the real chal­lenges Jew­ish stu­dents face with­out send­ing alarm sig­nals which could under­mine the nor­mal life on cam­pus that exists for most of them.

Jews in Amer­ica have made too much progress over the last half-century to cause us to over­re­act. Still, we can­not afford to be com­pla­cent. We have to address these cam­pus issues now before they expand fur­ther and spin out of con­trol, truly cre­at­ing a wide­spread wor­ri­some atmosphere.

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