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May 8, 2015

Gilad Atzmon and Yaakov Shapiro Condemn Israel and Zionism

gilad-atzmon-yaakov-shapiro-new-york-2015

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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November 26, 2014

California Campuses See Increase in Anti-Israel Activity

The documented increase in anti-Israel activity so far this academic year has been most apparent in California, which has seen a significant increase in the number of scheduled anti-Israel events.

Since the beginning of the academic year, there have been 40 anti-Israel events scheduled to take place on college campuses compared to the 15 events scheduled during that same time period last year.ucla-divest-bds

These events, which are frequently sponsored by groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), have addressed how to initiate Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaigns against Israel and often attempt to bring atten­tion to their activism by couching their hostility towards Israel in social justice terms, linking the conflict in Gaza to other unrelated issues.

Just this week, for example, the UCLA student government endorsed “A Resolution to Divest from Corporations Engaged in Violence against Palestinians.” The resolution, which was submitted by UCLA SJP, calls for the university to divest from 11 corporations, including Boeing, Caterpillar, Cement Roadstone Holdings, Cemex, General Dynamics, General Electric, Hewlett Packard, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and United Technologies. Although the resolution was passed under the pretext that those corporations violate Palestinian human rights, none of those companies listed are actually engaged in violence against Palestinians.

Other examples of the types of events that California universities have hosted so far this semester include:

  • Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), a weeklong series of anti-Israel events which usually occurs on campuses in the Spring, took place at UC Riverside from November 17-20, 2014. IAW at UC Riverside featured four events, which included a “die-in” and a performance by Remi Kanazi, an Organizing Committee member of the US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel, who uses spoken word and poetry to promote anti-Israel initiatives like divestment and a one-state solution.
  •  A lecture delivered by Alison Weir at San Diego State University titled “The hidden history behind the US & Israel,” based on her most recent book, in which she claims that supporters of Israel have exercised undue control over American society for “over a hundred years.”

Although anti-Israel activity is not a new phenomenon on campuses in California, this year’s increase is not a surprise, as it follows 47 anti-Israel demonstrations that occurred in California during Operation Protective Edge.  Many of these demonstrations were co-sponsored by student groups like the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS) at San Francisco State University and various SJP chapters throughout the state. At several demonstrations, participants held signs that compared the State of Israel to Nazi Germany and at a demonstration in San Francisco, participants burned an Israeli flag.

Additionally, in late September, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), the leading organization providing anti-Zionist training and education to college students throughout the country, began the academic year with a call for an “International Day of Action on College Campuses,” advocating for a variety of BDS-related initiatives in an effort to isolate and demonize Israel and Jewish communal organizations. ADL documented only ten “Day of Action” demonstrations in the U.S. with three having taken place at California universities such as Stanford University, San Jose State University, and UC Berkeley.

Even with the rise in anti-Israel activity on many campuses in California, most Jewish and pro-Israel students report feeling comfortable to express their religious and political beliefs at their schools.  While anti-Semitism does occur too often at colleges throughout the country, generally respect is the norm, and anti-Jewish bigotry is not openly tolerated.  This message is often conveyed by university administrations, who are on the front lines of the struggle to combat hate on campus while balancing free speech, academic freedom, and maintaining universities as the “marketplaces of ideas” simultaneously.

An example of this occurred after a very divisive and difficult quarter on the UCLA campus in the Spring of 2014 surrounding the Israel-Palestinian issue. At that time, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block issued a statement on The Importance of Civil Discourse, reminding the campus community that “Political speech that stigmatizes or casts aspersions on individuals or particular groups does not promote healthy debate but debases it by trying to intimidate individuals and groups… [I]f we listen only to those who already share our assumptions, truth gets lost, our intellectual climate is impoverished and our community is diminished.”

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November 20, 2014

Anti-Israel Activity Prevalent On Massachusetts Campuses This Year

With recent anti-Israel activity at multiple universities in Massachusetts,the state has become a hotspot for campus events promoting Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns and the use of confrontational tactics to protest pro-Israel events.students-for-justice-in-palestine-2014-national-conference

Nine anti-Israel events have been held in Massachusetts so far this academic year, more than double the four events that took place last year during the same timeframe. This academic year’s events follow the nine anti-Israel demonstrations that were held in Massachusettsover the summer during Operation Protective Edge, some of which featured signs with slogans like “Not even the Holocaust gives you the right to do this!” and “Do you think that Israel is a victim? Zionism = Nazism.”

In October, the fourth annual National Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Conference took place at Tufts University.SJP, a student organization with over 110 chapters at American universities, held the conference so that students from around the country could unify for a weekend to learn about SJP’s stance on the conflict. The conference was titled “Beyond Solidarity: Resisting Racism and Colonialism from the U.S. to Palestine,” a reference to SJP activists’ efforts to connect varying struggles and movements to the Palestinian cause, and it featured workshops such as “Nothing Normal about It: Countering Normalization of Israeli Oppression on Campus,” and “Israeli Apartheid: Reality on the Ground after the Protective Edge Massacre and Ending Genocide in Gaza.”

Open Hillel, a student-run campaign calling on Hillel International to alter its “Standards for Partnership,” held its first conference at Harvard University, calling on Hillel International to allow “free discourse” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Organizers claimed that the conference would allow certain viewpoints to be voiced that would be excluded from a Hillel building because of Hillel International’s “Standards for Partnership,” which do not allow for speakers that delegitimize Israel or deny its right to exist. The Open Hillel conference featured discussions such as “Unpacking Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions,” and “Anti Normalization Workshop: Open Discourse in the Context of Power Differentials.”
Both the SJP and Open Hillel conferences focused on topics such as BDS campaigns and the tactic of anti-normalization, which advises students against dialogue and rejects any attempt to engage in a debate of the conflict with pro-Israel students.

Speakers at the conferences represented a network of groups that have worked to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish State. Those speakers included Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) who spoke at the Open Hillel conference; Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University and an Advisory Board member of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation who also spoke at the Open Hillel conference; and Sara Kershnar, a cofounder of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network who has made false allegations including that Israel uses “Nazi tactics” against Palestinians, spoke at the SJP conference.

Other recent anti-Israel events in Massachusetts organized by students include:

  • A panel discussion about the BDS movement took place during the Harvard Arab Weekend, which is sponsored by the Harvard Arab Alumni Association and several corporate sponsors, including Bank Audi, Shell, and the Boston Consulting Group. The BDS discussion, which took place to “highlight recent successes from the BDS movement, discuss approach, and examine its trajectory,” featured Noam Chomsky, an American scholar who has a history of making anti-Israel statements; Andrew Kadi, a member of the US Campaign’s Steering Committee; and Yousef Munayyer, Executive Director of the Jerusalem Fund; as guest speakers.
  • On November 1, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), a group that works to bring about a comprehensive economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel,delivered a presentation about BDS campaigns to students. In past statements, Barghouti has used sensitive Holocaust imagery to condemn Israel and its supporters and has alleged that an “Israel lobby” controls U.S. policy and suppresses debate.
  • In late October, members of various Boston SJP chapters protested a Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces (FIDF) fundraiser outside of the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel where the event was taking place.  Protesters led chants and held signs that read, “The IDF is GENOCIDAL,” “From Ferguson to Palestine racism is a crime,” and “Friends don’t let friends commit war crimes.”
  • At Smith College in Northampton, the “Festival of Resistance” featured an anti-Israel rally outside of Northampton City Hall that led directly into a day-long teach-in about the BDS movement in late September.

In addition to organizing such events, anti-Israel students also oppose pro-Israel programing through confrontational tactics. This past Monday, students from the Tufts University Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter, conducted a die-in to protest a presentation from a pro-Israel speaker. In a more extreme example of protesting against pro-Israel programming on campus,anti-Israel sentiment crossed the line to anti-Semitism when swastikas were drawn on flyers advertising a pro-Israel event at Northeastern University.  Northeastern University’s swift condemnation of the incident was clear, timely, unambiguous, and served as an important reminder of effective university responses to acts of hate and intolerance on campus.

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