Archive for the ‘Local interest’ Category

Another California academic

Monday, July 30th, 2012
As'ad Abu Khalil, the "angry Arab"

As’ad Abu Khalil, the “angry Arab”

Will Zionists ever learn how much Arabs hate Israel?
My favorite Zionist delusion is the notion that the Arab people don’t hate Israel but that the Arab governments incite the people to hate Israel, when it is the other way round.  “London 2012 organising committee officials erected a makeshift curtain to split the two halves of a training gym at the ExCeL centre on Friday afternoon to placate the Lebanese team, which was refusing to train at the same time as the Israelis.” — As’ad (“Angry Arab”) Abu Khalil

I had intended to write about why so many peace projects — Oslo, the treaty with Egypt, improving relations with Turkey, etc. — have foundered on the rocks of Arab and Muslim hatred for Jews and Israel. I had planned to illustrate it with Mr. Angry Arab’s remark, as well as the video of Egyptian celebrities exploding in paroxysms of rage in the presence of pretend ‘Israelis’.

But the more I looked at Abu Khalil’s remarks, the more I realized that I agree with him about so many things! I thought it would be interesting to point this out.

Not Israel — he hates it and hates Zionism. I’m a Zionist and I love Israel. So we have an issue there.

For example, he wrote this about left-wing, anti-“occupation” musician Daniel Barenboim:

Can an Israeli redeem himself/herself?
I am often asked that question since I adhere to boycott of all things Israeli.  The answer is yes provided 1) the person refuses to serve in the Army or the intelligence service of the state as part of military service; 2) the person must leave the house he/she occupies and the land on which he/she stands on because chances are the house is occupied, in the literal sense, and the land is occupied, in the literal sense; 3) the person must engage in armed struggle against the terrorist state of Israel.  If an Israeli person fulfills those conditions, he/she should be acceptable from a pro-Palestinian point of view.

He often refers to “terrorist Israel” and repeats Palestinian folktales about the “Jenin massacre” and the reality inversions about the IDF targeting Palestinian children (when, on our planet, Palestinian Arab terrorists go after Jewish children). He travels around giving presentations on “The Case Against Israel.” Not much to agree with there.

But look, he’s an Arab who hates Israel. How refreshing, compared to the Jewish idiots that hate Israel, like Max Blumenthal, Philip Weiss or the editorial board and publisher of Ha’aretz!

And we do agree that both Bashar al-Assad and the “Free Syrian Army” are vicious criminals. We agree that the PA, Fatah and Hamas are corrupt organizations that screw the Palestinian Arabs. We agree that the New York Times is outrageously biased (although we disagree about the direction it leans). He doesn’t trust the Turkish regime (OK, it’s not anti-Israel enough for him), and he dislikes the House of Saud, its corruption and its international meddling. Me too.

What a guy! And he lives right here in Central California, about an hour up the road in Modesto.

He’s a tenured Professor of Political Science at California State University, Stanislaus, and a visiting professor at UC Berkeley. He taught at Tufts University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, Colorado College, and Randolph-Macon Woman’s College.

He teaches courses in American Government, Comparative Politics: Middle East, Gender & Sexuality in the Middle East, and Politics of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (I can only imagine what this is like).

He’s paid — we California residents pay him — to teach our children.

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Endemic mass psychosis strikes universities

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Those of us who have not been hanging around US college campuses lately have no idea of the degree to which anti-Israel activities and discourse permeate the political atmosphere, especially where there are active chapters of groups like the Muslim Student Association, Students for Justice in Palestine, etc.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a Lecturer in Hebrew at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Leila Beckwith, Professor Emeritus in Pediatrics at UCLA, have attacked it head on, arguing that the over-the-top hatred of Israel constitutes antisemitism, which directly harms Jewish students. From their AMCHA Initiative  website:

In June 2009, Tammi filed a Title VI complaint under the 1964 U.S. Civil Rights Law that alleges that anti-Israel and anti-Jewish discourse and behavior in classrooms and at university-sponsored events had resulted in the intellectual and emotional harassment and intimidation of Jewish students at UC Santa Cruz and violated federal anti-discrimination laws. Her complaint, the first of its kind, is now being investigated by the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education.

They are now engaged in a dispute with the administration of CSU Northridge about a “boycott Israel resource page” maintained by Mathematics Professor David Klein on the University’s server and linked to Klein’s faculty page.

For example, here is a snippet from Klein’s page, under the heading “Israel is the most racist state in the world at this time:”

Zionism calls for a Jewish state.  Israel defines Jewishness, in part, in genetic terms.  A person is legally Jewish if his or her mother is Jewish, regardless of place of birth or religious belief. Israel is an apartheid state that systematically discriminates against the indigenous population, enforcing, for example, Jewish-only buses and Jewish-only roads.  The result of Israeli state policies has been a 63 year program of ethnic cleansing, including expulsion of the Palestinian population, military occupation, and mass murder.

Almost every proposition in the above is false.

1. Israel is a Jewish state like France is a French state and ‘Palestine’ would be a ‘Palestinian’ one. For comparison, the proposed constitution for ‘Palestine’ adds that Islam is its official religion and Islamic shari’a the main source of legislation. Israel does not have an ‘official’ or state religion and its legal system is not based on Judaism.

2. There is no apartheid in Israel and the Palestinian Arabs are no more indigenous than Zionist Jews.

3. There are no Jewish-only buses or roads. There are limitations on access to Israeli buses and roads placed on Arab residents of the territories for security reasons, but they are not race-based. Israeli Arabs are free to use them.

4.  Most of the Arabs that fled Israel in 1948 were not expelled. On the other hand, all of the Jewish population of eastern Jerusalem were kicked out at gunpoint, and many of the residents of Gush Etzion in Judea were massacred by the Jordanian army.

5. There has been no mass murder of Arabs by Jews, and today more than 95% of the Palestinian Arabs in Judea and Samaria are governed by the Palestinian Authority, not Israel (all of Gaza is controlled by the genocidally antisemitic Hamas).

6. The Palestinian Arab population in Judea, Samaria and Gaza has more than doubled since 1990. This is evidence of mass murder and ethnic cleansing?

Rossman-Benjamin and Beckwith argue that Klein’s pages are antisemitic, and that his placing this kind of material on a CSUN server is misuse of University facilities.

I am not going to rehearse the argument, which I have made here, that extreme Israel-hatred is antisemitism by another name.

It’s true, but it doesn’t matter.

Advocating the destruction of a nation on the basis of lies and distortions — for example, the wholly inappropriate application of the concept of ‘apartheid’ — is no less vile than doing the same to individuals.

Accusing a nation of mass murder and ethnic cleansing that did not happen is no less vile than doing the same to individuals.

Calling for a boycott of a nation unless it agrees to commit suicide by admitting 5 million hostiles who claim to be descendants of refugees is vile, period.

Klein and others like him often concentrate on Israel to the exclusion of other issues. One would think that someone who worries about mass murder in the Middle East would note such actual mass murderers like Bashar al-Assad and his father Hafez, or Saddam Hussein. He does not. Only Israel and (to a lesser extent) the US merit discussion.

The irrational, obsessive, unbalanced, excessive, fanatical hatred of a nation that characterizes a person like Klein is a form of mental illness that attacks and destroys the moral sense found in a normal individual. En masse, it is a mass psychosis. In academia, it is an endemic mass psychosis.

The distinction between antisemitism and radical anti-Zionism is a red herring. Vicious, murderous, irrational hatred is evil and must be unacceptable in civilized society, regardless of whether it is directed at individuals or nations.

David Klein is supported by the interim president of CSUN, Harry Hellenbrand, who has written a remarkably incoherent response to Rossman-Benjamin and Beckwith, in which he suggests that they support Israel because of “God’s covenant” and the Holocaust, and accuses them of trying to impose ‘censorship’.

All of the above is nonsense. Censorship is not an issue; Klein can say whatever he wants in public, only not paid for by California taxpayers and on a website bearing the name of the state university. And speaking of God, only He knows where Klein found appeals to the Bible or the Holocaust in Rossman-Benjamin and Beckwith’s letters.

Hellenbrand isn’t a disinterested administrator. In December he joined Klein as a signatory (along with Fresno’s own anti-Israel power couple Vida Samiian and Sasan Fayazmanesh) on a petition against restarting the CSU system’s study program in Israel, which had been halted during the Second Intifada.

It wasn’t a bad idea to stop the program in 2002, when a number of American citizens were killed by Arab terrorists for being in the wrong pizza parlor or bus at the wrong time.

The petition suggested that going to Israel today was dangerous for American citizens, and cited the cases of Rachel Corrie and Furkan Dogan, the Turkish-American who was among the IHH thugs killed on the Mavi Marmara.

In other words, Klein and friends see no essential difference between the victims of anti-civilian terrorism and those hurt accidentally while taking part in activities intended to interfere with IDF operations.

Such are those that we trust to teach our children!

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CSU Fresno morally emulates Harvard

Monday, February 20th, 2012

For not only one has risen up against us, but in every generation they rise up to annihilate us… — Passover Haggadah

It’s impossible for me to be indignant or outraged any more by the behavior of our great universities. Whatever else they may be, they are running sewers of Jew-hatred, reminiscent of Hitler’s academies. I am not exaggerating.

The University of Pennsylvania has just completed a 2-day conference on Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions, a nonviolent, progressive approach to dismantling the Jewish state and making possible its very violent end at the hands of its primitive and bloodthirsty enemies.

And next week the great Harvard University, not to be outdone, will be the venue for a conference on the ‘one state solution’ (for anyone who doesn’t follow these things, that’s a single Arab-majority state from the river to the sea, and a guaranteed bloodbath).

All this is coordinated with Israel Apartheid Week (IAW), the annual festival of false analogies, made-up ‘history’, and post-colonialist moral relativism in which the group that is least advanced culturally gets a pass to be as murderous as it wants, because it’s always hunting season on ‘European colonialists’. In this drama, the Jews, beaten and spit out by Europe and the Arab countries in the 1940s and 1950s, can be given the role of colonials because — unlike the Arabs — they have been successful.

These universities are supposedly the best of our best, the super-selective Ivy League schools where our future presidents and corporate leaders are educated.

California State University Fresno is not one of the best of the best. Thanks to a bankrupt state, a greedy Board of Regents and administration, and an emphasis on big-time sports to the detriment of academics, it’s a mediocre campus in a mediocre state college system.

But Dr. Vida Samiian and her Middle East Studies program — although, for them, Israel is not in the ‘Middle East’ — won’t let Apartheid Week go by without getting their licks in. They have invited the renegade Israeli academic and professional liar Ilan Pappé to speak. You can read about Pappé here, but it’s enough to say that his scholarship is a fraud, his smooth exterior a mechanism to hide a pathological hatred of the Jewish state.

The President of the University, Dr. John Welty, received several letters from concerned community members. One of them, from the local Jewish Community Relations Council, dealt in particular with Pappé’s dishonesty, academic transgressions and role as a propagandist rather than a scholar. Another, from the AMCHA initiative, also referred to the fact that Dr. Samiian refused to allow a panel discussion to provide balance, and pointed to a policy established by the trustees that speakers must “contribute to educational values…and not be brought in for propagandizing purposes.”

Dr. Welty responded as expected, hiding his and his university’s moral bankruptcy behind platitudes about academic freedom, free speech, etc. He did not respond to any of the specific concerns in either letter.

Pappé will not present “unpopular opinions” (actually, his opinions are quite popular in the academic world)  or make statements that some of us “don’t agree with” as Dr. Welty says in his letter. What he will do precisely is to tell lies and incite hatred of the Jewish state in his audience. The ultimate objective of Pappé is to end the state of Israel, which today probably also implies putting a final end to the Jewish people.

Pappé himself is of Jewish extraction, of course, which in part has made it possible for him to create a lucrative career as liar, slanderer and hatemonger.

There are certainly speakers to whom these universities would not give their platforms. I can’t imagine, for example, that someone would be invited to say that women are inherently intellectually inferior to men. In fact, Lawrence Summers was fired as President of Harvard for making the far milder and probably true statement that women in general have less aptitude for mathematics and engineering than men. If he were on tour presenting even this thesis, how many universities would invite him?

Dr. Welty has now done his duty for his mediocre university. Instead of seizing the opportunity to take a courageous stand by denouncing the execrable Pappé, he has brought CSU Fresno down to the moral level of Harvard or Penn.

And he didn’t even get $20 million from the Saudis in return.

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Anti-Israel propagandist to speak at Fresno State

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
Vida Samiian demonstrates against the presence of Israeli academic Ronen Cohen at a conference of the International Society for Iran Studies in Santa Monica last year.

Vida Samiian demonstrates against the presence of Israeli academic Ronen Cohen at a conference of the International Society for Iran Studies in Santa Monica in 2010.

Renegade Israeli ‘historian’ Ilan Pappé will be in California next month. In a whirlwind tour, he will visit UCLA and campuses in Northridge, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and California State University Fresno (CSUF) — where he has been invited by our own Dr. Vida Samiian, Dean of CSUF’s College of Arts and Humanities.

Pappé’s talk is titled “The False Paradigm of Parity and Partition: Revisiting 1967.” It is described as follows:

The talk will focus on Israeli policy before and after the June 1967 war. Two theses will be argued by revisiting the 1967 events: first, Israeli policies of 1967 can only be understood within the context of the overall Israeli strategy in 1948 and after.  This means that the war of 1967 was a direct continuation of the 1948 Nakbah and not a separate event. The second argument will be that Israeli strategy, including the device of what was later named as the “peace process,” was already formulated in 1967 and has not changed since that year and even until today. This strategy, it will be argued in the talk, is the main obstacle to peace in Israel and Palestine.

Pappé’s view is that the nakba, the exodus of Arabs from Israel in 1948, was the result of an intentional Israeli policy of ethnic cleansing. In attempting to prove this false thesis in several books and articles, he has presented quotations from Israeli officials of the time out of context, changing or even reversing their meanings (see Efraim Karsh, Fabricating Israeli History (Second, revised edition. London: Frank Cass, 2000)). He is currently under investigation at his present university, Exeter in the UK, for inventing a quotation from Ben Gurion out of whole cloth in one of his books.

Now apparently, he wants to place responsibility for the Six Days War on Israel — despite the massive documentation of Arab intentions to destroy Israel and even to commit genocide of its Jewish inhabitants — and present it as another attempt to dispossess the Palestinian Arabs and steal their land.

Pappé taught at Haifa University until 2007. He left after a controversy over a student’s Master’s thesis, which alleged that a massacre had been committed in the Arab town of Tantura in 1948. The student, Teddy Katz, ultimately lost a libel suit filed by veterans of the brigade that was accused of the massacre, and a university examination found distortions and fabricated quotes in the thesis and disqualified it. Pappé took up the student’s cause and called for a world-wide academic boycott against Haifa University, which developed into the academic boycott of several Israeli universities by the British Association of University Teachers. The detailed story is here.

Pappé doesn’t hide his disdain for facts when they interfere with his ideological preconceptions. Here are some quotations collected by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA):

There is no historian in the world who is objective. I am not as interested in what happened as in how people see what’s happened. (“An Interview of Ilan Pappé,” Baudouin Loos, Le Soir [Bruxelles], Nov. 29, 1999)

I admit that my ideology influences my historical writings…(Ibid)

Indeed the struggle is about ideology, not about facts. Who knows what facts are? We try to convince as many people as we can that our interpretation of the facts is the correct one, and we do it because of ideological reasons, not because we are truthseekers. (Ibid)

The debate between us is on one level between historians who believe they are purely objective reconstructers of the past, like [Benny] Morris, and those who claim that they are subjective human beings striving to tell their own version of the past, like myself. (“Benny Morris’s Lies About My Book,” Ilan Pappé, Response to Morris’ critique of Pappé’s book, “A History of Palestine” published in the New Republic, March 22, 2004, History News Network, April 5, 2004)

[Historical] Narratives… when written by historians involved deeply in the subject matter they write about, such as in the case of Israeli historians who write about the Palestine conflict, is motivated also… by a deep involvement and a wish to make a point. This point is called ideology or politics. (Ibid)

Yes, I use Palestinian sources for the Intifada: they seem to me to be more reliable, I admit. (Ibid)

Pappé continues to claim that there were massacres of Arabs in Tantura, and more recently, Jenin in 2003 — although even the UN now admits that only 50-odd Arabs were killed there, four-fifths of them combatants.

Pappé’s ‘solution’ to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to replace Israel and the territories with a single state containing all of the present inhabitants of the area, along with the several million Arabs claiming refugee status or otherwise to be descended from Arabs living in Palestine pre-1948:

This must be based on the twofold recognition that a solution has to include all the Palestinians (in the occupied territories, in exile and inside Israel) and has to be based on the construction of a new regime for the whole land of historical Palestine, offering equality and prosperity for all the people who live there now or were expelled from it by force in the last 63 years of Israel’s existence.

This of course would result in an Arab majority, the end of the Jewish state, and probably a bloody civil war.

In addition to his admitted bias and deliberate distortion of facts, Pappé is a sloppy scholar. In a review of a 2004 book, A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples, Efraim Karsh writes,

Even by the skewed standards of this field of studies, Pappé’s latest book ranks in a class of its own. Not only does it add no new facts or ideas to the anti-Israel literature, but the sloppiness of its research astounds. It contains countless factual errors and inaccuracies. Yasir Arafat’s birthplace is Cairo and not Jerusalem. The U.N. Special Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP) presented its report on August 31, 1947, not on November 29. Deir Yasin is a village near Jerusalem, and not in Haifa. Lawrence of Arabia had nothing to do with the Anglo-Hashemite correspondence that led to the “Great Arab Revolt” of World War I. Further, this correspondence was initiated by the Hashemites not by the British. Pappé even misspells the official English transliteration of President Weizmann’s first name (Chaim, not Haim).

More serious is the book’s consistent resort to factual misrepresentation, distortion, and outright falsehood. Readers are told of events that never happened, such as the nonexistent May 1948 Tantura “massacre” or the expulsion of Arabs within twelve days of the partition resolution. They learn of political decisions that were never made, such as the Anglo-French 1912 plan for the occupation of Palestine or the contriving of “a master plan to rid the future Jewish state of as many Palestinians as possible.” And they are misinformed about military and political developments, such as the rationale for the Balfour declaration…

His position is fundamentally dishonest: while he calls himself a ‘historian’, which most of us understand as someone who studies actual past events, he invents events to suit his program. He is not a serious scholar; rather he is a propagandist and ideologue.

While such a person may speak at our university, it’s not clear that University funds should pay for it. His talk at California State University Northridge (CSUN) is sponsored by the CSUN Students for Justice in Palestine, CSUN Greens, Muslim Student Association, South Asia Club, and the CSUN Communications Association. Where is the money coming from for his Fresno talk?

There is also the question of balance. I understand that he will be speaking alone rather than as a member of a panel. Obviously he prefers this, since any decent historian of the Mideast would make Swiss cheese out of his arguments. But given the political nature of his talk, should not some balance be provided?

Finally, is it appropriate for an administrator, like Vida Samiian, to be involved in political activity at the university where she works? After all, Dr. Samiian has the ability to affect the livelihoods of faculty members who might challenge her.

I plan to put these questions to the University authorities.

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JCPA sticks its nose into harassment controversy

Sunday, October 16th, 2011
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin

The Jewish Daily Forward reports that

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs [JCPA], American Jewry’s primary umbrella group for addressing domestic issues, will vote at its upcoming board meeting on a resolution that, in its current draft, cautions Jewish groups to guard against suppressing free speech and to invoke civil rights laws only after exhausting other measures.

“Lawsuits and threats of legal action should not be used to censor anti-Israel events, statements, and speakers in order to ‘protect’ Jewish students,” the draft resolution warns, “but rather for cases which evidence a systematic climate of fear and intimidation coupled with a failure of the university administration to respond with reasonable corrective measures.”

The draft’s nuanced construction reflects serious concern over the possibility that some Jewish groups and individuals may be inappropriately exploiting recent changes in the government’s interpretation of federal civil rights laws, according to communal officials involved in the issue. They cite in particular Title VI of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act, which protects individuals from discrimination based on race, color or national origin in education programs and activities that receive federal funding. [my emphasis]

I am wondering why we need this resolution. The proposition boldfaced above is self-evident. Of course it is critical to distinguish between protected speech and antisemitic harassment. In order to prevail in such a lawsuit, a complaint would have to meet the requirements of Title VI.

For example, a complaint filed by Prof. Tammi Rossman-Benjamin in 2009, now being investigated by US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights [OCR], claims that

Professors, academic departments and residential colleges at [The University of California, Santa Cruz] promote and encourage anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish views and behavior, much of which is based on either misleading information or outright falsehoods. In addition, rhetoric heard in UCSC classrooms and at numerous events sponsored and funded by academic and administrative units on campus goes beyond legitimate criticism of Israel.  The rhetoric – which demonizes Israel, compares contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis, calls  for the dismantling of the Jewish State, and holds Israel to an impossible double standard – crosses the line into anti-Semitism according to the standards employed by our own government. …

The impact of the academic and university-sponsored Israel-bashing on students has been enormous.  There are students who have felt emotionally and intellectually harassed and intimidated, to the point that they are reluctant or afraid to express a view that is not anti-Israel.  …

Since at least 2001, faculty members and students have brought these and similar problems to the attention of numerous UCSC administrators and faculty.  To date, the administration and faculty have largely ignored the problems.  In some cases, administrators and faculty have publicly denied that there are problems and even repudiated those who have had the courage to raise them. [my emphasis]

The complaint documents in detail Rossman-Benjamin’s contention that 1) a pervasive atmosphere hostile to Jewish students exists, 2) it is harmful to the students, and 3) the university has not taken appropriate action. This is exactly what is required by Title VI as it is now interpreted.

According to the Forward article, the resolution was prompted by a dispute over whether Rossman-Benjamin’s complaint was legitimate (see AAUP letter here and Rossman-Benjamin’s response here). It’s clear that the arguments against it will focus on the issue of limitation of free speech vs. the ‘pervasive atmosphere,’ etc. that is created not only by the preponderance of anti-Israel speech, but the behavior of the speakers, faculty, other students and administration.

Note that accusations of ‘censorship’ and limitations on speech were also the arguments used by the Muslim students who were recently convicted of disrupting a speech by Israel’s Ambassador Michael Oren at the University of California, Irvine. And in Oakland, California, protests against an exhibition, at a private museum, of drawings supposedly made by Gaza children depicting abuse by Israeli soldiers were attacked as ‘censorship’.

I can only understand the JCPA resolution as an attempt to sandbag Rossman-Benjamin’s complaint. I can imagine that if hearings are held, it will be used as evidence that “even the Jewish community” doesn’t support it.

If Rossman-Benjamin’s complaint is shot down, it will be a green light for continued harassment of Jewish students on all UC campuses. If JCPA approves this resolution at its board meeting on October 24, it will be handing ammunition to those who want to kill it.

Incidentally, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin will be speaking in Fresno on October 23.

***

What is the JCPA and who decided that it is “American Jewry’s primary umbrella group for addressing domestic issues?” (The following is adapted from my two previous posts on the subject in January and March of this year):

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA, not to be confused with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) calls itself “the representative voice of the organized American Jewish community.” It is affiliated with the JFNA, formerly the UJC and before that the UJA, the umbrella organization of the Jewish Federations in the US and Canada.

Confused yet? What’s important to know is that the Jewish Federations raise large sums of money. Some of it is spent for charitable purposes in local communities (despite what Helen Thomas thinks, there are poor Jews) and some of it goes to support the Jewish Agency in Israel and the Joint Distribution Committee, which helps Jews in difficult situations around the world.

These agencies in part paid for the rescue of Jews in Europe after WWII, Jews from Arab countries, Soviet Jews, Ethiopian Jews, etc.

Today I’m afraid that there is beginning to be a loss of focus: JFNA has some highly paid corporate officers, and the agencies that it supports are also less than efficient (the Jewish Agency is famous as a home for tired Israeli politicians).

What about the JCPA, which gets most of its funds from JFNA?

The CEO (since 2005) and President (since 2009) of JCPA is Rabbi Steve Gutow. A Reconstructionist Rabbi, Gutow is also “founding Executive Director” (although he does not hold the position now) of the National Jewish Democratic Council, whose mission is frankly partisan.

I’ve been a member of the board of our local Jewish Federation for some time, have served as its treasurer for the last four years, and I had heard very little about the JCPA until recently, when I received several press releases (for example, this one). I didn’t find them particularly helpful, and I asked myself who appointed JCPA to speak for the Jewish community — and why we were paying them to do so. Certainly my organization wasn’t consulted!

Here’s an example of why this may not be a good idea. JCPA has created an “Israel Action Network” intended to combat attacks on the legitimacy of the Jewish state, which has been allocated $6 million for three years from the Jewish Federations. Its director, Martin Raffel, has become embroiled in a controversy about which “Zionists of the Left” belong in the “big tent” and should be considered “allies.”

What about those ‘Zionists’ of the Left called J Street? Raffel wants to include them, because — while they do support boycotting some parts of Israel, they are opposed to boycotting all of it:

But what to think about Zionists on the political left who have demonstrated consistent concern for Israel’s security, support Israel’s inalienable right to exist as a Jewish democratic state, and consider Israel to be the eternal home of the Jewish people — but have decided to express their opposition to specific policies of the Israeli government by refraining from participating in events taking place in the West Bank or purchasing goods produced there? I vigorously would argue that such actions are counter-productive in advancing the cause of peace based on two states that they espouse, a goal that we share. But this is not sufficient cause to place them outside the tent.

Statement of Martin Raffel in JCPA press release

Of course I strongly disagree. An attack on Jewish presence beyond the Green Line is an attack on the legitimacy of Israel as expressed by the League of Nations Mandate. It is a rejection of UNSC resolution 242, which calls for “secure and recognized boundaries,” which are clearly not the 1949 armistice lines. It is an attempt to punish law-abiding Israeli citizens and to support the racist Arab position about who may live where. It is more than just counter-productive, it’s anti-Zionist.

Not only did Raffel accept J Street into his tent, he decided that a right-leaning Zionist group called “Z Street” belonged outside with the camels, probably because it is unabashedly opposed to withdrawing from the territories.

Here in the US we don’t have a Chief Rabbinate, and there are Jews of all political persuasions. It requires a certain amount of arrogance to call yourself “the representative voice of the organized Jewish community” or “American Jewry’s primary umbrella group for addressing domestic issues” as the Forward’s reporter was told.

Unfortunately, the outside world might believe that you really do speak for American Jews and act accordingly.

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Palestinian supporters push fraudulent children’s art exhibit

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011
Drawing allegedly made by a Palestinian child in Gaza

Drawing allegedly made by a Palestinian child in Gaza

The Oakland, California Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA) has become a focus of controversy after the cancellation of a scheduled exhibition of art supposedly by ‘Palestinian children’ from Gaza, aged 9-11.

The pictures are emotionally powerful, showing the victimization of civilians, especially children, by demonic Israeli soldiers. They include scenes of horror, fear and death as well as Palestinian and Jewish political symbols. Note the Israeli flag on the soldier, as well as the Palestinian flag, the map showing Israel as ‘Palestine’ and what appears to be the Hizballah logo above it in the illustration above.

The exhibit was cancelled after community residents protested that the images were not suitable for children — the museum’s intended audience — and that the one-sided, highly political content was inappropriate.

It is an example of two characteristics we find over and over in pro-Palestinian propaganda: reality inversion and a propensity for audacious lying.

Let’s take the second point first: the sponsoring organization, the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) claims that the pictures were drawn by children from 9 to 11 years of age. That’s nonsense. Look at the drawing above. Note how the viewer’s eye is drawn to the slightly off-center focal point, the child cowering in the corner, the suggestion of despair evoked by the black shading around him. Look at the effective representation of the soldier’s face with a few strokes. Look at the sureness of the lines, the bold strokes. Whoever drew this was either an adult artist or a remarkable prodigy, sophisticated both artistically and politically.

Here are two more examples:

Did a child draw this?

Did a child draw this?

Or this?

Or this?

I showed them to a professor of Art at a local university. Here is what she said about them:

The paintings (color drawings) are highly sophisticated especially in relationship to detail. Did you see the barbed wire? Also, there is a carefully drawn Star of David in each work. The authenticity of the painting is remarkable for a child’s hand. The drawing of the planes and helicopters, the man in the tower, the dynamic brushstrokes that are well conceived and controlled all seem to project a more mature approach to art. Could these “children” be in their late teens, college age, or young adults [MECA says they were 9 to 11 years old]? According to the the quote, “much of the artwork was produced by children.” I wonder how “much”? Also, it is possible that the “children” were directed by an adult who supervised and perhaps completed the initial drawing.

Like the ‘death’ of another Palestinian child, Mohammed Dura, this exhibition is an invention designed to demonize Israel.

I mentioned Palestinian reality inversion. This is the phenomenon of attributing to Israel the vicious tactics used by Arab terrorists themselves. One of these is the deliberate targeting of noncombatant children:

The Ma’alot massacre, in which 25 Israelis were killed including 22 children, the Bus of Blood (35 dead, 13 children), the attack on the nursery at Kibbutz Misgav Am (3 dead, 2 children), the Dolphinarium bombing (21 teens dead), the Sbarro Pizza bombing (15 dead, 5 children), the shooting at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva (8 dead, 7 teens), the vicious butchering of the Fogel family (5 dead, 3 children), the antitank rocket attack on a yellow school bus (1 child) — these are just a few of a long, long list.

The Palestinians know that nothing tugs at the heartstrings more than the suffering of children. So they make ours suffer and accuse us of doing it to them.

The sponsoring organization, MECA, takes a radical position on the Arab-Israeli conflict:

  • MECA founder and Executive Director Barbara Lubin wrote “I think that the Jewish State is racist to the core.”  Lubin refers to the 1948 “ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population” and wrote that “[t]he concept of ‘Jewish morality’ is truly dead. We can be fascists, terrorists, and Nazis just like everybody else.”
  • In an interview, MECA Director of Gaza Projects, Dr. Mona El-Farra, explained that MECA refused USAID funding because it came with the condition that they promise “not [to] give any help or any aid whatsoever for the families of the militiamen, or their relatives, or anyone related to ‘terrorist attacks’” because “we consider it resistance” (emphasis added). — NGO Monitor

MECA plans to find another location for the show, perhaps in the street outside the museum. They are pitching the museum’s decision to cancel the show as ‘censorship’. Of course, this is nonsense — there is no free speech issue here. The museum is not required to give a platform to anyone who desires one, and it has a right to reject the exhibit on the grounds that it is inappropriate for its audience, is overt political propaganda — or because it is simply a fraud.

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Jewish politics are local, too

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

I had intended to use this cartoon to illustrate an article about the Tel Aviv tent protest. But if all politics are local, that goes for Jewish politics too. What’s true for Moty and Udi’s generation is also true for American Jews. So I am going to write about local, and American, Jewish politics.

On Thursday, Israel suffered a painful shock when terrorists murdered 8 Israelis, including a pair of kindergarten teachers on vacation with their husbands and Pascal Avrahami, a 49-year old father of three sons who was a member of the police counterterrorism unit (yamam) that was primarily responsible for stopping the attack, keeping a small disaster from becoming a large catastrophe. My own son, who served with him, went to Avrahami’s funeral on Friday.

Since then, over a hundred rockets have fallen in Israel, killing one or two (reports are unclear) and injuring dozens, including small children (see The Muqata for a minute by minute account of events). There is a possibility of serious escalation.

So — to get local — I was upset, although not surprised, when I went to a Friday night service at our Reform temple and these events were not mentioned. The service was, as always, very upbeat and musical. Prayers were said for local people that were ill, and yahrzeits and recent deaths were commemorated, again as always. But not a word about what was happening in the Jewish state.

Let me say as strongly as possible that I am not criticizing the rabbi of the congregation. I’m convinced that he is personally pro-Israel. He is brand new in Fresno and is just getting to know the members and their politics. He has heard that they are quite contentious — probably he has heard somewhat exaggerated stories about their differences — and he has said that his job is to bring people together, not to push them apart.

Discussion of Israel has become taboo in many Jewish circles, like politics and religion at the boarding house dinner table. Danny Gordis recently wrote that at one rabbinical seminary,  a “campus dean actually instructed students to cease all e-mail discussion of Israel, while every other political topic remained fair game.” A rabbinical seminary!

So one can’t blame the rabbi for not wanting to touch an issue that might fracture his congregation.

And yet, this is a Jewish congregation and Israel is the state of the Jewish People.  Yes, some members have relatives in Israel that they are worried about, but this is emphatically not about that. It is about whether there is a special connection between our Jewish congregation and the Jewish state. Dozens of innocent people were also killed this week by terrorists in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Thailand, Nigeria and Algeria, but isn’t Israel special to us? Or is it ‘just another country‘?

The Torah is central to all forms of Judaism. It’s a lot of things — a moral and legal code, a history book, a theological tract — but more than anything else, it’s a book about a relationship. And this relationship has three poles: God, the Jewish People, and the Land of Israel. What about the last two?

Danny Gordis argues that liberal Judaism has lost its way, rejecting “the sense that no matter how devoted Jews may be to humanity at large, we owe our devotion first and foremost to one particular people—our own people.” This, combined with some pernicious post-modernist reasoning, has brought us to the absurd situation in which the leaders of the anti-Zionist movement in the West are mostly Jews!

And it has brought the Reform movement in the US (URJ) to the point that it would choose J Street and New Israel Fund activist Rabbi Richard Jacobs as its president. Most tellingly, URJ leaders were shocked at the controversy their decision gave rise to. A rabbi close to the process told me that they were blindsided by the political criticism. In effect, they said “we need this guy’s organizational skills and he’s not that far out politically — what’s their problem?”

Jewish groups in the US are often distinguished by the degree to which they follow the commandments:  how they observe Shabbat, kashrut, how they dress, etc. But in my opinion these differences are unimportant compared to the wide gulf that separates those congregations that identify primarily as part of the Jewish people from those that see themselves as human beings who are secondarily of the Jewish persuasion.

I don’t think, incidentally, that all Reform congregations must fall on the universalist side of that divide, despite the URJ’s  Rabbi Jacobs. But I do think that every congregation, including the one I belong to, needs to ask itself how important the Jewish People and the Land of Israel are to them.

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Israel and the LGBT community

Monday, August 8th, 2011
Pro-Palestinian contingent marches in Tel Aviv's Gay Pride parade

Pro-Palestinian contingent marches in Tel Aviv's Gay Pride parade

A man who was thought to be the last surviving person sent to a Nazi concentration camp for being gay has died at 98. Hitler’s oppression of homosexuals is well known, but it’s interesting to note that the totalitarian Left has also been less than gay-friendly:

During the time of the Soviet Union there were two decisive repressive measures of the State against homosexuals: the notorious article 121.1 which punished myzhelozhestvo (a man lying with another man) with up to five years of imprisonment, and psychiatry which made it possible to forcibly confine lesbian women in a psychiatric clinic. When a lesbian love relationship was reported to the authorities by the parents or another legal guardian, the former could see to it that a psychiatric problem was diagnosed, usually a disorder of personality. The young women (most of them 15 to 19 years old) were then held in a psychiatric clinic for three months. In the following they would then receive a mind-bending drug treatment before being forced to register with a local psychiatrist as mentally ill. Once they were registered, any chance of a professional career or even of getting a driver’s license was denied to them.

In the 20s, the Soviet psychology specially developed a typological theory for recognizing “active lesbians”. According to this theory, they could be recognized by their personal initiative and their success in male professions, by their smoking, drinking alcohol and use of dirty language, their manly appearance, their liking horseback riding [!] and their careers in the Red Army. Although since 1988 forcible psychiatric confinement has been outlawed, in the province they are still quite possible, since even contemporary sexual pathologists and psychiatrists still consider homosexuality as an illness. — Anne Buetikofer, “Homosexuality in the Soviet Union and in today’s Russia

Although Stalinist laws restricting abortion, marriage and divorce were liberalized shortly after his death, section 121.1 remained in effect in Russia until 1993!

I think I can say unequivocally that the degree of tolerance for gays and lesbians in a society is directly proportional to the degree to which it is a free society. Israel is an (unfortunately rare) example of how it is possible for a religious tradition which opposes homosexuality to coexist with a temporal authority that does not interfere with the private lives of its citizens. In fact, you could call Israel the San Francisco of the Middle East, or — pardon the expression — the ‘Mecca’ for gay people of any ethnicity in the region.

You would think, then, that the gay community in the US and even Israel would recognize this. Some of its members do, but by in large it has bought the Palestinian myth of victimization and oppression lock, stock and barrel.

One reason is that seeing themselves as an oppressed minority, they tend to identify with another such group. In addition, as a marginalized group, they see, hear and read a great deal of ‘alternative’ — that is, leftist — media that is suffused with lies about Israel. For example, in the US there is probably more specifically ‘LGBT’ programming on the Pacifica network (KPFA, Berkeley CA, etc.) than anywhere else. But that network is also home to sustained, vicious daily attacks on Israel. The same is true of print and Internet media, like the Daily Kos or Huffington Post.

As a result, it’s common to see angry denunciations of any attempt to present the Israeli case as ‘pinkwashing’ — the process of covering up ‘crimes’ against Palestinian Arabs by changing the subject to gay rights. So we get oxymoronic organizations like “Queers for Palestine”. These groups may even admit that Israel respects gay rights and that Arab and Muslim nations in the Mideast are institutionally homophobic, but still consider it their duty to passionately support the ‘Palestinian cause’.

A local writer, Lillian Faderman, has just published an op-ed in the largest national LGBT publication, The Advocate, in which she takes the gay community to task for its pervasive anti-Israel bias. Faderman writes,

Americans have every reason to envy Israel’s enlightened policies toward its LGBT citizens. So it puzzles me deeply when I hear of LGBT groups lending their sympathy to opponents of Israel.

The rights we have been fighting for and still have not fully achieved in the United States, LGBT Israelis already enjoy. I came out in the middle of the last century and witnessed firsthand the persecution and oppression of LGBT people. It was because of those early experiences that I devoted the last 40 years of my life to writing books and articles about our community’s history and progress…

My partner and I have been together for 40 years. Like 18,000 other same-sex couples in California, we got married in 2008. Though all 36,000 of us are still married as far as the state of California is concerned, Proposition 8 banned same-sex marriage for all others. Because federal laws don’t recognize our marriage, our legal bond doesn’t do us much good anyway. If we should decide to move next door to Arizona or Las Vegas or Oregon — or almost anywhere else in America — we wouldn’t be considered legally married. We both pay federal income tax, of course, but under the law we get none of the federal benefits that opposite-sex couples receive. In fact, the only result of our marriage with regard to taxes is that we have to pay our accountant triple: once for doing our state income tax as a married couple, a second and third time for doing our federal income tax as two single payers. And if one of us should die, that’s the end of her Social Security benefits for which she’d paid in for more than half a century; the surviving spouse gets absolutely nothing of those benefits.

If we’d lived in Israel, we’d be much better off. In 1994 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favor of granting spousal benefits to same-sex couples. In 2004 the court ruled that LGBT couples could qualify for common-law marriage status. In 2005 legislation was passed in Israel recognizing all same-sex marriages that are performed abroad.

So there can be no explanation for LGBT groups participating in wrong-headed actions such as the BDS movement that seeks boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. Outside of Israel, everywhere in the Middle East, LGBT people are utterly despised under the law. Indeed, official treatment of LGBT people in other Middle East countries makes the bar raids and job losses and police entrapments that we experienced in the 1950s and ’60s seem like coddling. If a family wishes to rid itself of the embarrassment of a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender member by “honor killing” there would be no legal consequences in the area governed by the Palestinian Authority or Hamas, or in Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, or Syria.

Needless to say, and as even the Amnesty International LGBT website shows, there’s no Middle Eastern country other than Israel in which lesbian or gay couples can receive spousal benefits, none other than Israel in which lesbians and gays can serve openly in the military, none other than Israel that protects lesbians and gays from discrimination or hate crimes. In Iran and Saudi Arabia we’re put to death. In Syria we’re thrown in prison for three years. In Egypt we’re prosecuted under lewd conduct laws, and we’re illegal in Lebanon and Libya too.

All of this is true, but I’m afraid that for the anti-Zionists in the gay community, it’s beside the point. For example, here’s a random comment posted in response to Faderman’s article:

Granted Israel treats its Jewish LGBT citizens (though not Arab: Christian or Muslim or Atheist), better than other countries in the Middle East. But so what? That should be of absolutely zero moral value when judging its policies of occupation and aggression against the native Palestinians.

It doesn’t hurt to explain, as Faderman does so well, just how great the contrast is between Israel and the various monarchies, hereditary or military dictatorships and Islamic ‘republics’ that make up the Middle East, or even the contrast between Israel and the US. But until we can also explain that ‘Palestinians’ are no more ‘native’ to the region than Jews, that the land is not ‘occupied’ and that the aggressors in the conflict are not the Israelis — until it’s possible to break the stranglehold that the anti-Zionists have managed to place on ‘progressive’ thinking and media — our explanations will fall on deaf ears.

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A local girl in the IDF

Monday, July 18th, 2011
Darrow Pierce (left) with Bedouins

Darrow Pierce (left) with Bedouins on her first trip to Israel

I can’t overemphasize how honored I feel to have received permission to publish the following letter. It is from a young woman from Fresno, Darrow Pierce, who recently moved to Israel and began her army service.

So what’s so special about this? Darrow is. She’s very, very smart, but there are lots of smart people. What distinguishes Darrow is the degree to which she is able to perceive the world clearly, think for herself and act on her beliefs.

I’ve known Darrow and her parents for some years — her parents are well-educated professionals who would describe their politics as ‘progressive’. Darrow even participated in an interfaith summer program led by a Palestinian, one who is anything but a friend of Israel.

It would be an understatement to say that her parents were not enthusiastic when Darrow informed them of her plans. But you don’t raise someone like Darrow by accident, and they understood that an adult gets to make her own decisions — and also that the Israeli-Arab conflict is more complicated than it may have seemed before.

I have reproduced Darrow’s letter exactly as received, including some things that sound like she was thinking in Hebrew.

By Darrow Pierce

In December of 2009, despite great opposition from family and friends, I moved to Israel, gained citizenship and started learning Hebrew in a kibbutz in northern Israel. In 2010, I joined Garin Tzabar (a program that helps new Israelis acclimate and prepare for their army service). My “garin” (meaning “seed” in Hebrew) has people from 10 different countries and lives on Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak. After living, learning, drafting, complaining, fighting, bonding, crying and laughing with each other, we’ve become a wonderfully eclectic sort of family. We live two kilometers from Gaza and a five-minute drive (as I accidentally discovered one day) from Egypt.

Life on a kibbutz is normally a quiet one, but that’s not the case where I live — Hamas regularly fires Qassam rockets, ‘patzmarim,’ (rockets too small to trigger alarms) and the occasional phosphor bomb into my neighborhood. On weekends home from the army (I’m on base from Sunday to Thursday, and my weekends are free off base), I often find myself running for my life to nearby bomb shelters or cooped up in them for hours on end. It was a hard thing to get used to after growing up in the Tower District [Fresno’s ‘bohemian’ neighborhood]. I can’t begin to describe the immobilizing hopelessness you feel waiting for bombs to fall. Sometimes, you don’t have time to be scared. You suddenly hear explosions and your doors and windows unexpectedly shake. It’s not like this in the whole country; living so close to Gaza has some disadvantages.

I drafted in January to be a physical trainer/sports instructor in the army. In basic training, we learned to shoot an M16. My officers repeatedly emphasized the responsibility of having a gun, the importance of using it only when absolutely necessary, respect, self-discipline, humility, and many other values good soldiers display. After finishing my course, in which I learned (in my new language) about physiology, nutrition, sports injuries and anatomy, I was placed on a base eight hours away from my kibbutz. The base focuses on education. New immigrants whose Hebrew levels aren’t high enough go to study Hebrew and start basic training there.

Because I have no family in Israel, I’m classified as a ‘lonely soldier.’ While other soldiers go back to a clean home and cry on mom’s shoulder, complain to dad about how incompetent their officer is, and eat home-made food, lone soldiers must go home, do their own laundry, shop for and cook their own food, clean their own houses, and maybe skype their family if the time difference allows. The toll it takes on one is heavy and unexpected. I haven’t seen my parents for eleven months, and by the time I go back to California, I won’t have been home for a year and a half.

Overall, I’d say my experience in the Israeli army has been a positive one. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Because I spoke no Hebrew before moving to Israel, I often found myself in trouble but unable to understand why. But the army has taught me many things besides a second language. I’m exposed to many different cultures and people — immigrants from all over the world, kibbutzniks, Druze, Israeli Arabs, people from villages, cities, religious, secular, etc. I’ve matured immensely and learned how to deal with stress better.

I’m comfortable living alone. I’m financially independent. I can figure out how to get anywhere on a bus. Being forced to draft after high school creates a more mature younger generation. Instead of thinking about classes or work or what to do because they dropped out, Israeli high school graduates are focused on getting into the best army units possible. Because I drafted instead of going to college, I will bring a seriousness and focus to my formal education that I didn’t possess before.

Both being in the army and living in a war zone have also changed much of my political view on Israel. Before I moved here, I thought that it was easy for people to get along, and that everyone should simply do so. I once thought it unproductive to build walls and enforce blockades. But after seeing violence, deep-rooted, blind hatred and stubborn ignorance from both sides, and how every single person in Israel and Palestine is affected by war, I understand that it’s not so simple. I’ve met many families that have had to bury children or parents or loved ones. Fear and pain are constant presences at every age. And when your own life is threatened time and time again, your opinions change.

It’s eternally frustrating to see how international media muddy things by irresponsibly regurgitating inaccuracies about what happens here without checking facts. The result is one-sided stories that distort Israel’s actions. I’m not saying that Israel can do no wrong, but there are two sides to every coin, and there are no innocent parties here. So much falls through the cracks. For example, the world claims that Israeli aircraft indiscriminately bomb Gaza, but fails to mention Israel’s extraordinary efforts to avoid civilian casualties, and that Israel launches airstrikes only in retaliation against Hamas’ own strikes against the Israeli civilian population.

There have been many times when I’ve wished to go home with all of my aching body and mind. But when I really think about it, I’d never trade this experience for anything. It was especially during those hard times that I grew as a person and as a citizen of this world. I once heard that moving to Israel is like a marriage — you give, take, fight, love, disagree, compromise, and work on your relationship with the country and the people. For some it doesn’t work out, and others are happy for the rest of their lives. I don’t know what’ll happen after I discharge from the army, but for now, my marriage is going great.

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CSUF dean is an anti-Israel activist

Thursday, April 21st, 2011
Vida Samiian demonstrates against the presence of Israeli academic Ronen Cohen at a conference of the International Society for Iran Studies in Santa Monica last year.

Vida Samiian demonstrates against the presence of Israeli academic Ronen Cohen at a conference of the International Society for Iran Studies in Santa Monica last year.

Our own Dr. Vida Samiian, Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at California State University, Fresno (CSUF), testified at a meeting of the California Public Employees Retirement System’s Investment Committee in February.

Samiian and others are asking the pension fund to divest from companies that sell military and other equipment to Israel.

Almost every sentence of her testimony is false or misleading. Here is some of it:

I’m here today because I’ve traveled to Israel-Palestine as part of Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace on a number of occasions, and have observed firsthand the death, destruction, and numerous violations of human rights and international law that are systematically inflicted by Israel on Palestinians in the occupied territories.

During my visits, I observed firsthand the demolition of Palestinian homes by bulldozers; I saw the separation wall which blocks access of Palestinians to their land; I saw the expansion of settlers-only roads roadblocks and checkpoints limiting movement of Palestinians in their own towns and villages; I saw the growth of illegal settlements in the heart of the occupied territories; and witnessed the practice of numerous laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel and deny human rights to Palestinians on their occupation …

The U.S. and Israel represent societies whose goals and practices are sharply antitypical [sic]. The idea pursued by American society is essentially inclusive. Israel on the other hand has a publicly stated goal that is inherently exclusive. This inherent exclusivity has lead to 60 years of systemic segregation within Israel proper and over 30 years of ethnic cleansing in the occupied territories, a blatant violation of international law …

Israel has contrived to make Gaza an open-air prison, purposefully keeping Gaza’s inhabitants at a subsistence level of existence as a form of collective punishment, also a criminal act under international law. This is not a situation that CalPERS should subsidize through investment in companies that help maintain these violations and criminal behavior. Knowingly doing so makes us all complicit in the crimes Israel and its government is committing every day against Palestinians on their occupation.

Note that her accusations are entirely context-free. Listening to her statement and those of the others that testified that day, one would not guess that Israel is a country that has been under constant attack since its founding by the Palestinian Arabs and their cousins and supporters in neighboring countries. The word ‘terrorism’ does not appear. It isn’t mentioned that the hated ‘checkpoints’ have stopped numerous terrorists, weapons and explosives from entering Israel. There is nothing about the rockets that daily land on Israeli towns.

Samiian targets her educated American audience (see my post yesterday entitled “Secrets of Palestinian Arab Propaganda”) with her comments about segregation, human rights, ethnic cleansing and violations of international law. But none of these concepts actually apply.

♦ There are no “settlers-only roads.” This particular lie has been refuted over and over. There are places in the territories where access roads between certain Arab villages and main highways have been closed after numerous murderous drive-by shootings occurred.

♦ Settlements are not “illegal.” This is a long story, which I told in more detail previously (“A classic big lie“).

♦ There is no “systematic segregation within Israel proper.” Israeli Arabs are not required to sit in the back of buses, denied the vote, excluded from serving in the military (although, unlike Jews, they are not required to do so), forced to live in ghettos, forbidden to work in certain occupations, forbidden entry to universities etc.

♦ Yes, Israel defines itself as a Jewish state. So what? There are 22 other nations in the Middle East that define themselves as Arab states, and the proposed constitution for ‘Palestine’ declares it to be an Arab state whose official religion is Islam, and the main source of whose legislation is shari’a.

♦ Have there been “30 years of ethnic cleansing” in the territories? Not exactly — the total Arab population of Judea, Samaria, eastern Jerusalem and Gaza went from 1.04 million in 1970 to 3.76 million in 2005. Compare this to the fact that the Jewish population of those areas went to zero in 1948. Now that’s ethnic cleansing!

♦ The “open-air prison” where the inhabitants live at “subsistence level”? The International Red Cross has stated that “there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.” The only items that Israel limits today are strategic materials. Yes, there isn’t enough concrete for infrastructure repairs, but Hamas has prioritized its use for bunkers and tunnels in preparation for war. Gaza Arabs say that they cannot lead a “dignified life” under these conditions, but Hamas has only to stop making war in order to get remaining restrictions lifted.

Speaking of international law, the constant rocket fire against Israeli civilian targets, the frequent attempts at incursions over the border and the continued detention of Gilad Shalit — since June 2006 — without permitting him contact with the Red Cross or communication with his family, all constitute violations of International law by Hamas.

At the end of the ‘public comment’ period, during which Samiian and 5 others made similar statements, the committee chairman, Dr. George Diehr, told the group “Thank you very much for your comments. Good job.”

In November 2003, Dr. Samiian organized ‘Palestine Day’ at CSUF. Speakers included the renegade Israeli academic Ilan Pappé on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Dr. Saleh Abdul Jawad on “The End of the Two State Solution: Apartheid, Bi-national State, or the Final Stage of Socioside” [sic], the film “Jenin, Jenin” which falsely depicted a ‘massacre’ that never occurred, the film “Gaza strip”, and more. Jewish students who attended said that the atmosphere was not only anti-Israel, but also antisemitic.

Samiian is also director of CSUF’s Middle East Studies Program, which held a conference in 2008 from which I quickly exited in advance of being ejected. A look at the MESP website shows programs in Farsi and Arabic, an opportunity to study in Cairo, and numerous courses related to Islam and Islamic civilization. None of the faculty listed — except one,  a specialist in Islam who has an interest in the relationship between the three monotheistic faiths — appear to have any background in Hebrew, ancient Israel, Judaism, etc. The “Middle East” at CSUF doesn’t include the Jews.

Last year (see photo above), Samiian participated in an attempt to prevent an Israeli academic from Ariel University from speaking at a convention of the International Society for Iran Studies (ISIS) in Santa Monica. Despite her appeal to the principle of academic freedom and ‘balance’ to justify the slanted ‘Palestine Day’ event and Middle East Studies conference, her commitment to it apparently stops at the Green Line.

Dr. Samiian may be a competent scholar in her field, but she is also a dedicated political activist, one whose position gives her a unique opportunity to promote the Palestinian Cause.

Which, if you remove the wrapping designed to obscure its true nature and make it palatable to Western tastes, is the destruction of the Jewish state and the death or dispersal of its inhabitants. It really is that simple.

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Shorts: 1) Helen Thomas, playmate; 2) Who the Hell is Martin Raffel?

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Playmate of the month

Helen Thomas has done an interview for Playboy magazine (no, I will not make centerfold jokes here) in which she claims that she was misunderstood:

Nobody asked me to explain myself.  Nobody said, ‘What did you really mean?'”

said Thomas, who was widely called antisemitic for telling Israeli Jews to “go home” to Poland, etc. So she sets the record straight:

[The Jews are] using their power, and they have power in every direction…Power over the White House, power over Congress…Everybody is in the pocket of the Israeli lobbies, which are funded by wealthy supporters, including those from Hollywood.  Same thing with the financial markets.  There’s total control…It isn’t the two percent.  It’s real power when you own the White House, when you own these other places in terms of your political persuasion.  Of course they have power.  [To the interviewer] You don’t deny that.  You’re Jewish, aren’t you?

She said a lot of other things, about the Palestinian Arabs, etc., but you know …who cares?

Who the Hell is Martin Raffel?

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA, not to be confused with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) calls itself “the representative voice of the organized American Jewish community.” It is affiliated with the JFNA, formerly the UJC and before that the UJA, the umbrella organization of the Jewish Federations in the US and Canada.

Confused yet? What’s important to know is that the Jewish Federations raise large sums of money. Some of it is spent for charitable purposes in local communities (despite what Helen Thomas thinks, there are poor Jews) and some of it goes to support the Jewish Agency in Israel and the Joint Distribution Committee, which helps Jews in difficult situations around the world.

These agencies in part paid for the rescue of Jews in Europe after WWII, Jews from Arab countries, Soviet Jews, Ethiopian Jews, etc.

Today I’m afraid that there is beginning to be a loss of focus: JFNA has some highly paid corporate officers, and the agencies that it supports are also less than efficient (the Jewish Agency is famous as a home for tired Israeli politicians).

But I want to talk about the JCPA.

I’m a member of the board of our local Jewish Federation, and I had heard very little about the JCPA until recently, when I received several press releases (for example, this one). While I didn’t find them particularly objectionable, I asked myself who appointed JCPA to speak for the Jewish community — and why we were paying them to do so. Certainly my organization wasn’t consulted!

Here’s an example of why this may not be a good idea. JCPA has created an “Israel Action Network” supposedly to combat attacks on the legitimacy of the Jewish state. Its director, Martin Raffel, has become embroiled in a controversy about which “Zionists of the Left” belong in the “big tent” and should be considered “allies.”

You know where this is going. What about those ‘Zionists’ of the Left called J Street? Raffel wants to include them, because — while they do support boycotting some parts of Israel, they are opposed to boycotting all of it:

But what to think about Zionists on the political left who have demonstrated consistent concern for Israel’s security, support Israel’s inalienable right to exist as a Jewish democratic state, and consider Israel to be the eternal home of the Jewish people — but have decided to express their opposition to specific policies of the Israeli government by refraining from participating in events taking place in the West Bank or purchasing goods produced there? I vigorously would argue that such actions are counter-productive in advancing the cause of peace based on two states that they espouse, a goal that we share. But this is not sufficient cause to place them outside the tent.

Statement of Martin Raffel in JCPA press release

Of course I strongly disagree. An attack on Jewish presence beyond the Green Line is an attack on the legitimacy of Israel as expressed by the League of Nations Mandate. It is a rejection of UNSC resolution 242, which calls for “secure and recognized boundaries,” which are clearly not the 1949 armistice lines. It is an attempt to punish law-abiding Israeli citizens and to support the racist Arab position about who may live where. It is more than just counter-productive, it’s anti-Zionist.

But the more important point is this:

Who the hell is Martin Raffel and who said he speaks for me?

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Armenian activist bashes Israel

Monday, December 6th, 2010

This weekend Armenian activist Marshall Moushigian wrote an op-ed in our local newspaper, the Fresno Bee, which the paper thoughtfully headlined “Israel’s role in Armenian genocide.”

It contained numerous gratuitous attacks on Israel, quoted with approval the vicious remark of former State Department official Arma Jane Karaer that Jews “don’t particularly want to share the genocide label with other groups,” accused Israel and her supporters of “active participation in the final stage of genocide,” and compared Israel with “neo-Nazis.”

Nothing special these days, but his main point was a story that Israel shot down a Congressional resolution to recognize the genocide. He wrote,

The most blatant example of Israel’s meddling occurred in 2000 when the Armenian Genocide Resolution was set for a House vote. Armenians had been anxiously awaiting this vote, 85 years after the killings began, and former House Speaker Dennis Hastert had promised to bring it to a vote. Passage, and the beginning stages of justice, was certain.

But in a surprise, last-minute move, Hastert withdrew the resolution from the docket, and many suspected Israel’s involvement. The Washington Post confirmed that suspicion in June 2010 when it reported a sequence of panicked events that flowed from Ankara directly to AIPAC in Washington, which immediately contacted President Clinton, who personally requested Hastert remove the resolution.

I believe the story was this one, in the Washington Times (not Post), which explains that

The Turks called up Keith Weissman, a senior researcher from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and asked him to intervene.

Mr. Weissman said in an interview this week that AIPAC lit up the phones and managed at the last minute — with the help of the State Department — to persuade President Clinton himself to write a letter to Mr. Hastert saying a vote on the resolution would cause strategic damage to U.S. interests.

The last-minute push worked. Mr. Hastert removed the resolution from the floor, and the full Congress has yet to take up the matter to this day.

Hmm, “with the help of the State Department.”

Could it be that the fact that State — and Defense — seriously wanted the resolution squashed had more than a little to do with the outcome?

Could it be that the notoriously Arabist State Department would be quite happy to put the blame for an unpopular decision on Israel? A twofer: help out the Turks and screw Israel in one blow!

Could it be that the notoriously self-important Weissman and AIPAC would be happy to take the ‘credit’?

As an aside, AIPAC has done a lot for the ‘Israel Lobby’ theorists by bragging about its supposed ability to ‘get things done’ in Washington. In fact, compared to the Saudi lobby, it is not all that effective.

Most American Jews want to see the Armenian genocide recognized, especially in Fresno where they have many Armenian friends, and where, in years past, it was common to hear eyewitness testimony.

In 1989 the rabbi of Fresno’s Temple Beth Israel pushed through a resolution at the national body of the Reform movement to support official US recognition of the genocide.

I’ve written numerous posts over the years arguing that the only moral position, given historical evidence, is to demand recognition of the genocide.

Moushigian’s ugly screed will not make him friends in the Jewish community, and will not advance his goal of getting a resolution passed in Congress. Jewish congressman Adam Schiff (D., Burbank CA) will be reintroducing his genocide recognition bill, which failed in 2008, in the next Congress.

Possibly the State Department will be sufficiently alarmed by Turkey’s new alignment with the Iranian bloc to support it this time.

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contains numerous gratuitous attacks on Israel, mostly unsupported by facts. He quotes with approval the vicious remark of a former State Department official that Jews “don’t want to share the genocide label with other groups,” he accuses Israel and her supporters of “active participation in the final stage of genocide,” and makes a comparison with neo-Nazis.