Archive for the ‘Local interest’ Category

CSUF dean is an anti-Israel activist

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

By Vic Rosenthal

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.

The Community Alliance

Monday, November 15th, 2010

A free copy of a 24-page local newspaper called the “Community Alliance” landed on my porch today.  Fresno has had more than one alternative newspaper competing with its one commercial paper, the Fresno Bee, over the years. Forty years ago it was the staunchly conservative Fresno Guide. Members of the counterculture hated the Guide, so they never picked up the free copies that were thrown onto their lawns, driveways and porches. Little by little, they weathered. By now they’re all gone.

I picked up my copy of the Community Alliance. Unlike the Guide, this is a ‘progressive’ newspaper. It mostly contained locally written articles about people, events and issues in the area, but there were a few pieces about international subjects by diverse writers from outside the community. There is no distinction drawn between news and opinion, something that the right-wing Guide was careful about, I might add.

I’d been warned that almost every issue contains at least one letter or story attacking Israel, and it’s not surprising. Our ‘progressive’ community brings us between one and four films, speakers, panels, or other events devoted to bashing Israel every month. There are dedicated anti-Israel activists in many local organizations — the Center for Nonviolence, Peace Fresno, California State University Fresno, WILPF, the Unitarian Universalist Church, the Islamic Cultural Center, KNXT (the TV station of the Catholic Diocese), etc. — and all of these and others have been sponsors or co-sponsors of such happenings. So how could they miss this opportunity?

This issue has a full-page article calling for us to end Israel’s “apartheid and occupation” by boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). I won’t bother much with the content, except to say that it accuses Israel of fascism, apartheid, genocide, and ethnic cleansing,  calls the Turkish Mavi Marmara terrorists “human rights activists,” and more.

Human rights activist on board the Mavi Marmara

Human rights activist on board the Mavi Marmara

The ‘occupation’ that the BDS movement opposes is not the occupation of Judea and Samaria that began in 1967. It is the ‘occupation’ that consists of the continued existence of a Jewish state. BDS will not end until the ‘return’ of the Arab ‘refugees’:

An overwhelming majority of organizations have endorsed Palestinian civil society’s two calls for boycott, divestment and sactions against Israel and for academic and cultural boycott of Israel — until it ceases to deny Palestinian history, ends the Occupation, ceases discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel, and permits displaced Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.  — Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada

There are stronger statements in Arabic, which make clear that the goal of BDS is not coexistence, but rather to further what they call the “de-Zionization” of Israel.

What is distressing is that the local Left does not appear to see anything exceptional about this article, or any of the other articles and letters published in the Community Alliance vilifying Israel, or any of the daily diet of lies and slander they are fed from the local alternative radio station KFCF and the Pacifica network.

Many of the people that support these institutions are my friends — the beaming face of one of them shines from an advertisement for his business in the Community Alliance — and many of them really do care about fixing the social problems like homelessness and hunger which are prevalent in our economically strapped region.

I’ll go further and say that some of them know that what they read and hear about Israel in the ‘progressive’ media and in the steady stream of anti-Israel films and speakers is viciously false. Some of them have family members that live in Israel and have been there more than once.

Yet they don’t object to the steady stream of distortions, lies, blood libels and propaganda supporting the most murderous of Israel’s enemies — people who really do want to commit genocide, like Hamas — that emanate from the media and organizations that they support.

I’ll grant that these organizations do good in the local community. I’ll grant that the left-wing perspective on local, national and international issues should be heard, no less than the conservative one. But what has happened (for historical reasons that I won’t discuss now) is that with respect to Israel, the progressive ideals of self-determination, justice and peace have been warped and changed into their polar opposites.

So what I want to know is why people who know better don’t complain about the films and speakers? Why do they allow the anti-Israel activists free rein in local organizations? Why do they continue to buy ads in the Community Alliance and contribute funds to KFCF and Pacifica Radio without protesting their outrageous bias?

Why is that?

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How fear becomes submission

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Yesterday I reflected on the fact that my local newspaper chose not to publish a well-written, interesting letter that happened to call attention to the political aspect of Islam.

They do not hesitate to print relatively obnoxious left- and right-wing screeds, as well as ones so poorly written as to be almost unintelligible. Sometimes they print long endorsements of obscure candidates for minor local offices, by unknown writers. Almost every day there is the obligatory ad hominem attack on Victor Davis Hanson (today there were two).

But the letter I posted yesterday apparently crossed a red line for them: it suggested that Islam is more than a religious faith — which, in today’s America, means ‘something having to do with food and what days a person takes off from work’ — but is a movement with a political purpose.

This is unacceptable to the newspaper, because you are allowed to criticize political movements. But in the America of 9/11 plus nine years, you may not criticize Islam.

Just in time comes a description of this phenomenon which absolutely nails it. I can’t urge everyone strongly enough to read “Two Decades of the Rushdie Rules,” by Daniel Pipes:

From a novel by Salman Rushdie published in 1989 to an American civil protest called “Everyone Draw Muhammad Day” in 2010, a familiar pattern has evolved. It begins when Westerners say or do something critical of Islam. Islamists respond with name-calling and outrage, demands for retraction, threats of lawsuits and violence, and actual violence. In turn, Westerners hem and haw, prevaricate, and finally fold. Along the way, each controversy prompts a debate focusing on the issue of free speech.

I shall argue two points about this sequence. First, that the right of Westerners to discuss, criticize, and even ridicule Islam and Muslims has eroded over the years. Second, that free speech is a minor part of the problem; at stake is something much deeper – indeed, a defining question of our time: will Westerners maintain their own historic civilization in the face of assault by Islamists, or will they cede to Islamic culture and law and submit to a form of second-class citizenship?

One of the most fascinating points Pipes makes is the change in Western attitudes, particularly on the Left, since 1989:

At the time, François Mitterrand, the socialist president of France, called the threat to Rushdie an “absolute evil.” The Green Party in Germany sought to break all economic agreements with Iran. Hans-Dietrich Genscher, the German foreign minister, endorsed a European Union resolution supporting Rushdie as “a signal to assure the preservation of civilization and human values.” The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution that declared its commitment “to protect the right of any person to write, publish, sell, buy, and read books without fear of intimidation and violence” and condemned Khomeini’s threat as “state-sponsored terrorism.” Such governmental responses are inconceivable in 2010.

Indeed. And not just governmental responses, but in the media as well. Recently I wrote about the surprise I felt watching a 2002 episode of the TV drama “West Wing,” which sharply criticized Saudi Arabia’s prevailing (misogynist) mores. I can’t imagine this sequence being produced today.

So while I’m disappointed in my newspaper, I’m not surprised. Why shouldn’t it take part in this widespread psychological defense mechanism, in which the unattractive emotion of simple fear of violence is transmuted — first into ‘respect’ for Muslim culture, and finally into submission to it?

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