• Pitzer Students for Justice in Palestine Defy Censorship Attempts with Display of Mock Israeli Apartheid Wall

      March 31, 2015

      In defiance against attempts at censorship, Students for Justice in Palestine activists at Pitzer College in Claremont California will erect a mock Apartheid Wall to educate their campus about the Israeli occupation and how Israeli policies confiscate Palestinian land and separate Palestinian families and communities.

      photo 1 (2)

      Here is their press release explaining the school’s attempt to censor SJP’s freedom of speech:

      Pitzer Students for Justice in Palestine to Display Mock Israeli Apartheid Wall Despite Campus Attempts to Censor Its Speech

      Claremont, CA — On Tuesday, March 31st, Pitzer Students for Justice in Palestine will display a mock Israeli apartheid wall on campus to raise awareness about Palestinian suffering and the realities of the Israeli occupation, as well as to stimulate conversation around necessary changes in global and domestic human rights policy. SJP is continuing with this demonstration despite attempts by the administration to censor free speech.

      SJP Member Dan Solomon explains, “Pitzer College prides itself on ‘social responsibility’, ‘interdisciplinary learning’, and ‘student engagement’ so we hope that the administration will not interfere with our attempt to display those values in our political demonstration. We intend to educate our campus about the Israeli apartheid wall and to build the movement pressuring Israel to respect basic human rights.”

      SJP is dismayed at apparent attempts by Pitzer College to stop the display of the wall. When a group of SJP members met with the Pitzer Dean of Students about their plan to display the apartheid wall, the Dean told them he was concerned someone may attempt to damage the wall or “burn it down.” He told them that someone would inevitably submit a formal complaint about the wall being ‘discriminatory.’ He also told SJP they would need approval from the Campus Aesthetics Committee. SJP’s proposal was rejected without formal explanation.

      On Friday March 27, Pitzer warned SJP that their plans to proceed with the mock wall would be in blatant defiance of College policy. This is despite the Campus Demonstration’s policy statementthat Pitzer “respects the rights of free speech and peaceful assembly and supports their exercise.”

      “We hope Pitzer College thinks twice before violating its own policies to censor SJP’s advocacy for Palestinian rights,” said Liz Jackson, staff attorney with Palestine Solidarity Legal Support, whowrote to Pitzer officials Monday. “As it should, Pitzer claims to embrace a compelling interest in unfettered inquiry and the collective search for knowledge. Under California law, there can be no ‘Palestine exception’ to this policy. The accusation that displaying a mock Israeli apartheid wall would target Jewish students is an attempt to divert the conversation away from the human rights policy issues SJP is attempting to raise; SJP’s activity targets the Israeli state, not any individual. In response to recent incidents of deplorable anti-Semitic yik yak comments on campus, SJP emphasizes, “As a group advocating for equality, universal human rights, and collective liberation, SJP strongly condemns any form of oppression on the basis of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, national origin, or disability,” explains Solomon, “We strongly condemn any form of anti-Semitism on campus.”

      Motivated by the same opposition to racism, SJP will display the mock Israeli apartheid wall, in the hopes of educating the Pitzer campus about the Israeli system of race-based separation and subjugation of Palestinians. “If you agree with SJP, and the International Court of Justice, that an apartheid wall violates basic human rights, we invite you to join Pitzer SJP in dismantling the wall at the end the day,” said Solomon.

    • Students urged to conduct mock hangings on college campuses this April in support of Israel

      February 24, 2015

      Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 8.21.14 PMPop Quiz!

      Who is giving pro-Israel college students step-by-step instructions for holding mock hangings, stonings and whippings?

      Is it the Onion in an attempt at satire gone awry? Or is it the former Marxist-turned-rabid Muslim-hater David Horowitz’s ironically named ‘Freedom Center’ in their newly published and freely downloadable “Student Handbook”?

      If you guess David Horowitz and gang, ding ding ding! You win!

      The ‘Mock Hangings’ portion of the student Handbook begins with one of the most extraordinary sentences ever written in the English language:

      “To highlight Israel’s comparatively stellar record on human rights, we encourage you to hold a mock hanging, mock stoning or mock whipping on your campus.”


      The book is featured on a new Freedom Center website actually titled “Jew Hatred on Campus“, written with a weird, Ted Kaczynski-like obsession with getting back at the country’s largest student group working for Palestinian rights, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). (We’ll let others dig into a point by point response to the distorted charges within about the student group which includes Muslims, Christian, Jews and others. We at Jewish Voice for Peace are privileged to know many wonderful SJP leaders— and we can say with confidence that calling SJP an anti-Jewish hate group is like calling President Obama a Communist! Oh wait, David Horowitz did that!)

      Apparently oblivious to the fact that it might be, um, a tad insensitive to black or queer students especially to fake-hang a “homosexual” dummy on a campus, they offer step by step directions:

      Staging a mock hanging on your campus will expose SJP’s hypocrisy. Students can produce a dummy dressed in normal attire with a rope around his neck. A sign on him will read “I’m a gay Iranian and SJP doesn’t care about me.” If you cannot produce a dummy, contact the Freedom Center and we will help you.

      A minimum of 4 students are needed. 1 student to hold the dummy
      1 student to help
      1 student recording their team
      1 student to record the crowd

      Students staging a mock hanging must follow these rules:
      - Wear plain clothes (no logos, political shirts, bright colors)
      - No chanting, yelling or talking
      - Do not engage in debate or arguments
      For more information on how to stage a mock hanging on your campus contact DELETED@truthrevolt.org.

      Because seeing is believing, here are some more screenshots. More ways to win over women this time:
      Excerpt from Freedom Center's Student Guidebook- Advice for Teach-Ins about Intolerance

      But truly, this is no laughing matter: The clearly well-funded Freedom Center’s “Jew Hatred on Campus” campaign is calling for action around the country in April as a counter to Israeli Apartheid Week activities. And it may be the source of one of the most truly disturbing intimidation campaigns we’ve seen.

      Freedom Center Linked to Horrific Posters?
      Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 8.21.14 PM

      This week, students at at least five schools across the U.S. woke up to these identical and truly terrifying posters (also above). Each had a massive image of Hamas militants enacting violence on Palestinians. Each one had the same text, large letters at the top which simply stated “Students for Justice in Palestine,” and on the bottom, “#JewHaters.”

      Initial statements from school administrators are condemning these posters as hateful, with a UCLA spokesperson saying the school “repudiate[s] them in the strongest possible terms.”

      In fact, even other pro-Israel groups have reached out to support SJP against this bigotry. Students across the country have the same question: who is responsible?

      Though no one has publicly taken credit,* given the near identical images, language, timing and targets, all signs point to Freedom Center. If so, one might even argue they are themselves engaging in a form of terrorism targeted at students, and mostly though not exclusively, students of color.

      The David Horowitz Freedom Center has a long history of grotesque anti-Arab racism and Islamaphobia. Once again, they have crossed a dangerous line. Their campaign is nothing less than a medieval witch hunt.

      Cecilie Surasky and Gabi Kirk, Jewish Voice for Peace

      *UPDATE: In an interview published 2/25/15 in the Jewish Journal, David Horowitz admitted to being behind the anti-SJP posters. See: http://www.jewishjournal.com/los_angeles/article/conservative_activist_david_horowitz_admits_responsibility_for_posters

    • Hillel International and Simon Wiesenthal Center’s incredibly creepy new campus surveillance tool

      December 17, 2014

      New app has a creepy logo!The Simon Weisenthal Center and Hillel International just proudly announced a new phone app “to fight anti-Semitism” which will be deployed on 550 US campuses with Hillel centers.

      In reality, however, the partnership is less Southern Poverty Law Project, and more J. Edgar Hoover and Roy Cohn-decide-to-make-an-enemies list.

      In a truly alarming marriage of Paranoid Surveillance Culture and the no-desperate-move-surprises-us-anymore Israel lobby…the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), the group known for actually building a “Museum of Tolerance” on top of a Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem, has developed the app to encourage students to literally report their teachers and fellow students. Reminiscent of surveillance posters found in places like Singapore, and I’d imagine, North Korea, this app’s catch phrase is “See it. Report It”

      Explained Hillel International spokesperson David Eden:

      “Working against anti-Semitism with the Wiesenthal Center is a natural for Hillel International. We’re proud to stand shoulder to shoulder by promoting this important tool to those who most often take the brunt of anti-Semitic attacks – students,” said David Eden, Chief Administrative Officer and chief spokesperson for Hillel International. “This innovative and simple to use app is another resource that we can use to help keep North American college campuses safe for Jewish students.”

      Keeping Jewish students safe from anti-Jewish hatred is of course laudable, but this app comes with its own Twitter feed, and almost none of the 54 tweets are about anti-Semitism. (Quelle surprise!)

      With the exception of a small handful of stories about swastika graffiti, the list reads like it was curated by Alan Dershowitz’s far right-wing cousin. It’s almost entirely obsessed with criticism of Israel and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions–the movement to hold Israel accountable for violating human rights violations. (In fact, BDS is a tactic embraced by literally thousands of Jews around the world, and BDS movement leaders have repeatedly condemned all forms of bigotry.)

      On the Twitter feed, there are numerous links to articles condemning student and faculty groups for involvement in divestment campaigns, and even some suggesting that such campaigns violate the law. There is a full transcript, with key phrases bolded for emphasis, of Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor’s speech opposing Palestinian Statehood. Natch, another tweet links to an article about the dangerous Open Hillel movement itself–a movement, again, led by Hillel students.

      And then, for camp effect, there is the incredibly strange police badge logo above, giving app users the illusion that they are acting as a deputized citizens’ police force rather than, um HUAC-style spies.

      The Simon Wiesenthal Center is a lost cause. Run by Marvin Hier, which the Jewish Forward called “by far the most overpaid CEO” of a Jewish organization in America, it has a long and terrible history of promoting hate against Palestinians and others under the guise of being a human rights group.

      But Hillel International is supposed to be “the center for Jewish life on campuses.” They have special access and claim to represent all Jewish students on 550 campuses across the US.

      But more important to them than welcoming Jewish students, is waging an all out PR war against the inspiring Open Hillel students who want to make Hillel open to all ideas, not just those vetted by the Israel-is-always-right thought police.

      Instead, Hillel International is finding itself on the wrong side of history–plus they’ve just turned every Hillel student into a potential spy, asking them to literally turn in other students and teachers for public shaming and in some cases, worse.

      One supposes that much like other failed efforts by Campus Watch, and the David Project, the ultimate homerun for Hillel and SWC will be gotcha videos of Middle East Studies professors in their classes where free inquiry is supposed to be encouraged.

      Beyond appalling.

      Cecilie Surasky
      Jewish Voice for Peace

      Hey, it’s the end of the year. If you like this and our other articles, consider making a year-end gift to Jewish Voice for Peace.

    • Anti-Defamation League creates blacklist of groups that link Ferguson to Palestine

      December 1, 2014

      Wow. The ADL below considers the photo below a hateful message.

      Screenshot from the ADL's Israel advocacy page.

      Screenshot from the ADL’s Israel advocacy page.

      File this under “You can’t make this up.”

      Abe Foxman, whose $688,000 annual salary makes him one of the most over-paid pro-Israel lobbyists in the country, recently embarrassed himself (again) by actually releasing a press statement lecturing NFL star Reggie Bush on his Twitter feed— Bush had dared compared Ferguson and Gaza.

      But it gets worse.

      The Anti-Defamation League, which leverages its reputation as a fighter of bigotry to silence human rights critics of the Israeli government (thereby actually perpetuating bigotry and worse), has published a defacto blacklist of groups that dared to link Ferguson with Palestine.

      I mean, what could the militarization of U.S. police forces and repeated, unaccountable killing of unarmed people of color possibly have to do with Palestine? According to the ADL—daring to make the connection is purely cynical at best, and a form of hate at worst.

      But here is where the ADL gets the chutzpah award: singled out for particular opprobrium are those who link what’s happening in Ferguson to the training of police in Israel. The ADL, for example, calls out the inimitable Trita Parsi, head of the National Iran­ian Amer­i­can Coun­cil (NIAC). for this Tweet:

      “Won­der­ing why the exces­sive police vio­lence? Here’s a guess: #Fer­gu­son police chief got train­ing in Israel…#Gaza.”

      Screen shot 2014-12-01 at 7.30.36 PMThey also call out someone for holding a sign at a protest that says “Google It!!! Israel trains the NYPD.”

      So do who do you think is responsible for an awful lot of those free police trainings in Israel? The Anti-Defamation League, natch. Which I guess is why they are condemning people as opportunists and bigots for saying, well, the obvious.

      As Kristian Davis Bailey wrote in Ebony Magazine in August:

      The St. Louis County Police Department that killed Michael Brown and initially placed Ferguson on siege has trained with the Israeli military. Former County Police Chief Timothy Fitch was one of 15 American officials to participate in a weeklong training in Israel three years ago.
      The April 2011 National Counter-Terrorism Seminar (NCTS) was sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). It brought together leaders from the largest American police departments, the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with members of the Israeli National Police, Israel Defense Forces and other intelligence organizations.

      Oddly, the quick-to-issue-a-statement ADL was too busy to respond to Bailey’s requests for comment. Bailey went on:

      Over 9,000 American officials have trained with Israeli police and military units on responding to civilian protests and terrorism. These operations reflect failure to distinguish between the apparent duty of police to protect civilians and military responses to war. This fusion has had life-costing implications for Americans, specifically black, Muslim and Arab people.

      Normally, the ADL boasts about training lots and lots and lots of police officers , which includes special trips for US police officials to Israel for training in counter-terrorism tactics (which are then deployed against American citizens.)

      I guess that in this case, they have decided that the best defense is a good offense. Reggie Bush, a running back, probably knows all about that.

      -Cecilie Surasky
      Jewish Voice for Peace

    • Conflict Kitchen controversy displays fear of facing Palestinian reality

      November 21, 2014

      A local perspective on the effort to shut down a restaurant that serves up Palestinian food and perspectives. By Ella Mason, Jewish Voice for Peace Pittsburgh

      When you think about the sites that play a role in the Israel/Palestine conflict, a few places may come to mind: 
Oslo, Egypt, Camp David. . . but probably not Pittsburgh.  Yet this
 small post-industrial town has been embroiled in a 
controversy that has made headlines around the world.

      It all begins with the story of the Conflict Kitchen, an innovative art project created by Carnegie Mellon University art professor Jon
 Rubin.  The Conflict Kitchen is a takeout restaurant that only serves 
food from countries with whom the United States is in some type of 
conflict.  Since its opening in 2010 it has served food from 
Afghanistan, North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, Cuba, and Colombia.
 Alongside food, the Kitchen produces written educational works:
 usually interviews with people from the country in question about
 their perspectives on food, dating, aging, school, and politics.
The Kitchen sees its mission as bringing Americans a deeper
 understanding of the people and culture(s) of these nations we hear 
about primarily as headline abstractions.

      At the end of September the Conflict Kitchen opened their newest 
installment of the project; a Palestinian takeout restaurant.  Some
argued that Palestine was a strange choice for the Kitchen. They ask: Is the
 U.S. really at conflict with Palestine? The US gives roughly four billion dollars
 of aid (much of it military) to Israel, the nation actively at war 
with/occupying Palestine. Furthermore, the U.S.’s continuing blockage in the U.N. of Palestinian statehood helps to maintain what has become the status quo of occupation. 

      In this context the U.S. could certainly be seen as having a conflict with 
Palestine, or at the very least, as being fundamentally entangled in 
the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.photo 2

      Pittsburgh has a very small Palestinian population, so as a local
 Jewish artist with a great deal of interest in the ongoing conflict I 
was thrilled to hear that the Conflict Kitchen was taking on Palestine 
and giving these often-silenced voices a platform to be heard in 

      Unfortunately, even before the Palestinian iteration
 opened, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh (JFGP) made 
efforts to have the restaurant shut down.  Gregg Roman, a former
 Israeli soldier and current director of Jewish Community Relations for 
the Federation, attempted to strong arm the University of
 Pittsburgh’s Honors College (one of the project’s sponsors) into
 canceling the September 30th kickoff event.

      When that didn’t work, he 
pressured them to add him to a panel on Palestinian culture (how he 
attempted to justify this, being neither a Palestinian nor an academic 
nor a cultural worker I do not know).  When this tactic also failed, 
Roman came to the event with an organized group of right-wing 
Israelis, who used their time to participate by claiming that
 Palestinians living in Israel face no discrimination there. 

      Continue Reading…

    • Hillel International hires Armenian Genocide denier Noam Neusner to fight Open Hillel movement, BDS

      November 19, 2014

      Tuesday night’s epic UCLA debate over divesting from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation was notable for what it included—a coalition of over 30 diverse campus groups in support of divestment, and for what it lacked—a robust, organized opposition. (The divestment vote won in a landslide.)

      Screen shot 2014-11-19 at 4.28.33 PMThe likely reason for the relative silence of Israel-aligned student groups can be traced to a leaked memo in which a beleaguered UCLA Hillel head, concerned about the upcoming divestment vote, is cautioned by the PR firm 30 Point Strategies to not “put out any statements.” In other words, remain silent.

      But 30 Point Strategies’ relationship with Hillel International, the “largest Jewish campus organization in the world”, on whose behalf they offered advice in the email, is no secret.

      30 Point Strategies principal, Noam Neusner (pictured at right), is regularly identified as the spokesperson for Hillel International in articles relating to the upstart Open Hillel movement or other initiatives related to boycott, divestment and sanctions on campus. He was also spotted at the groundbreaking Open Hillel conference, though Hillel insisted they would send no official representatives.

      But what is less known, or has been conveniently forgotten, is that Neusner was employed by the Turkish government to lobby the American Jewish community and Congress to deny the Armenian genocide, at least through 2010.

      Back in 2008, Nathan Guttman wrote in the Jewish Daily Forward

      Armenian activists are crying foul over Turkey’s hiring of a Jewish lobbyist to work against the recognition of the Armenian genocide.

      Noam Neusner, former chief speechwriter on policy issues for President Bush and White House liaison to the Jewish community, was hired by the government of Turkey to promote strong ties with major Jewish groups and to urge these groups to oppose House Resolution 106, which would have labeled the murders genocide.

      The information was uncovered when Neusner registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

      Guttman continues:

      According to the filings, Neusner Communications, where Neusner is listed as principal, received a monthly retainer that recently was increased to $8,500 for Neusner’s extensive contacts with major figures in the Jewish community. It was the Armenian National Committee of America, an advocacy group with goals that include “ensuring the appropriate commemoration of the Armenian genocide,” that first made the documents public.

      Neusner Communications received a total of $80,833 for the period from November 2007 to September 2008, according to the filings. Neusner said he “does not discuss client relationships.”

      … Aram Hamparian, ANCA’s executive director, called the hiring of Neusner to work on behalf of the Turkish government “a misguided attempt to manipulate Jewish-American opinion.” Hamparian argued that Jewish support in America for the Turkish side is “crumbling” and therefore there is a need to hire a lobbying firm aimed specifically at the community.

      And Hamparian was right. The issue has understandably divided Jewish Americans, and caused a real rift in the Anti-Defamation League, whose involvement in lobbying against official Congressional recognition of the Armenian genocide is documented on the site NoPlaceforDenial.com.

      But wait, there’s more.

      Another of the 30 Point Strategies projects was the infamous hate-film Obsession, possibly one of the most expensive hate campaigns in US history. Some 28 million copies of the documentary which essentially compared Islam to Nazism, were sent to newsletter subscribers in mostly swing states during the ’08 presidential election. They provoked charges of efforts to influence an American election. (Funding was later traced in part to Aish HaTorah, a religious Zionist Israel aligned organization). According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 30 Point Strategies was one of two communications firms that worked on the project.

      As Corey Saylor, who is in charge of monitoring Islamophobia at the DC- based Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) commented, “The PR firm 30 Points Strategies has a troubling involvement, such as distributing the hate-film Obsession, in poisoning public discussions. It is not productive for groups seeking an inclusive society to accept advice from them.”

      Kate Nahapetian, Government Affairs Director of the Armenian National Committte of America, had even stronger words: “30 Point Strategies’ profiting from Turkey’s campaign of genocide denial inflicts pain and suffering on the families of survivors and is despicable.”

      It is clear that Hillel International has become a designated frontline defense against the growing number of campus based efforts to make Israel accountable to international law. As such, Neusner seems to be the person being dispatched to monitor and respond.

      Image courtesy UCLA SJP

      Image courtesy UCLA SJP

      But oddly, Hillel International’s pick is likely to even further exacerbate tensions with the remarkably diverse and growing, broad-based movement for divestment and boycott on campuses. Seen another way, their pick of Neusner is in some way a perfect illustration of why these unified coalitions are forming—students of color, Muslims, students from colonized countries, queer and trans students, feminists and so forth all see clearly the links between the oppression of Palestinians and their own historic marginalization. In this case, the links couldn’t be more concrete.

      And more obvious, the increasingly vocal new generation of thinking, progressive Jews like those of Open Hillel simply won’t accept such horrific moral game-playing. Moves like these are simply further evidence of the growing irrelevance of old-school Jewish communal politics that throw out everything young Jews learned about Tikkun Olam, healing the world, when it comes to supporting Israel, right or wrong. As one student repeated at the UCLA hearing, they believe without a doubt that none of us are free until all of us are free.

      Tactics aside, Aram Hamparian, ANCA’s executive director gets the last word here. As he said of Neusner and his lobbying back in 2008 “This is a moral issue,” he said. “There is no wiggle room on the issue of genocide denial, just as on the issue of Holocaust denial.”

      There is no public record that we could find of Neusner ever having disavowed his work on behalf of these clients.

      -Cecilie Surasky

From Our Archives

    • Why Judith Butler had to be shut down

      September 25, 2012

      The announcement of a prestigious international academic prize doesn’t typically generate endless sturm und drang on the pages of major newspapers around the world, threatening to turn into an international incident. But when that prize is given by a German city, and the recipient is Judith Butler, one of the great thinkers of our time– who also happens to be a vocal critic of Israeli policies—apparently it signifies the end is near. Continue Reading…

    • Adrienne Rich at the JCCSF, a real hero

      March 29, 2012

      Editor’s Note: This was originally posted here on January 26, 2007. We thought that re-posting it now would be a fitting tribute to a profoundly courageous and thoughtful hero who passed away this week. Adrienne Rich z”l.

      “[Art] means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of the power which holdsA Rich it hostage.”

      Adrienne Rich has been honored with almost every award a poet could dream of winning. But it’s not just her mind and heart that puts mere mortals to shame, but her courage.

      Rich once refused to accept the National Book Award for poetry individually, and instead shared it with her 2 other nominees at the time, Alice Walker and Audre Lorde. Later, she refused the National Medal of Arts awarded by President Clinton, telling him “the very meaning of art, as I understand it, is incompatible with the cynical politics of this administration.”

      Continue Reading…

    • Israeli Knesset completes step 1 of 3 in criminalizing nonviolent economic pressure against the Occupation

      July 22, 2010

      Real News Network, a professional online alternative to US corporate media, has this comprehensive report about a Knesset bill to criminalize Palestinian, international and Israeli efforts to promote and enact boycotts against Israel. Last week, it passed its “preliminary reading” in the Knesset, with two more rounds to go to become law.

      If passed, this stunning bill will mark the most severe and antidemocratic backlash thus far against the boycott, sanctions and divestment movement (BDS) to pressure Israel to abide by international law. Continue Reading…