Yearly Archives: 2007

Five reasons to donate to Muzzlewatch now.

To our many email and RSS feed subscribers and readers:

As I write this, it is barely 24 hours until New Years Eve. For those of you who deduct your taxes, that means you still have time to decide how much of your income can go to a project you believe in.

Here are 5 reasons to donate now to Muzzlewatch.

1) We’ve been running this website for just about a year now, and we’ve never ever asked you for one penny, even though running the site and researching and writing stories takes literally hundreds of hours.

2) Muzzlewatch has been successful beyond our wildest dreams. We’ve broken important stories in the mainstream press, have been covered on international radio and in numerous news outlets including the Forward, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, San Jose Mercury News, the UK Guardian, Fort Worth Star-Telegram and more. We’ve been linked to from major sites like Crooks and Liars, Buzzfeed, Alternet, Juan Cole’s Informed Consent, Talking Points Memo Cafe, Daily Kos, Huffington Post, The Washington Post’s Bookworld Live and many more. Academics, activists and journalists use us as a research resource.

Click here to donate now:

3) Muzzlewatch has won support and derision from key players across the map. We were nominated in 3 categories for best new Jewish blog, and have won kudos from people across the ideological spectrum. (Of course, I’m also, it turns out, a finalist for Self Hating Jew of 2007…And no, we didn’t pay the folks running the contest to make our point about the charges of anti-Semitism or self-hatred that await critics of Israeli human rights violations.)

4) We dealt a significant body blow to the forces of censorship when we led the global campaign to reverse the University of St Thomas’s decision to bar Desmond Tutu from speaking on campus. Only AFTER the president of the university received thousands of letters from around the world that Muzzlewatch/Jewish Voice for Peace generated; only after the issue received global media attention after we spent hours pushing the story to progressive bloggers, religion reporters, op-ed editors and the international media; only after the Jewish Telegraphic Agency printed an expose of the false quote attributed to Tutu that compared Israel to Hitler– based on our media advocacy; only after the Minneapolis Star Tribune printed an op-ed we wrote condemning the University of St Thomas’ decision and clearing Tutu of false charges; only after Abe Foxman, following international coverage of our campaign and increased criticism of the decision, took our lead and came out in favor of letting Tutu speak, did the University’s president reverse his decision.

5) We realize what an important tool Muzzlewatch has become in light of the ongoing assaults against academic and artistic freedom, media independence, Muslims and Arab Americans and progressive Jews and more… so we have big plans to turn this into a much stronger (and prettier) tool this coming year, with plans to bring on new editors and integrate activism tools. We want to repeat the successful campaign in support of Tutu, on behalf of academics fighting for tenure, institutions fighting for the right of religious expression, artists fighting to tell their story and more.

All of this means time and money. Please give generously if you believe in this work. (And thank you to those of you who have already given so generously to Jewish Voice for Peace.)

Go to this Jewish Voice for Peace page and Donate now to Muzzlewatch.

To a year of new beginnings.

Cecilie Surasky
Jewish Voice for Peace

Richard Silverstein and Joel Beinin’s free speech victory

Anti-Arab (there’s no other way to put it) real estate agent/researcher and activist Rachel Neuwirth lost her case against liberal Tikun Olam blogger Richard Silverstein and Stanford Middle East history professor Joel Beinin. (Check out Richard’s newly revived Israel-Palestine Forum, where you can chime in on the debate.)
Seattle’s Jew-ish just filed this new story on the details of the case which has wide ranging implications for free speech on the internet.

Silverstein called Neuwirth “Kahanist Swine” on his blog because he believed at the time that she was associated with a fake blog created to mock him. She sued. Neuwirth won an earlier case against UCLA Hillel director Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, also mentioned in the Jew-ish article. (It should be said that while Muzzlewatch does not feel litigation was an appropriate response, neither do we think that calling anyone “Kahanist swine”, even self-proclaimed Kahanists, which Neuwirth is not, actually serves to create an atmosphere where dialogue can take place. In fact, we’d argue that the loose use of such invectives in the blogosphere make such debates almost impossible, intimidating regular mortals from speaking. Suing bloggers is not the solution. Modeling the online behavior you’d like to see in others is.)

Also named in the suit was Stanford University professor Joel Beinin, who alleged Neuwirth had left a death threat on his answering machine with a statement that said, in essence, that Hitler had killed the people who betrayed their own nation first.

Beinin filed a police report with the Stanford campus police and posted details to a left-wing e-mail listserve based at the University of Haifa. Silverstein reported the message on Tikun Olam and agreed that the message sounded like a death threat.

“When someone says Hitler came and killed the traitors first and implied you are one of those people, what are you supposed to think?” said Silverstein. “God forbid sometime some crazy person is going to make a threat like this and is going to follow through.”

Fonarow said any allegation that Neuwirth’s message was a death threat was a lie.

“She leaves him a message that in effect, said, in the same tone, you can’t be saying [anti-Israel statements] because the Jews have to be vigilant at all times,” Fonarow said. “Look what they did to David [sic] Pearl, and look what Hitler did, and he takes that as a death threat, which is preposterous.”

The separate incidents were joined in the same suit because Silverstein reported on Beinin’s posting, Fonarow said.

Believing Neuwirth was attempting to stifle protected speech, Silverstein filed an anti-SLAPP motion. This California statute, Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation, prevents misuse of the legal system to file lawsuits that might curb free speech in a public forum about an issue of public interest. The judge found Silverstein’s motion fit the criteria.

In fact, two anti-SLAPP suits were filed (and won) against Neuwirth. This does not prevent Neuwirth from appealing, although the attorneys involved believe the merits of her case are minimal.

Summing it up:

“I feel like this is a victory for free speech on the Internet, and it’s also a victory for people who want to have the widest possible debate about issues in the Israeli-Arab conflict as well, here in the American Jewish community,” Silverstein, a Seattle-based blogger and one of two defendants Neuwirth sued for libel, told JTNews.

ADL: “a false veneer of moral authority”

American Jewish Life magazine, which seeks to be the “Jewish Rolling Stone”, printed Bradley Pilcher’s extraordinary take-down of Abe Foxman for turning the ADL away from the important work of fighting anti-Semitism and bigotry, and into a group that deploys Holocaust remembrance and Armenian genocide denial in its overarching quest to “support” Israel. In The Day the Holocaust Died, Pilcher writes that the well-documented fact of Armenian genocide

…hasn’t stopped Foxman – and other Jewish leaders – from acting like nothing ever happened. When he was asked in July if the Armenian slaughter was genocide, his answer was a short, “I don’t know.” The ADL has joined other Jewish groups, such as the American Jewish Committee, in opposing efforts at recognizing the Armenian genocide.

Stop for a moment and think about the reaction of the Jewish community to Holocaust deniers. Every time the Iranian president spouts off about the “myth” of the Holocaust, Jewish groups – the Anti-Defamation League at the front of the line – roundly condemns him. So why would an organization that fights so hard against those who would deny the Holocaust, become an adamant denier of another genocide? The answer is simple, if ugly. They didn’t want to offend Turkey, a major ally of Israel in the Middle East.

Pilcher, former editor of the Jewish book blog TribeWrite, is done with Holocaust remembrance and the immoral use of moral authority by Foxman et al.

This is why the Holocaust no longer matters to me, why I’d just as soon we forget about it, if this is what we’re going to do with it. By this, I mean put it in museums, memorialize it to the point of irrelevance, and use it as a platform for moral authoritarianism. By this, I mean use it as a cudgel to silence critics we don’t want to hear from, all the while ignoring the crimes of people who support us – or support Israel, which isn’t necessarily the same as supporting us. By this, I mean render the Holocaust from a disaster of human action and inaction to be learned from into some kind of memorial flame, too hot to touch and too fragile to light the way to a better tomorrow.

I’m not hopeless about this. Abe Foxman and his ilk can’t occupy the stage forever. At the very least, perhaps he could get laryngitis. But I’m not particularly hopeful either. We’ve made a civic religion, eagerly adopted by plenty of Jews who can’t be bothered to meander into a synagogue more than a couple times a year, out of Holocaust remembrance. We’ve replaced a wandering Diaspora of Torah scholars with an affluent American populace of Jews holding up the flame for the Holocaust without bothering to ask ourselves what moral imperatives that memory requires of us.

If we’re not going to ask those questions, and listen to the difficult answers, then we’re probably better off not remembering at all. After all, a false veneer of moral authority in the absence of moral action may be the most immoral thing of all.

Over at Jewschool, where he observes that he’s only gotten positive feedback for his piece, he asks:

Now, what does that [fighting bigotry] have to do with Israel? Seriously. I’m asking. Exactly what in the ADL’s mandate or organizational mission gives it a reason to speak up as a proponent of Israel?

New poll: Jewish neocons don’t represent Jews. Duh.

Glenn Greenwald has a great piece in Salon today about the American Jewish Committee’s newest poll on American Jewish attitudes towards the Middle East, domestic politics and more. Greenwald says the poll demonstrates that:

(1) right-wing neocons (the Bill Kristol/Commentary/ AIPAC/Marty Peretz faction) who relentlessly claim to speak for Israel and for Jews generally hold views that are shared only by a small minority of American Jews; (2) viewpoints that are routinely demonized as reflective of animus towards Israel or even anti-Semitism are ones that are held by large majorities of American Jews; and (3) most American Jews oppose U.S. military action in the Middle East — including both in Iraq and against Iran.

Further, most American Jews worry about the same things other Americans worry about:

Contrary to the bottomless obssession which most neocon pundits and office-holders have with All Matters Israel, the principal political concerns of most American Jews have nothing to do with the Middle East. Thus, they identify “economy/jobs” (22) and “health care” (19) — not Terrorism — as “the most important problem facing the U.S. today.”

And still, 69% of the Jews interviewed (exactly one half of the sample is affiliated with a synagogue) agreed with the statement: “Caring about Israel is a very important part of my being a Jew.” And why shouldn’t we? And what does that really mean? Caring about Israel can mean any number of things, donating money to Rabbis for Human Rights, helping rebuild homes with the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, wanting the country to cease its destructive and self-destructive actions.
Greenwald continues, saying the neocons’…

reckless exploitation of “anti-Israel” and anti-Semitism accusations as instruments in their political rhetoric and their corresponding, deceitful equation of their own views with being “pro-Israel” — often casts the appearance that they are some sort of spokespeople for the “pro-Israel” agenda or the Jewish viewpoint.

Israel’s Broadcasting Authority muzzles ad that supports peace negotiations

Why is it that just the mere mention of diplomatic negotiations (which is for the most part all we have right now) induces a profound panic among so many who say they care about Israelis or Palestinians? Really?
A new coalition of “politicians, billionaires and [Christian] evangelists“, which boasts support from people like Bibi Netanyahu, John Bolton and America congressman Eric Cantor, is fighting against what they call the threatened “division” of Jerusalem. (As MJ Rosenberg has written so eloquently, there is no plan to divide Jerusalem, and this fear-mongering language is being used by right-wingers to torpedo peace negotiations that might, G-d forbid, lead to Israel having to relinquish settlements and land.)

Hat tip to Eitan Isaacson for pointing out that Ha’aretz is reporting, in the Hebrew language edition only, that Kol Ysirael, Israel’s gov’t radio, is running an ad by this group that opposes “dividing” Jerusalem, but is refusing to run an ad by the Geneva Initiative folks calling for peace negotiations.

Thanks to Eitan and Sydney Levy for this rough translation of the original.


The given reason for rejecting the ad by the Geneva Initiative: “It is
politically controversial”; The Geneva Initiative demands to either
broadcast their ad, or to disqualify the “One Jerusalem” ad.

By Assaf Karmel

Kol Yisrael, Israel Broadcasting Authority’s radio network, rejected a
radio ad from the Geneva Initiative with the claim that it is
politically controversial. Nonetheless, Kol Yisrael is currently
broadcasting an ad of the “One Jerusalem” fund that opposes the
splitting of the city.

The “One Jerusalem” ad goes as follows: “Every nation has a capitol that
is exclusively theirs. The French have Paris, the English have London,
and we have a unified and liberated Jerusalem. Above all places -
Jerusalem, above all disagreements – Jerusalem, above all generations -
Jerusalem. This is the time to visit and to swear allegiance to
Jerusalem, this is the time to tie a knot with a golden ribbon and to
identify with Jerusalem”.

In light of this ad the Geneva Initiative decided to prepare an ad with
a similar format: “Every nation has a capitol that is exclusively
theirs. The French have Paris, the English have London, the Palestinians
have East Jerusalem, and we have Jerusalem that is more Jewish and
larger than ever. Above all places – Jerusalem, above all disagreements
- Jerusalem, above all generations – Jerusalem. This is the time to
bring peace to Jerusalem and to agree with our neighbors on a solution
for Jerusalem”.

Continue reading

Back in Israel, adopting American-style blacklisting

First, a follow-up on our post about the George Washington University instructor “on loan from Hebrew University” and sponsored by Mitchell Bard’s American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, who quit in a huff mid-semester after students–Jewish students actually– complained that she was too “pro-Israel” in her course on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

One of our favorite blogs, The Magnes Zionist, written by an Israeli-American orthodox Jewish studies professor, looked into the case of the instructor Hannah Diskin a little more carefully and discovered that things are not as they seem. (TMZ has a thought-provoking response to the charges that it is unfair to Single Israel out for Moral Opprobrium.) (Editor’s note: I just saw that Tikun Olam also has very interesting original research on the story.)

Now, Lily Galili has penned “A McCarthyite attempt to brand academics” in Ha’aretz, about a new paper, “Our Inner Scourge: The Catastrophe of Israel Academics,” which was written by the “radical right-wing” Ariel Center for Policy Research in cooperation with Israel-Academic Monitor, a group that uses yellow journalism hysteria to write about the infiltration of leftists in Israeli academia and publishes peace petitions signed by academics as a kind of black-listing service. As Galili says:

The catastrophe [in the paper] lies neither in the financial situation of Israeli academia nor in its standards, nor even in the low wages professors receive. It lies in its leftism. A list of people suspected of being leftists or activists appears at the end of the paper.

Like blacklists from other times and regimes, a kind of warning arises from the list, organized according to the universities and academic institutions with which the enemies of the people are affiliated. Among them are leading Israeli intellectuals and Israel Prize laureates.

Actually, judging by the abstract (you have to pay $10 to get the actual paper), the approach would truly do McCarthy proud, who famously waved around a piece of paper on which he claimed was a list of names of 200 card-carrying Communists who had infiltrated the US State Department. (His charges were never substantiated.) According to the authors of this paper, the infiltration of Israeli academia is even worse:

It is estimated that some 20 to 25% of people who teach the Humanities and Social Sciences in Israel’s universities and colleges have expressed extreme anti-Zionist positions, largely, though not exclusively, in regard to Israel’s policies and actions vis-ŕ-vis the Arab Palestinians. In addition to their expression of anti-Zionist, and often outright anti-Semitic attitudes, they have engaged in public demonstrations, prepared and signed petitions addressed to soldiers in the IDF to disobey their commanders’ orders and not serve in Judea and Samaria, and have been active in encouraging academic organizations abroad (particularly in England) to boycott Israel universities and academics. These academic personnel travel abroad and consistently denounce Israel for a series of crimes against Arabs that are as fictitious as are the claims made by the Arabs themselves.

The abstract also states, in case there is any question about how much it owes to McCarthyite thinking:

Not a few of the anti-Zionist academics were lifetime communists and adhere to a Marxist ideology that opposes separate nationalism beyond the international brotherhood of the proletariat. To dismantle Israel is a first step in this direction, despite the fact that other nations oddly enough refuse to follow suit.

Lily Galili finds this all absurd in light of the state of Israeli academia:

Contrary to the name of a small left-wing group, “The Campus Is Not Silent,” the campus is indeed silent. Israeli academia as a body has never taken a position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or even on issues with which it is directly connected; for example, when Israel closed the universities in the West Bank for a long period, or on the issue of the checkpoints that prevent students and lecturers from reaching their academic institutions. Now comes the Ariel Center, and every non-opinionated member of Israeli academia becomes Che Guevara without trying.

Sacramento Jewish Federation newspaper on the defensive for barring Jewish author

Apparently, it’s now OK for Jewish institutions to ban other Jews.

As we reported earlier, the editors of Sacramento’s Jewish newspaper, the now ironically named The Jewish Voice, a project of the Sacramento Jewish Federation, refused to run a simple book reading notice for Dr. Alice Rothchild’s book  “Broken Promises, Broken Dreams: Stories of Jewish and Palestinian Trauma and Resilience,” on the grounds that it would not support their mission to “enrich those of the Jewish community who support and identify with Israel.”
Dr. Alice Rothchild Book cover

Unhappy supporters of the Federation apparently hit them with a number of complaint letters. So many that the editors felt it necessary to write a defensive, if not entirely meaningless response on the front page of the latest edition. Of course, supporters are invited to ask them: have you read the book? Do you know anything about Dr. Alice Rothchild? On what grounds do you base your assertions?

The folks at Jewish Currents actually read the book and found a nuanced, compassionate portrait of Israeli and Palestinian heroes (download the pdf review here). Few can say they are more engaged in working towards a peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians than Alice Rothchild.

While it’s true that the Jewish Voice has the right to accept or reject press releases, their line of reasoning here is almost beyond comprehension, and further evidence again of why so many groups that insist they are pro-Israel are actually profoundly destructive, helping to make sure there is never a lasting peace in the region.
Here’s the defense from the front page of The Jewish Voice:

Sacramento federation

Here’s the original email:

————– Forwarded Message: ————–
From: “Elissa Provance”
Subject: RE: Press Release for Nov and Dec Jewish Voice
Date: Tue, 9 Oct :14:56 +0000

Sarah and Ellen, while our organizations support the same goal of peace in the Middle East, The Jewish Voice is a community newspaper that is owned and operated by the Jewish Federation of the Sacramento Region whose mission is, in part, to enrich those of the Jewish commnity who support and identify with Israel. We do not believe the event below supports this mission.


Elissa Provance
Editor, The Jewish Voice
Jewish Federation of the Sacramento Region
2351 Wyda Way
Sacramento, CA 95825

GWU instructor backed by propaganda organization quits because too “pro-Israeli?”

Here’s an excellent (if not also unintentionally humorous) article about a university instructor coming under fire– and quitting– because students found her overwhelmingly Israel-centric in her teaching of a course about the Arab-Israeli conflict. In what we are to believe is pure coincidence, one of the two texts she used is a relentlessly anti-Palestinian propaganda text, by-lined by the head of the organization which provided funding for her position.

Eric Fingerhut of Washington Jewish Week writes:

For years, some pro-Israel activists have been troubled by university
professors who demonstrated bias against Israel in the classroom. But
last week was apparently a first: A George Washington University
instructor resigned after being accused of teaching a class that was
biased in favor of Israel.

Hanna Diskin told the students in her “Arab-Israeli Conflict” class on
Tuesday of last week that she would not be teaching the class for the
remainder of the semester – and would be leaving the D.C. university -
because she was upset that students in the class had complained about
her teaching to the head of the political science department.

Diskin was on loan from Hebrew University. Her position was funded by the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE), run by well known propagandist Mitchell Bard, which is paying to bring 26 professors and 6 post-docs to university campuses this year to teach about Israeli politics. Diskin was apparently unaware of the basic demands of students for a semblance of balance:

[Senior Greg]Berlin and a classmate, senior Elizabeth Kamens, both said that the
problem with Diskin’s teaching was that she focused only on Israel in a
course that was supposed to deal with the entire Arab-Israeli conflict.

“We would never cover the other side,” said Kamens, who is Jewish.

“It became more of an Israeli politics class,” said Berlin, noting that
while understanding Zionism is important to studying the Arab-Israeli
conflict, he wondered why they were they spending half of the semester
learning about it.

Berlin said that he and a number of other students had expressed their
“dissent” to Diskin in class about the way she was handling the course,
but became frustrated when they would ask for an Arab perspective on an
issue and Diskin would change the subject or talk over them. For
example, after Diskin cited the number of Israelis who died in a
particular military conflict, Berlin said, students asked for the number
of fatalities on the Palestinian side. Diskin, according to Berlin,
replied that only the Israeli figures were reliable, because only Israel
was a democracy.

“I’m Jewish myself, but I feel there’s a line between objectivity and
teaching with a bias,” said Berlin, who said he was one of a number of
students who expressed their concerns to leaders of the political
science department.

The two texts for the class? A History of Israel by GWU professor emeritus Howard Sachar, which one would expect to find in such a class, and “Myths & Facts,” a rather stunningly blatant piece of propaganda which started as an AIPAC publication and was later edited by former AIPAC staffer and AICE head Mitchell Bard. (But don’t trust us – read it for yourself.)

M.J. Rosenberg, who edited Myths & Facts when he worked at AIPAC in the
1980s, was surprised to hear it was being used in a college class.

“It’s not a textbook,” said Rosenberg, now the policy director at the
Israel Policy Forum. “It’s counter-propaganda” that is “not designed to
show both sides,” but to provide all the facts that support the
pro-Israel side.

Rosenberg said it was “hard to believe” the book would be used in any
college class other than one studying propaganda.

Bard defended the accuracy of his book. So did Daniel Pipes.

Palestinian Dance Troupe Cancelled in Connecticut

Most of the time, we all realize that art and politics are inseparable. But on contentious issues, which obviously includes the Israel-Palestine conflict, somehow art is expected to be sanitized.

One has to ask how, exactly, Palestinians are supposed to express themselves and yet keep the occupation out of it. No one who had been to a Palestinian town, much less a refugee camp, would believe such a thing was possible, regardless of their views of the larger political questions. The occupation permeates every aspect of Palestinian life.

Yet this is, apparently, what is expected of the Al-Ghad Folklore Dancing Troupe of Beit Sahour, a suburb of Bethlehem. The troupe’s performance at a high school in Old Saybrook, Connecticut was cancelled this week after an angry grandparent complained about an earlier appearance. Apparently one of the group’s dances included a depiction of the ill treatment Palestinians receive from Israeli soldiers.

This is the experience of Palestinians, and asking them to exclude it from their art is no different from asking African-Americans to exclude their experiences with racism or women their experiences with sexism. This is the substance of Palestinian lives under occupation. Its appearance in an artistic forum is not a political statement, it is a statement of the facts of their lives. Continue reading

United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York withdraws support from filmm festival about Israel’s Arab citizens

Ha’aretz gives us one more reason to shop at the famous New York market, Zabar’s:

The United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York has withdrawn its support from a Manhattan film festival showcasing Israel’s Arab citizens. The Other Israel Film Festival, which opened yesterday, features movies and panel discussions that focus on the Arab-Israeli experience outside the context of political conflict.

The UJA-Federation publicly denies the cancellation was in any way political, but Ha’aretz reports:

Sources, however, cite outside pressures from right-wing elements in the Jewish community and from potential donors who objected to an Israeli festival that was about the country’s Arab citizens only.Projects to be featured at the festival include “Arab Labor,” a new television satire series written by Haaretz columnist Sayed Kashua, as well as well-known films such as “Syrian Bride” and “Trumpet in the Wadi,” the feature based on the novel by Sami Michael.The festival “is not about the conflict,” said Zabar, the founder of the festival, whose eponymous specialty supermarket is a New York City landmark. “It is not about taking sides; this festival is about people.”