Monthly Archives: August 2007

Ha’aretz’s Danny Rubinstein in hot water: says Israel is “apartheid state” at UN conference

Dinah Spritzer at the the Jewish Telegraphic Association just reported:

The British Zionist Federation canceled an appearance by Ha’aretz columnist Danny Rubinstein the day after he called Israel an “apartheid state” at a United Nations conference on Palestinians.

Rubinstein, the Israeli newspaper’s Arab affairs editor and a member of its editorial board, told an audience of some 350 people that “today Israel is an apartheid state with different status for different communities,” according to sources at the event, held at the European Parliament in . He went on to say that Palestinians living in Gaza, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Israel each had “a different status, according to a summary of his speech by a United Nations web site.

Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Schwammenthal told JTA he was so shocked by what he heard that he later confirmed the comment with Rubinstein. “I asked him if he really thought Israel was in a state of apartheid and he answered ‘yes,’” Schwammenthal said.

Rubinstein also said “Hamas won the election of the international community and Israel cannot ignore that” and argued that the security fence Israel was building could not be justified, sources said.

The British Zionist Federation issued a statement Friday saying that it had read about Rubinstein’s quotes in a JTA news report Thursday and verified them with him the next day. According to the Zionist federation, the result was a “mutual decision” to cancel Rubinstein’s event.

“Criticism of Israeli policy is acceptable,” the Zionist federation’s chairman, Andrew Balcombe, said in a prepared statement. “However, by using the word ‘apartheid’ in a U.N. conference held at the European Parliament, Danny Rubinstein encourages the demonisation of Israel and the Jewish people. I believe he was naïve to attend the UN conference. Indeed his own newspaper Ha’aretz had earlier reported that Israeli and EU lawmakers had attacked the UN meeting for having a completely one-sided, anti-Israeli agenda.”

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Norman Finkelstein: “I fully expect to be arrested,” Sept 5

After losing tenure because of an unprecedented campaign of outside interference waged by Alan Dershowitz, who has no academic background in in Middle East or Israeli history or politics , DePaul University has decided to unilaterally cancel Holocaust Industry author Norman Finkelstein’s classes and shut down his office. This despite overwhelming approval of his scholarship by his peers at the school, and a remaining one-year contract.

When classes start on September 5, Finkelstein promises

“As usual I will show up for class on the first day and go to my office. I fully expect to be arrested.”

Fox News reports:

Meanwhile, a faculty advocacy group sent the university a letter demanding the administration reinstate Finkelstein or hold a hearing with an elected faculty body to show cause for the suspension.

“There ought to be a hearing before any such action is taken,” said Robert Kreiser, senior program officer for the American Association of University Professors.

Administrative leave with pay isn’t justification for removing Finkelstein from teaching, Kreiser said.

“They have the burden of demonstrating that there was good reason to suspend him,” Kreiser said.

For a man who is a son of Holocaust survivors and who has been targeted by critics because hebelieves that some Jews have exploited the Holocaust,” Finkelstein must have felt some tragic sense of validation while watching demonstrations in Israel earlier this month by Holocaust survivors and their familes. There are 250,000 survivors still living, but it turns out barely, in Israel. A government report said about a third live in poverty. Thousands took to the streets when the state offered to help out with insulting $20.00 monthly payments, prompting Israeli historian Tom Segev to say, it could be that Germany treated the survivors better than the State of Israel did.”

So who got all those reparation payments? It wasn’t the Holocaust survivors of Israel.

Islamic rights group CAIR says “ADL Seeks to Hinder Legal Rights of U.S. Muslims”

It’s clear why the folks at CAIR, the country’s largest Islamic civil rights group, finally decided they’ve had enough. It’s impossible to argue with their recent press statement accusing

the Anti-Defamation League (ADL of seeking to hinder the due process rights of American Muslims by using “smears and exclusionary tactics” that exploit growing Islamophobia in American society.

CAIR went on:

… those smears appeared in a recent ADL news release targeting members of a coalition defending the legal rights of officials of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) Muslim charity currently on trial in Texas. In its release, the ADL falsely claimed that members of the coalition have been “tainted by their own murky associations with radical organizations and individuals.”

(As the Los Angeles Times just reported, an Israeli intelligence officer testified that “none of the overseas charities [The Holy Land Foundation] supported has appeared among hundreds of names on U.S. government terrorist lists.” This severely weakened the government’s case against the Holy Land Foundation).

Much of Abe Foxman’s press release features unsubstantiated innuendo more worthy of a tabloid than a civil rights organization (which, again, is a terrible waste, because it makes it impossible to separate the valuable things the ADL says about genuine hate groups from this sort of blatant propaganda).

Foxman said

“These groups are tainted by their own murky associations with radical organizations and individuals and, in some cases, expressions of solidarity with terrorist groups targeting Israelis.”

Foxman offers little evidence for his accusations. But in the current climate, simply accusing a person or group of sanctioning terrorism has the same effect that tossing around accusations of communism did fifty years ago.

The ADL backgrounder on CAIR on which the press release is based is even worse.

Filled with chains of associated people and controversial issues on which CAIR takes “the wrong side,” the list is long and, in fairness, certainly does show that CAIR, reflecting much of the Muslim community, is deeply critical of Israel and its practices. This will fill many with a feeling that, yes, CAIR does condone terrorism or does not object to targeting Israeli civilians, despite the clear stances by CAIR opposing such things. At no point, however, does the ADL backgrounder offer a shred of evidence to support the accusation that CAIR is anti-Semitic, that CAIR supports terrorism, or even that CAIR questions Israel’s right to exist.

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Another NY rabbi calls campaign against Arab school principal Debbie Almontaser “the lowest of McCarthyite tactics.”

In more on the story of the Arab school principal Debbie Almontaser who was driven from her job, the Associated Press reported:

U.S. Rabbi Michael Feinberg defended a planned Arab school in New York on Monday, despite charges by a state legislator that the school could teach anti-Israeli extremism.

Addressing a rally in front of the New York Department of Education, Rabbi Feinberg called on elected officials to come forward in support of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, which is scheduled to open on September 4.

Rabbi Feinberg called the virulent Internet campaign against the school “the lowest of McCarthyite tactics.”

30 U.S. members of Congress want Europeans to say NO to UN committee for Palestinian issues

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports today: 

More than 30 U.S. members of Congress signed on to a letter urging the European Parliament to end its cooperation with a U.N. committee for Palestinian issues.

Israel has protested the European Parliament’s plans to a host a forum at the end of the month to be led by the U.N. Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

“It is our hope that the European Parliament will continue to serve as a proponent of open and fair dialogue that will benefit both Palestinians and Israelis,” says the letter initiated by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and signed by 32 Republicans and Democrats, including Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the majority leader, and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the deputy minority whip. “To this end, we urge you to end any cooperation with this openly biased Committee and to continue to work with Members of Congress to create the conditions conducive to peace and stability in the Middle East.”

The forum is ostensibly aimed at promoting Israeli Palestinian peace, but the rights committee is one of several at the United Nations that Israel sees as intractably biased. “The European Parliament is giving legitimacy to a group that has a nihilistic agenda,” Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev told JTA.

In the past, some U.S. Congress members have threatened to pull some U.S. funds from the United Nations until the pro-Palestinian committees are dissolved.

ADL’s Abe Foxman reverses position on genocide, sort of

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports:

In a dramatic reversal, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director issued a statement Tuesday using the term “genocide” to describe the massacres perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians.

The ADL and its national director, Abraham Foxman, have faced mounting criticism in recent weeks for refusing to use the genocide label and essentially opposing a proposed congressional resolution that would do so. The controversy heated up last week when Foxman fired the director of the ADL’s New England region for denouncing the organization’s position in an interview with the Boston Globe.

“In light of the heated controversy that has surrounded the Turkish-Armenian issue in recent weeks, and because of our concern for the unity of the Jewish community at a time of increased threats against the Jewish people, ADL has decided to revisit the tragedy that befell the Armenians,” Foxman said in his statement.

“We have never negated but have always described the painful events of 1915-1918 perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians as massacres and atrocities,” Foxman said. “On reflection, we have come to share the view of Henry Morgenthau, Sr. that the consequences of those actions were indeed tantamount to genocide. If the word genocide had existed then, they would have called it genocide.”

Foxman said that he had consulted with “friend and mentor Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel and other respected historians who acknowledge this consensus.”

Criticism reached a high point when it became public that the ADL and 3 other Jewish groups were lobbying against Congressional recognition of the Armenian genocide. The ADL’s position on the resolution appears to not have substantively changed.

The JTA went on:

The ADL leader said the organization still believes “that a Congressional resolution on such matters is a counterproductive diversion and will not foster reconciliation between Turks and Armenians and may put at risk the Turkish Jewish community and the important multilateral relationship between Turkey, Israel and the United States.”

While the Armenian community of Watertown in particular should be acknowledged for their tremendous and often painful work on this issue, it should be remembered that Foxman likely changed his position because it caused so much outrage in the Jewish community, and among ADL members and supporters, who understood full well that refusing to use the genocide word was simply unconscionable.

“High-tech lynching” What rabbi calls campaign against Muslim principal

We reported earlier on the successful campaign to drive out Muslim educator Debbie Almontaser from her position as principal of a public funded, secular, Arab culture school in NY.

Despite the fact that Almontaser had three rabbis, three imams and three Christian ministers on her advisory board, a group of activists wanted to see the school and what they charge is its “Islamist” agenda shut down before it even opened.

The campaign finally found success when Almontaser didn’t appropriately condemn t-shirts made by a group with whom an organization she works with shares an office. The t-shirts had the word ‘intifada’ on them.

And no, it was not a headline from The Onion when the papers announced a non Arabic-speaking Orthodox Jewish woman had been hired to replace Almontaser as interim principal. In fact, the critics of the school hate the new principal too (eegad, she’s a feminist!) Turns out she’s way too involved and sympathetic to Almontaser, who has long been a respected member of the interfaith community.

Actually, a lot of members of the organized Jewish community are pissed at the blatantly Muslim-hating Daniel Pipes crowd. Active defenders of Almontaser in NY include members of the ADL, the Jewish Community Relations Council and the United Jewish Appeal- Federation.

In this must-read article by Larry Cohler-Esses of New York’s Jewish Week, Rabbi Paley of the United Jewish Appeal – Federation, articulates quite beautifully what is so profoundly dangerous about the small but vocal, and yes effective, Islamophobic element of the Jewish community.

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Will the ADL self-destruct over Armenian genocide-denial? Chapter in open rebellion, director fired.

It must be understood that the Anti-Defamation League’s refusal to recognize Armenian genocide (in fact, they have actively lobbied against Congressional recognition) is not an aberration.

It is symptomatic of a dangerous mission creep that has betrayed the ADL’s important legacy. In the 1960s the ADL fought for the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. But their mission changed from fighting bigotry to including the defense of Israel, right or wrong. When one of those objectives comes into conflict with the other, protecting Israel trumps all, which, as the discerning citizens of Watertown have pointed out, would seem to undermine the ADL’s credibility as an organization dedicated to tolerance and justice for all.

(The ADL’s sordid history of spying on civil rights activists, and the release of clearly ideological enemies lists, are just a few examples of why so many people find their work suspect, which, as we’ve said, is too bad, given the important work they also do, like honorably defending “Arab-themed” public school principal Debbie Almontaser, who is Muslim, “against months of attacks from school opponents.”)

After enduring an extraordinary meeting in which resident after resident of Watertown got up and demolished the ADL’s embarrassing excuses for refusing to use the genocide word, and after almost getting kicked out of the room for yelling during the testimony of the Massachusetts American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) president Merrie Najimy, Andrew Tarsy, director of the New England ADL, changed his position.

Yesterday it was reported that the New England chapter of the ADL voted to ask national to reverse its policy on Armenian genocide.

Also, Andrew H. Tarsy, the ADL’s New England regional director who had defended the ADL’s position as recently as Tuesday, reversed course, saying the ADL should acknowledge the genocide.

“I strongly disagree with ADL’s national position,” Tarsy said in an interview with the Globe, declining to explain his change of stance. “It’s my strong hope that we’ll be able to move forward in a relationship with the Armenian community and the community in general.”

This morning, the Boston Globe reports that Tarsy was promptly fired by Abe Foxman. Local ADL leaders are furious: Continue reading

Captivating video:Watertown says “No” to Anti-Defamation League for genocide denial

Muzzlewatch was one of the first outlets that covered the shameful story about the four major Jewish organizationsAnti-Defamation League (ADL), B’Nai Brith, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC)– that are working to oppose Congressional recognition of the Armenian genocide. As my colleague Mitchell Plitnick wrote:

Israel does not recognize the Armenian genocide and this has occasionally caused controversy in Israeli society. Again, few Israelis would deny the genocide, but Turkey is one of Israel’s few allies, and a Muslim country at that, so they are not willing to rock the boat.

Boston Globe wrote yesterday:

Under pressure from its Armenian residents, the Town Council in Watertown voted last night to rescind its participation in the No Place for Hate program.

The council’s 8-to-0 vote (one councilor was absent) was a response to objections by Armenian Americans who say the Anti-Defamation League, one of the program’s sponsors, refuses to acknowledge what many consider a genocide committed against Armenians by the Turks from 1915 to 1917.
“We cannot join with the ADL when they refuse to acknowledge the [Armenian] genocide,” said Councilor Marilyn Petitto Devaney, who introduced the proclamation to withdraw from the program.

Watertown, MA has one of the largest Armenian populations in the country. And they, like many cities, decided to endorse the ADL’s laudable No Place for Hate program. David Boyajian deserves credit for first informing the town about the ADL’s inexcusable track record on Armenian genocide. No Place for Genocide Denial is a citizens group that offers the most comprehensive source for articles, petitions and information related to the issue.

Watch video of the town meeting here. It’s an incredible document showing how fresh the wounds of the genocide are… and how painful it is when others, especially those who regularly remind the world of their history of profound suffering, actively try to deny others that same recognition.

This is a bittersweet victory. The Anti-Defamation League does a lot of tremendous and important work. But over time, their commitment to promoting Israel right or wrong has trumped their original mission to fight bigotry. They have used the charge of anti-Semitism as effectively as anyone to silence criticism of Israel, as we have frequently covered here. Protecting Israeli human rights violations, and now working actively to deny Armenians the right of full recognition of their profound loss and genocide, brings shame on us all.

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Campaign to deny Nadia Abu El-Haj tenure at Barnard: Is tenure process no longer the domain of academic peers?

The irony, of course, is that the concept of tenure was created precisely so academics could work without the threat of external political pressure. Now, thanks in large part to politically motivated right-wing blogs and campus watchdog groups, tenure battles are starting to become the front line in the battle over Israel politics and US foreign policy.

Emboldened, no doubt, by Alan Dershowitz’s successful campaign to deny Norman Finkelstein tenure at DePaul, (and other campaigns, as Richard Silverstein at Tikun Olam points out, against  Rashid Khalidi, Juan Cole,  Khalil Shikaki and Natana DeLong-Bas) some Israel advocacy organizations and a group of Barnard and Columbia alumni are trying hard to prevent the tenure of Palestinian American academic Nadia Abu El-Haj.

Some are threatening to withhold funds, others are signing petitions, others have met with university staff. As far as we can tell, the campaign is not being led by archaeologists or academic peers, who apparently gave El-Haj high marks (It is believed that Barnard has recommended her for tenure, but Columbia must approve their recommendation), but rather, people with a clear political orientation: to defend Israel right or wrong.
The campaign against El-Haj started because:

Nadia Abu El-Haj, an assistant professor of anthropology at Barnard, is the author of “Facts on the Ground,” a 2001 book that questions archaeological claims regarding the ancient Jewish presence in Israel and argues that Israeli archaeologists legitimize the Jewish state’s “origin myth.”

(This is interesting. As an undergrad, in my class on Jewish historiography with arguably the country’s best-known Jewish scholar, Jacob Neusner, we learned how Jewish historiography served as a secular replacement for Judaism as a mechanism for preserving the narrative of Jews as the chosen people. I wrote an entire paper on it and got an A. The basic concept seems to me to be hardly different from El-Haj’s critique of Israeli archeologists. At the time, however, I don’t recall an outcry about Neusner because of his thesis.)

For a substantive, line by line vetting of the distortions in the petition that opponents of El-Haj have posted, read Tikun Olam’s excellent analysis. Silverstein also talks about archeologists Neil Asher Silberman and Israel Finkelstein, who, like El-Haj, “also take on the Israeli archaeological establishment and its sacred cow notion of a glorious united Davidic kingdom.” Their work certainly has created a stir, but is well within the tradition of Neusner and other scholars who, like good academics, seek to look beyond myth-making.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports:

August 15, 2007

Alumni Group Seeks to Deny Tenure to Middle Eastern Scholar at Barnard College

Controversial research on Israel and the Palestinian territories has become the basis of yet another campaign to prevent a professor from winning tenure. A group of Barnard College alumni has drafted an online petition asking their alma mater to deny tenure to Nadia Abu El-Haj, an assistant professor of anthropology whose scholarship, they say, is flawed and skewed against Israel.

The group’s criticisms of Ms. El-Haj focus on her book Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society (University of Chicago Press, 2001), which argues that Israeli archaeologists have produced biased research that bolsters the “origin myth” of the Jewish state.

The petition, which has drawn just over 1,000 signatures, accuses Ms. El-Haj of ignoring or mischaracterizing large parts of the archaeological record, of not being able to speak Hebrew, and of treating Israeli archaeologists unfairly in her work. Ms. El-Haj was unavailable for comment today.

The petition comes on the heels of a high-profile campaign — led by Alan M. Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor — to persuade DePaul University to deny tenure to Norman G. Finkelstein, a professor known for his criticisms of Israel and what he calls the “Holocaust Industry.” Mr. Finkelstein was denied tenure. —John Gravois

Ben Harris over at the JTA writes:

Neither Barnard nor Columbia would reveal any details about the status of Abu El-Haj’s tenure application, though Barnard has confirmed that the tenure process is under way. Abu El-Haj and Barnard President Judith Shapiro denied requests for comment.

The wall of silence has fueled speculation that Shapiro, herself a professor of anthropology, has secretly endorsed the tenure application. If correct, final approval would rest with a committee appointed by Columbia Provost Alan Brinkley, sources familiar with the university said. Brinkley’s office also declined requests for comment.

The controversy over El-Haj threatens to raise questions anew about the integrity of Columbia’s scholarship on the Middle East, which first came under fire in 2004 with the release of a documentary film alleging university professors intimidated and embarrassed pro-Israel students who challenged them in class. A committee of inquiry subsequently found only one example of improper behavior, leading critics to call the report a whitewash.

Since then, pro-Israel groups have become ever more vigilant in monitoring university campuses. Meanwhile, Columbia’s president, Lee Bollinger, has labored to improve the school’s tarnished image, most recently by becoming the lead signatory to a statement published in the New York Times opposing an academic boycott of Israel.

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