Monthly Archives: December 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: http://tinyurl.com/ynmecl

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.

KOL YISRAEL AUTHORIZES A RADIO AD OPPOSING THE DIVISION OF JERUSALEM,
BUT REJECTED AN AD THAT CALLS FOR NEGOTIATIONS

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.