Monthly Archives: March 2008

ZOA says Harvard Hillel encouraging “anti-Semitic hatred” with IDF exhibit, Hillel fights back

We reported earlier on the Breaking the Silence tour featuring the powerful voices of Israeli veterans talking about the price both they and Palestinians pay for the occupation. Last year, the Zionist Organization of America tried (unsuccessfully) to expel the Union of Progressive Zionists from the an Israel on Campus Coalition for sponsoring the Breaking the Silence tour.

This year, the tour is back but with more institutional Jewish co-sponsors than ever. The ZOA, known for their old-school take-no-prisoners tactics, tried another approach, since they found little support for their expulsion campaign last year. They issued a press statement titled “Dershowitz and Sharansky: Israel Has Best Human Rights Record,” demanding the immediate cancellation of the exhibit and all future showings in Hillels:

This exhibit at the Harvard Hillel not only doesn’t present all the facts, but promotes an anti-Israel lie. It focuses on isolated events and aberrations. Those who see the exhibit will not be in any position to discuss the Middle East conflict knowledgeably and intelligently. Instead, they will be left with one biased and false conclusion: that Israelis and Israeli soldiers regularly and deliberately commit human rights violations against Palestinian Arabs, and that Israel is a brutal and callous oppressor. Those who know the context and history of the conflict in the Middle East know that nothing could be further from the truth.

Pulling no punches, ZOA goes on:

“The Harvard Hillel is sponsoring an exhibit that encourages anti-Semitic hate and bigotry, and giving it credibility and legitimacy that it doesn’t deserve. The exhibit will not build Jewish identity and love for Israel. Jewish students may even feel threatened personally and distance themselves from their identity as Jews. Some may even feel an unwarranted sense of shame about Israel and the brave soldiers who are committed to defending it, while doing all they can to protect Palestinian civilians under extremely difficult circumstances.

The director of the Harvard Hillel, himself an IDF veteran, fought back in an open letter defending their decision to sponsor the exhibit. It’s interesting to note that the idea to mount the exhibit inside of Hillel and at certain times, instead of in a more prominent location on campus, was originated by the Harvard Students for Israel group which had grave concerns about the Progressive Jewish Alliance’s decision to bring the exhibit to campus. The Hillel steering committee decided that campus controversy could be better controlled or avoided if the exhibit were brought inside the Hillel, complete with lengthy statements critical of the exhibit by other IDF veterans.

Nonetheless, this is what we call progress. The letter is important because it sets out an alternative approach, not surprisingly being led by younger Jews, that allows for difference, discussion, and critical questioning: all things the ZOA and their ilk believe are a danger to Israel, and Jews.

An Open Letter to Mr. Morton Klein, National President, Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) From: Dr. Bernie Steinberg, President and Director, Harvard Hillel

Dear Mr. Klein:

We have never met, yet I can infer from your public statements that we share much in common. Like you, we – Harvard Hillel and I, personally – are passionately committed to the security, well-being, and flourishing of Israel as a Jewish state. Indeed, the centrality of Israel is a pillar of our mission statement. And Harvard Hillel acts on that ideal consistently and with energy: In the past year alone, we have conducted more than 60 programs on Israel; this winter break, we sent 40 students to Israel, including our specially-designed Netivot Fellowship—known as a premier Israel program for its intellectual depth and breadth, and for its power to transform lives. Your own campus intern discovered his love for, and commitment to, Israel as a Netivot Fellow. Ask him. Personally, my wife and I lived in Israel for over thirteen years. Our children were born there. I served in the IDF. Family and close friends live there still. Like you, I have devoted my personal and professional life to building bridges between the Jews of Israel and the Jews of the Diaspora.

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Eric Alterman on Obama’s Jewish problem

In (Some) Jews Against Obama, the Nation’s Eric Alterman has the most in-depth roundup I’ve seen yet of charges leveled against Obama by various American Likudnik Jewish leaders including Mort Klein of the the Zionist Organization of America, Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and a counsel at the American Jewish Committee.

During the past few months a small group of neoconservative Jews, many of whom hold key positions in the world of official Jewish institutions, have been working to undermine the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama with a series of carefully planted character assassinations and deliberately misleading innuendo.

Alterman quotes Matthew Yglesias:

“First Obama was an anti-Semite because Zbigniew Brzezinski is an anti-Semite. Then Obama was an anti-semite because Robert Malley is an anti-semite. And now according to [Commentary's Noah] Pollack [sic] it’s Samantha Power who’s tainted by Jew-hatred.”

As usual, attempts at painting Obama as anti-Israel have had almost no traction with the majority of American Jews, whose liberal views comport with Obama’s with quite nicely.
What exactly are they so scared of? Alterman writes:

Perhaps it is honesty about the issue. Speaking to a largely Jewish audience in Cleveland, Obama explained, “There is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel, you’re anti-Israel and that can’t be the measure of our friendship with Israel.” Then came his kicker: “One of the things that struck me when I went to Israel was how much more open the debate was around these issues in Israel than they are sometimes here in the United States.” No wonder he scares them so…

“The state of Jew-hatred” indeed.

It is simply stunning to consider the level of pathological denial required to bemoan “a mushrooming of Judeophobia” while completely ignoring the possibility that maybe, just maybe, a genuinely disturbing rise in anti-Jewish sentiment might have something to do with the Israeli government’s habit of dropping bombs on the heads of Palestinians, appropriating land it has no legal right to, demolishing thousands of homes it does not own, and seemingly doing its best to systematically destroy an entire culture, all in the name of a Jewish state.

But here it is in the now right-wing, but not always, Jerusalem Post which features Isi Leibler’s lament about the rise of the self-hating Jew. Yes, his central point is that those of us who are Jewish and who do make this link in ever-growing numbers: who see clearly how the bombing of already malnourished children, the elderly, mothers, and fathers in Gaza this week both violates everything worth caring about in Judaism, and fuels already existing anti-Semitism around the world. (Far from defending or making life better for the people of Sderot, who have suffered mightily under Qassam rocket fire from Gaza, these bombings of civilians in Gaza make clear the government’s disregard for the people of this working-class Israeli town, who don’t even have enough bomb shelters to protect their own.)

If Judaism were a brand, the weakest link right now is Israel.

We must, of course, be insane for stating the obvious. Leibler says

…under the guise of promoting human rights, [self-hating Jews] are publicly supporting the most rabid enemies of Israel. Some even have the hutzpa to claim that Jewish moral values impel them to promote the delegitimization of the Jewish state and defend murderers and suicide bombers who target civilians.

Typical of a certain kind of navel-gazing victimization pathology, Ibler, who apparently has never picked up a US newspaper, suggests

The reality is that far from being shielded from criticism, the Israel government undergoes more disapproval and criticism from its own people and Jews generally, than any other regime.

Unable to look in his own backyard, Ibler takes it out on, who else, Muslims.

Today, under the influence of Wahhabi teachings from Saudi Arabia, it cannot be denied that the dominant Islamic bodies, as well as many secular Arabs, if not actively endorsing violence, at best tend to remain silent.

Hmmm “…if not actively endorsing violence, at best tend to remain silent.” Why does that sound familiar?