Monthly Archives: April 2008

Congressional lawmakers go after Jimmy Carter

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports:

Two Republican congressmen introduced legislation that would deny the Carter Center federal dollars.

Two Republican congressmen introduced legislation that would deny the Carter Center federal dollars.

U.S. Reps. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) and Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) introduced the Coordinated American Response to Extreme Radicals Act , or CARTER Act, last week in the wake of former President Jimmy Carter’s recent outreach to Hamas.

“America must speak with one voice against our terrorist enemies,” Knollenberg said in a statement. “It sends a fundamentally troubling message when an American dignitary is engaged in dialogue with terrorists. My legislation will make sure that taxpayer dollars are not being used to support discussions or negotiations with terrorist groups.”

The Zionist Organization of American praised the legislation.

Carter’s Atlanta-based center focuses mostly on international development. The former president met with Hamas officials against the advice of the Bush administration. He defended his meetings as his attempt to help bring an end to the violence on the Israel-Gaza Strip border.

Australia: Jewish prof calls Israel advocates “overseas provocateurs”

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports this interesting story featuring open conflict between Australian Jewish academics and pro-Israel advocates. It’s also interesting to note that the far-right US-based StandWithUs group is literally exporting its strategy and resources to Australia:

Jewish academics are blasting the hiring of a coordinator for Israel advocacy for Australian college campuses.

Joel Burnie, 23, was jointly appointed earlier this month as the inaugural student campus coordinator by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council and the U.S.-based campus advocacy organization StandWithUs.

Mark Baker, the director of the Centre for the Study of Jewish Civilization at Monash University in Melbourne, slammed the appointment in an article in this week’s Australian Jewish News, saying it would “doom Jewish academics and students to isolation and defeat.”

“There’s no need to widen the war and bring in proxy mercenaries to torpedo the battle with watchdogs and overseas provocateurs,” Baker wrote.

Dr. Colin Rubenstein, the executive director of AIJAC, blasted Baker’s comments as “misdirected, misconceived and misleading,” according to the Jewish News.

He also denied rumors that AIJAC, a sister organization of the American Jewish Committee, had been sifting through recordings of university lectures for hints of anti-Israel or anti-Jewish bias.

Burnie, who was the Australian Union of Jewish Students president in 2007, denied he was employed as a campus watchdog, saying his role was to promote Israeli culture and Israeli speakers that come to Australia, as well as to further dialogue about Israel on campus.

NYT article and open letter: Debbie Almontaser and the Arab culture school- victims of the proxy battle over Israel and Palestine

New York Times video about Khalil Gibran school controversyAndrea Elliott has written a detailed description of the the shameful campaign against Debbie Almontaser and her dream to open an Arabic culture school in today’s New York Times. Click on photo for NYT video coverage of the story, including an interview with Daniel Pipes, a frequent “guest” in these pages, who too easily plays the villain.

(Go here to see our prior coverage of the campaign against Debbie Almontaser and the Khalil Gibran International Academy.)

To re-state for the umpteenth time, the so-called culture wars in the United States between Islam and Arabs and the West are in many ways a proxy war for what’s happening in Israel and Palestine. Typically right-wing supporters of a “greater” Israel have deliberately conflated the struggle over Palestinian land and self-determination with Bush’s “war on terror.” To the extent that US citizens can be kept afraid of any Arab or Muslim who may be hiding behind a door, they will, it is understood, provide unconditional support for Israeli settlement expansion and militarism.

In other words, the campaign of invisibility thrust upon Palestinians has meant deliberately erasing any legitimate claims they may have to land, freedom, and security, and replacing them with the myth that Palestinians simply hate Jews/Westerners because of who we are. To that end, any whipping up of fears of Muslims and Arabs here in the US serves the interests of groups like Campus Watch and the David Project, and right-wing politicians who want to preserve the status quo.

That many of the civil society groups here in the US who push this agenda of fear-mongering are led by Jews, who have thousands of years of intimate understanding of the consequences of such demonization, is unconscionable. Obviously, Jews have a special responsibility to stand up and say, “Enough!”
And many of them have.

Here’s an important letter from Jewish leaders, organized by our friends at the NY-based Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, about the treatment of Debbie Almontaser, a moderate by any definition who took pains to unite and speak to all corners of a divided community.

Open Letter to the Jewish Community

At this time of Passover, when we gather as families at our seder tables, it
is an auspicious time to remember that our “family” extends outward to all
of God’s creation and therefore to all members of the human family. Every
act we undertake to bridge differences and enhance the dignity of other
human beings brings all of closer to the liberation and redemption that we
celebrate during these eight glorious days. Building friendships across
borders of religion and culture is a powerful lesson of the Pesach holiday.
Walking through uncharted territory with sometimes threatening waters on
both sides of us is in the spirit of our celebration and commemoration.

In this spirit we seek your support and respect for a colleague and friend
who has suffered and continues to suffer from a disturbing and growing
prejudice in our midst. You are certain to have heard of her, but may not
be fully aware of her goodness, competence, and openness to all people. We
are speaking of Debbie Almontaser, the founding principal of the Khalil
Gibran International Academy, NYC’s first Arabic language public school.
Many of us know Debbie personally, others from a distance. But we all
respect and admire her and we believe that she has been wronged. In the
spirit of Passover we ask your support to right this wrong and your help in
achieving her reinstatement at the Academy. As Jews, we have experienced
Debbie’s friendship to us. We are certain that her return to her children
will only bring greater peace and understanding between people of all faiths
in our educational system and in our city as a whole.

Dayenu!

Rabbi Marcelo R. Bronstein, Congregation B’nai Jeshurun
*Rabbi Rachel Cowan*, Institute for Jewish Spirituality**
*Rabbi Anne Ebersman*, Abraham Joshua Heschel School
*Leonard Fein*, writer
*Rabbi Michael Feinberg*, Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition
*Peter Geffen*, Founder, Abraham Joshua Heschel School
*Susannah Heschel*, Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College
*Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz* Visiting Professor, Jewish Studies, Comparative
Literature, & History, Queen’s College/.CUNY
*Rabbi Irwin Kula*, CLAL-The National Jewish Center for Learning and
Leadership
*Rabbi Ellen Lippmann*, Kolot Chayenu
*Rabbi J, Rolando Matalon*, Congregation B’nai Jeshurun
*Marilyn Neimark, Co-founder*, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice
*Donna Nevel*, Co-founder, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice
*Letty Cottin Pogrebin*, writer and activist
*Dara Silverman*, Director, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice
*Rabbi Felicia Sol*, Congregation B’nai Jeshurun
*Alisa Solomon*, writer
Rabbi Mychal Springer, Jewish Theological Seminary
*Aaron J. Hahn Tapper*, Co-executive Director, Abraham’s Vision
*Rabbi Burton L. Vizotsky*, Jewish Theological Seminary
*Rabbi Melissa Weintraub*, Encounter
*Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub*, LCSW, Brooklyn
*Rabbi Arthur Waskow*, The Shalom Center

*affiliations for identification purposes


Update on Stanford censorship of photo exhibit- it was the captions!

(Read our initial story here.) Actually, it was the captions and the title of the photo exhibit. The Stanford administration approved photos of Palestinians taken by photographer Lisa Nessan for an exhibit called Hope Under Siege. But when the sponsoring student group, Students Confronting Apartheid by Israel (SCAI) changed the title to Life Under Israeli Apartheid, and others on campus complained, the administration pulled down the exhibit after just two days. Students say the captions all include information from human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Nonetheless, Stanford offered to reinstate the entire show without the title or captions. Student organizers wisely said NO, and held a protest instead. Here’s the latest from the Stanford Daily.

Censorship at Montreal college. Conference shut down, conference-goers meet outside.

tadamonwallpaint.jpgHere’s a statement about censorship of the event from Tadamon!, the Canadian group that organized the Middle East popular education project that was held successfully at a variety of other venues.

CALL FOR SUPPORT

Censorship at Montreal-area College: Administration cancels workshop critical of Canadian support for Israel
Montreal, 21 April 2008

ASS, CALEB and Tadamon! denounce the decision of a Montreal college to cancel a presentation critical of Canadian support for Israel. The workshop, scheduled to have taken place today, was cancelled after the administration of Collge Bois-de-Boulogne came under pressure from supporters of Israel. This attack on basic freedom of expression is all the more disturbing because it occurs on a campus.
The presentation, hosted at Bois-de-Boulogne by the Comit daction pour la lutte tudiante boulonnaise (CALEB), was one of a series of workshops taking place in Montreal-area CEGEPS throughout April under the title, Middle East Popular Education Project. The workshop series was organised jointly by the Association pour une solidarit syndicale tudiante (ASS, www.asse-solidarite.qc.ca) and Tadamon! Montreal (). It is designed to develop knowledge and strategic thinking in Quebecs student sector about the role that Canada is playing in the Middle East.

Continue reading

Stanford pulls down Jewish photographer’s photos! Where’s the ADL?

censored 1Yes, it’s true. Censorship at Stanford. (Read update here about the exhibit title and photo captions that were the source of the controversy, not the photos by themselves.)

After only 2 days, in response to complaints (which have not been made public), Stanford University removed photographs on April 9 by Lisa Nessan, a young Jewish photographer and peace activist who has spent a great deal of time in Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

The campus group Students Confronting Apartheid by Israel (SCAI) writes that it was “part of their “Women Under Fire” series that highlighted Jewish resistance to Israeli apartheid,” and that:

… the administration of Stanford’s “Old Union” building removed our display on Wednesday, April 9th, without successfully reaching any SCAI student to notify them of the decision to remove the photos.

Before being displayed, the exhibit was presented to the Old Union administration and approved to be exhibited April 7-April 21. Despite this approval, the exhibit was removed as mentioned earlier.

In a recent meeting with the Director of Old Union, she explicitly stated while she has the authority to re-instate the exhibit, she has no intention of Old Union being a place of free political speech for students; and while she could not present any policy to this end, she claims that “controversial political exhibits” have no place in the building. This comes just several weeks after another student organization put up a photo display illuminating “acts of intolerance” at Stanford.

We’ve posted 4 of the offending 10 photographs, though we do not have the captions that were used. See the rest here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25736662@N07/

censored4.jpgcensored2.jpgcensored3.jpg

Students ask supporters to send e-mails of complaint to the Old Union Administration at jsmith-laws-at-stanford.edu. CC your comments to ahianan-at-gmail.com.

Right-wing Israel advocacy group’s secret Wikipedia campaign unveiled

Electronic Intifada (EI) has this exclusive report about CAMERA, a controversial right-wing advocacy group known for their efforts to make Israeli-Palestinian media coverage more sympathetic to Israel (see Muzzlewatch stories about CAMERA tactics here). After years of launching media boycotts and campaigns, and charging various people and outlets with anti-Semitism, CAMERA is now attempting a stealth campaign to change Wikipedia entries about the Israeli-Palestine conflict. Or, in the words of EI, they are attempting to rewrite history. The operative word here is stealth. Electronic Intifada describes the secret emails, which you can read in their entirety at EI.

Throughout the documents EI obtained, CAMERA operatives stress the need for stealth and secrecy. In his initial action alert, Ini requests that recipients “not forward it to members of the news media.” In a 17 March follow-up email sent to volunteers, Ini explains that he wants to make the orchestrated effort appear to be the work of unaffiliated individuals. Thus he advises that “There is no need to advertise the fact that we have these group discussions.”

Anticipating possible objections to CAMERA’s scheme, Ini conjectures that “Anti-Israel editors will seize on anything to try to discredit people who attempt to challenge their problematic assertions, and will be all too happy to pretend, and announce, that a ‘Zionist’ cabal (the same one that controls the banks and Hollywood?) is trying to hijack Wikipedia.”

But stealth and misrepresentation are presented as the keys to success. Ini suggests that after volunteers sign up as editors for Wikipedia they should “avoid editing Israel-related articles for a short period of time.” This strategy is intended to “avoid the appearance of being one-topic editors,” thus attracting unwanted attention.

Ini counsels that volunteers “might also want to avoid, for obvious reasons, picking a user name that marks you as pro-Israel, or that lets people know your real name.” To further conceal the identity of CAMERA-organized editors, Ini warns, “don’t forget to always log in before making [edits]. If you make changes while not logged in, Wikipedia will record your computer’s IP address” — a number that allows identification of the location of a computer connected to the Internet.

Thank you Jimmy Carter for everything, even for using the apartheid word

We’ll share some choice quotes from Haaretz’s editorial thanking Jimmy Carter for all he’s done, like that little peace agreement he brokered with Egypt, despite the fact that Israel is now “boycotting” him. But first, it’s worth pointing out that high level Israeli officials (not to mention Haaretz reporters) were using the term “apartheid” to describe Israel’s unequal and separate systems for Israelis and Palestinians long before Carter’s book came out and caused a firestorm that could have destroyed a lesser figure.

Folks like former Israeli Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair who wrote in 2002, “In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture. That regime exists to this day.” And there’s Shulamit Aloni, former Minister of Education, who said, “Through its army, the government of Israel practices a brutal form of apartheid in the territory it occupies.” Geez, even former South African prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd, considered the architect of apartheid said, “Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.”

But Carter is a former US president. And he put apartheid, a word he clearly meant to describe the Palestinian occupied territories and not Israel behind the green line, in the title of his book, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid. Haaretz writes this week, after detailing his major gifts to Israel and the cold shoulder treatment he’s getting this week:

But Israelis have not liked him since he wrote the book “Palestine: Peace not Apartheid.”

Israel is not ready for such comparisons, even though the situation begs it. It is doubtful whether it is possible to complain when an outside observer, especially a former U.S. president who is well versed in international affairs, sees in the system of separate roads for Jews and Arabs, the lack of freedom of movement, Israel’s control over Palestinian lands and their confiscation, and especially the continued settlement activity, which contravenes all promises Israel made and signed, a matter that cannot be accepted. The interim political situation in the territories has crystallized into a kind of apartheid that has been ongoing for 40 years. In Europe there is talk of the establishment of a binational state in order to overcome this anomaly. In the peace agreement with Egypt, 30 years ago, Israel agreed to “full autonomy” for the occupied territories, not to settle there.

These promises have been forgotten by Israel, but Carter remembers.

Thank you Carter, and Haaretz for saying, simply, the truth of what you see. Not everyone has to agree on the word. But they should argue on its merits, not by attacking the messenger, which is the ultimate cheap shot.

New J Street Project- the beginning of the end of the old guard?

This is a battle between the old and the new guard of the (still largely male) American institutional Jewish leadership. The old guard? AIPAC with its $100 million budget and Likudnik agenda. Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America. Abe Foxman at the Anti-Defamation League. They believe there is an anti-Semite behind every door. In their increasingly obsolete, and for many younger Jews, downright alienating world view, you’re either for us or against us.

The new guard? Folks who understand that we’re actually part of a global community, all equally entitled to dignity and fairness. People who get that dialogue–amongst ourselves, with others, even with those who threaten us– is critical for the health of our community and our world. People like Rob Eshman, editor of the LA Jewish Journal; and Dan Sokatch, the founding director of the Progressive Jewish Alliance who was just named the CEO of the San Jewish Community Federation of SF (and 3 other counties) which, by the way, allocated $200 million last year alone. Or Paul Katz at the Progressive Jewish Alliance at Harvard who wrote this op-ed about discovering he was “anti-Israel” when he invited a group of Israeli IDF veterans to share their stories of service in the territories.
And now, the latest salvo in this generational struggle over institutional Jewish identity is the announcement yesterday of the J Street Project, a pro-Israel lobby and PAC that supports an end to settlements and a two-state solution. Though they have been ambivalent in their messages, not wanting to ruffle any feathers, its clear they mean to be the alternative to AIPAC. Thanks to the support of lots of small checks, they think they can grow from their 1.5 million budget to challenge AIPAC hegemony.

Their unabashed Israel-first approach will not please everyone: they will have to be kept accountable to a vision that equally recognizes the humanity of Palestinians and Israelis, and we can only hope they avoid the disturbing racist undertones of some liberal groups that find even the assertion that Palestinians have equal rights to be threatening.

But regardless of one’s political position, this is good news. In this whole terrible, bloody war, it is US Congress and our massive unconditional support not of Israel herself, but of Israeli hawks and extremists, and our diplomatic protection of those same people, that is THE primary obstacle to a just peace. The J Street Project has gone to the heart of darkness and is ready to play the game that Congress understands. Most of us don’t have the stomach for that.
Let’s hope this is one more nail in the coffin of an old guard whose time has come and gone.

Shmuel Rosner, an unusually conservative (and snarky) voice at Haaretz, has a nice survey of left to right responses to the project.

Canada’s largest media conglomerate sues professor for handing out Israeli anniversary parody edition.

Mordecai Briemberg is a radical Canadian professor. Leonard Asper is the publisher of CANWEST, Canada’s largest media outfit. Briemberg is angry about Israeli human rights violations. Asper says CANWEST and its newspapers “are the strongest supporter[s] of Israel in Canada.” Now Asper’s company is suing Briemberg over a parody of one of their papers, The Vancouver Sun. Seriously Free Speech organizers write:

Imagine you go to a public meeting on the Middle East; you see a humorous parody of the local daily, pick up a few copies and hand them out. Six months later you are served with a writ of summons that charges you with producing the parody, that threatens to cost you tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, that takes up hundreds of hours of your time and aims to prevent you from expressing your opinions in future. Impossible? A Kafkaesque fantasy? This is what is happening to Mordecai Briemberg in Vancouver today and we want you to help us stop it.

In early June, 2007, a parody of The Vancouver Sun newspaper was produced and copies distributed. The parody, a slim four-page edition, coincided with the 40th year of the continuous Israeli occupation of territories it conquered in the 1967 war. The parody focused on the biased media coverage of Israel/Palestine in The Vancouver Sun.

They’ve got a petition you can sign.