Monthly Archives: April 2008

State Department on anti-Semitism; Occupation 101 Canceled; New Yorker on academic witch hunt

_statedeptreport.jpgCheck out the State Department’s new report on global anti-Semitism. (Download it here.)

Paul Kujawsky, writing in Los Angeles Jewish Journal, likes it because

…it rejects the purported distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism: Denying the Jewish people its right of national self-determination (the essence of Zionism) is a sort of anti-Semitism. Describing anti-Zionism as “the new anti-Semitism,” the report states that it “has the effect of promoting prejudice against all Jews by demonizing Israel and Israelis and attributing Israel’s perceived faults to its Jewish character.”

Kujawsky criticizes the report because it remains relatively silent on Palestinian anti-Semitism.

I haven’t had a chance to read the report yet, so I’ll just state the glaringly obvious: to even begin to have a conversation about alarming acts of anti-Semitism, anywhere in the world, while rendering completely invisible Israel’s human rights record, as a self-identified Jewish state, is pathological. Rather than blaming and pathologizing everyone else, Israel and the US could just once have a conversation about how they feed the problem and fuel anti-Semitism through their actions.

Exterminate Muslims

The photo on the cover of the State Department report reminded me of the graffiti throughout Hebron in the West Bank, as shown in the image above, where extremist Jewish settlers have taken over the old city and harass Palestinians with impunity, thanks to the protection of the IDF (I and thousands of others have seen this with our own eyes, Israeli soldiers with Breaking the Silence have written about their devastating service there.) This needs to be part of the discussion rather than denied.

Cancellation of Occupation 101 film at Canadian University

The Windsor Star reports about the cancellation of a well-known anti-occupation film, which incidentally features a number of Jewish critics of occupation, amidst charges that it is anti-Semitic.(You can watch the film here, or the trailer.)

An event meant to shed light on the “crisis in Palestine” was cancelled at the University of Windsor on Tuesday following complaints that it would incite anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli bigotry.

Despite the controversy, leaders of Muslim and Jewish student groups said the cancelled event became a positive thing by inspiring dialogue. “Our goal was in no way to intimidate or to scare or to make anyone uncomfortable,” said Osama Iqbal, president of the Muslim Students Association.

Organized by the MSA, the event was to feature the screening of a film called Occupation 101: Voices of the Silenced Majority.

The documentary film depicts Palestinians recounting abuse at the hands of Israeli soldiers.

Posters promoting the event included the sentence: “Say NO to these atrocities NOW and learn the FACTS.”

In responding to charges that the film is anti-Semitic, and feeds anti-Jewish stereotypes by showing the victimization of Palestinians at the hands of Israel soldiers:

Iqbal said he wasn’t aware the film was so problematic, and the MSA wasn’t trying to inflame political or religious differences. He said the intent of the event was to focus on the humanitarian aspects of the situation in Palestine.

“It was basically anti-occupation, and not anti-Israel,” Iqbal said. “Actually, we were going to have an introduction, a briefing emphasizing that.”

Along with the film, the event was to include a lecture by Abdel Qadir Tayebi of the Windsor Islamic Association — described by Iqbal as the MSA’s chaplain or spiritual adviser.

On the day of the event, Iqbal said he was approached by the university’s international students adviser, and he made the decision to cancel once he realized how Jewish students felt.

New Yorker’s Jane Kramer has in-depth piece on the campaign against Barnard anthrolpologist Nadia Abu El-Haj

We covered this story extensively at Muzzlewatch. It’s great to see the New Yorker do its typically thorough in-depth reporting on the phenomenon of outside, ideological intervention in academia in the context of Israel-Palestine politics. Richard Silverstein of Tikun Olam, who is mentioned in Kramer’s article, has a copy here . Kramer begins:

Like other American anthropologists of her generation, she was interested in epistemology; she wanted to examine knowledge as a social construct, strongly connected to time, place, politics, and identity, and she wanted to do it in a culture where the status of common knowledge was being contested, even violently contested. She considered working on Palestine—her father was born there—but she ended up in Israel, learning Hebrew, poring over British-mandate and Israeli archives, and eventually moving into the ?eld to document, and in many ways challenge, the claims and practices of Israeli archeology in the creation of the country’s historical imagination and its contemporary self-description. She was not the ?rst anthropologist to do this. Israeli social scientists had been debating the politics of archeology for years. But she was arguably the ?rst with a name like Abu El-Haj.

You can guess the rest, or read about it here. And in the end, by the way, El-Haj did get tenure.

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Left-wingers get freebie trip to Israel

Ynet reports: as part of the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry’s efforts to bring over prominent US writers, US-based group Solomon Project is providing prominent left wing bloggers and progressive leaders like Tom Matzzie (formerly of MoveOn) and Daily Kos editor David Waldman all-expenses paid trips to Israel. They’ll land Thursday for a six-day tour.
These bloggers, who have criticized Israeli policy, will be given a tour of Sderot, a working class Israeli town a few miles from Gaza that has suffered immensely from almost daily Qassam rocket attacks over the last 6 years. (Most rockets fall harmlessly in the desert, but at least 11 have died over the years, and the constant threat of rockets has traumatized many residents.)
It remains to be seen whether the bloggers will also be told about the anti-government protests by residents of Sderot, many of them originally from Arab and Muslim countries, who have been furious at the government for leaving them vulnerable and defenseless to these attacks.

Tehila Regev, 21, who has decided to move from Sderot to Tel Aviv, told Maariv, “The people here don’t belong to any elite, they have no power, and are just the simplest of the simple. Is there any doubt that if this would happen in Tel Aviv or Herzliya Pituach, the response would be different?”

And while they will get a meeting with Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, it’s equally unlikely that the bloggers will meet with Palestinian human rights groups in Gaza that could give them a complete tour of the massive destruction of homes, infrastructure and economy; the deliberate slow starvation; and the killing of thousands, that is the terrible story of Israeli intervention in the past and through today.
In Gaza in particular, Israel has for years treated an entire class of people as less then human, less even than animals. When some of those people finally started acting as they were treated- as less than human, by firing randomly on innocent civilians in Sderot, Israel said, “See, we told you they were animals. That’s why we treated them that way.” Can one free trip really make anyone buy that perverse logic?

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