Monthly Archives: August 2009

Fire Gordon, without firing him

The words of condemnation against Ben Gurion University’s President, Prof. Rivka Carmi, for her incendiary attack against Dr. Neve Gordon continue to pour in. You may recall that in response to the op-ed he printed in the Los Angeles Times endorsing boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel, Prof. Carmi issued the following statement,

“We are shocked and outraged by his remarks, which are both irresponsible and morally reprehensible. We strongly disassociate BGU from Gordon’s destructive views that abuse the freedom of speech prevailing in Israel and at BGU.”

She added that,

BGU is a Zionist institution that is fulfilling David Ben-Gurion’s vision on a daily basis, promoting the development of the Negev and Israel and reiterated its commitment to advancing research and activities that benefit all of the residents of the region. This kind of Israel-bashing detracts from the wonderful work that is being done at BGU and at all Israeli universities. Academics who entertain such resentment towards their country are welcome to consider another professional and personal home.”

In a period of 48 hours, Prof. Carmi received over 4,000 emails of protest.

Over 180 Israeli professors — many from BGU — have signed a petition in defense of Dr. Gordon.
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Hysteria follows LA Times op-ed

What happens when an Israeli professor speaks his mind about the Israeli occupation? Let’s find out.

Take a look at Ben Gurion University Prof. Neve Gordon, who by the way, is a member of the Committee to Support Ezra Nawi.

He published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, titled Boycott Israel: An Israeli comes to the painful conclusion that it’s the only way to save his country.

It is indeed not a simple matter for me as an Israeli citizen to call on foreign governments, regional authorities, international social movements, faith-based organizations, unions and citizens to suspend cooperation with Israel. But today, as I watch my two boys playing in the yard, I am convinced that it is the only way that Israel can be saved from itself.

I say this because Israel has reached a historic crossroads, and times of crisis call for dramatic measures. I say this as a Jew who has chosen to raise his children in Israel, who has been a member of the Israeli peace camp for almost 30 years and who is deeply anxious about the country’s future.

His opinion supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that was launched by Palestinian activists in July 2005 and the 2008 10-point Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign has been met with the kinds of criticism that test the boundaries of freedom of expression and academic freedom in Israel.
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Drawing Lessons from the Festival

The J just published a candid op-ed by Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan that attempts to bring the Jewish community in the Bay Area together — to heal the wounds — caused by the controversy surrounding the San Francisco Film Festival’s screening of the movie Rachel.

Here at home in the Bay Area, we, too, are throwing stones at each other.

The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival showed the movie “Rachel,” co-presented by Jewish Voice for Peace. Before and after the showing, I saw copies of letters from Jewish community funders accusing Peter Stein, the festival’s executive director, of horrible things, including, but not limited to, equating him with Holocaust deniers.

I have seen e-mails calling for the banishment of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival from community funding.

I have heard Jews who question house demolitions by Israel (not including the “Rachel” story) called names and ridiculed. And those who support the current Israeli government castigated as neo-colonialist.

I have heard supporters of AIPAC set against supporters of J Street, and back again.

I have seen e-mails from self-appointed protectors of Israel assaulting Hillel professionals as “haters of Israel” for allowing Jewish students on college campuses to voice a spectrum of opinions.

I have seen the placards carried by Jews equating Israel with Germany.

The issue is not the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. The problem is what the showing of “Rachel” revealed. Before, during and after the festival, we have been throwing stones at each other.

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Netanyahu’s attempts to silence Breaking the Silence

Netanyahu has asked Spain, Britain and The Netherlands to stop directly funding the Israeli human rights group Breaking the Silence (BTS).  BTS has been releasing IDF soldier testimony on the invasion/massacre in Gaza.  The accounts by the soldiers are harrowing and document war crimes.  The Israeli government claims that governmental support of “politicized” NGOs undermines democracy in the Jewish state.  Netanyahu is    “contemplating legislation that would ban foreign government funding for groups such as Breaking the Silence.”   The main argument is that foreign governmental funding of non-governmental institutions that are ostensibly working “against” the interests of the duly elected government are undemocratic.  Ron Dermer, Netanyahu’s senior political adviser, was quoted as saying that funding from foreign embassies for the group amounted to “blatant and unacceptable” intervention in Israel’s internal affairs.

But Don Futterman (program director, Israel, of the Moriah Fund, a private American foundation working in Israel to support civil society and democracy, immigrant absorption and education.) has a different take,

“If our defense minister (Avigor Lieberman) wants us to live up to the claim that the IDF is “the most moral army on earth,” he should welcome soldiers who speak out about illegal acts that they have witnessed or were asked to perform. In our post-war rush to elections, we unfortunately – and perhaps, conveniently – skipped over any discussion concerning the morality of what the army has done. But even our fears of one-sided international condemnation of our actions in Gaza cannot justify official attempts to silence the messenger, especially when that messenger is us.”

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Toronto gallery that severed ties with Palestinian rights activist found in violation of city’s non-discrimination code

We wrote back in May about artist Reena Katz’s multi-layered exhibition about Toronto’s historic Kensington Market area. The project, Katz stated, was intended to “animat[e] a dialogue between aspects of Toronto’s diverse Jewish/Yiddish history and its fascinating contact with other cultures.” Sponsors of the project, the Koffler Centre of the Arts, a specifically Jewish art space, abruptly severed ties with Katz after they discovered an endorsement of Israel Apartheid Week on her Facebook page. No one ever suggested the decision was in any way related to the content of the piece or their satisfaction with her work. Here is today’s update from Katz and curator Kim Simon:

August 5, 2009

Dear friends and colleagues;

We are pleased to update you regarding the status of Katz’s performative project in Kensington
Market, each hand as they are called:

As many of you know, The Koffler Centre for the Arts dissociated from Katz and the commissioned project in early May, 2009 because of her political work for Palestinian human rights, and subsequently sent a defamatory press release across the country, falsely claiming that Katz supports the extinction of the State of Israel. Since late May, we have been in legal negotiations with the Koffler about moving forward with the project and we have now reached an agreement. While the specific terms of this agreement are confidential, we are happy to continue discussions about our experience and understanding of the Koffler “dissociation” as well as the project itself.

Simultaneously but independent of our legal negotiations, the Toronto Arts Council (TAC) Board of Directors has been involved in internal discussion, as well as in consultation with the Koffler about their decision to dissociate as well as their professional and ethical conduct. The TAC has determined that the Koffler was in violation of the City of Toronto’s non-discrimination policy regarding an individual’s right to freedom of political association. As it is not TAC general policy to release public statements regarding such matters, for a more detailed statement regarding the decision, the TAC invites you to contact Executive Director Claire Hopkinson directly at

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