Yearly Archives: 2011

Zionist Organization of America board member leads class action lawsuit against Jimmy Carter for Apartheid book

This is an extraordinary and clunky attack on free speech by a group of Americans and Israelis who simply didn’t like former President Jimmy Carter’s book, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid.

Tablet’s Marc Tracy reports that on Monday, a group represented by attorney David Schoen ( a board member of the Zionist Organization of America who boasts defending members of the Israel mafia ) announced it was filing a class action lawsuit against Carter and his publisher Simon & Shuster. They claim the book, marketed as nonfiction, contains“demonstrable falsehoods, omissions, and knowing misrepresentations designed to promote Carter’s agenda of anti-Israel propaganda.”

The publisher responded to Tablet:

“This lawsuit is a frivolous and transparent attempt by the plaintiffs, despite their protestations to the contrary, to punish the author, a Nobel Peace prize-winner and world-renowned statesmen, and his publisher, for writing and publishing a book with which the plaintiffs simply disagree. It is a chilling attack on free speech that we intend to defend vigorously.”

The plaintiffs, Stephen Unterberg, Susan Eckman, Ryan Shuman, Danica Bernard and Steven Tabak, and apparently a cast of thousands who were traumatized by the book,  are demanding “damages” for everyone who ever bought the book. Seriously. You can read the lawsuit yourself below–

Carter Complaint- Lawsuit Against Jimmy Carter

-cecilie surasky

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Birthright puts the kibosh on J Street-led trip

The “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby group J Street recently announced with much fanfare that it would be leading its first Taglit-Birthright trip to Israel. Birthright provides young Jews with a free 10-day trip meant to permanently cement their connection to Israel and even more importantly, their commitment to having babies with other Jews (hence the now popular nickname, Birthrate.)

J Street promised that their trip would go to the standard Birthright favorites like Masada or [Holocaust museum] Yad Vashem, but would also interface with human rights advocates and explore progressive Zionism. In other words, it might provide a broader view than most trips, but it wouldn’t rock the boat by taking participants to, say, Bil’in to protest against the wall.

And yet, Ha’aretz reports, right-wing bloggers didn’t like that idea and they organized a successful effort to get Birthright to cancel the tour with J Street. The excuse? How is this for sheer comedy? Birthright told Haaretz’s Natasha Mozgovaya that it was about politics:

…trips of political orientation are not accepted. When it happened in the past, we discontinued working with them. The idea of a “Political trip” is out of question…

Oh yes, that’s right.

J Street rightly pointed to AIPAC’s  “Capital to Capital” Birthright trip for Jewish political activists. (One featured stop on that trip is the Reut Institute which we have written about extensively.) But of course, it goes deeper than that.The essence of Birthright is political. It was never funded to be strictly religious or cultural, even if that was its original intent. It is a program to preserve Jewish unconditional support for Israel – including its occupation and ongoing violations of human rights- in part by nourishing a kind of Jewish entitlement to all of the land, even if Palestinians or Bedouin happen to have been living on parts of it for generations. The program is thought of as the last best hope to save the young Jewish generation from assimilation and decreased support for Israel.

In fact, as I write this on February 1, hundreds of Birthright alum are gathering for an event in NYC called “Take Back Zionism.” An event, which K. Feldman notes in Mondoweiss, doesn’t include David Grossman, for example, as a headliner. Many of them have written here what Zionism means to them.

Here is an example of a Birthright-approved reading list:
The Case for Israel & The Case for Peace, Alan Dershowitz
Still Life with Bombers: Israel in the Age of Terrorism,David Horovitz
Coming Together, Coming Apart, Daniel Gordis
Exodus, Leon Uris
O Jerusalem!, Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre
The Source, James Michener
My Life, Golda Meir In The Name Of Sorrow And Hope, Noa Ben Artzi Pelosoff Warrior, Ariel Sharon
Walking The Bible, Bruce Feiler
Nimrod Flip-Out, Etgar Keret
What Israel Means To Me, edited by Alan Dershowitz

J Street U Student Board President Morial Rothman:

“Those of us engaged on this issue on campus know that there is a deep hunger among our peers to connect with Israel in a way that reflects our Jewish and democratic values of justice and equality”, Rothman wrote in response to the criticism. “In light of this tremendous enthusiasm, we are deeply troubled by Birthright’s abrupt decision to cancel our trip. Revoking this previously-approved opportunity, planned in concert with accredited Birthright trip organizer Israel Experience, sends exactly the wrong message to our community and to our students – and it is a painful message to receive”.

Moving sentiments. But it can be argued that there is an intrinsic contradiction between the values of justice and equality, and the purpose and certainly methodology of Birthright.

The further irony is that thousands of members of this younger generation of Jews are ready to be fully and passionately engaged with Israel and Judaism. Not the Israel of Avigdor Lieberman or Operation Cast Lead, but the Israel of Anarchists Against the Wall or The Coalition of Women for Peace or Breaking the Silence. They are ready to truly engage with building a just and equal future for all people in the region, and to do so as Jews working side by side with Palestinians— but clearly those young Jews are not invited to go with Birthright. Unless, of course, they sneak in.

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Breaking Good News- Brooklyn College rehires Middle East Studies prof

We wrote about Kahane-supporter NY State Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s successful effort to get Brooklyn College to fire adjunct Middle East Studies professor Kristofer Petersen-Overton because a student didn’t like the syllabus for his course.  Hikind also glanced at a sophisticated academic paper on Palestinian identity and decided that Petersen-Overton was somehow in favor of suicide bombers. This absurd charge was picked up by the right-wing echo chamber. Astonishingly, Brooklyn College administrators acquiesced and fired the young academic while clearly lying about it- they said he lacked proper credentials.

But now, just confirmed in a conversation with Petersen-Overton, they’ve reversed their decision and have rehired Petersen-Overton “unconditionally.” Apparently they’ve made an official statement though it hasn’t appeared in the media yet.

A palpably relieved Petersen-Overton told me it was the massive support from academics and others that made the difference:

“It was so inspiring, how many hundreds of people got involved. They denied it was politically motivated, but administrators know what happened…. They got many letters of support from international political scientists attesting to the rigor of my work..” It was the outcry, specifically from academics– who naturally don’t like McCarthyism when they see it– which made all the difference.

If tens of thousands of Tunisians and Egyptians can risk their lives to fight for freedom, certainly, risking much less,  we can continue to rise up and fight bullying  and McCarthyism when we see it. Mazel tov Petersen-Overton. Mazel tov academic freedom.

Cecilie Surasky, Jewish Voice for Peace

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Terrorist-supporting assemblyman Dov Hikind helps give adjunct professor the boot

Dov Hikind is a bigot and a supporter of terrorism. He stood by 5 Jewish teenagers who severely beat a young Pakistani man with brass knuckles in a hate crime so heinous, it was condemned even by the Anti-Defamation League.  He is a former follower of the terrorist group the Jewish Defense League and recently waxed nostalgic at the memorial of hate-monger Rabbi Meir Kahane whose Kach party-including the Kahane Chai spinoff-was banned, even in Israel, for racism and terrorism. He and his wife are working towards the Judaization of East Jerusalem and are doing their part to start a Holy War there by supporting the building of the Third Temple. He actually opposed the inclusion of non-Jews (there were some 5 million) in a memorial to those who died in the Holocaust and is an advocate of racial profiling.

Oh, and he said gay marriage would lead to more incest.

And, it must be said, he does all of this while wearing a kippah- he is an Orthodox Jew–which I personally find particularly galling.

(His archived press releases about Israel and the UN are pretty remarkable for a local state assemblyman.)

If he were a radical imam, he probably would have been booted out of town long ago. He’d certainly be on a number of watch lists, and for good reason. But instead, in a display of Jewish privilege, he enjoys a cushy job as a NY State Assemblyman.

In that position, he pulled a few strings the other day and this arbiter of morality  (who was also caught up in a corruption scheme years ago) called Brooklyn College and asked them to boot a young scholar, named Kristofer Petersen-Overton (pictured left), for teaching a class on Middle East politics that apparently had too many books by Palestinians in it. At least, that’s why the case came to Hikind’s attention- a student complained about the syllabus. Brooklyn College’s president, Karen Lee Gould, was apparently happy to oblige and violate all basic standards of academic freedom and do the typical administrator thing when this happens–lie about it.

The New York Times reports:

Last fall, it was an assigned book that brought the Israeli-Palestinian conflict home to Brooklyn College. A wealthy alumnus said he was cutting the college out of his will because all incoming freshmen had been asked to read “How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America,” by Moustafa Bayoumi, a professor there.

This week, it was a course — a graduate seminar on Middle East politics scheduled for the spring semester. The focus of the dispute was the adjunct professor who had been appointed to teach it, a doctoral student whose writings raised hackles even before he set foot in the classroom.

On Thursday, the professor, Kristofer Petersen-Overton, said he had learned a day earlier that the college was rescinding his appointment, saying he lacked the academic qualifications to teach such a high-level course. But the timing of that decision has led Mr. Petersen-Overton and others to question whether the decisive factor might have been politics.

Earlier in the week, Dov Hikind, a Democratic state assemblyman from Brooklyn, wrote to the college president and to the chancellor of the City University of New York, which includes Brooklyn College, to express alarm about the “slanted nature” of the professor’s works.

The Times goes on:

Critics seem to have zeroed in on one of Mr. Petersen-Overton’s unpublished papers about the idea of martyrdom in Palestinian society. “They claim I romanticize suicide bombing even though I deal very little with the issue in the paper,” he said. “I absolutely condemn it, of course. They’re clearly heinous acts.”

A spokesman for Brooklyn College, Jeremy Thompson, said the provost had revoked the appointment because of concerns that Mr. Petersen-Overton did not have the academic credentials to teach a graduate-level seminar. The course was for students pursuing a master’s degree, and Mr. Petersen-Overton currently has a master’s himself.

But Huffington Post reports:

But professor Mark Ungar — who made the decision to hire Petersen-Overton — told Salon that many of the college’s graduate courses are taught by students still working towards a Ph.D. Along with 11 other faculty members, Ungar has formally objected to the provost’s decision to let Petersen-Overton go — a move he said “undermines academic freedom and departmental governance.”

SIGN THIS Petition to Defend Academic Freedom at Brooklyn College that outraged academics  have put together. They’re demanding a formal apology and that Peterson-Overton be reinstated.

A statement on Peterson-Overton’s website says:

Mr. Petersen-Overton expressed concerns “that a state official would denounce my work so strongly without, apparently, having offered it more than a cursory reading. [Hikind’s] press release … is slander pure and simple.” Mr. Petersen-Overton emphasized that his work has little to do with suicide bombers and that Mr. Hikind deliberately twisted his conclusions to make it appear otherwise.

“I was not contacted by Brooklyn College administration at any time during their decision-making process. This politically motivated action undermines CUNY’s longstanding legacy as a stalwart defender of academic freedom,” Mr. Petersen-Overton said.

The allegations against Mr. Petersen-Overton center on time he spent in the Gaza Strip working for the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and on an unpublished scholarly paper that analyzes the symbolic place of martyrdom in Palestinian nationalism. Petersen-Overton’s detractors also took issue with the fact that, according to his personal website, he still maintains “close contact” with the Palestinian activist community.

Mr. Petersen-Overton’s academic work deals broadly with issues of identity formation in Israel and Palestine.

You can download his highly academic talk about Palestinian identity here, and below I have posted his class syllabus which reportedly started the whole debate when a student complained about it to Hikind. I’ve included the syllabus below. I think it looks fascinating and rigorous and recommend that Mr. Petersen-Overton offer the class online for a small fee. I suspect he’d make better money than most adjunct professors make these days– and in an environment where academic freedom actually means something.

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StandWithUs comic book portrays activist Palestinians (and allies) as vermin, reminiscent of Nazi propaganda

Well, the pictures really speak for themselves.

StandWithUs has a new supremacist celebration of militant Jewish nationalism and masculinity children’s comic book featuring Captain Israel, who I think we can all agree looks mighty fine in a sparkly silver body suit with matching rhinestone belt and shamelessly appropriated Jewish religious symbols. StandWithUs is on the openly racist end of the mainstream Jewish institutional world. And they’ve given us a new version of an old story-the New Zionist Man (To understand this propaganda in its proper historical context, see below for explanatory text about early Zionism,  Jewish masculinity and Orientalism.)

But it gets better. Perfect, shining Captain Israel needs a diseased, less than human “other” to give him his all-man mojo. Episode 2 will feature Captain Israel’s undoubtedly victorious epic battle against “the venomous” Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions movement. (See image below.)

I wondered what it was about the evil serpent-the colors of the Palestinian flag- that looked so familiar to me?  Where on earth did they get the inspiration to portray the Palestinian and international human rights groups that support the BDS movement as a big, fanged, serpent? As vermin? (And then I remembered I had seen it in different (Genesis inspired) anti-Semitic propaganda about ‘conniving’ Jews, and thought, why not just call them all  “cockroaches” and get it over with? )

A comic book for children, this is really beyond muzzling.  This is about preparing for eradication.

Let’s see how long we have to wait before they get called out by the mainstream Jewish organizations they partner with. Paging Abe Foxman and The Anti-Defamation League. Paging David Harris of the AJC. Paging the Jewish Federations of North America. These people, StandWithUs, call themselves educators. They are educating your children. Our children. As history has shown, and as we Jews know too well, this kind of dehumanization-comparing people to vermin- should never, ever be acceptable.

Anti-Semitic propaganda below:

Left: French Jewish Captain Alan Dreyfus portrayed as a snake, skewered with a dagger saying “traitor”. His case, in which he was wrongly condemned and imprisoned for espionage, inspired then journalist Theodor Herzl to work towards the creation of a Jewish State because he felt it was the only solution to chronic European anti-Semitism.


The poster above?

This vivid poster from the September 1930 Reichstag election summarizes Nazi ideology in a single image. A Nazi sword kills a snake, the blade passing through a red Star of David. The red words coming from the snake are: usury, Versailles, unemployment, war guilt lie, Marxism, Bolshevism, lies and betrayal, inflation, Locarno, Dawes Pact, Young Plan, corruption, Barmat, Kutistker, Sklarek [the last three Jews involved in major financial scandals], prostitution, terror, civil war. Courtesy of Dr. Robert D. Brooks.

And for a little background on early Zionism to give you some tools for appreciating what a throwback  Captain Israel really is. From Raz Yosef of Tel Aviv University’s book, Beyond Flesh:

Zionism was not only a political and ideological program but also a sexual one. The liberation of Jews and creation of a new nation were closely intertwined with a longing for the redemption and normalization of the Jewish male body. That body had to be rescued from anti-Semitic, scientific-medical discourse associating it with disease, madness, degeneracy, sexual perversity, and femininity even with homosexuality. The Zionist movement was intent on transforming the very nature of European Jewish masculinity as it had existed in the diaspora. Zionist/Israeli films expressed this desire through visual and narrative tropes, enforcing the image of the hypermasculine, colonialist-explorer and militaristic nation-builder, an image dependent on the homophobic repudiation of the “feminine” within men.

The creation of a new heterosexual Jewish man was further intertwined with attitudes on the breeding of children, bodily hygiene, racial improvement, and Orientalist perspectives which associated the East, and especially Eastern bodies, with unsanitary practices, plagues, disease, and sexual perversity. By stigmatizing Israels Eastern populations as agents of death and degeneration, Zionism created internal biologized enemies, against whom the Zionist society had to defend itself. In the name of securing the life and reproduction of the new Ashkenazi Jewry, Israeli society discriminated against both its internal enemies, the Palestinians, and its own citizens, the Mizrahim (Oriental Jews).

Left: from Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer.

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Breaking: Israeli Knesset plenum votes to investigate human rights groups

The folks over at the Reut Institute are either really proud of themselves just about now, or are beginning to be just a little bit alarmed by the openly anti-democratic lengths Israeli legislators are willing to go to shut down what Reut inelegantly calls the “delegitimizers.” (First it’s human rights groups, and then?)

In an almost perfect display of Rumsfeldian logic, the influential Israeli policy institute has been urging and working with the Israeli government and diplomatic corps to crack down on human and civil rights, student and peace groups it insists are delegitimizing Israel. Their crime? Pointing out the government’s self-delegitimizing behavior, such as violating basic human rights standards when it comes to occupied Palestinians, providing limited civil rights to Palestinians inside the green line, or increasingly, throwing the whole concept of Western-style democracy out the window, even when it comes to Jewish Israelis.

If the latest news marks how Reut, the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and their many quasi-proxy organizations in the US plan on rescuing Israel from ever increasing global isolation, may [your higher power of choice here] help us all.

The latest today from Haaretz in Leftist groups: ‘Witch hunt’ against us will destroy democracy in Israel:

Israeli left-wing organizations decried Wednesday a Knesset plenum decision to support a panel of inquiry to investigate certain groups suspected of “delegitimizing” the Israel Defense Forces.

The plenum’s approval means that the initiative will now be taken to the Knesset House Committee for debate. The initiative proposes investigating the sources of funding for these left-wing groups, and to determine whether money is being funneled from foreign states or organizations linked to terror activities.

Peace Now Director-General Yariv Oppenheimer deemed the move “another step on the path toward wiping out democracy in Israel” and as a blatant attempt to persecute critics of Israeli policy.

The New Israel Fund said the Knesset’s approval “proved how much the status of democracy has deteriorated in Israel – even in the house of legislators.”

“Democracy cannot function properly without freedom of expression, freedom to be heard, criticism of the system and active human rights groups,” said the funds.

“The political persecution of human rights group will cause great damage to Israel and across the world, and will lead to the delegitimization [of Israel] and the representation of it as a McCarthyite state in which a witch hunt is taking place,” added the NIF.

Forty-seven legislators voted in favor of the motion on Wednesday while 16 voted against.

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