Yearly Archives: 2013

Buyer Beware

by Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark

In the unusual category of GOOD news for discourse around Israel and Palestine, Patrick B. Pexton, ombuds for the Washington Post until last March, gave new owner Jeff Bezos some excellent advice in an open letter he published in the Washington City Paper: Fire Jennifer Rubin.

Rubin, as Muzzlewatch readers may recall, occupies a place in the crowded precinct of rabid Islamaphobes on the Zionist right. Here’s how Pexton puts it:

“Have Fred Hiatt, your editorial page editor—who I like, admire, and respect—fire opinion blogger Jennifer Rubin. Not because she’s conservative, but because she’s just plain bad. She doesn’t travel within a hundred miles of Post standards. She parrots and peddles every silly right-wing theory to come down the pike in transparent attempts to get Web hits. Her analysis of the conservative movement, which is a worthwhile and important beat that the Post should treat more seriously on its national pages, is shallow and predictable. Her columns, at best, are political pornography; they get a quick but sure rise out of the right, but you feel bad afterward. Continue reading

A Boycott by Any Other Name

by Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark

Just mention the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and, as readers of Muzzlewatch well know, certain folks who declare themselves Israel’s greatest supporters try to shut down the discussion. And nothing makes them more apoplectic than the piece of BDS that is sticky even for many who embrace the tactic generally: the academic and cultural boycott. To impede the free exchange of ideas among scholars and artists, the argument goes, violates a core value.

So how will Israel’s self-appointed defenders respond to a recent threat by some Israeli scientists to remove themselves from international scientific bodies, scholarly journals and conferences, and even opportunities for research grants? No, not a new lab-coat brigade joining the BDS campaign. These scientists propose withdrawing from $106 million of potential funding in the name of defending their state against European “scorn for Israel.” They mean to punish the European Union by refusing to cooperate with them. Continue reading

What’s in a Tweet?: Islamophobe Emerson Brings Frivolous Lawsuit

By Donna Nevel

The Players in the Defamation Suit

Steven Emerson, an anti-Muslim ideologue, is currently suing Cyrus McGoldrick, an American Muslim community organizer and human rights activist, over a tweet that McGoldrick sent to two friends.

First, there is Cyrus McGoldrick, who is an effective and respected advocate, writer, and public spokesperson on behalf of the rights of Muslims and all those facing discriminatory treatment or being targeted (by the state or by individual Islamophobes). When he sent the tweet, McGoldrick was employed at the New York chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a highly-regarded Muslim advocacy organization whose mission, as stated on its website, is “to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.”

Then there is Steven Emerson, a member of what the Center for American Progress has called “an Islamophobia network in America.” [1] Emerson has been notorious for opposing efforts to build mosques (Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Boston, and Park51 in lower Manhattan) and for putting forth false and distorted information. Respected journalists have widely discredited Emerson, describing him as a “self-styled anti-terrorism expert,” “poison,” and “disgraced.” [2] The Muslim Public Affairs Council has identified Emerson as one of “America’s Top 25 Pseudo Experts on Islam.” [3] Continue reading

Aboushi Gains Some Yardage

By Marilyn Neimark

When the usual suspects– David Horowitz’s Front Page Magazine and Debbie Schlussel’s blog –went ballistic over the NFL’s NY Jets draft of Brooklyn born, Palestinian American Oday Aboushi, it looked poised to go viral as more mainstream venues, such as yahoo sports and Major League Baseball’s new media coordinator Jonathan Mael joined in the attack. It was no surprise that The Nation’s David Zirin, The Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah, and Youssef Mounayer in The Daily Beast rushed to Aboushi’s defense. But the expected left-right shout-down didn’t materialize. The Yahoo story: “Could Oday Aboushi Jeopardize His NFL Career with Anti Israel….”, was taken down almost as quickly as it went up and Jonathan Mael’s mea culpa for his “beyond inappropriate” tweets attacking Abashi was reported in and endorsed by the NY Daily News. Even the ADL weighed in, pointing out in their press release that “Being pro-Palestinian does not mean you’re an anti-Semite or an extremist. The record simply does not show that Aboushi has crossed that line.” Continue reading

Hold the Pickle

by Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark

Unlike hamburgers, which are either kosher or not, some boycotts are apparently more kosher than others.

The state of Israel and its supporters in the US have launched a full court press against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) — even though they’ve often dismissed the campaign as inconsequential and ineffective. Go figure. Such fruitless efforts have inspired legislation in the Knesset, passed in the spring, that allows targets of BDS to sue its advocates without having to prove that they sustained any harm. And here in the U.S., Malcolm Hoenlein head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, recently announced plans for a major offensive against the BDS movement on college campuses. This drive will be joining a multi-million dollar anti-BDS effort from the Israel Action Network.

But at the end of June, when McDonald’s Israel franchise turned down an invitation to open a branch at a mall under construction in the West Bank’s sprawling Jewish settlement, Ariel, settlers immediately called for a boycott of the chain. Continue reading

In Honor of Nelson Mandela

By Marilyn Neimark and Donna Nevel

JVP joins with people and communities across the globe in expressing our admiration, love, and gratitude for Nelson Mandela, a giant in the struggle for justice and an inspiration to us all.

Had Muzzlewatch existed 23 years ago when Mandela, newly released from prison, made a thrilling visit to New York, the shameful response of the “official” Jewish community would have been the lead story here for days. While 750,000 New Yorkers of all sorts poured into the streets to cheer this courageous hero, the Jewish establishment sat out the festivities. Why? Muzzlewatch readers need no hints: This world leader who sat in jail for 27 years for fighting apartheid was not an acceptable Zionist.

His visit coincided with the moment we were co-founding the NY-based organization, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), and we were disgusted that the Jewish establishment announced that they were withholding their welcome of him to our city unless he satisfied them on his support for Israel. It was a stark demonstration of the way rightleaning Israel politics were skewing Jewish participation in progressive causes here — which is part of why we formed JFREJ. We decided that our inaugural event should be a symbolic welcome of Mandela from the substantial wing of the Jewish community that was happy and grateful to embrace him. Continue reading

Who’s the Hypocrite?

by Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark

The rush to denounce the renowned British physicist, Stephen Hawking, for withdrawing from the fifth annual Israeli Presidential Conference in order to protest Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, should have run its course in early May, flaring up as these things do, and then simmering down until Israel’s purported defenders stir up the next flap. But a cartoon in the Forward by Eli Valley reignited the frenzy.

Valley was responding to the hypocrisy he observed in right-wing Zionist charges that Hawking was a hypocrite. Their criticisms followed the usual script familiar to readers of Muzzlewatch (accusations of smug self-righteousness, the usual fulminations of Alan Dershowitz). Continue reading

San Francisco bus ads condemn Israeli apartheid: backlash begins

American Muslims for Palestine launched an ad campaign this week on San Francisco buses condemning Israeli apartheid. (See below.) Predictably, local branches of the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, as well as the Jewish Community Relations Council, immediately issued a statement in effect calling the ad hate speech for using the word ‘apartheid’. They have called on “all civic, ethnic and religious leaders who oppose bigoted lies and demonization to exercise their constitutional rights by condemning these inflammatory advertisements.”

Below is a line by line reading of their media statement.

First, it’s hard to know if the people who wrote this press release actually believe what they wrote. The points they make against the ad are so off the mark, and often offensive, it’s hard to believe anyone could write them sincerely. (I’m deleting the names on the release because I don’t think it’s fair to blame them. I think people at the top should be held accountable for such nonsense.) Continue reading

A Tale of Two Rabbis as Passover Draws Near

By Donna Nevel

An event is taking place in New York City on April 4th to discuss the following questions: Is Israel—or can it be—a democracy? Is there—or can there be—equality in Israel? Can a Jewish state be democratic? The current realities in Palestine/Israel, and deep concerns about justice and equality, make this conversation urgent. Two high-profile rabbis in New York City played key, and starkly contrasting, roles as the planning for this event unfolded.

One rabbi did not want the conversation to happen at all—at least not in any space over which he had control.The very mention of BDS in the flyer announcing the event—that this panel had grown out of questions asked at an earlier panel on BDS [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions]—made the conversation, in his words, “beyond the pale;” it was not going to take place in his “home.” And so he had his assistant cancel the contract the synagogue had signed to rent out its space for the event. (Only when we held him to account with his contractual liability did he grudgingly back down, telling us he wished we would go elsewhere and demanding that we not use the name of the synagogue even as part of the address in our promotional materials lest the synagogue suffer “reputational harm” for which we would be held responsible.) Continue reading

Can Israel be Jewish and democratic? Ansche Chesed cancels forum contract.

Exciting times indeed.

A surprising, even thrilling mix of prominent New York Jews wants to have a discussion about what until recently has been the ultimate unaskable question: can Israel be both a democracy and a Jewish state? And they want to have that discussion in a prominent shul.

The Upper West Side synagogue Ansche Chesed agrees to the forum, until the senior rabbi gets wind of the event and decides to cancel the contract, he says, based on the concern that the topic of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) may, possibly, might, perhaps, could potentially…come up in the conversation. (Read the whole breaking story here.)

But the goal-posts for acceptable discourse are shifting rapidly and the tale has a great ending. Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST), unafraid of a good debate on an issue people are dying to discuss, has stepped up and will host the April 4 event. (Download flyer here.) Continue reading