Monthly Archives: November 2014

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Conflict Kitchen controversy displays fear of facing Palestinian reality

A local perspective on the effort to shut down a restaurant that serves up Palestinian food and perspectives. By Ella Mason, Jewish Voice for Peace Pittsburgh

When you think about the sites that play a role in the Israel/Palestine conflict, a few places may come to mind: 
Oslo, Egypt, Camp David. . . but probably not Pittsburgh.  Yet this
 small post-industrial town has been embroiled in a 
controversy that has made headlines around the world.

It all begins with the story of the Conflict Kitchen, an innovative art project created by Carnegie Mellon University art professor Jon
 Rubin.  The Conflict Kitchen is a takeout restaurant that only serves 
food from countries with whom the United States is in some type of 
conflict.  Since its opening in 2010 it has served food from 
Afghanistan, North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, Cuba, and Colombia.
 Alongside food, the Kitchen produces written educational works:
 usually interviews with people from the country in question about
 their perspectives on food, dating, aging, school, and politics.
The Kitchen sees its mission as bringing Americans a deeper
 understanding of the people and culture(s) of these nations we hear 
about primarily as headline abstractions.

At the end of September the Conflict Kitchen opened their newest 
installment of the project; a Palestinian takeout restaurant.  Some
argued that Palestine was a strange choice for the Kitchen. They ask: Is the
 U.S. really at conflict with Palestine? The US gives roughly four billion dollars
 of aid (much of it military) to Israel, the nation actively at war 
with/occupying Palestine. Furthermore, the U.S.’s continuing blockage in the U.N. of Palestinian statehood helps to maintain what has become the status quo of occupation. 

In this context the U.S. could certainly be seen as having a conflict with 
Palestine, or at the very least, as being fundamentally entangled in 
the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.photo 2

Pittsburgh has a very small Palestinian population, so as a local
 Jewish artist with a great deal of interest in the ongoing conflict I 
was thrilled to hear that the Conflict Kitchen was taking on Palestine 
and giving these often-silenced voices a platform to be heard in 
Pittsburgh. 

Unfortunately, even before the Palestinian iteration
 opened, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh (JFGP) made 
efforts to have the restaurant shut down.  Gregg Roman, a former
 Israeli soldier and current director of Jewish Community Relations for 
the Federation, attempted to strong arm the University of
 Pittsburgh’s Honors College (one of the project’s sponsors) into
 canceling the September 30th kickoff event.

When that didn’t work, he 
pressured them to add him to a panel on Palestinian culture (how he 
attempted to justify this, being neither a Palestinian nor an academic 
nor a cultural worker I do not know).  When this tactic also failed, 
Roman came to the event with an organized group of right-wing 
Israelis, who used their time to participate by claiming that
 Palestinians living in Israel face no discrimination there. 

Continue reading

Hillel International hires Armenian Genocide denier Noam Neusner to fight Open Hillel movement, BDS

Tuesday night’s epic UCLA debate over divesting from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation was notable for what it included—a coalition of over 30 diverse campus groups in support of divestment, and for what it lacked—a robust, organized opposition. (The divestment vote won in a landslide.)

Screen shot 2014-11-19 at 4.28.33 PMThe likely reason for the relative silence of Israel-aligned student groups can be traced to a leaked memo in which a beleaguered UCLA Hillel head, concerned about the upcoming divestment vote, is cautioned by the PR firm 30 Point Strategies to not “put out any statements.” In other words, remain silent.

But 30 Point Strategies’ relationship with Hillel International, the “largest Jewish campus organization in the world”, on whose behalf they offered advice in the email, is no secret.

30 Point Strategies principal, Noam Neusner (pictured at right), is regularly identified as the spokesperson for Hillel International in articles relating to the upstart Open Hillel movement or other initiatives related to boycott, divestment and sanctions on campus. He was also spotted at the groundbreaking Open Hillel conference, though Hillel insisted they would send no official representatives.

But what is less known, or has been conveniently forgotten, is that Neusner was employed by the Turkish government to lobby the American Jewish community and Congress to deny the Armenian genocide, at least through 2010.

Back in 2008, Nathan Guttman wrote in the Jewish Daily Forward

Armenian activists are crying foul over Turkey’s hiring of a Jewish lobbyist to work against the recognition of the Armenian genocide.

Noam Neusner, former chief speechwriter on policy issues for President Bush and White House liaison to the Jewish community, was hired by the government of Turkey to promote strong ties with major Jewish groups and to urge these groups to oppose House Resolution 106, which would have labeled the murders genocide.

The information was uncovered when Neusner registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Guttman continues:

According to the filings, Neusner Communications, where Neusner is listed as principal, received a monthly retainer that recently was increased to $8,500 for Neusner’s extensive contacts with major figures in the Jewish community. It was the Armenian National Committee of America, an advocacy group with goals that include “ensuring the appropriate commemoration of the Armenian genocide,” that first made the documents public.

Neusner Communications received a total of $80,833 for the period from November 2007 to September 2008, according to the filings. Neusner said he “does not discuss client relationships.”

… Aram Hamparian, ANCA’s executive director, called the hiring of Neusner to work on behalf of the Turkish government “a misguided attempt to manipulate Jewish-American opinion.” Hamparian argued that Jewish support in America for the Turkish side is “crumbling” and therefore there is a need to hire a lobbying firm aimed specifically at the community.

And Hamparian was right. The issue has understandably divided Jewish Americans, and caused a real rift in the Anti-Defamation League, whose involvement in lobbying against official Congressional recognition of the Armenian genocide is documented on the site NoPlaceforDenial.com.

But wait, there’s more.

Another of the 30 Point Strategies projects was the infamous hate-film Obsession, possibly one of the most expensive hate campaigns in US history. Some 28 million copies of the documentary which essentially compared Islam to Nazism, were sent to newsletter subscribers in mostly swing states during the ’08 presidential election. They provoked charges of efforts to influence an American election. (Funding was later traced in part to Aish HaTorah, a religious Zionist Israel aligned organization). According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 30 Point Strategies was one of two communications firms that worked on the project.

As Corey Saylor, who is in charge of monitoring Islamophobia at the DC- based Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) commented, “The PR firm 30 Points Strategies has a troubling involvement, such as distributing the hate-film Obsession, in poisoning public discussions. It is not productive for groups seeking an inclusive society to accept advice from them.”

Kate Nahapetian, Government Affairs Director of the Armenian National Committte of America, had even stronger words: “30 Point Strategies’ profiting from Turkey’s campaign of genocide denial inflicts pain and suffering on the families of survivors and is despicable.”

It is clear that Hillel International has become a designated frontline defense against the growing number of campus based efforts to make Israel accountable to international law. As such, Neusner seems to be the person being dispatched to monitor and respond.

Image courtesy UCLA SJP

Image courtesy UCLA SJP

But oddly, Hillel International’s pick is likely to even further exacerbate tensions with the remarkably diverse and growing, broad-based movement for divestment and boycott on campuses. Seen another way, their pick of Neusner is in some way a perfect illustration of why these unified coalitions are forming—students of color, Muslims, students from colonized countries, queer and trans students, feminists and so forth all see clearly the links between the oppression of Palestinians and their own historic marginalization. In this case, the links couldn’t be more concrete.

And more obvious, the increasingly vocal new generation of thinking, progressive Jews like those of Open Hillel simply won’t accept such horrific moral game-playing. Moves like these are simply further evidence of the growing irrelevance of old-school Jewish communal politics that throw out everything young Jews learned about Tikkun Olam, healing the world, when it comes to supporting Israel, right or wrong. As one student repeated at the UCLA hearing, they believe without a doubt that none of us are free until all of us are free.

Tactics aside, Aram Hamparian, ANCA’s executive director gets the last word here. As he said of Neusner and his lobbying back in 2008 “This is a moral issue,” he said. “There is no wiggle room on the issue of genocide denial, just as on the issue of Holocaust denial.”

There is no public record that we could find of Neusner ever having disavowed his work on behalf of these clients.

-Cecilie Surasky

There are a lot of benefits of a wholesome lifestyle. But can medicines help us? In fact, it is not so easy to find trusted web-site. Choosing the best treatment edition for a racy disease can get really confusing considering the merits and demerits of the existing treatment methodologies. Diflucan (fluconazole), the first of a new group of synthetic antifungal agents, is existing as a powder for oral suspension. Viagra which is used to treat erectile dysfunction and similar states when erection is of low quality. Cialis is a medicine prescribed to treat a lot of complaints. What do you know about buy cialis online cheap? Our article focuses on the treatment of erectile dysfunction and buy cialis cheap. Generally, both men and women suffer from sexual dysfunctions. What are the symptoms of sexual disorders? In fact, a scientific reviews found that up to three quarters of men on such drug experience erectile dysfunction. Such disease is best solved with vocational help, commonly through counseling with a certified physician. Your sex therapist can help find the treatment that is better for you and your partner. The most common unwanted side effects of such medications like Cialis is dizziness. This is not a complete list of potential side effects and others may occur. Even if this medicament is not for use in women, this medicine is not expected to be harmful to an unborn baby.

Frank Luntz’s latest hasbara talking points – how to defend Israel post-Gaza

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The man we can all thank for catchy Orwellian phrases like “The Personal Responsibility Act” (which gutted federal support for poor families) and the “Death Tax”, Republican pollster Frank Luntz, is also the guru for Israeli hasbara. That’s right, more than any single person in the U.S., Frank Luntz has been responsible for teaching thousands of eager warriors for the Israeli government how to sell human rights violations and settlement expansion to increasingly dubious audiences. One example is this Israel Project 2009 classic, oddly euphemistically titled the Global Language Dictionary.

JNFBut now I’ve got great news boys and girls. The long wait for the latest “Words that Work” from Frank Luntz is now over (thanks for posting a leaked copy Jewish Philosophy Place–we almost missed the best read of the year! ) You can now download your own 2014, post-Gaza version of Communicating the Truth About Israel.

Lucky for us, it includes a great deal of current, original research on what Americans think about Israel, and what words test well in responding to their doubts. It seems to have been commissioned after Israel’s horrific attacks on Gaza–groups like the Jewish National Fund recognized that the reaction of near universal horror to Israel’s killing of Palestinian civilians was, indeed, the mother of all Israeli public relations problems.

We decided to hunt down the document after spotting Frank with a Powerpoint walking around in an odd new propaganda video filled with well-dressed young Jewish fraternity members–looking like they’d just stopped by on their way to internships on Wall Street. In each interview, these young men seem increasingly isolated and devastated by pro-Palestinian activism on their campuses which they conflate with anti-Semitism. One can’t help but feel for these students. I have no doubt that for many of them, the isolation and confusion they feel is real. And I hope they get support. After all, having your world view turned upside down, and your own power and privilege challenged in ways that make you uncomfortable, is part and parcel of what we used to call a good education.

But it says everything that these students are not at a gathering with therapists, or spiritual leaders, or experts in reconciliation and peace or building a healthy Jewish life on campus. No, they are at a conference with literally one of the world’s greatest propagandists for hire.

In fact, the video calls for a kind of war against “these radical, hate-driven organizations,” aka student groups that support Palestinian rights.

Hasbarists have been telling students at divestment hearings to avoid the facts and use the talking point “I feel unsafe” for years. Their elders are not doing these students a service by making encouraging them to feel even more fearful and separated.

In his presentation, Luntz relies on standard hasbara fare–thinly veiled racism and “oppositelandia” attacks on peace and justice advocates, as though church groups and pro-BDS Jewish college students were actually the ones responsible for the gradual closing of the door on a two state solution.

Luntz tells advocates to talk about Israel as standing on the front lines against global terrorism, a beacon of civility in a tough neighborhood, and to trot out the constant line about Hamas using human shields. He instructs hasbarists to use human, emotional, heart-felt language. He tells his followers to blame Palestinian rejectionism for Palestinian suffering, and to divert questions away from the realities of Israel occupation and repression.

Screen shot 2014-11-05 at 7.38.23 PM

And remember, as Frank always says, “It’s not what you say that counts. It’s what people hear.” And I’d add, “It’s not what is actually happening on the ground that counts, it’s what Frank Luntz tells you to say.”

-Cecilie Surasky

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Odeh Not Given Full and Fair Trial, Found Guilty in Jury Verdict

By Becca Hanna

Palestinian-American activist Rasmea Odeh was found guilty this morning of “Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization” stemming from questions she answered on immigration documents a decade ago.rasmea_0

Odeh, a 67 year old community organizer with Arab American Action Network (AAAN) in Chicago, was arrested in her home on October 22, 2013 by Department of Homeland Security agents. She was charged with omitting information about a prior conviction on her naturalization documents.

That conviction was a 1969 decision by an Israeli Military Court indicting Odeh for alleged involvment with Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), accusing her of direct involvement in a bombing of the British Consulate in Jerusalem.

Odeh was arrested in a 1969 and jailed in an Israeli prison where she was brutally tortured and abused until she finally confessed to the bombings. At trial, Odeh immediately recanted her confession given under torture, but was sentenced to life in prison by the all military court.

Odeh served 10 years before her sentence was commuted in a prisoner exchange with the PFLP. Odeh eventually made her way to Jordan where she became a lawyer, then came to the United States in 1994 to care for her ailing father.

Odeh has lived and worked in the United States since then, committing herself particularly to organizing Arab-American women in the greater Chicago area. Odeh has widely been recognized as an exemplary community leader, even garnering praise for the Chicago Cultural Alliance as such in 2013.

Odeh with Ali Abunimah shortly before the verdict was announced today.

Odeh with Ali Abunimah shortly before the verdict was announced today.

Censorship in Pre-trial Motions

The arrest and subsequent trial of Rasmea Odeh has been legally questionable from the start. The Committee to Stop FBI Repression among others, argue that the discrepancy on the naturalization application was purposefully sought out in an effort to jail activist by any means necessary,

Odeh is a member of a prominent Arab-American community which garnered national attention after a 2010 FBI raid on 14 activist’s homes. Though none of those subpoenad activists have yet been jailed, Stopfbi.net called the raids and subsequent grand jury indictments a “witch hunt” for pro-Arab activists.

The injustices, for Odeh, did not stop there.

Early on in her trial process, Odeh met many barriers to a full and fair trail, starting with inadequate representation, and ending with censorship of her own testimony.

In a criticized evedentiary hearing, Eastern Michigan District Judge Gershwin Drain ruled that evidence that Odeh was tortured in Israeli custody and forced into a confession was inadmissable . Though Justice Drain said the court was “sympathetic” to the story of Odeh’s torture and admitted that there is truth in her accusation of torture, he claimed that the torture had already been tried in 1969 and he was not looking to “rehash” the previous trial.

Rasmea’s lawyers intended to use her admission under torture, immediate recantation and subsequent diagnosis of PTSD to build a case for the omission of the conviction being due to Odeh’s intense trauma surrounding the confession.

In his ruling, Justice Drain also alluded to a 1998 treaty between the United States and Israel ”on mutual assistance in criminal matters.”

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 9.01.53 AM

This treaty effectively binds the United States to honor any decisions made by the Israeli courts, and promises legal assistance in prosecuting anyone that the Israeli Government sees fit to prosecute.

This treaty was the ultimate reason for Judge Drain’s refusal to allow Odeh’s testimony: a pact with the Israeli Government.

Odeh’s defense also tried to get the court to throw out the trial on the grounds that the information gathered about Odeh was gathered from illegal investigation into the Arab American Action Network’s activities, and was a politcally motivated attempt to abuse the criminal justice system to jail activists doing politicized work. The court sided with the prosecution on this motion as well, denying it outright.

While Odeh did win a small victory with a motion to exlude the battery of charges brought against Odeh by the Israeli courts in favor of focusing on just the bombing indictment, the defense’s entire case was gutted by the evidentiary ruling barring the torture allegations. The jurors for the case would not be able to hear anything about how the confession was obtained by the Israeli Military. Further, the judge granted the prosecution’s motion for a jury sequester, assuring that the jurors would not see any signs of protest outside of the courthouse by picking them up from an unspecified location and bringing them in a different entrance. Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 12.39.07 PM

The Trial

At trial, the prosecution worked to paint Odeh as a convicted and dangerous terrorist who omitted information about her previous arrests to unlawfully gain access to the United States and further her political agenda.

Putting Odeh’s story into context, defense attorney Michael Deutsch used his opening statements to tell the story of Rasmea’s family’s loss of their home and land in 1948 and the indiscriminant sweep of arrests in 1969 that put Odeh in jail where she would eventually be “interrogated for weeks.” Deutsch spoke of the Nakbah and Israeli Occupation of Palestinian land, telling the jury that Odeh “embodies the history of the Palestinian People.”

During the trial, the defense was able to show that Odeh was questioned in 2010 by a Homeland Security Officer who lied about his interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to get Odeh to talk about her recent trip to Palestine. Deutsch showed that the original immigration documentation was never signed by Odeh, that the immigration official who went through the naturalization questions with Rasmea in 2004 never asked Odeh about the questions involving previous convictions, and that the paperwork itself is confusing — asking questions meant about convictions in the U.S. and abroad after asking a series of U.S. focused questions.

When Odeh finally took the stand herself on Thursday, she bravely told the story of her life, hinting at, but omitting the torture she endured in Israeli prison at the threat of being held in contempt by the Judge. “It’s my life,” she told the judge, “I have a right to talk about the things that happened to me!”

The prosecution vigerously cross-examined Odeh, trying to trap her into misspeaking, but she stayed strong, asserting her innocence and giving careful explanations about her conduct.

The trial ended on Friday with the jury taking 15 minutes for deliberation before adjourning for the weekend.

This morning, after less than 2 hours of deliberation the jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict, likely sending Odeh to jail and putting her citizenship in danger. Judge Drain, in a rare move, praised the jury for their decision.

After the ruling, in usual Rasmea Odeh form, the activist addressed her supporters outside of the Detroit Couthouse saying, “Someday we’ll find fairness, some place in the world. If we didn’t get justice now, we will get it later.”

Odeh is set to appear before the judge for sentencing at 2PM CST.

There are a lot of benefits of a wholesome lifestyle. But can medicines help us? In fact, it is not so easy to find trusted web-site. Choosing the best treatment version for a racy disease can get really confusing considering the merits and demerits of the existing treatment methodologies. Diflucan (fluconazole), the first of a new group of synthetic antifungal agents, is existing as a powder for oral suspension. Viagra which is used to treat erectile disfunction and similar states when erection is of low quality. Cialis is a medicine prescribed to treat a lot of complaints. What do you know about buy cialis online cheap? Our article focuses on the treatment of erectile malfunction and buy cialis cheap. Generally, both men and women suffer from sexual dysfunctions. What are the symptoms of sexual disorders? In fact, a scientific reviews found that up to three quarters of men on such drug experience erectile malfunction. Such disease is best solved with vocational help, commonly through counseling with a certified physician. Your sex therapist can help find the treatment that is better for you and your partner. The most common undesirable side effects of such medications like Cialis is dizziness. This is not a complete list of potential side effects and others may occur. Even if this preparation is not for use in women, this medicine is not expected to be harmful to an unborn baby.