Author Archives: Cecilie Surasky

About Cecilie Surasky

Cecilie Surasky is the Director of Communications for Jewish Voice for Peace.

The BDS Movement: Now with Plasma TV’s.

Sue Fisckoff writes in the JTA about the off season preparations of Team Israel, aka Hillel, the Jewish student organization. The article highlights the very real panic the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement has caused and its automatic equation with anti-Semitism in the minds of some.

Amanda Boris is nervous about what she’ll face when classes resume at the University of Wisconsin later this month. “There’s an uncomfortable amount of anti-Semitism on my campus,” said the incoming senior.

We begin with some descriptions of actual anti-Semitism, namely an ad denying the Holocaust and anonymous internet posts, which sound bad if not exactly a groundswell of hatred. But within a sentence, we move to an unnamed professor charged with “making openly false statements about Israel.” No examples are given, but the professor whoever she or he is, is now in league with neo-Nazis and people who believe Jews had it coming. Whatever the real threats this student faces are now conflated with political views that differ from hers, and it sounds like Hillel’s trainings on Israel advocacy are doing nothing to sharpen that distinction. The article does not give any other examples of the titular “anti-Israel” sentiment “on the lesson plan,” implying in the classroom.

Rather, the focus is on the BDS movement, which is predicted to be “better organized, more prevalent and more vitriolic” this school year. The first two seem quite likely, but no evidence of the latter is given. Instead, anti Divestment students are warned that their foes have…better technology!

Whereas past years might have involved handfuls of anti-Israel students passing out photocopied flyers, last year saw a high-tech traveling exhibit of Israel’s separation barrier, complete with an embedded plasma TV showing anti-Israeli images.

Now we come to the heart of the matter, divestment resolutions on campus.

Only one of those proposed resolutions passed, in a non-binding student body vote at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. But every time such a bill is put forward, activists say, the charged atmosphere leaves lasting wounds.

Actually, Berkeley passed one too, and it was vetoed by a campus President. And what are those lasting wounds? Seeing Jews who disagree with you.

When the student government at the University of California, San Diego voted on a divestment bill in April, Hillel campus director Keri Copans noted some Jewish students standing across the room with the pro-divestment crowd, even as most Jewish students stood with her in opposing the bill.

The article does not actually interview any of these strange creatures, these Jews for BDS, But their very existence is painful,and Copans feels bad for them.

‘Divestment bills come and go, but these are Jewish students,’ she said. ‘I want them to have positive Jewish experiences, and that’s not what they get by being glared at across the room.’

However much pain is being felt, it seems clear that Hillel has NOT drawn the lesson that truly representing all Jewish students means allowing for a range of positions on Israel. Instead, students with differing views or who just don’t want to engage in this debate are compared to a piece of defective furniture.

‘For the average student, Israel is a problem — and they don’t want more problems,’ said Michael Faber, longtime Hillel executive director at Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y. ‘It makes that leg of their Jewish identity wobbly.’

Wayne Firestone, the Hillel executive, said: ‘We want the students to be prepared, not paralyzed with fear.

We are in the identity-building business, and the Israel issue is one we are standing up for.’

Free advice, Michael and Wayne: lay off the carpentry metaphors, stick to the actual anti-Semitsim your students face, and stand up for them and their values, not the “Israel issue.”

PS The article also interviews StandWithUs as a “pro-Israel” organization, last seen on Muzzlewatch making Jewish Voice for Peace members feel highly unsafe with slurs and threats on their family members.

–Jesse Bacon

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Hudson’s co-founder, the Israeli academic purge and the subversion of US Middle East policy


Reposted from Didi Remez’s Coteret blog.

Evidence is mounting that the Institute for Zionist Strategies (IZS) — an Israeli NGO at the forefront of an ongoing campaign to purge Israeli Universities of faculty and programs deemed “left-wing” — is a creature of  The Hudson Institute, a major Washington based neoconservative think-tank, which played an active role in shaping the Bush administration’s Middle East policies.

Hudson is the primary financial backer of the IZS, providing at least half of the organizations’s total reported multi-year funding, but the connection does not end there.

Max SingerMax Singer

Max Singer, co-founder of the Hudson Institute, its former President and current Senior Fellow, is also the IZS’s Research Director. At least according to his bio on the Hudson website: The IZS site only identifies him as a member of the Advisory Committee. Its 2006 brochure (page 8), however, states that he is a member of the International Board of Governors and as one of the ex-officio members of the Projects Committee, which “as such, are invited to all deliberative sessions and events.” According to the IZS’s verbal report to the to the Israeli Registrar of Associations for 2008 (the last one filed), Singer’s wife, Suzanne, is one of three members of the NGO’s “Council”, the sovereign decision-making body under Israeli law.

As the IZS’s Research Director, Singer would presumably be responsible for the research that pressured the President of Tel-Aviv University to take the extraordinary step of examining the syllabi of his institution’s Sociology Department for “left-wing bias”. The introduction to the IZS’s 2006 brochure (page 1), which Singer co-signed, indicates that he saw this type of activity as part of the organization’s strategic purpose:

IZS 2006 Brochure

The IZS will help liberate the public discourse in Israeli society from the self-imposed constraints of the prevalent dogma and internalized notions of the politically correct. Israeli society needs to be freed from the acceptance of double standards so that we can become comfortable asserting our own national purpose as a sovereign Jewish community.

This goal would fit well within the stated purpose of a Hudson Institute project, which was launched at the same time as funding of the IZS began (emphasis in the original):

The Future of Zionism. The Center for Middle East Policy is launching a multi-year project to examine the future of Zionism and its implications for the State of Israel. Israel faces an ideological crisis: As the recent Gaza pullout showed, societal divisions between secular and religious Israelis and between left and right wing camps have become so pronounced that they threaten to overpower the Zionist consensus that traditionally unified the nation. [Hudson Institute Form 990 Report to the IRS for 2005, page 23].

For a generation, Singer has been involved in designing and promoting aggressive US foreign policy. In the early 1980′s he was on the board of Friends of the Democratic Center in Central America (PRODEMCA), a controversial organization involved in the Iran-Contras scandal. In 2002, he published The Many Compelling Reasons for War with Iraq.

A Democratic administration is in power in Washington and Singer has moved to Jerusalem, so he has found a new instrument for beltway influence: The government of Israel. From a July 17 policy note published by the Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University (emphasis mine):

To prevent Obama from bringing America behind his different view of the world, Israel needs to help Americans appreciate the way that Obama sees things differently than they do. The views of most Americans, and of most of the American political world, are much closer to Israel’s understanding of Middle Eastern realities than to Obama’s perceptions. Israeli actions can help Americans to recognize the conflicts between what they believe and the premises of Obama’s proposed policies. The critical element in Israel’s policy concerning the US is the degree to which Israel is able to recognize, stimulate, and get the benefit of the parts of the American policy-making system that do not share President Obama’s radically different ideas about the world. Israel does not have to act as if Obama’s views will necessarily determine the policy of the US, and it certainly does not have to assume that Obama’s current views will dominate US policy-making for many years. Israel has the power, if it has the fortitude, to influence the degree to which Obama is able to make the tectonic change in American policy that he would like to make.

Netanyahu’s Senior Diplomatic Adviser, Ron Dermer, seems to have acted on this advice, incurring the wrath of Rahm Emanuel. From Ben Caspit’s August 19 column in Maariv:

Emanuel was angry, he claimed, because Dermer briefed certain Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish, against the President and and Emanuel himself.

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Boycotting Democracy at the Davis Coop

Boycott campaigns are always controversial, even at food cooperatives. So much so that it is advisable to have a policy for dealing with them. The Davis Food Coop has one, a wise move in California. So why aren’t they following their own policy?

Well, apparently there are boycotts and then there are boycotts.
The Davis Committee for Palestinian Rights (DCPR) believe they gathered enough signatures for a vote on a boycott of Israeli products. However, even as they collected signatures, the coop management has informed them that they will not be allowed a vote. The reason is that the vote is likely to be “controversial.” What’s more the coop board  raised the specter of federal anti-boycott rules. There is no evidence that the law, intended to apply to Arab States during the 1970′s oil embargo, would ever be applied to a Davis Food Coop. The office of the federal government that tracks violations of the law lists only Arab States, no other campaigns. Eventually, according to organizer Mikos Fabersunne, the coop backed away from that argument and emphasized in fairly blunt terms the threatened financial impact of the coop by people upset with the decision. Boycott opponents echoed this sentiment.
If the issue is indeed controversial, isn’t that all the more reason to follow one’s own rules?
The local organized Jewish community, namely the board co-President of Congregation Bet Haverim Karen Firestein, is opposed to the boycott and said in a written statement on the synagogue’s website , “If the Co-op becomes a political tool for those who want to commandeer it for ideological reasons, it will no longer be able to serve the entire Davis community. Long term members who do not want to be associated with the boycott’s message will have no choice but to resign from the Coop and patronize other markets.In other words, a boycott!

Why can’t the coop board members, if they feel such a significant portion of the membership is opposed, simply hold a vote? Similar resolutions were defeated overwhelmingly at the Ann Arbor People’s Food Coop, Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco, and my own Philadelphia neighborhood’s Weavers’ Way. The coop board’s justification that anything besides food quality is hard to enforce rings similarly. As much as I would like to believe my fair trade coffee or my locally grown beet tastes better than the alternative, coops are about much more than the flavor of the food. Citing dubious legal precedent and attempting to stifle controversy prematurely seemed geared to inflame the situation further. There is nothing inherently antisemitic about boycotts, as evidenced by the Firestein threatening one herself. In contrast to the notion that he is singling out Israel, organizer Fabersunne supports it as a tactic against China, Sudan, and Burma, the latter two already being on the United States’ sanctions list.  As for the other group opposed to the boycott, the Davis Interfaith Peace Coalition, their only Google search result was an event to say how great Israel was, suggesting they are hardly advancing Peace and Justice in the Middle East. It seems they were explicitly founded to counter the BDS movement.

Congregation Bet Haverim itself had a brush with controversy when it had a speaker from the Council on American Islamic Relations in 2007, in which the audience had several outbursts and one attendee had to be asked to leave. This briefly led to a ban on “controversial events,” which seems to have been lifted as the syngagogue recently hosted a panel in which anti Occupation activists (who were not present) such as Jewish American Anna Baltzer were accused of being antisemitic. The synagogue also cancelled an April 2009 talk by David Wesley on “Jews, Arabs and Government Officials: Power Relations Inside Israel.” But the past controversy and the existence of the group “Jewish Peace Alternatives,” suggests the synagogue has a broader range of views that is being represented by its Board Co-President. And if it wants to attract unaffiliated members, I would suggest that stifling votes is not the way to do it.

Meanwhile, the DCPR activists are planning future boycott actions at neighborhood supermarkets, and the BDS movement shows no sign of dying out. Nor does the effort to stifle it. Congregation Bet Haverim actually adopted a similar position to  the San Francisco Jewish Federation, banning speakers who oppose Israel as a Jewish or Democratic state. In practice, this has meant a much wider category of speaker cannot get synagogue endorsements. According to member Sarah Pattison, the local group Jewish Peace Alternatives decided to “err on the side of caution” and did not even bother to ask if they could sponsor Breaking the Silence, though there is no evidence that these Israeli Soldiers are against the Jewish State. Here in Philadelphia, the local Hillel has passed a similar policy, and then gone on to strategize in the local Jewish press about how speakers such as Hanan Ashrawi might have their lectures “challenged from the inside” at schools with a small Jewish population.

It seems likely that this a coordinated strategy on the part of Israel’s defenders, and will be fought out locality by locality. But the overall futility of trying to demonize this nonviolent tactic seems to me clearly unlikely to be ethical or effective. Longtime coop and synagogue member Gene Borack put it best when he stated his belief in “populist democracy, that people who have all the information will make the best decisions for themselves and their families.” I can’t think of a better summary of the mission of Muzzlewatch (and our sister blog The Only Democracy?) Thanks to the hard work of the BDS activists, the information is getting out there. Now when will people really be able to make those decisions, in Davis or elsewhere?
-Jesse Bacon

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Is the U.S. Consulate Cooperating in Silencing Palestinian Activists?

Mohammed Omer, the Gazan journalist and photographer, is scheduled for a U.S. speaking tour together with Ali Abunimah.  The U.S. consulate in the Netherlands, where Omer now resides, has put an extended hold on his visa application, effectively cancelling the tour.   Omer has lived in the Netherlands since 2008, after he was detained and severely beaten by the Shin Bet when he returned to Gaza from London, where he had been awarded the prestigious Gellhorn Award for Journalism.

A similar silencing happened earlier this month in the Bay Area where I live, when the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem never responded to the visa application of Mohammed Khatib, founder and leader of the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall.  He was scheduled to speak at the Sabeel Conference and at universities throughout the area.  He had been arrested by Israeli forces in 2009 on charges of throwing stones (this 36-year-old Catholic High School teacher), and later released when it was proven that that he was abroad at the time of the alleged incident. He was arrested again in January, this time charged with possession of “incitement materials.” We never got to see him. By not responding, the U.S. Consulate effectively cancelled his trip.  .

The American Civil Liberties Union has described the practice of denying visas to foreign nationals whose views the government disfavors as “ideological exclusion”, which violates our First Amendment right as Americans to hear constitutionally protected speech.  In the case of Omer and Khatib, inaction has had  the same effect as denial of their  visas, except without the explanation that a denial would require.

So it makes you wonder whether the U.S. Consulate is acting in concert with Israel to keep Palestinian nonviolent activists from getting the word out about the reality of Occupation.

We in the Bay Area were deprived of our chance to hear Mohammed Khatib speak, but there is still a window of opportunity to call on the U.S. Consulate in the Netherlands to approve Omer’s visa application so that his voice can be heard here.

U.S. consulate information:
Ambassador Fay Hartog Levin
U.S. Embassy in The Hague
Lange Voorhout 102
2514 EJ
The Netherlands
T: +31 70 310-2209
F: +31 70 361-4688
-Carol Sanders
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Kudos to the Daily Show, but a breakthrough? or the exception proves the rule

Recently the Daily Show (see the full interview here, part 1 and part 2) had two seemingly really controversial guests. Not John Bolton, the notorious UN-hating US ambassador to the UN, nor the deposed Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, or any one of a host of far right blowhards or neo-cons such as, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Kristol, Cliff May, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith (so responsible for the debacle in Iraq), all former guests.

No, these two guests had always advocated for peaceful solutions to really dreadful problems, and they had done so in the face of an implacable and violent enemy.  The Jewish American Anna Baltzer and the Palestinian Mustafa Barghouti have been formidable in confronting, with dignity and courage, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.  Either, on their own, would have made worthy guests for Jon Stewart.

Anna Baltzer has written a book about her experiences working for peace in the West Bank, “A Witness in Palestine”, and spent a great deal of time doing non-violent resistance. Dr. Barghouti, in so many ways, medically through his heading of the Union of Palestinian medical relief societies (UPMRC) and politically through his unsuccessful run for the Palestinian presidency on the “third way” platform, has been involved in trying to counter the occupation and promote civil society in Palestine. They are both well-spoken and it was, given the current media environment, unambiguously,  a very courageous act for Jon Stewart to have them on.

Indeed, we at JVP and Muzzlewatch, heartily applaud their appearance. But the question arises, why should this be considered such a brave/perilous step?  The Daily Show has had war criminals, scurrilous demagogues, people whose stock and trade are the offering of vicious lies and calls for violence.   The appearance of Baltzer and Barghouti was unprecedented for several reasons.  The Daily Show never has two guests on at once and there was an actual heckler!?! (the first in 11 years). Similar to the right-wing representative  who called Obama a liar in his speech to congress, the Daily Show heckler called out ‘liar” during the taping of the show, a comment that, interestingly, was not edited out.

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UN Report on Cast Lead, Jewish Self-Hatred and Spin

The recent release of the UN study headed by the South African jurist Richard Goldstone is a watershed of sorts in the diplomatic history of Israel. An ardent supporter/friend of Israel with family living in Israel, Goldstone’s report is sober yet scathing regarding Israel’s actions in Gaza. The report details not just the slaughter of civilians but the seemingly planned destruction of civilian infrastructure that could, in no way, be considered militarily related (unless the futile goal was to make the bombed civilians turn against Hamas). The report also unequivocally condemns Hamas for the war crime of firing on civilian populations in Israel, and likely for that reason, both Israel and Hamas were finally able to agree on one thing, their condemnation of the report.

Further, the report goes on to describe Israeli governmental censorship efforts as well as government efforts to suppress dissent within Palestinian Israeli populations (obvious Muzzlewatch concerns) . Perhaps most importantly, the report goes into detail describing the effects of the occupation in the West Bank as well as the siege of Gaza. This contextualization is particularly damning and frequently completely missing from mainstream analysis. The fact that such a high profile report seamlessly includes this context is refreshing from the point of view of those working to stop the occupation, and conversely, quite galling for those who seek to keep the status quo.

The war crimes committed by Hamas, are deplorable and also described in the report, but they are also placed within the context of a people trying to fight occupation. Israel’s actions are allowed no such context. Israeli maximalist existentialist fears, whether heartfelt delusion or cold eyed cynicism, are simply not treated. Thus most of the responsibility, as it should be, is placed on the shoulders of Israel, whose firepower, and the resulting death toll, utterly dwarfed that of Hamas. (One is left to conclude, logically, that a government seeking to protect the citizens of Sderot and Ashkelon, as it should, would do so by ending the illegal siege of Gaza, not by making life even more intolerable for people who would, like Jews or anyone else in the same situation, fight back.)

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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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SF Jewish Film Festival: “Our Role is to Catalyze Conversation”

Amanda Pazornik of J. Weekly reports on the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival’s controversial decision to go forward and present Rachel, a documentary made by Jewish-Israeli filmaker Simone Bitton about the death of Rachel Corrie by an IDF bulldozer while she was protesting home demolitions in Gaza. Both Rabbi Doug Kahn, the head of the San Francisco Community Relations Council, and Israel Consul General Akiva Tor were particularly incensed about the decision to invite Corrie’s mother, Cindy Corrie, to speak at the July 25 screening.

(Interestingly, Cindy Corrie, who has been a tireless crusader for peace and reconciliation since her daughter’s death, was recently vigorously defended against attack by a colleague in this remarkable piece by Rabbi Brian Walt, the former head of Rabbis for Human Rights, North America.)

The festival’s executive director, Peter Stein, tells J:

“I know there are many members of the community who would prefer if the festival stayed away from programming films on difficult topics or topics of passionate division of opinion. That being said, if we, as an arts organization, are going to remain relevant in our time, it really is part of our role to catalyze conversation, however uncomfortable it may be.”

One Israel activist complained:

“Corrie has become a hero of anti-Israel extremists. Her story is not really about a young American activist who died of complex circumstances. It’s about promoting a hate-filled and glaringly one-sided anti-Israel agenda.”

Cecilie Surasky of Jewish Voice, one of the sponsors of the film, added, “Cindy Corrie is a rare person who can speak clearly about the injustices of what her daughter saw and worked to address, without fueling one ounce of hatred. She sees this is a basic, human justice issue, not a Jewish versus Palestinian issue. Jews are among the Corries’ greatest supporters, and I find it sad to think that some believe the Jewish community is so weak that we cannot even have these important conversations. “

Simone Bitton’s previous documentaries have focused on the separation wall in the West Bank and the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.

A full schedule of the film festival can be seen here.

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 disfunction 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 preparation experience erectile dysfunction. Such disease is best solved with professional 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.

Ezra Nawi’s Sentence Postponed; We Still Have Time to Stop His Muzzling

As Cecilie Surasky has been reporting from Jerusalem, Ezra Nawi will not be sentenced until August 16th.  This announcement came after nearly 80 of Ezra’s supporters were barred from entering the courtroom; but their passionate stand against these preposterous and politically motivated charges could not be ignored.  Nor could the 14,000 letters which have been sent so far in support of Ezra.  The judge knows that her ruling will be highly scrutinized and cannot be made lightly.  Let’s keep up the pressure and triple his letters of support before the next hearing date.  Click here to send a letter, and send this link to your family, friends, and colleagues!

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Anthony Lowenstein: Long Overdue Debate Taking Shape

Journalist Anthony Lowenstein has writen a good column for Haaretz documenting emerging fissures in American Jewish tolerance of Israel’s Occupation policies. It should be noted, though, that Lowenstein asks the wrong question: “Why aren’t Jews outraged by Israeli occupation?” Since Jews, like all groups of people, fall along a spectrum of political views and personality types, then of course some Jews are outraged by the Occupation and others aren’t.  A better question, and one we ask here at Muzzlewatch, is: “Why is the Occupation debate off limits in certain circles?” Lowenstein examines how that taboo is developing cracks in the face of “a global wave of Jewish unease over Israel’s future and the Diaspora’s relationship to the self-described Jewish state. It’s a debate that is long overdue.”

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