Author Archives: Cecilie Surasky

DC’s Theater J, The Admission, and The Threat of Truth Telling

By Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark

Israeli playwright Mott Lerner's play, the Admission, won't be performed as planned at Theater J.

Israeli playwright Motti Lerner. In 1994 he won the Prime Minister of Israel Award for his creative work but his play the Admission won’t be performed as planned at Theater J.

Culture is the arena through which collective memory is created and sustained, and that’s why it’s often so disputatious.  Among the most powerful of these collective memories is the Zionist narrative of Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, which presents Zionist conduct as pure and always justifiable.  And that’s why the Palestinian counter-narrative of that war, the Nakba, remains so threatening,  especially when the righteousness of Zionist actions are challenged, and maybe most especially when Jewish Israelis themselves raise the challenge.

One of the most controversial of these is the claim that Israeli soldiers massacred many Palestinian civilians and expelled others before razing the Palestinian village of Tantura in late-May, 1948.  The controversy over what happened in Tantura (fictionalized as Tantur) lies at the heart of a new play by the Jewish Israeli playwright Motti Lerner called The Admission.

Washington DC’s Theater J had scheduled the play for a 34-performance, full production this spring, but came immediately under fire from an ad hoc group called Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art (COPMA).   Claiming that the play focuses on “a vicious lie about Israel” COPMA called on “donors to the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington to withdraw their funding from the Federation unless it ceased its support for the Washington DCJCC” (which supports Theater J).

The theater has now reduced the production to a 16 week “workshop” run in proposed repertory with “Golda’s Balcony.”  Golda’s Balcony, which starred Telva Feldshuh in a 2003 Broadway production, is a hagiographic tribute to Golda Meier and the Israeli state during the1973 war.

COPMA has been gunning for Theater J for some time, often attacking the works brought over in an annual series called “Voices from a Changing Middle East,” such as the Jewish Israeli playwright, Boaz Gaon’s, adaptation of Return to Haifa, from the novella by Ghassan Kanafani, which was presented at Theater J in 2011, after a successful run at Tel Aviv’s most prominent theater, the Cameri. For COPMA, these are  “theatrical productions that attack and defame Israel.” (In Washington, it was a critical and box office hit.)

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Long Island University Puts Kibosh on Academic Freedom

 

US WWII propaganda poster remix courtesy: http://propagandaremix.com/gallery/?pid=478

This fast-growing petition tells a sad story about the decline of academic scholarship in the face of Israel criticism-phobia.

In a nutshell: professor Harriet Malinowitz gets support from her department for proposal to take sabbatical and write about Zionism and Propaganda. University administration inexplicably denies proposal. Union gets involved, and University accepts sabbatical if professor takes early retirement and “agrees that the deal ‘not be used or introduced as evidence’ in the future.” Evidence for what?

Said professor, Harriet Malinowitz, refuses the offer, and now asks for your help by signing this petition:

To: President Kimberly Cline, Long Island University

President Cline, don’t punish Dr. Harriet Malinowitz for writing about a controversial issue. Make LIU’s decision-making transparent, equitable, and accountable to the principles of academic freedom.

Of course, the existence of Zionist Propaganda isn’t a state secret. In fact it’s a thriving, proud industry worthy of in-depth study. There are literally countless examples throughout the history of Zionism — like this, this and this and so on and so forth.

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Muzzling Discussion of the Nakba and Palestinian History

By Donna Nevel
10/12/13

Nakba: Palestine refugees 1948

Nakba: Palestine refugees 1948

We know all too well how adamantly pro-Israel forces in the U.S. Jewish community and Israel consider certain conversations and actions critical of Israel “beyond the pale,” and how blatant their hasbara (pro-Israel propaganda) attempts are to silence and suppress them.

Although the parameters (of what is “acceptable”) may change at times, what doesn’t seem to change is how hasbara intensifies as efforts to reveal historical and current truths and demand change become more visible and powerful.

Most recently, Al Jazeera reports that right wing groups have tried to censor schoolbooks and silence organizations that make visible to the Israeli public the Nakba, an Arabic word meaning catastrophe that refers to the forced dispossession and expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinians from their homes and land before, during, and after the creation of the Jewish state.

A bit of context: Some of these recent attempts at muzzling come as Zochrot, an Israeli organization, was planning (and recently held) a monumental conference, “From Truth to Redress: Realizing the Return of the Palestinian Refugees.” The conference had as its focus “the implication of Return for the country’s physical, cultural and economic space, on the nature of its future society, the status of Palestinians and Jews living here, the nature of its regime, and last but not least, the practicalities of returning property after 65 years of refugeehood and the destruction of Palestinian life on the one hand, and the establishment of a Jewish State and the resulting new reality on the other.”  This conference aligned with Zochrot’s ongoing commitment to “challenge the Israeli Jewish public’s preconceptions and promote awareness, political and cultural change within it to create the conditions for the Return of Palestinian Refugees and a shared life in this country.”  

Some of those engaged in the nastiest tactics are extreme right-wing groups like Im Tirtzu or NGO Monitor, which are both closely connected to the Israeli government. Recently, in response to an NGO Monitor report attacking it, the U.S. group, Jewish Voice for Peace, wrote: “NGO Monitor has a long history, broadly documented, of attacking any organization that it believes is effectively criticizing Israeli policies. The organizations NGO Monitor has attacked include Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, Al Haq, and the New Israel Fund, to name just a few. We are honored to be among them.”

But we also know that attempts to erase the Nakba have been standard policy and practice since the creation of the State, and they have been undertaken by people and groups across the political spectrum.  (More about this in a follow-up piece.)

Although the opposition may step up its tactics–of censoring; spying on organizations; prohibiting groups from even referring to the Nakba; shutting down funding; intimidating justice workers–that won’t change the fact that the history, the stories, the evidence, the documentation about the Nakba are indisputable.

Zochrot is having a truth commission for the events of 1948, to be held in March 2014,  “that will seek to collect and document information about the 1948 events, focusing in particular on the actions that led to the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. By exposing the public to this information, the event will seek to encourage various audiences in Israel to acknowledge these actions and take personal and collective responsibility for them.” This critical work continues.

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Islamophobia and Israel Politics – a series of articles in Alternet

By Donna Nevel and Elly Bulkin

Pamela Geller’s Islamophobic ads on public transit in the Bay Area.

Within a national and international framework, we consider Islamophobia in the context of its relationship with Israel and the U.S. “war on terror.” We have written the following four pieces (see links below) to analyze these intersections and to make more visible a topic that has so often been taboo within, as well as outside, the Jewish community.

Our first article, “How the Jewish Establishment’s Litmus Test on Israel Fuels Anti-Muslim Bigotry,” examines the ways in which the mainstream Jewish community applies the “good Muslim-bad Muslim” paradigm, most often in relation to Israel, to determine which Muslims (or Arabs) are “good” or “bad.” “Follow the Money: From Islamophobia to Israel Right or Wrong” documents the financial connection between Islamophobes and right-wing pro-Israel politics. “How the Anti-Defamation League Fuels Islamophobia” describes how the Anti-Defamation League, which bills itself as a premier civil rights organization, participates frequently in fomenting and perpetuating Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism, especially against those who do not share its adamantly pro-Israel politics.

Finally, “How Pro-Israel Forces Drove Two Virulent Anti-Muslim Campaigns” considers the lessons we can learn from two Islamophobic campaigns, one involving an Islamic cultural center and one an Arab dual language public school, in which Israel politics played a central and destructive role. We hope that the articles, published in Alternet (the most recent published on 9/21/13), can be useful resources in the struggle to understand Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism and to challenge them as effectively as we can.

Elly Bulkin is a writer and editor. Donna Nevel is a community psychologist and educator. They were founding members of Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition and steering committee members of Communities in Support of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, and are helping to develop a new project–Jewish Voice for Peace Network Against Islamophobia. They can be reached at challengingislamophobia@gmail.com.

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Threatened lawsuit at Brooklyn College and Abuse of Title VI

By Cecilie Surasky, @CecilieSurasky on Twitter

A few weeks ago, Brooklyn College stood up against a tsunami of whacked out, only-in-NY extremist-Israel politics and refused to either cancel or sever ties with a planned campus talk on the nonviolent Palestinian-led human rights movement known as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). (Pictured: Jewish Voice for Peace board member Donna Nevel at Brookyln College Students for Justice in Palestine press conference.)

So it was just a matter of time before the pro-occupation crazies came back with something else equally guaranteed to waste valuable public resources and strike fear in the hearts of cash-strapped students. Continue reading

British Mandate mini-series The Promise not showing in Ontario

I haven’t watched The Promise yet, the acclaimed UK mini-series about the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict under the British Mandate, but only because I just haven’t had a chance–though now I will. (At least American viewers) can watch it on Hulu.

But apparently viewers of TV Ontario can’t watch it, despite the fact that it was previously on the schedule. It is not clear why they cancelled, but one can surmise from the detailed communication in Citizen Action Monitor that closed door talks must have gone nowhere and TV Ontario folded without, as is often the case, the decency to tell the truth.

That should come as no surprise. In many countries in which The Promise appeared, it was the subject of extensive letter-writing campaigns from Jewish organizations who complained that it was anti-Semitic and trafficked in anti-Jewish stereotypes while making Palestinians overly sympathetic. Continue reading

Mazel Tov LGBT Center, Shame on Christine C. Quinn et al

First the good news:

Welcome back to the 21st century NYC LGBT Center!

The Center just posted a statement overturning their absurd two-year ban on allowing Israel-Palestine related programming, which led to the barring of renowned lesbian thinker Sarah Schulman. Now it’s time to write director Glennda Testone (glennda@gaycenter.org) a note of congratulations for finally ending this embarrassing ban— along with a request that Islamophobe Michael Lucas and others who fuel anti-Palestinian bigotry be responded to appropriately under anti-hate policies. ( Lucas lobbied for the ban in response to a Palestinian rights group’s attempt to rent at the center.) Continue reading

NY’s LGBT center acting like medieval church: bans Sarah Schulman

When I was growing up in Philly, my mother always complained that if we had to live in the heart of a city, it should be New York. New York lived in our dreams as the land of the intellectual vanguard, the world’s playground of creative expression and at times, principled leadership. Continue reading

Holy Moley Batman—Palestinian textbooks don’t demonize Jews!

If you are quiet and can hear a loud cracking noise in the distance, that’s the sound of the Hasbaraniks losing one of their favorite stock charges against the “big, scary, bad” Palestinians. To quote Hillary Clinton when she was held captive to local interests and regularly said stuff she didn’t believe a U.S senator in NY, Palestinian textbooks don’t, “give Palestinian children an education, they give them an indoctrination.” This oft-heard charge about Palestinian textbooks filled with horrific portrayals of Jews has been a lynchpin component of the Israel-as-innocent-victim narrative which AIPAC and company promote everywhere from churches to Congress. All to keep the dollars and protection flowing. Continue reading

Why Judith Butler had to be shut down

The announcement of a prestigious international academic prize doesn’t typically generate endless sturm und drang on the pages of major newspapers around the world, threatening to turn into an international incident. But when that prize is given by a German city, and the recipient is Judith Butler, one of the great thinkers of our time– who also happens to be a vocal critic of Israeli policies—apparently it signifies the end is near. Continue reading