Author Archives: Sydney Levy

Open Hillel logo

This is huge: Swarthmore Hillel breaks with Israel policy

Our friends at the Open Hillel campaign have won a landmark victory in their efforts to transform campus Hillel chapter into spaces that welcome all Jews, instead of marginalizing those who oppose Israel’s discriminatory policies. The passage of this resolution by the Swarthmore Hillel Student Board is a historic event, and a victory for all who support a more inclusive vision of Jewish community:

Swarthmore Hillel is an Open Hillel

Unanimously adopted by Swarthmore Hillel Student Board, December 8, 2013

Whereas Hillel International prohibits partnering with, hosting, or housing anyone who (a) denies the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders, (b) delegitimizes, demonizes, or applies a double standard to Israel, (c) supports boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel;

And whereas this policy has resulted in the barring of speakers from organizations such as Breaking the Silence and the Israeli Knesset from speaking at Hillels without censorship, and has resulted in Jewish Voice for Peace not being welcome under the Hillel umbrella;

And whereas this policy runs counter to the values espoused by our namesake, Rabbi Hillel, who was famed for encouraging debate in contrast with Rabbi Shammai;

And whereas Hillel, while purporting to support all Jewish Campus Life, presents a monolithic face pertaining to Zionism that does not accurately reflect the diverse opinions of young American Jews;

And whereas Hillel’s statement that Israel is a core element of Jewish life and a gateway to Jewish identification for students does not allow space for others who perceive it as irrelevant to their Judaism;

And whereas Hillel International’s Israel guidelines privilege only one perspective on Zionism, and make others unwelcome;

And whereas the goals of fostering a diverse community and supporting all Jewish life on campus cannot be met when Hillel International’s guidelines are in place;

Therefore be it resolved that Swarthmore Hillel declares itself to be an Open Hillel; an organization that supports Jewish life in all its forms; an organization that is a religious and cultural group whose purpose is not to advocate for one single political view, but rather to open up space that encourages dialogue within the diverse and pluralistic Jewish student body and the larger community at Swarthmore; an organization that will host and partner with any speaker at the discretion of the board, regardless of Hillel International’s Israel guidelines; and an organization that will always strive to be in keeping with the values of open debate and discourse espoused by Rabbi Hillel.

Supporting free speech at Brooklyn College

A lot has been written in the past few days about the attempts to shut down an event this coming February 7th, at which leading Palestinian rights activist Omar Barghouti and world-renowned scholar Judith Butler (who is also a member of JVP’s Advisory Board) are scheduled to give a talk about Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) on the campus of Brooklyn College. Continue reading

Chuck Hagel And Israel: The Wrong Question

by Mitchell Plitnick

Chuck Hagel is not exactly my kind of guy. Hagel is an old-school Conservative Republican and his voting record in the Senate lines up pretty well with that image. He was poor on civil rights, favored the rich in economic matters, generally opposed abortion, voted against campaign finance reform, and, despite later opposition, he voted for the Iraq War. Yet the dominant question around his still-only-rumored nomination for Secretary of Defense is how pro-Israel he is. Continue reading

AIPAC: The writing is on the wall

Since we announced on Monday our outrage at the sudden cancellation of our mobile ad, carrying our message to the AIPAC Policy Conference, we have received many expressions of support as well as some suggestions as to what to do next. Some recommended that we rent alternative vehicles, others that we sue the rental company. There were other intriguing creative suggestions as well.

Time was short before the end of the conference, so we settled for an alternative that would give us more splash on the spot. With the help of our friends on the ground in CodePink-organizers of OccupyAIPAC- we were able to have our messages projected on the wall of the convention center as attendees entered for the big Gala. This was prime ad space, I’d say!

The AIPAC Conference may be over, but we still got a few tricks up our sleeves in order to counter AIPAC’s pro-war, pro-settlement message. We will keep you posted–only next time we will keep the element of surprise!

– Sydney Levy

Cecilie Surasky’s monday letter, in case you had not seen it… (and watch the dramatic video of Liza Behrendt, a leader in Young, Jewish and Proud, the youth wing of Jewish Voice for Peace, occupying an AIPAC workshop as well!)

March 5, 2012

Supporter—I’m furious.

After signing contracts and paying in full for a mobile ad to carry your message to the AIPAC Policy Conference today; after letting 100,000 of you know about the truck; after nearly 5,000 of you signed the ad and let all of your friends know; after hundreds more chipped in for the ad; after sending a press release out to the media….After all that, the owner of the truck changed his mind at the last minute and decided not to let our ad run.

Why? What was so terrible about the ad that no one could be allowed to see it?

Its main message was: “AIPAC speaks for AIPAC, not for the Jews. AIPAC supports war with Iran and settlements, Jews do not.”

But the company let slip that they have other business with AIPAC, and didn’t want to upset them. I’m angry, but I can’t say I’m surprised. While I can’t say for sure if the truck owner got a call that scared him or if he simply got cold feet, I do know this is pretty much business as usual when dealing with matters related to AIPAC.

In fact, I started a blog called Muzzlewatch years ago when an AIPAC staffer threatened to get the funding for a Jewish youth leadership program completely pulled if I was allowed to speak to the students alongside the AIPAC representative.

Back then, the threat of losing that much money meant the people who ran the youth program folded, even though they knew it was wrong. And just last night, the truck owner folded too.

And now there’s the spreading story about AIPAC’s new and unprecedented policy of yanking press credentials from “unfriendly” reporters including Inter Press Service journalist and former Jewish Voice for Peace staffer Mitchell Plitnick, Mondoweiss’ Phil Weiss and Alternet’s Adele Stan.

So much for the free exchange of ideas in an open democracy.

After some very difficult conversations with the Jewish Voice for Peace board and lawyers, I spoke to the owner who said he’d try to fix things this morning. But it’s pretty clear his decision is made, so now I’m letting you know:

There will be no truck ad.

I’m really angry. But you can be sure of this—we will not be silenced. In fact, now we are committed to doing something even bigger to make sure our critical message gets out—so that our elected officials know that AIPAC doesn’t speak for us, and they don’t speak for millions of American Jews.

It’s going to take some time. But we’ll make sure our voices—your voices—are heard loud and clear by Congress. And once we’re up and running, we’ll let you know how you can help. To those of you who chipped in for the ad—every penny will go to this new effort.

In the meantime, we’re not sitting on our hands. We’re making sure the voices of the millions of Jews who are not represented by AIPAC are being heard loud and clear. In the image at left is Liza Behrendt, a leader in Young, Jewish and Proud, the youth wing of Jewish Voice for Peace. She’s shouting from the stage at the AIPAC youth conference yesterday: “I will not be silenced!” You can watch the dramatic video here.

Liza, a participant in OccupyAIPAC, walked onto the dais, stood right next to the CEO of Hillel, Wayne Firestone, and told the story of how his McCarthyite guidelines kept her Brandeis Jewish Voice for Peace chapter from being accepted in Hillel.

And this morning, Jewish Voice for Peace’s Rabbinical Council also released this historic letter opposing war with Iran. Read the letter and share it with all the rabbis and rabbinical students in your circle—we need them to sign on to this powerful message.

These actions—representing your values— are already being magnified in the national and international press including the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, +972magazine, RT Television and many more.

Stay tuned. You will not be silenced.

Sincerely,


Cecilie Surasky, Deputy Director
Jewish Voice for Peace

Support Prof. Marc Elllis – and tell Ken Starr to Stand Down!

This is a guest post by Rabbi Brant Rosen, Chair of JVP’s Rabbinical Council and the Rabbi of Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston, IL. You can follow his writings in this blog: http://rabbibrant.com/ and please sign this petition in support of Prof. Ellis.


I first read Professor Marc Ellis’ book “Toward a Jewish Theology of Liberation” as a rabbinical student back in the mid-1980s – and suffice to say it fairly rocked my world at the time. Here was a Jewish thinker thoughtfully and compellingly advocating a new kind of post-Holocaust theology: one that didn’t view Jewish suffering as “unique” and “untouchable” but as an experience that should sensitize us to the suffering and persecution of all peoples everywhere.

And yet further: Ellis had the courage to take these ideas to the place that few in the Jewish world were willing to go. If we truly believe in the God of liberation, if our sacred tradition truly demands of us that we stand with the oppressed, then the Jewish people cannot only focus on our own oppression – we must also come to grips with our own penchant for oppression, particularly when it comes to the actions of the state of Israel. And yes, if we truly believe in the God of liberation this also means that we must ultimately be prepared to stand with the Palestinians in their struggle for liberation.

When I first read Ellis’ words, I didn’t know quite what to make of them. They flew so directly in the face of such post-Holocaust theologians as Elie Wiesel, Rabbi Irving Greenberg and Emil Fackenheim – all of whom viewed the state of Israel in quasi-redemptive terms. And they were certainly at odds with the views of those who tended the gates of the American Jewish community, for whom this sort of critique of Israel was strictly forbidden.

Over the years, however, I’ve found Ellis’ ideas to be increasingly prescient, relevant – and I daresay even liberating. As a rabbi, I’ve come to deeply appreciate his brave willingness to not only ask the hard questions, but to unflinchingly pose the answers as well. And it is not at all surprising to me that we are now witnessing a new generation of rabbis and young Jewish leaders starting down the road he has paved for us.

All this to say I am profoundly sorrowed to learn that Ellis is currently under threat of losing his job at Baylor University due to an investigation led by new university president Ken Starr.

By every appearance, Ellis has had a distinguished academic career, having taught at Maryknoll School of Theology, Harvard Center for the Study of World Religions and Florida State University. Thirteen years ago, he was appointed Professor of American and Jewish Studies at Baylor, where he founded Baylor University’s Center for American and Jewish Studies and currently serves as its director.

There is ample reason to mistrust the academic validity of this investigation. According to a new petition now being circulated by Cornel West and Rosemary Ruether:

Marc Ellis was brought to Baylor in 1998 and all previous presidents supported his dissident voice. After Ken Starr (nemesis of Clinton in the White House) became president in 2010 the attacks started. During the last year Baylor lawyers were instructed to communicate with many of Marc’s colleagues, past students and staff. The objective was to request all of them to report all “abuse of authority.” Most of us explained to the lawyers that was a lost cause because Marc has been an exemplar colleague, professor and mentor.

But starting this Fall he was separated from his classes, his center closed and a hearing scheduled to take place some time in this academic year. As far as we know the accusations are about abuse of authority but we are not aware of the details because they are part of the internal legal process. Obviously it is about something else: Marc’s dissident voice. We will inform all of you as soon as we know more information.

In a statement released yesterday, Ellis commented thus:

Given what I currently understand of the rules of the Baylor process I will, for now, honor the process by not discussing the specifics, except to say that I believe this is a pretext to silence an independent voice at the place for which I have had deep appreciation.

I write now to ask you to please join me in signing this petition in support of Ellis – an important Jewish dissident thinker and (as his many academic colleagues are now attesting) a truly distinguished scholar. I would add: even if you don’t personally agree with all of his ideas, I urge you to support his cause. It is high time for us to stand down those who would trample academic freedom, shun open discourse and debate, and muzzle those with whom they simply disagree.

I’ll end with Professor Ellis’ own words, all too sadly apt under the circumstances:

Prophetic Jewish theology, or a Jewish theology of liberation, seeks to bring to light the hidden and sometimes censored movements of Jewish life. It seeks to express the dissent of those afraid or unable to speak. Ultimately, a Jewish theology of liberation seeks, in concert with others, to weave disparate hopes and aspirations into the very heart of Jewish life.

(“Toward a Jewish Theology of Liberation,” p. 206)

NYC LGBT Center’s Betrayals of its Values

I have many good memories about the NY Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Center. When I was coming out of the closet, the Center opened its doors to me and showed me the value of building community and the celebration of diversity. Two decades later, the Center has shown me how it has sadly betrayed those values.

I’m deeply troubled by the NY Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Center’s decision to cancel the Party to End Apartheid. There is no good way to spin this story, and the Center, frankly, is not even trying to do so.

I asked them what happened, and this is what I got:

“Thank you for contacting the Center regarding cancellation of the (IAW) event and future meetings of the group at the Center.

The core mission of the Center is to serve the LGBT community. We do offer space to hundreds of LGBT and non-LGBT specific groups without endorsing their mission or purpose. However, when one group’s meetings or activities, regardless of a specific affiliation, interfere with the Center’s focus on our core mission, we reserve the right to ask the group to move. We regret any inconvenience this causes a group and its participants.”

I further inquired about how renting space for an Israel Apartheid Week party “interferes with the Center’s focus on our core mission,” I got this non-answer:

“We won’t be making any further statements at this time.”

Well, if the Center won’t, I will.

By not being explicit about its policies, the Center leaves open the question about which groups may or may not rent space there. Jewish Voice for Peace rented space at the Center. Will we be allowed to do so in the future? Who knows. What about Palestinian Queers for BDS or Queers Against Israeli Apartheid? What will the Center decide? In or out?

If the Center does not answer, Michael Lucas does. He is the Advocate commentator who had threatened to “organize a boycott that would certainly involve some of the Center’s most generous donors,” and who later claimed victory when the Center folded, sending an email to event organizers gloating, “I canceled your event.” Michael Lucas is known for his Islamophobic rants (see for example here and here and here.) If you do not have time or patience to follow those links, I give you Michael Lucas in a few words: “I hate Islam with all my heart.”

Lucas argued that Israeli Apartheid Week is an anti-Semitic event. It is not.

Whether the Center acknowledges it or not, its decision to cancel the event was not a defense against anti-Semitism, but a tacit nod to Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism.

Organizing boycotts, divestment, and sanctions are time-honored tactics used by minority groups to press for their rights. American Jews organized a boycott of Nazi German goods. African-Americans organized a boycott of segregated buses in Alabama. Farm-workers organized a boycott of California grapes, calling for decent wages and working conditions. Queers called for a boycott of Colorado after the passage of the blatantly discriminatory Proposition 2. It seems every one has the right to use this tool, except the Palestinians.

If you want to read the full statement from the organizers of the New York Israeli Apartheid Week, go here. Check out the calendar of events, and if you are in NYC, go and participate.

And whether you are in NYC or not, queer or not, I encourage you to join me in signing the petition calling on the Center not to let wealthy bigots shut down free speech.

–Sydney Levy

It’s better not to ask questions

Here’s a lesson in democracy. In preparation for the upcoming November elections a group of local activists sent a questionnaire to the 85 candidates from their county running for seats in the state legislature. They hoped the information they’d receive would encourage debate and allow voters to make better decisions at the ballot box.

What did they get instead? They got slammed. Their survey was called “abhorrent and repulsive,” and the newspaper that brought the charges against them ignored their calls for a reasonable policy debate and did not allow them to respond with as little as a letter to the editor.

The candidate survey from Peace Action Montgomery came under attack for a single question in it, that – you guessed it – addressed the Israeli occupation.

Del. Benjamin Kramer (D-Montgomery), one of the candidates receiving the survey, issued a public letter calling the questionnaire “anti-Semitic” and promising to encourage fellow candidates to ignore it.

Anti-Semitic? You be the judge.

Question 5 is composed of only three sentences. The first two are statements of facts:

1. “In the past, the Maryland state legislature has exercised its power to order the state’s pension system to divest its holdings in companies that are complicit in illegal activities in other countries.”

2. “The World Court has ruled that Israel’s separation wall and settlements in the West Bank are illegal.”

Based on those facts, a legitimate policy question is asked:

“Would you support a similar divestment bill targeting companies that knowingly participate in these illegal activities in Israel?”

The question does not single out Jews. It does not even single out Israel. It does single out actions that break international law. What’s wrong with that?

Ask Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, who described the questionnaire by Peace Action Montgomery as “abhorrent and repulsive.” The JCRC holds its own set of candidate forums and distributes questionnaires to inform its members. But apparently others cannot do as much.

This whole controversy erupted on the front page of the local Washington Jewish Week (“Parsing the D-word”). 

Peace Action Montgomery was quoted in the D-article, but its letter to the editor following the publication of the slander was never printed. In that letter, Peace Action Montgomery called for an open, reasonable debate on the merits of BDS, pro and con. The group even invited the paper that slandered it to co-moderate the debate. But the Washington Jewish Week has chosen to ignore the invitation altogether. What are they so afraid of?

We print here what the Washington Jewish week would not publish:

“Parsing the D Word” (July 29) not only pointed out the controversy over using divestment as a strategy to encourage Israel to abide by international laws regarding human rights; it also included statements by an unidentified Jewish backer to MD Delegate, Jim Pettit, that slammed Peace Action Montgomery as “a façade” and questioned its legitimacy as an organization that truly promotes peace. In reality, anyone who took the time to review our activities would see that we have consistently opposed military interventions and U.S. funding of ALL military occupations, but particularly those in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories, since they garner by far the largest chunk of U.S. taxpayer dollars. We also vehemently oppose anti-Semitism and bigotry and are offended at being defamed for our support for human rights, protection of civil rights and opposition to violations of the rule of law.



Our question to the Washington Jewish Week is why the published article neglected to point out that our letter in response to Delegate Kramer invited him to join us in a public debate on the issue of how best to advance a just resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, with Washington Jewish Week as a co-moderator of the event, along with a representative of another organization.



We have had no response to that invitation and so propose it again. We hope that Del. Kramer and/or Washington Jewish Week will accept this invitation for a much needed dialogue on this significant issue.


Reframing myths and reality

The Israeli Ministry of Hasbara and Diaspora Affairs has started a new project to recruit Israelis traveling abroad to the cause of ‘explaining’ the kinder, gentler side of Israel. The Hebrew website (http://www.masbirim.gov.il) is called ‘masbirim,’ which literally means ‘we explain.’ The word comes from the same Hebrew root as Hasbara (explanation). For some reason, Israel translates Hasbara as ‘public diplomacy,’ but there is no diplomacy involved at all.

Hasbara (explanation) follows the misguided notion that if Israel could only ‘explain’ itself, people would understand the context for the images they see on TV and the reports they read in the press about the horrors of the attacks on Gaza and the ongoing Israeli occupation. Under this philosophy, Israel need not change its behavior one bit, just spend more resources hoping the world will finally get it.

The new ads, targeted to the Israeli public, present three theoretical myths that people are said to have about Israel. The Globe and Mail explains,

The commercials, part of an initiative called Making the Case for Israel, were first seen this past weekend, and are aimed at the large number of Israelis who travel abroad each year. One ad says people around the world think camels are a common form of transportation in Israel, another alludes to the belief that the Israeli diet consists of kabobs grilled over a primitive barbecue, while a third notes that Independence Day fireworks are often mistaken for military action.

Yuli Edelstein, Israel’s Minister of Hasbara and Diaspora Affairs explains,

“We decided to give Israelis who go abroad tools and tips to help them deal with the attacks on Israel in their conversations with people, media appearances and lectures before wide audiences. I hope we succeed together in changing the picture and proving to the world that there is a different Israel.”

Mr. Edelstein has called the Israeli tourists recruited to this campaign ‘the Israeli Public Diplomacy Forces,’ a clear reference to the Israel Defense Forces, the country’s military.

Each one of the three commercials contains a sad irony that cannot be easily explained with more Hasbara.

A special prejudice appropriation prize goes to the fake-BBC commercial, where a fake-reporter shares with you a supposed myth about Israel: “This is the camel. The camel is a typical Israeli animal used by the Israelis to travel from place to place in the desert where the live. It is the means of transport for water, merchandise, and ammunition. It is even used by the Israeli cavalry.”

Whoever heard of a myth of Israelis riding camels?

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) on the other hand points to the “the tired stereotype of the Arab world as a place of deserts and camels, of arbitrary cruelty and barbarism,” and its consequences:

Dr. Shaheen remembers being taught in his Lebanese American home to be proud of his family’s Arab heritage. But at school, he remembers teasing, taunts and epithets: “camel jockeys,” “desert niggers,” “greasy Lebs.”

Oh, but for purposes of Hasbara, these appropriations of prejudice do not matter.

The remaining two fake commercials cannot help but remind me of Gaza.

Here’s the fake French-language newscaster: With a background of Israeli airforce planes flying above a city and leaving behind a white streak and of a multitude of fireworks noisily lighting the evening sky, the newscaster says, “We have just learned that at this moment war noises have been heard in several Israeli cities. Our special correspondents report shootings and strong explosions which can be heard throughout the whole country.”

The strong explosions being heard throughout the land bring to mind this January 10/09 witness account from Israel’s war on Gaza (Sleep hard to come by in bombarded Gaza):

At 12:15pm I’d noted and photographed the white stream of chemical clouds billowing over large expanses of eastern Gaza…

And later at 3:20 am:

In the hospital room where I tried to sleep between an ambulance shift and morning obligations, the tank shelling and firing is in the room, landing on my pillow.

It’s the shells, which crack and blast. The staccato gunfire. The drones’ whine, in menacing pitches. The fighter plane’s sudden, thundering presence.

The drone ramps up the decibels, a train wreck of disharmony.

And the inevitable whoosh before the explosion, an F-16 launch which erupts a crater where someone’s house, or a market, or a mosque once stood. The blast an hour ago was a market, another nurse tells me. “It was a beautiful market, sold everything, everything we need,” she says.

I have saved the Spanish-language fake commercial to the end because it tops the cake, so to speak. Here’s the fake Spanish-language newscaster: ‘In Israel in the majority of the homes there is neither electricity nor gas, so that Israelis continue using primitive cooking methods such as bbq.”

You gotta be kidding me! This looks like a bad joke, when you compare to the Palestinian reality, not the Israeli myth. From last year’s The Atlantic’s In Gaza, Eating Under Siege:

And then there’s the question of fuel for cooking. The borders sometimes allow cooking gas to enter, sometimes not. As the power facilities have been bombed several times, electricity is very sporadic. Many families have small generators, but most of the gasoline for these must also be piped in through the tunnels, which is very expensive. Faced with the frequent impossibility of finding any kind of fuel for cooking, many families have recurred to their grandmother’s memories, fashioning traditional adobe ovens on the roofs and balconies of their modern apartment buildings.

Lest you think that these were Gaza’s temporary troubles in 2009, I give you 2008:

Umm Jamal Al Baba, a 60-year-old from Rafah camp, stands visibly tired in a queue of hundreds for bread. “I can no longer make bread in my house – there is no gas for cooking, no electricity.”
Now that rice had disappeared under the siege, or priced out of the reach of most people, bread means survival for Palestinians in Gaza Strip.
In Gaza, It’s Darkness at Noon, IPS, Jan 23, 2008

and yes, 2010:

Cooking gas rationing continues…
(UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Occupied Palestinian Territory, February 2010 report)

If the commercials are bad, imagine the talking points for the Israeli traveler. Peace Now secretary-general Yariv Openheimer complained that the new Israeli government website were these videos are housed contains information that would move Jewish Israeli public opinion towards an uncompromising right. According to the JPost,

He noted that the site does not encourage advocating the two-state solution, it talks about the need to keep Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights, and it suggests that evacuating settlers would harm their human rights.

Let’s see how these ideas are developed by the Israeli tourists who choose to join the “Israeli Public Diplomacy Forces.”

– Sydney Levy

Berkeley Daily Planet’s free speech battle goes national

Since March of this year, The Berkeley Daily Planet (BDP) has been struggling against a campaign by three long-time critics to scare away advertisers and shut the paper down, based on accusations that its publication of letters to the editor and op-eds critical of Israel constitute an anti-semitic bias.

On November 27th, the local controversy came to national attention when the New York Times published an article in its Business Section – “In a Home to Free Speech, a Paper is Accused of Anti-Semitism”

Jim Sinkinson, who has led the campaign against the BDP, is quoted as saying: “We think that [publisher Becky O’Malley] is addicted to anti-Israel expression…If she wants to serve and please the East Bay Jewish community, she would be safe avoiding the subject entirely.” Ms. O’Malley denies any personal or editorial bias, and says “I think that is unusual to say the least that anybody would think that they could dictate a whole area of the world that is simply off limits for discussion….” She points out that the Planet has always had an open-forum policy of printing all letters from local readers that are not obscene or defamatory.

Not covered in the New York Times article was the community response to the censorship campaign. Although many advertisers have been frightened away, readers have spoken out to protect free speech in their town and to keep the BDP alive. Scores of people have weighed in with supportive letters to the editor, and many Jewish residents signed petitions letting it be known that Mr. Sinkinson and his two allies in no way speak for the Jewish community. In addition, a coalition of local peace and justice groups — including Jewish Voice for Peace-Bay Area — took out a series of ads to expose the facts of Palestinian life under Occupation, to support the BDP free-speech policy, and to provide desperately needed advertising revenue to the paper.

www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/pdfs/07-02-09.pdf: See Jewish Voice for Peace ad in page 14
www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/pdfs/07-09-09.pdf: See statement of Jews who support the Daily Planet in page 28
www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/pdfs/07-30-09.pdf: See Bay Area Friends of Sabeel ad in page 28

Now, in immediate response to publication of the New York Times article, people from around the country have been moved to write to the BDP. Of some 20 letters to the BDP editor generated by the article, all but two supported the Planet and deplored the cynical use of charges of anti-semitism as a censorship tactic.

Notwithstanding reader support, BDP advertising revenue has been drastically reduced as a result of the campaign against it, together with the impact of the economic recession. To support the BDP’s commitment to free speech, you can write to the editor using this email: opinion at berkeleydailyplanet.com. Consider also contributing to the paper’s Fund for Local Reporting.

– Carol Sanders

The JNF clarifies…

We reported on the controversy around the invitation of Effie Eitam to speak on campuses. It turns out that Mr. Eitam’s tour was sponsored, among others, by the Jewish National Fund.

Asked about Mr. Eitam’s racist remarks, a JNF leader did not even bat an eye. Mr. Eitam, so it turns, ‘speaks the truth’:

Eitam, known for controversial political views, made headlines in 2006 when he called for the expulsion of Arabs from the West Bank and the Knesset. “We will have to expel most of the Judea and Samaria Arabs from here. We cannot live with all these Arabs. We will have… to remove the Israeli Arabs from the political system,” Eitam said during a memorial service for a soldier killed in fighting with Hizbullah in southern Lebanon.

Eric Lankin, chief of institutional advancement and education at JNF, said the organization was not concerned those statements would compromise his effectiveness as an advocate for Israel. “What really unites all of our speakers is that they speak the truth,” he said. “We had no specific concerns because we depend on the will of the Israel voters” who elected him to office.

Criticism of the events, he said, had nothing to do with Eitam but the broader challenge of anti-Israeli rhetoric and activities on college campuses.

– Sydney Levy