Category Archives: Brand Israel

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

Birthright puts the kibosh on J Street-led trip

The “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby group J Street recently announced with much fanfare that it would be leading its first Taglit-Birthright trip to Israel. Birthright provides young Jews with a free 10-day trip meant to permanently cement their connection to Israel and even more importantly, their commitment to having babies with other Jews (hence the now popular nickname, Birthrate.)

J Street promised that their trip would go to the standard Birthright favorites like Masada or [Holocaust museum] Yad Vashem, but would also interface with human rights advocates and explore progressive Zionism. In other words, it might provide a broader view than most trips, but it wouldn’t rock the boat by taking participants to, say, Bil’in to protest against the wall.

And yet, Ha’aretz reports, right-wing bloggers didn’t like that idea and they organized a successful effort to get Birthright to cancel the tour with J Street. The excuse? How is this for sheer comedy? Birthright told Haaretz’s Natasha Mozgovaya that it was about politics:

…trips of political orientation are not accepted. When it happened in the past, we discontinued working with them. The idea of a “Political trip” is out of question…

Oh yes, that’s right.

J Street rightly pointed to AIPAC’s  “Capital to Capital” Birthright trip for Jewish political activists. (One featured stop on that trip is the Reut Institute which we have written about extensively.) But of course, it goes deeper than that.The essence of Birthright is political. It was never funded to be strictly religious or cultural, even if that was its original intent. It is a program to preserve Jewish unconditional support for Israel – including its occupation and ongoing violations of human rights- in part by nourishing a kind of Jewish entitlement to all of the land, even if Palestinians or Bedouin happen to have been living on parts of it for generations. The program is thought of as the last best hope to save the young Jewish generation from assimilation and decreased support for Israel.

In fact, as I write this on February 1, hundreds of Birthright alum are gathering for an event in NYC called “Take Back Zionism.” An event, which K. Feldman notes in Mondoweiss, doesn’t include David Grossman, for example, as a headliner. Many of them have written here what Zionism means to them.

Here is an example of a Birthright-approved reading list:
The Case for Israel & The Case for Peace, Alan Dershowitz
Still Life with Bombers: Israel in the Age of Terrorism,David Horovitz
Coming Together, Coming Apart, Daniel Gordis
Exodus, Leon Uris
O Jerusalem!, Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre
The Source, James Michener
My Life, Golda Meir In The Name Of Sorrow And Hope, Noa Ben Artzi Pelosoff Warrior, Ariel Sharon
Walking The Bible, Bruce Feiler
Nimrod Flip-Out, Etgar Keret
What Israel Means To Me, edited by Alan Dershowitz

J Street U Student Board President Morial Rothman:

“Those of us engaged on this issue on campus know that there is a deep hunger among our peers to connect with Israel in a way that reflects our Jewish and democratic values of justice and equality”, Rothman wrote in response to the criticism. “In light of this tremendous enthusiasm, we are deeply troubled by Birthright’s abrupt decision to cancel our trip. Revoking this previously-approved opportunity, planned in concert with accredited Birthright trip organizer Israel Experience, sends exactly the wrong message to our community and to our students – and it is a painful message to receive”.

Moving sentiments. But it can be argued that there is an intrinsic contradiction between the values of justice and equality, and the purpose and certainly methodology of Birthright.

The further irony is that thousands of members of this younger generation of Jews are ready to be fully and passionately engaged with Israel and Judaism. Not the Israel of Avigdor Lieberman or Operation Cast Lead, but the Israel of Anarchists Against the Wall or The Coalition of Women for Peace or Breaking the Silence. They are ready to truly engage with building a just and equal future for all people in the region, and to do so as Jews working side by side with Palestinians— but clearly those young Jews are not invited to go with Birthright. Unless, of course, they sneak in.

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The Israel Lobby’s Smear Campaign and Toronto Gay Pride

Are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities the next battle ground for the struggle over Palestinian equal rights? They certainly are in San Francisco, where this month’s controversial Out in Israel festival seeks in part to erase the occupation by promoting Israel as a gay mecca, and in Toronto, where a nasty smear campaign is being waged to ban a group called Queers United Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) from the annual Pride parade.

What’s remarkable about Toronto isn’t that some oppose QuAIA’s presence in the parade–in the classic tradition of LGBT parades, which are by their very nature acts of political resistance, QuAIA’s message is challenging and it’s meant to be.  What’s amazing is that their opponents– who object to the term “apartheid” despite its almost commonplace usage by many Israelis–have resorted to openly duplicitous and unethical means for literally banishing the group and harming the parade to achieve their aims.

Actually, it makes perfect sense. You can’t ban a group for using the word ‘apartheid’, so you have to fabricate evidence to suggest the group is a hate group. And that’s exactly what’s happening to QuAIA, which, surprise surprise, includes a lot of self-loving anti-occupation Jews.

The formation of Canada’s Queers United Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) was an inevitable response to Brand Israel efforts to “Pinkwash” Israel. That is, make the occupation disappear and fuel anti-Arab contempt by promoting Israel as a Middle Eastern “modern, Occidental and liberal” mecca in contrast to its “anti-gay”, “darkly exotic” and entirely unsympathetic Oriental neighbors. Yeah, the bigotry is that obvious. (And exactly how are you supposed to organize for LGBT rights when you’re literally fighting for your survival while under a 43 year long occupation?)

But groups like B’nai Brith (which, in Canada, is inexplicably to the right of AIPAC) and the Simon Weisenthal Center, as well as –apparently acting on his own–a lawyer named Martin Gladstone, have been pushing back and demanding that Toronto Pride ban the group from marching in any future parades.

The curiously right-wing Canadian B’nai Brith, which, as Andy Lehrer of Independent Jewish Voices mockingly said, “discovered gay rights this week,” has been complaining about the “hijacking” of gay agenda. So they’ve been going after Pride advertisers.

Gay lawyer Gladstone may be genuinely concerned about what he feels is a hostile anti-Israeli environment at the pride parade, but that wouldn’t explain why he has resorted to a series of unethical actions from possibly trying to stack community focus groups, to creating a propaganda video (see below) with generous footage of anti-Semitic signs from anti-war marches in…. another country! His charges, which have found their way to the mainstream media even after they were debunked, include false claims about a QuAIA chant and transparently false charges that the contingent included anti-Semites who sported swastikas.

QuAIA responds to these false charges here- but Gladstone’s video is still making the rounds, which amusingly asserts that if you march in a gay pride parade you automatically endorse every single group in the parade (tell that to the queer quakers and the LGBT Veterans group.)

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