Category Archives: Simon Wiesenthal Center

Hillel International and Simon Wiesenthal Center’s incredibly creepy new campus surveillance tool

New app has a creepy logo!The Simon Weisenthal Center and Hillel International just proudly announced a new phone app “to fight anti-Semitism” which will be deployed on 550 US campuses with Hillel centers.

In reality, however, the partnership is less Southern Poverty Law Project, and more J. Edgar Hoover and Roy Cohn-decide-to-make-an-enemies list.

In a truly alarming marriage of Paranoid Surveillance Culture and the no-desperate-move-surprises-us-anymore Israel lobby…the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), the group known for actually building a “Museum of Tolerance” on top of a Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem, has developed the app to encourage students to literally report their teachers and fellow students. Reminiscent of surveillance posters found in places like Singapore, and I’d imagine, North Korea, this app’s catch phrase is “See it. Report It”

Explained Hillel International spokesperson David Eden:

“Working against anti-Semitism with the Wiesenthal Center is a natural for Hillel International. We’re proud to stand shoulder to shoulder by promoting this important tool to those who most often take the brunt of anti-Semitic attacks – students,” said David Eden, Chief Administrative Officer and chief spokesperson for Hillel International. “This innovative and simple to use app is another resource that we can use to help keep North American college campuses safe for Jewish students.”

Keeping Jewish students safe from anti-Jewish hatred is of course laudable, but this app comes with its own Twitter feed, and almost none of the 54 tweets are about anti-Semitism. (Quelle surprise!)

With the exception of a small handful of stories about swastika graffiti, the list reads like it was curated by Alan Dershowitz’s far right-wing cousin. It’s almost entirely obsessed with criticism of Israel and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions–the movement to hold Israel accountable for violating human rights violations. (In fact, BDS is a tactic embraced by literally thousands of Jews around the world, and BDS movement leaders have repeatedly condemned all forms of bigotry.)

On the Twitter feed, there are numerous links to articles condemning student and faculty groups for involvement in divestment campaigns, and even some suggesting that such campaigns violate the law. There is a full transcript, with key phrases bolded for emphasis, of Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor’s speech opposing Palestinian Statehood. Natch, another tweet links to an article about the dangerous Open Hillel movement itself–a movement, again, led by Hillel students.

And then, for camp effect, there is the incredibly strange police badge logo above, giving app users the illusion that they are acting as a deputized citizens’ police force rather than, um HUAC-style spies.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is a lost cause. Run by Marvin Hier, which the Jewish Forward called “by far the most overpaid CEO” of a Jewish organization in America, it has a long and terrible history of promoting hate against Palestinians and others under the guise of being a human rights group.

But Hillel International is supposed to be “the center for Jewish life on campuses.” They have special access and claim to represent all Jewish students on 550 campuses across the US.

But more important to them than welcoming Jewish students, is waging an all out PR war against the inspiring Open Hillel students who want to make Hillel open to all ideas, not just those vetted by the Israel-is-always-right thought police.

Instead, Hillel International is finding itself on the wrong side of history–plus they’ve just turned every Hillel student into a potential spy, asking them to literally turn in other students and teachers for public shaming and in some cases, worse.

One supposes that much like other failed efforts by Campus Watch, and the David Project, the ultimate homerun for Hillel and SWC will be gotcha videos of Middle East Studies professors in their classes where free inquiry is supposed to be encouraged.

Beyond appalling.

Cecilie Surasky
Jewish Voice for Peace

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Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) and the American Jewish Community

By Donna Nevel

Many American Jewish organizations claim to be staunch supporters of civil and human rights as well as academic freedom. But when it comes to Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, they make an exception. In their relentless opposition to BDS, they leave even core principles behind.

jvp-sodastreamThe Palestinian-led call for BDS, which began in 2005 in response to ongoing Israeli government violations of basic principles of international law and human rights of the Palestinian people, is a call of conscience. It has strengthened markedly over the last few years among artists, students, unions, church groups, dockworkers, and others. Media coverage of endorsers of the boycott has gone mainstream and viral. Recent examples include Stephen Hawking’s refusal to go to Jerusalem for the Presidential Conference, the successful campaign surrounding Scarlett Johansson’s support for Soda Stream and its settlement operation, and the American Studies Association (ASA) resolution that endorsed boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

Alongside BDS’s increasing strength have come increasingly virulent attacks on, and campaigns against it. These attacks tend to employ similar language and tactics – as if the groups are all cribbing from the same talking points – including tarring BDS supporters as “anti-Semitic” and “delegitimizers.”

These attacks simply don’t address or grapple with the core aspirations or realities of BDS. As described by Hanan Ashrawi, executive committee member of the PLO, in a recent letter in the New York Times, BDS “does not target Jews, individually or collectively, and rejects all forms of bigotry and discrimination, including anti-Semitism.” She goes on to explain that “B.D.S. is, in fact, a legal, moral and inclusive movement struggling against the discriminatory policies of a country that defines itself in religiously exclusive terms, and that seeks to deny Palestinians the most basic rights simply because we are not Jewish.”

The use of name-calling like “anti-Semites” and “delegtimizers” is problematic for a number of reasons, not only because its claims are untrue, but also because it takes the focus off the real issue at hand – whether and how Israel is, in fact, violating international law and basic human rights principles – and, instead, recklessly impugns the characters of those advocating for Israel to be held accountable.

Criticisms, even extremely harsh ones, of the Israeli state or calls to make a state democratic and adhere to equal rights for all its citizens are not anti-Semitic. Rather, anti-Semitism is about hatred of, and discrimination against the Jewish people, which is not anywhere to be found in the call for BDS, and these kinds of accusations also serve to trivialize the long and ugly history of anti-Semitism.

Most recently, the anti-BDS effort has moved to the legislative front. A bill, introduced in the New York State Assembly last month, would have trampled academic freedom and the right to support BDS in its quest to punish the ASA and deter any who might dare to emulate its endorsement of the academic boycott. Those supporting the bill were opposed by a broad coalition of education, civil rights, legal, academic, and Palestine solidarity organizations, as well as Jewish social justice groups. The bill was withdrawn, but a revised version has been introduced that is designed, like the original, to punish colleges that use public funds for activities related to groups that support boycotts of Israel, including mere attendance at their meetings.

The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) worked closely with the sponsors of the New York bill.

Like the JCRC, rather than engaging in substantive debate about the issues raised in relation to BDS, the Israeli government and many Jewish communal organizations choose, instead, to try to discredit and derail the efforts of those supporting BDS.

For example, as recently reported by Ha’aretz, the Israeli Knesset is debating how to continue to counter BDS efforts across the globe, that is, “whether to launch an aggressive public campaign or operate through quieter, diplomatic channels.” It is also considering what the role of AIPAC might be in introducing anti-boycott legislation and how to best bolster military surveillance–which has significant funding behind it–against supporters of BDS.

American Jewish communal organizations have also expended massive resources and energy in their campaigns to demonize endorsers of BDS. The Israel Action Network (IAN)–which describes itself as “a strategic initiative of The Jewish Federations of North America, in partnership with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), created to counter assaults made on Israel’s legitimacy”–has funded the anti-BDS effort to the tune of at least six million dollars over a three-year period.

The IAN website characterizes supporters of BDS as “delegitimizers”and says that, in order to gain support from “vulnerable targets,” which include “college campuses, churches, labor unions, and human rights organizations,” delegitimizers utilize Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) tactics, “the same tools used to isolate and vilify apartheid South Africa, Iran, or Nazi Germany. BDS activists, IAN continues, “present distortions, fabrications and misrepresentations of international law in an attempt to paint Israel with the same brush.”

In another example of name-calling without any substance, the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL’s) July 2013 report attacked Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), featuring ad hominem accusations (JVP “intentionally exploits Jewish culture”), rather than discussing JVP’s actual positions. (A JVP report on the ADL points out that the ADL not only targets JVP but is well-known for its long history of spying on Arabs and supporters of the Palestinian movement.)

On the charge of anti-Semitism, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, in its call to fight the BDS movement, urges it supporters to “learn the facts behind this hypocritical and anti-Semitic campaign,” and the ADL’s Abe Foxman echoed those same sentiments: “The BDS movement at its very core is anti-Semitic.” And most recently, in his speech to AIPAC, Prime Minister Netanyahu, after shamelessly drawing upon classic anti-Semitic imagery of Jews to speak of supporters of BDS, says: “So you see, attempts to boycott, divest and sanction Israel, the most threatened democracy on earth, are simply the latest chapter in the long and dark history of anti- Semitism.”

The demonization of BDS is not only the domain of the Israeli government and the mainstream Jewish community. The self-declared liberal J-Street, in its seemingly relentless quest to stay under the Jewish “tent,” has also jumped on the anti-BDS bandwagon, sometimes in partnership with the IAN, which (precisely because J Street is positioned as a peace group) proudly documents its relationship with J Street in fighting BDS. Discussing how J Street is gaining acceptance in the mainstream Jewish community, JCPA’s CEO Rabbi Steve Gutow points to “its role in pushing back against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement…

Further, the refusal of both liberal land mainstream Jewish groups to discuss substantive issues around Israel’s actions or BDS also reveals itself in language that admonishes BDS as being “beyond the pale.” Recently, for example, as reported by the director of JVP in an op-ed in the Forward, the director of the JCRC of Greater Boston, who has a history of involvement in liberal organizations, explained that “any organization that supports BDS…doesn’t belong at the communal table. In fact, he was referring specifically to Jewish Voice for Peace. He even argued that opening the public conversation to BDS is roughly akin to welcoming the Ku Klux Klan.”

This attempted silencing of those simply discussing BDS plays out even in seemingly minor local skirmishes. For example, last year, the liberal rabbi of a large New York City synagogue cancelled the synagogue’s facilities-usage contract with a group of Jews who, he feared, might, on his premises, discuss BDS. That, he said, would be “beyond the pale.”

These attacks against BDS appear to be an almost desperate reaction to the increasing successes of BDS, not only in the world at large, but also within the broader Jewish community itself. Respected members of the liberal Jewish community as well as a few liberal Zionist groups that were vehemently anti-BDS are now calling for boycotts against products made in the settlements and are engaging with the issue publicly. Further, the mission and vision of groups like Jews Say No and Jewish Voice for Peace – “a diverse and democratic community of activists inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, and human rights” – are resonating with increasing numbers of Jews who support BDS as a natural outgrowth of their commitments. And that movement is growing in partnership with the broader Palestinian-led movement for justice.

How should the rest of the Jewish community respond? Ad hominem attacks on BDS just will not do. It is time for BDS opponents to take a deep breath. Consider this: BDS is a principled response to Israel’s actions and behavior as an occupier. It is a profound call by Palestinians – and supporters world-wide–for justice. It is not BDS that should be opposed, but, rather, the very policies and practices that have made BDS necessary.

Donna Nevel, a community psychologist and educator, is a long-time organizer for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine. She was a co-coordinator of the 1989 landmark Road to Peace Conference that brought PLO officials and Knesset members together to the US for the first time. More recently, she was a founding member of Jews Say No!, is a member of the board of Jewish Voice for Peace, and is on the coordinating committee of the Nakba Education Project, U.S.

Originally published on the Tikkun Daily Blog

In honor of US Social Forum: my first encounter with the “new anti-Semitism”

Cypriot journalist Christiana Voniati, with whom I recently did this interview, Echoes From The Warsaw Ghetto In Gaza, reminded me this week of an article I wrote in early 2004 about going to the World Social Forum in Mumbai, India. Its cousin, the US Social Forum is happening right now in Detroit, so I thought this would be a good time to reprint what I wrote in 2004 because in many ways it marked my first personal encounter with the way so many groups, in this case the Simon Wiesenthal Center, were willing to lie and dehumanize in service of a political agenda. It also describes what I feel is even more true today-the parallel yet all too often deliberately hidden universe of mutual respect, love and friendship that already exists between many Arabs, Jews, Palestinians, Israelis and others, especially in this movement for justice and equality.

I also thought about my World Social Forum piece because of Robert Fowke’s personal essay in the UK Guardian this week, Why this obsession with Israel and the Palestinians?

One reason why Israel is singled out for so much attention is because its supporters are so very vociferous, pushing their agenda at every opportunity. As a consumer of news, the speed of their responses and their sheer ubiquity inflames my interest and my antipathy. Why do they persist in trying to defend the indefensible?

Another reason for my disproportionate interest in this conflict is that I feel I have been lied to, and I feel that people are still trying to lie to me and I don’t like it. Why try to convince me that those Turkish activists on board the Mavi Marmara were terrorists? Whatever else they were, they patently were not that. If the word “terrorist” is to have any meaning at all it must refer to those who attack innocent civilians. From an Israeli propaganda perspective, silence would be better than lies.

This is precisely what happened to me when I went to Mumbai.  I was in many ways naive, and it was the confrontation with the smear-machine that politicized me even more. One can only ask the Israeli government – With friends like these (Simon Wiesenthal Center, Canada’s B’nai Brith etc), who needs enemies?

Anti-Semitism at the World Social Forum? A Personal Report
February, 2004
By CECILIE SURASKY
It is my first morning at the World Social Forum in Mumbai, India and I am at a workshop on Palestinian women and the occupation. In the audience is a woman who I first think might be Israeli–she could easily be one of my friends and I feel an immediate kinship with her. She tells me she is 34 and has lived her whole life in Gaza except for college. I ask her if I can interview her.

She cautiously eyes my card, on which I have purposely written in thick, visible letters: Jewish Voice for Peace. “I don’t know, she says. “Do you support the occupation?” It seems such a surreal question. How could anyone support an occupation?

The very word evokes domination, a kind of cruelty. No, I say, we want to end the occupation. We want a peace that is just.

I ask about the checkpoints. She describes sitting in her car waiting to be allowed to drive through. The young Israeli soldiers are in sniper posts. You can’t see them, but they can see you, she explains. They signal it’s time to go by shooting their guns. She waits a long time until the soldiers say, “OK, now the dogs can go.”

“You think, ‘Do I want to be called a dog, or do I just want to go?’ ” she tells me. “I don’t care, so I start my car and they yell ‘No! Not you, I said dogs!’ So she turns her car off, and sometime later they say, “OK, now humans can go!” She starts her car and they look at her and the others and say “No! I said humans.” And she turns her car off and waits until finally this “other” category of Palestinian–neither human nor animal–is allowed to pass. “This,” she says, “is my only contact with Israelis.” And this, I think, and is my first contact with someone from Gaza.

The WSF and the new anti-Semitism
The World Social Forum (WSF) is the populist answer to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Instead of a gathering of the world’s mostly wealthy, white, and male heads of state and captains of industry in Davos, the WSF is a cacophony of anti-globalization/human rights activists from all over the globe. The roughly 100,000 participants represent every imaginable cause–from Indian “untouchables” and Bhutanese refugees to child trafficking and sexual minorities. They are seen in the hundreds of marches that seem to appear out of nowhere down the main thoroughfare, at the 500 information booths, in more than 1,000 workshops, and on the political posters filling every inch of available wall space.
I have come because my New Voices human rights fellowship has decided to send the fellows to the WSF. But I have an additional reason for being here. The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) has cited the WSF as one of the centers of what it and others refer to as the “new anti-Semitism”, and these charges have been picked up by various journalists as evidence of a dangerous new trend on the left. Upon closer reading, most of these accounts make little if any distinction at all between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel, or between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

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Jimmy Carter’s apology to the Jewish people

What is it about Atlanta and Israel?

First, in response to a firestorm of criticism and vilification, Atlanta resident and iconic film star Jane Fonda issued a mea culpa about the wording of a petition she signed protesting the Toronto International Film Festival’s celebratory spotlight on Tel Aviv. She said she signed it, “without reading it carefully enough, without asking myself if some of the wording wouldn’t exacerbate the situation rather than bring about constructive dialogue”. To her credit, Fonda did not remove her signature. But it was still an extraordinary move that reflected the intense pressure she was under. (This level-headed group of Atlanta Jewish leaders rose to her defense.)

And now, Jimmy Carter, reportedly in an effort to ease his grandson’s political path to a Georgia state Senate seat, has written an open letter of apology to, well, the entire Jewish people.

An open letter to the Jewish community at the season of Chanukah from former President Jimmy Carter:

The time of Chanukah and the Christian holidays presents an occasion for reflection on the past and for looking to the future. In that vein, I wish to share some thoughts with you about the State of Israel and the Middle East.

I have the hope and a prayer that the State of Israel will flourish as a Jewish state within secure and recognized borders in peaceful co-existence with its neighbors and with all the Moslem States, and that this peaceful co-existence will bring security, prosperity and happiness to the people of Israel and to the people of the Middle East of all faiths.

I have the hope and a prayer that the bloodshed and hatred will change to mutual respect and cooperation, fulfilling the prophetic aspiration that the lion shall lie down with the lamb in harmony and peace. I likewise hope that violent attacks against all civilians will end, which will help set a better framework for commencing negotiations. I further hope that peace negotiations can soon commence, with all issues on the negotiating table.

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Durban Review UN Conference 2009- Ahmadinejad, Dershowitz and Angelina Jolie’s crazy dad

Palestinian groups banned from UN conference side-events while Alan Dershowitz and Angelina’s dad get special treatment.

I’m writing this post from Geneva and already the surreal circus has begun. The controversy over Israel threatens to once again completely overshadow the massive, important work done by NGOs to combat racism and discrimination. First, the US just announced it is boycotting Durban II. As Mondoweiss says:

The conference is a follow up to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in Durban, South Africa in 2001. The US walked out of that conference due to criticism of Israel and Zionism (and pressure over reparations for slavery also allegedly played a role). The State Department has said the US is boycotting the review conference for the same reasons. There was a concerted effort by Israel and the Israel lobby here in the US to pressure the US to boycott and they are wasting no time in celebrating the victory.

And no wonder, the final Durban I document was 61 solid pages of ranting against Israel, invective-filled hate, epithets, vile denunciations, plans for Muslim world domination ….Oh wait, oops, I was reading a right-wing press release!

Actually, out of 61 solid pages on racism and discrimination, these are the 6 relevant paragraphs that refer in some way to Israel and Jews (updated):

58. We recall that the Holocaust must never be forgotten; 

61. We recognize with deep concern the increase in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in various parts of the world, as well as the emergence of racial and violent movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas against Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities; 

63. We are concerned about the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation. We recognize the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to the establishment of an independent State and we recognize the right to security for all States in the region, including Israel, and call upon all States to support the peace process and bring it to an early conclusion;

64. We call for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region in which all peoples shall co-exist and enjoy equality, justice and internationally recognized human rights, and security; 

151. As for the situation in the Middle East, calls for the end of violence and the swift resumption of negotiations, respect for international human rights and humanitarian law, respect  for the principle of self-determination and the end of all suffering, thus allowing Israel and the Palestinians to resume the peace process, and to develop and prosper in security and freedom;

151. As for the situation in the Middle East, calls for the end of violence and the swift resumption of negotiations, respect for international human rights and humanitarian law, respect for the principle of self-determination and the end of all suffering, thus allowing Israel and the Palestinians to resume the peace process, and to develop and prosper in security and freedom; 

Seriously.

Moshe Yaroni makes the point that justifying the US boycott on Durban II’s endorsement of these words is absurd. (The atmosphere of Durban I, he stresses, is a different question.) On the other hand, a conference where Iran’s Ahmadinejad, yes, Ahmadinejad is scheduled to speak on Holocaust Remembrance Day  “bodes very ill.” No kidding. (Apparently unaware of their own shameful human rights record, in keeping with Ahmadinejad’s provocations, a government-sanctioned Iranian group tried to hand out vile anti-Israel propaganda today. Organizers of the NGO parallel forum turned them away.)

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Tutu: Anatomy of a smear, the appalling double-standards of the thought police

All roads lead to Minnesota today. First, we wrote recently about the country’s first Muslim Congressman, Minnesota’s Keith Ellison, who got publicly whacked at the knees by the ADL’s Abe Foxman for comparing 9/11 to the burning of the Reichstag, Bush to Hitler. (In a despicable move, after hours of negotiations with Ellison, the ADL still released a press release excoriating him. The ADL apparently owns the trademark to “Hitler” and even “Reichstag”)

Now in Salon, best-selling author Glenn Greenwald documents in detail the appalling frequency of right-wing attacks on liberal groups, using, yes, words like Holocaust, Nazi, Gestapo and Hitler. The juicy part? The almost daily barrage of Nazi language is coming from many Fox News personalities. And who appears frequently at ADL events and got the highest award possible from the Simon Wiesenthal Center? Fox News owner, Rupert Murdoch. (Meanwhile Ted Turner of CNN got an Abe Foxman letter for comparing Murdoch to Hitler.) Gee, think there’s anything political here?

Now – the disgusting anatomy of a smear against Tutu, who, as we reported, was banned from Minnesota’s U. of St Thomas because of criticism of Israeli human rights violations.
My colleague Mitchell Plitnick has written about this and the reprehensible charges of anti-Semitism in his blog, The Third Way.

(As I was finishing this, I also got an email alert on an article of the same name by Richard Silverstein at Tikun Olam, about the same story. Let’s hope others pick this up and we can put an end to this disgusting lie about Archbishop Tutu. Digg these articles, Stumble them, Reddit- whatever you can.)

First: the lie, the Zionist Organization of America, and its circulation in the right-wing echo chamber

In defending the decision to bar Tutu from speaking, Doug Hennes of St Thomas said:

“But hes compared the state of Israel to Hitler and our feeling was that making moral equivalencies like that are hurtful to some members of the Jewish community.

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Peace is now a four-letter word, complains Orthodox rabbi at conference on Jewish future.

Last fall I attended all 3 days of the General Assembly of United Jewish Communities, billed as the largest gathering of Jewish leaders in the United states.
It was absolutely striking how the entire conference was based on generating not hope, but fear (a problem I lay at the feet of the organizers).The emotional centerpiece of the gathering was Netanyahu’s stump speech telling us that it is 1938 and that Ahmadinejad is Hitler (this is also Christian Zionist pastor John Hagee’s stump speech, which he gave at AIPAC, though which came first is not clear). This speech dovetailed nicely with Steve Emerson’s tips for secretly videotaping “anti-Israel” students on campuses, and warnings of the dangers inherent in all Islam.

Ironically, the only time I heard anyone mention peace was during Olmert’s talk…and when the P word was finally uttered, there was a healthy response from a small but strong number of attendees.

The overall level of discourse was so terrible — not even progressive Zionist groups like Americans for Peace Now or Ameinu were on panels, but a far right winger like talk show host Dennis Prager got an entire auditorium– that Olmert’s words of a future of coexistence were like a beacon of light in a long, dark night.

It turns out that the absence of meaningful discussion of peace is now a disturbing trend. Haaretz reported today in At conference on future of Jewish people, delegates ask why peace is off the agenda:

Rene Shmuel Sirat, the former chief rabbi of France, protested that the word “peace” seemed to have become a four-letter word in Jewish public discourse.

“Without peace the Jewish people have no future,” Sirat said in an interview with Haaretz.

“It is unacceptable that peace should not be included in the plans for the future of the Jewish people.”

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Get Carter: Brandeis blog, the A-word, fighting back, and self-censorship

It’s always amusing to hear people cite Jimmy Carter to prove that it is just some crazy urban myth that people who criticize Israeli policy get muzzled. After all, he’s been on all the major news networks and in many papers and even at Brandeis. Heck, this guy can speak anywhere he wants to. Well, there’s a reason for that. He’s a Nobel prize winning former US president, for crying out loud!

One need not be over-sensitive to conclude that if our favorite former president can be so ruthlessly dragged through the mud and vitriol, then there is little hope for the rest of us lesser mortals who don’t have the benefit of press agents and personal security details. At least one Israeli professor admitted freely that he had drawn just that conclusion. (Read end of post.)

Brandeis graduate, nonprofit Internet strategist and blogger par excellence Michael Stein sent us this item, showing that Brandeis continues to be a role model for open dialogue (which hasn’t always been the case). They just made public this Carter discussion blog which offers the chance to discuss Carter’s talk “as well as consideration of how the Palestine question [can] be discussed at our University.”

Meanwhile, the widespread denuciation of Carter’s book grows increasingly empty, given the fact that you can read much harsher condemnations of Israel’s human rights record on almost any given day in the pages of Haaretz (think of them as the New York Times of Israel).

You know the tectonic plates are shifting when a former Hadassah Magazine editor, J. Zel Lurie, writes in his column in the South Florida Jewish Journal

I am vexed by the vilification of former President Jimmy Carter by Abe Foxman and Alan Dershowitz over his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. They concentrate on his use of the word, Apartheid, which , they say, verges on anti-Semitism and they forget the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates formula for Arab-Israel peace.

Apartheid is actually a weak term for the way in which over two million Palestinians in the West Bank are treated. Apartheid in South Africa was based on race. It was defeated by universal sanctions against the government. Apartheid in the West Bank are regulations, roads, walls, fences and checkpoints, which, under the guise of security, are designed to take over land for the expansion of Jewish settlements.

The critics of Jimmy Carter should read the 96-page brochure published last June by Btselem, a Jewish organization in Jerusalem which monitors human rights in the West Bank and Gaza. The title is UNDER THE GUISE OF SECURITY: Routing the Separation Barrier to Enable the Expansion of Israeli Settlements in the West Bank. Its an easy read that tells a despicable story.

Download the B’tselem report here in PDF format.

Former NYT reporter Chris Hedges wrote in Get Carter in The Nation:

Carter’s book exposes little about Israel. The enforced segregation, abject humiliation and spiraling Israeli violence against Palestinians have been detailed in the Israeli and European press and, with remarkable consistency, by all the major human rights organizations. The assault against Carter, rather, says more about the failings of the American media–which have largely let Israel hawks heap calumny on Carter’s book. It exposes the indifference of the Bush Administration and the Democratic leadership to the rule of law and basic human rights, the timidity of our intellectual class and the moral bankruptcy of institutions that claim to speak for American Jews and the Jewish state.

Meanwhile, the Simon Wiesenthal Center was proudly sending out emails and press releases about their continuing war with Carter. For those of us who have directly encountered the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s magical ability to manufacture numerous “facts,” as I did a few years ago at the World Social Forum, it is no surprise that the Sunday school teaching president known for his calm demeanor finally fought back. (There is too much to say about Hier’s analysis here of the Wall)
carter letter swc

Finally, thanks to a careful reader who saw Roger Cohen’s excellent piece, Time for U.S. Boldness on Israel and Palestine in the International Herald Tribune. Cohen writes:

Israel was a supporter of the Iraq war because it believed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein would remove an implacable enemy, an important financial backer of Palestinian terror, and an obstacle to transforming the Middle East in a favorable direction.

All that is understandable, but four years later it looks like time for the United States to call in the chips and say: If you’re serious about a different post-Saddam Middle East, show us that you’re also serious about resolving the nexus of the region’s problems, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Then he reminds us that the US plays a key role in a solution, but that talks

…will have a greater chance of leading somewhere if Rice recalls Israel’s backing of the Iraq war to Olmert in these terms: You wanted a more fluid Middle East, O.K., now let’s make something decent of it.

That means an end to uncritical American support of Israel, a real push to persuade Olmert to engage with Abbas, enough boldness to reach beyond the details to a vision of what is needed to bring a Palestinian state into being.

Not least, it requires the breaking of the post-9/11 American taboos that have lowered debate of Israel to the scurrilous (and paralyzing) if-you- back-Palestinians-you-back-terrorists level.

Just for good measure, he includes this pitch perfect example of self-censorship, thus bringing us back to the treatment of Jimmy Carter and the message it sends to everyone else.

Lazin, the Israeli professor of politics, recently attended a meeting of the American Jewish Committee in New York and said that if he wrote a favorable review of Jimmy Carter‘s recent book equating some Israeli policies with apartheid he’d be “blackballed as a speaker in many American Jewish venues.”

Is he wrong to think that?