Tag Archives: Israel

Frank Luntz’s latest hasbara talking points – how to defend Israel post-Gaza

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The man we can all thank for catchy Orwellian phrases like “The Personal Responsibility Act” (which gutted federal support for poor families) and the “Death Tax”, Republican pollster Frank Luntz, is also the guru for Israeli hasbara. That’s right, more than any single person in the U.S., Frank Luntz has been responsible for teaching thousands of eager warriors for the Israeli government how to sell human rights violations and settlement expansion to increasingly dubious audiences. One example is this Israel Project 2009 classic, oddly euphemistically titled the Global Language Dictionary.

JNFBut now I’ve got great news boys and girls. The long wait for the latest “Words that Work” from Frank Luntz is now over (thanks for posting a leaked copy Jewish Philosophy Place–we almost missed the best read of the year! ) You can now download your own 2014, post-Gaza version of Communicating the Truth About Israel.

Lucky for us, it includes a great deal of current, original research on what Americans think about Israel, and what words test well in responding to their doubts. It seems to have been commissioned after Israel’s horrific attacks on Gaza–groups like the Jewish National Fund recognized that the reaction of near universal horror to Israel’s killing of Palestinian civilians was, indeed, the mother of all Israeli public relations problems.

We decided to hunt down the document after spotting Frank with a Powerpoint walking around in an odd new propaganda video filled with well-dressed young Jewish fraternity members–looking like they’d just stopped by on their way to internships on Wall Street. In each interview, these young men seem increasingly isolated and devastated by pro-Palestinian activism on their campuses which they conflate with anti-Semitism. One can’t help but feel for these students. I have no doubt that for many of them, the isolation and confusion they feel is real. And I hope they get support. After all, having your world view turned upside down, and your own power and privilege challenged in ways that make you uncomfortable, is part and parcel of what we used to call a good education.

But it says everything that these students are not at a gathering with therapists, or spiritual leaders, or experts in reconciliation and peace or building a healthy Jewish life on campus. No, they are at a conference with literally one of the world’s greatest propagandists for hire.

In fact, the video calls for a kind of war against “these radical, hate-driven organizations,” aka student groups that support Palestinian rights.

Hasbarists have been telling students at divestment hearings to avoid the facts and use the talking point “I feel unsafe” for years. Their elders are not doing these students a service by making encouraging them to feel even more fearful and separated.

In his presentation, Luntz relies on standard hasbara fare–thinly veiled racism and “oppositelandia” attacks on peace and justice advocates, as though church groups and pro-BDS Jewish college students were actually the ones responsible for the gradual closing of the door on a two state solution.

Luntz tells advocates to talk about Israel as standing on the front lines against global terrorism, a beacon of civility in a tough neighborhood, and to trot out the constant line about Hamas using human shields. He instructs hasbarists to use human, emotional, heart-felt language. He tells his followers to blame Palestinian rejectionism for Palestinian suffering, and to divert questions away from the realities of Israel occupation and repression.

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And remember, as Frank always says, “It’s not what you say that counts. It’s what people hear.” And I’d add, “It’s not what is actually happening on the ground that counts, it’s what Frank Luntz tells you to say.”

-Cecilie Surasky

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NY’s famed LGBT Center folds under pressure – bans “Party to End Apartheid!,” Israeli Apartheid Week event and groups

Taking Pinkwashing to a whole new level, one of Israel’s very very good friends– gay male pornographer Michael Lucas– is boasting that he single-handedly got NY’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Trans Community Center to not only cancel a “Party to End Apartheid” fundraiser to cover costs for Israel Awareness Week, but to ban the group from ever renting there again. How? You know, the usual calls from supporters and threats to withhold major donations (according to Lucas). Stephen Thrasher in the Village Voice writes:

Lucas, one of gay porn’s most outspoken figures, is known equally for his “Men of Israel” films, hisrabidly right-wing political writing for theAdvocate, and his custom-made dildo in the shape of his own manhood.

We were surprised at how quickly he succeeded.

Just hours after writing, “It was an inexcusable decision on the Center’s part to associate itself with a hate group like Israeli Apartheid Week, but there’s still time for them to reverse course and begin restoring their reputation,” Lucas proclaimed victory, writing: “We prevailed! Congratulations to everyone who stood with me in support of Israel. With your help it took only eight hours to accomplish our mission.”

The LGBT Center released a two-sentence statement: “We have determined that this event is not appropriate to be held at our LGBT Community Center, which is a safe haven for LGBT groups and individuals. Therefore, the meeting at The Center has been cancelled and the host group will no longer meet at The Center.”

Safe haven? For whom exactly?

Perhaps it’s the use of the word ‘apartheid’ that got to Lucas. The event was part of Israel Apartheid Week- but that word, whether you agree with it or not, has long been used to describe conditions in Israel by many including former education minister Shulamit Aloni, and former Israeli Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair. And how is Israel so utterly weak that it apparently cannot stand strong or at worst strident language? Isn’t this the core of democracy- protecting popular and unpopular speech?

Here’s a recently released open letter from Queer Palestinians that has something to say about safety, which should extend beyond safety for just Michael Lucas and his friends. It also makes a compelling case that many other groups have made for aligning LGBT freedom with other struggles (including the fight for free speech). A message likely long ago internalized by the LGBT Center except, it turns out, when it comes to Palestinians.

We believe that, as Queer communities, we must pay close attention to any grave human rights violations on our way to support the LGBTQ struggle, especially in a context where the country in question that oppresses, discriminates, and implements an apartheid system. We should question the ethics and the values of Queer organizations or groups that voice fervent support for and participate in an apartheid state’s institutions. Human rights should not be compartmentalized, and the human rights of a certain group should not be more important than others’. We, as Palestinian queers, cannot ignore the struggle and the rights of the Palestinian people.  To us, the two struggles go side by side.

All I can say is, the LGBT Center screwed. It’s appalling how easily they folded to threats from right-wing donors-apparently it took just 8 hours to make this unprincipled decision. I can’t imagine that NY area LGBT activists, who love and helped build the ground-breaking center, are going to like this anymore than the activist community in Toronto that staged a full-out Cairo-style rebellion when a small group of right wing friends of Israel similarly pressured Toronto Pride into banning the word ‘apartheid’ , when associated with Israel, in the parade. (Pride overturned the decision because, like this decision, it was indefensible.)

Thrasher says:

“Party to End Apartheid!” was a benefit for the Siege Busters Working Group, whose membership includes Emily Henochowicz, a Cooper Union art student who lost an eyeduring a peace protest in Israel, and the group Existence is Resistance. Both groups are raising money to send another aid ship to Gaza. The last such unsuccessful effort led to the death of nine people (and to the protest where Henochowicz lost an eye).

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Watch new doc- Canada-Israel: The other special relationship

A must-see Avi Lewis/ Al Jazeera Fault Lines documentary about the Canadian government’s growing conservative-backed war against Palestinian human rights activists and specifically, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

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Israeli Knesset completes step 1 of 3 in criminalizing nonviolent economic pressure against the Occupation

Real News Network, a professional online alternative to US corporate media, has this comprehensive report about a Knesset bill to criminalize Palestinian, international and Israeli efforts to promote and enact boycotts against Israel. Last week, it passed its “preliminary reading” in the Knesset, with two more rounds to go to become law.

If passed, this stunning bill will mark the most severe and antidemocratic backlash thus far against the boycott, sanctions and divestment movement (BDS) to pressure Israel to abide by international law. Continue reading

Silencing Gaza flotilla activists in the United States

The Israeli government, with the aid of its many proxies- especially in the Jewish institutional world, is working overtime after the Mavi Mavera massacre to paint the Gaza flotilla participants as terrorists.

Apparently–jamming satellite communications, absconding with tens of thousands of dollars of equipment, confiscating every photo and video they could find, and releasing pathetically doctored “evidence” (thank you Ali Abunimah and Max Blumenthal and others) is not enough. Now groups are working to keep flotilla human rights activists out of the country.

Here’s the stunning petition the NY Jewish Community Relations Council has put together to keep activists out. Mondoweiss has audio of retired US Colonel Ann Wright, who was just in NYC, speaking about what happened. She must be the person they’re trying to keep out of the country. Good luck with that.  So much for America-first.

JCRC motto:Meeting challenges indeed. Meanwhile, Iara Lee has even more footage that she and her cameraman were able to sneak off the boat. Unlike the IDF, she has the courage to let you see it unedited and raw.

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Israeli law to criminalize advocates of boycotts, inside or outside of Israel

My JVP colleague Sydney Levy just posted on our sister blog, TheOnlyDemocracy? This effort seems largely triggered by the Palestinian boycott of settlement goods which has already had a significant economic impact. Ynet reports:

The bill was initiated by the Land of Israel lobby in the Knesset and was endorsed by members of various factions, including Kadima party whip Dalia Itzik and Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tsachi Hanegbi.

by Sydney Levy | 

What is Israel’s reaction to the growing nonviolent movement of boycott, divestment, and sanctions? Well criminalize it, of course!

We just learned new bill has been introduced in the Israeli Knesset by 25 Knesset members, that would criminalize all boycott activities or even boycott advocacy inside or outside Israel. You can find info about this in English here and with more detail in Hebrew here.

The proposed bill would target those that initiate, encourage, or provide assistance or information about boycotts against Israel.

Israeli citizens or residents of Israel could be sued by whoever was harmed by the boycott and would have to pay up to 30,000 shekels in restitution and an additional amount according to the harm established by the Israeli courts.
This provision would endanger the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace, New Profile, Boycott from Within, among others.

Those that are neither citizens nor residents of Israel would lose the ability of entering Israel for at least ten years and would be forbidden from economic activity in Israel (holding an account in an Israeli bank, owning Israeli stocks, land, or any other good that requires registration.)
It is not clear whether this provision would apply also to entry into the West Bank, although Prof. Noam Chomsky’s denial of entry may be a sign of things to come.

A group in a foreign country would also be forbidden from economic activism in Israel. This would apply to the Palestinian Authority as well.
In the case of the PA, Israel would freeze transfer of money it owes and would use it to pay restitution to those harmed in Israel by the PA boycott of settlement goods.

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Helen Thomas, hypocrisy here and there

It’s impossible to defend Grande Dame of White House journalists Helen Thomas’ recent off the cuff statement that Israeli Jews should go back to Germany…..or Poland. (She said Israel should get out of Palestine, but it wasn’t clear if she meant the Occupied Territories, which Israelis should get out of, or Israel behind the green line.) It was deeply offensive and wrong.

One of this country’s most important and courageous journalists said something terribly wrong, was massively criticized, apologized for it, and was forced into retirement. Exactly the way it should be, right? Wrong.

It’s hard to even chart out the hypocrisy of the whole affair. What happened in 2002 when House Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey called for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians on MSNBC’s Hardball? An outraged response? Nary a peep. That same year Senator James Inhofe also called for Israel to permanently retain all of the Occupied Territories, “Because God said so. “  Did he quit? No. And what to make of the fact that Obama’s White House summoned infinitely more moral outrage for Thomas’ terrible but certainly not lethal remarks, than for the death of 9 people on the Mavi Marmara, including a 19-year-old US citizen shot in the head. (One prompted “deep regret”, the other was “reprehensible”. Guess which was which.)

There’s also the glass house in which Rabbi Nessenoff lives: he’s the one who recorded the Thomas gotcha video and who, it seems, has offered the world his own offensive imitation of a Mexican priest, and believes that Palestinians all belong back home…in Jordan.

Taking a short trip over to Israel we discover that the Israeli military recently created an order that, according to many human rights groups and Ha’aretz, “will enable mass deportation from West Bank.” Who had to retire because of that? Maybe because it wasn’t an off the cuff remark to suggest ethnic cleansing, but an actual military order to allow it, its authors escaped opprobrium. Wacky!

Just this week, Likud party MK, Miri Regev shouted at Hanin Zuabi, an Arab member of the Knesset from Nazareth who went on the Gaza flotilla, “Get back to Gaza, you traitor!” Sounds familiar, as though Thomas herself could have said it. Outrage meter? Zero. Then again, Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai wants Zuabi stripped of her Israeli citizenship, so telling her to go back to a place she is not from actually seems pretty mild by those standards.

Moshe Yaroni, who abhors what Thomas said, compares her treatment to Israel’s response to the Jerusalem Post’s Caroline Glick who is surely responsible for what will go down as one of the most morally heinous pieces of agitprop in modern history:

In Israel, the premier woman journalist in the country went a hell of a lot farther, in a premeditated, rather than an impetuous fashion. And there is hardly a peep in response in her home country.

Caroline Glick is well-known to readers of right-wing e-mail lists, and of course, of the Jerusalem Post, where she is the deputy managing editor and a regular columnist. She is also a fellow at the extremist neoconservative Center for Security Policy in Washington.

Glick herself is an extremist, and even those who agree with her (and who would, of course, not refer to her as an extremist) would have to agree that she situates herself well to the right of the current Israeli government. And that’s all well and good; she’s an op-ed writer, and she is certainly entitled to her opinions.

But at her web site, Latma, Glick has raised her vitriol to a whole new level. In a video overflowing with racism, a group of Israelis satirize the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla. You can see it for yourself at the link above, if you can make it through the whole thing.

Caroline Glick with fellow travelers, Morton Klein and John Bolton

In a most contemptible fashion, almost every trope of bigotry is on display in the video, which features the contention that the massive suffering in Gaza is all an elaborate fabrication. For a quick rundown of this “fabricated” suffering, check out B’Tselem’s summary of conditions in Gaza.

This level of cruelty is truly astonishing. Even if one contends that the Gaza blockade is a necessary security measure (see my earlier article for why it has the opposite effect), it is appalling to see fellow Jews laughing about it. And don’t we know all too well the offense in denying such things?
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Stand With Us/SF Voices for Israel shout Pigs for Palestine, threaten activists in San Francisco

[Video of threats and taunts embedded above.]  On June 6th, 2010, peace activists including members of Bay Area Women in Black and Jewish Voice for Peace held a silent vigil outside the main entrance to the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation’s annual “Israel in the Gardens” celebration. The peace activists called for an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian Territories and an end to the siege on Gaza. Their silent, dignified march was greeted by members of StandWithUs/SF Voice for Israel and other affiliates who called them “kapos” (concentration camp prisoners who carried out Nazi orders on other prisoners) and suggested that Israel should “sink the next flotilla with you on it.”  One man made repeated explicit threats against the peace activists and their families and used a camera to take pictures. No one from StandWithUs/SF Voice for Israel intervened. Rather, they kept up their vicious and abusive chants which included, according to multiple witnesses:

“Nazi, Nazi, Nazi!” – this done as a group chant
“You’re all being identified, every last one of you…we will find out where you live. We’re going to make your lives difficult..we will disrupt your families…”, all on above video.
“Sink the flotilla—and you on it!”
“Terrorists, terrorists, terrorists.”
One man yelled (to someone who may have looked heat exhausted) “I hope you stroke out, old man!”
“Ugly bitches” said to older women.
“You’re not a Jew! you gave up your Jewishness!”
“Witches in black! Bitches in black!” (hard to tell which one it was, or whether they alternated the chant)
“You fucking…!”
“Bin Laden loves you! you support terrorism!”
“Is there a coroner in the house? Women in Black are dead!”
“Is there a doctor in the house? Women in Black are sick!”
“End the occupation of our sidewalk.”
“Remember 9/11, they were dancing in the streets.”
“Asshole!”
“Anti-Semite!”
“Bigot!”
“Sharmuta!” this was chanted for a while (means “slut” or “whore” in Arabic and which was particularly shocking for Arabic speakers to hear)
“Commit suicide!”
“Anti-women, anti-gay, why support Hamas today!”
They were also lesbian-baiting, even though they were chanting “Anti-women, anti-gay, why support Hamas today?” One guy yelled “lesbian” at me and my friend (correctly assessing our sexual identity) and maybe the same guy yelled at someone else, “When’s the last time you dated a man?”

One guy kept saying “you’re looking at real people now (meaning Stand with Israel folks); you are not people.”

Signs said: “JVP, Proud to be ashamed to be Jewish.”
and “Don’t fuck with the Jews”.

An 88-year-old woman reported being told, “You’re halfway in your grave already’.
“Jihad!” chanted repeatedly at Muslim peace activists.

They also had signs that read, “JVP cons the world”, etc.

One woman waved the end of the large stick of her Israeli flag in a very threatening manner, as if to hit one of us (it happened to me several times as i walked by her), directed especially to those of us who carried signs identifying ourselves as Jews.

At an earlier demonstration last week at the consulate, there was a huge sign on the Stand with Us side (which Stand with Us later condemned). On one side it said “Until Gaza is destroyed, the job is not complete.” On the other, it said “God is great. It’s Islam that sucks.”
Continue reading

UC Santa Cruz cancels Israeli speakers. Israeli Consulate Outraged-not!

Here’s the short version. An April 20 talk by Palestinian and Jewish Israeli citizens on the cost of war and Israeli militarism is canceled at the last minute by UC Santa Cruz administration after some 90 Jewish students protest and 2 faculty write hard-hitting letter comparing proposed talk to hanging a noose to intimidate African American students. Talk organizer finds alternative venue anyway, but Israeli peace group co-sponsoring talk gets really ticked off and writes even harder-hitting letter to faculty and students. Anti-Defamation League, Israeli Consul General say nothing about Israeli citizens being banned from a University of California (UC) campus.

UCSC cedes point, that criticism of Israel is attack on Jewish American students- while Israeli-Jews say to American Jews, “get your own Jewish identity without sacrificing our children for your fantasy.”

Here’s a response from Israeli feminist anti-militarist  group New Profile to the suggestion by UCSC faculty and a student that the speaking tour, which includes a New Profile member, threatens the student’s Jewish identity. (Below this quote, should you hunger to read the whole megillah, you’ll find the original statement from organizer Scott Kennedy, the complaint letter from the Benjamins, and the New profile response.)

Furthermore, while we can sympathize with the student, Jenna Miller, that Israel is central to her identity,” she lives in America (as do both of you, apparently), whereas the speakers live in Israel, as do we.

We therefore pose this question to you, since you appear to condone Israel’s colonization of Palestine: Just how many more generations of our children, grand children, and great grand children, and our neighbors’ children and their children, et al. do you wish to fight and die so that you, Jenna, and others like you can feel that this place somewhere out there that is called Israel is central to your identity, disregarding the price we in Israel pay, namely that of burying our young. Till today Israel has seen 12 wars and military campaigns—-yes 12! In less than 62 years, with the next war always just around the corner!!! ….

How many more Israeli parents and families must become bereaved and grieve while you ply your pen to keep students and faculty from hearing truths—perhaps the saddest truth of all being that excepting war zones as Afghanistan, Israel is the least safe place in the world for Jews. Nowhere else have so many Jews been killed since WWII. No where else is every Jewish child obliged to conscript at the age of 18. No where else is there so much post-traumatic distress symptoms among Jewish youth. Please convey this to Jenna Miller.

Continue reading

And end to public criticism of Israel- Thanks AIPAC!

The March 30, 2010 UK Guardian on a letter going around Congress:

Aipac has persuaded more than three-quarters of the members of the US House of Representatives to sign a letter calling for an end to public criticism of Israel and urging the US to “reinforce” its relationship with the Jewish state.

The open letter, which has been circulating among members of Congress for the last week, says that while it is recognised that there will be differences between the two countries, they should be kept behind closed doors. “Our view is that such differences are best resolved quietly, in trust and confidence,” it says.

…Signatories to Aipac’s letter include Steny Hoyer, the Democrat majority leader, and Eric Cantor, the Republican whip.

Here’s the letter.

H/T to JW

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