The Separation Between the African-American and Palestinian Narratives

July 28, 2016

Dumisani Washington, a multi-talented and dedicated human rights activist, is a CAMERA speaker and has spoken to students at UCONN and the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign among many others. Dumisani Washington is dedicated to continuing Dr. King’s legacy of establishing peace and justice in the world. Washington fights for justice by promoting and defending the Middle East’s only democracy, Israel.

Unfortunately, many critics of Israel draw parallels between the African-American narrative and the Palestinian narrative in Israel.

As Washington explains, according to Dr. King, this juxtaposition of the African American experience in America to the Palestinian experience in Israel has been false, from the beginning, since Israel’s establishment as a state on multiple levels.

Arabs, not Israelis, were the aggressors at the time

Soldiers celebrate at the end of the Six Day War at the Western Wall. Source: israelforever.org

Soldiers celebrate at the end of the Six Day War at the Western Wall. Source: israelforever.org

Israel defended herself in the 1976 Six Day War and managed to safeguard the country as the homeland for the Jewish people. It is important to note that Israel was up against all bordering countries during the Six Day War: Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

In other words, only a few years after the Holocaust, all surrounding countries decided to attack Israel and wanted to end the existence of the Jewish people’s new safe haven.

Source: JPost

Source: JPost

The Arab League, the Arab leadership at the time, had no interest in negotiations with Israel. Their only response to defeat was to label Israel as imperialist.

Almost immediately following Israel’s success in the Six Day War, the Arab League met in Sudan and officially condemned Israelis as “occupiers.”

There, the Arab League issued the infamous “Khartoum No’s” in the Khartoum Declaration:
No peace with Israel
No recognition of Israel
No negotiations with Israel

Rather than trying to work with Israel, the Khartoum Declaration made it very clear that the interests of Arab leadership were otherwise. Throughout history, Israel has offered peace talks but is only rejected with hostility or approached with false promises of peace.

Israel is ignorantly labeled as imperialist when it is only struggling to survive as the rightful homeland of the Jewish people.

Putting Dr. King’s hopes to disgrace, the Palestinian Authority ruins Palestinians’ opportunities in the Middle East

Source: electronicintifada.net

Source: electronicintifada.net

Corruption of the PA puts Dr. King’s hopes to disgrace by hurting Palestinians’ chances for life improvement. Dr. King’s legacy to help Palestinians and efforts to establish a Marshall Plan are completely disregarded and crushed by the PA.

The Marshall Plan originated from an American project to aid Western Europe in economic support in order to help rebuild them rebuild after the war. In 1968, Dr. King initiated a Marshall Plan for the Palestinians. Just as America tried to financially support Europe after the war, so too does the US need to try to help impoverished Palestinians.

Calev Myers, founder of the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, has exposed the PA’s use, or lack thereof, of these attempted Marshall Plans. During the past 19 years, the Palestinian Authority has been given the per capita equivalent of 25 Marshall Plans, altogether worth tens of billions of dollars.

Despite all that the PA has received, poverty ensues among Palestinians as a direct result of the PA’s corruption. The funds do not reach the Palestinian people and Dr. King’s hope of helping them through Marshall Plans has gone down the drain.

It is not clear where all the funds end up, but the PA does not try to explain how the money goes missing. Recently, for example, the European Court of Auditors reported that approximately $3.1 billion given to the PA for Palestinians somehow has disappeared.

In addition, Bassem Eid, a pro-Palestinian activist and CAMERA speaker, testifies that overall Palestinians cannot trust the PA. Palestinians are being oppressed by their very own government and yet many ‘human rights’ activists fail to notice this.

The Palestinian Authority’s failure to distribute funds to Palestinians is part of a cycle to blame Israel further

Source: globalexchange.org

Source: globalexchange.org

Dr. King was a staunch pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian activist. According to Dr. King, the terms ‘pro-Israel’ and ‘pro-Palestinian’ are not at all antithetical because Dr. King simply believed in human rights for people, all people.

When Anti-Israel protesters use King’s views as material to delegitimize or criticize Israel, they are betraying his values and beliefs in human rights for all. While they use Israel as a scapegoat for the cause of all Palestinian plight, in truth, Israel is not comparable or at all relevant to the African-American narrative.

Such anti-Zionist activists project an image that they are fighting for justice and human rights but this is a cover for their true interests to put down Israel.
If they were truly dedicated to bettering life for Palestinians, they would be criticizing the PA and other Middle East regimes that oppress Palestinians.

Unfortunately, there is an endless cycle here: as long as Israel is blamed and used as the scapegoat for Palestinian oppression and impoverishment, the sources of Palestinians’ problems will not be addressed. And as long as the Palestinians continue to suffer, their suffering will be used as excuse to blame Israel.

To follow in Dr. King’s legacy, activists need to recognize this destructive cycle and end it for the sake of Palestinians.

Contrary to the view of many pro-Palestinian activists, Israel offers Palestinians great opportunity. It would be wise for all Palestinian activists to support Israel for the sake of Palestinians.

Palestinian workers at SodaStream before a massive layoff, a direct result of the BDS movement. Source: U.S.News

Palestinian workers at SodaStream before a massive layoff, a direct result of the BDS movement. Source: U.S.News

Israel is a land of opportunity for Arabs. The BDS movement strives to delegitimize Israel but consequently hurts Palestinian livelihoods in Israel. The Jewish state is a democracy where Palestinian citizens of Israel live freely, are employed, and Palestinians living outside of Israel in Gaza are even supported by the Israeli government through constant shipments of goods and materials.

In order to truly respect and continue Dr. King’s legacy of fighting for human rights, anti-Israel activists that truly want to help Palestinians need to address the actual perpetrators of the Palestinians’ plight and stop uselessly blaming Israel.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz

MLK’s Dream Conflicts With BDS

July 27, 2016

Dumisani Washington, a CAMERA speaker and a proud activist for Israel, is an expert in Dr. Martin Luther King’s pro-Israel legacy. In the past, he has spoken to students at UCONN, University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, as well as at other CAMERA-supported groups. When Dumisani Washington speaks to students who are either pro-Israel, not at all knowledgeable about Israel, everyone learns a lot from his interesting perspective.

Dumisani Washington

Dumisani Washington

The values of the BDS movement reflect concepts from Black ‘militant’ movements rather than Dr. King’s legacy of human rights. Washington’s writings help explain the antisemitic roots of BDS and how they conflict with what Dr. King stood for.

Dr. King stood for peace in the Middle East and peace in Israel

Source: inspiringthealtruisticmoment.com

Source: inspiringthealtruisticmoment.com

Dr. King, in simple and clear words, stated that, “What is basic and what is needed in the Middle East is peace.” Although the follow-up statement is often overlooked, Dr. King also explained that regarding Israel, “We must stand with all our might to protect its right to exist.” As Dumisani Washington explains, Dr. King respected the Jewish people and Israel’s territorial integrity—he recognized the Jewish state as the model democracy in the Middle East. Dr. King even referred to Israel as “an oasis of brotherhood and democracy.”

While other groups during the Civil Rights Movement had begun to falsely label Israel as a colonizing, imperialistic power, Dr. King only called for restoring security in Israel.

Black ‘militant’ groups disagreed with Dr. King and began to slander Israel.

Black Panther members in the 1960's. Source: hiphopwired.com

Black Panther members in the 1960’s. Source: hiphopwired.com

While Dr. King is highly respected and appreciated for his leadership and efforts in the African American Civil Rights Movement, African American ‘militant’ groups such as Black Panther were critical and impatient with Dr. King’s non-violent methods of ending discrimination.

Such African American civil rights activists, or ‘militants’ as they were referred to, were angry at American society—they were thirsty to finally obtain equal rights and establish Black Power.

As part of their quest for justice, these ‘militants’ were quick to look at Israel and equate the Palestinian-Israeli relationship to the White-African American relationship. As Dumisani Washington explains, they began to label Israel as a Western colonization and as imperial, and tended to sympathize with Arabs.

Such Black ‘militant’ groups drew false parallels between their narrative and that of Palestinians.

On May 8, 2013, Israelis and Palestinians wave flags as Israelis march celebrating Jerusalem Day outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's old city. Source: Sebastian Scheiner, AP

On May 8, 2013, Israelis and Palestinians wave flags as Israelis march celebrating Jerusalem Day outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s old city. Source: Sebastian Scheiner, AP

Projecting the African American narrative on the Palestinian narrative creates an inaccurate conception of Middle East relations and is simply a false understanding of Israeli-Palestinian relationships.

Dr. King could not agree more with Black ‘militant’ groups that America needed to stop discrimination and establish equal rights for all citizens. However, in addition to protesting their violent methods, Dr. King also disagreed with their undeveloped understanding of Israel.

Dr. King recognized that Israel’s relationship was not at all comparable to that of America’s relationship to African Americans. In fact, Dr. King argued that as the country developed, Israel would only help Palestinians further.

On a fundamental level, Dr. King disagreed with Black ‘militant’ groups and saw them as “color consumed.”

Dr. King marching with Dr. Ralph Bunche and Rabbi Abraham Joshua in a 1965 protest. Source: jewishcurrents.org

Dr. King marching with Dr. Ralph Bunche and Rabbi Abraham Joshua in a 1965 protest. Source: jewishcurrents.org

The philosophies of Black ‘militant’ groups did not reflect the opinion of most African-Americans. As Dr. King explained, these ‘militants’ were “color consumed” and would condemn those who are not colored. This is a radical reaction to racism and is a sort of racism of its own.

As a result of being “color consumed,” these Black ‘militants’ would empathize with “colored” Arabs. Consequently out of a sense of “colored” superiority, they would stand in solidarity with Arabs and became hostile to Israel.

In Dumisani Washington’s words, Dr. King saw this as “nonsense.”

Dr. King would not tolerate color superiority of any kind and believed that people should be judged “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Dr. King’s perspective on the Middle East was objective whereas Black ‘militants’ looked at the Palestinian-Israeli relationship with an automatic bias.

Though this sometimes meant disagreeing with fellow African Americans, Dr. King was more concerned about not being “color consumed” and fighting honestly for truth and justice.

Fundamental roots of the BDS movement are similar to, and possibly directly influenced by, these “color consumed” concepts.

FUCK BDS

While the BDS movement claims to be helping Palestinians, BDS is an anti-Semitic movement.
BDS is unconcerned about the Jews’ need for a safe haven and their right to their homeland in Israel. BDS is only interested in hearing the Palestinian narrative and choose them over the Jewish people just as Black ‘militants’ sided solely with Arabs.

As Dumisani Washington explains, Arab aggression, beginning with the Khartoum Declaration, spurred anti-Israel views among Black ‘militants.’ In turn, this strengthened anti-Zionism in America and eventually resulted in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) campaign against Israel.

To honor Dr. King’s legacy is to truly serve human rights and justice.

Jewish palestinian friends. Source: jmsmith.org

Jewish palestinian friends. Source: jmsmith.org

While the BDS movement is blinded by its staunch bias against Israel, Dumisani Washington argues that to truly promote Dr. King’s legacy of human rights for all people, it is essential to stand with Israel.

Additionally, Dumisani Washington explains that Palestinian authorities must be criticized for perpetrating their own people. While BDS overlooks Hamas, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, these regimes are responsible for countless honor killings in the West Bank and for withholding aid funds worth billions of dollars from suffering Palestinians.

Similar to the Black ‘militant’ groups, BDS is a color consumed movement and needs to consider the roots of their values before they continue wasting their time blaming Israel and not truly helping Palestinians.

To further understand Dumisani Washington’s view on Israel and his writings on Dr. King’s Pro-Israel legacy, click here. In addition, Dumisani Washington constantly speaks for Israel on his Facebook Page.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz

Jews and Italians bond over wine at UWindsor

July 26, 2016

Festive meals have always been an integral part of Jewish holidays, bringing family and friends together during special times. At the University of Windsor, it seems that nothing bonds Italians and Jews together more than wine and cheese.

This past school year, CAMERA-supported group, UWindsor Jewish Students Association (JSA), hosted a wine and cheese event. Italians are masters of wine and cheese but Israel exports fine wines as well.

Israeli wine at CAMERA-supported UWindsor Jewish Students Association event

Israeli wine at CAMERA-supported UWindsor Jewish Students Association event

At the event, the JSA offered a variety of wines, half Italian and half Israeli, and provided information about the origin of each wine. Italian and Jewish attendees were able to explore Italian and Israeli geography as they tasted each wine and with every sip, enjoyed the night even more. The Italian club provided an array of cheeses as well.

A relaxed evening, everyone enjoyed themselves and had fun learning about each other’s roots.

Students at wine event.

Students at wine event.

With so much hatred and anti-semitism on campus, a night of drinks and delicacies can do the trick to let college students live a little and remind them that there are always people who appreciate Israel as well.

Drinking wine together and sharing our deep history is what the quintessential Jewish holiday, Passover, is all about and gives just a taste of the amazing Israeli wine culture.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz

Tisha B’Av: Remembering Tragedy

July 25, 2016

According to Jewish tradition, the Jewish people’s Holy Temple in Jerusalem was twice destroyed on the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av.  Yesterday (July 24th), observant Jews fasted to mark the beginning of a three week mourning period which concludes on August 14th with the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av.

This concept of fasting and mourning the destruction of the temple is deeply rooted in Jewish tradition. The late Elie Wiesel’s thoughts on remembrance can help explain why such a solemn commemoration day for such an ancient day of tragedy is so important to many Jews. The following is an excerpt from Elie Wiesel’s 2003 Day of Holocaust Remembrance address:

But is remembrance enough? What does one do with the memory of agony and suffering? Memory has its own language, its own texture, its own secret melody, its own archeology and its own limitations: it too can be wounded, stolen and shamed; but it is up to us to rescue it and save it from becoming cheap, banal, and sterile.

To remember means to lend an ethical dimension to all endeavors and aspirations.

So too does Jewish tradition hold the belief that remembrance and taking a day to consciously remember tragedy is important. According to tradition, the destruction of the Temple symbolized the disintegration and disunity of the Jews as a people. Before its destruction, the Temple was the embodiment of serving God but also of overall unity of the Jews as a peaceful nation in the world.

To remember the Temple’s existence as well as its destruction on Tisha B’Av is a way for Jews to reflect on their faults as well as their endeavors and aspirations as a people.

According to Elie Wiesel’s explanation on the importance of remembrance, it seems the world could use such a day or moment as well to reflect on all current global destruction.

Source: newantisemitism.com

Source: newantisemitism.com

Upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, Elie Wiesel spoke about the importance of remembering before tragedy is repeated and terror is multiplied:

Remembering is a noble and necessary act. The call of memory, the call to memory, reaches us from the very dawn of history. No commandment figures so frequently, so insistently, in the Bible. It is incumbent upon us to remember the good we have received, and the evil we have suffered…the rejection of memory becomes a divine curse, one that would doom us to repeat past disasters, past wars.

If we wish to stop terror, to take actions to better society against the evils of the world, Elie Wiesel’s words suggest that humans must first remember and fully understand past tragedies and disasters. People may think terrorism, hunger, or racism will disappear from the world but history proves they horrifically continue without us even noticing before its too late.

In the same Nobel Peace Prize lecture, Elie Wiesel said the following:

If someone had told us in 1945 that in our lifetime religious wars would rage on virtually every continent, that thousands of children would once again be dying of starvation, we would not have believed it. Or that racism and fanaticism would flourish once again, we would not have believed it…How to explain this defeat of memory?
How to explain any of it…the outrage of terrorism: of the hostages in Iran, the coldblooded massacre in the synagogue in Istanbul, the senseless deaths in the streets of Paris. Terrorism must be outlawed by all civilized nations – not explained or rationalized, but fought and eradicated. Nothing can, nothing will justify the murder of innocent people and helpless children.

It is scary how relevant his words are still today. Between racism still being fought against by the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, between innocent people still being killed by terrorism on the streets of Paris, and between a massacre in the Istanbul airport, history is terrifyingly repeating itself as Elie Wiesel testified in 1986.

Incredibly discouraging, modern-day global troubles are not to be overlooked. As Elie Wiesel explained, remembrance is of upmost importance. Before confronting and hopefully improving the state of the current world, history is there to remind us what we are fighting against and striving to prevent in the world we live in.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz

10 Tips for Breaking the Silence

July 22, 2016

Breaking the Silence (BTS) is an organization dedicated to revealing the ‘truth’ about the IDF. Loosely based on accounts of soldiers, BTS tries to highlight immoral incidents in the IDF. But after a recent Channel 10 investigation, Breaking the Silence can no longer be trusted as a reliable source.

Here is a list of pointers BTS may want to go over before they ‘report’ on an IDF story in the future.

1. BTS may want to find a more credible founder

Yehuda Shaul. Source: palsolidarity.org

Yehuda Shaul. Source: palsolidarity.org

Rumors and gossip are meant for tabloids, not for real journalism. In order for Breaking the Silence to be considered a reliable news source, the founder should not be setting a standard of presenting rumors as “testimonials.”

A few weeks ago, BTS founder Yehuda Shaul falsely claimed that settlers in the West Bank had poisoned a well in the South Hebron Hills. Channel 10 program “HaMakor” investigated this matter and discovered that there were no eyewitnesses who actually saw a well being poisoned.

The story was based on settlers who were near a well that had a dead chicken inside of it. Perhaps not the tastiest of sights, this almost comical image is no basis for accusing settlers of poisoning anyone or claiming that they messed with the water.

This poisoned well rumor spurred quite a commotion and the false story was later debunked entirely in a full report. For another example of poor reporting regarding water in the West Bank, BTS can check out CAMERA’s article on the West Bank’s water supply and maybe the founder can learn how to report more accurately on such a story next time.

2. BTS’s Executive Director, Yuli Novak, may want to observe basic journalistic standards

Yuli Novak

Yuli Novak

Executive Director Yuli Novak has admitted that BTS does not insist on two “eye witnesses” to an incident. This is simply not an accepted standard of journalism. According to the HaMakor investigative journalists, having “two sources” but not two witnesses is not sufficient for reliable journalism. BTS needs to have more sufficient witnesses when reporting.

3. BTS could try not to disappoint their supporters so much

HaMakor reporters were really hoping to verify BTS’s accreditation. However, they simply failed to even find two sources for many of the BTS reports. Yuli Novak has disappointingly claimed that “we are not an investigative body and we do not claim to be one.”
Is that Yuni Novak’s way of saying BTS is merely a propaganda group?

It seems that those who have really relied on BTS until now no longer can. In the past, individuals have unfortunately brought unreliable BTS reports to official international investigative bodies such as the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict.

4. Breaking the Silence may want a more accurate name… like Breaking the Truth

breaking-the-silence-eng1

BTS may find this name to be a more accurate reflection of their efforts. Particularly with the three testimonies of BTS founder and prominent representative, Avner Gvaryahu, BTS broke down the truth. Their reports leave out key details from the incidents Gvaryahu described and turn the truth into something else entirely.

5. BTS needs to take note: selective coverage is not truthful coverage

In his testimony, Avner Gvaryahu explained that a soldier in his unit was allegedly upset that he missed his shot at an unarmed Palestinian. The HaMakor reporters investigated this incident and this soldier that Gvaryahu refers to, was finally given a chance to speak. The soldier revealed a critical detail: this “unarmed” Palestinian was armed and in fact had just thrown two grenades at the unit. After nearly being killed by two grenades, this soldier was in fact a bit concerned when he failed to stop the terrorist and protect his fellow soldiers. In the future, BTS should verify such critical details of a story.

6. BTS needs to stop exaggerating the truth to make up for flimsy material

In his second testimony, Gvaryahu expressed that his unit would regularly beat arrested Palestinians. The same soldier that told us the full story about Gvaryahu’s first claim explained that there were some “light” beatings in the unit. He also reported, however, that this was absolutely the exception rather than the rule. According to the HaMakor journalists, Gvaryahu’s testimony is an exaggeration of actual events.

7. BTS needs to clarify why they think the human right of self-defense is forbidden

Krav Maga, Israeli hand-to-hand method of self-defense

Krav Maga, Israeli hand-to-hand method of self-defense

In his third testimony, Gvaryahu claimed there was allegedly permissive and inappropriate use of live fire in residential areas. Fellow soldiers who served with Gvaryahu explained that they were permitted to fire at anyone who emerged from a narrow passage.
However, the soldiers added a critical detail Gvaryahu failed to mention: they were only permitted to shoot in an area if already shot upon from that same area. When soldiers are shot at, soldiers are permitted to fire back in self-defense. However, the IDF follows strict procedure when any soldier fires and if a soldier shoots out of line, severe punishments follow.

In short, according to the HaMakor investigation, BTS needs to verify their witness testimonies and brush up on their facts.

8. To properly criticize the IDF, BTS needs to consult with the experts

In order to fully understand incidents, not only it is important to hear testimony from multiple witnesses, but it is also critical to verify with people who are fully knowledgeable.
For example, Nadav Weiman, a BTS staff member, claimed that while mapping Palestinian homes, soldiers were harassing the Palestinians. Weiman’s commander claimed that Weiman’s accusation that his soldiers were harassing Palestinian homes is false and explained the importance of mapping in their mission for intelligence purposes.

HaMakor journalists concluded that Weiman’s testimony is an example of one of the main problems with BTS reporting. The soldiers who testify often have a limited understanding of their circumstances and consequently, warp the truth.

9. In general, BTS needs more primary sources–BTS cannot break the Israeli “silence” without sufficiently sourcing Israelis

Source: JPost

Source: JPost

HaMakor investigated information provided by Breaking the Silence and discovered a lie that “only 10% of its activities are with non-Israelis”. According to HaMakor journalists, approximately 20% of BTS activity in Israel is with visitors that are non-Jewish and non-Israeli and 20% of the activity is based on Jewish non-Israelis. Including work outside of Israel, approximately 50% of BTS’s reporting is done with non-Israelis.

Other than the fact that BTS lied about these percentages, there are two main problems with this:

1) The purpose of Breaking the Silence is to bring first hand soldier stories to the forefront. By definition, based on the BTS mission of “giving voice to the experience of soldiers,” BTS needs to be more heavily based on soldiers’ testimonies and less on that of outsiders.

2) Some of these non-Israelis involved in BTS are not reliable resources for such an organization. Some hold anti-Israel beliefs, are biased and as a result are involved with BTS out of a mere self-interest to use this organization as another method of delegitimizing Israel.
For example, Martina Anderson, a non-Israeli interviewed by BTS during a South Hebron Hills tour, is an Irish member of the European Parliament and has called Israelis “rash” in the past and highly supports BDS, an anti-Semitic movement.

10. BTS may want to check out My Truth to see an example of an organization that properly provides testimonies.

My Truth event. Source: israelnationalnews.com

My Truth event. Source: israelnationalnews.com

My Truth is an NGO that counters the misinformation and false claims that are waged against Israeli soldiers. The organization works with released soldiers and reservists, ranging from across the spectrum of Israeli society as well as the political spectrum, to share their stories. Respectful and politically neutral, My Truth gives former soldiers the opportunity to tell objective stories about their unparalleled experiences and the challenges that they faced. While listening to their stories, My Truth also thoroughly checks the information provided by testimonies and presents only the truth about the IDF experience.

my truth

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz.

Benji Lovitt’s Hasbara: Lighten Up and Laugh at Israel

July 21, 2016

Benji Lovitt, Texas-born Israeli comedian, strives to convey Israel’s true face to his audiences. He admits that in order to truly understand Israel, one must experience it him or herself. However, for any one who wants a good laugh, Benji Lovitt can offer that along with a good history lesson of Israel.

In the past, CAMERA-supported group, UB for Israel, hosted Benji Lovitt at the University of Buffalo for an evening of comedy, which drew many students who would not go to an Israel-related event otherwise. Following a performance by the comedic UB Improv group, Lovitt performed and shared his take on Israel with the audience.

Benji Lovitt with students at UB for Israel event, November 2015

Benji Lovitt with students at UB for Israel event, November 2015

Like any comedian, Lovitt aims to leave his viewers with smiles on their faces but also strives to provide his audience with a new take on Israel, a bit more comedic and bit less critical than the one the media tends to portray.

While many people view Israel as a war zone, Benji Lovitt reveals to audiences that Israel is a modern society and, even a great place to visit. Touching upon fun cultural phenomena such as the traditional Israeli shuk, or more serious topics such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Lovitt has a deep understanding of Israel and its many colorful aspects.

Source: benjilovitt.com

Source: benjilovitt.com

Reacting to the recent wave of constant terror attacks in Israel, Lovitt offers comic relief in writing as well as in his comedy performances. Keeping up with the times, Lovitt uses his comedic abilities to comment on Israeli culture and sets a great example for a creative way of promoting Israel.

CAMERA on Campus salutes Benji Lovitt’s dedication to Israel and will try to remember to keep laughing about all the great things in Israel even during tough times.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz

Mekonen: An Ethiopian’s Journey to becoming an IDF officer

July 20, 2016

mekonen

Originally featured in JerusalemU‘s Beneath the Helmet, a film revealing the stories of a handful of soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Mekonen, an Ethiopian Israeli, had just drafted into the Paratroopers Unit. The film Mekonen was recently released, and focuses on the rest of his incredible journey after basic training.

In the past, CAMERA Fellows have hosted screenings of Beneath the Helmet, and recently, CAMERA sponsored the premiere of Mekonen along with other Israel advocacy organizations in Jerusalem.

At the age of twelve, Mekonen immigrated to Israel with his family from Ethiopia. Just before moving to Israel—in fact only twelve hours before—Mekonen’s father, Abebe, suddenly passed away.

Just like Moses who passed away right before he could enter Israel with the Jewish people, Mekonen’s father could never actualize his dream and return home to the land of his people with his family. Mekonen’s story begins with such Biblical irony, such tragic circumstance. Similar to the Jewish people who had to venture into the Promised Land without their leader, Mekonen’s family immigrated to Israel without Abebe.

Between adjusting to the culture, making a living, and supporting a family single-handedly, Mekonen’s mother had to overcome countless challenges, as did all of her children when they arrived in Israel. As the film Mekonen shows, it was very difficult for Mekonen to grow up in Israel—he had trouble in school, would instigate fights sometimes, and in general, did not have any particular direction for his future.

When 18 and 19 year olds draft into the IDF, there a shift occurs in their mindsets. Thrown into a system that requires individual discipline, comradeship, and dedication for the cause of defending their homeland, Israeli soldiers are given an opportunity to make something new of themselves when they hit this new life stage and begin their obligatory military service.

Despite all of his struggles—loss of a father, immigration, difficulties in school, and financial strife in his family—Mekonen did not waste his opportunity to start anew during his IDF service. He chose to draft into the Paratroopers Unit and become a combat soldier. With the help of his dedicated officer, First Lt. Eden Adler, Mekonen was able to complete the rigorous eight-month training and then decided he would push himself even further.

Throughout the film, First Lt. Eden Adler speaks highly of Mekonen and testifies to how hard Mekonen had to work to get to where he is today. Eden Adler has completed his military service and is now an active voice for Israel as a CAMERA Fellow and a member of CAMERA-supported group CAMERA at Hebrew University.

Mekonen went on to Commanders Course and then Officers Course, which requires approximately another year of training and a commitment to about four and a half years of military service, a year and a half over the obligatory three years.

His family, his former teachers, and his community could not be more proud and we can only imagine how proud Abebe would have been of his son.

However, Mekonen’s incredible story does not stop there. The fact that this officer in the IDF was once just a shepherd boy who only dreamed of immigrating to Israel, the land of his people, is already inspiring beyond words.

The film, Mekonen, takes viewers on another part of his journey, which is perhaps even more inspiring as well as absolutely heart wrenching.

On a week break from the army, Mekonen decided to return to his hometown in Ethiopia. For the first time, Mekonen returned to his birthplace, his childhood home, and the place of his father’s death. At times, he enjoyed himself, at other moments, quite numb to the pain, he said he did not feel anything at all and at a few moments he burst out in tears.

Mekonen on his trip in Ethiopia. Source: blog.jerusalemu.org

Mekonen on his trip in Ethiopia. Source: blog.jerusalemu.org

During the trip, Mekonen visited his father’s grave. Dressed in full uniform as an IDF officer, with tears in his eyes, Mekonen stood at Abebe’s grave and saluted his father. Watching such a powerful scene, the viewer can only imagine Mekonen’s heartache during this cathartic moment.

Following his trip to the fields of his childhood, the basic straw-mud house he grew up in, and his father’s grave, Mekonen returned to Israel and his role as an officer. Training a new batch of soldiers, he could now stand as a great leader and role model for his soldiers, strong enough to train them and sensitive enough to help each one in his own process in the IDF.

A premiere event of the film, Mekonen, sponsored by CAMERA on Campus, Stand with Israel, Hillel and other groups together with Jerusalem U. Source: Isreallycool

A premiere event of the film, Mekonen, sponsored by CAMERA on Campus, Stand with Israel, Hillel and other groups together with Jerusalem U. Source: Isreallycool

Mekonen is a film that explores the path of an Ethiopian Jew and tells Mekonen’s personal story of victory and discovery. Inspiring to say the least, Mekonen shows the true face of the IDF—the individual struggles of citizens becoming soldiers, the dedication and accomplishment of these soldiers, and the sacrifices they make along the way.

For anyone who wants to learn more about the story of Ethiopian-Israelis or see the true face of the IDF, Mekonen is a film worth seeing. For more information, click on this link.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz

Brig. Gen. Danny Bren and the Technological Battlefront

July 19, 2016

Between Facebook, Instagram, and many other popular apps, our generation is hooked on technology. The IDF has become increasingly technology-oriented as well to combat the newest threat: cyberwarfare.

As Brigadier General Danny Bren explains, Operation Protective Edge, the 2014 war in the Gaza Strip, was the world’s first significant technological war experience. Brig. Gen. Danny Bren served as the commander of the Lotem Unit, the IDF C4I Directorate which technologically combats the enemy. C4I refers to a joint command & control unit which combines communications and cyber defense in order to support the completion of military missions.

IDF Brigadier General Danny Bren. Source: israeldefense.co.il

IDF Brigadier General Danny Bren. Source: israeldefense.co.il

In January, CAMERA-supported group MIT Friends of Israel hosted Brig. Gen. Bren for a special dinner event at the MIT campus, featuring him as their speaker. The event was open to all and also attracted students from Brandeis, Harvard, and Northeastern.

Following Brig. Gen. Bren’s lecture, “Cyber Attacks – The Current and Next Generation of Defense, A Technical Briefing,” Dr. Michael Sulmeyer, the director of the Cyber Security Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard, also spoke.

Before working at Harvard University, Michael Sulmeyer was a Pentagon official. Between the expertise of the IDF Brig. Gen. Bren and of Michal Sulmeyer, the event was very dynamic and piqued the audience’s interest. Students asked many questions, eager to learn more about technological challenges faced by the IDF as well as the differences between the techniques used by American and Israeli military technology units.

Brig. Gen. Bren was able to convey to the audience the importance of technology in completing precise military missions and gathering critical data which can prevent attacks on Israel. An incredible asset to the IDF Lotem unit, Brig. Gen. Bren started leading a revolution in the C4I activities of the IDF in 2013. By 2015, the C4I Directorate was well developed and now provides the entire military with uniform technology systems, which link the air, sea and land arms. In addition, under the leadership of Brig. Gen. Bren, the Lotem Unit developed a special IDF encryption system and an IDF cyber warfare defense system.

Source: MIT Friends of Israel

Source: MIT Friends of Israel poster for the dinner event with Brig. Gen. Danny Bren

The dynamic evening with Brig. Gen. Danny Bren at MIT exposed students to a non-political side of Israel. The audience learned about Israel’s advancement in technology and its global technological impact. Brig. Gen. Danny Bren has recently retired from the IDF but there is no question that his leadership plays a significant role in the Lotem Unit’s capabilities in defending Israel or that his work leaves a significant legacy in the advancement of technology.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz.

Breaking the Silence Gets Failing Grade in Channel 10’s Fact-Check

July 18, 2016

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Once described as the “most hated group” in Israel, few NGOs evoke the same level of raw emotion as “Breaking the Silence” (BtS). The European-funded Israeli organization publishes testimony, in Hebrew and in English, of Israeli soldiers with the stated aim to “expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories.”

Although leading international media outlets have in the past cited and relied upon the organization’s material, at the core of the controversy surrounding this group is the question of whether the published testimonies are reliable. A July 12 investigative report by “Hamakor,” Israel’s Channel 10’s flagship news magazine, suggests that the answer is a resounding “No.”

BtS: Highest Professional Standards?

Since a group of Israeli soldiers who served in Hebron launched the organization in 2004, BtS has published dozens of soldiers’ testimonies documenting “everyday life in the Occupied Territories” in order to “demonstrate the depth of corruption which is spreading in the Israeli military.” Defending themselves from critics’ accusations that they are merely peddling in gossip and unconfirmed reports, BtS argues “its personal testimonies have all been crosschecked, verified and passed through Israeli military censorship before publication.”

Some defenders of the organization have claimed that so far not one serious error has been found in their published testimonies.

“Hamakor” Investigative Report

BtS’s claim of nearly infallible standards took a big hit this week with Channel 10’s broadcast. While largely sympathetic to the BtS activists whom it depicted as idealistic and motivated by good intentions, Channel 10 reporters Anat Goren and Itay Rom found their investigative standards to be lacking. Under rigorous scrutiny, a large percentage of the group’s accounts which Channel 10 reviewed proved to be either false or exaggerated.

Testimony by BtS Staff – Some False, Some True, Some Exaggerated

“Hamakor” first checked the testimonies of BtS staff. The program examined three testimonies by Avner Gvaryahu, a founder and prominent representative of the organization.

The first of Gvaryahu’s testimonies involved a soldier in his unit who was allegedly upset that he missed his shot at an unarmed Palestinian (starting at 42:30). The soldier in question, however, told a very different story. By his account, the “unarmed” Palestinian had thrown two grenades at the unit, one of which narrowly missed the soldiers.

In his second (44:00) testimony, Gvaryahu claimed that his unit regularly beat arrested Palestinians. The same soldier involved in the first claim confirmed that there were some “light” beatings, but said this was very much the exception rather than the rule.The “Hamakor” journalists conclude that Gvaryahu’s story is an exaggeration.

Gvaryahu’s third and final testimony involved allegedly permissive and inappropriate rules for the use of live fire in residential areas. Fellow soldiers serving for Gvaryahu’s unit confirmed his claim that they were permitted to fire at anyone who emerged from a narrow passage (after they were shot upon from the same area). In short, “Hamakor” determined that one of Gvaryahu’s accounts was false, another was exaggerated and the third was true.

Nadav Weiman, a second BtS staff member, testified that soldiers were mapping Palestinian homes just to harass them. Weiman’s commander flatly denied the claim regarding harassment and maintained that the mapping was necessary for intelligence purposes. Goren and Rom concluded that Weiman’s testimony illustrates one of the common criticisms against the group – that the soldiers themselves often have a very limited understanding of the events around them.

The Libel of Jewish Rabbis Poisoning Wells

A few weeks ago, while addressing the European Parliament, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority accused Israeli rabbis of calling on their government to poison Palestinian wells. This claim was easily debunked (withCAMERA’s aid), and Abbas was compelled to retract his claims.

The source for Abbas’s wild claim was a video published on the Israeli news site NRG showing Yehuda Shaul – a BtS founder – on a speaking tour in the South Hebron Hills. He claimed that settlers had poisoned a nearby well.It emerged that this claim likewise lacked credibility. “Hamakor”’s investigation of the 2004 well incident (starting at 47:00) found that there were no eyewitnesses who saw a settler poison the well. The evidence amounted to a Palestinian who spotted settlers near the well before a dead chicken was found inside it.

Despite the dubious evidence, “Hamakor” noted that Yehuda Shaul continued to tell the story in his various Hebron tours.

How Vigorous is the Vetting Process?

Next, “Hamakor” examined 10 anonymous testimonies (starting at 54:00) from the BtS archive. The results were surprising. Of the 10 testimonies, “Hamakor” confirmed two as true, determined that two were false, two were misleading or “exaggerations.” Channel 10 was unable to confirm or debunk the final four because BtS refused to reveal the soldiers’ identities.

In the first anonymous testimony, a soldier claimed that when his unit responded to a suspected price tag attack in the West Bank, the IDF trackers declined to follow footprints and other signs pointing to a nearby settlement. However, according to the police report, the IDF trackers involved and even the Palestinian victims of the “price tag” attack, the IDF trackers did find the culprit in the settlement. BtS hadn’t attempted to corroborate the soldier’s testimony with anyone else involved in the incident.

Another testimony (starting at 56:30) involved a soldier’s description of the unit commander’s general instructions that after they shoot an enemy they should put their gun “between the teeth of the terrorist and shoot.” Other soldiers from the same unit interviewed by “Hamakor” had no recollection of the event. When the journalists reached the original soldier, he said he no longer remembered the incident that way.

A third soldier (starting at 57:30) claimed that an IDF officer was fined a mere 100 shekels for killing a Palestinian child. Goren and Rom determined that the false story was debunked a decade ago and was based on nothing more than army gossip.

As previously mentioned, the veracity or lack thereof could not be determined in cases in which BtS refused to reveal the soldiers’ identities to the reporters. About these unverified stories, “Hamakor” noted that BtS had previously claimed (as quoted above) that the group would only publish “serious” allegations verified by two witnesses. When the journalists asked Yuli Novak, executive director of BtS, about this claim, she clarified that the organization doesn’t insist on “two eyewitnesses” to an incident, and will publish if it has “two sources.” The “Hamakor” presenters pointed out that this practice is not compatible with accepted journalistic standards.

Summary

In an Op-Ed in the Israeli Walla news site, Goren and Rom argued that while they did not think BtS was intentionally lying, the organization’s vetting process was “superficial and not strict enough.” In their opinion, BtS would be more credible were it present the soldiers’ accounts as testimonies for the public to debate and raw material for journalists to investigate, as opposed to verified actual events.
This article was written by Gidon Shaviv and was originally published on camera.org.

Artists4Israel: Israel and her art are here to stay

July 15, 2016

artists4israel

Artists4Israel is an organization that works to uplift communities and promote the artistic and cultural freedoms of Israel through interactive hasbara initiatives. In the past, Artists4Israel has participated in campus events run by pro-Israel, CAMERA-supported groups at SUNY Albany and Cal State Long Beach. By encouraging students to paint Israeli-themed billboards or work on graffiti-style art projects, Artists4Israel renews Israel pride at many college campuses, but the group’s efforts do not end there.

Cal State Students at CAMERA-supported 49ers for Israel event with Artists4Israel billboard project. Source: 49ers for Israel Facebook page.

Cal State Students at CAMERA-supported 49ers for Israel event with Artists4Israel billboard project. Source: 49ers for Israel Facebook page.

CAMERA-supported Great Danes for Israel worked together with Artists4Israel for a dynamic Israel Fest event. Source: The Great Danes for Israel Facebook page.

CAMERA-supported Great Danes for Israel worked together with Artists4Israel for a dynamic Israel Fest event. Source: The Great Danes for Israel Facebook page.

As the organization explains, Artists4Israel was originally created in 2009 because just as Hamas was threatening Israel’s security with constant rockets, the enemy was also trying to attack the arts. They believe that the right to free artistic and cultural is fundamental for the independence of a democracy. Artists4Israel makes great efforts to protect Israel’s right to artistic expression and artist volunteers teach people about this issue all over the globe.

Source: Artists4Israel website.

Source: Artists4Israel website.

Art/Over/War: Tattoo is a beautiful project created in order to help Israeli veterans overcome PTSD by providing them with cathartic tattoos. Famous tattoo artists hope to help heal these injured individuals through their tattoo art skills.

The Bomb Shelter Museum. Source: Artists4Israel website.

The Bomb Shelter Museum. Source: Artists4Israel website.

Artists4Israel built a mini museum in Washington DC, The DC Bomb Shelter Museum, in order to convey to Americans the Israeli experience of running to bomb shelters when the country is too-often bombed by terrorists. Artists4Israel placed this museum in DC in order to provide American politicians an opportunity to truly understand the reality of living through a Hamas rocket attack against Israel before they continue to make important decisions that affect the Israeli security situation.

Headed by Executive Director Craig Dershowitz who is known for his “vicious commitment” to Israel, Artists4Israel serves to combat the cultural war against Israeli artists and artistic expression. CAMERA on Campus commends Artists4Israel and its tremendous efforts to promote Israel through such creative and diverse projects.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz