Press Release: Assault Against Temple University CAMERA Fellow Exposes Bigotry of Students for Justice in Palestine

August 27, 2014

For Immediate Release

CAMERA—Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America

Contact: Andrea Levin

              National President and Executive Director

              1 (617) 789-3672




Boston, MA (Aug. 21, 2014) – CAMERA—the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America—calls on Temple University to uphold its commitment to academic freedom and free intellectual debate by investigating the physical assault against one of its students by individuals at a “Students for Justice in Palestine” exhibit yesterday. “Those responsible for this apparent criminal act, and the antisemitic incitement that accompanied it, must be dealt with according to the law and campus regulations,” CAMERA President and Executive Director Andrea Levin stated.

Temple student and CAMERA Fellow Daniel Vessal was attacked while speaking with individuals staffing a “Students for Justice in Palestine” table at Templefest, an exposition of student organizations. He reportedly was punched in the face and knocked to the ground while being taunted with antisemitic and apparently anti-Israel slurs including “kike” and “baby killer.

Levin noted that the assaulted student, Vessal, is pursuing the possibility of legal action and said that her organization, a 65,000-member, Boston-based communications media watchdog, “stands ready to help him secure justice in this matter.”

A managing information systems major at Temple, Vessal said he approached the “Students for Justice in Palestine” booth and said, “Listen, you should not be protesting Israel. If anything, protest the terrorists,” a reference to Hamas gunmen bombarding Israel with mortars and rockets.

One of the four or five people at the table punched him hard in the face, breaking his glasses and knocking him down. Vessal said others at the SJP table screamed ”You Zionist pig! You racist! This is what you get.” 

“Inexplicably,” said Levin, “campus police did not detain the assailant. Instead, he was permitted to leave the scene. And, the SJP table continued operating.”

After the attack, Vessal went to Temple University Hospital, suffering from headache and neck stiffness. A medical evaluation confirmed mandibular pain, cervical sprain and a closed head injury.

CAMERA calls on Temple University President Neil O. Theobald to condemn this act of antisemitic violence and to launch an investigation into the individual or individuals responsible and “Students for Justice in Palestine” as an organization. According to Levin, SJP “has a record of anti-Israel, anti-Jewish incitement nationally, and now this incitement has led, almost inevitably, to violence.”

Aviva Slomich, CAMERA’s campus department director, said “the physical harassment, intimidation and now assault coming from the so-called ‘Students for Justice in Palestine’ is becoming more common on American college campus and must not be tolerated. Not only does it subvert what ought to be open, civil academic discourse in general, it also amounts to naked anti-Jewish, anti-Israeli bigotry.”

Slomich said CAMERA—which has Fellows and Pro-Israel groups on more than 50 campuses—expects Temple University “to address this outrageous behavior and stand up and protect the civil rights of its students.” She said she “seriously doubted” whether, if a violent sexual assault took place on campus, that Temple University police would “merely allow the assailant to leave the scene. Anti-Jewish assaults should not be handled as if they were some lesser, tolerable category of violence.”

CAMERA’s mission is to hold communications media to traditional journalism standards of objectivity, accuracy, context and balance. The organization takes no position on negotiated Arab-Israeli agreements.  

The Invisible Casualty of War

August 26, 2014

Horror, fear, panic, anxiety. All of these go hand in hand with war, as Israelis and Palestinians have come to know time and time again. With each new conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, the television screens become inundated with stories detailing the horrific violence highlighted by footage of sirens blaring and images of blood in the street.  While it is easy for us, those who live outside the war zone, to turn off the television screen when the images and stories become too much, for many it is not so easy. For many must continue to live amid such chaos because they have nowhere else to go; it is their home. And so those fortunate enough to survive rocket attacks must continue to live as survivors, always carrying with them the memories of destruction, war, and death.  

Four year old Daniel Tragerman, killed by a mortar shell fired from Gaza into a kibbutz in Israel on August 22, 2014.

Four year old Daniel Tragerman, killed by a mortar shell fired from Gaza into a kibbutz in Israel on August 22, 2014.

This is especially true of children living in both southern Israel and Gaza who must live amid this unfolding violence. Among these children who experience a first-hand perspective of war, the potential for developing symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder becomes a serious problem which threatens to affect an entire generation. In southern Israel, the Israel Trauma Coalition has sought to combat this threat by reaching out to those who might be experiencing trauma and post-trauma effects.

The post-traumatic behavior exhibited by the children can manifest itself in different ways, says Roni Lior, the ITC’s project coordinator for Sderot and the Gaza region. Anything from  ”refusing to walk to school along a route where a rocket once fell – to intrusive thoughts where you feel like you’re re-experiencing the traumatic event; and hyper-vigilance, where everything makes you jump.”

Israeli children in a bomb shelter. Photo: IDF.

Israeli children in a bomb shelter. Photo: IDF.

The children of southern Israel have had to live in an environment that is constantly threatened by rocket attacks for the past fourteen years. The blaring sirens of the Code Red alarm system are as common as they are unpredictable and force people to rush to their nearest bomb shelters.  Organizations like the Israel Trauma Coalition have been setup in order to help populations respond and deal with the psychological stress caused by these frequent attacks.  Recently they’ve been receiving a number of requests from new regions farther from Gaza due to the increased range of the rockets fired from Hamas, including Central Israel, Jerusalem, the Western Galilee, and farther into the Negev.

From the Boston Globe: "Chairs stood next to a painted wall inside a public bomb shelter in the southern city of Ashkelon Aug. 4." REUTERS.

From the Boston Globe: “Chairs stood next to a painted wall inside a public bomb shelter in the southern city of Ashkelon Aug. 4.” REUTERS.

The ITC has setup what it refers to as ‘resilience centers’ in the region to assist people suffering from post-traumatic anxiety. Since the beginning of the most recent conflict, these centers have treated hundreds of people in one-on-one and group settings. The centers often hold multiple support groups daily and can be extremely cathartic for patients. “In second-tier towns like Netivot and Ofakim, the municipalities are placing informal education teams in local bomb shelters. ITC is supporting this with sessions in art and drama therapy. We hope we can get resources to provide therapeutic board and card games developed by our resilience-center professionals to help children talk about emotions and find inner strength,” explains Lior.

There has also been an increasing amount of callers to the ITC hotlines in recent weeks, where phone counselors coach and console callers in relaxation techniques and breathing exercises.  In a single day, the hotline office reported that they received upwards of 6,000 calls; many were from children.  It is difficult to say how potent the lingering post-traumatic effects experienced by children and other civilians will be and for how long it will continue to haunt them, but it is certain that this is something that is not likely to change soon.  This is because it is difficult to heal from anxiety from conflict when you are living in an active conflict zone.  The ITC reports that 75 and 94 percent of children aged 4 to 14 in southern Israel have shown symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Similarly in Gaza, a study by British and Palestinian academics entitled ‘Trauma, PTSD, Anxiety and Coping Strategies among Palestinians Adolescents Exposed to War in Gaza’ concluded that more than half of children aged 15 to 18 years old showed displayed behavioral signs of full of partial PTSD.

Due to the Hamas government disinterest in building bomb shelters, instead investing money and concrete to build tunnels into Israel in order to attack the country, there are virtually no bomb shelters in Gaza. Thus it is often very difficult for civilians to escape to areas that are designated safe. This is especially challenging given the Hamas strategy of firing rockets from heavily populated areas (Over a Dozen Hamas Terrorists Admit to Use of Hospitals, Kindergartens and Mosques for Military Activity).

As a result, the violence is frequently on full display for children on both sides to see and experience. The study elaborates that “such traumatic experiences severely deteriorate children’s sleep and cause uncontrollable fears among babies and children, causing anxiety, panic attacks, and poor concentration.”

It is impossible to perceive the emotional toll exacted on children who have already witnessed so much violence in their early, formative years. No easier is it to imagine the long-term damage this trauma will cost both sides in keeping the memory of violence alive and perpetuating the conflict through the generations.  What is clear however is that if this problem is not addressed in a timely and tactful way – if these children are left with no positive outlets through which to express and resolve the trauma they have experienced – then its aftereffects will continue to permeate the psyche of the next generation of Israeli and Palestinian youth.

Contributed by CAMERA intern Alexander Dumanis

A Veteran’s Take

August 25, 2014

Entering into my fourth year of college, I have seen the ups and downs of the Arab-Israeli debate. Sometimes you manage to come up on top. Sometimes you are caught off guard and find yourself between a rock and a hard place. Regardless of the outcome, every Zionist activist emerges stronger, smarter, and earns points for their credibility. I have been fortunate enough to come as far as I have in this field, but I did not do this alone. I have to thank CAMERA for every like I get on my posts, for every share my articles receive, and for every retweet my commentary acquires. Without CAMERA, I would not have met some of the finest activists I have the honor of knowing nor the courage to stand up for what is both right and just.

Elliott Hamilton speaking at the 2014 CAMERA conference.

Elliott Hamilton speaking at the 2014 CAMERA conference.

Coming back to the CAMERA Student Leadership and Advocacy Training conference for the second consecutive year did not seem like a formality. It gave me a lens as to what great talent and influence this new group of Fellows and Liaisons has in store for their respective campuses. It was a microcosm of how powerful our voices can truly be following a hectic summer of violence, war, media bias, misrepresentation of facts, and above all, the rising Jew-hatred that has reemerged from the depths of hell. Nobody left this conference feeling scared, but rather empowered and emboldened to take on the vast challenges that lie ahead in the coming year.

For some of us, the battle has already begun. Our dear friend and colleague Daniel Vessal managed to receive a fistful of hate while others found themselves preparing for battle following Students for Justice in Palestine’s latest call for “intifada” a month from now. No, this is not going to be easy, but standing up for what is just is never easy.

It was not easy for Judah the Maccabee to come out of the woodwork to start a revolt against not only the Seleucid Greeks under Antiocus IV, but also the thousands of Hellenized Jews who joined the ranks of the Greeks in an attempt to end the Talmudic Jewish presence from Judea.

It was not easy for John Brown to step away from his white privilege lifestyle and join the abolitionist fight to emancipate the slaves in the mid-19th century.

It was certainly not easy for Martin Luther King Jr. to march on Selma, to speak in front of the Lincoln Memorial, and to sit-in to protest against Jim Crow laws and the vast racism against African-Americans.

But we, the Zionist community, stand at the crossroads of a major battle for our legitimacy and to preserve the very tenants that Theodore Herzl and many after him fought for.

Zionism is a declaration of the Jewish people’s right to freedom, self-determination, and a state in their indigenous homeland: Judea. Not “Palestine.” During this conference, we were constantly reminded of our grand history as freedom fighters for the rights of all Jews, Arabs, Muslims, Christians, women, LGBTQ, African, and all other groups who live in the State of Israel practicing equal freedoms, civil liberties, and above all, political and socioeconomic rights.

The State of Israel is a light unto the nations that demonstrates the greatest examples of liberalism in our time. Israel is far from perfect, because no system of government emits perfection. But it is not only naïve to expect any country to show immaculate policies, but it is also anti-Semitic to hold Israel to a higher standard than that of Canada, the United States, European nations, and especially the not-free Arab world. That is what we will face in the coming months. That notion that Israel should be held to a higher standard is precisely what we must defeat. We are charged with fighting this battle, and we will succeed.

So what is my take following last week’s conference? I believe that CAMERA successfully taught 52 amazing student leaders how to properly defend Israel and to stand up against not only the gross injustices of both Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, but also the grand deception of J Street. This is my eighth year in Zionist advocacy, but I left this conference as if I just started over. I have been reinvigorated. I have received a reboot. I have a new set of friends and colleagues willing to join me in battle against the anti-Israel and anti-Zionist opinions infecting our college campuses.

No more will we stand idly by. No longer shall we remain silent. The Zionist community has come alive once again for another yearlong battle for legitimacy. CAMERA has done its part in teaching us; now we must apply.

Good luck, everybody! I will see you on the information front.

Contributed by Elliott Hamilton, 2014-2015 CAMERA Fellow. 

The Evolution of Pro-Israel Activism

August 22, 2014

The following piece was written by Ari Hoffman and published in the Times of Israel on June 9th 2014. Ari is a senior at the University of Central Florida and was the CAMERA liaison in his CCAP group, Knights for Israel. He helped to organize and plan the Declare Your Freedom Rally on his campus.

Knights for Israel

What is the solution to the Israeli/Palestinian issue? How is it that we can procure peace with the Palestinians? The current tide has rendered the dream of peace between the two sides virtually impossible. But the lack of peace is not the sole threat to Israel; a conflict less bloody but just as critical spreads across the world on Universities. Society blames Israel for the lack of progress in the peace process. Faulting her has promulgated hate towards the state, regardless of Palestinian culpability in its failure. This hatred perpetuated on college campuses, like a cancer spreading through the body, is direct result of the failure of this process.

Thus far, some of the most elite scholars and statesmen since political Zionism started have failed to solve this issue. Israel has offered peace to the Palestinians at every turn, and has made her fair share of concession since this issue commenced. Unfortunately, this has meant nothing to foreign bodies, and the international community as a whole.

As exhausting as the disregard of such peace offerings have been, it is equally exhausting to witness the inundation of said ignorance by our community (due to the lack of any effect it has). Countless individuals show direct representation of this in their continued hate against Israel. Thus, it is time we shift our focus from the reactionary defense of Israel with stated facts to pro-active measures aimed at garnering support for her.

It is apparent that nobody cares about what we have done to promote peace. No matter the scenario, Palestinians always seem to be absolved of wrongdoings when a conflict arises. Said scenarios are continuously followed by blame being disproportionately placed on Israel. This begs to question the effectiveness of current pro-Israel advocacy techniques.

Read more: The Evolution of Pro-Israel Activism | Ari Hoffman | Ops & Blogs | The Times of Israel 


August 21, 2014

Budrus is a documentary that was released in 2009. The film focuses on the anti-Security Fence movement growing in the village of Budrus, located in the West Bank. The anti-Security Fence movement is a series of protests which often start as nonviolent demonstrations but often end with throwing rocks. These protests are meant to urge the Israeli government to change the path of the security fence so it does not uproot olive trees or cross into Palestinian territory.


Julia Bacha wrote and directed Budrus. Bacha is a Brazilian filmmaker and media strategist who was educated at Columbia University. The job of a media strategist is to ensure that a certain message is conveyed in media, which means that the slant in Budrus was not accidental. Bacha now works for Just Vision which has produced films such as, Budrus, My Neighborhood, Encounter Point and Home Front, all of which have a very clear anti-Israel slant.

According to Just Vision’s website, “Just Vision highlights the power and potential of Palestinians and Israelis working to end the occupation and build a future of freedom, dignity, equality and human security using nonviolent means.” Just Vision promotes other organizations such as B’Tselem and Women in Black.

Ayed Morrar, the film’s narrator, is a community leader who often organizes nonviolent demonstrations. Morrar is accompanied by Ahmed Awwad, a Hamas activist. The film attempts to show the audience that these two men are the victims and the nonviolent activists and that the soldiers are led by brutes and thus behave in a barbaric manner. The film also tries to show the people of Budrus as the true victims.

Budrus not only shows Palestinian protesters, but Israeli and foreign protesters as well. This angle attempts to give the movement against the destruction of Palestinian land some sort of validity. However, these international protesters mainly serve as a hindrance to the IDF and not in a helpful way. These international “friends” of the Palestinians often taunted the soldiers and escalated the problems, making it worse for the people of Budrus. The violent response demonstrations increased as the international protesters forced the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to take more drastic measures, making Israel seem like the aggressor.

This film also shows these protests from the perspective of the IDF soldiers who were serving at the border at the time. While the film paints the IDF and its tactics with civilians as harsh, two of the soldiers, Doron Spielman and Yasmine Levy, are seen as civilized. Spielman discusses the purpose of the fence and its realities, as well as the nature of IDF soldiers, whereas Levy discussed the relationship between the soldiers and the Palestinians and how that relates to the army’s orders.

Spielman acknowledged that the fence’s background was rooted in the intifada, saying, “…and that’s what we’re up against and the answer is a fence. The answer is not going out and mulling down people.”

While the film’s multicultural approach makes it seem like a fair and balanced piece, this is not the reality of the film. The film itself contains shocking language and scenes, in addition to heavily edited footage and a clear bias.

One of the more shocking tends in the film is that the words “Jew” and “Israeli” are used interchangeably. At one point, Awwad discusses how shocked he is that a Jew would stand by his side to fight another Jew. Then, in the next sentence, he goes back to using the word “Israeli.” This is troubling because it not only shows the assumption that all Israelis are Jews, but that Jews are the enemy. This interchangable use gives an anti-Semetic tone to the film.

The film also contains contradictory information that is evident in two main forms. First, in a scene with Morrar’s family, Morrar states that only men will be going to protest that day and that the co-ed march will be held the next day. Not more than 30 seconds after that sentence, his daughter, Iltizam, states that marches are always co-ed.

The other contradictory point in the film is that, despite the fact that Morrar and Awwad, as well as several other protesters, constantly insist that the protests are strictly nonviolent, there is a lot of footage that shows protesters throwing rocks. Though it is usually followed by a cry to stop, the rock throwing is evident of violent intentions. This contrast shows the filmmakers are ignoring these acts of violence in order to push the message that all Palestinians are victims and peaceful.

Iltizam Morrar is also a troubling character in the film. While she is passionate about her people’s land, some of the things that she says in this film can be questionable. For example, she discusses her family’s “history of resistance.”

“I’m from a family that I am proud of. We have a history of resistance. My father, uncles and grandmother are always talking about everything they did in the Intifada. When the Wall came I said, ‘Well, it’s my turn.’”

This reverence for violence is something that is never expanded upon, outside of a few more extreme quotes from Iltizam, but it seems odd that the daughter of a supposedly peace-loving man would admire someone who had so much to do with violence.

Finally, this film loses its credibility with its highly edited footage. There are various points in the film, but it is most evident in the interview with Zeev Boim, that the Israeli side is not allowed to speak. They cut the interviews to the sound bites that they want. Zeev Boim says that an Israeli activist should go on trial for helping the people in Budrus and when they reporter asks him about it, astonished, there is no response. They do not allow Boim to respond, expand on or clarify his comment.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Rachel Wolf, a student at American University.

World Renowned Middle East Scholar Discusses an Under Discussed Perspective

August 20, 2014

On April 24th, 2014, Cornell University’s pro-Israel group, CIPAC, and CAMERA Fellow Benjamin Horowitz presented Jonathan Schanzer, a world renowned Middle East History scholar to an intimate audience consisting of CIPAC members, community members, and interns from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

In specific, Mr. Schanzer discussed his new book, State of Failure, in which he writes about the founding of the PLO and its failure to develop fair practices and institutions required to run a state. The most important piece of his discussion focused on the world’s refusal to place accountability on the governing body of the Palestinians and its placing of blame solely on Israel instead.


Seemingly Useless Yo App Redeems Itself in War

August 19, 2014

When the seemingly useless Yo app raised over a million dollars from investors, it raised a couple eyebrows.  That’s because the app enables the sole function of sending the word “Yo” to other people who also have downloaded the app..yes, that’s pretty much it.  Initially, it was taunted as useless and frivolous (no idea why), a testament to how ridiculous and nonsensical our techie generation has become. Recently, however, the app has found a way to make itself useful and not remind everyone of how sad and pitiful our generation is.

As reported by The Times of Israel, the app is now being used in Israel to notify residents living in potentially dangerous areas about incoming rocket attacks from Hamas. After weeks of increased rocket fire from Gaza, Red Alert teamed up with Yo in an effort to reach a wider audience in Israel while the conflict continues.

Co-founders Ari Sprung and Kobi Snir launched Red Alert: Israel after increased rocket fire into southern Israel from Hamas in 2012, resulting in Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense, out of fear that not all residents would be able to hear the emergency sirens that go off whenever Israel detects an incoming rocket sent by Hamas.  Now fast forward two years later, and Israel is once again drawn into yet another conflict with Hamas, with rockets from Gaza striking the country daily.

As co-founder Sprung told The Times of Israel, the app “has turned into a way for people throughout Israel and around the world to show their empathy for Israel.” Indeed, it has proven so.  More and more people from outside Israel, especially those who have friends and family members inside Israel, are downloading the app to their phones. To show solidarity with Israel, but also to be in the know of the security situation of their loved ones.

Whenever Israel detects an incoming rocket, a warning is sent out. The app streams this warning to other people with the downloaded app in the form of a siren sound, replicating the ones heard in Israel. However, because people are not charged for the app, with support coming strictly through donations, the app has faced some difficulties in reaching their desired audience capacity. For example, the app can be downloaded on Android phones only in Israel because it is stored on Israeli servers for the Google Play app store. Despite the financial drawbacks, the alert app is gaining in popularity everyday and allows for a stronger human connection between Israelis and people who empathize from all across the world. If you have a phone that can support the app, download it and gain perspective on what it’s like to live the routine of your life in the midst of war.

Contributed by intern Alexander Dumanis, a student at UMass-Amherst.

Screening of The Forgotten Refugees at Ohio State University

August 18, 2014

CAMERA Fellow Madelyn Grant of Ohio State University recently organized a screening of The Forgotten Refugees with a dinner and discussion. Over 35 students attended from various sectors of campus life, such as LGBTQ, Israel groups, and Greek life. The students enjoyed the film and engaged in a thought-provoking discussion following it.


Students were thinking and talking about the event long after it happened, asking Madelyn questions after the event, and wanted more information about it. As a result of the diversity of the students, this event can be used as a springboard for other events that can educate college students at Ohio State University about Israel.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Eli Cohn.

Fresh Ink for Teens Aims to Inspire Young Jews

August 15, 2014

Fresh Ink for Teens is a website dedicated to publishing the works of young Jews from around the world. Established over 15 years ago, the site’s topics range from Israel to pop culture to advice for incoming high school freshmen. In respect to Israel, contributors have written about the battle against the BDS campaign as well as high school and summer experiences in Israel. FIT strives to give Jewish teens a place to start their publishing careers where they can share with others their age, and is looking for more contributors! To write, please contact Shira Vickar-Fox at

The FIT logo

Contributed by CAMERA intern Dina Cohn

Brand of Milk and Honey at UC Irvine

August 14, 2014

BOMAH, the Brand of Milk and Honey organization visited UC Irvine to help the Jewish students learn how to better advocate for Israel through social media.  Students from various Jewish organizations on campus including the Jewish fraternities came to the event, some with low expectations, but left with new skills and motivation to better involve the community in pro-Israel advocacy.  BOMAH specializes in branding and storytelling especially regarding Israel.  They teach the necessary social media skills to attain the greatest response from students.  Even though most youths are very adept at using social media, they don’t have the specific skills to reach their target audiences.

Campus coordinators Samantha Mandeles and Gilad Skolnick meet with Daniel Narvy and other members of Anteaters for Israel.

Campus coordinators Samantha Mandeles and Gilad Skolnick meet with Daniel Narvy and other members of Anteaters for Israel.

Itzik Yarkoni, founder and executive director of BOMAH, led and taught these students invaluable tips about how to improve Israel’s image especially in the face of many anti-Israel campaigns on campuses.  While living in a Moshav near Sderot, Yarkoni joined the Sderot Media Center working as the Director of Marketing and New Media. There Yarkoni helped to raise awareness about the horrors in Sderot. Because the media continually publishes biased and false stories about the situation, Yarkoni found that the only way to combat this negative press is to have people tell their first-hand accounts. Yarkoni discovered that this is the most effective way to change the conversation for the better.

Yarkoni came to UC Irvine to teach the Jewish students about the power of their stories and personal experiences.  He taught them the necessary skills to tell their stories and to change the conversation through storytelling.

The response to the event was overwhelmingly positive.  Students left feeling empowered and directly put their new media talents to work and have already experienced success.  CAMERA Fellow and AFI President Daniel remarked, “I didn’t think there was too much to learn about social media, but Itzik proved me very wrong. Itzik showed us how to wield the power of social media to an exponentially higher power in ways that I never would have thought of. At the same time, it was very enjoyable, thanks to Itzik’s great sense of humor and interactive teaching method. If you need help marketing yourself or your organization, I couldn’t recommend Itzik more!” Others say they look forward to sharing more success stories about defeating anti-Israel weeks as well as maximizing pro Israel weeks.

These on campus tactics may be the key to major developments on even the most anti-Israel campuses.  BOMAH and Itzik Yarkoni have given these students life skills and have given them the power to change the way Israel is viewed on college campuses all over the country.

Contributed by CAMERA intern Sabrina Fried.