Pro-Israel Life is Alive and Well at NYC Colleges Thanks to CAMERA

April 24, 2015

Our EMET groups in New York City are constantly leading the way with educational programming on Israel. Our EMET group at Queens College, ISA, was recently visited by CAMERA’s director of campus programming, who helped students brainstorm and plan events such as their successful presentations by Izzy Ezagui and Kasim Hafeez.

The Israel Student Association at Queens College with CAMERA's Gilad Skolnick are putting on a lot of exciting events this semester.

The Israel Student Association at Queens College with CAMERA’s Gilad Skolnick are putting on a lot of exciting events this semester.

Our EMET group at Hunter College was started two years ago with CAMERA’s help. They recently strategized with CAMERA on boosting attendance and finding events that would be a great fit for their campus.

CAMERA staff visiting our EMET group at Hunter College, where Jacob Kessler is a Fellow.

CAMERA staff visiting our EMET group at Hunter College, where Jacob Kessler is a Fellow.

CAMERA helped start YOFI at Baruch College in 2011, as one of our first EMET groups!

CAMERA is the main sponsor of the Yom Haatzmaut celebration at Baruch College. Above: Meeting with our EMET group at Baruch, YOFI.

CAMERA is the main sponsor of the Yom Haatzmaut celebration at Baruch College. Above: Meeting with our EMET group at Baruch, YOFI in Febuary.

Gilad of CAMERA meets with Jonathan Razon, our incredible Fellow at Yeshiva University.

Gilad of CAMERA meets with Jonathan Razon, our incredible Fellow at Yeshiva University.

Yom Ha’atzmaut

April 23, 2015

This post was contributed by CAMERA Boston intern Aaron Hunt.

Today is Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, which occurs on the anniversary of 5 Iyar (May 14), 1948, when David Ben-Gurion announced Israel’s independence. This year, the fifth of Iyar falls on a Friday, so Yom Ha’atzmaut is celebrated today to avoid conflicting with Shabbat.

In Israel, today is a day of barbeques, military exhibits, official ceremonies, fireworks, and large celebrations from the Golan to Eilat, Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. The festivities began with an official ceremony last night on Har Herzl in Jerusalem marking the end of Yom Hazikaron and the start of Yom Ha’atzmaut. After the ceremony, which featured performances, speeches and the lighting of twelve torches by twelve Israelis honored for their contributions to society.

Independence Day

Israel’s transition from mourning one day to celebrations the next is always difficult, but this year’s switch is especially poignant, since yesterday’s Yom Hazikaron was the first since Operation Protective Edge last summer, during which 67 IDF soldiers died in the fight against Hamas. After an especially painful day of mourning, during which Israelis reflected on the price their country has had to pay defending its existence, they spent today celebrating 67 years of independence.

Through 67 years of threats to its very survival, from invasion by larger neighbors to terrorism from Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank, and beyond, Israel has stood strong and achieved economic, technological, and societal successes beyond what seemed possible. Today, in Israel and around the world, is a celebration of what a small but tenacious and courageous state can achieve in the face of monumental challenges.

Independence day

Yom Hazikaron

April 22, 2015

This post was contributed by CAMERA Boston intern Sarah Salinger.

Today is Yom Hazikaron, the Day of Remembrance, which is observed every year to honor those who have died in wars to protect Israel and as a result of terror attacks. This year, Yom Hazikaron is especially painful for friends and families of the 60 plus IDF soldiers and innocent civilians who died this past summer during Operation Protective Edge. In addition to these victims, the three boys– Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah– who were kidnapped from a bus stop in Gush Etzion last June are also in the hearts of all Jews this Yom Hazikaron.

Like other important days of commemoration in Israel, Yom Hazikaron is observed with sirens that can be heard around the country– one at 8pm the eve of Yom Hazikaron and one at 11 AM the next morning. The sirens are a way for Israelis around the country to mourn collectively for the losses of their friends, family, and others who have died for their country. In addition to the sirens, ceremonies are held in numerous places around the country to honor the fallen soldiers and terror attack victims. This year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein spoke at the ceremony held by Yad Labanim in Jerusalem, the association for the families of fallen soldiers. Since Yom Hazikaron last year, 116 soldiers and terror victims have died.

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CAMERA Brings Benjamin Anthony to UConn

April 21, 2015

On Wednesday, April 1, CAMERA fellow Ali Jabick at the University of Connecticut hosted a talk with Sergeant Benjamin Anthony (res.) from the organization Our Soldiers Speak at the UConn Trachten-Zachs Hillel House. Sgt. Anthony was invited to bring awareness to students about the nature of the IDF and to discuss his first-hand experiences serving in the IDF to protect Israel.

One of the highlights of the event was when a student asked Sgt. Anthony how he knew that he was meant to join the IDF, since he is British by birth and raised in the U.K. He also put forth several ideas as to how college students in the United States can help stand up for and protect Israel. This, coupled with his retelling of a traumatic experience from his youth concerning anti-Semitism, helped to make the event quite powerful and memorable for those in attendance.

After Sgt. Anthony’s talk, many students approached him to get further information about the humanitarian efforts of the IDF and how they could become more informed about Israel. Ali herself was quite impressed with the event. “I think the presentation left the students with a better idea of how to respond when Israel is brought up in conversation and how they can make an impact here in the United States”, she said. In addition, the event was used to get more students involved with pro-Israel advocacy at UConn. She gave multiple resources to those in attendance and directed them to people to reach out to if they had any questions or wish to get more involved.

CAMERA On Campus congratulates Ali on hosting a great event and ensuring a strong pro-Israel voice at UConn!

Event attendees pose alongside Sgt. Benjamin Anthony and CAMERA Fellow Ali Jabick.

Event attendees pose alongside Sgt. Benjamin Anthony and CAMERA Fellow Ali Jabick.

CAMERA Fellow Published: Israel and LGBTQ Rights

April 20, 2015

This piece was contributed by Concordia University CAMERA Fellow Bradley Martin. It was published in the The Link‘s special LGBTQ Issue. It is reproduced in full below. 

Israel and LGTBQ Rights

Why Israel Provides a Model for LGTBQ Rights Other Nations Should Follow

Published March 25, 2015

075While there is certainly much debate and controversy on the subject of Israel, the fact that it is a country with a remarkably progressive record on the subject of LGBTQ rights needs to be recognized.

Israel actually affords members of the LGBTQ community equal rights under the law, despite being surrounded by countries that persecute homosexuals. As such, this is a feature of Israeli life that should be examined and can even serve as an example for other states.

When the State of Israel was founded in 1948, it inherited “sodomy” laws from the British Mandate legal code. However, there is no record that such laws were enforced against homosexual acts that took place between consenting adults in private. The Knesset repealed the formal ban on consensual same-sex acts in 1988. Since 1993, homosexual soldiers have been able to openly serve in Israel’s military. Harassment and discrimination against Israeli soldiers due to their sexual orientation is illegal. Israel also recognizes gay marriages that are performed abroad and permits gay couples living in the country to adopt children.

In terms of gay culture, Israel has a thriving LGBTQ community with well-attended gay pride festivals held in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem since 1998. Tel Aviv especially has become known as a city where, according to Deputy Mayor Asaf Zamir, an estimated 16 per cent to 17 per cent of the city’s population is gay. In a worldwide survey conducted by GayCities.com and American Airlines, it was declared “the best gay travel destination of 2011” with 43 per cent of the vote. Lonely Planet named it “one of its top three cities in the world.” Pride events have also been held regularly in Haifa, Be’er Sheva, Petah Tikva, Hadera, Ra’anana, Eilat and Rishon LeZion.

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Contrast this to countries neighbouring Israel, such as Iran. In 2007, former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad bizarrely proclaimed at Columbia University, in response to a question about the execution of two gay men, that there were absolutely no homosexuals in his country. Not only is that statement patently false and utterly absurd, but homosexuality is punishable by death in Iran. Until recently, sodomy for men was considered a capital offence. In 2012, The Guardian reported, “under amendments to the penal code, the person who played an ‘active role’ will be flogged 100 times if the sex was consensual and he was not married, while the one who played a ‘passive role’ can still be put to death regardless of marriage status.”

Israel not only grants members of the LGBTQ community equal rights under the law, but also serves as a haven for gays persecuted by its neighbors such as in the Palestinian Authority. According to theBBC, in 2003 there were an estimated 300 gay Palestinian men secretly living in Israel. Israel has granted residency permits to openly gay Palestinians who fear they will be killed. Homosexuality is illegal in the Gaza Strip, while LGBTQ rights are not protected in the West Bank. gay2This leaves gay Palestinians open for persecution by Islamic religious leaders, the Palestinian police and even members of their own families in the form of so-called “honour killings.” Many LGBTQ people in the West Bank have made it known that they feel more at home in Israel, where they can have a social life without fear of punishment from the government or private citizens.

Many things can certainly be said about Israel. But its exemplary record and policies when it comes to the protection of LGBTQ rights is something that should be commended. Progressive policies concerning the protection of homosexuals must be ensured, regardless of geographical location.

Bradley Martin is a Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) fellow and student at Concordia University.

Bringing the Sderot Media Center Director to SUNY Buffalo

April 17, 2015

This post was contributed by CAMERA Boston intern Chaiel Schaffel.

Though sometimes we can barely stand it, time is our most precious commodity. We are so rich in it that has mostly lost its meaning. We waste time, chew time, burn time, even kill time. But there are those less fortunate. It takes fifteen seconds to reach down and tie your shoelaces, yet at times the residents of Sderot can’t even afford this simple luxury of time. They have to spend those fifteen seconds running to the closest bomb shelter, with fear giving chase all the way until they slam the eight inch blast proof door shut.

Being a Sderot resident, Noam Bedein, presented at SUNY Buffalo on March 11th, is acutely aware of the difficulties in Sderot life. Presenting to a room of Buffalo students, Bedein detailed the daily life of Sderot residents, and delved into his own decision to move to the border town. The event, hosted by the University of Buffalo for Israel group, went off without a hitch. There were no counter-demonstrations, and there was a marked lack of opposition to the presentation in Talbert 115. A number of participants reported enjoying the presentation. The CAMERA Fellow at SUNY Buffalo, Logan Woodward, said the goal of the event was to “…Spread awareness of what it is like to live under the constant barrage of rockets from Gaza.”

And Bedein did just that. Noam, the director of the Sderot Media Center, shared pictures of Israeli children fleeing a rocket assault from across the border, along with photographs of the aftermath. Woodward felt that this display was effective, as it moved many of her classmates, and that it “…Provided a human face to the Israeli side of the conflict and raised awareness for the town of Sderot.”

Our Fellow Logan with Noam Bedein!

Our Fellow Logan with Noam Bedein.

According to Woodward, the group got the word out about the presentation effectively and through mixed media.  “We hung up flyers, utilized our text alert system, sent out emails, published the event on Facebook and Instagram, reached out to club leaders through Facebook and emails, and made regular announcements at other events and general body meetings,” he said. CAMERA on Campus commends UB for Israel and the SUNY Buffalo community as a whole for hosting another successful presentation by Noam Bedein.

Yom HaShoah In Israel

April 16, 2015

This post was contributed by CAMERA Boston interns Sarah Salinger and Aaron Hunt.

Today, the world commemorates Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. In no country is this day more poignant than in Israel, where at 10:00am each year sirens wail throughout the country. Across the country, all activity stops for two minutes as Israelis stand in silent commemoration.

Even on highways, traffic comes to a standstill as motorists stop and step out of their vehicles; in restaurants and shops, employees and patrons alike pause to reflect; on sidewalks, pedestrians stop walking to honor the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis in Eastern Europe, as well as the millions of survivors of Nazi persecution. Here is a clip of a busy Israeli highway coming to a stop in order to observe two minutes of silence:

Throughout the day, TV stations broadcast Holocaust themed movies and documentaries, while schools hold ceremonies and host speakers. Perhaps most well known are the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day events at Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial and museum. The ceremonies begin after sunset on the eve of Yom HaShoah and continue through the following day.

This year, the opening ceremony began at 8:00pm on Wednesday, April 15th. Attending the first event were the President, Prime Minister, Speaker of the Knesset, and the President of the Supreme Court, among others. During the ceremony, which was broadcast live on radio and television, six Holocaust survivors each lit a torch, with each flame representing one million Jews killed in the Holocaust. This year’s torch lighters were Shela Altaraz, Avraham Harshalom, Eggi Lewysohn, Ephraim Reichenberg, Dov Shimoni, and Sara Weinstein.

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Top row from left to right: Shela Altaraz, Avraham Harshalom, Eggi Lewysohn

Bottom row from left to right: Ephraim Reichenberg, Dov Shimoni, Sara Weinstein

Sign SAIPA’s Petition to Continue Suspension of Brandeis Partnership with Al-Quds

April 15, 2015

Our EMET for Israel group at Brandeis, SAIPA (Students for Accuracy about Israeli and Palestinian Affairs) is supporting university president Fred Lawrence’s decision to suspend the partnership between Brandeis University and Al Quds University.

They are circulating an online petition supporting the decision, in the form of an open letter to the president. SAIPA wrote their letter in response to a recent initiative on campus to reinstate the partnership, which is spearheaded by the Brandeis University and Al Quds University Student Dialogue Initiative. Show your support for SAIPA and President Lawrence’s decision by signing the petition here!

The partnership between the two universities was formed in 2003. However, due to acts of hate and intolerance on the Al Quds campus, the partnership has been officially suspended as of November 18, 2013.

Al Quds University has been a hotbed of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic acts. As SAIPA notes in their petition, rallies have been held where students proudly displayed the Nazi salute, a professor was harassed after taking students on a trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and the Islamic Bloc (a Hamas recruitment group) set up an exhibit praising the attempted murder last summer of Rabbi Yehudah Glick. These, in addition to multiple other acts, have shown that Al Quds University is not an institution that Brandeis should be partnering with. In fact, the institution has proven itself to be in direct opposition to Brandeis’ core values of tolerance and coexistence.

Kol HaKavod to SAIPA for speaking the truth and supporting a strong pro-Israel agenda at Brandeis!SAIPA logo

Laurentian Israel Group Works With PRIDE

April 14, 2015

With a little Zionist chutzpah, our Emet for Israel group at Laurentian University, LUJSA, just pulled off a unique event with the LGBTQ alliance, PRIDE.

Entitled Half Off: Circumcision and Sex Toys, the Ultimate Games Night, the event was planned during PRIDE week- an entire week dedicated to celebrating and educating the campus about LGBTQ issues and life. The event was advertised by both LUJSA and PRIDE, and was even held during Israel Apartheid Week, right across from a display of anti-Israel propaganda!

Our Emet for Israel: LUJSA Liaison, Sidney, reported that the event brought new people out. Several of the newcomers mentioned the IAW display, and asked questions, which resulted in a productive discussion about the claims and behavior of the anti-Israel faction on campus.

Sidney recalled, “It was good to have a games night with PRIDE; they brought out new people, and I think it went a long way to build teamwork capacity for the future. I was also encouraged [by the fact] that we were having an event in the middle of the student center, even during Israel Apartheid Week.”

We love that our students are not deterred from building partnerships and standing strong with Israel even in sight of anti-Israel propaganda!

 

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U Chicago Student: Time to support Israel

April 13, 2015

This piece was contributed by CAMERA’s Emet for Israel Liaison at the University of Chicago, Blake Fleisher. The article was originally published in The Hill, and is reproduced in full below. 

Miko Peled’s recent op-ed in The Hill titled “Time to give Palestinians their country back,” was more rant than reason. Nowhere does he make a single argument for Palestinian Arabs receiving statehood. He presupposes they lost a country of their own, when in fact they largely fled British

Mandatory Palestine between 1947-1949 to avoid being caught in the crossfire of the Arab armies and the Jews.

 

Arabs were not systematically expelled.  In fact, the Israeli Declaration of Independence, adopted in 1948, explicitly states,  “We yet call upon the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve the ways of peace and play their part in the development of the State, on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its bodies and institutions.”

Peled attempts to argue three false claims: (1) Israel has a policy of apartheid towards Arabs, (2) Netanyahu played dirty in his recent election campaign and (3) the United States should re-evaluate its ties with Israel.

Israel does not have a policy of apartheid towards Arabs.  In South Africa, the black population was segregated, forced to use different (and unequal) facilities and banned from voting.  Jews and Israeli-Arabs shop in the same supermarkets and use the same restrooms.  Israeli-Arabs vote in elections and have their own political parties.  In fact, as a result of the March 17 election, the third largest political bloc party is the Joint List—a coalition of Arab parties.  Arabs also serve proudly in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the Supreme Court and in the Israel Defense Forces.  Rana Raslan, an Israeli-Arab, won the Miss Israel title in 1999 and represented the nation in that year’s Miss Universe pageant.

Israel is not free from examples of racism and discrimination, but neither is any other Western democracy.  Peled’s claim that Israel is an apartheid state is a blatant falsehood and degrades the reality black South Africans suffered under actual apartheid.

Netanyahu did engage in rough-and-tumble politics, warning his potential supporters that the opposition was bringing out Israeli-Arab voters “in droves.” Yet, the organized “anybody but Bibi” coalition reportedly bussed Israeli-Arabs to the polls in pursuit of its goals.  Netanyahu is hardly the first politician to use intense campaign rhetoric.  American politicians have resorted to arguably stronger methods.  Lyndon B. Johnson created a top-secret group to influence the perception of Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential campaign.  According to Joseph Cummins, author of Anything for a Vote: Dirty Tricks, Cheap Shots, and October Surprises, “They put out a Goldwater joke book entitled You Can Die Laughing. They even created a children’s coloring book, in which your little one could happily color pictures of Goldwater dressed in the robes of the Ku Klux Klan.”  We might not like it, but negative campaigning has become an American specialty, one U.S. consultants have brought to Israel.

Peled claims that Netanyahu won largely due to publicity from his speech to Congress warning of a bad agreement with Iran over its nuclear program.  He compared Netanyahu entering the House of Representatives to “Caesar entering Rome.”  However, Netanyahu entered more like a soothsayer telling us to beware a dangerous deal that could leave Iran too close to a nuclear weapons “break-out.”  He received widespread criticism for making his speech; many Israelis urged him to cancel.  Publicity from it cut both ways, but he was well received by many in Congress.

Peled’s grasp of Middle East realities is shaky.  Iran seeks the annihilation of Israel, its “Little Satan,” as well as—eventually—the United States, the “Great Satan.”  Just a few days ago, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei called for “Death to America.”  Peled had the chutzpah to falsely accuse Netanyahu of making “promises to attack and kill Palestinian civilians,” when the Israeli prime minister has been warning of leaders who actually promise to kill civilians.

I agree with Peled on one key point: the United States should re-evaluate its ties with Israel—just in a very different way than he suggests.  We are witnessing dangerous instability in the Middle East.  Iran is pursing a nuclear program and vying to dominate “a Shiite crescent” currently stretching through Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.  There is now a Salafi-jihadist “caliphate” in parts of Iraq and Syria, increased terrorism in the Sinai Peninsula, “Hamastan” in Gaza and a chaotic Libya.  Contrary to Peled’s views, Israel is the shining star of freedom in a region largely devoid of it.   It is time for America to support Israel even more.

Fleisher studies linguistics and Near Eastern languages and civilizations at the University of Chicago.  His research focuses on the Middle East and violent non-state actors.