Monthly Archives: January 2018

Mahmoud Abbas Is Still Not a Moderate

January 31, 2018

On January 14th, during a two-hour speech in Ramallah, Mahmoud Abbas declared that Israel is a colonial project that has nothing to do with Jews“.

The declaration, made at a meeting of the PLO’s leadership, was not only incorrect but was just one in a long list of inflammatory lies made by Abbas regarding Israel.

In his speech, Abbas denied any evidence of Jewish history in the land of Israel claiming, “Colonialism created Israel to perform a certain function. It is a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism, but rather used the Jews as a tool under the slogan of the Promised Land”. Not only were the Palestinian President’s claims false, but it seems as though he is once again attempting to rewrite history.

The people of Israel have an intimate and well-documented history with Eretz Yisrael or the Land of Israel. A few examples of this history include the Merneptah Stele, an ancient Egyptian inscription dated to the 13th century B.C.E. and the first non-biblical text referring to the “people of Israel.” Another being the “Dead Sea scrolls”, ancient Jewish writings found in eleven caves near the Dead Sea, dated back to the 2nd-century B.C.E.

The Dead Sea Scrolls. (The Israel Museum, Jerusalem)

When Abbas fabricates stories about preserving colonialist interests by sending Jews to Israel, he blames both Great Britain for the Balfour Declaration in 1917 and Holland, for sending their fleet to Israel while carrying thousands of Jews. Regarding the first claim, the Balfour Declaration was actually the exact opposite of Colonialism. With the growing acknowledgment of self-determination rights, which was influenced by anti-imperialistic movements, Britain decided to support the right of the Jewish people to self-determination as a political group in a now growing project of Zionism in Israel.

Regarding Abbas’ accusation that Holland collaborated with British colonialism in order to strengthen its interests in the region–there is simply no evidence that corroborates the claim.

Abbas has also created some more new “facts” about the Zionist narrative regarding Theodor Herzl, who is considered the father of modern Zionism. According to Abbas, when visiting the land of Israel, Herzl saw the people living there, and was quoted as saying, “We must wipe out the Palestinians from Palestine so that Palestine will be a land without a people for a people without a land“. Abbas fabricated this quote. It does not exist.

This is not the first time Abbas has tried to manipulate history for his own benefit. In March 2016, Abbas claimed, “The Bible says that the Palestinians existed before Abraham”. The Bible itself refers to a group called the Philistines who lived along the southern coast of modern-day Israel. The name Philistine, has its etymological roots in the Hebrew word Peleshet, meaning intrude or invade.

Abbas also asserted that in the 1940s the Zionist project was failing, since its leaders couldn’t persuade any Jews to come to Israel. He suggested that Europe’s Jews would rather remain in Europe than emigrate, even in the face of the Holocaust. In fact, during those years, the British mandatory authority prevented Jewish immigration to Israel, at the behest of Arab authorities in the Mandate. Following the 1939 St. James conference between Jewish, Arab and British leaders, in which the Arabs demanded prohibition of Jewish immigration and of land purchases by the Jews, Britain published the White Paper of 1939. In this paper, they outlined a five-year plan for Jewish immigration, allowing only about ten thousand Jews to enter Israel per year. Even during the Holocaust, the British forces strictly enforced these quotas.

Abbas’s claims about the Holocaust once again illustrate the problematic, anti-Semitic beliefs of the leader who has demonstrated a gleeful willingness to change history in order to benefit his own narrative. Abbas’s doctoral dissertation The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism is notorious for its Holocaust denial. It’s clear that these perceptions have not changed.

Eventually, Mahmoud Abbas referred to the failed peace talks with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, claiming their failure was only the result of Olmert insisting on a 40 year-long Israeli rule over the Jordan River. In 2009, Abbas’s only explanation for his rejection of Olmert’s offer was that “The gaps were wide.” This according to an interview he gave to The Washington Post.

Abbas’s speech might have some influence on Israeli-Palestinian relations, as well as US-Palestinian relations. Unfortunately, this speech, filled with lies and deception, hasn’t received the appropriate coverage in the media, which would have surely discovered its falsehoods. Once again, as he has done throughout his career, Abbas exploits his status and education in order to create, ex nihilo, a new history that suits his political goals.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Noa Zinman.

The BDS cult and the dancing Jewish students – a night at UCL

January 29, 2018

Last night, 25 Jan, Hen Mazzig returned to University College London (UCL) for a talk. Hen has uploaded his discussion with the UCL Provost on Facebook. Hen had been invited there following the disgraceful scenes that faced him upon his first visit in 2016. For those that do not remember, anti-Israel protestors attempted to no-platform Hen. The event went ahead in a different room, with Jewish students penned inside and surrounded by screaming haters. The protest was intimidating and aggressive, and the Jewish students needed to be escorted off campus by police. The University brought some students up on disciplinary charges (the demonstrators yesterday, kept referencing ‘five Muslim students’ – I am assuming this is accurate).

The ‘Return of Hen’, to UCL has not been without controversy. Worried about another demonstration, either through a deliberate disruption inside, or mass protest outside, the University clamped down on both attendance and advertising. Even Jewish students from another campus were not permitted to register.

Protest at UCL

As was predicted, the anti-Israel crowd organised a protest. ‘UCL Friends of Palestine Society’ uploaded a call to their Facebook page. And followed up with some hard-hitting adverts, trying to drum up support:

Hen Mazzig

In truth, it didn’t seem to have as much of an impact within anti-Israel groups as last time. Many of the ‘shares’ were from Zionists, who were discussing this activity on their own pages. Many of the comments were from Hen and his supporters. Pro-Israeli students, arranged a counter protest at UCL, wavering between a simple counter demonstration or a more positive ‘Tel Aviv takes the Quad‘ event, that would see them hold a small party and share food and drink with other students.

In the end, about 50-60 anti-Israel activists showed up at the UCL Quad, which is a central area just inside the main gates onto the UCL campus. A group of about 20 Jewish students were there to meet them.

pro-Israeli students

Jewish students at UCL

 

anti-Israel activists

Anti Israel demonstrators

Flags waved, songs were sung, and the anti-Israel activists soon tired of the confrontation. After about just ten minutes, they headed off in the direction of the building Hen was giving a talk inside.

At this point it became obvious that police, university security, and some plain clothed security officers were accompanying the two groups as they headed off campus, and towards another UCL building near Goodge Street Station. Upon arrival, the two groups stood face to face, with the anti-Israel crowd also taking the area directly in front of the building access.

Building access

The student on the left playing with his phone, is Yahya Abu Seido, who was the ringleader of the event in 2016. The one with the megaphone is was also at the 2016 event, and was one of the central figures involved in the scuffle that night, whilst trying to deny Jewish students access into the second venue.

ucl anti-Israel violence

As a matter of interest, I have seen him at several non-campus events, and most recently, at the MEND event at Parliament.

Songs will be sung at UCL

The demonstrators began with their usual chants. ‘From the river to the sea’ and ‘Israel is a terror state’ are easy enough lines to remember. They tried one that rhymed with ‘Boycott, Divestment, Sanction’, but the lyrics proved a little hard for the university students to handle, and the ‘choirmaster’ soon gave up. An interesting turn when counting their own support. The chant ‘in our thousands, in our millions’, no longer satisfies them, and yesterday, we heard the new refrain ‘in our millions, in our billions’. Billions? Every one a Palestinian refugees no doubt.

As the anti-Israel activists cried out their desire for Israel to be wiped off the map, the Jewish students responded by dancing. The London Zionist campus scene has come a long way in the last 15 months. They are a good group, and their enthusiasm is infectious. I stood there watching the two sides, one calling for the destruction of the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, the other, singing, dancing and offering biscuits and chocolate to everyone that walked past.

The anti-Israel demonstrators had a megaphone, but the crowd itself didn’t seem to have that much motivation. And the more the Jewish students danced, the worse it got. Two of those who controlled the megaphone (they alternated between about four separate demonstrators), criticised the jovial nature of the pro-Israeli group. ‘Why are they smiling’, ‘how can they laugh’, they asked. The attitude of the Jewish students was visibly having an effect. With no answer to Jewish songs of peace, they resorted to frustrated criticism.

There was little trouble. One Jewish student had a pack of biscuits snatched from his hand. Beyond that, the confrontation remained peaceful. Where the two groups met, the Jewish students tried to engage in dialogue.

That sinking feeling

It is almost four years since those dark days in the summer of 2014. Almost all of the students today, were nowhere near a university during that conflict. The numbers have gone and the feeling of growing momentum has dissipated, taking much of the motivation with it. In addition, there is a growing awareness amongst many on the left, of the clear correlation between anti-Israel activity and antisemitism.  New recruits are proving difficult to find. The recent protests over Jerusalem, required Mosques to drag up the ‘Al Aqsa’ libel, to bring numbers on the street. Beyond the Muslim call to holy war, both Trump’s Jerusalem announcement, and dressing up Ahed Tamimi as Rosa Parks have failed to bring more than a handful of protestors onto the streets.

So as Jewish students sought dialogue, a few ‘organisers’ in the anti-Israel demonstration, tried to keep the two sides apart. This is not in their script and they do not know how to respond to it. Dancing, singing, trying to engage, it all cuts through their narrative like a knife through butter.

The moment of the evening for me, was when some of the Jewish students broke the news to the demonstrators, that Hen ‘had left the UCL building’ already. And he was ‘back in his hotel’. I think that glimmer of hope had held them together for the final half-hour. When it was taken away from them, you could see the look of dejection on their faces.

Always learning

But my role is not to be a cheerleader, I am there to research, and learn from those who oppose us. The UCL crowd was visibly deflated, and the more the Jewish students sang, the more deflated the other side became. As I moved within both sides of the crowd, it was the exchanges between them that was the most enlightening.

This was the image of the night. Harry Markham and Yahya Abu Seido, sitting on the floor, in the middle of the demonstration, talking to each other.

Yahya Abu Seido and Harry Markham at UCL

What separates them is understanding, perception, knowledge and respect, and it is dialogue that breaks down those walls. It is why dialogue is toxic to BDS, and on more than one occasion someone came to try to take Yahya away.  We seek dialogue because we know it is the only way to bring peace. BDS opposes it because it isn’t peace BDS is after. They are explicitly TOLD not to engage.

I believe Yahya when he says he doesn’t want to hurt Jews, and he may be genuine in his desire for a utopian ‘one-state’ humanitarian paradise. His failure isn’t just in his inability to grasp the naive nature of his political desires. He doesn’t understand Jews and he doesn’t get the concept of Zionism.  He cannot see that in reality, he is asking the Jews to be Dhimmi, with their safety totally dependent on an Ummahthat is split into countless factions and currently engaged in mass slaughter. When he speaks of equality, he doesn’t seem to grasp that our refusal to even entertain his offer, is because it isn’t real. When we say ‘no thanks, we want to look after ourselves’, he sees our rejection as unreasonable. From here, the idea we are ‘supremacists’ is just a step away.

And it is important to understand this crowd. This may be blind hatred, but they are not all beyond reach. The majority would fail a test on the basic history of the conflict or of Zionism. All of them have conceptual errors in the crucial areas needed to gain understanding.

A few of them are two-staters, standing in the crowd because they sympathise with the Palestinians and BDS is the only game in town. As you engage them one on one, you soon realise that the only unifying feature is ignorance. These are students, not warriors. It is easier, but self-defeating to believe that every one is an immovable antisemite. There are some people in this crowd who could be swayed.

There were a few, with their faces fully hidden behind the Keffiyeh. They looked very ‘extremist’. Except not all of them were. One spoke, demanding that the Jewish student she was in dialogue with accept that Palestinians deserve a state too. She explicitly accepted Israel’s right to exist. That isn’t the face of BDS, fully dressed in a BDS uniform.

The smiling policemen at UCL

At times the air filled with surreal statements. It was suggested that the police would have arrested them if the situation was reversed and those dancing students were Muslims. Claims that the police were allowing intimidation and harassment, as the demonstration was being stifled. I was standing next to two policeman, they looked around at the calm atmosphere, the dancing Jewish students, the people who were engaged in dialogue, and then they laughed. As professional as they were, as much as they did not want to, the sheer absurdity of the ‘harassment claims’ produced smiles and a few shakes of the head. In response to this, the Jewish students belted out the British National Anthem.

There was some sinister undertones to some of the talk too. Mainly from 

I was listening to one anti-Israel activist suggest that it is the Jewish side that doesn’t want dialogue. An absurd claim for a group that no-platforms, and stands alongside a ‘no to normalisation’ banner. He is totally oblivious to reality. The entire concept of BDS is to avoid and openly reject dialogue. There is no ‘T’ (talk) in BDS.

The BDS cult

Theirs is empty rhetoric. When you get up close, they just chant the same boring songs. They do not offer change or hope, and present only a picture of despair. Their demands cannot possibly be met. When you talk to them, there is no substance to their discussion. So false is their narrative, so extreme their united position, that they may as well be calling for the creation of Narnia. These people need to be saved from themselves.

Which is exactly why BDS doesn’t want dialogue. They are scared of truth, scared of facts, scared of the ‘followers’ seeing that the emperor has no clothes. To survive, BDS had to become a cult.

Because BDS, via the directions of the ‘Central Committee’ is a cult, acts like a cult, and directs BDS activists exactly like a cult. These from a checklist of cult behaviour from the website of the International Cultic Studies Association (ICCA):

  • Excessive zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader, philosophy. In this case the concept of ‘The historic Greater Palestine’
  • Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished
  • Mind-altering practices, such as meditation, chanting (‘FREE,FREE PALESTINE’)
  • The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel
  • The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members
  • The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society
  • The movement is not accountable to (and openly rejects) any authorities
  • The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary
  • The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members
  • Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends
  • The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members
  • Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities
  • Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members

This was almost written as if BDS was the subject. It is a movement of intellectual darkness and of war, using the university campus as its primary hunting ground. Which is why the authorities must do everything in their power to disable the cult. The entire university education apparatus is there to teach students to think for themselves, to apply critical reasoning to issues they face, to debate, research, learn and grow. If they cannot even do that, then what is the point of them at all?

This article was originally published at david-collier.com.

Contribtued by David Collier.

A Jewish Obligation

January 26, 2018

CAMERA Fellow Roee Landesman

I had not expected to reflect upon the Holocaust that day. My family and I were vacationing in Boston over Winter Break, following the Freedom Trail from the wharf to the South End when we stumbled across a peculiar architecture. It stood disconnected and emotionless in between the mayor’s office and a few small shops. Nevertheless, having grown up in an Israeli household with a background in Jewish education, my seventh-grade sister and I both knew exactly what the six glass pillars standing boldly in the middle of Boston represented.

Each pillar stands tall, with endless lines of numbers crawling up the sides, consuming the glass and masking the stacks of white smoke that climb up and through the tower. On the side of the walkway, an innumerable amount of rocks line the grand monument. As visitors walk through the pillar’s base, they are met with personal accounts and popular quotes from the Holocaust; put together, it gives the feeling of walking through history, with the emotion and human memory removed. Towards the end of the walkway stands a single rock, with a large metallic engraving: “Never forget”.

The New England Holocaust Memorial (Credit: nehm.org)

As my family perused through the monument –each member dedicating their own time to reflection and contemplation– I chose to stand back and take a broader view of this powerful art. People from all walks of life were here: The poor and the rich, the young and the elderly, the ignorant, and the wise. And yet, from my perspective, they all failed in a distinctly common way. In fact, in retrospect I had at that moment joined these strangers in one of humanity’s greatest modern-day failures.

Together, the strangers and I collectively forgot. We forgot that to date more than 10 million Syrians have been exiled from their country – the worst refugee crisis since World War II. We forgot that since the beginning of the civil war in Syria, more than 200,000 people have been killed by their own government. Lastly, we forgot, and continue to forget, that although these numbers are cold and distant, they represent people just like us. Only fate separates them, from the strangers that passed by me at that Boston memorial.

Frankly, I understand why people choose to forget, because after all ignorance truly is bliss. I could continue to live my life today with care for only myself, and would probably still have a fulfilling and whole life. But there is an internal force, a force so strong, so loud, and so deeply rooted in who I am, that I cannot overlook. A voice inside me that continually reminds me of my Jewish roots, and more importantly my Jewish obligations.

Over 3000 years ago, Moses received the Torah at Mt. Sinai, which was to be used as a baseline for morality through the lens of Judaism. While many parts of my religion are up to debate, there are rules which have steadfastly stood strong for centuries. In Leviticus 19:16 we are told that “You are not to stand by the blood of your neighbor”. And while I have physically failed to live by that commandment, my home, the home of the Jewish people, has not.

Israel has been keeping a close eye on its neighbor and has provided thousands of people with emergency medical aid since the outbreak of the civil war. This is incredible given the fact that the two countries are sworn enemies, and that the Syrian army invaded Israel during Israel’s independence (1948), the Six Day War (1967), and most recently the Yom Kippur war (1973). As described by Dr. Noam Fink, the chief medical officer of the Israeli Defense Force’s northern command: “We faced a dilemma; the decision was made by our commanders and our government to allow them to enter the country and to give them full medical treatment”. Since 2013 when Operation Good neighbor began, “Israel has treated about 4000 war-wounded or sick Syrians”, through a network of field hospitals set up on the Israeli-Syrian border. Additionally, the IDF has transferred approximately “450,000 liters of fuel…for heating, operating water wells, and ovens in bakeries”, and more than 225 tons of food across the border. As put in simple terms on the IDF’s website, their chief concern is a moral one: “Firstly, we have a moral imperative. We can’t stand by watching a severe humanitarian crisis without helping the innocent people stuck in the middle of the conflict.” I personally find this human connection beautiful, and the homage to our Jewish obligation through the naming of the operation to be inspiring.

However, this incredible humanitarian work done by Jews in the Middle East extends beyond just the efforts of the IDF. Non-Governmental Organizations such as IsraAID have been providing on-the-ground aid since the start. Today, they have special teams in Jordan, Greece, and Germany, to provide humanitarian relief for the displaced, the sick, and the forgotten. In Jordan alone, IsraAID has managed to help over 7,000 displaced people with over 10 tons of aid distributed. Furthermore, numerous individuals from across Israel, have gathered in unity to show and organize sympathy for their wounded neighbors.

It’s uplifting to me that a country which is under constant threat of annihilation has the capacity and the heart to support its enemies. It is efforts like these that remind me why I love the state of Israel, and why above all else, it remains a shining beacon of hope in a troubled region of the world. If we all acted like Israel, the world would surely be a better place.

So, here’s a reminder to myself and my readers –Jewish and non-Jewish, rich and poor, young and elderly, ignorant and wise—humanity depends on us. Let us look up to Israel’s work as an example, and extend a helping hand. May we always remember. May we never forget.

#weremember

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow and Mustangs United For Israel memeber Roee Landesman

Jewish Students Undeterred by Campaign of Hatred at UCL (Press Release)

January 25, 2018

London, England (Thursday, January 25th) – University College London made headlines in 2016 when riot police had to stop members of UCL Palestine Society from attacking Jewish students who were attending a speaking event with Israeli human rights activist Hen Mazzig. Undeterred, the students brought Mazzig back to speak at UCL on Thursday night. 

As Jewish students waved Israeli flags and sang Jewish songs, members of the UCL Palestine Society resumed their hatred, shouting falsehoods and slanders against Hen Mazzig and the Jewish state.

The UCL Palestine Society also vilified Hen Mazzig in a series of social media posts leading up to the event, branding him a “war criminal”, despite his former work as a Humanitarian Officer in the IDF, coordinating aid for Palestinians.

An image with Mazzig’s face on it was posted by the UCL Palestine Society with “WAR CRIMINAL” above his head. Demonizing allegations such as this fall under the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)’s definition of antisemitism.

What is more disturbing, UCL Student’s Union also posted the Palestine Society’s image on their Instagram account last night.

Tamara Berens, a student at Kings College London, said, “It’s appalling that the UCL Union, which is supposed to support and represent the voice of all students, would even consider posting such a blatantly anti-Semitic poster. What action will UCL take against the union to enforce that such hatred is not welcome?”

UCL barred Jewish students from colleges outside UCL from attending the event, a move that many saw as discriminatory and a violation of freedom of speech.

Aviva Slomich, International Campus Director for CAMERA, said, “Students standing up for Israel know that the facts are on their side, and that’s why they continue to stand up to those who use intimidation and hate to promote their false views.”

“This was obvious here in London where, despite yet another active demonization campaign by the UCL Palestine Society, the Jewish community came together to shine a light of hope and support for everyone who values freedom, morality, and peace; the same values that Israel exudes to its core,” Slomich said.

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About CAMERA on Campus UK

CAMERA on Campus UK is a division of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), and is dedicated to educating students and promoting the facts about Israel on campuses.

GMU SAIA Shuts Down Discussions on Israel

January 23, 2018

CAMERA Fellow Julian Moss

Last year George Mason University’s chapter of SAIA (Students Against Israeli Apartheid) hosted the National Students for Justice in Palestine Conference. One of their main focuses was to promote their campaign of anti-normalization, meaning that while they would lead their own pro-Palestine events and protest ours, there would be no space for any sort of dialogue. Members would no longer be encouraged to attend our events and ask questions. Any form of meaningful discussion would give the state of Israel legitimacy, a status they were unwilling to grant.

GMU SAIA’s logo [Facebook].

In my time at Mason, SAIA has held boycott and divestment workshops. They’ve protested pro-Israel events and posted graphic images all over campus accusing Israel of brutally attacking innocent civilians. Jewish students were coming to the Hillel office saying that they felt unsafe on campus because there were posters that made it seem like they were committing atrocities. This is problematic not just for the Israel Student Association, but for all the students at Mason. By engaging in hostile rhetoric and posting graphic content all over campus, SAIA scares students away from attending events.

Even though we are an explicitly pro-Israel organization, we had planned many events over the course of the year that were aimed at exploring and understanding Palestinian issues and moving towards coexistence. We invited Ambassador Dennis Ross to discuss his role in peace negotiations and found graphic posters accusing Ambassador Ross of conspiring to destroy “the state of Palestine” leading up to the event. Students who saw these flyers were hesitant to attend the event and learn from a man who was actually there trying to broker a treaty. In his event, he offered advice on how peace between Israelis and Palestinians could be achieved and shared personal stories about working with Palestinian ambassadors. Another group we work with called Bridging Narratives held regular discussions concerning the different narratives within the region. Discussion only goes so far though if only one side is willing to talk.

I feel this problem affects many members of our community at Mason. With such a diverse community on campus it is important that we as Jews support other groups on campus. We are unapologetic supporters of Israel and we believe in peaceful coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis.  We believe that dialogue is vital to achieving lasting coexistence.  When those with different opinions cover their ears and walk away, the prospects for peace are diminished.

During Israel peace week though, we were surprised to see members of SAIA come to two of ISA’s events. The first event we held was called Roots/Judur/Shorashim which was a conversation about nonviolent resistance and changing perspectives. It was co-hosted between a Palestinian activist and an Israeli rabbi. Members of SAIA sat and listened to the Palestinian speaker. When the Israeli, Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger came up to speak, the students from SAIA stood up, disrupted the program and declared we were turning a blind eye to the atrocities committed in Israel refusing to let anyone speak until finally storming out of the room. In doing so, they attempted to distort the truth and rewrite the narratives that the speakers were sharing. They prevented the Israeli speaker from sharing his story and they prevented the Palestinian and Israeli students on campus from engaging in an open dialogue about one of the world’s most complex issues.

This year, unfortunately we are faced with the same issue. Members of SAIA refuse to engage in a meaningful dialogue, or even to acknowledge our group. At their event “A Century After Balfour”, members attempted to rewrite the history of the Balfour Declaration and accused the Zionist Federation of establishing the state of Israel with the intent to rob Palestinians of their rights. When our members confronted them about these historical inaccuracies, SAIA’s members grew hostile and accused us of trying to derail their event. When an Israeli student brought up that they were lying about Palestinians not being allowed to drive on the same roads as Israelis, they refused to address her comment and went on to accuse Israel of segregating its citizens.

While the Israel Student Association hosts events that share the daily struggles faced by Israelis and Palestinians, SAIA is harassing students on campus with graphic images and shouting down anyone who tries to ask questions. Students on campus deserve events that are honest and promote an open discussion of this difficult issue. People who attend SAIA’s events will hear a persuading, albeit one-sided presentation of a narrative designed to delegitimize conversation. Mason’s students deserve better.

Contributed by George Mason University CAMERA Fellow Julian Moss.

Why is Arab Violence Taken as a Given?

January 11, 2018

Conversation needs to shift from “don’t provoke” to “no excuse for terrorism”

Former MIT CAMERA Fellow Suri Bandler

On Dec. 6, 2017, President Trump announced that America officially acknowledges Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and would eventually move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Referring to this as “acknowledging the obvious,” Trump explained that Israel is a sovereign state, recognized internationally and by the U.S., with the right to determine its own capital. In his declaration, Trump reiterated that such a move has no bearing on the city’s status under any peace agreement.

This declaration is entirely a symbolic gesture. The Israeli people already view Jerusalem as their capital in theory and in practice and as such all government business is conducted in the city: Jerusalem is the location of residence for Israel’s prime minister and president, hosts the Israeli Supreme Court and Parliament, and is the location in which visiting leaders are greeted.

Similarly, the American government already accepted Jerusalem as Israel’s capital long before this declaration. The 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, passed overwhelmingly in the House (374–37) and Senate (93–5), declared an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and called for the US embassy to be moved there from Tel Aviv. A provision, enacted every six months by previous presidents and by Trump along with this declaration, postpones the implementation of the act’s contents in the case that “such suspension is necessary to protect the national security interests of the United States.”

Such a provision acknowledged threats of violence and maintained a status quo of appeasement. Unfortunately, violence is both the expectation and the reality. In response to Trump’s declaration, the Palestinian “national and Islamic forces” announced three “days of rage,” or violent protests, which included rioters throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails. Additionally, over 30 rockets were fired indiscriminately into Israeli communities from Gaza, and Hamas, the internationally recognized terrorist organization that controls Gaza, promised an intifada, or a violent uprising. The last official intifada, the Second Intifada, began in 2001 and resulted in terrorists killing over 1000 Israelis. This new declaration by Hamas follows a wave of stabbings, shootings, and car-rammings that began in 2015 and was deemed by some the “Stabbing Intifada.” To this date, it has included hundreds of such terrorist attacks.

Considering internationally recognized peace plans call for Jerusalem to be the capital of both entities, presumably it would be expected that the U.S. embassy would be built there. But unfortunately, we are left with violence and rocket fire in response to this symbolic gesture. This is not the first time that Jerusalem was used as an excuse and justification for violence. Such a trend is consistent throughout history. For example:

Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, on Sept. 28, 2001 was described as the “match” that instigated the Second Intifada. This intifada, mentioned earlier, began on Sept. 29, 2001 and resulted in Palestinian terrorists killing over 1000 Israelis through suicide bombings and other attacks. But there is evidence of direct orchestration, including the providing of arms for attacks, and testimony by his widow about his premeditated intentions to instigate violence, by then-leader Yasser Arafat. Arafat received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.

Non-Muslim prayer is prohibited at the Temple Mount site due to threats of retribution, thereby casting prayer as an act of “provocation.” Even repairing a walkway in 2007 that served as the only entrance for non-Muslims to the site led to rioting across Jordan and Jerusalem and calls for a third intifada. Similarly, in July 2017, violence broke out in reaction to metal detectors that were installed by the Temple Mount. These metal detectors were installed in response to the smuggling of weapons that were used to kill two Israeli Druze police officers at the site. In response to the “desecration” caused by the installment, a Palestinian terrorist murdered three members of a civilian family at a Shabbat meal. The White House applauded Israel for easing tensions by removing the detectors.

Mahmoud Abbas, Israel’s supposed peace partner, also uses Jerusalem as a means of instigating violence, honoring terrorists with monuments and monetary rewards, as witnessed with the Stabbing Intifada. Abbas has claimed that Jews’ “filthy feet” disgrace the site and praised “every drop of blood that was spilled for Jerusalem.” No UN resolution was passed in condemnation to these statements and calls for violence, yet we are left with overwhelming condemnation at the movement of an embassy. If the motivation behind these US embassy condemnations is a desire for peace, then how can organizations like the UN not condemn active calls for violence?

This announcement can now be added to the list.

Indeed, the PLO went as far as to threaten to revoke recognition of Israel’s existence in response to a purely symbolic gesture by the American government. Using such an arbitrary act as an excuse for such a drastic and nonsensical response indicates that the PLO does not want peace. Unfortunately, these duplicitous actions are not limited to the PLO and are ubiquitous across international forums. Although Jerusalem is the holiest city for Jews, and the Temple Mount is the holiest site, the United Nations UNESCO motion failed torecognize the site’s significance to Israel.

At the same time, in response to this U.S. declaration, the UN passed a resolution condemning the announcement and not the violence. Countries that voted in favor include China, Russia, Venezuela, and Qatar, each with a long list of human rights abuses. This is unfortunately no surprise, as between 2012–2015 86 percent of UN resolutions that condemned a single country condemned Israel. In 2016, 20 out of 26 condemnations focused on Israel, while only three related to Syria, and one each was related to North Korea, Iran, and Crimea. Just as the PLO’s disproportional threat to revoke recognition of Israel’s existence sheds light on its motivations, so too does the UN’s disproportional focus on Israel call into question these forums’ true intentions. Why is there this incredible imbalance in condemnations towards Israel?

Why is the immediate international reaction to maintain the status quo and repeal the declaration, in light of the “eventual” violence and instability that this purely symbolic move will cause and not an immediate condemnation of the incitement and calls to violence witnessed across the Arab world? Why is Arab violence taken as a given and why does the international community impose few expectations regarding violent uprisings that target civilians: men, women and children, infants, and the elderly?

If we establish a status quo where violence against civilians is overlooked or justified, then there will never be peace. We need to shift the paradigm from “don’t provoke” to “these excuses and the resulting violence will not be accepted” and hold any entity accountable for terrorism.

Put simply: if our standards are such that praying at a holy site is considered a justifiable excuse for violence, then the barrier to peace is not a symbolic gesture by the US. This mindset of simply assuming violence and terror has become so common that even many Israeli leaders and civilians are against this embassy move too, simply because a symbolic gesture supporting a situation already accepted by the Israeli people isn’t worth a threat to Israeli lives. Arab leaders, therefore, threaten violence with no standards or repercussions imposed by the international community. If this move brings anything to light, it should not be the importance of an embassy location, but rather the disproportionate and misguided reactions of the international community and the disparity that exists between standards for Israel and the Arab world.

Contributed by former CAMERA Fellow, MIT graduate student Suri Bandler.

This article was originally published in MIT campus paper The Tech.

UK CAMERA-Supported Societies Need You — Sign the Petition Today!

January 9, 2018

Scene of the protest at Hen Mazzig’s 2016 CAMERA event at UCL.

Click here to sign the petition.

While commendably inviting Israeli lecturer Hen Mazzig back to speak on January 25th after his CAMERA event was violently disrupted in 2016, UCL is not permitting the majority of London area students who attended the original event to attend this one because they are not UCL students.

UCL does not have a policy of restricting events only to UCL students.

Instead of ensuring that proper security measures are in place and that disruption will not be tolerated, UCL is choosing to exclude students from other local schools.

This means that many Jewish students cannot attend what would be a significant event for them.

Why is UCL, in effect, capitulating to intimidation tactics by the anti-Israel mob that tried to silence Hen in 2016?

Please sign our students’ petition and tell UCL #NotOnOurCampus.  Let Hen Mazzig speak to students from across London without disruption!

Click here to sign the petition.

Related coverage:

UK Students Petition Against Restrictions on Israeli Activist’s Talk (Jerusalem Post)

Jewish Students Angry Over Being Denied Access to Hen Mazzig Talk at UCL (Jewish Chronicle)

Israeli Speaker Invited Back to UCL After Violent 2016 Protest (Jewish News)

November/December Events Report

January 5, 2018

November and December have been very active in programming on CAMERA- supported campuses.  The large variety of events have allowed students to learn about different aspects of history, politics, and culture!

Friends of Israel at Rockland Community College held the event, “Israel and The Middle East In The Age of Hashtag Diplomacy” with speaker Neil Lazarus.  The idea of the event was to provide an unbiased view of the Middle East and for individuals attending the event to be able to learn about the history of the Middle East, current events, and stories from both sides of the conflict.  The event was overall successful and very informative.

Friends Of Israel at Rockland Community College also held their own shuk this month!  They were able to set up many tables that had different information, foods, henna, and Middle Eastern music playing.  They were able to successfully bring the diverse culture of Israel and the shuk to their campus!  The responses that Friends Of Israel received were positive!

This is Israel at the University of Florida held an event this month about the Balfour Declaration.  They were able to pair with the Department of Jewish Studies for the event.  The program consisted of a panel discussion about the Balfour Declaration and the impact that it had on Israel, the United States, and Britain.  The panel discussion was followed by questions and dialogue from the audience.  Many of the attendees did not have much knowledge on the subject before and felt as though the event was very informative. 

Indiana Israel Public Affairs Committee (IIPAC) at Indiana University held their Leadership Reception this month.  Many different organizations from across campus were invited to attend.  There was a discussion about what Indiana Israel Public Affairs Committee (IIPAC) does, bipartisanship, and a U.S- Israel relationship.  The reception also served as a way for all attendees to network and build further relationships with other groups arounds campus.  The event seemed to be very beneficial and successful.  There were a large number of attendees and a further hope for relationships between organizations.

CAMERA co-sponsored and event with Nottingham Jewish and Israel Society and Culture, and the Film and Media Society entitled, “Politics and Pizza – Lahav Harkov”.  The event was divided into a number of different sections discussing her journey into political journalism, tips for students entering the field, the “ins and outs” of Israeli politics, and ultimately time for questions.  The event was well attended, and many participants had questions at the end.  Overall, the event was successful and enlightening about Israeli politics and the work that Lahav Harov does.

SKFI at Rutgers University held a Minute to Win It: Sderot Edition!  The event had different games with different facts about Sderot formatted similar to that of the popular game, Minute to Win It.  The event was very successful and was ultimately able to get people excited about different events to come!

SKFI at Rutgers University also held the event “Party for a Purpose: RockIt for Peace”.  The event was a concert featuring Sammy K the rapper.  The proceeds from the event went to the JNF Sderot Project.  The concert was enjoyed by many, and many participants are excited for similar events in the future!

The University of Oregon participated in the StandWithUs Israeli Soldiers Tour this month!  The IDF soldiers that participated in the event spoke about a number of different things, such as their service in the IDF, lives outside of the IDF, and future plans.  They were able to answer questions from the participants as well.  The event was an overall success and answered many of the questions that the community held. 

Glasgow Students’ Israel Forum at Glasgow University/Strathclyde University held the event “Diversity in Israel Through the Lens of a Knesset Journalist”.  Lahav Harkov spoke to the group about Israel’s political parties, their voter bases, their general attitudes towards key issues, their histories, and their leaders.  After Lahav Harkov spoke, the audience was able to ask questions to continue the discussion further.  The event was very successful in the efforts to deliver a friendly event on the subject.

Aggies for Israel at UC Davis held their second general meeting of the year this month.  They were able to discuss board applications, how to become more involved with the organization, future events, and anti- semitism on campus.  The meeting was well attended and had productive outcomes!

Israel Society at Maynooth University held the event entitled, “Diversity in Israel, through the lens of a Knesset Journalist”.  Lahav Harkov spoke to the group about a number of topics covering how the Knesset works, the history of the different political parties, to her what her role is.  Many attendees had many questions, and the Q + A time went beyond the set end time of the event.  The program was very successful and was able to continue the discussion about Israel. 

Israel Student Association at Queens College CUNY held their own Aroma Cafe!  The ultimate goal of the event was to have casual conversations about Israel without becoming too political.  The group was able to achieve this goal by having Israeli music playing, different trivia games about Israel, and general discussions about the history of Israel, all while enjoying a cup of Aroma ice coffee!

 

Emet Israel at the University of Miami held their Cultural Fellowship!  They focused on Israeli culture, as well as the similarities and differences between Israeli culture and American culture.  The members of the fellowship were able to engage in different trivia games, discussions, and try different Israeli foods! 

Emet Israel also held a Finals Study Break on their campus this month.  This event allowed students to take a break from studying to talk about Emet Israel, hear about future events, and have a snack!

SOAS Jewish Society at SOAS University of London held the event, “The Forgotten Refugees of the Middle East”.  The event’s goal was to provide awareness and education about the 1947 Partition Plan and the expulsion of Jewish refugees from different Arab lands.  The attendees were able to ask questions and participate in the dialogue on the subject.  The event was successful and had a positive response from the many different participants. 

Matadors for Israel at CSUN held the event “Meet Our Israeli” this month!  The new Israel fellow on campus was able to share her story, speak with a number of different students, as well as enjoy shakshuka!

Laurentian Jewish Student Association at Laurentian University held a Chanukah event called,  “Festival of Lights”.  Attendees were able to make their own Chanukah candle, learn about the history of Chanukah (both in Israel and across the world), and participate in different dreidel games!  Many people seemed to enjoy the event and gain a new understanding of the holiday.

Contributed by Campus Coordinator Alex Rittenberg

October Events Report

While August and September were busy kick-starting events and actions on campus, October proved to be very beneficial by way of programming.  CAMERA- supported campuses all over held different events and discussions about different aspects of Israel and Israeli culture. 

This month, Great Danes for Israel at the University of Albany, SUNY held a Bingo in the Sukkah event.  They had a large turnout for the event, and everyone was engaged and actively participating! 

Mustangs United For Israel (MUFI) at California Polytechnic State University – SLO held the event, “Israel: The Global Water Leader”.  Dr. Clive Lipchin, the director of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies was the keynote speaker for the event.  Dr. Lipchin, and the students of Mustangs United For Israel, were able to discuss and teach the greater community about Israel’s work in the global water sector.  The group was then able to discuss the political, social, and environmental impacts of Dr. Lipchin’s work on both the Israeli and global communities.  The event was co-sponsored with a number of groups from across campus, such as the Association of Environmental Professionals and the Society of Environmental Engineers.  The groups were able to hold very productive and meaningful discussions, and hope to have had a lasting impression on other students from across the California Polytechnic State University – SLO campus. 

MUFI also participated in the StandWithUs IDF Soldier Tour this month.  They were able to hold the event on campus and invited ROTC Army department and the Military Sciences Club to participate.  The speakers were able to discuss the truths behind the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the morals of the IDF.  After the talk, event attendees were able to ask questions and participate in a dialogue with the soldiers.  The event was an overall success and Mustangs United For Israel received a great deal of positive feedback!

Emet Israel at the University of Miami held their annual BBQ on campus to officially kick off the year.  They were able to set up their table near the freshman dormitories in order to speak with a large number of individuals.  They were able to encourage people to come to future events, as well as educate the greater University of Miami community about Israel, who Emet Israel is, the fellowship program, and the events that they have throughout the semester.

Glasgow University Israel & Middle East Forum at Glasgow University/Strathclyde University paired with the Jewish Society held an event entitled, “Falafel Night/‘Israel in Jewish Thought’”.  Both groups were able to give presentations and lead discussions about the classical and modern Jewish thoughts, and the history and modern day Israel.

SKFI at Rutgers University held an event called, “The Israel Kurdistan Relationship”.  The CAMERA- supported group was able to have a Jewish Kurdish speak about the relationship between Israel and Kurdistan and why it is an important affiliation.  Attendees were encouraged and able to ask questions and participate in the discussion.  The event was successful and brought about a new light to the topic.

Wildcats for Israel at the University of Arizona held their event Israel Palooza this month!  The CAMERA- supported group was able to bring Artists 4 Israel to campus in order to create an art piece that depicted their idea of peace.  The goal was to begin, sustain, and encourage a dialogue about peace and diversity.  The group was able to interact with upwards of one hundred members of the University of Arizona community!  Community members were able to participate in creating art with Artists 4 Israel, and in the discussion and answer the prompt “what peace means to you”.  Members of Wildcats for Israel spoke about their excitement for the overall success of the event, as well as their hopes for future events.

Owls for Israel at Florida Atlantic University held their event, OFI BBQ.  They were able to reconnect with students from years before, as well as welcome new students to campus.  The BBQ had a variety of Israeli foods, games, and activities that all showcased the different aspects of Israeli culture.  The group received a plethora of positive feedback regarding the event!

Alpha Epsilon Pi at Ohio University held their 40th Anniversary Banquet Dinner.  This was an opportunity for alumni and current brothers to come together.  They were able to give an update on their chapter, future plans for the chapter and on campus, and major accomplishments throughout the history of the chapter on campus.  Overall, the event was a success and the group has hopes to strengthen their overall alumni relations in the future!

VIEW (Visions for Israel in an Evolving World) at Hunter College held the event, “Ask A Soldier”.  Attendees were able to partake in a lunch, lecture, and discussion with the IDF soldiers in attendance.  Many different questions were asked, and the conversation seemed to flow effectively.  The event was able to show Israel and the IDF in a more positive image, and answer many questions that the community of Hunter College had.

Israeli Students Association at York University held the event “Illusory Beauty” this month.  The event discussed the different aspects and discoveries about the Dead Sea.  The ultimate goal was to showcase the facts and ideas of the Dead Sea that many people might not have known previously.  The group was able to participate in a virtual reality presentation both through their cellphones and through VR (virtual reality) equipment.  Overall, the event proved to be a success and provided an abundance of new information.

Matadors for Israel at CSUN held the event “Fauda and Froyo”.  The event combined two campus favorites: frozen yogurt and Netflix.  Attendees were able to enjoy frozen yogurt and watch the first episode of the Israeli action thriller television show, Fauda.  Following the episode, viewers were able to participate in a discussion about Israel and current Israeli events.  Overall, the event was successful and the CAMERA- supported group has plans to continue to hold events to continue watching the show.

Contributed by Campus Coordinator Alex Rittenberg

August/September Events Report

On CAMERA- supported campuses, August and September have been months to “jump back in”. Different events across different campuses have allowed many students, faculty, and staff to connect and reconnect with other students within their community.  Events such as tabling, general body meetings, and speaker held events allowed the different campus communities continue to set agendas for the semester and learn about different aspects of Israeli and Middle Eastern history.  

Kolienu-Columbia Law Israel Organization held the event “Palestinian Politics & Israeli-Palestinian Peace After Abbas”. The event was well attended and was beneficial to those involved!  

The Israel Student Association at Queens College CUNY held an event entitled, “Virtual Israel-ity”. This allowed for students to use Virtual Reality (VR) goggles to explore Israel from their own campus.  The students of the Israel Student Association were able to attract students, both new and returning, to begin thinking about Israel.

ORU United for Israel at Oral Roberts University was able to table during the Club Rush event on campus.  They were able to deliver the organizational message and speak with new students to campus!

Students at Oral Roberts University stand proudly with the Israeli Flag.

Great Danes for Israel at the University at Albany, SUNY held an event about the Six Day War. Different speakers (some who served in the war, and one who was able to speak from a different perspective) gave an educational discussion about the war, and was able to answer questions that the group had about the event.  

Tulane University For Israel had a general body meeting to discuss an overview of the organization, the agenda for the year, and discussed the different questions from the attendees.  The meeting had a positive turnout and excitement for future events!

Contributed by Campus Coordinator Alex Rittenberg