Tag Archives: apartheid

From SJP to Pro-Israel: Anthony’s Story

Anthony Berteaux, a CAMERA Fellow and rising senior at San Diego State University majoring in journalism, was once a staunch activist for Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP)’s campaign against Israel. Today, he is a pro-Israel activist. This past week, he attended CAMERA’s annual Student Leadership and Advocacy Training Conference, sharing his story with 80 other Israel activists.

Growing up in Tokyo, Anthony had never met a Jew and had not heard very much about Israel before he stepped onto his San Diego college campus. As a writer for his college paper, Anthony was interested in covering progressive issues and soon learned about many student activist organizations, one of which was SJP. Anthony listened to SJP’s perspective on Israel and would discuss “the Palestinian oppression” in Israel with his campus’s SJP president. As Anthony explains, he became very involved with SJP and “when [BDS] came to campus, [he] did what the progressive thing was to do, which obviously was to support divestments” against Israel.

CAMERA Fellow Anthony Berteaux at CAMERA's Annual Student Leadership Training and Advocacy Conference this year.

CAMERA Fellow Anthony Berteaux at CAMERA’s Annual Student Leadership and Advocacy Training Conference last week.

A man genuinely searching to serve social justice and equality, Anthony followed the Palestinian narrative closely through Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Middle East and would take any opportunity to write or speak on behalf of such an oppressed (seemingly by Israel) people.

After moving across the world from Tokyo to San Diego for college, Anthony never expected to become so involved in Middle-East social justice issues and SJP activism during his first year in college. And to top that off, much to his surprise, Anthony’s perspective on Israel was once again suddenly redefined during the summer of 2014. As Anthony admits, “If you had told me by the end of the summer I was going to be a sympathizer of Israel, I would have probably laughed in your face.”

By chance, Anthony was placed in a campus dorm with a Jewish student during that summer. For the first time, he heard another side of the Israel story. Through many conversations with his new Jewish friend, Anthony learned what Israel does for Palestinians and what Israel means for the Jewish people. The facade of SJP’s ideas began to crumble before Anthony’s eyes. “Israel is a colonialist regime” and “Israel the Apartheid state” were soundbites that Anthony now saw through as ignorant and blatant lies. 

Over the summer, Anthony and his Jewish roommate would discuss Operation Protective Edge, the war in Gaza which was going on at the time. They would watch videos of Israelis running to bomb shelters, an unfortunate part of the reality in Israel.

Anthony learned about Israel’s reasons for entering Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. The Israel Defense Forces had no choice but to send forces into Gaza in order to protect Israel. As morally and succinctly as possible, Israeli soldiers worked night and day to stop the terrorist groups that were bombarding Israel with rockets and digging terror tunnels into Israeli territory from Gaza.

While he sticks close to his values of social justice and truth, Anthony had an open mind and by the end of this summer, his perspective was forever changed. Acting upon his newfound beliefs, Anthony soon became an ardent pro-Israel activist on his campus, particularly through his writing

Hoping to further develop his understanding of Israel and its role in the Middle East, Anthony went to Israel through an ADL student mission. “The experiences during my trip to Israel were really powerful for me as a social justice activist and as a progressive, to understand why Israel is so important for the Jewish people, why it’s a symbol of anti-oppression and why it’s the ultimate testament to social justice” Anthony said, as he reflected on his trip.

While some students at his college challenged Anthony for his change of perspective, Anthony soon realized that his pro-Israel ideas were received well by many of his progressive-thinking friends. While they normally heard about Israel through AJ+ and other sources with an anti-Israel bias, his friends began to open their minds to his pro-Israel views.

Tikkun Olam, the Jewish idea of fixing a broken world, is an ideal that Anthony constantly strives for and hopes to share. He is very happy when he can broaden the understandings of his fellow students. It saddens him that the lack of knowledge about Israel’s story on campuses often translates into a missed opportunity for students to deepen their understanding of social change. As Anthony explains, “A lot of particularly progressive students and social justice activists on campus seem to not understand Israel’s importance in the conversation of self determination, empowering oppressed peoples, and responding to oppression.”

Anthony admits that becoming pro-Israel was not easy for him at first either. But, as Anthony attests, “The more I got engaged with pro-Israel activism, the more I saw my own progressive values reflected in the promise and reality of the Jewish state and that’s something I wish more people on my campus understood.”

Today, Anthony writes for Israel as he would any other cause he believes in. On a personal level, he also loves learning about Jewish identity and culture. He even joins his Jewish friends at their lively Shabbat dinners. He is fascinated by Jewish history and admires the history of the Jewish people. “Such a powerful story, a story of resilience, celebrating life in the face of oppression,” he remarks.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz.

Has Israel replaced South Africa as an Apartheid state?

George Mason University‘s Emet for Israel group, Israel Student Association (ISA), recently hosted an event focussed on answering allegations surrounding whether or not Israel has replaced South Africa as an Apartheid state. The intention was to get to the root of this bothersome question and to tackle it head on through education.

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Benjamin Pogrund, who was jailed for acting out against Apartheid in his native South Africa, spoke of his experiences growing up there, and witnessing Apartheid first hand against Black citizens. He went on to discuss his relationship with Nelson Mandela and how they used to meet secretly and quite often to defeat the Apartheid norm that plagued South African society. This activist had tight ties with some of the most influential figures in the anti-Apartheid movement that took place in South Africa throughout the 1980s and 1990s. When Mandela had been arrested and was sentenced to life in prison for sabotage and attempting to overthrow the government, Pogrund and his wife were actually the first non-family members to visit him on Robben Island.

After sharing a number of horrifying stories, he directed the audience’s attention to the question of Israel and whether it treats Arabs as the Whites treated Blacks. He posed the questions, “how does Israeli life compare with the old South Africa?” He went on to point out that, “under Apartheid, every detail of life was subject to discrimination by law. Black South Africans did not have the right to vote. Skin color ultimately determined where you were born and lived, your job, school, which bus, train, taxi ambulance, which park bench, lavatory, and beach you were permitted to use, whom you could marry, and in which cemetery you were buried.” He firmly showed how no such things happen in Israel.

Benjamin Pogrund, with beard, next to Nelson Mandela (photo credit: courtesy Benjamin Pogrund)

Benjamin Pogrund, with beard, next to Nelson Mandela (photo credit: courtesy Benjamin Pogrund; Source: Times of Israel)

Once his goal to outlaw Apartheid in South Africa were achieved, Pogrund moved to Jerusalem and began to see how misinformation has been spreading about the Jewish state. He claims that by accusing Israel of Apartheid action, people take away from the great suffering of the Blacks of his home country. The injustices they went through are incomparable to what Arabs experience in Israel. There is no segregation, Israeli Arabs have rights to health care, voting, to move about freely and receive an education alongside Jewish Israelis. His new mission in life is to actively fight these comparisons and dangerous claims.

Recently, Mr. Pogrund published a book called “Drawing Fire: Investigating the Accusations of Apartheid in Israel,” throughout which he goes through the positions of the other side and refutes them through facts and historical knowledge. He writes that, “Yes, Israel’s Arab minority does suffer discrimination, but their lot is not remotely comparable with blacks under apartheid. To claim they are the same is to stretch, bend, twist and contort truth.” Clearly, the author is aware of the situations of both countries, thereby giving him the ability to undermine falsehoods within this debate.

Book cover of “Drawing Fire”

Book cover of “Drawing Fire”

The speaker went on to answer each question posed by the students in the audience, as they were intrigued by his life and admired his activism. ISA was pleased that in total, the event attracted forty students and two staff members. Everyone involved seemed to learn a new perspective on the Apartheid myth.

This event was co-sponsored by CAMERA on Campus, StandWithUs, The David Project, and Hillel.

A Response to “Peace, Not Apartheid Week”

This week, Boston College Students for Justice in Palestine will host its annual “Israel Apartheid Week,” a four-day event that will highlight what it views as injustices committed by the State of Israel against the Palestinian people, injustices they consider akin to the systematic oppression of non-white South Africans from 1948 to 1994. Panels will be formed, lectures will be held. The most visible aspect of “Israel Apartheid Week,” however, will be the makeshift wall constructed in front of Stokes Hall with murals proclaiming slogans such as ‘Free Palestine.’ While I’m sure SJP is well-intentioned in its aims, there’s a simple problem:

Israel is not an Apartheid state.

boston college wall

To compare Israel to Apartheid South Africa is only valid if one assumes three things: 1) That Israel systematically discriminates against its Arab and other non-Jewish citizens, 2) That Israel unlawfully denies residents of the Palestinian Territories rights to mobility, and, inherently most important to this comparison, 3) That Israel is a colonial state denying control from the land’s native inhabitants.

On the first two points, I can dwell on and on. I can tell you how, for starters, Israelis of Palestinian-Arab descent (as well as all other non-Jews) are guaranteed equality before the law with their Jewish counterparts. I can tell you that, in fact, 13 out of 120 seats in the Israeli legislative body, the Knesset, are held by an Arab coalition, and that there is even a Palestinian-Arab on Israel’s Supreme Court: Salim Joubran. I would point out that the checkpoints and barriers separating the West Bank/Gaza from Israel, the ones that SJP would compare to the infamous Pass Laws of the Apartheid Regime in South Africa, are not meant for racist purposes but are simply security provisions. And effective ones at that: From 2000-2005 Palestinian terrorist killed around 700 Israeli citizens using both gunmen and suicide bombers that snuck into Israel from the West Bank. What SJP and its allies do not admit is that since the Wall’s construction, terrorist attacks in Israel have decreased to very few each year from several dozen in the 2000s. In short: The barrier works really, really well.

But I don’t want to focus on those aspects. I want to focus on the third point, the one that makes this claim of Apartheid personal for me: That Israel is a settler state imposed on the Middle East by the West. You see, I am a Jew whose parents fled the U.S.S.R. in the 1970s, but I do not consider either Russia or Ukraine my native homeland. For me, my roots are in Israel.

My maternal great-grandmother’s earliest memories were hiding under her bed as a 5-year-old in her small Ukrainian-Jewish village because of the rumors of an impending Pogrom. Some 20 years later, her whole family was killed in the Holocaust. On the other side of my family, I was never able to meet my paternal grandfather, who died at the age of 40 from an epilepsy that he received as a child from severe beatings on the head by his schoolmates because he was Jewish. They were not welcome in Slavic society because, in the intensely nationalist Russia and Ukraine, they were considered Semitic foreigners.

One needs to remember that being Jewish is not just a religious preference: It’s an ethnicity. And mine and most every other ethnic Jew’s ethnic roots lie in Israel. DNA evidence proves this time and time again. To say that Jews are foreign to the land is counterfactual and, quite frankly, anti-Semitic. We are not colonists, we are natives to the land. Anything said on the contrary truly dehumanizes us. Yes, Palestinians deserve their own state as well, and they will, I hope, one day get it. But it cannot be the Jewish State. History has proven that Jews need a state of their own as both a unifier of identity and as a safe-haven against anti-Semitism. We are not Afrikaners. Our roots in the land of Israel go back thousands of years. What Zionism has done has been nothing short of a miracle: Reigniting a Jewish identity with its own unifying language and a land of its own. Just as the Italian diaspora looks to Rome and Florence as its cultural centers, we look to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Thus, go ahead, call Israel an Apartheid State. Say that Zionism equates to racism, that the Jewish State should be erased off the face of this Earth as an ugly stain of late white-European colonialism. But you cannot take away the feelings I had when I stood at the Western Wall last June in Jerusalem at Friday sundown. There, I was standing at the holiest site in Judaism, one that goes back thousands of years, before the terms Palestine or Zionism or Apartheid were even created. I touched the Wall and felt the presence of my ancestors who longed for millennia to have the opportunity to stand where I was, but could not.

I could not have felt more at home anywhere else.

Originally published in The Heights.

Contributed by  and Emet for Israel supported group at Boston College, Eagles for Israel.

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Letter: BDS – A Reality Check

Emet group Cornellians for Israel (CFI).

Emet group Cornellians for Israel (CFI).

In the guest column “On Divestment and Hypocrisy,” the authors described an idealistic moral calling to divest from companies supporting Israel’s so-called apartheid actions. The truth is not so simple. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is extraordinarily complex, and portraying it as they did is inaccurate. Furthermore, their claim that boycotting companies is an action that will lead to meaningful change is fabricated.

To state that the living situation for residents of the West Bank is not ideal is correct. To claim that Palestinians deserve better treatment than what they currently receive is also absolutely right. But to compare what is happening in Israel with apartheid in South Africa represents a severe misunderstanding of the current conflict. Even South African Judge Richard Goldstone, whose U.N. Report on Israeli war crimes was reviled by Israelis and celebrated by Palestinians, has claimed “in Israel, there is no apartheid,” and “the charge that Israel is an apartheid state is a false and malicious one that precludes, rather than promotes, peace and harmony.”

Amarbneil, Emad and Hadiyah discuss five factors that they believe indicate the existence of Israeli apartheid: racist statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, segregated roads, inaccessible land, inhumane working conditions and Palestinians deaths, especially in Gaza. None of these factors actually represent apartheid.

Netanyahu’s statements were reprehensible; they were instantly condemned by Israeli leaders. However, this is not a sign of apartheid. It’s the sign of a politician saying something stupid. Furthermore, Netanyahu apologized for his statements, a fact that escapes mention in their article.

In South Africa, segregation existed because of racism. In Israel, this is not the case. There are few roads in Israel that are segregated, and those ones are made that way exclusively for security reasons. The same is true with regard to inaccessible land. Ideally, there would be no checkpoints and everyone would travel freely around the West Bank. Unfortunately, there are serious security issues that need to be taken into account. Just since September 2015 there have been 206 stabbing attacks, 83 shootings and 42 vehicular ramming attacks by Palestinians against Israelis, according to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Palestinians in the West Bank are occasionally subject to inhumane working conditions and low wages. Yet this is not Israel’s fault. Palestinians in the West Bank are not Israeli citizens. They have their own government, the Palestinian Authority. Granted, their government hasn’t held an election since 2006 and is more concerned with criticizing Israel than with helping its own citizens. Nevertheless, people wouldn’t call America apartheid if their citizens weren’t paid the minimum wage of Australia. So how is Israel apartheid because Palestinians are not paid Israeli minimum wage?

Their final issue involves a great distortion of the current situation. Yes, many Palestinian civilians have been killed, especially in Gaza, and this is tremendously sad and distressing. But to argue that Israel is fully responsible for these deaths is a gross misrepresentation of the truth. Between 2005, when Israel unilaterally left Gaza and gave it to the Palestinians, and 2015, over 11,000 weaponized rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza with the purposeful intent of damaging Israel and killing Israelis. Israel had the right to respond to these acts of war. Furthermore, it is well documented that Hamas uses civilians as shields and purposely operates their military in civilian areas, both in clear violation of international law. This also contributes to civilian deaths.

In addition to their arguments about Israeli apartheid being tenuous, their claims that BDS is an appropriate solution to the problem are incorrect. In fact, it hurts those it purports to help. While the Israeli economy remains unaffected by such movements, Palestinian beneficiaries are hurt. The Palestinian Authority’s official daily newspaper published that Israeli companies offer higher wages to Palestinian employees than Palestinian companies and also provide benefits like medical insurance and transportation stipends.

Furthermore, it does not address the main underlying causes of the current conflict. Very recently, the Pew research group did a study on Israelis and Palestinians, and found that one of the major issues preventing peace in the region is a lack of trust. Less than half of Israelis and Palestinians believe peaceful co-existence is possible. This lack of trust must be repaired if there will ever be a solution to the conflict. And BDS does not repair distrust — it exacerbates it. Even Norman Finkelstein, who was once called by Al-Jazeera a “rock star of the Pro-Palestinian movement,” has come out against BDS. He claims the movement is filled with “disingenuousness — they don’t want Israel to exist.”

The article is right on one issue, though. Debate is needed. Sadly, in the past, BDS activists on campus have not been in favor of debate. In 2014, the Student Assembly voted down a BDS motion because they felt it was not their place to be making decisions on such topics. Yet, they strongly encouraged everyone to stay behind to debate the issues at the meeting. This debate did not occur. The supporters of BDS angrily stormed out of the room screaming and shouting.

More than debate being needed, conversation is needed. Debates have winners and losers, but no one gains new insight. Conversations don’t have winners and losers, but everybody learns something new. People in Cornell, whether “pro-Israel” or “pro-Palestinian,” need to talk to each other. Learn the other side. Try to increase trust. Peace will be made through understanding, not boycotts.

Originally published in the Cornell Daily Sun.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern and Co-President of Emet for Israel group Cornellians for Israel Reut Baer, Co-President Yonatan Krakow, and Vice President Tamar Kahan.

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NYU Law School BDS Activists Mislead Peers

A group calling itself Law Students for Justice in Palestine insists people should single out Israel for boycott, and is acting close to home by advocating that other NYU law students join them in discriminating against the Jewish state.

Undeterred by the broad spectrum of leaders recently linking anti-Zionism to anti-Semitism — President Obama, Pope Francis, Socialist French prime minister Manuel Vals and Conservative British prime minister David Cameron have done so, as did Martin Luther King shortly before he was killed — the NYU anti-Israel group promotes anti-Zionist policies meant to eliminate self-determination for the Jewish people, even while claiming self-determination for the Palestinians as a “guiding principle.”

As is so often the case with groups seeking to convince others that Israel is uniquely deserving of opprobrium and punishment, LSJP seems to realize that if it has any hope of swaying reasonable students, it must misinform them. An honest account of a booming but beleaguered, impressive but imperfect country just wouldn’t do the trick.

When not hurling inflammatory charges about “apartheid” and “Jewish supremacy,” a phrase popularized by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, LSJP claims Israel is guilty of “institutionalized segregation of its indigenous Palestinian population.” An examination of their indictment shows this to be all syllables and no substance.

Education

The Atlantic

An Israeli and Arab girl, who are friends at school, participate in basketball practice together. (The Atlantic)

“The state segregates Jewish and Palestinian citizens in public education,” the LSJP statement claims. But it is demonstrably false that Israel requires the two populations to attend different public schools, as they suggest. Despite the fact that Israel’s Jews and Arabs speak different languages, have different cultural backgrounds, and tend to live in different communities, hundreds of thousands attend schools with at least one Arab and Jewish student. At the same time, those linguistic, cultural, and geographic divisions result in students normally attend schools where the language of instruction corresponds to their own first language. In the words of Yousef Jabreen, founder of the Arab Center for Law and Policy, the Arab sector in Israel desires “to tailor its own education system to the unique identity, culture, language and history of the country’s Arab citizens.”

This handful of NYU activists are entitled to think they know better than Israel’s Arabs about what is best for Israel’s Arabs. But they shouldn’t mislead audiences on the topic.

Leasing and Owning

Beit Hagefen, an Arab and Israeli culture center in Haifa (photo credit: Star of David)

Beit Hagefen, an Arab and Israeli culture center in Haifa (photo credit: Star of David)

The LSJP students also claim that, “with the exception of a handful of ‘mixed cities’ and Arab villages, Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are generally blocked from leasing or owning property.” Again, the charge is untrue.

The thread is a bit difficult to follow: The passage in the LSJP statement claiming Arabs are barred from holding property links to a document that, for its part, cites another statement by the partisan NGO Adalah. The body of that Adalah statement notes that 13 percent of the country’s land area is privately owned by the Jewish National Fund — land purchased by Jews or transferred to the organization for the purpose of having a guaranteed place in the world for Jews, but which on occasion has nonetheless been leased to Arabs. In a footnote, the Adalah statement alleges that “Palestinian citizens are blocked from purchasing or leasing land in approximately 80% of the area of the state,” but provides no substantiation. Other Adalah documents, though, make clear that their purported 80 percent figure is largely derived from the fact that new inhabitants in small towns that are subject to “admissions committees.” These committees are bound by law not to discriminate, and Israeli courts have intervened on behalf of Israeli Arabs. In short, Arab citizens of Israel are in no way legally barred from leasing or owning property.

Discriminatory Laws

LSJP again trips up when claiming that “many laws that explicitly discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel” and linking to an Adalah as evidence of this allegation. An examination of Adalah’s list of laws that purportedly discriminate against Arab citizens of Israel exposes just how absurd the charge is. The list, for example, includes a law describing the design of Israel’s flag, which like the flags of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Iceland, Morocco, Pakistan, Turkey, and dozens of other countries not targeted by the NYU law students includes a religious symbol. Israel’s flag law discriminates against citizens no more than the U.S. flag discriminates against Americans living outside the 13 original colonies. The 13 stripes that represent those colonies, after all, take up most of the area of the American flag.

Adalah also insists that a law meant to encourage immunization is discriminatory. Same with a law stripping payments from parliamentarians charged with a crime, a law stating that the capital of Israel is Jerusalem, and a law barring trade with enemy states. (For more on Adalah’s list, see here.)

Marriage

In the same passage, LSJP claims that “mixed marriage is prohibited.” But while Israel’s system, which holds religious communities formally responsible for marriages and does not offer state-officiated civil marriage, can certainly cause inconveniences for couples of different religions, gay partners, and others, mixed marriages are absolutely not “prohibited.” Civil weddings performed outside the country are recognized inside Israel, for example, and “common law” marriage affords rights that approach those of religious marriages. Jews and Arabs do get married in Israel, and their unions are not “prohibited.”

At any rate, Israel’s sometimes awkward and cumbersome marriage regulations certainly do not “explicitly discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel,” as claimed by LSJP.

Legal Systems

Turning to the West Bank, LSJP claims that Israel “applies two different legal systems to civilians on the same land,discriminating based on religion and ethnicity” (emphasis added). In fact, Israel, as discriminates based on citizenship, as do all countries. All citizens of Israel, whether Muslim, Arab, or Jewish, who find themselves in the West Bank are all bound by the very same laws, in the very same legal system. The population governed by the Palestinian Authority, on the other hand, are not citizens of Israel.
The “discrimination,” in other words, is an integral part of citizenship. Just as German, Japanese, or Iraqi citizens under U.S. occupation weren’t suddenly entitled to vote in American elections, Palestinian Authority citizens aren’t entitled to vote in Israel.

Stone Throwing

LSJP claims that while “Israeli settlers who throw stones at Palestinians might be punished under weak criminal laws …, a Palestinian youth who throws back a stone on the same street is punished under Israeli military law with a mandatory minimum of four years.”

But those who click on LSJP’s link are taken to a web site (never mind that it’s a website described in the Washington Postas an anti-Jewish “hate site”) referring to the mandatory minimum prison term as applying to “Israeli citizens” and Jerusalemites who are residents of Israel — which is to say, roughly the opposite of LSJP’s suggestion that the mandatory minimum does not apply to Israeli citizens.

Indeed, the heated discussion in Israel about the law focused in part on the possibility that a judge could freeze National Insurance Institute and other benefits of the families of stone throwers, benefits that are granted to Arab, Muslim, Christian and Jewish residents of Israel, but not generally to those governed by the Palestinian Authority. An Arab parliamentarian protested the possibility that the law could “tak[e] away benefits from a citizen who pays taxes.”

Forcibly Removed to Surrounding Countries

LSJP claims that “the majority of the native population who originate from the lands to be visited on the trip were forcibly removed in 1948 and 1967,” which is false, and that “most were ejected to surrounding countries,” which is also false. A majority of Palestinian refugees voluntarily fled their homes, usually as a result of, or for fear of, the ongoing war approaching their towns and cities. Some left at the encouragement of Arab leaders. And some, but far from most, were forcibly expelled from strategic areas during the war. Most Palestinians, furthermore, were internally displaced, having fled to other parts of British mandate Palestine and not to “surrounding countries.”

Entry Into Israel

LSJP claims that students of Palestinian descent are “regularly denied entry into Israel” and that this is “purely on the basis of their ethnicity.” Again, LSJP intentionally conflates ethnicity with nationality and citizenship. The site they link to for substantiation cites a State Department statement referring to Palestinian nationals — not ethnic Arabs — as sometimes being denied entry to Israel. Especially in light of the fact that LSJP refers to Arabs in Israel and West Bankers alike as “Palestinians,” it’s clear that any denials of entry are not based on ethnicity — Arab Israelis, as well as American Arabs who do not carry or are not eligible for Palestinian Authority identification cards, are certainly not routinely denied entry into Israel — but rather affiliation with the Palestinian Authority.

The above focuses on some, though not all, of the errors and distortions in LSJP’s statement to NYU law students. Considering what the activists want students to believe, it’s no surprise LSJP hopes they won’t visit Israel, where they might get a more honest, accurate and nuanced understanding of the country, its laudable achievements, and its continued challenges.

This piece was written by CAMERA Senior Research Analyst Gilead Ini and was originally published at  CAMERA.org

Saving Syrians: Tikkun Olam at the Ziv Medical Center

One-of-the-injured-Syrian-from-the-civil-war-in-Syria-being-transferred-to-the-Ziv-Medical-Center-photo-by-Simon-Haddad-1024x710

By CAMERA fellow Hayeem Rudy

Since the beginning of the Syrian War, the Ziv Medical Center, located in the Golan Heights, along with several state-of-the-art Israeli field hospitals, have been set up in order to provide emergency medical aid to critically wounded Syrians. To date, the Israeli government has allocated over 10 million dollars to these areas to treat some 900 non-Israeli patients in this region. One of the most intriguing, even bizarre, aspects of these medical centers is that they intentionally seek to minimize the evidence of their life-saving work. The painstaking effort they exert to accomplish the concealment of their healing is done in order to protect the Syrian refugees from their own friends and communities back in Syria, who would potentially threaten those who associated with “the Zionist enemy” upon their return home. As Col. Tariff Bader, Senior Medical Officer of the IDF Northern Command, puts it, “the IDF takes painstaking measures to remove any indication that the [Syrian refugees] received care in Israel.”

Despite these lengths that the Israeli military and healthcare professionals go to in order to care for citizens from former and current adversaries, critics of Israel often point to Israel as an “apartheid state”. They say that its social institutions are reminiscent of the racist and segregated society in which Black South Africans were oppressed and marginalized for much of latter half of the 20th century. If analyzing medicine and healthcare in a society acts as a decent barometer for assessing that culture’s values and principles, then these Israeli medical institutions determine that it is far from an apartheid state.

With that in mind, let us momentarily move further south from the Israeli-Syrian border to the West Bank and Gaza. During Operation Protective Edge this past summer, the IDF oversaw the creation of another state-of-the-art field hospital at the Erez Crossing—Gaza’s only pedestrian gateway into Israel. The intended purpose of this field hospital was clear: “The hospital started as an initiative to first give assistance and humanitarian aid to Palestinians injured since the beginning of the operation [in Gaza],” said Major Guy Inbar, spokesperson for the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). Indeed, several hundred injured and needy Gazan civilians received medical treatment at this facility over the summer. In the West Bank, too, Israeli officials are ramping up efforts to provide free medical aid to Palestinians. A rarely spoken-about, but nonetheless significant, relationship exists between the Israeli Health Department of the Civil Administration and the Palestinian Ministry of Health that allows hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to travel into Israel for free to receive world-class medical care in Israeli hospitals. Recent figures show that this program is growing in Israel. In 2008, 144,838 Palestinians entered into Israel for medical treatment. In 2011, that number grew to 197,713 Palestinians, and in 2012 to 219,464 Palestinians, according to a report published by COGAT.

But here’s another question: what about hospitals in Palestinian-controlled territories? Unfortunately, Hamas operatives stored caches of weapons in Sheifa and Waffa Hospitals in Gaza City this past summer. We also saw videos circulating this past summer which showed Hamas militants intentionally using Red Crescent (Islamic equivalent of the Red Cross) and United Nations ambulances as shields for transportation and protection from Israeli attacks during Operation Protective Edge. Consider also that Hamas militants intentionally targeted the Erez Crossing field hospital with mortar strikes from the Gaza border, and threatened Gazans not to seek treatment there, regardless of the cost to their health. Lastly, contemplate the fact that in both the West Bank and Gaza, the majority of Palestinians prefer a one-state vision of Palestine, “from the river [Jordan] to the sea [Mediterranean],” (55.4% to 68.4 percent, respectively) according to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. And yet, Israel persists in treating these individuals who would wish to see the country’s destruction.

The moral distinctions between Israel and its enemies remain clear, but even in its own right, Israel stands as a bastion of decency and goodness. In the realm of medical ethics, doctors understand their roles as caregivers as distinct from being the arbiters of health. This principle is well understood in the healthcare industry, but especially in Israel. I personally encountered this idea when I trained to become a licensed EMT for Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s national emergency medical service. My teacher during this training period, a seasoned Magen David Adom paramedic, imprinted upon our volunteer group this important ethic in medicine by introducing us to a hypothetical scenario in which we, as medics, were asked to contemplate the moral and ethical grounds for saving the life of an injured terrorist in a suicide bombing attack. (It so happens that my teacher was the on-call MDA dispatcher during the Merkaz Harav Massacre in 2008, and she had first-hand experienced with scenarios like this hypothetical one in the past). We broke down the arguments in a group discussion, and after contentious debate, were forced to acknowledge that one was indeed ethically bound to save the life of the terrorist.

In adhering to this ethic and so many others within the field of medicine, it becomes increasingly clear that Israeli society is moral, compassionate, and peaceful. Israel has gone above and beyond the call for ethical practice in healthcare, and has provided lifesaving medical treatment for two members of the immediate family of Isma’el Haniyeh, the Senior Political Leader of Hamas, as well as for the sister of Moussa Abu Marzouk, a Hamas Senior Official and spokesperson for the terrorist group. Both of these individuals have extolled the virtues of killing innocent Israeli civilians and endorse the racist and genocidal principles of Islamic Jihad. Even more recently, this month, Israeli doctors at the Shaare Tzedek hospital in Jerusalem treated the Hamas terrorist Abed Abdelrahman Shaludeh who intentionally accelerated his vehicle into a crowd of innocent pedestrians at a light rail station in Jerusalem, killing two, including a 3 month-old American-Israeli girl, and injuring several more. What society but the most ethical and moral would support the healing of this reprehensible murderer? And yet, to Israeli citizens, this idea of repressing anger, frustration, fear, and hopelessness for the sake of the decency is not out of the norm. Indeed, millions of Israeli taxpayers’ shekels are directed towards supporting institutions that treat hundreds of thousands of Palestinians each year, the majority of whom would wish to see Israel wiped off the map.

Today, all around the world, anti-Israel activists call Israel an apartheid state. They say that “Israelis oppress the Palestinians” and that they are not interested in peace. Yet, if medical institutions are a decent proxy for understanding the values of a society, then we must compare the culture of healthcare in Israel and in apartheid-era South Africa in order to gauge whether Israel truly is an apartheid state. Under apartheid in South Africa, there were segregated white and black hospital facilities, and the black wards were always underfunded, overcrowded, and understaffed. In Israeli medical institutions, Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs work side by side towards delivering free, world-class healthcare for Palestinians, even during times of conflict and war. Under apartheid-era South Africa, those who spoke out against the institution were imprisoned and their supporters were silenced. In Israel, the family members of individuals who call for the murder of Israeli civilians who incite genocidal violence are invited to receive world-class medical treatment in Tel Aviv. In apartheid-era South Africa, black activists who rioted and protested against the racist regime were struck down, beaten, and sometimes killed. In Israel, terrorists who murder innocent civilians with automobiles can count on ethically bound teams of healthcare professionals to provide lifesaving medical care. Thus, even by the most basic analysis of the healthcare institutions in Israel, it becomes ever so obvious that Israel is far from being an apartheid state. Perhaps those who make this claim don’t know these facts. Perhaps they do. In either case, making such a claim can only be described as being socially irresponsible and seriously misguided.

 

 

 

 

 

Words I Never Said: Thoughts from a Recent Graduate

Contributed by Chloé Valdary, a consultant at CAMERA. This piece has been republished in the Algemeiner.

11287562_1037780896247012_2072315971_oTo the keffiyeh-wearing, American-born university student who insists on lamenting a piece of property lost over sixty years ago:

While you are excellent at competing in the apparently never-ending Oppression Olympics, (and while yours truly can also play this game) it will serve you poorly once you enter the real world. You are no more a refugee of the Levant than I am a refugee of Africa. Stop complaining about the past and instead move forward.

Indeed, you must accept that life is unfair. You will do better if you devote yourself to being the best that you can be instead of harping on the fact that a group of countries failed miserably at stopping the reestablishment of an indigenous state. You lost the war; get over it. You are not a victim. Make something of yourself.

To the E.U., a personal favorite of mine when it comes to contradictory and largely useless entities:

Given your, shall we say, ‘murky’ record of honoring Jewish rights, I have no idea what on earth possessed you to think you would have any right to give commentary on anything regarding the Jewish state, let alone critique it, but you have been woefully misinformed. Your careless financing of the Palestinian Authority with no accountability whatsoever has contributed directly to the misery of the Palestinian people. It has created an environment wherein a kleptocratic enterprise steals millions from Palestinians—your money—and engages in human rights abuses with no oversight and no consequences for mismanagement.

Just to be crystal clear, let me reiterate:

Your policies have contributed directly to the disenfranchisement of the Palestinian people.

Moreover, you have promoted wholesale discrimination against Jews, and you are directly responsible for the growing anti-Jewish animus within your own borders. To admonish your citizens not to attack Jews in your streets while simultaneously stating unequivocally that Jews should be legally banned from walking in the streets of Judea is to commit and promote intellectual perjury and social injustice. You raise monuments to honor the memory of the Holocaust while simultaneously justifying prejudice against Jews in Israel; this is an exercise in historical redundancy and societal regression.

To the solipsistic Jew who thinks that he is so “privileged” that he must call for the “liberation” of Palestinian Arabs, only to come at the expense of denying a life of dignity to his own people, unfortunately some axiomatic truths need to be repeated:

Your people deserve the right to live in their country in peace. They will resist anyone who undermines that right.

Your people deserve the right to live anywhere in their land. And they will resist anyone who undermines that right.

Your people deserve the right to be free of psychopathic homicidal supremacists who want to murder them. And they will resist anyone who undermines that right.

You may think that your genuflecting before the altar of self-aggrandizement will somehow bring you peace; you are delusional. They will murder your own, which you betrayed; and then they will murder you.

To the State of Israel:

It goes without saying that I respect the challenges you face, the complexities of your society, your place in the history of your people, and your existence as the fulfillment of dreams for generations of Jews for thousands of years. Understand that international opinion matters and that you must invest in ensuring your story is told. Narrative is the key to changing the way the game is played. Adopt one.

Do not take it for granted that because your positions on a myriad of issues are morally sound, the world will come to understand and empathize with your perspective. It will not. You must invest more in holding fast to your identity and and proclaiming your truth. Tell your story.

You are free. The constant refrain of your people since 1945 has been ‘Never Again.’

Discover what it is you are never again willing to put up with as a people; then make sure such occurrences never happen again.

Lastly, remember to keep your head up; your people are strong. Your cause is noble. It is the most important of all causes that has ever concerned mankind: Freedom.

Chloé Valdary is a recent graduate of the University of New Orleans and a consultant for CAMERA.

U Chicago Student: Time to support Israel

Contributed by CAMERA’s Emet for Israel Liaison at the University of Chicago, Blake Fleisher. This 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.

The Unbecoming Appropriation of “Apartheid”

This piece was written by the president of the CCAP (CAMERA Supported) group Claremont Students for Israel, Elliott Hamilton. The full version of this piece is available on The Times of Israel, and the link is below.

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), an organization that consistently preaches anti-Semitism on college campuses, frequently compares the security situation in Israel to South African apartheid. Anti-Israel propagandists use images of the security barrier and the checkpoints to demonize Israel as an “occupying power” and to equate it to one of the worst instances of state-sponsored segregation in the 20th century. The comparison is seen as so atrocious that even citizens of South Africa find it morally reprehensible.

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“The comparison is disgusting,” says Nkosi Kennedy, a native of Johannesburg. “It brings out the emotions and the trauma that South Africans do not wish to revisit and does so in a very unacceptable way.”

Kennedy represents the first generation in his family in over a century not to live under the brutal regime that separated people on the basis of skin color. His grandfather and father, for example, were born in one-room shacks because the apartheid regime did not allow black South Africans into hospitals. Those were reserved for the white minority.

“My entire family was oppressed throughout the apartheid era and my parents were freedom fighters. The stories they tell about the brutal oppression and the poverty levels they faced are incomparable to what is happening in Israel,” Kennedy continues.

Kennedy’s parents were politically active and took part in active protests against the apartheid system. He grew up hearing about the brutal conditions his family and his people went through, as well as learning the story of how the African National Congress (ANC) eventually brought down the state-sponsored segregation. For him, even though he was born during the twilight years of the regime, he knows what separates the former reality in South Africa to the current situation in Israel and the disputed territories.

Read more: The Unbecoming Appropriation of “Apartheid” | Elliott Hamilton | Ops & Blogs | The Times of Israel 

Letter to the Editor: Why the ASA Boycott is Wrong

The following piece is by CAMERA Fellow Lauren Barney. Lauren Barney is a Chinese and Political Science double major and junior at the University of Pittsburgh.

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Dear Editor,

I am writing in response to the article “Boycott Sparks Debate on Role of Academic Group” published Jan. 13, 2014. As a student at Pitt who has visited the Middle East on various occasions and has entered into both Jewish and Arab neighborhoods, I would like to shed some light on the atrocity of the Academic Studies Association boycott and the ‘detrim’ent it will bring to the student body at any university.

Lauren Barney

Lauren Barney

Professor Mazin Qumsiye~ parallels his trip through Israeli checkpoints effect on interregional academic integration with the ASA boycott of Israeli academic institutions. The ASA boycott is unparal- leled. It is based on an ideology of false condemnation of a sovereign people. Checkpoints were implemented beginning in 2000 to prevent terrorists (i.e. suicide bombers) from entering heavily populated Israeli neighborhoods. When traveling from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, my passport was checked routinely by an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldier. No harm was done and I was grateful for the service of the IDF in halting terrorism across the Green Line.

Additionally, he comments that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel is analogous to the human rights fight in Apartheid-era South Africa. Human rights exist in Israel. Ramallah, Palestine, is a gorgeous city with constant imports of Israeli produce. According to online economics news source Trading Economics, 70 percent of all Palestinian imports are from Israel.

I am grateful to attend an academic institution that enables me to study freely in Israel and allows other students to grow academically while abroad in various countries. Every student at every American university should be provided with this opportunity.

Lauren Barney
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences Campus Fellow, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America