Tag Archives: CAMERA fellow

Academic Boycotts are Bad for the Academy

A Supreme Court justice once said, in the context of the death penalty, that when a judge feels unable to apply a law because of his or her personal views, it’s time to resign and either launch a political campaign or lead a revolution. We might venture similar career advice for academics, many of whom, like federal judges, enjoy the remarkable luxury of life tenure, and are constrained in what they do and say largely by their own sense of propriety. In much the same way that judges must be careful to distinguish between what the law is and what they think it ought to be, academics have to keep on the right side of the often blurry line between teaching and political advocacy.

Sometimes the line isn’t all that blurry though.

Last Thursday, Brown’s Middle East Studies program held a “critical conversation” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This one was called “Permission to Speak: Boycott and the Politics of Solidarity,” and promoted a newly-published collection of essays supporting the boycott of Israeli universities — among other institutions — to protest injustices against Palestinians. (The book in question was actually being sold outside the event.) Perhaps I’m jaded, but it seems pointless to waste perfectly good column space debating whether Israel is diabolical enough to be boycotted. Rather than further swell that already abundant genre, instead I want to simply point out why — no matter one’s views on Israel — academic boycotts are, by their nature, a form of political activism that invariably corrupts education.

What makes academic boycotts so pernicious is that they establish one standard of pedagogy for teaching Israel, and another standard of pedagogy for teaching all other countries. Israel is, along with Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey, one of the Middle East’s four most politically influential countries. It is the region’s only non-Muslim state. It wields emotional and symbolic influence wildly disproportionate to its actual power — or perhaps it actually wields such disproportionate power because of its emotional and symbolic influence. It is simply impossible to properly instruct students on the history and politics of the Middle East while out-of-hand ignoring a major actor’s academic institutions. Universities are crucial to the development of a nation’s moral ethos and political strategy, often incubating ideas before they take root in media, government, and laws. If these institutions are made into lepers, how are students supposed to learn about Israel in the same way they learn about Egypt or Iran or Saudi Arabia?

Those who would join the boycott indulge in a rather dangerous solipsism, where the task of education is sacrificed for the moral gratification of this or that educator. This is not to say professors cannot have opinions, even ones that color their teaching. There’s a difference between presenting a perhaps slanted take on a particular topic and treating that topic as if it is not even worth the courtesy of equal analysis. No matter how valid institutionalized support for academic boycotts of Israel might be politically, it is a priori wrong educationally. This is not just some epistemological abstraction. Three years ago, Brown hosted an event with Adi Ophir, current director of the Minerva Center at Tel Aviv University and then-visiting professor at Brown. After his planned participation was criticized by a pro-Palestinian organization, the Middle East Studies program director at Brown, Beshara Doumani, withdrew from the event. It stands to reason that there have been similar incidents that have gone unreported. A link to an Israeli institution should not preclude entirely the possibility of discussion and debate when links to those of other countries do not. Of course, there are those who would say that the circumstances justify the selective treatment, but that’s an argument about politics — not pedagogy. In sum, academic boycotts philosophically undermine a liberal education and deprive students of the opportunity to consider all views equally and decide which they prefer.

It appears that four of nine “critical conversations” hosted by the Middle East Studies have been about Israel. But these conversations all featured panels that were about as sympathetic to Israel as the Texas parole board is to death-row inmates. Not one has included an individual who defends Israel with half the intensity of the median panelist who criticizes it. Not surprisingly, this isn’t an oversight. At one of the conversations, a student expressed concern that the panel was so lopsided. The director of the Middle East studies program replied that because his approach to the conflict is perhaps the academic consensus, he did not feel obliged to include views that diverged from it in his panel.

I don’t mean to suggest professors can’t personally endorse boycotts of Israel. They can. Just as democracies have no choice but to extend their liberties to people who would deny them to others, to avoid censorship universities must brook professors who, to end where we began, allow their teaching to be choked by political passion. But talking about what should happen to Israel without talking with Israeli schools is like deciding policy on abortion without consulting any women. When an entire program routinely puts on activities with people who advocate boycotts of Israel — and almost never sees fit to present a contrary view — the pro-boycott position effectively ossifies into an unofficial policy. And that’s when “critical conversations” become critical only in the sense that they criticize Israel.

Jared Samilow is a CAMERA Fellow at Brown University.

This article was originally published in the Brown Daily Herald.

India-Israel Bilateral Agreements to Boost Indian Higher Education Sector

India and Israel’s bilateral cooperation is likely to boost collaboration between in the field of higher education and research observes Hriday Ch Sarma for Elets News Network (ENN).

At present, India and Israel are enhancing their political and economic allies. The cooperation between them is steadfastly increasing not only in the area of defence cooperation, but in an array of sectors, such as agriculture, water, cyber security, oil & gas and so on. This is really commendable considering the fact that the friendship between the two historic nations is just two and half decades old.

For this new found friendship to unceasingly continue in the future, a solid foundation needs to be created that intricately binds people from both sides. There is, of course, no magic band for this to happen; however, dedicated collaboration in the field of higher education can act as a tool for the pursuit of common goals among the younger generations from both countries. This in turn will shape a common destiny for the two countries in the emerging world order.

Israel presents ample scope for learning of new and advanced subjects, including but not limited to microbiology, nanotechnology, business management and information security, to Indian students.  The country has state-of-art education institutes and research centres that are ranked among the best in the world. The most famous among them are: Weizmann Institute of Science, established in 1934, a multidisciplinary public research university offering high academic degrees in the fields of natural and exact sciences; Hebrew University of Jerusalem (also known as HUJI) that serves around 23,000 students from around the world in its 7 faculties and 14 schools; and Tel Aviv University, the largest public university in the country, offers 125 schools and departments across the spectrum of sciences, humanities and arts- qualifying as the most comprehensive institution of higher learning and research in Israel.

In addition to the aforesaid ones, the country has also numerous education and research institutes that are excelling in their respective areas of studies, some even at the international level. Sheba Medical Centre (Tel Ha’shomer), the biggest medical centre in the country, has three hospitals that offer more than 60 programs for medical professionals: doctors, nurses and administrators. The students pursing courses here gain practical experience and “on the job training”. Aharon Ofri Centre (Kibbutz Ramat Rachel), a collaboration of Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Israeli Ministry of Education, offers diverse educational courses for teachers from all around the world. Here course participants can get trained in: curriculum development, establishing educational systems in rural areas, technology embedding in schools and classes, social rehabilitation of neighbourhoods and drug abuse prevention. The list of such institutes is a long one, which also includes Israeli College for Security and Investigations (Jerusalem), Centre of International Agriculture Development Cooperation (Rehovot), Arava International Trainee Centre (Sapir) and Golda Meir Training Centre (Haifa) as ranked among the Avant grade.

Israel offers range of scholarships exclusively for Indian students to not just come and study there; but also enable them to gain understanding of the local culture as it really is.The Government of Israel offers 7 scholarships (2 scholarship for study of Hebrew language and 5 for academic research) annually as a part of the Cultural Agreements between Israel and India. This scholarship is categorized under two categories: 1/ For Masters and PhD Programmes, 2/ For Post Doctorate and Research Programmes. Moreover, the Israeli Council of Higher Education has been offering annual post-doctoral fellowships to about 100 students from India and China since 2012.

Israel is keen to develop joint research projects and academic studies with India for it sees the immense manpower potential in the latter. India, on its part, is trying to equally gesticulate by encouraging Israeli academics as well as businessmen to set up lasting ventures that could be mutually benefiting. Already the Indian government has set up a $40 million joint fund with Israel for research and development in innovation. Moreover, private education institutes in India, such as O.P. Jindal University and Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, have joined the bandwagonof strategic bilateral partnership by initiating their own Israel studies centres.

So, it is now up to the young minds in India to grab a pie for themselves from among the endless possibilities of excellence that Israel is offering at the moment!

This article originally appeared on digitalLEARNING Magazine.

Contributed by Jawaharlal Nehru University CAMERA Fellow Hriday Sarma.

It’s Not About the Embassy

CAMERA Fellow Sam Goodman

On Feb. 23, the Trump administration announced the U.S. embassy in Israel will be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on May 14. Some people are celebrating while others are livid. Angry Palestinian leaders including Mahmoud Abbas claim America has jeopardized its role as mediator in the Middle East peace process. The question that begs to be asked is: what peace process?

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has long been considered one of the world’s most intricate conflicts. There have been a number of opportunities for peace talks yet all have been unsuccessful and had nothing to do with the U.S. embassy location.

A number of explanations for these failures have been given, among which the most convincing is the role the perpetuation of the conflict has played in strengthening the Palestinian victimhood. Benefitting from the long-term conflict, Palestinian leaders have exploited their own people for personal gain.

It is said that conflict provides even the most marginalized organizations with the potential to invoke fear. This is illustrated by the “days of rage” and other violent responses Palestinian leaders have orchestrated as a result of moving the embassy. They take advantage of the ongoing conflict to persuade and manipulate their people into behaving violently against perceived change to the status quo such as metal detectors leading up to Temple Mount, put in place to protect all civilians against recent upheaval.

The world is sadly missing the counterproductive way in which the Palestinian leaders are employing violence as a bargaining tool whose ultimate goal is to inhibit peace.

In the words of Nikki Haley, the U.S ambassador to the United Nations, “The Palestinian leadership has a choice to make between two different paths. There is the choice between absolutist demands, hateful rhetoric, and incitement to violence. That path has led and will continue to lead, to nothing but hardship for the Palestinian people. Or there is the path of negotiation and compromise. History has shown that path to be successful for Egypt and Jordan including the transfer of territory. That path remains open to the Palestinian leadership if only it is courageous enough to take it.”

Furthermore, the U.S.’s sovereign decision to move the embassy will take place despite the refusal of Palestinian leaders to accept it. Whether or not you agree with the embassy move, it’s a legitimate decision a sovereign nation can make. The embassy move is entirely legal and will be relocated to an undisputed part of West Jerusalem.

For the Jewish people, Jerusalem is not just a physical place with an abundance of Jewish history; it is a religious concept that surpasses time. At the annual Passover Seder, Jews reaffirm this connection through their proclamation of, “Next year in Jerusalem.” Thus, it is only natural for a sovereign state like Israel to have the right to independently define where its capital should be located.

Unfortunately, this is not applied when it comes to Israel, as it relentlessly faces more criticism and condemnation than any other country from the UN and countless other political organizations. This includes countries who systematically kill, torture and deny its citizens of basic human rights on a daily basis. For example, in a 2017 U.N. General Assembly, there were nine resolutions on Israel and only six on the rest of the world including one for Syria.

It is time to put an end to the obsessive focus on the American decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and to instead, begin figuring out a way to help release the Palestinian people from the clutches of their oppressive leaders. This can only be accomplished when the world begins to recognize where the root of the conflict actually lies.

Contributed by Sam Goodman, CAMERA Fellow at Carleton University.

A Jewish Obligation

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.


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

Could Trump Be Right on Jerusalem?

CAMERA Fellow Marcell Horvath.

Contrary to dubious online suggestions, Einstein did not say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Nonetheless, there is some truth to this idea in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A certain orthodoxy in thought has brought about precious little except for the perpetuation of violence and a persistent deadlock.

Orthodoxies are by no means necessarily pernicious. I do not object to standing on the shoulders of giants, but I would want to verify that the giants are sufficiently tall to qualify as such. In this case, my fear that the orthodoxy is less-than-wise was confirmed when I picked up a recent issue of the Economist, a temperate magazine if there ever was one. “Donald Trump’s recognition of the holy city acknowledged reality. Nevertheless, it was unwise,” read the description of one of three Israel-themed pieces on the print edition’s contents page.

I stared at the words dumbfounded. What bad situation benefits from disregarding reality? Cancer? Domestic abuse? Bankruptcy? Climate change? Surely, there must be an extraordinary line of argument to support a digression from facts.

The apologia for this curious statement first traced the generic position on Jerusalem back to the 1993 Oslo Accords, according to which the city ought to be one of the final issues resolved. Notwithstanding the hurdle that Abu Mazen is not unequivocally committed to Oslo, this could be a rightful concern in the canon of the aforementioned orthodoxy. However, only two outcomes are possible for Jerusalem: either Israel keeps the city’s western part or all of it. Trump’s announcement does not endorse the latter scenario, as Shimon Peres’ former foreign policy advisor, Einat Wilf, explains. Trump was careful to point out that no borders are being drawn. The issue of Jerusalem, despite some initial fears to the contrary, remains unresolved.

The Economist then moves on to its tripartite main argument. First, it criticises the deal-making abilities of the American president, claiming that he gave a concession to Israel without anything in return. This argument is echoed by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, too. A qualification for this position is that an American commitment, while certainly useful, is not in itself international law. More significantly, it is not a peace deal. The precise advantage of such a “concession” to Israel is therefore unclear at this moment, especially when spokespeople from the State Department decline to confirm whether Jerusalem is inside Israel at all. Have we truly witnessed a significant policy shift from Obama’s Cairo Address, in which he called for Jerusalem to be a “secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims”?

At this moment, when the head of the Israeli Labour party prioritises a united Jerusalem over a peace deal, the notion that any part of the holy city will be surrendered appears particularly distant. But that the city’s western part will cease to be Israel is a particularly damaging fiction, which only strengthens the worst (and most unrealistic) inclinations of the Palestinian movement. These sentiments should not be accommodated on principle alone, but they are also counterproductive in practice as they steer the various Palestinian factions away from sensible terms. That pre-1967 Jewish holdings in Jerusalem are up for negotiations is simply a non-starter. The American reinforcement of this very basic idea is Trump’s great chiddush, and if some acceptance of this reality can be generated, his announcement will secure a single – though crucial – item on a lengthy checklist.

The second point focuses on the notion that Trump “has further discredited the already feeble Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and all those who argue that Palestinian aspirations can be met by negotiation rather than violence”.

Verily, Abbas is on thin ice with or without Trump. In 2014, a year when Gazans suffered massive casualties in Operation Protective Edge, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was more popular than Abu Mazen. In 2015, two-thirds of Palestinians wished for the president’s resignation, though this failed to stop him from continuing an already grossly exceeded term with near identical ratings.

It should be noted that these two factions, Hamas and Fatah, are the Palestinian leadership. Both major political forces have strong authoritarian tendencies. So when John Kerry called Abbas “the best peace partner Israel could hope for”, it was difficult to decipher if the then-secretary of state was praising the president (who in 2008 rejected the potentially best deal possible) or insulting his people.

In terms of violence, while there are periods of relative quiet, they tend to be short. Though the PA’s security cooperation with Israel is important, Abbas has not been an unconditional pacifist. With Gaza troubles tragically becoming an almost unremarkable fact of life and the “Knife Intifada” or habba just settling, the reaffirmation of peaceful Palestinian voices is somewhat of a moot point. There has yet to be a decade in the history of modern Israel without a major military confrontation, to say nothing of asymmetrical warfare.

Third, the Economist claims that Trump embarrassed Israel’s newfound Arab allies, who have finally begun warming to the Jewish state due to a mutual hostility towards Iran. Interestingly, the Economist in November was much more amenable towards Team Trump’s Middle East efforts, though it could not forego mentioning the three “orthodox Jews” in the task force, whose bias in favour of Israel it cited as a negative. Mild antisemitism aside, the magazine asserted the following:

“Whatever the [Trump] administration produces, Saudi Arabia is likely to support it. Mr Kushner has struck up a friendship with Muhammad bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince. Though the prince’s foreign-policy record is not widely admired, he seems to have convinced Mr Kushner that he can help reshape the Middle East in ways that suit America. At Mr Trump’s behest he summoned the octogenarian Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to Riyadh earlier this month and urged him to embrace the American plan.”

Clearly, there is a degree of editorial flexibility – or lack of consistency – here. Nonetheless, that Arab and/or Muslim states will now be tempted to line up behind the Palestinians is a real possibility, and it is raised by former PA official Ghaith al-Omari. There are some signs of this taking place at the UN General Assembly or the OIC, but these are mostly symbolic and impotent measures. On the other hand, Washington Institute executive director Robert Satloff noted that Saudi concerns appeared muted after Trump’s announcement.

That the initial outrage from the Arab world might be sabre-rattling without much substance is a distinct possibility. Neighbouring Arab countries are not necessarily famous for their excessive concern for Palestinians, on its own Trump’s declaration will have little practical effect that might force their hands, and the spectre of Iran will continue to hover over them.

The Economist’s final kick to recognition is the suggestion that Trump’s true goal here is pandering to the pro-Israel elements in his voter base, i.e. the Evangelicals – a point which, once again, corresponds with Zakaria’s take. This argument is also not without its qualifications, however. Consider a survey overseen by Brookings Institute Senior Fellow Shibley Telhami. Telhami writes:

“[The poll] found that 59 percent of Americans said they preferred that Trump lean toward neither side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In contrast, 57 percent of Americans, including most Republicans, said he is in fact leaning toward Israel. Our poll also shows that 63 percent of all Americans oppose moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, including 44 percent of Republicans.

How about the Evangelical Christians whose support has been critical for Trump, and who are known to support declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the U.S. embassy there? Two-thirds of Evangelicals say Trump’s policy is already leaning toward Israel—a proportion that’s even higher than that of the rest of the population. Even on moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, the support is hardly overwhelming: While 53 percent of Evangelicals support the move, 40 percent oppose it.”

If Trump is a rational actor here, the domestic political gains are not earth-shaking.

American acknowledgment of the power dynamics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could ultimately push the Palestinians towards a more amenable position, and that may prove beneficial. Despite initially gloomy reactions, perhaps it is right for Trump to promote the relatively uncontroversial Israeli retainment of West Jerusalem. It is quite possible that the previously reigning view on the conflict overestimated the Palestinian leadership’s clout abroad and their statesmanship at home. Perhaps it erroneously viewed the former as static and the latter as set on an evolutionary trajectory. Whatever the case, the peace process unquestionably screeched to a halt. At this point, there is no need to close our minds to something new, even if the strength of the jolt lies more in provocation than substance. For a change, Trump might have made a fact-based decision.

Marcell Horvath is a graduate law student at the University of Strathclyde and a CAMERA fellow. He co-founded the Glasgow University Israel & Middle East Forum. Previously, he studied history at the University of Maryland and law at the University of Glasgow.

DACA and the Middle East Conflict: An Impossible Comparison

CAMERA Fellow Rebecca Fliegelman

Before June 2015, when President Obama introduced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative to help undocumented young people obtain temporary citizenship, immigrants lived in perpetual fear of deportation. Today, with new representation in the Oval Office, fear is once again brimming. President Trump’s decision to cut the DACA program has inspired college students to stand up in solidarity with undocumented immigrants whose freedom and legal status in America is being threatened.

A proposed DACA rally was to be held at the Hunter College subway station where students were supposedly going to raise awareness about the recent DACA developments in a public, vocal forum with both students and passerby invited to participate. When I arrived at the rally, I was dismayed to discover that the protestor’s message had little to do with the repeal of DACA and instead, had morphed into an anti-Israel and anti-Zionist rally. Rather than educate observers on the imminent deadline for the DACA extension application, the anti-Israel students took the struggle of undocumented immigrants as an opportunity to raise awareness about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the Middle East. Although I appreciate everyone’s right to protest, it is intolerable that students hijacked a domestic conversation on immigration in order to slander and delegitimize the state of Israel.

These students spread their own message by desperately trying to compare the tribulations of DACA recipients to the plight of the Palestinians. They held signs that read “No Human Is Illegal” and “From Palestine to Mexico, Border Walls Have Got to Go”. Their opening remark was that just as Palestinians have been removed from their homes, individuals are fearful of deportation due to the revocation of DACA. While this manifestation of intersection is brutally dishonest, this comparison is also completely distorted given the myriad of differences between the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and young DACA recipients losing their legal status.

The first and most important difference is that the DACA recipients do not pose even a remote existential threat to America. It is unreasonable and unjust to compare the contentious situation in the Middle East, where Palestinian leaders are using significant sums of their limited budget to pay terrorist salaries and are explicitly inciting citizens to commit acts of terror against Israeli civilians in order to become “martyrs” in the name of Jihad. There is absolutely no comparison among DACA recipients in America.

The rally’s digression from the topic of DACA to the topic of Middle-East conflict was even more disturbing as students completely deviated from the truth by spreading partial truths and drawing irrelevant comparisons that painted Israel in a demonic light.

In one instance, the anti-Israel students stated that the barrier that separates Israel from violent areas of the West Bank is “more than twice the size of the Berlin Wall”. The entire premise of this claim is flawed, irrelevant and misleading.

While the Berlin wall was constructed by a communist regime in order to prevent its citizens from escaping to West Berlin, Israel’s security barrier was built along the border of threatening areas in order to curb crippling suicide bombings on buses and in cafes during the Second Intifada. The Israeli civilian death toll at this time was upwards of 1,000; with thousands more injured. The implication of a barrier as a defense against terrorism has been overwhelmingly successful, with no suicide bombings having taken place within Israel’s borders since its construction. Comparing Israel’s security barrier to the Berlin Wall is a complete fabrication and only intends to deny Israel the right of self-defense from life-threatening violence. Additionally, Israel is neither the first nor the last country to build a barrier to protect its citizens, with a third of the world’s countries having completed similar barriers. This fact was conveniently omitted at this rally.

Another deception, which echoed from the steps of the subway station and into the minds of students and NYC commuters, was that the Jewish people have “no connection” and “no ties” to the land of Israel. The anti-Israel students stated falsely that Palestinians are the only indigenous people from this area when Jewish history, archeological findings, and traditions of Jewish prayer all validate and reinforce the Jewish connection to the state of Israel as well.

A woman showing an example of two restored floor tiles from the courtyard of the Second Temple. Temple Mount Sifting Project/Haaretz.

To conclude the offensive misrepresentations of Israel spewed at this rally, organizers made the outrageous claim that Israel is a white supremacist state. This claim is even more heinous considering the fact that Jewish people were persecuted by white or Aryan supremacists during the Second World War and are today still harassed by neo-Nazi sympathizers such as those involved in the Charlottesville protests from earlier this year. Labeling Israel as such is a blatant inaccuracy and a disservice to the countless religions, races, and ethnicities that enjoy equal rights and have a voice in Israel’s democratic society. Israel is a melting pot of people, a feat that in and of itself completely counters the core ideals of white supremacy. With Israel’s progressive affirmative action laws, annual parade for gay pride and inclusion of all types of people in its government, equating Israel with white supremacy is an absurd and baseless claim.

With each passing moment of the rally came more lies and deceptions about Israel. Not only were my people’s ties to the land of Israel questioned and criticized, they also were flat out rejected and denied. My hopes to attend this rally and potentially participate in this important domestic dialogue about DACA were dead on arrival. Hijacking a narrative in order to advance a hateful political agenda is a regrettable injustice that accomplishes nothing but invalidating a cause that deserves an honest conversation and solution.

Contributed by Hunter College CAMERA Fellow Rebecca Fliegelman.


India-Israel Growing Relationship: The Need for Political Inclusiveness

CAMERA Fellow Hriday Sarma

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to make an official visit to India in January next year- 2018. There is a high possibility that his visit coincides with India’s Republic Day celebration. Netanyahu will then become the first ever Israeli premier to attend this epic annual event of India as a chief guest.

Western media is abuzz with speculations surrounding Netanyahu‘s upcoming visit to India. Many strategic experts and academicians have described that this would be a reciprocal visit to the one undertaken by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July this year- when for the first time in history an Indian Prime Minister visited Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shake hands in Tel Aviv. (PTI Photo)

However, not all sections of people in India, Israel and worldwide are happy with this growing intimacy between the two countries. Left-leaning advocates are expressing scorn over India’s present foreign policy stance of openly embracing Israel, which marks a deviation from its traditional position of supporting the cause of Palestinian statehood. They view this partnership as an ‘unholy alliance’ targeted against Muslims in the Middle East to deceitfully engage them in continued gory wrangling.

It needs to be understood India-Israel relationship is not a recent development; rather this has been in existence since time immemorial, save for a short duration of the Cold War period. The Bible and Talmud say that the Kingdom of Israel of the First Temple period and the Jews of Babylon had trade links with India. The High Middle Ages, the 11th and 12th centuries, were a turning point in Indo-Jewish relations. Documented records from this time, such as letters, printed maps and private papers, show a steady stream of long-distance Jewish traders travelling to India. They established extensive links with native societies in India, including marriages, exchange of traditions and cultural values and so on. Subsequently, person-to-person contacts between visiting Jews and Indians continued uninterrupted, and increased with time.

India initially granted de jure recognition to Israel on September 18, 1950. However, India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s sympathetic stance towards the Arabs and his adamant refusal to Ben Gurion’s bids for political and diplomatic support led to freezing of relationship between the two countries. Despite the political deadlock, the two countries maintained certain clandestine military and intelligence contacts throughout the Cold War era. India for the first time initiated diplomatic links with Tel Aviv in the early 1990s under the leadership of P V Narasimha Rao – a veteran of the centrist Indian National Congress party. Thereafter, the bilateral relationship has blossomed to where it stands today. This relationship has got a boost under the ruling stints of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a nationalist Indian political party that openly states in its manifesto to establish closer ties with Israel as an objective.

Today India is facing security threats from its neighbouring countries- China and Pakistan- and from terror elements within its territories. However, it is not at a position to either pursue Israel’s constant on-the-frontline posture against its hostile Arab neighbours or replicate the strict Israeli security model at the home front. The formidable standing of India’s nuclear powered neighbours, huge domestic population (including approximately 15 % Muslims) and low-tech service providing nature of its economy makes it difficult for India to act like a Westphalia based sovereign state prioritizing the interests of one nation. Moreover, the Islam found in India is different from the rest of the world. The Muslims there have made significant contributions as citizens in arts, sciences and public life, and not specifically as members of a community. In essence, India and Israel can be allies; but India’s security problems, political dilemmas and social dynamics are remarkably different from Israel.

With the BJP coming to power in India in 2014 with an absolute majority, there has been a spurt in the level of activities between India and Israel, such as military sales and purchasesscientific and technological collaborationsacademic research and scholarshipsprivate sector business partnershipsreligious discussions, and so on. For now, an ideal bonhomie seems to exist between the two ‘civilization-states’. However, things are not as good as it looks from outside. The far-right political parties from both countries, like Shiv SenaLehava, and their likes, are trying to hijack this mutually complimenting relationship for securing their vested interests. They are airing hatred and grievances against other communities, both religious and socio-political, by branding India and Israel as crusaders against Muslims. Whereas, in reality India-Israel relationship is a timely partnership between two countries, which maintained friendly relations in the past, and currently adjusting their friendship in tune with changing global geopolitical realities.

Both India and Israel need to accommodate concerns and interests of all sections of the political spectrum. The inclusion of the political left and the center forces in the policy-making process will ensure that the political right is not able to secure vested interests under the pretext of substantiating national interests. For now, Modi and Netanyahu are all set to elevate India-Israel relationship to the level of a ‘strategic alliance’- which ought to benefit both countries equally.

Contributed by Hriday Sarma, CAMERA Fellow at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Free Speech on Campus? Only for Extremists.

CAMERA Fellow Alex Taic

In the recent UCL Friends of Palestine event, held on a Friday night (November 10th), Israeli-born Miko Peled compared Zionists to Nazis. Alongside him, prominent Hamas supporter, Azzam Tamimi, defended Palestinian terrorism, stating:” Of course they will rebel, they will fight”.

It is simply unacceptable that a man who has voiced anti-Semitic views and an academic associated with terrorism directed against Jewish people are allowed to speak on a Friday night, the Jewish Sabbath, depriving the vast majority of Jewish students of the opportunity to challenge hatred likely directed against them.

Azzam Tamimi, a man who has openly admitted his political association with the terrorist group Hamas, has previously said “I take pride in being a terrorist”, expressing support of suicide bombings in Israel he described “if I can go to Palestine and sacrifice myself, I would do it.”

Miko Peled, the son of an Israeli army general who now lives in America, provoked outrage at the Labour Party Conference in September when called for free speech to “discuss every issue, whether it’s the Holocaust: yes or no”. Peled has also previously tweeted that “Jews have reputation 4being [sic] sleazy thieves.”

Despite a petition of hundreds of students, highlighting the inflammatory language of the speakers and the date and format which prevented their views being challenged by Jewish students, the event went ahead.

A central idea of freedom of speech is the right to be able to challenge ideas we do not agree with.

The concept of freedom of speech should not be cynically manipulated to purposefully intimidate minority groups on campus. As students, we value and cherish the liberal history of UCL university – but Peled’s and Tamimi’s unchallenged presence at our university violated the essence of freedom of speech, in addition to UCL’s own regulations.

By permitting the event to proceed on the scheduled date, UCL gave freedom to one group – but deprived it of another group, which has real reason to fear for its welfare.

During the event, when a student asked about Mr. Tamimi’s expressed support of suicide bombings, the audience members began to shout in outrage, saying “shut your mouth”, while the security staff started converging on her. When Mr. Peled decided to address the issue: “I’m not going to tell [Palestinians] how they need to respond. The expectation that Palestinians will not respond with violence is absurd. ‘Is it right or is it wrong?’ is not the question.” This was greeted by loud applause and shouts of ‘preach’ by the audience.

The conflict becomes more polarizing and the possibility of peace moves further and further away when universities reinforce the deeply disturbing trend of permitting anti-Semitic and extremist speakers to influence students on British campuses, thereby putting Jewish students at risk.

What can the university do? If freedom of speech is to be upheld, the date and format of events with controversial speakers such as Peled and Tamimi must be amended to allow students the opportunity to challenge what we strongly consider to be racism and bigotry of the worst kind.

However, real progress can only be achieved when the university stops trying to keep the lid on a brimming pot and instead takes a more active role in the debate. Between both sides, there is a difficult dialogue that is long overdue, in which the university should be the mediator and not the pacifier. Students should not let the fear, anger or distress overwhelm them into permanent silence. By listening to each other’s stories, sharing our thoughts we have so much to gain and very little to lose. The university should be aspiring to facilitate conversation, constructive debate, and tolerance on their campus, instead of trying to appease all those involved and allowing more anger and frustration to seep into their student body.

Contributed by president of CAMERA-supported group UCL Friends of Israel and University College London CAMERA Fellow Alex Taic.

Finding Peace Through Vegetables

CAMERA Fellow Roee Landesmen

How do you explain terror to a 3-year old? Why isn’t he allowed to take the bus with Grandpa anymore? Why have some of his friends unexpectedly packed up and left town? These were questions that had put my parents in a tough and uncomfortable position, as they had to be answered with care. One of the earliest childhood memories that I share with my older sister (who went on to serve as an officer in the Israeli Defense Forces), is of my incredibly brave parents responding to the destruction around us. They had us decorate the storage boxes of our gas masks with our favorite stickers. Quite understandably, they simplified the conflict and hid the truth from us—ignorance is bliss.

In the year 2000, during the deadly wave of Palestinian violence known as the Second Intifada, I was an innocent toddler. While I was infatuated with Legos and automobiles in preschool, individuals were being stabbed in pizza parlors and entire buses were blown to pieces by suicide terrorists armed with homemade explosive belts. At home, my mom prepared a salad for dinner while my father prepared the bomb shelter in case of a missile attack.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government was facing the exact same problem that had been forced onto my parents, but on a grander scale. The wave of terrorism, above all else, was meant to strike fear into the hearts of Israelis; and children were the most vulnerable targets.

A collective decision was made by artists, political officials, and psychologists to employ the same tactic my parents had decided to use. Over the course of many months, children’s shows and songs were bombarded with new content, which not only calmed Israeli children but also took a step to educate them about the situation through the lens of peace. I vividly recall hearing these songs, and until this day, there has been one that has stuck with me: Tnu Ligdol BeSheket (Let us grow [in peace]) by Gidi Gov.

The song, originally written in 1985 but repeatedly broadcasted as part of this national campaign, is about two unlikely heroes– A carrot and a pea. As the two were sitting in a refrigerator one day, the light had gone out and so they began to get cold together. The chorus then introduces the main motif of this lyrical masterpiece: “Let us live in peace in our little village, where the sun will rise again, tomorrow again…Let us live in peace, without freezing from the cold”. As a timid 3-year old, the notion of peace was ironically forced into my entertainment, and therefore my early education.

Now let’s switch perspectives. While I was praying for peace during Shabbat and building magnificent Lego structures, Palestinian children –no more than 50 miles south of me—were exposed to an opposite reality. Popular shows broadcasted on the Gaza Strip’s national TV channel include propaganda pieces such as “Children’s Club” which features horrifying lessons. The children are encouraged to direct their anger towards Israelis through violence, and in one song children ranging from the ages of 4-10 are shown singing calls for “Jihad! Holy war to the end against the Zionist enemy”. Quite different from the image of carrots yearning for peace.

Unfortunately, the Second Intifada was not an isolated case of Palestinian incitement. Through media, hate crimes, and a skewed education system, the fire of hatred in the Gaza Strip–and on the national TV channels of the Palestinian Authority–has been fueled ever since the territory was founded. Today, as parents tune into their favorite Gazan radio channels, popular hosts continue to spread messages of violence. In October of 2015, youtube videos shared on popular social-media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram show “martyrs” parading through Gaza city while singing “Stab the Zionist and say God is great”. In yet another example of incitement, a recent video was released showing small children in Hamas military uniforms putting on a play at their school in which they are shown harassing ultra-orthodox Jews with the butts of their toy rifles. New York Times contributor and current Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy, and Water resources Yuval Steinitz summarized the situation perfectly:

“Instead of being schooled in the ‘culture of peace,’ the next generation of Palestinians is being relentlessly fed a rhetorical diet that includes the idolization of terrorists, the demonization of Jews and the conviction that sooner or later Israel should cease to exist.”

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is undoubtedly a complex and multi-faceted beast that includes intense debates concerning history, culture, and law. However, there is another aspect of the conflict which is often overlooked, and that is ego; Why should a Palestinian family just “forget” about their home that was destroyed in 48,  and why should an Israeli family “forgive” the terrorists who murdered their child while on the bus to school. Because of decades of boiling hatred, violence and destruction, both sides have built themselves a coping mechanism in which they refuse to see the other side. There is no doubt that both sides of the conflict are ultimately driven to find peace; however, this anger has become embedded through generations of families and has blurred this quest.  And yet the key to breaking this vicious cycle is the same as any other; start with the future. Education, particularly in children’s early years, has the potential to be used positively as an incredibly powerful political tool. Rather than encouraging children to become martyrs and perpetrators of violence, inspire them to help others, attain a college degree, and become functioning members of society. It’s quite simple really: progress towards a lasting peace will happen when both sides begin to make a significant effort to educate the future generations to love and accept.

If the Palestinian people are serious about a lasting peace, it’s time for them to step up to the plate and take ownership by properly educating their youngest generation. Begin to promote peace as a cornerstone of education in future generations, and peace will follow shortly; Real progress will only come when the carrot and pea can live together in harmony.

Contributed by California State Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo CAMERA Fellow Roee Landesman.

This article was originally published at The Times of Israel blogs.

Still Living: Remembering Morocco’s Jews

When I think about Israeli culture, I think of startups, I think of gorgeous museums with modern art exhibits, of Sabich, falafel, and hip new musicians, of the Tel Aviv boardwalk and the new lineup of hit Israeli TV shows on Netflix. Israel has a rich culture, and yet often we see it as separate from all of the Jewish history that occurred outside the Holy Land itself. For thousands of years, the Jewish people have lived in the Diaspora, outside the land of Israel. From the moment the first Jews were exiled from the land of Israel in 600 BC a myriad of new cultures with incredible facets began to form. Judaism today is a combination of a diverse array of experiences, traditions and rich cultural heritage that all come together to create a vibrant culture and many deeply rooted traditions, connected to countries the world over.

Growing up, I learned in Jewish schools and at home about the dispersion of Jews from the land of Israel, most prominently following the Roman conquest of the land. In my classes we spoke in depth about the migration of Jews to countries throughout the world, talking about the adaptation of the Jewish religion to life outside the holy land, about the famous sages, and about the golden eras for Jews throughout Europe and later in the Muslim kingdoms of Iberia and North Africa. However, the past century of Jewish history has played an incredibly influential role in my Jewish education. As I look back I think of the culmination that was going on the March of the Living. In one trip we marched out of Auschwitz in Poland and subsequently flew to Israel to celebrate our survival and return home to the land of Israel. This past summer I went on what I felt to be a parallel journey to my experience of the March of the Living — in Morocco.

I spent two months visiting different parts of Morocco, and in each place, I would wait to hear the awkwardly inserted bit about the Jews. For the most part, these were honorable mentions. Like “the Jews lived here, close to the king’s palace” or “the Muslims, the Berbers, and the Jews were good friends and always got along well”, and importantly, “the Moroccan constitution gives Jews special permission to be tried in Jewish courts according to Jewish law, a right which is not even present in Israel.” It was a thrill, learning a new and enchanting side of the history of my people.

The king of the country has a personal connection with the Jewish community. And yet, most of the references to the Jewish community were solely historical. Seldom did we hear anything spoken about the contemporary community.


Photo: Chefchaouen

Sadly, this is because only around one percent of Morocco’s pre-1948 Jews remain. In a country that was once home to more than 250,000 Jewish individuals only a community numbering less than 5,000 remains. I visited the historical towns and remaining communities and the dramatic loss was all too obvious. In the south, I visited a city by the name of Essaouira. On arriving, I looked for a place to spend Shabbat, hoping maybe to connect with a Jewish family or two that remained. I was shocked to discover that less than a century ago this dreamy seaside town had been home to a Jewish population large enough that they were not even considered a minority group. According to some locals, they had even been a majority in the town at some point. In the decades after 1948 Essaouira’s Jews left and the Jewish population dwindled into the single digits. Today many Jewish homes in the city are nothing more than rubble, while some of them are still used today as private homes, and one even as a hotel. Walking through the streets I saw the simple Jewish stars above door frames, among the few indications of the strong community that existed not so long ago in that very place.

Jews arrived in Morocco more than 500 years ago, living and working alongside their mostly Muslim neighbors. Within a few decades of the establishment of the State of Israel, they had all but disappeared. I have heard personal stories from friends of their family members being harassed. Even a story of a Jewish grandfather that was lynched by an angry mob in a small town in the Atlas Mountains. This parallels a larger trend throughout the Muslim world; it makes me think of the stories of friends’ parents who left their homes in the Middle East with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. Morocco was not alone in this sad wave of anti-Jewish hatred that swept the Arab world in the twentieth century. This hate led to the disappearance of  99.5% of the Arab world’s Jewish population. Many of these Jews were kicked out of their ancestral lands. They were forced to leave everything, and in many instances died trying to get their families to safety. Many of them, similarly to the world’s current refugees, experienced difficulties when restarting their lives in new countries.

For centuries, Jews had prospered in Arab societies with nothing more than occasional reminders that they were different. This all changed in 1948: the only difference being that they now had a new state they could call home. Many of these Jews did end up in the state of Israel but in 1948 Zion still remained an intangible dream. Yet they were suddenly the victims of hate because of a conflict far away. Standing in a large blue room, in the restored Chaim Pinto synagogue in Essaouira I felt one step closer to my roots. I conducted a prayer service, serving both as the cantor and as the crowd. I felt spiritually connected to the generations of Jews who had for centuries called Morocco home, and I felt closer to my own roots, as if I had just filled in another missing piece of the puzzle of Jewish history. I had the opportunity to experience a piece of the Jewish past that I believe every Jew should learn about. Just as I marched through Poland, learning about the Jewish communities that once were, so too opportunities should be expanded to expose more of our community to the incredible heritage and culture of Moroccan Jews, among all the other Jewish experiences that compose the Jewish community today.  

Moroccan Jews



Contributed by Harvard CAMERA Fellow Ilan Goldberg.