Tag Archives: CAMERA fellow

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.

Indian CAMERA Fellow Educates His Peers on Israel

When you think of anti-Israel bias, India probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind. It might surprise you, but with one of the oldest continuous Jewish communities in the world, and an expanding diplomatic relationship with the Israeli government, college campuses in India are wrought with inaccuracies when it comes to Israel.

Thankfully, the first-ever Indian CAMERA Fellow, Hriday Ch. Sarma, is confronting falsehoods about Israel wherever they are found. A PhD candidate at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, Sarma recently attended a meeting entitled “The role of Indian media in defining Israel.” While the attendees were both pro and anti-Israel voices, many of the points discussed were based off of propaganda and blatant lies.

CAMERA Fellow Hriday at the meeting with colleagues.

Several articles were discussed at the meeting including, “Israel’s continuing land grab” and “Human Shields in Israel,” which, as the title suggests, implied that Israel “uses captured Palestinians as human shields while launching attacks inside Palestinian territories.” Fortunately, there were voices like Sarma’s to speak out against such vicious inaccuracies and maintain the meeting’s basis in reality. Equipped with the facts, our CAMERA Fellows give Israel a fighting chance across the globe.

Contributed by Campus Coordinator Liel Asulin.

 

Nottingham Must Do More To Make Their Jewish Students Feel Welcome

CAMERA Fellow Daniel Kosky.

The Freshers Fair, one of the key events in one’s first week at university. Putting aside all the clubbing and induction lectures, the Freshers Fair gives new university students the chance to see the sports clubs, societies, and events available at the university. For many, it is their first real impression of university life and is set up to be a welcoming environment for new students, yet for Jewish and Israeli students, this can often not be the case.

At my university, the University of Nottingham, new Jewish students were horrified to see “Boycott Israeli Apartheid” stickers placed all around the ‘Welcome Fair’. Handed out by the Palestinian Society, these stickers found their way onto a large number of the students walking around the fair.

That wasn’t all, students also found it appropriate to put boycott Israel stickers on the Jewish Society stall, a stall which was placed to welcome Jewish and Israeli students to the university.

The sticker found on the Jewish Society stall.

Imagine how this would make you feel, an Israeli in the UK for the first time, or a Jewish student fresh out of high school, to see fellow peers wearing boycott Israel stickers, and the Arab Society with a map of the Middle East, having Israel coloured in its entirety with a Palestinian flag. What a first impression…

Several Jewish students came up to the Jewish Society stall expressing their fear, intimidation, and anger as a result of the stickers, with many rightly, bravely complaining to the University.

Whilst students should be free to engage in discourse about the political situation in the Middle East, stickers singling out one country for boycott, the Jewish state, should have no place at a fair which is meant to welcome all students to university life. Jewish and Israeli students during their first few days at university should not be having to complain to the university, or be made to feel uncomfortable.

Yet this wasn’t the end to an unwelcoming start to the academic year for Jewish university students. During the Welcome Fair, flyers were distributed, including at the Jewish Society’s stall, by the University Chaplaincy, advertising their upcoming event about Fundamentalism. The speaker at the event was Palestinian Christian Revd Dr. Fadi Diab from Ramallah.

The lecture room turned into a theatre for Israel bashing, with Diab claiming amongst other things, that Palestinian terrorism against Israelis is caused by Israel. Diab also ignored how Israel tried to save civilian life in Gaza in the fight against Hamas. Despite Hamas placing rockets in Palestinian homes and using them as human shields, Diab still blamed Israel for Palestinian casualties, not the terrorist organisation that put them in harm’s way. But whether you agree or disagree with this opinion, however, he had a right to say it. It was when it came to the Q+A section of the event where the problems started.

In response to a question asked by myself, clearly a Jewish student, on the situation in Gaza, Diab proclaimed “you bomb their homes and houses and streets”, looking in the direction of me and fellow Jewish students in the room. This is anti-Semitism, plain and simple. To accuse me, a Jewish student in Britain, of being responsible for the supposed actions of the Israeli government, is quite literally anti-Semitism according to the EUMC definition of anti-Semitism recently adopted by the UK government.

That wasn’t all, in response to my question Diab once again crossed the line, claiming “There is no other people that suffered in the last century like the people in Gaza”. Really? I am in no way denying poor humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, but is Diab really suggesting that the people of Gaza suffered more than the Jews of Europe in the 1930s and 40s, of which 6 million were systematically murdered by the Nazis? If this isn’t Holocaust denial, or downplaying the scope of the genocide of the Jewish people, it comes pretty close to it.

Simply put, the university should not be hosting and endorsing an event with a speaker, who when questioned on his argument, delves into anti-Semitism. The University of Nottingham prides itself on being a welcoming environment for all students, it even calls itself “Britain’s global university”. If that’s truly the case, then it must make sure the university is a welcome environment for all students, including Jewish and Israeli ones.

Contributed by University of Nottingham CAMERA Fellow Daniel Kosky.

What is Ayah Aly Doing to Promote Inclusivity?

CAMERA Fellow Fay Yanofsky.

On October 17th, I attended an interfaith event titled “Two Visions One Culture” hosted by Professor Robert Cherry. I experienced first-hand the way Professor Cherry uses his influence as a donor at Merchavim, a Non-Governmental Organization working to eliminate cultural barriers in Israel.

Its Executive Director highlighted their five-year plan to integrate 500 Arab teachers in English, science, and math into Jewish schools there. The audience watched clips from the award-winning documentary “A Dove’s Cry” highlighting the impact of an Israeli-Arab teacher on the attitudes of Jewish students whom she taught.

We saw a teacher play “Allah Akbar” on her radio to crush stereotypes by teaching Jewish students about her peaceful religion. I asked Professor Fishman, a history professor who has written extensively on the plight of the Palestinians, about what he perceives as the anti-Arab behavior of the Israeli government and what he thought about Merchavim. He said, “Building cross-cultural connections is a step in the right direction.”

Professor Cherry noted how affirmative action is necessary to overcome the often inadvertent discriminatory hiring process when perceived group characteristics are used to screen applicants.

Professor Cherry has spent his life working to end discrimination in the United States and abroad. He has written a book about social policy, Moving Working Families Forward Third Way Policies That Work (NYU Press). Additionally, Professor Cherry has been publishing extensively on the plight of black men and policies that can move them forward. He just released a study on government efforts to aid prison reentry, identifying the most effective programs available. In class, I can attest that Robert Cherry always stands up against discrimination and discusses inclusive laws to end discrimination in the United States and abroad.

For example, Professor Cherry noted how affirmative action is necessary to overcome the often inadvertent discriminatory hiring process when perceived group characteristics are used to screen applicants. He pointed to how wage incentives targeted to disadvantaged groups can be effective. One example given was how the Israeli Government incentivizes businesses to hire Ethiopian immigrants by paying 30% of their salaries for up to two years, just as they are doing to incentivize Jewish schools to hire Israeli-Arab teachers.

Recently, the David Horowitz Centers posters around campus incorrectly claimed that the identified professors supported terrorism. While Professor Cherry condemned the poster, Professor Cherry took one of the identified faculty to task for supporting a radical hate group, SJP, by pointing out specific instances of anti-Semitic behavior by the organization on campus and the statement of the Chancellor of the University of Illinois that called out the anti-Semitism of SJP. A quintessential example of the perpetuated anti-Semitism of SJP is that of Ayah Aly’s, Brooklyn College President of SJP. She was quoted as posting on twitter the top ten things she hates. In that list, Jews.

 

The anti-Semitism is a disgrace to Brooklyn College and the inclusivity that CUNY represents. The SJP also crudely drew an anti-Semitic cause and effect relationship between tuition hikes and Zionists. Previously, when Professor Langsam was called a “Zionist Pig” at a faculty council meeting by SJP, he said, “We give lip service to freedom of speech, but we don’t talk about hate speech.” Karen Gould, former President of Brooklyn College, responded to “Zionists off Campus” chants by stating, “We find this disruptive behavior unacceptable and the hateful comments especially abhorrent.” Gould called for an investigation into the students’ conduct and for appropriate actions to be taken. Students were brought up before a disciplinary hearing at which some faculty like Chopra pleaded their case. No one could identify the student who made the anti-Semitic comment and it was disputed what the full phrase was. Essentially, SJP escaped disciplinary action.

The President of SJP recently responded to Professor Cherry in the Brooklyn College Kingsman news. On two articles I have read that defend Jewish students, the Kingsman made sure to specifically note that the article does not reflect the views of the paper. However, when Ayah Ali, President of SJP, attempted to defame Professor Robert Cherry, there were no disclaimers stating anything of the sort.

“To Professor Cherry I say; you are not the first. You are not the first to have countered our organization with chants of islamophobia and discrimination. You are not the first to have sympathized with an oppressor and victim-blamed. …You are not the first to have derailed our motives, silenced our voices, and pledged your support to a white supremacist group.” (Ayah Aly, Kingsman)

Six million Jews have been targeted as victims from Nazis and White Supremacists; the associations and accusations are false and insulting. We demand that you stop these hateful assaults on both students and faculty alike. Professor Cherry has actively been working to end discrimination in the United States and in Israel. President Michelle Anderson has launched a successful “Stand Against Hate” campaign to foster inclusion and bring an end to discrimination at Brooklyn College. My question is, before calling out a generous donor working to build an inclusive utopia in Israel and a President spending her term working against hate to foster inclusion, what steps are you taking to achieve these goals?

Contributed by Brooklyn College CAMERA Fellow and Treasurer of CAMERA-supported group Bulldogs for Israel, Fay Yanofsky.

This article was originally published in Night Call News.

Keeping An Open Mind Matters

CAMERA Fellow Jenn Tischler.

The Arab-Israeli conflict remains a highly divisive issue on campuses across the United States—and GW is no exception. Students can often expect to see speaker events calling for the end of the alleged “occupation” of Palestinian lands, weeks dedicated to commenting on the supposed apartheid in Israel, and groups on campus demonizing Israel and calling for its destruction, whether overtly or not.

But we often face personal attacks as well, from Palestinian supporters that see no better way to convey their message than through derogatory and degrading confrontations. Rather than state their case or argue the possible merits of their point of view, they choose to attack Israel and its supporters and “win” the argument by beating the other side into silence.

A protest led by Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Maryland, College Park in 2009.(Gerald Martineau/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

A few weeks ago, I attended an event hosted by the local GW chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. The night in question was advertised as a Palestinian Culture Night, but no mention of culture ever came up. Instead, the audience was bombarded with accusations against Israel, American Jews, and American Jewish organizations through catchy sound bites. I sat through this blatant propaganda quietly, intending to be respectful and hear what they had to say in person. As I was leaving, I was cornered by a few board members of SJP who recognized me. They claimed that I had come here to sabotage them and use the information they’d presented to us against the club. I was shocked but responded simply, that I had come to listen and that was all.

Their reply was simple as well. “We don’t believe you.”

Later, after they finally let me reach the door, I went to their Facebook page to read their mission and stated values. One line, in particular, stuck out to me: “We will not normalize the status quo by engaging in dialogues, discussions, panels, or other public forums where the participants do not recognize [our] fundamental tenets…” This statement, although dressed up in ambiguous terms, is quite simple in its essence. SJP is not interested in starting dialogue until the dialogue is already over.

By their own admission, SJP does not see the value in the exchange of opposing ideas. They are only interested in having a conversation on their terms, and will not open themselves to opinions that might be different from their own. When they do encounter an opposite viewpoint, they aggressively attack and accuse until the other side is silenced and the only voice heard is their own. This is not the way to peace; this is only a means of continuing to spread hate and intolerance among anti-Semitic voices.

With a topic as emotionally charged as the Arab-Israeli conflict, level-headedness and a desire for open conversation are vital. Regardless of our own thoughts, hearing other people’s opinions and acknowledging that everyone has their own point of view is a necessity in any conflict of ideas. Only through opening ourselves to those opposing viewpoints can we be truly educated on the multi-faceted nature of the conflict and move towards peace and recognition for both sides. If we shut ourselves off, as SJP has, then we only entrench ourselves further in our current positions and block any future movement towards coexistence.

I believe that peace and understanding can win against hatred and intolerance and so I will continue to fight for dialogue and mutual recognition. I call on every student in GW to do the same for the sake of progress and a hope for eventual peace—and to not take SJP’s behavior as anything more than a clear example of what not to do.

 

Contributed by George Washington University CAMERA Fellow Jenn Tischler.