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Who is Linda Sarsour?

Linda Sarsour is a New York-based, Palestinian-American activist who is highly adept at promoting herself. She seems to always be at center stage, availing herself of photo-ops, and procuring prestigious platforms from which to preach, including an invitation to be commencement speaker at CUNY’s School of Public Health.

How does she do this? She attaches herself to trendy, progressive causes, like “Occupy Wall Street,” “Women’s March on Washington,” or “Black Lives Matter,” proclaiming herself a “person of color” – although she is white; a “feminist” – although she is an apologist for sexism in Islamic countries; and a crusader for whatever cause du jour is in vogue.

As she observed in the New York blog, Gothamist:

The way you raise the profile of an issue, is by making the issue cool and relevant in pop culture. And if people are seeing it on Twitter, if they’re seeing Russell Simmons tweeting about police brutality, and getting people involved, at the end of the day young people are going to come out for that.”

So Sarsour presents herself as an all-embracing champion of “cool issues” in the name of solidarity. “Anyone who wants to call themselves an activist cannot be selective,” she declares. ( The Nation, March 17, 2017)

But this is just a cynical front. Far from the tolerant, inclusive bridge-builder she pretends to be, Sarsour seizes on contemporary issues to catapult herself to prominence, seizing leadership roles and using them as tools to draw more attention to herself and her own narrower ambitions – promoting Islam and  Palestinian self-determination.

Speaking to fellow Muslim and Palestinian activists at an American Muslims for Palestine conference last November, Sarsour revealed the limits of her tolerance for solidarity and collaboration:

“We have limits to the type of friendships that we’re looking for right now and I want to be friends with those whom I know have been steadfast, courageous, have been standing up and protecting their own communities, those who have taken the risk to stand up and say – we are with the Palestinian people, we unequivocally support BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) when it comes to Palestinian human rights and have been attacked viciously by the very people who are telling you that they’re about to stand on the front line of the Muslim registry program. No thank you, sisters and brothers.” (Sarsour, American Muslims for Palestine Conference, Chicago, Nov.25, 2016)

Presuming herself the arbiter of participation in the feminist movement, she rejects anyone who supports Israel:

“Is there room for people who support the state of Israel and do not criticize it in the movement? There can’t be in feminism.’ (Sarsour, The Nation, March 13, 2017)

She downgrades other causes – even those she claims to espouse – as less compelling than her own, which she inflates with no regard for the facts.

On Anti-Semitism:
“I want to make the distinction that while anti-Semitism is something that impacts Jewish Americans, it’s different than anti-Black racism or Islamophobia because it’s not systemic.” (Sarsour, Jewish Voice for Peace Video)

On Racism Against Blacks:
“Racism against blacks in the United States is very different from intolerance against Muslims. Speaking or showing racism against blacks is publicly rejected in the United States even if it is in secret, but unfortunately intolerance against Islam is perfectly acceptable, and promoted by the media…” (Sarsour, CNN Arabic, May 19, 2012) 

On Islamophobia:
‘Twenty-two states with anti-Sharia bills trying to ban us from practicing our faith, Mosque oppositions. We`re fighting zoning boards across the country. Our kids are hearing this rhetoric. We have people, mosques being vandalized, kids being executed, Islamophobia.” (Sarsour, The Rachel Maddow Show, MSNBC, Feb. 18, 2015)

Muslim children being executed on American streets? U.S. laws prevent Muslims from practicing their religion? Sarsour does not even try to back up her glibly outrageous pronouncement with any facts or figures.

The fact is that the latest statistics on hate crimes in the U.S. published by the FBI, completely contradict Sarsour’s implication that Muslims are the most victimized: Blacks were the most frequent victims of hate crimes based on race, while Jews were the most frequent victims based on religion. There were 1,745 attacks targeting Blacks, 664 anti-Semitic attacks, and 257 anti-Muslim attacks.

Sarsour’s Feminism

Cultivating a persona of “universal victim” from which to advance her own activism, Sarsour, a Palestinian Caucasian who grew up in a comfortable, middle-class Brooklyn neighborhood, redefines herself as a “woman of color.” It is with this appropriated identity that she takes on a leadership role in the feminist movement while rejecting – not only supporters of Israel, but – those she labels as “white.” Sarsour cunningly wields these labels as tools to promote herself and to attack anyone who raises issues that she is not prepared to address.

Example 1: “If you’re in a movement and you’re not following a woman of color, you’re in the wrong movement.” (Sarsour,at an anti-Trump rally in New York’s Washington Square Park)

Example 2:

In this way, Sarsour attempts to silence those who shed light on misogynic practices and to avert criticism from the societies that tolerate or encourage them. She is particularly obsessive and malicious in her disparagement of Somali- born feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Muslim, who campaigns against female genital mutilation (FGM), honor killings and child marriages that are prevalent in some Muslim communities. Sarsour repeatedly smears and agitates against Ali.

Example 1:


Example 2:


Example 3:


Example 4:

Example 5:

Sarsour went so far as to attack Ali, a victim of FGM, in cruel and mysogynistic terms, in a 2011 tweet that was widely criticized and which Sarsour later scrubbed from her twitter feed. (It is preserved in archives and screenshots):

When confronted about her vulgar tweet by a student at a college event where she spoke, Sarsour immediately retreated to her identity politics defense, suggesting that the student had no right to speak:

“So let’s give some context here because this is an event organized by an Asian-American, celebrating a community, talking about communities of color, who are being directly impacted at this moment, and I have a young white man in the back, who is not directly impacted by any of the issues that I mentioned. Let’s give some context here.” (Dartmouth College, May 12, 2017.)

In much the same way, she tries to deflect attention from a feminist film, Honor Diaries, that examines gender inequality in Muslim-majority societies, by attempting to discredit the messenger and suggesting that the profiled women’s rights activists, who include Muslims and black women, are not entitled to present their views.

Example 1:

“We don’t need Islamophobes to talk to us and tell the stories of oppressed and abused Muslim women,” she said. ‘It’s just disingenuous.” (Al Jazeera America, April 14, 2014)

Example 2:

Sarsour similarly attempts to deflect criticism from the sexism and oppression within Muslim patriarchal societies, while confining her own rebuke of Islamic countries to their not accepting sufficient numbers of Muslim refugees or other general human rights issues.

Example 1:

Example 2:

Example 3:

Anti-Semitism

Sarsour positions herself as “a racial justice and civil rights activist” and an opponent of all forms of bigotry, including anti-Semitism. She garnered headlines (and established her bona fides as a combatant of anti-Semitism) by raising money to repair a vandalized Jewish cemetery, and she finds common cause with Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a radical group that shares Sarsour’s extreme anti-Israel, BDS views. But Sarsour redefines the concept of “anti-Semite” to mean the bogeyman of minority or disadvantaged groups:

“… we have anti-Semites basically in power in the White House…. the same people who hate Jews hate Muslims. They hate LGBTQ people. I mean they’re usually pretty anti-Black and unconditionally pro-law enforcement. So there’s a connection among these groups of people.” (Sarsour, Jewish Voice for Peace Video)

She separates anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism by redefining the former to mean “criticizing Israel.” This way, she can claim to be an opponent of anti-Semitism while engaging in anti-Zionist activities. But that is simply being disingenuous. Zionism is the national movement of the Jewish people and anti-Zionism is the denial to Jewish people of the right to self-determination in their historic homeland.

Indeed, Sarsour attacks Zionism in malevolent terms, echoing the infamous 1975 “Zionism is Racism” UN General Assembly resolution, sponsored by Muslim states and subsequently revoked.

Although she tries to present herself as simply a critic of Israel, what Sarsour is really campaigning for is the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state:

Pressed by Haaretz to detail her views, Sarsour said that she believes in a one-state solution that, experts agree, will not be a Jewish state because the larger population will be Palestinian. “My hope is that it will be one state, one man one vote, that everyone is treated equally. Then you can say that part of the world is a true democracy.” (Ha’aretz, Jan. 25, 2017)

When it comes to a Palestinian state, however, she does not talk of “one man one vote” but a state that is wholly Palestinian:

“It is our generation that ignited the revolutions in the Middle East, it is our generation that will change US Foreign policy, it is our generation that will bring back a Palestinian State for the Palestinian people…” (Sarsour, blog post response to political columnist Ray Hanania’s post about extremist Arabs)

In other words, what she advocates is the replacement of the Jewish state with a Palestinian one.

To that end, Sarsour is a strong proponent of the venomous Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state— a campaign that is widely recognized as anti-Semitic in nature.

In addition to the BDS activists’ articulated goal of eliminating a Jewish state, their actions frequently demonstrate anti-Semitic motives rather than a quest for civil rights. Here are just a few of the numerous examples of how BDS activists have singled out Jews for bullying:

  • As part of its “Globe to Globe” festival in May 2012, London’s Shakespeare Globe Theatre invited companies from around the world to perform Shakespeare’s plays in their native languages. After the Palestinian Ashtar company performed Richard II in Arabic, BDS activists attempted to shut down the Israeli Habima company performance of The Merchant of Venice in Hebrew.
  • Regarding Justin Bieber’s 2011 performance in Tel Aviv, BDS activists reportedly threatened Justin Bieber’s Jewish manager with “the Jew manager will die.”
  • In August 2013, BDS activists protesting the performance of Israeli jazz musician Daniel Zamir at Johannesberg’s Wits University, chanted and sang out “Shoot the Jew.”
  • In August 2015, BDS activists in Spain pressured organizers of a music festival to exclude singer Matisyahu from performing unless he publicly denounced Israel and declared his support for a Palestinian state. The American performer, who was singled out solely because of his Jewish identity, refused to cooperate and his performance was canceled. But following fierce criticism by the international press, Spanish government and others of this overtly anti-Semitic action, organizers reinstated the Jewish singer’s participation in the festival. A Spanish court has now admitted a criminal complaint against the BDS activists, filed by an association of human rights lawyers fighting against anti-Semitism.

The German CDU party passed an anti-BDS resolution comparing it to the Nazi boycott of Jews in 1930’s Germany, noting that, “Who today under the flag of the BDS movement calls to boycott Israeli goods and services speaks the same language in which people were called to not buy from Jews. That is nothing other than coarse anti-Semitism.”

In France, BDS is considered a hate crime; The French Supreme court upheld the anti-BDS Lellouche law that considers promoters of BDS guilty of anti-Jewish hate and discrimination.

The UK Secretary of Justice Michael Gove has slammed the BDS campaign as “indulging prejudice” and a new manifestation of an old anti-Jewish hatred.

In Canada, Ontario’s legislature rejected BDS, saying it promotes hatred against Israel. Similar anti-BDS legislation has been passed with bi-partisan support by nearly 20 U.S. states thus far, including Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Illinois and California. The legislators recognize BDS as “one of the main vehicles for spreading anti-Semitism and advocating the elimination of the Jewish state,” as Tennessee’s anti-BDS legislation explains. All 50 US State governors signed a condemnation of BDS as “incompatible with the values” of the U.S.

Yet, Linda Sarsour continues to defend, justify and promote BDS, characterizing it simply as a “free speech” issue.

Example 1:

Arab civil rights activist Linda Sarsour…says the proposed [anti-BDS] resolution violates the right to protest.

“Whatever happened to, ‘I don’t agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend your right to say it?'” said LInda Sarsour, the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York and a BDS supporter. (“Cops remove dozens from fierce City Council hearing over measure condemning movement to boycott Israel,” New York Daily News, Sept. 8, 2016)

Example 2:

Example 3:

Sarsour attacks US politicians who support Israel, in language evocative of conspiratorial anti-Semitism.

 

And when it comes to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Sarsour encourages violence, glorifying a photo that encourages Palestinian children to attack Israelis.

It is not only children throwing stones whom Sarsour celebrates. She expressed her “honor” at sharing the stage at an anti-Israel event with convicted terrorist Rasmea Odeh.


Sarsour embraces convicted terrorist Rasmea Odeh at JVP event

A member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist group, Odeh was convicted by an Israeli military court for her role in terror attacks, including the 1969 attempted bombing of the British Consulate and the bombing of a Jerusalem supermarket in which two Hebrew University students, Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner, were murdered.

In 1970, Odeh was sentenced to life imprisonment by an Israeli military court, but was released in a prisoner exchange ten years later, and moved to Jordan. She subsequently immigrated to the U.S., concealing her past imprisonment and conviction. In 2014, the PFLP terrorist lost her U.S. citizenship after she was found guilty of immigration fraud by a U.S. court, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. But she appealed, alleging that her original signed confession of guilt in terrorist act was false, extracted through sexual abuse and torture by Israeli investigators, and that she was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) when she lied on her U.S. immigration papers. Odeh was released on bail while a new trial was scheduled to take place in May 2017. Evidence for Odeh’s original conviction of the terrorist bombings, however, is not based solely on her signed confession but also on physical evidence of bomb-making materials in her home and testimony by her co-conspirator. In addition, her trial in Israeli military court was deemed fair by International Red Cross observers.

Unlike the first immigration fraud trial where evidence for Odeh’s role in the terrorist bombings was not relevant, the new trial was to hear the prosecutions’ position that Odeh’s excuse for lying on immigration papers – her proclamation of innocence and torture – is the issue in question, and would weigh the evidence to that effect.  But shortly before the trial was to have taken place, Odeh agreed to a plea bargain whereby she would plead guilty to have knowingly lied on immigration papers, be stripped of her U.S. citizenship and deported. (Law Professor William Jacobson has followed Odeh’s legal battles closely and has set out the details of the case in numerous entries on his blog. The Investigative Project has also examined the detailed facts in Rasmea Odeh’s case, showing how a terror convict became celebrated as a feminist victim.)

Sarsour supports and embraces Odeh and her modus operandi.

Like Odeh, Sarsour tries to garner support among liberals and innoculates herself from criticism by playing the victim card and attacking her critics as her persecutors.

 

Conclusion

Who is Linda Sarsour?

She is a woman who has two sets of standards.

She poses as a universal activist who embraces all marginalized people, but she excludes anyone whose views do not completely align with hers.

She is a white woman who poses as a woman of color, but she denies other white women the stage she seizes for herself.

She poses as a black feminist, but she refuses to fight for women’s rights in Muslim societies and tries to silence other black and Muslim feminists who expose oppression against women.

She poses as an opponent of anti-Semitism and a proponent of racial justice who fights for Palestinian national self-determination, but she denies Jews the same right.

She demands free speech for herself and for her BDS campaign, but shuts down the free speech of anyone who disagrees with her.

In summary, Linda Sarsour is a poseur who uses others to promote herself.

Originally published at CAMERA

Contributed by Ricki Hollander, senior analyst at CAMERA

Two Major Successes for Dartmouth Students

The past few weeks have seen a lot of Israel activism at Dartmouth College, spearheaded by CAMERA fellow Josh Kauderer and local Israel group Dartmouth for Israel, with the help of CAMERA. This activity has achieved, not one, but two major successes in the last week – the resignation of Bruce Duthu, a BDS-supporting member of the faculty, from his role as dean, and bringing to national attention the shallow and frankly racist views of “liberal activist” Linda Sarsour.

Preoffsor Bruce Duthu

At the beginning of the month, it was reported that Bruce Duthu, a Professor who declared his support for BDS, had been appointed as an associate dean at Dartmouth. This lead to protests from within the university faculty, as well as a statement by CAMERA, in which we argued that the appointment is lending support to the view that all people and views should be welcomed, unless they are Israeli.” CAMERA students at Dartmouth then met with Professor Duthu to challenge him on his support for BDS, and in response, he issued a vague letter explaining his position, in which he tepidly said that boycotts are “not helpful.” Gilad Skolnick, CAMERA’s Director of Campus Programming, called for a more forceful clarification, one which condemned “in no uncertain terms the rationale behind discriminating against the Jewish state and its intellectuals.”

Letter obtained by CAMERA from Dean of Faculty Bruce Duthu.

The pressure on Professor Duthu continued, until this week, when he sent an email to faculty, explaining that he was resigning from the position. CAMERA strongly supports this decision, and Fellow Josh Kauderer and Dartmouth for Israel issued an open letter to the college’s administration, praising the decision of Professor Duthu, but lamenting the fact he still has not denounced the hateful BDS campaign. However, the hard work of the students, supported by CAMERA, had succeeded in ensuring that someone who fought against academic freedom for Israelis could not be a Dean of Faculty at a leading American academic institution.

But Dartmouth students have also succeeded in bringing another story to national attention. Linda Sarsour, a highly controversial activist, spoke at Dartmouth, and one of DSI’s members, Zack Port, challenged her on her outrageous tweet calling for the whipping of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Her response was ridiculous and racist; she implied that she may never have tweeted it (she did), she implied it was something stupid she did in her twenties as a college student (she was 31 at the time), and then said the student had no right to ask the question because he was white (an astoundingly racist view, held by a “liberal activist” no less.)

Linda Sarsour Attacks Student For Questioning Her Sexist Tweet

Palestinian and supposed women's rights activist Linda Sarsour (who says Zionists can't be feminists) made headlines for her violent and sexist tweet against female genital mutiliation (FGM) victim Ayaan Hirsi Ali. When a CAMERA on Campus student at Dartmouth asked her to explain her tweet, she evaded the question by attacking the student's race and gender. Expose Sarsour's hypocrisy – share!

Posted by CAMERA on Campus on Monday, May 22, 2017

The video got thousands of retweets on Twitter, and the story was published by Newsweek and The Daily Caller. As Linda Sarsour has been invited to give the commencement at CUNY’s Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, the issue of her hateful views is very significant – there have been protests against her speaking at the event, and this video gives further reason for her to be dis-invited.

Our students at Dartmouth should be congratulated for their efforts in standing up for Israel, challenging the support of BDS, and bringing to light the hateful views of speakers at their campus. And these events also should be an inspiration for campus activists nationwide; with planning and effort, students have the ability to bring real change, impacting important policies, and the views of people around the world.

Contributed by Aron White, CAMERA intern

Celebrating 50 Years of a Reunified Jerusalem

This week, Israel celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War, and the reunification of Jerusalem. This miraculous event transformed the country, and remains one of the most important moments in Israel’s history.

In May 1967, the Egyptians significantly stepped up their actions and rhetoric against Israel. Lead by President Nasser, the Egyptians moved troops into the Sinai Desert, and closed the Gulf of Aqaba and the Straits of Tiran, preventing Israeli ships getting to Eilat. By the end of the month, Nasser was speaking to the Egyptian parliament about how “We are now ready to confront Israel,” and to tell the Egyptian public, “The battle will be a general one, and our basic objective will be to destroy Israel.” In Israel, the country was terrified, as it ominously prepared for a war of survival. Israel was outnumbered by the Arab armies, who had more soldiers, planes and tanks than Israel did.

Nasser was a charismatic Egyptian leader, who pledged to destroy Israel

Israel responded by launching a preemptive attack, Operation Focus, in which they managed to destroy Egypt’s air-force while it was still on the ground. This paved the way to success in defending Israel on the Egyptian front. Syria also attacked Israel, which was expected, but the Jordanians also began attacking Jerusalem, opening up a third front of the war. Israel succeeded in defending itself on both of these fronts, and miraculously, also regained control of the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, from which Jews had been banned from visiting since the Jordanian conquest of 1948. The news spread like wildfire around the Jewish world – “The Temple Mount is in our hands!”

The paratroopers at the Western Wall

There are many fantastic documentaries about this incredible war (see for example, here and here.) Jerusalem Day is the annual day that celebrates the incredible turnaround in Israel’s fate – in just six days, the country had gone from the threat of imminent destruction, to a decisive victory, and a return to Judaism’s holiest sites.

This year, the 50th anniversary, is being celebrated by a range of events including concerts and parades. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis, and friends of Israel around the world, will celebrate the moment that the young Jewish state fought off its enemies, and returned to its holiest sites.

Happy Jerusalem Day!

Contributed by Aron White, CAMERA intern

Looking Back at the ‘Fake News’ of Jerusalem

Tomorrow, President Donald Trump, marked by controversy and unpredictability, arrives in Jerusalem, Israel’s hotly contested capital. That alone is a potentially combustible combination.

Add to the mix the fact that Jerusalem is subject to more intensive media coverage than any other disputed city. In addition to the 800 foreign journalists stationed in Israel, hundreds more will descend on the capital next week to cover the visit of a president who won an election in which “fake news” loomed large.

Reporters at the Prime Ministers Office in Jerusalem

To top it off, this week Israel celebrates 50 years since the unification of Jerusalem following the stunning victory in the Six Day War, an event that Palestinians mourn as “The Naksa,” or setback. Precipitated by the Egyptian closure of the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping – an act of war – plus the ejection of United Nations troops, the amassing of Arab troops on its border, and bellicose calls for Israel’s destruction, the war unexpectedly ended with eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank (previously occupied by Jordan) and the Syrian Golan Heights, along with Sinai and the Gaza Strip (Egyptian territory) in Israeli hands.

Palestinians seek Jerusalem, Israel’s seat of government, as their capital. Jerusalem, with the Temple Mount – Judaism’s most sacred site and Islam’s third holiest – sits at the very core of the obsessively covered Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In short, the perfect storm of conditions conducive to distorted media coverage of Jerusalem is brewing.

Indeed, with its long history of wars, invaders, and holy sites belonging to the three monotheistic religions, Jerusalem is no stranger to “fake news.” For instance, a journalism student at Arizona State University infamously reported in her campus paper that she witnessed Orthodox Jews stone to death a paraplegic Jew who operated his electric wheelchair at the Western Wall on the Sabbath. “I could smell the man’s blood and felt faint,” detailed Mary Leigh Summerton. “He fell from his wheelchair, to the ground.” Her defamatory article was 100 hundred percent fabrication.

That was in 1994 — decades before anyone had heard of “fake news.”

But it’s not only the amateur journalists who have been caught flat-out fabricating. Fast-forward to 2005, when Carolyn Wheeler reported in Toronto’s Globe and Mail: “Palestinian leaders left the meeting in Mr. [Ariel] Sharon’s flag-draped residence in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City grim-faced. . . .” Only, the meeting took place in Sharon’s official residence in the Jewish neighborhood of Rehavia in western Jerusalem, not in the Old City’s Muslim Quarter. Wheeler wasn’t there, but reported as if she was, a gross journalistic wrongdoing.

In 2010, The Economist, following Al Jazeera’s lead, charged Jerusalem with racist traffic lights “which flick green only briefly for cars from Palestinian districts while staying green for cars from Jewish settlements for minutes.” This particularly inventive bogus charge was completely baseless.

“Fake news” stories also emerge when journalists report false Palestinian claims as fact. In 2000, The Wall Street Journal was compelled to correct the false claim that an Israeli attempted to burn down the Al Aqsa mosque in 1969. In fact, the arsonist was an Australian Christian.

Last year The New York Times falsely reported that Palestinians living as protected tenants in eastern Jerusalem faced evictions for absurdly petty reasons, such as changing an old rusting door.

The ensuing lengthy editor’s note detailed the court findings that the families had respectively not paid rent, had only partially paid, or had not lived in the residence for decades.

A 2015 Times editor’s note walked-back an article which falsely reported that it is unknown whether the first and second Jewish temples had actually stood on the Temple Mount, parroting a common Palestinian effort to delegitimize Israel’s claim to the holy site. “The question is where precisely on the 37-acre Temple Mount site the temples had once stood, not whether the temples had ever existed there,” the note clarified.

Revisionism and lies are frequent in media coverage of the Temple Mount

Unfortunately, media outlets don’t always learn from past mistakes. The Washington Post, for instance, on multiple occasions falsely reported – and corrected – the claim that the Western Wall is Judaism’s holiest site; the Temple Mount, the location of the holy of holies, enjoys that status.

The New York Times has also repeatedly amended lopsided articles that referred to the Temple Mount (or Noble Sanctuary) as Islam’s third-holiest site while ignoring the fact that it is Judaism’s holiest site.

Yet, a Times print article last week again included that very flaw, and also added that since 1967 the Western Wall area “has become” a sacred site for Jews, as if hadn’t been holy for centuries.

It’s impossible to predict what will emerge from President Trump’s upcoming Jerusalem visit. One thing, though, is for sure: misreporting about Jerusalem is as commonplace as the prayers in the Western Wall’s ancient stones.

Contributed by Tamar Sternthal, Director of the Israel Office of CAMERA

Originally published at Times of Israel Blogs and the Jerusalem Post.

Campus Activist to Active Duty

 

Jason Frances, CAMERA Fellow

Jason Frances was a CAMERA Fellow at the University of Central Florida this year, as well as serving as vice president of CAMERA-supported group Knights for Israel. Next year, he takes the exciting step of moving to Israel and serving in the Israel Defense Forces. In his final Fellow article for CAMERA on Campus, Jason explains why he is making this decision.

As my time as a CAMERA on Campus Fellow comes to an end, I want to share my story about my experience as a university student and the decision to make Aliyah and join the Israeli Defense Forces.

When I first transferred to University of Central Florida in spring 2015, I had very little connection with Israel aside from the Birthright trip I took two years prior. I had no plans of getting involved and didn’t know that I even could. As soon as I arrived though, I began meeting other Jews and pro-Israel Students on campus, but never got too involved. By the summer though, I was given the opportunity to go on Onward Israel, a two-month internship program in Jerusalem.

That is where my journey really took off. When I got back to Israel I instantly fell in love with the country and began thinking about the possibility of moving there after college. I also decided that I wanted to become more involved with advocacy on campus to share Israel with every student at UCF.

As I came back to school for my junior year, I had a new passion and excitement for Israel that I never had before. I became heavily involved with Knights for Israel, UCF’s Israel group, and began educating myself on the conflict and the region. As Junior year ended, I was able to return to Israel on the Zionist Organization of America campus trip and used the rest of my summer in Israel to see if I could make Israel my home. That summer is also when I decided to join the IDF as well.

Jason is moving from College to serve as a soldier, protecting the State of Israel

Before then I had never really thought about joining, but as I became more connected with the land, I realized that the only way I could call Israel my home, is if I defended it first. For my senior year, I was appointed Vice President of Knights for Israel and was accepted as a Fellow with CAMERA on Campus. These opportunities gave me even more motivation and focus for life after graduation. By working with these organizations, I was able to directly impact pro-Israel activity on my campus and learn more about the place I will be living.

As I graduate and move to Israel, I am extremely excited for the next chapter in my journey. Life in the IDF will be extremely tough, but I know that my campus experience will motivate me on tough days and when I ask myself what I’m doing there, I will have an answer. I want to thank CAMERA on Campus, Knights for Israel and UCF for helping me complete my journey because without each and every person, I know that none of this would be possible.

CAMERA thanks Jason for his contribution to defending the Jewish state, on campus and in the IDF. We wish him Behatzlacha!

Jewish Voice for Peace’s Hidden Agenda

CAMERA Fellow Rebecca Zagorsky

When starting a political movement, choosing the right name is perhaps the most important step.   We tend to make snap decisions about whether or not to support an organization based on what its name implies, despite the danger that an organization can misrepresent itself with false connotations.  The Jewish Voice for Peace organization (JVP) has done just that, as not only do they not represent the majority opinion of the Jewish community, but also do not stand for peace.

While their name may sound innocent and upstanding, JVP is one of the main organizations that seeks to delegitimize and demonize the state of Israel through double standards.  JVP is an avid supporter of the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Movement (BDS), which attempts to get American universities to stop investing in Israeli companies, and economically boycott the only democracy in the Middle East.

A more accurate name would be the Jewish Voice for Palestine, as JVP is so openly against the Jewish homeland (which is also home to many other minorities, not just Jews).  They even went so far this year as to invite Rasmea Odeh as their guest of honor at their National Membership Meeting.  Odeh is a convicted terrorist who murdered two Israeli college students in 1969 by planting a bomb in a supermarket in Jerusalem.  An organization that supports terrorists cannot claim that they are also in support of peace.

Convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh. Having a terrorist as a guest of honour shows that JVP don’t actually care about peace.

Yet JVP has been successfully hiding its sinister actions behind its peaceful-sounding name.  Ohio State’s Jewish LGBTQ group, B’nai Keshet, actually co-sponsored an event with them.  The event was a Purim drag show (Purim is the Jewish holiday that encourages dressing up in costumes) to raise money for LGBTQ refugees.  While this event was for a good cause, partnering with JVP under any circumstances signals that JVP’s mission of undermining Israel is acceptable and tolerated on Ohio State’s campus.  The recent defeat of the BDS ballot measure at Ohio State clearly demonstrated this, as the student body did not fall for the false rumors of Israel’s human rights violations and voted to continue doing business with the country.

Ohio State’s Hillel cut ties with B’nai Keshet after the Purim event.  Hillel International wisely refuses to work with anyone willing to partner with an organization that supports such extremist values.  While I support the majority of B’nai Keshet’s work in helping Jewish LGTBQ students and creating a more welcoming culture for this minority group on campus, I cannot believe that they would overlook such enormous flaws in an organization offering to co-sponsor.

Building support for members of the LGBTQ community cannot come from shifting hatred towards Israel.  Indeed, justice for one group can never come at expense of another group, and an organization that attempts to do just that should not be allowed to have the word “peace” included as a part of their name.  It is time to call JVP out on their actions and withdraw support, as any organization that honors a terrorist cannot be trusted to actually work for a better future.

Contributed by Rebecca Zagorsky, CAMERA Fellow at Ohio State University.

Gay IDF Commander Talks about Life in the IDF, Anti-Zionism on Campus

During the spring of 2017, CAMERA sponsored ex-IDF soldier Hen Mazzig to speak on 17 college campuses. On one of his last stops was the University of Central Florida where Knights for Israel hosted Hen to speak about his life, his family, and his service. He began the night speaking about his family background and their journey from Tunisia and Iraq to Israel. His family belonged to the Amazigh tribe in Tunisia and he shared his grandparents’ accounts of the tiny Jewish community within the tribe. He spoke about how his grandmother fled Iraq during the expulsion and murder of the Jewish community in 1941.

Hen Mazzig

We learned about his childhood and his firsthand accounts of terrorism during the Second Intifada. When he was 12, Mazzig walked to an ice cream shop two blocks from his home. As he stood outside the shop, just steps away, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew up the café, killing a grandmother and her 2-year-old granddaughter and injuring many others.

Hen describes this as “the most significant event of [his] life” and the event that later inspired him to join the COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories) unit of the IDF. He says that working together and understanding one another is the way to achieve peace. Working as a COGAT soldier, he was directly able to work towards peace. (The video below shows some of the work COGAT does.)

Lastly, Mazzig spoke about his experience as an openly gay commander. He came out during his service to his fellow soldiers and commanding officers. Being an openly gay IDF soldier never got in the way of his work or his experience, and he received nothing but support from his unit.

He finished the night fielding questions from the students and answered with care and skill. He answered every question, even the tough; he was candid as he addressed the students. I asked him what the biggest thing he learned from his speaking tour this semester. He answered saying how he was shocked by how polarizing politics, and Israel specifically, is on campus and how he has to deal with students that don’t want to listen. He was asked about his well-documented experience at University College London and showed the video and gave a comical play-by-play of what went on that night when anti-Israel protesters barricaded the students and Hen in the classroom and subsequently broke into the space that was guarded by police.

Mazzig really connected with the students. He was down to earth, raw, and painted a new and refreshing picture of what it means to be gay, Arab, and a proud Jew in the nation state of the Jewish people. He showed us that everyone has a story and that soldiers are people too with real hardships that we all face.

Originally published in the Heritage Florida Jewish News

Contributed by Jason Frances, CAMERA fellow at University of Central Florida, and vice President of CAMERA-supported group Knights for Israel.

Cheap Flights to Israel Added as Tourism grows

This week, WOW Airlines announced that they are offering flights from New York to Israel beginning at $150 for a single flight. There are additional costs for paying for luggage, and there will also be a short stopover in the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, but this still is a very major development, in providing cheaper flights from the USA to Israel.

This is not an isolated story, but is part of a general trend in Israel; over the past few years, there has been an incredible growth in the number of airlines flying to Israel, and flight prices keep dropping. Many European low cost airlines now operate multiple routes to Israel. Ryanair, one of the largest low cost airlines, offers flights from 15 cities to Israel. Easyjet, the low cost British airline, now flies nine routes to Tel Aviv, and flies in more people to Israel than any company except for El Al. In fact, Ben Gurion Airport recently re-opened its Terminal 1, which will be uniquely for low cost airlines coming in from Europe, alongside its Terminal 3 for all other flights from the USA and around the world.

More and more companies are opening flight routes to Israel

The growth of flights to Israel is truly international. Two major Asian airlines, Hainan Airlines, and Cathay Pacific, have also opened direct flights routes to Israel since the beginning 2016. In total, over 140 companies now have flights to Israel.

Israel’s tourism sector is growing in leaps and bounds. April 2017 was the most successful month ever for Israeli tourism, with close to 350,000 tourists entering Israel in that month. Israel was always an attractive destination for tourists, with a wealth of important religious and historical sites, as well as an exciting and vibrant culture today. Now that there are even more flights, for ever falling prices, more and more people are able to visit the Holy land and the Start-Up Nation.

The Tel Aviv seafront is packed with hotels, as Israel’s tourism booms

Contributed by Aron White, CAMERA intern

KCL Israel Society Honored by CAMERA

At CAMERA’s Annual Gala in New York, some six hundred CAMERA supporters came out to honor the students on the front lines of Israel activism today. The David Bar-Illan Award for Outstanding Campus Activism was presented to CAMERA-supported group Kings College London Israel Society.

KCL Israel Society was thrust into the headlines due to the events of October 2016. They were hosting a CAMERA-sponsored event with Hen Mazzig, a former IDF Commander who coordinated aid for Palestinians in the West Bank. The event was violently attacked by over one hundred anti-Israel protesters. Protesters banged on windows, blocked students from entering the room, and broke into the room through the windows into the lecture itself. Despite the aggressive protesters, the talk continued on, but students required police escort in order to safely exit the building.

The event was truly terrifying for those involved. But Hadar Langerman, President of KCL Israel Society, used her acceptance speech to focus on the determination that the event gave her. “I was not going to let these protesters strip me of my freedom of speech, or of my right to portray Israel in an accurate light.” The event also helped her highlight the values she was standing up for: “We (the pro-Israel students) were united, standing up for truth, freedom and democracy.”

The chaos at Hen’s event lead to Members of Parliament issuing statements, as well as an internal investigation  by the University. At the dinner, the leaders of KCL Israel Society were honored for reacting in their way, which was the best way possible; by becoming more motivated and determined, to continue making Israel’s case with pride and confidence.

CAMERA Gala 2017 Student Acceptance Speeches

We were proud to present awards to two outstanding students at this year's annual CAMERA Gala. The David Bar-Illan Award for Outstanding Student Leadership was presented to Jody Miller of Mustangs United for Israel and the David Bar-Illan Award for Outstanding Campus Activism was presented to Hadar Langerman, President of KCL Israel Society Page. Their inspiring speeches had us all in tears!“Sometimes it is intimidating to speak for what you believe in when your detractors are loud and aggressive. But CAMERA empowered us, and today we are a force to be reckoned with on campus.” – CAMERA Fellow Jody Miller

Posted by CAMERA on Campus on Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Contributed by CAMERA intern Aron White

 

Mustangs United for Israel Honored at CAMERA Gala

Hundreds of supporters of CAMERA gathered last week to honor the student activists on campus, leading the fight for fair coverage of Israel. The David Bar-Illan Award for Outstanding Student Leadership was presented to Mustangs United for Israel (MUFI), the CAMERA-supported group at California Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo.

MUFI is a real force on campus at California Polytechnic. It now has a 18 member board, and engages with 440 students. It has hosted a wide range of CAMERA speakers, including Hen Mazzig, an IDF Commander, Jonathan Elkhoury, a Christian Lebanese refugee, Gil Cohen-Magen, an Israeli photojournalist, and Gilad Segev, a groundbreaking Israeli musician, amongst others. On campus, they won “Club event of the Year” for a CAMERA-sponsored event with Seth Siegel, author of “Let There Be Water.”

Camera Fellow Jody Miller accepted the award at the Gala, and spoke about how much CAMERA has helped her and her fellow students. She spoke about the difficult atmosphere on campus that the students faced, and how CAMERA has helped MUFI grow into a dynamic and vibrant group, that is building connections and networks with different elements of the student population on campus.

MUFI are not now sitting back and relaxing; since their award, they have already run another fantastic event, celebrating Yom Haatzmaut on campus. MUFI has grown to be an exciting force of pro-Israel activism – and they are looking to get bigger and better the whole time.

CAMERA Gala 2017 Student Acceptance Speeches

We were proud to present awards to two outstanding students at this year's annual CAMERA Gala. The David Bar-Illan Award for Outstanding Student Leadership was presented to Jody Miller of Mustangs United for Israel and the David Bar-Illan Award for Outstanding Campus Activism was presented to Hadar Langerman, President of KCL Israel Society Page. Their inspiring speeches had us all in tears!“Sometimes it is intimidating to speak for what you believe in when your detractors are loud and aggressive. But CAMERA empowered us, and today we are a force to be reckoned with on campus.” – CAMERA Fellow Jody Miller

Posted by CAMERA on Campus on Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Contributed by Aron White, CAMERA intern