Tag Archives: Palestine

The Dangers of Divestment

CAMERA Fellow Rebecca Zagorsky

Less than one year after USG voted down OSU Divest’s attempt to divest from Israel, the group has yet again pushed the issue onto the ballot. They claim the sole purpose of this bill is to fight for social justice, and to create financial neutrality by preventing OSU from using its funds to support companies that cause human-rights violations. While I respect the ballot process and OSU Divest’s democratic right to voice their opinion, the information they are providing is misguided and fails to tell the whole story. This thinly-veiled anti-Semitic campaign will only cause trouble, not bring an end to injustice. Despite OSU Divest’s insistence that they are trying to make OSU neutral in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, voting “Yes” on Issue Two inherently means taking an anti-Israel side. Instead, there are many reasons why I encourage you to vote “No” on this dangerous ballot measure.

OSU Divest’s bill is a product of a larger campaign called the Boycott, Divest and Sanction campaign (also known as BDS). The BDS campaign specifically targets liberal college campuses, masking anti-Semitism as a fight for human rights. The Ohio Legislature is one of 17 states that voted to prohibit state agencies from doing business with any company that openly supports BDS, and former President Barack Obama spoke out against the BDS campaign, stating that it unfairly “targeting the State of Israel.”

Ballot Issue 2 singles out Israel in its supposed quest to fight human-rights violations, while openly ignoring the hundreds of other countries (Syria, North Korea and Russia to name a few) that are currently inflicting far more serious crimes against their citizens. It is a direct violation of the State Department’s 3D’s test of anti-Semitism: any legislation that seeks to demonize, delegitimize, or subject Israel to a double standard is no longer seen as legitimate criticism of the country.

But not only does this ballot issue promote anti-Semitism internationally, it also signals to students at home that anti-Semitism is acceptable. Campuses across the nation that have passed BDS have seen spikes in anti-Semitic acts.  Last year, here at Ohio State, members of the pro-Israel community (Senators and regular students alike) were harassed and taunted after leaving the BDS vote. I personally asked one of my friends to walk me home — I was scared of the angry protesters waiting outside the Senate chamber.

Ballot Issue 2 additionally mentions divesting from companies who supply to private prisons. It is therefore troubling that the only student group on campus, the Student Alliance for Prison Reform, was never contacted to help. The ballot’s anti-Semitism cannot be clearer, and SAPR is openly against this bill.

Many Palestinians employed at SodaStream lost their jobs due to the BDS campaign

Additionally, a pro-BDS bill has many negative financial ramifications.  Even the Palestinian Authority (the governing body of PA-controlled areas in the West Bank) does not support the BDS campaign, as boycotting these companies hurts Palestinians economically. Seriously, look up “The Palestinian Case Against BDS,” written by Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human-rights activist. A few years ago, SodaStream was boycotted, causing them to close down their factory in the West Bank, putting many Palestinians out of work.

I encourage you to vote “No” on Issue Two in the upcoming election and prevent this bill from harming Palestinians and your fellow Buckeyes. At the very least, though, ensure that you understand the issue before you vote.  Simply checking “Yes” because the ballot says it is preventing human rights violations could be one of the most dangerous things you could do.

Contributed by Ohio State University CAMERA Fellow Rebecca Zagorsky.

This article was originally published in Ohio State University campus paper The Lantern.

Liberal Universities: The Heart of Intolerance

 

joelle Reid cameraoncampus blogI go to a liberal university. A university where in the post modern world, no statement is left unquestioned. Where nothing is fact, but merely a social construction. Reality is disputed to the extent that there is no actualization of concepts, they are simply all conceptions, built up by society

Simply asking to be directed to the ladies’ toilets seemingly is becoming the latest social crime, as at King’s, we pride ourselves on gender neutral bathrooms around all campuses; the term gender is seen as a fallacy in itself. I’m not condemning our uber-liberal outlook, on the contrary, having endless theories of the outlook of life with commitment to toleration and free speech, only enriches and broadens our previously theory-laden and apparently narrow minded education. This is the only time in our life we are encouraged to doubt all our pre-conceived thoughts and criticise anything we come across. But how liberal should a liberal university be? As one of the most famous liberals J.S. Mill said, a liberal society should be tolerant of all those who are tolerant, and therefore be intolerant towards the intolerant.

Last week, on January 20, 2016, King’s university students faced not only the intolerant but also the savage. The Israel society together with interested students, were bombarded by violent protesters bashing and breaking windows, setting off the fire alarm, chanting aggressively and physically abusing those present. All this for the simple reason of listening to a talk promoting peace by Ami Ayalon, the former head of the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret service. Again, I am a firm believer of freedom of speech and debate, but in this case where multiple police cars had to be called in, and students had to be evacuated through a back door, we need to pull up our liberal barriers. When freedom of speech disturbs and attempts to censor other’s rights to a voice, this is where we need to put a stop to it. Ironically, these protesters were demanding that the members of the Israel society were fascist, when their sole aim was to repress speech and plurality at the university through coercion and intimidation.

Image of Kings Collge London Palestinian Flag

As an outsider at the event (as the room was already full to capacity by the time my friends and I arrived to attend the event) watching the monstrous scene take place on the opposite side of the street , reminding myself that I am a student at this university, I was disgusted. How could society listen to the views of a group that intimidates other students regardless of their views? How could a group use such violent methods and still gain credibility and legitimacy in an establishment like a university?

But most importantly, what should the Israel community do? Is it even safe to bring another speaker to campus? If this is what happens when a pro-peace, pro-discussion speaker is invited, I just wonder what would happen to someone slightly more controversial. Next thing we know, extremist groups with a certain amount of credibility will be able to ban other societies from functioning. They’ll protest that we express views which threaten the liberal outlook of the university, exposing students to vile fascist propaganda. This would be a real threat to the culture of free speech. So far they have not threatened us with this, but the institutions need to bear in mind the real watchword of liberalism. Intolerance is something that should not be tolerated. we’ll be banned from having any student society.

Contributed by Kings College London CAMERA Fellow, Joelle Reid.

This article has since been published in Israel Hayom.

Letter to the Editor: Israeli and Palestinian leadership

These past few years, the Middle East has been exploding, figuratively and literally. But there is one country that has made news headlines since its foundation. Israel and her tumultuous relationship with her neighbors, especially Palestine, are at the forefront of the minds of most foreign journalists. Matti Friedman, former correspondent for the Associated Press says, “When I was a correspondent at the A.P., the agency had more than 40 staffers covering Israel and the Palestinian territories. That was significantly more news staff than the A.P. had in China, Russia or India, or in all of the 50 countries of sub-Saharan Africa combined.” Yet, as Sarah Palmer noted in her latest blog post for The Sun, “Pop Culture, Politics and Perception; Importing Hate,” it’s not an easy subject to discuss, especially for those who aren’t so familiar with it. Those who follow the situation tend to be sincerely invested in it, often for personal reasons, and often have a difficult time demonstrating their understanding of the conflict clearly, because it’s not so black and white.

Palmer is quite clear in her piece that she is not an expert and considers herself as an outsider, meaning someone who has not invested time into analyzing the current and past situation in Israel. She opened up a discussion that, because of the situation’s complexity and historical significance, must be clarified and put into context.

The current state of turmoil in Israel began when Palestinian leaders incited attacks on Israelis by blatantly lying about an Israeli plan to change the policy at the Temple Mount that prohibits non-Muslims from praying at the holy site. Abbas provoked religious Muslims with statements such as “the dirty feet” of Jews don’t belong in the Mosque. This is by no means the first time Abbas has showed his support for terrorism. In 2012, the Palestinian leader glorified the terrorists responsible for killing hundreds of Israelis and two American diplomats.  In 2013, he awarded Nayef Hawatmeh, the head of Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), the “highest order of the star of honor” for his work in committing dozens of terrorist attacks, including one assassination of 22 school children and 4 adults in Ma’alot. In 2014, Abbas sent a letter to the family of the terrorist who tried to kill Yehudah Glick in Jerusalem, praising him for his actions and calling him a martyr. Time and time again Abbas shows his support for terrorizing Israeli civilians and the current situation is no exception.

This tension surrounding the Temple Mount dates back to 1967, when Israel was forced to defend itself yet again from the constant Syrian-sponsored Palestinian guerilla attacks from Jordan and Lebanon, and Egyptian war crimes, especially closing off the Straits of Tiran to Israeli trade. Regardless of Israel’s appeal to Jordan to stay out of the war, they attacked and occupied U.N. headquarters in Jerusalem, bringing the conflict to the holy city. At the end of the war, Israel found itself in control of East Jerusalem, but the Temple Mount remained in the hands of the Jordanian Waqf. Although every part of Israel practices religious freedom (which is why you see pictures of all different faiths at the Western Wall for instance), the Waqf only allows Muslims to pray at the Temple Mount and assigns specific hours of visitation rights for other religious groups. There is absolutely no proof that Israel planned to change this. Abbas’ message was simply intended to incite chaos.

These past months, there have been countless Palestinian attacks on Israeli citizens from within the walls of the Old City and throughout the rest of the country. They are throwing boulders down on people and hiding mass amounts of weapons in the Al-Aqsa mosque. 12-year-old children are brainwashed to stab Jews. Knife-wielding extremists have assaulted elderly women. A young boy on a bicycle was assaulted in Pisgat Zeev. An Arab woman pretending to ask questions of a guard suddenly pulled out a knife and tried to stab him. There is terror everywhere in Israel right now. What have Palestinian leaders done to condemn this? Nothing. Fatah encourages it. The few extremist Jews who have attacked Palestinians are reprimanded by almost everyone in the country, and most importantly by the Israeli government. Yes, all terrorism is awful and both sides have done wrong, but there is no moral equivalency between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

The Israeli government has responded by taking security measures that inconvenience the lives of moderate Palestinians living in the West Bank. As a response to an attempt to butcher everyone on a bus, Arabs living in East Talpiyot are now forced to drive all the way through Bethlehem, an hour out of the way, because they can no longer drive through Armon Hanastiv. Abbas, Fatah, Hamas… they are all supporting the men, women and children of all ages who are risking their lives to kill Israelis. Unfortunately, the average Palestinian is suffering.

This situation clearly does not boil down to a rumor about the Temple Mount. Tension between Israelis and Palestinians has only escalated since the establishment of Israel in 1948. In the years leading up to this significant date, the Palestinians refused multiple proposals for a two-state solution, which would have established Israeli and Palestinian sovereignty in the land. Rather than accepting any of the peaceful negotiations, the Palestinians and every surrounding Arab country declared war as soon as Israel declared its independence. Since then, the hostility between the two nations has only grown through decades of wars, intifadas and terrorism.

The first step in breaking this cycle is to change the education systems in Gaza and Palestinian Authority-controlled Area A of the West Bank. Leaders, school teachers, imams and other role models indoctrinate Palestinian children to hate Jews and Israelis. It is not only the harsh conditions that some Palestinians live under that cause this terrorism. Before we can move forward on the relations between neighboring countries, we must address the distorted and violent education of the Palestinian people. We are all doing a disservice to the Palestinian children by ignoring the hate propagated under the Palestinian leaders.

There is no moral equivalency between the Israeli government and the PLO or Arab terrorist organizations. While the Israeli government is concerned for the safety of its citizens, the PLO holds almost no legitimacy among the Palestinians and organizations such as Hamas only advocate for terror. When Palmer states that “leaders have helped to sensationalize the violence,” it must but clarified that one side deals with terrorism through trial and justice while the other applauds the attacks.

 

This was originally published in The Cornell Daily Sun and was written by Cornell University CAMERA Fellow and Cornellians for Israel board member  Sarene Shaked.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Boston University Students for Justice in Palestine, Welcome to Reality

CohenLindseyMidterms. The bane of any Boston University student’s existence, the dreaded moment that appears at the same time every year but always seems like a surprise.  My fellow students and I have been dealing with these necessary evils for the last few weeks, maybe feeling miserable, maybe complaining to our roommates, maybe buckling down and studying before our big tests.

 

Aren’t we lucky if that is the focus of our minds right now? Whether or not we’ll get an A on a test at a top university?  Life on this side seems easy. At least compared to what Israelis are dealing with right now.

Boston University Students for Justice in Palestine recently submitted a letter to the editor to The Daily Free Press, expressing their disappointment that Boston University would condone a vigil held in honor of terror victims in Israel in the past weeks. Apparently they were offended, because acknowledging that terrorism exists in Israel and there are people walking around stabbing Jews simply for being Jews is … “toxic” or “dehumanizing”, because these victims do not deserve to be honored? They even mentioned that Palestinians had been killed, but conveniently left out that those Palestinians killed were caught in the act of attempting to stab innocent civilians on the street, knives wielded.

Well, I was a little confused. SJP failed to mention why the Pro-Israel community was speaking out about terrorism. They failed to mention exactly what was happening in Israel, but I’d like to enlighten those who are interested in knowing more.

Yes, I have been studying for exams, but in between typical college problems like trying to get to class on time and finishing papers, I work in media, specifically media in Israel. I read articles every day about what goes on. I spend hours calling witnesses on Skype and getting the real story. Yes, my days are occupied with learning midterms. But they are also occupied with learning that the average Israeli citizen today is not afforded the same security that I have, that the past few weeks have been a constant fight in their minds of whether going outside is worth the very real risk of a terrorist attack in bus stations, in school buses, in markets, anywhere. For the first time in a long time, I call friends in Israel and I can hear fear in their voices. These past months have been difficult. It has become a daily occurrence to read about random stabbings, cars running into bus stops and attempted murders, some thwarted by Israeli police and citizens, some not.  I think about how easy it is for me to walk out of my dorm, head to the gym with my headphones in, and walk back home barely aware of my surroundings.  That unawareness could be the difference between life and death in Israel. There are real victims in this conflict and SJP claiming that a vigil to honor innocent victims of terror attacks is offensive is not social justice, it is censorship.

This was originally published in The Daily Free Press and was written by Boston University CAMERA Fellow Lindsey Cohen.

Terror Begins With Words

York University CAMERA Fellow Danielle Shachar

York University CAMERA Fellow Danielle Shachar

For the morally confused, the chasm between good and evil is best crossed by a well- constructed abstraction. Hence, the systematic murder of six million Jews becomes ‘the final solution`. Hence, the murder of innocent civilians is too often written off as “resistance“ and terrorists branded as “freedom fighters” by those with a political axe to grind. Euphemisms are a salve for the conscience, detaching language from reality and moral judgement. And when the language of murderous incitement is allowed to promulgate unchallenged, its corollary – the murderous act – is similarly exonerated.

 

In his calculated and incendiary speech before the United Nations in New York last week, Mahmoud Abbas falsely declared that the Israeli government was curtailing Muslim access to al-Aqsa Mosque, warning the world that the Palestinian people “will not accept this and… will not allow the implementation of this evil scheme”. The consequence, he advocated, would be an “explosive in Jerusalem and in the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory”.

A few days later, an “explosive” did indeed combust: the murder of an Israeli couple driving home with their four kids in the car, the murders of two Israeli men in the old city of Jerusalem, the stabbing of an Israeli woman, the stabbing of a fifteen year old boy and the shooting of an infant.

Is there a better demonstration of the power of inflammatory words? Abbas`s purposefully crafted remarks, compounded by decades of media and educational indoctrination against the Jewish people, ignited a Palestinian terror onslaught that murdered four people, rendered thirteen children orphans and injured numerous others. Calls for violence, even when dressed up in hazy abstractions before the United Nations, are never flame retardant.

As expected, in the moments before Palestinian terrorist Muhnad Halabi stabbed two Israeli men to death this Sunday, he wrote a facebook post in which he cited the mistruths in Abbas`s speech: “ What is happening in Al Aqsa is what is happening in [all] of our holy places… I don`t think the people will accept this humiliation. The people will rise up in an intifada”.

The language employed by Halabi is instructive, especially to journalists. For even when there is clear and unambiguous proof that the word “intifada” is used by terrorists themselves, is indeed intended as a directive to murder, and can be measured concretely in lives and limbs lost, there persists a morally obtuse proclivity – certainly not exclusive to Abbas – to present this term as a vague and noble aspiration devoid of tangible consequences.

In March 2013, New York magazine indulged in a sympathetic cover story that constructed a humanizing portrait of stone -throwing Palestinian protesters. The headline read: “If there is a third intifada, we want to be the ones who started it”. Not only does such a flippant headline belie the true nature of the first and second Palestinian intifadas – which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of men, women, and children through suicide bombings, stabbings, rocket attacks, and bus explosions – but it duplicitously characterizes the intent of the third intifada.

Although evil will never have the last word, the language employed by leaders like Mahmoud Abbas in his U.N speech and by media outlets like New York Magazine in their reporting of the Israel-Palestine conflict demonstrates that the reverse is also true: The evil that lasts is, sometimes, due to words. For this, Abbas must be held accountable.

This piece was contributed by York University CAMERA Fellow Danielle Shachar.

Tel Aviv Pride: Blackmail or Celebration?

By CAMERA intern Shoshana Kranish 

Back in June, Tel Aviv celebrated its 18th Pride Parade, the end to a week-long celebration filled with parties and beautiful people—Israeli and foreign, gay and straight. While the numbers are not exact, it is estimated that upwards of 200,000 people attended this year’s event, making it one of the largest Pride gatherings in the world. While I could go on all day about the beauty of the celebration and those who attended it, the more pressing issue here is the debate that surrounds it.

+972 Magazine published an article a few days prior to the parade entitled, “Why I Won’t Be Participating in Tel Aviv’s Pride Parade”. The left-wing magazine is made up of a conspiracy of anti-Israel writers, and this article does not stray from this. The author claims that Israel is responsible for “exploiting sexual orientation to blackmail gay Palestinians” within the Palestinian territories. If this sounds ludicrous, that’s because it is.

In Israel, same-sex couples have more rights than anywhere else in the entire continent of Asia. Like heterosexual couples, homosexual couples cannot have a civil marriage in the State of Israel. Like heterosexual couples, homosexual couples may marry elsewhere and have the union recognized by the State of Israel. Like their straight counterparts, gay people may serve openly in the military. They may adopt each other’s children.

In the Palestinian territories—which are, by the way, not controlled by Israel—same-sex couples do not share the rights their counterparts do on other side of the Green Line. In the West Bank, same-sex acts have been decriminalized since 1951, when the area was under Jordanian control. In Gaza, same-sex acts are illegal. In neither place are there stand-alone laws for the protection of LGBT individuals, and no type of civil union or marriage can be granted to couples.

In Israel, discrimination based on sexual orientation has been illegal since 1992.

In the Palestinian territories, LGBT individuals regularly flee to Israel to escape persecution from their families, society, and the law.

Is Israel then giving rights to LGBT individuals in their own country to spite LGBT Palestinians? An intelligent person would say no, that this is preposterous. In an effort to expand equality, the Israeli government recognized decades ago the importance of taking care of all of their citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation. It is not the fault of the Knesset that the governing bodies in the Palestinian territories have not done the same. The Israeli government, though they may be funding parts of the Pride celebration in Tel Aviv, are not doing so to show the Palestinians what they are missing out on. For years, TLV has been hailed as a top gay destination. In recognition of this, the Israeli government has made a strategic decision to help benefit not only themselves and the economy, but their own people.

More often than not, when someone commends Israel on their giving rights and protections to LGBT citizens, they are accused of ‘pinkwashing.’ Anti-Israel activists will say that celebrating Israel’s equality rights detracts from their human rights abuses. This tactic is as disgraceful as it is incompetent. Notwithstanding the fact that the two are unrelated, there is nothing wrong with celebrating the rights of a typically-marginalized group of people. Shouldn’t gay rights be something to be celebrated, not criticized?

The Pride Week Celebration in Tel Aviv is meant to highlight the vibrant LGBT community in Israel. It is meant as a time to be joyous, to be welcoming of everyone, to be proud. It is not, as the author suggests it, a “political protest.” To take something that is meant to show the goodness in society and turn it into something that suggests blackmail and exploitation is downright disgusting. I would ask the author to ask those who had the pleasure of spending time at Tel Aviv’s Pride Festival if they felt they were harming LGBT Palestinians by enjoying themselves, their sexuality, and their city. I can’t speak for all the partygoers, but I would assume they’d say they were just having a good time.

SJP Speaker Josh Reubner

Contibuted by CAMERA Fellow David Enav.

226caffOn October 16th, Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Houston brought in a speaker, Josh Ruebner, who spoke about why he thinks Israel and the United States have failed to establish peace and a Palestinian state. Although Ruebner spoke of his hopes of two states for two peoples, his rhetoric was filled with false accusations and fictitious claims about Israel and last summer’s escalation in Gaza. Ruebner spoke about peace, but his blaming of Israel for the violence that occurred ignores what truly occurred. His unwillingness to condemn the terrorist group, Hamas, makes his rhetoric counterproductive to peace. Ruebner failed to explain that the reason violence erupted this summer, and the reason peace between Israel and the Palestinians looks so bleak, is because of Hamas.

Hamas is the political faction that rose to power in Gaza in 2006. It is a fanatical Islamist organization that is designated by the European Union and USA, and among other countries such as Canada and Australia, as a terrorist organization. Hamas’s charter openly calls for the destruction of the State of Israel and the annihilation of the Jewish people. One article explicitly states that “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals, and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.”

Let that one sink in.

Over the summer, Hamas operatives kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teens. After Israeli troops went into the West Bank to find the boys, Hamas launched massive amounts of rocket fire onto Israeli cities. For 50 days, Hamas launched more than sixty rockets a day onto Israel’s cities, leaving many Israelis as few as fifteen seconds to run for shelter. Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in response. Israel retaliated at first with airstrikes, but then entered Gaza in order to destroy the terror tunnels being dug under the Gaza-Israel border. The purpose of these tunnels was not to sneak in supplies and aid, but to kidnap Israeli civilians and soldiers and hold them for ransom. Israeli Intelligence even discovered a Hamas plot to invade Israel through the terror tunnels dressed as Israeli soldiers. They planned on doing this on one of the holiest Jewish days, Rosh Hashanah.

Ruebner’s biggest mistake was not acknowledging Hamas’s use of Palestinians civilians as human shields. Hamas inhumanely utilized this strategy when they repeatedly fired rockets toward Israel from highly-populated civilian areas. Hamas stored and fired rockets near schools, mosques, hospitals, and civilian homes. Rockets were found twice in United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) schools. Hamas deliberately launched attacks onto Israel from civilian centers because they knew that Israel would be condemned if they reacted. This put Israel in a difficult position, because they were fighting an enemy who did not care if their civilians were in harm’s way. By using human shields, Hamas displayed to the world its utter disregard for human life. Hamas Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said on Gaza’s Al-Aqsa TV that that the Palestinians “defend their rights and their homes with their bare chests and their blood.” Many are misled to believe that Hamas fights for the rights of Palestinians. But in reality, they are a fanatical organization that has turned Gaza into a base of terrorism.

Ruebner’s claims that this was not a war against Hamas are absolutely ludicrous. Israel took unprecedented steps to minimize civilian casualties; however, Hamas did everything to maximize Israeli and Palestinian casualties. Israel set up field hospitals in Gaza during the conflict. While Israeli civilians were bombarded with rockets, their medical staff was treating the wounded on the other side. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) dropped leaflets, made TV broadcasts, made phone calls, and sent text messages (all in Arabic) to enable Palestinian citizens to evacuate targeted areas. No other country and no other army in history have gone to greater lengths to avoid casualties among the civilian population of their enemy. Unfortunately, Hamas officials urged their citizens to ignore these warnings, and sometimes encouraged citizens to purposely congregate at the tops of these buildings. No sane government would purposely put their citizens in danger like Hamas has done.

If Hamas truly cared about the Palestinians and their desire for statehood, they would seek out peaceful relations with their neighbor, Israel. When Israel’s security is threatened, when hundreds of rockets are fired daily onto Israeli cities, a resolution will never be attained. Hamas started this violence, and they passed up many opportunities to cease their fire. Egypt brokered a cease-fire that has been in effect since late August. Ruebner’s ideal two-state solution cannot happen when the people who run the other state seek Israel’s destruction. It will not happen as long as a terrorist group like Hamas is in power.

Assi Azar Speaks to Students at Augsburg College

Augsburg Assi azar

Assi Azar kissing a picture of himself on a flier for his event at Augsburg College.

On April 13th, the Augsburg College’s SSI (Students Supporting Israel) organization, an EMET for Israel group, hosted a CAMERA sponsored event on campus where Assi Azar spoke to an audience of around fifteen students. Assi Azar is a homosexual Israeli television personality who went public about his sexual orientation in 2005. During his presentation at Augsburg, Azar spoke about his life story and what it was like to grow up as a homosexual in Israel. In addition, Azar shared with his audience what it’s like for the entire LGBTQ community in Israel in terms of both their rights and their struggles.

Milo Ingram, a member of his college’s pro-Israel group, stated after the event that Assi Azar was “truly helping spread the love of Israel.” Azar’s audience was engaged and interactive, asking the speaker a variety of questions concerning gay rights in Israel and in general. Although the audience was not as large or diverse as the SSI organization had hoped, it was still a very meaningful, successful, and enlightening event for all who attended. In addition to speaking at Augsburg College, Azar has also given presentations to students at Harvard, Ohio State, Cornell, Indiana University, and many more universities.

Assi Azar Speaks to Students at UC Santa Barbara

Assi Azar, an openly gay Israeli television personality, spent much of April on tour with CAMERA, visiting college campuses around the US to speak to students about LGBTQ rights in Israel. His most recent visit was to the University of California at Santa Barbara, where he gave an insightful presentation to a group of twenty students.

The focus of Azar’s presentation was to shed light on Israel’s LGBTQ community and how the country stands behind its LGBTQ citizens. Azar spoke confidently and informatively both about his own personal experience as an openly gay Israeli, and about Israel and its protection over its LGBTQ citizens. The event was able to attract students of all different religious backgrounds, and those who attended Azar’s presentation were engaged and asked many questions.

Our CAMERA Fellow Jeremy Ginsberg said after the event that “The students of UCSB loved his informal animated discussion on LGBT life in Israel.”

Assi Azar at UC Santa Barbara

Assi Azar at UC Santa Barbara

 

Israel Advocacy and BDS at the University of Arizona

Contributed by Alexis Sherman

I am a Jew. Both of my parents grew up in Mexico City and life in the United States of America held the allure of freedom of religion, incredible opportunities, and the land of promise of what the future could be. Never in their wildest dreams would my parents have imagined that I would feel threatened or frightened over the fact that I am Jewish on an American college campus. The reality of the situation is that anti-Semitism and anti-Semitism masked as anti-Zionism have become the new reality of many college campuses throughout the country.

Alexis Sherman headshot

Alexis Sherman

Movements such as Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) have large followings on college campuses. Their purported goal is “justice” for Palestinians. In practice, they work to alienate and demonize Israel and to ultimately wipe Israel off the map. Until recently, SJP and the BDS movement which I read about in the news or heard about from friends on other college campuses didn’t matter at the University of Arizona (UA).

On Wednesday, April 29, 2015, the groups BDS at AU, SJP, The Middle East and North Africa Graduate Student Organization, the Gender and Women’s Studies Council, and UA Jewish Voice for Peace co-hosted the event “University BDS and the Struggle for Justice in Palestine” at the University of Arizona. When I first found out about this event, I was horrified. My school was about to be the new pulpit from which anti-Israel groups use to spew hate, intolerance, lies, and anti-Semitism about Israel and the Jewish people. I was terrified as to what kind of reaction the students on my campus would have towards the BDS movement. I was appalled at the idea that my school might be the next college campus that entered the fight of its life against BDS.

At the event, various University of Arizona professors spoke about BDS in academia as a way to deny Israeli academic freedom and force Israel into re-evaluating the way they treat the Palestinians. They believe that BDS is a tool that can be used to engage Israel and their apartheid ways. They claim to “engage others in thoughtful evidence-based discussions”; I found that this was not the case. They spoke uninterrupted for two hours. They made no mention of how Israel came to be a state, the opposition it faces from its neighbors, and the terrorist attacks that Israel faces on a daily basis as a result of radical Islamists.

Matthew Abraham, an English professor at the University of Arizona, said, “One group’s use of academic freedom can be used to curb another group’s academic freedom [Israel] and as such forcing Israel to re-examine its oppression of Palestinians.”

The next person on the BDS panel was UA History professor David Gibbs. He spoke about the political implications Israel has had on public policy in recent years. He said that Germany has helped to further the creation of a Jewish state, and that they have done so to prove that they have learned from past actions. He did not mention the Holocaust or that six million Jews died and that 1.5 million of those Jews were children. He said that Germany has helped to further Israel’s arsenal of weapons as a way to diminish their guilt. He argued that BDS should change its perspective: instead of boycotting academics, it should boycott the financial aid the United States of America provides to Israel. He said, “If the US were to get rid of the aid that it provides Israel, it would lower the Israeli GDP buy 1%.” He also went on to talk about how Israelis live overseas, how most have dual citizenships, and how they are hedging their bets in the case of the collapse of Israel: if Israel were to collapse, they would have another country to which they could escape.

Miranda Joseph and Sandra Soto, both professors at the University of Arizona and members of the American Studies Association (ASA), spoke about how ASA was successful in implementing a BDS movement in their organization. They referenced the ASA divestment statement and the hate mail that ASA received as a result of their subsequent divestment. ASA created a website where they published all of the hate mail they received as a result of BDS. On this website, all of their communications have been published, no names have been blocked out, no emails have been blurred, and no phone numbers have blurred. One could go on to their website, bdsloveletters.com, and email every single person that opposed the ASA boycott and then spew their hate and vitriol towards them if they so desired.

Sandra Soto also compared the boycott of Israel to the boycott of Arizona that took place shortly after the passing of SB 1070. She spoke about how she felt supported by the boycott of Arizona, that others were taking notice of such a harmful law, that of SB 1070, and were trying to pressure lawmakers to repeal said law. She believes that an academic boycott of Israel will help support other academics in Israel that are against current state oppression of the Palestinians.

Brooke Lober was one of the main organizers for the event. She talked about campus-based BDS. She mentioned UC Davis, Berkeley, New Hampshire, Brooklyn College, and CUNY. Lober talked about the importance of die-ins and check points as a way to capture media attention and to shine a light on Israel’s oppressive tactics.

Israel did not build a barrier to keep Palestinians out; they built a barrier to keep terrorist attacks out.

The last speaker and by far the most troubling was Alisha Vasquez, who is a professor about borderlands at the University of Arizona. She highlighted that she is here in solidarity of the Palestinians and that the escalation of Israeli rockets to Gaza needs to be examined and criticized.

Vasquez made no mention of Hamas, a known terrorist organization, living within Gaza and how they use innocent Palestinians as human shields. Israel is not the perpetrator of these attacks; they are responding to attacks from Hamas on the civilian population of Israeli urban centers. Ms. Vasquez went on talk about the start-up nation of Israel. She mentioned that Israeli start-ups are then brought to the United States because they know they will not be able to succeed in Israel, but by using US resources, they will be able to succeed. She mentioned a partnership between Raytheon and Israel’s Rafael industries being conducted at Tech Park here at the University of Arizona.

The speaker went on to state that immigrant Mexicans are being forced from their homes to work at the sweat shops and that at these sweat shops they are creating the Iron Dome rockets that kill innocent Palestinians. By no means am I saying that sweatshops are not real, but Raytheon and Israel’s Rafael do not hire Mexican migrant workers at sweatshops or maquilas to make Iron Dome missiles; the insinuation is preposterous.

First of all, Iron Dome and how it works is an incredibly classified project, and they wouldn’t trust just anyone off the street with the know how to create an Iron Dome missile. Second of all, Israel is committed to the betterment of all human life. Israelis believe that each life is precious and worth saving. Israel is one the friendliest LGBTQ countries in the world, and they take enormous steps to protect Palestinian lives.

I believe in free speech and I welcome a dialogue regarding Israel, Palestinians, justice, and peace. Events such as this one do nothing to promote peace, justice or equality. They do nothing to aid in a peaceful future for the region. Their goal is to alienate Israel academically and financially, which they hope would result in the collapse of Israel and make Israel an even more desperate partner for peace than they already are.

Ultimately, I believe that the fight for Israel on college campuses has just begun. Parents need to encourage their children to be proud of their Jewish roots and to be involved in the creation of a better tomorrow for Jewish people around the world. I am Jewish and incredibly proud of it. My family has an amazing story filled with loss, triumph, and new beginnings. Students, like me, need to find their voice on their own college campuses and tell their stories. The Jewish people have an amazing story. Tell it.