Tag Archives: palestinian

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.

A Palestinian Flag Gave This Zionist Hope

Photo: Oshra Bitton.

That’s not a headline I had ever anticipated writing. And at a time when progressives seem increasingly dominated by an anti-Israel air, I expect every run-in with that crowd to produce the same pattern of animosity and mistrust. Initially, during my coverage of the recent Sister March for Racial Justice in Brooklyn, I felt my prediction confirmed.

Addressing the crowd from a podium at the Jay Street Plaza, Muslim-American activist, Linda Sarsour, spoke of “right-wing Zionists” in the same breath as white supremacists, creating a vile conflation between Jewish liberation and well, bigotry. One had an aery sense that the targeting was intentional –– an effort to ostracize Pro-Israel Jews and push them out of progressive spaces. And as marchers made their way towards the Brooklyn Bridge, I caught sight of what felt like another irrelevant political injection into the discussion of racial justice in America: a Palestinian flag. It waved to me from the top of a baseball cap of a petite elderly woman and seemed firmly placed above her head.

“From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go,” the 77-year-old woman chanted. That’s a Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) line I easily recognized. But aside from the gross fusion of two separate regional and political issues, the word ‘peace’ in JVPs acronym is actually misleading. While their mission statement claims to support “security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians,” JVP operates as an anti-Israel organization, supporting movements like BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions), which aims to destroy the Jewish state economically.

The woman explained that she’d recently become a member of theirs. I quieted my inner reservations and aimed to understand why. Maybe it was the soft lines in her face or her warm outstretched arms –– pulling me closer from time to time so that I could hear her better –– that made me want to stay and talk to Jane Orendain.

After revealing her native Filipino roots and Catalonian lineage, Orendain drew what felt like an associative approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Her ethnic background –– a mixture of peoples seeking autonomy and independence –– must have guided her in the direction of sticking-up-for-the-little-guy just as my own identity helped inform my own views. Even though her chant sounded like veiled slander against my people, I suddenly understood why her free-Palestine stance seemed like a natural spot for her to reside in.

But then, when asked to get more specific about Israeli policy, Orendain revealed that she envisions “a Two-State Solution”––for Israelis and Palestinians to live side-by-side in peace. Surprised and impressed by her position, I informed Orendain that the Israeli government actually supports an independent Palestinian state based on secure borders for both peoples. I told her that most Zionists I’ve met uphold that as well. “What? They do? Really?” Orendain responded, positively stunned.

As she ingested my words, it occurred to me that I might have been the first person to ever reveal that bit of news to her. And I thought: perhaps our ideological opponents aren’t as unreachable as we think. It’s much easier, though, to scan a banner and feel like an enemy has been successfully identified. It’s a lot harder to remember that a human stands behind the picket –– their sensitivities real, their ideas changeable.

After parting from Orendain, I carried on with a brightened sense of hope that I’d again find conversation and commonality in an unexpected place. It was as if the anti-Zionist rhetoric heard earlier in the march suddenly evaporated. I saw a much larger goal ahead. I recognized the value of engaging with those whom I might have initially written-off.

Now, this doesn’t mean that JVP members and other anti-Israeli folks will suddenly drop their ideological armor and embrace a Zionist’s perspective. But it does mean that somewhere in a seemingly hostile crowd, one might find a marcher with a pair of wide ears and open eyes that’ll walk beside them and in good faith, engage.

Contributed by City College of New York CAMERA Fellow Oshra Bitton.

This article was originally published in Harlem Focus.

I am a Zionist.

CAMERA Fellow Leora Eisenberg.

I’m afraid to say it out loud sometimes because it’s become a bad word of late. I believe in Israel’s right to exist and its necessity. I put great faith in the Jewish right to self-determination and have a deep love for the State of Israel. This makes me a Zionist.

On Thursday, Feb. 16, the well-known political scientist and Israel critic Norman Finkelstein repeatedly equated Zionism with ethnic cleansing. He called Zionism a denial of historical truth and compared Zionist endeavors to Stalin’s.

But the Palestinian population in both Israel and the Palestinian Territories has increased eightfold since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. If the Palestinian population of the region has swelled since Israel’s conception, Zionism cannot possibly espouse ethnic cleansing.

Zionism, instead, is the Jewish movement for self-determination. The founders of the State of Israel were Zionists, but they did not enshrine rights for only one group of people. On the contrary, the Israeli Declaration of Independence states that Israel will “foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants [and] it will be based on freedom, justice and peace.” Israel has sometimes erred on its path, but the Zionism described in the nation’s founding document has nothing to do with the ethnic cleansing that Finkelstein mentioned.

In fact, many famous figures are proud to be Zionists, like Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel. He decried genocide — a form of ethnic cleansing itself — but was also unfaltering in his Zionism, finding no conflict between the two. Like Wiesel, I see no contradiction between Zionism and my values of human rights. I believe in Israel’s founding ideology, and like many others, see it as a movement of “freedom, justice and peace.”

In that vein, I realize that many, on campus and elsewhere, may disagree with my views. But instead of charging all Zionists with ethnic cleansing, I invite you to engage a Zionist in conversation. You will find that many of us are liberals, peacemakers, and warriors for human rights. Ask a proponent of the ideology why they continue to adhere to it. It may be that they find Israel’s existence necessary; it also may be, however, that they find Zionism good and just, even though Finkelstein might disagree.

Contributed by Princeton University CAMERA Fellow Leora Eisenberg.

Originally published at Princeton University campus paper The Daily Princetonian.

Op-Ed: We all want justice

CAMERA Fellow Emily Firestone.

CAMERA Fellow Emily Firestone.

Unfortunately, the feel of worldwide oppression is often very present. A Wednesday night event held in the Boston University Law  Auditorium, titled “Imprisonment of a People: From the U.S. to Palestine,” hosted by the Students for Justice in Palestine and UMOJA: BU’s Black Student Union, addressed this very fact. The audience heard from a panel of speakers, which included Shaun King, Oren Nimni, Carl Williams and Yamila Hussein. The auditorium was packed to maximum capacity, and people spilled out into the next room. The feeling of deep unity, however, turned to targeting the Jewish minority in the Middle East by the end of the evening.

Shaun King addressed how these issues are very complicated and challenging to address. While I completely understand the focus of the event on the oppression of these two groups, I think the way the context was presented did not achieve a sufficient or appropriate degree of accuracy.

These conversations are highly complex. The “gray area” is vast, and one must be cautious when blurring crossing an invisible line of sensitivity. The conversation took a turn a little too deep into one viewpoint, with the repeated tone that Israel is the oppressor and root of Palestinian suffering, and I would argue that this is not the case.

This event did not hold the Palestinian leadership responsible at all and placed all blame on Israel. Palestinian leaders treat their own people terribly. Under Palestinian Authority, selling land to Israelis is a punishable offense and in Gaza, Hamas routinely steals building infrastructure provided to the people to build homes to use to build a system of underground tunnels to carry out terrorism in Israel. I think the Palestinian self-determination needs to be more pro-active to make change for the better within the culture, instead of blaming Israel for all their suffering.

While this event portrayed Israel in an oppressive light, there is another side. When I think of Israel, I actually think of the very same liberating values that were noted at the event as the goals of the two groups. I think of the diversity of the population and especially of the many minorities in the country, and the parts they play in the democracy. I think of the black and Israeli-Palestinian members of Israel’s parliament. I think of the coexistence that people want. Most people would prefer living in peace to an atmosphere of tension and even war.

On Wednesday night, Shaun King noted that it should never become politically incorrect to care about a certain issue or cause, and I couldn’t agree more. There shouldn’t be a double standard for support for Israel. There are multiple sides to every story and I acknowledge the right to just talk about one side of it. But it’s such a shame to find differences and strife when the groups have so many shared values in reality. Our enemies are common, we have the same problems with media control and bias, we are passionate about justice. Israel is a minority in the Middle East and it seems hypocritical of minority groups fighting for freedom to target another minority group that desires freedom.

It was great to hear Yamila Hussein say, “I do not trust a pro-Palestinian that hates Jews.” I just wonder why no one spoke up and acknowledged and supported the right of a Jewish national homeland for the Jewish people. It wasn’t said at the event on Wednesday night, but I’ll say it now. Being Pro-Israel and Pro-Palestinian do not contradict one another. This very important distinction was missed at the event.

The concept of nonviolent protest in the form of economic boycott was weaved into the evening’s conversation until it culminated, towards the end, into blatant support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement. This is really problematic. The underlying goal of the BDS movement is to isolate and immobilize Israel economically. This delegitimization of Israel is appalling, especially by a group of people so passionately dedicated to self-determination. The Pro-Israel community feels that same drive for self-determination, especially finding themselves in the middle of the tough region of the Middle East. Oren Nimni actually addressed this particular issue, saying that one thing that unites the Black Lives Matter and Students for Justice in Palestine movements is being told they don’t belong. The surrounding countries do not hide their desire for the complete and utter destruction of Israel. Israel wants justice too.

This article was originally published on The Daily Free Press.

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow and member of Boston University Students for Israel (BUSI) Emily Firestone at Boston University.

From SJP to Pro-Israel: Rezwan’s Story

Rezwan Ovo Haq, a student at the University of Central Florida, advocates strongly for that in which he believes.

As a Muslim, Rezwan is devoted to helping fellow Muslims and Palestinians. He “used to believe Israel was an ‘Apartheid’ state, a terrorist state, a regime that routinely oppresses the Palestinians” and was very involved with SJP. However after a few critical discussions, including with Ben Suster, President of CAMERA-supported group Knights for Israel at UCF, Rezwan altered his opinions.

Rezwan Ovo Haq speaking at the student advocacy CAMERA Conference this past week in Boston.

Rezwan Ovo Haq speaking at the student advocacy CAMERA Conference this past week in Boston.

Speaking with a former IDF soldier, Rezwan explains, was a pivotal moment for him. The IDF soldier visiting Rezwan’s campus explained to him that during Operation Protective Edge, he went into Gaza along with many other IDF soldiers in order to stop the onslaught of rockets launched at Israeli communities and terror tunnels infiltrating the country. During the war in Gaza, one of the soldier’s brother in arms, and best friend, was killed.

Before this encounter, Rezwan had never seen the humane side of the IDF. Rezwan discovered that the IDF is comprised of soldiers who, similar to him, are also just young people trying to counter terrorism and protect their nation.

Rezwan was also astounded to learn about Israel’s acceptance of the LGBTQ community. While someone from the LGBTQ community can live freely in Israel and serve in the IDF as openly gay, someone labeled as gay could be killed in any other Middle Eastern country. Rezwan now understands the unfortunate irony that Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT), an LGBTQ pro-Palestinian group, does not understand. Within the Middle East, a member of QUIT could only live freely and safely in Israel, the country slandered by the organization.

In addition, Rezwan came across an article that illuminated an unfortunate aspect of the anti-Israel groups he had supported. Rezwan read an article about Hamas detaining and beating a Palestinian. Palestinian leaders were sadly not held accountable for these unjust actions. What bothered Rezwan most about this whole story was SJP’s response: silence.

SJP and pro-Palestinian organizations make little to no effort to defend Palestinians unless it serves to hurt Israel’s image. As Rezwan explains, these organizations “solely exist to slander and dehumanize Israel and I could no longer stand with that.” For these so-called pro-Palestinian organizations, helping Palestinians is a secondary goal, sometimes not acknowledged at all.

Disillusioned by pro-Palestinian organizations, Rezwan decided to join pro-Israel groups because Israel is a force of good for Palestinians in the Middle East. In Israel, Palestinians are free citizens, who can vote and work in any field. The Israeli government just passed a law to further financially support education for Palestinians. Many Muslims choose to serve in the IDF, female as well as male.

Pro-Palestinian students have not accepted Rezwan’s change of heart. They have no interest in listening to his views and have called him a “double agent,” a “traitor,” and have questioned whether in fact he is a “real” Muslim. Deeply devoted to the truth and justice that is ingrained in Islamic values, Rezwan is hurt and disgusted by the reactions from Israel-haters but that does not stop him. As Rezwan has explained, “Islam taught me to stand with the facts even when its unpopular and that’s what I’m doing…and yes it may be unpopular, but that’s not going to silence me.”

Some of these advocates even made up outrageous lies that Rezwan’s parents were kidnapped by Israel and were forcing him to speak on behalf of Jews. Unfortunately, harassing a friend of Israel is not a new trend among Palestinians either; a Palestinian who recently gave emergency aid to Israelis following a terror attack was fired from his job simply because he helped to save Israeli lives.

Rezwan has been attacked with very offensive comments but this does not stop him from defending Israel and speaking up for the truth. He has become a staunch advocate for Israel and is a member of the Knights for Israel at his university. During CAMERA’s Student Leadership and Advocacy Training Conference, students were able to hear directly from Rezwan about these experiences, which only strengthened their resolves to stand up for Israel in the face of hatred on campus.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz.

Al Jazeera Uses Classic Canard to Promote Jihad Against Jews

Nearly 80 years ago – decades before Israel was established as a Jewish state – then-Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin Al Husseini (who subsequently allied with Adolf Hitler)  embarked on a campaign of incitement to foment a jihad against Jews.

His focal point? The area near the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, and more specifically, the Western Wall — the last remnant of the Jewish Holy Temple compound. The canard upon which he based his campaign was that Jews were planning to destroy or take over Muslim holy sites. His battle cry? “Defend [Muslim] Holy Places.” The result? Anti-Jewish pogroms carried out across Palestine, with massacres in Hebron and Safed that killed, mutilated or wounded hundreds of people. (For more details, see here.)

Haj Amin al Husseini’s battle cry was so successful in igniting a jihad that it became the go-to slogan and theme to promote anti-Jewish violence in the Middle East. During Jordan’s 19-year, illegal occupation of Jerusalem, Jews were barred from visiting their holy sites and the theme became a non-issue, but since Israel’s recapture of the area in 1967, it has been used successfully by consecutive Palestinian leaders and has become part and parcel of the campaign to separate Jewish people from their holiest site. (For more details, see here.)

Journalists are under tremendous pressure from the Palestinian Authority and Abbas to adopt words that reject the history of the area to promote Arab/Muslim supremacy there. For example, a “media advisory” put out in November 2014 by the PLO Negotiation Affairs Department warned journalists not to refer to the site as “disputed” and to reject any non-Muslim terminology in regard to the site as invalid.

The theme is part of an aggressive Palestinian campaign to turn public opinion against Jewish history and rights. It is one that reverses the perpetrator and victim. Muslim perpetrators of violence to deny non-Muslims their freedom of visitation are now the victims, while Jewish history, rights and attachment to their holiest site are pronounced null and void.

Most recently, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas successfully employed the theme to incite a violent jihad against Israelis. (For more details see here.)

We have criticized some in the media for abandoning their journalistic duty to highlight the lie that is employed to incite violence, or by downplaying it as a valid position. But now AJ+, Al Jazeera’s social media news channel that has replaced the failed Al Jazeera America television channel, has taken it a step further by actively creating content promoting the false Temple Mount propaganda that is used to incite Muslims, posting a film about the recent Palestinian perpetrated violence on the Temple Mount that again reverses the perpetrators and the victims.

Watch the Al Jazeera film here and then view the Stand With Us video response below.

After CAMERA alerted Israel’s Government Press Office (GPO) to the objectionable clip, the GPO asked Al Jazeera to remove it. It remains to be seen if and when that happens.

Originally published on camera.org.

Contributed by CAMERA Research Analyst Ricki Hollander.

Five Facts the BDS Movement Should Learn from Bassem Eid

Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human rights activist, has lectured at many CAMERA-supported events on college campuses including at Cornell University, University of Miami, Florida Atlantic University, Vassar College, and Binghamton University.

At each school, Baseem Eid shows students his Palestinian perspective, including his vision of how to improve life for Palestinians. He advocates for a more responsible Palestinian leadership and more dialogue with Israel.

In addition to lecturing, Bassem Eid has been featured in The Times of Israel, Israel Today, The Washington Institute, and many others.

Bassem Eid is very clear that the BDS movement only serves to hurt the Palestinians for the following reasons:

1. BDS makes the situation worse economically for Palestinians.

Palestinian wokrers at SodaStream before a massive layoff, a direct result of the BDS movement. Source: U.S.News

Palestinian workers at SodaStream before a massive layoff, a direct result of the BDS movement. Source: U.S.News

“Pro-Palestinian” activists call to boycott Israeli businesses, which employ Palestinians. Such activists fail to recognize this simple equation:

Boycotting Israeli businesses = An increase in unemployment for Palestinians.

Perhaps BDS activists do not fully realize their negative effect on Palestinians’ economic standing. However, because the main objective of the BDS movement is to weaken Israel, they are not bothered by their damage to Palestinian employment opportunities.

Bassem Eid even went as far to say that Pro-Palestinian activists “thrive on the deaths and unemployment of Palestinians.”

2. BDS picks and chooses Palestinians to “support.”

John Calvin, a Palestinian refugee that Israel helped greatly. Source: Times of Israel

John Calvin, a Palestinian refugee that Israel helped immensely. Source: Times of Israel

Pro-Palestinian activists will protect and only truly value the Palestinians that strengthen their cause of putting down Israel.

Bassem Eid argues that Pro-Palestinian activists do not defend, for example, Palestinians like John Calvin, a refugee living in Canada, specifically because he is pro-Israel.

3. By dehumanizing Israelis, BDS supporters effectively choose to hurt Palestinians.

-I'm opposed to the boycott because it only ends up harming the Palestinians themselves.-

BDS focuses on Israel as this abstract imperialist country that must be exclusively boycotted and ostracized.

The “pro-Palestinian” activists do not, however, criticize Fatah regarding problems in the West Bank, or hold Hamas responsible for the horrible situation in Gaza.

A Palestinian with a shipment of cement supplies from Israel to the southern Gaza Strip; May 23, 2016. Source: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

A Palestinian with a shipment of cement supplies from Israel to the southern Gaza Strip; May 23, 2016. Source: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

While Israel constantly and consistently ships in goods to help the citizens of Gaza, Hamas steals these goods from their people to build tunnels. They are more concerned about plotting against Israel than improving the standard of living in Gaza.

Simply put, the Palestinian Authority must develop leadership to help the Palestinians. Perhaps if the BDS movement rightfully pressured the PA, Palestinians would actually be helped.

4. The BDS movement lacks openness for discussion and discourse.

When lecturing at the University of Johannesburg, Bassem Eid experienced straight-up hatred and aggression from pro-BDS attendees. As a result, he could not even speak and engage in any dialogue and discourse with his critics.

Without dialogue, the conflict is left at a complete standstill and the BDS movement cannot help anyone.

5. A peace deal cannot be imposed by outside diplomacy or economic pressures.

Source: www.redletterchristians.org

Source: www.redletterchristians.org

The conflict is between Israel and Palestinians and as such, the solution must come from Israelis and Palestinians.

Both sides are tired of the peace process and have learned to cope with the conflict rather than actively solve it.

Palestinians and Israelis must willingly negotiate and work together to initiate a peace process. Any effort from outside diplomats or political groups, Bassem Eid argues, only imposes more pressure on the two sides and prevents any advancement toward a solution.

In other words, critics need to back off a little and give Palestinians and Israelis some space to talk.

In addition to hurting the Palestinian cause, Eid goes as far as to suggest that “BDS is a prelude for genocide against the Palestinian people.” To learn more about his argument, follow this link.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz

Dialogue Sparked at Judges for Israel-Hosted Event

Brandeis University’s Emet for Israel supported group Judges for Israel (JFI) recently hosted a panel of speakers from The Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) who discussed the topic of peace and how it can be achieved. The three panelists arrived early to introduce themselves to the JFI board and to explain in further detail what SPME does nationwide.12744392_1703578556521330_8716107337069065759_n

Asaf Romirowsky, the executive director of SPME presented the many intricacies of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the history of the peace process, and the outlooks for peace today. He went into great detail regarding how complex the situation remains and the amount of work that must be put into fixing it, even if only slightly.

Alexander Joffe, the second panelist, then discussed the problems experienced in the Middle East at large and the regional politics on a case by case basis. Some of these included the US-Israel relationship and the various military threats Israel faces on its borders.


Finally, Gabriel Brahm presented statistics associated with Israeli-Arab and Palestinian society based on objective studies done to assess Palestinian attitudes toward peace. Most of the figures presented seemed to indicate that the Palestinians with religious affiliations were more opposed to the peace process than those who are secular.

The program then opened up for questions, and there were definitely some difficult ones posed for the speakers, including “What is the single biggest obstacle to peace for the Israelis and Palestinians?” “In light of the Arab Peace Initiative, is it really fair to say that the biggest obstacle to peace is Arab Rejectionism?” “How do you feel about the temporary banning of Israeli MKs from parliament in light of their meetings with the families of slain Palestinian terrorists?” A passionate conversation between a left leaning student and the panelists broke out when talking about the occupation. The student’s position held that in order to attain peace, that particular issue must be seriously addressed and dealt with.

In contrast to other Israel-related events held on campus, JFI was able to provide an environment that brought meaningful and constructive dialogue on Israel.



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Trouble with Chomsky

On November 8, 2015 linguist Noam Chomsky and Norwegian physician Mads Gilbert spoke at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The event drew harsh criticism from MIT students because Dr. Gilbert has explicitly supported the 9/11 terror attacks. In an opinion article published in the MIT Tech newspaper, one student asks “Why is a supporter of the 9/11 attacks being hosted at MIT?”

Mads Gilbert carrying a Palestinian flag

Mads Gilbert carrying a Palestinian flag

While many find Dr. Gilbert’s support of violence a dishonor to the victims of terrorism worldwide, particularly so soon after the Boston Marathon bombings and murder of MIT police officer Sean Collier, little has been said at MIT about the event’s other speaker, Noam Chomsky.

Chomsky has equated the actions of the terrorists who attacked the United States on 9/11 with the actions of the United States government. In a talk at Tufts given just one month after the 9/11 attacks, Chomsky said that the “real and ongoing crimes of the state [U.S.] … are far more serious than blowing up the World Trade Center…” I find it disturbing that a long-tenured MIT professor would believe, let alone publicly voice, that the United States’ “crimes” are worse than those of terrorists who purposefully hijacked planes filled with civilians and flew them into buildings with the sole intention of causing mass destruction.

More recently, Chomsky declared that President Obama’s drone program is “the most extreme terrorist campaign of modern times.” Really? We are living in a world where ISIS is routinely beheading people on YouTube, burning them alive, shooting innocents in mass graves, forcing women and children into sexual slavery, creating child soldiers, and leading innumerable other atrocities. In Syria, hundreds of thousands of civilians are subject to attacks, chemical weapons, and the threat of drowning at sea while leaving their homes to try to find safety. And yet, an ocean away from all this carnage, Chomsky can lounge back and claim that Obama’s drone program is the most extreme terrorism today?

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky

This is not the only instance when Chomsky has compared a U.S. President to terrorists. In an interview with Wallace Shawn on October 19, 2004, Chomsky stated that “Clinton, Kennedy, they all carried out mass murder, but they didn’t think that that was what they were doing – nor does Bush. You know, they were defending justice and democracy from greater evils. And in fact, I think that you’d find it hard to find a mass murderer in history that didn’t think that.” It sounds as if Chomsky intends to compare them to criminals like Hitler and Stalin.  

As we have seen, Chomsky is not afraid to loosely throw around the word “terrorist” when it suits him to do so, regardless of the lack of justification. After all, he even claims that the policies of President Obama are like those of a terrorist. And yet, ironically, he refuses to acknowledge actual terrorist groups for what they are. The Palestinian Islamic group Hamas is recognized as a terrorist organization by the United States, Egypt, Japan, Canada, Israel, and the European Union. But in a 2006 interview with the BBC, Chomsky stated that “we should recognize that the policies of Hamas are more forthcoming and more conducive to a peaceful settlement than those of the United States or Israel.”

Which Hamas policies, exactly, are more “conducive to peace?” Is it Hamas’ charter that explicitly defines Hamas’ governing purpose to “fight the Jews and kill them” and to replace Israel with an Islamic state?  Is it Hamas’ firing rockets at Israeli civilian centers that are “conducive to peace”? While working for the summer at the Weizmann Institute in Israel through the MIT International Science and Technology Initiative, Hamas fired rockets on Israel and forced me to run for the bomb shelter daily at home, at the lab, in coffee shops, walking in the street and at the beach. “Peaceful” was the farthest word from my mind in those moments. Hamas was not aiming at military targets – the rockets were targeting laboratories, kindergartens, and ordinary civilians.

Hamas fighters

Hamas fighters

I am disappointed that Noam Chomsky holds political views that are so radically anti-American. Even as a linguist, he blatantly misuses language to toss around terms like “terrorist” and “peace,” and his own beliefs are far from peaceful. Chomsky should take his own advice when he said that “[it] is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and expose lies.” Until then, I urge those who attend Chomsky’s talks, including those given at MIT and Boston College in November, to do so with a critical eye and a questioning ear. You will be listening to a man who dismisses the 9/11 attacks, compares President Obama to a terrorist, and is unable to unequivocally condemn terror committed against the United States. That’s not progressive; it’s plain wrong.

Contributed by MIT CAMERA fellow, Suri Bandler.

Vassar College: New Voices Coming to Campus Beginning with Bassem Eid

Editor’s Note: Brave CAMERA Fellow Jason Storch is bringing Palestinian human rights activist and CAMERA speaker Bassem Eid to Vassar College on February 17th, following a slew of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bigotry on its campus. We commend Jason, who, with the help of the college, is bringing the first Palestinian speaker to campus in at least two years. The necessity for having a Palestinian voice brought into the discussion cannot be understated. Below is Vassar alumnus Laurie Josephs’ open letter to the college, in which she expresses her concerns. We commend Vassar’s President for responding and acknowledging the need for multiple voices to be heard on campus on the topic of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. However, we strongly urge Vassar College to condemn the language used by anti-Israel professors and speakers, which is singlehandedly causing an environment of hostility and violence towards Pro-Israel and Jewish students. 

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 21.54.11 copy

Flier for Bassem Eid event.

An Open Letter to Vassar on Antisemitic Policies and Double Standards

To the American Studies Steering Committee,

I write to express my deep and continuing frustration, sadness, and disgust over the continued willingness of Vassar faculty to sponsor hate speech when it comes to the Jewish State. Almost two years ago, several Vassar departments and programs co-sponsored two well-known antisemites, Ali Abunimah and Max Blumenthal — the latter of whom was banned from the German parliament for his antisemitic activities. Now we learn that American Studies is sponsoring Professor Jasbir Puar, a supporter of BDS and one of the luminaries who pushes the “pinkwashing” theory — that Israel cynically pretends to respect gay rights in order to distract from its alleged abuses of Palestinians.

The description of Puar’s upcoming talk indicates that she will be spewing the vitriol that Gaza is an “experimental laboratory for the Israeli military apparatuses, infrastructural chaos and metric manipulation,” and that she will be inviting her audience to imagine what types of Israeli “fantasies” about “power, about bodies, about resistance, about politics” might be driving the Israelis. Just substitute the word “Jew” for “Israeli” and you could certainly be excused for thinking this was lifted straight out of Der Sturmer, the Nazi propaganda paper that regularly portrayed Jews as filthy manipulators driven by a mad lust for power, intent on destroying the German nation.

Yes, even hate speech is protected speech and someone like Professor Puar is free to emit such garbage. And yes, she is even free to gussy it up with pretentious jargon in a pathetic effort to make it seem as if it had some academic or intellectual basis. But Vassar’s promotion and endorsement of such antisemitic speech through sponsorship by the American Studies program is entirely unfathomable and inexcusable.

This Committee would never agree to sponsor a speaker who used scientific or academic jargon to promote homophobic or racist theories. And Vassar faculty has repeatedly shown its sensitivity to any speech that is, or could possibly be construed as, Islamophobic.

But a different standard applies when it comes to Israelis and the Jewish state. Why is that?

Laurie Josephs, ’78

This letter was originally published in The Algemeiner.