Upcoming, Current and Previous Events
[Continuation of our report THE NEW WAR AGAINST ISRAEL from the main Israel Education
Committee page. Click here to return to the beginning.]
Riva provided a bibliography and handout of Anti-Semitic art work/cartoons from the Middle Ages (starting in 11th Century England) to the present day as it has infiltrated the world of Anti-Zionism. The Blood Libel became an indictment of the entire Jewish population as allegedly needing blood to make the Afikomen. It posited that Jews had a different biology and required blood to survive. The Muslim world has taken this up with rumors that Jews were murdering Muslims to make delicacies for Purim.
In 2002 (during the 2nd Intifada) at SF State University, food cans were distributed by Anti-Israeli groups with labels accusing Israel of killing Palestinian children with the assumed imagery of cannibalism. However irrational, these are being projected to young people.
Many cartoons portray Jews as devils, animals, bears, sharks, beasts, a myth of Jews as vampires and the ever present octopus (a motif from 1938 Nazi Germany, since revived) as choking off the world. Another theme, also presented in the U.S. media, is that of the reversal of the Holocaust motif blaming Israel for Holocaust like deeds and actions along with Hitler and Nazi comparisons. These also use the phrase, "the Final Solution," or compare Israel to South African Apartheid. It becomes easier to spread these images in the era of the Internet with resulting demonization of Israel and profusion of Israel conspiracies websites..
Natan Sharansky (former Soviet refusenik/prisoner, Israeli politician, human rights activist and author) articulates how to separate legitimate criticism from irrational, fantastic propaganda by listing the 3 Ds:
1. Demonization - absurd and disproportionate
2. Double Standard
The end result of this faulty logic and defiance of reality/common sense is to declare that if Israel is beyond the pale, why should it exist?
This is not a figment of the imagination. A Labour Party Member of Parliament in Great Britain declared that Israeli policies are the major cause of all the violence in the world. Vanessa Redgrave, in a hyperbolic statement, said that until Israel withdraws from the territories, most of the world will be in terrible, terrible trouble. The Guardian newspaper in U.K. wrote that the Palestinian situation is the most inflammatory conflict on this planet.
These perspectives are having a negative impact on people wanting to be identified as Zionist who see this as an attempt for the Jewish people to define themselves in the modern world.
Alan Dershowitz, renowned Law professor and author, states that constructive criticism is legitimate. However, this type of prejudice is bigotry. "No nation in the history of the world that has faced comparable threats to its survival has ever made greater efforts in achieving the high norms of the rule of law. The net result of all these accusations is that the gulf between Israel's actual compliance with the rule of law and its perceived compliance is greater than for any (other) country in the world. Anti-Zionism creates the perception that Israel is one of the worst offenders of all of the countries. This is not only unfair and dangerous to Israel but destructive of the rule of law itself which cannot survive in the absence of a single standard fairly applied to all nations."
The next speaker was Julie Bernstein who is leading advocacy efforts and producing educational responses on the Boycotts/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS) front. She led a community campaign, in partnership with Hillel, to stop a Divestment resolution from passing through the UC Berkeley Student Senate. On the same issue, she helped to prevent City Council resolutions condemning Israel from passing in 3 different cities.
She began by showing a video outlining the origins, strategy and fallacies of the international BDS movement. In an attempt to change the image, pro-Palestinian activists present eloquent speakers who are educated in Western universities and have been making the rounds of news programs and campuses advocating for their vision. While the goals are touted as humanist and the phrases are meant to attract those who have championed human rights causes (Justice in Palestine, Democracy, etc.), the reality is quite different. Anyone advocating negotiations is labeled as a collaborator. The group, essentially, is against any form of Palestinian-Israeli cooperation. In 1/2010, an Israeli-Palestinian film series was scheduled at Tel Aviv University. It was quickly denounced by the BDS movement. In 2008, there was a historic Israeli-Palestinian Trade Union agreement. While praised by some, BDS was outraged. In a similar vein, Al-Quds University in Jerusalem signed a cooperative plan with Hebrew University toward the purpose of pursuing knowledge. The Al-Quds University president hoped to foster tolerance, cooperation and an ability to listen to the other. With pressure from the BDS movement, the Al-Quds University Board severed all ties between the two institutions.
Essentially, BDS does not buy into the 2 state solution and continues to demand the refugee right of return. The ultimate goal is to bring about defeat of "Zionist" Israel and victory of Palestine. The movement is a comprehensive, international strategy to isolate Israel politically, academically, culturally and economically such that it is rendered so weakened it will cease to exist.
There have always been a population of anti-Zionist Jews worldwide as well as disgruntled Israelis who support the BDS movement believing that it is the only way to achieve long term security and staus for the State of Israel.
The history of this movement dates back to the 2001 UN World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa. The end result called for the international community to support the complete and total isolation of Israel as an Apartheid state with mandatory economic sanctions. By 2005, the Palestinians called for BDS against Israel and organized as a movement. They promoted Palestinian Academic/Cultural boycotts, the right of return for refugees and their descendants and the return of Arab lands (not specified).
As may be apparent to many of us, the Bay area is one of the hubs of the BDS movement with its North American founding in Toronto, Canada. The JCRC has identified 104 Anti-Israeli groups in No. California. Some have their entire purpose to criticize and defeat Israel whereas others may include another focus. There is a 4:1 ratio of anti- compared to pro-Israel groups in terms of funding, staffing and organization. Julie showed a map of many BDS events in our region just in the months of Sept-Oct 2010.
She presented another video of the discussion at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors regarding yet another one-sided anti-Israel resolution with both supporters and critics of the matter. The video showed both sides of the debate with the overarching message of why this, rather than the business of the City of San Francisco, would be occupying the Supervisors' attention.
JCRC feels we need to make BDS the issue, not Israel, with our own BDS approach. Buy Israeli goods. Defend Israel's sovereignty. Support Peace. It is important to hold BDS supporters accountable for their stance against Israel, peace and Israel's existence. The focus must be on the fact that BDS is intolerant and the goal is the obliteration of the Jewish State, not about ending the occupation. Their message, previously on the fringes of society, has become mainstream.
We must create a wide pro-Israeli tent (left, right and center) with a commitment to a democratic Jewish state. Given the periodic votes in some Church denominations to support BDS efforts, it is important to continually bring pro-Israel messages to institutions not yet in the thrall of anti-Israel forces.
There is a Jewish Community Relations Council Action Alert list to which interested parties were directed.
Some groups are not so enlightened. The Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem is a truly Anti-Semitic organization. It was founded by the Palestinian Anglican Priest, the Rev. Naim Ateek. He conveys the idea that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of Palestinian men, women and children around him. Reverend Ateek states that the Israeli crucifiction system is operating daily.
JCRC is involved with efforts to place pro-Israel speakers on campus. At Stanford, Jewish students have moved the Palestinian students away from divestiment proposals towards ways they can have a more constructive dialogue.
Sheida Neman started by declaring that U.C. Berkeley is an extremely passionate campus both verbally and politically. While some in the community see it as extremely Anti-Semitic and Anti-Israeli, there is a very strong Israel support network.
She spoke in the context of what, essentially, has become anti Israel month in March with an upcoming Israel Apartheid week, started in Toronto, on campus. There are a number of Jewish organizations at UCB. Tikvah: Students for Israel is the Zionist community. Kesher Enoshi: Progressives for Activism in Israel explores ways of offering constructive criticism about Israel. Sheida is becoming active in the Israel Action Committee which focuses on informing students since there is ignorance on both sides. The goal is to provide legitimate, substantive information and to promote dialogue which she feels is sorely lacking. The group is trying to unite Israel supporters' response to Apartheid week and to learn from past mistakes in trying to eliminate hate from the campus.
Students for Justice in Palestine is a very strong anti-Israel group which often presents gruesome pictures at demonstrations. It is not constructive and spreads ignorance and creates more hatred.
There are two different schools of thought among the radical left Jewish Anti-Israel students. One feels that there should not be a State of Israel and that we were always meant to be a stateless people. The other loves Israel but believes that BDS is the best way to assure a 2 state solution with the country being able to maintain security and its democratic structure.
Sheida conveyed discussion at the UC Berkeley Student Senate debate on the divestment resolution which was frightening due to a lack of reason with so much passionate fervor. Students didn't want to learn the facts, they were just fighting for a cause. Following the sessions, there was a swastika placed on one of the campuses and a Kosher butchery stoned indicating that, for some, this is not a humanitarian cause but just a focus for Anti-Semitism.
While there is a report of a Jewish UCB woman undergraduate who is leaving Berkeley because she feels physically afraid, Sheida had only heard of one violent incident on campus. She, herself, does not feel threatened and the majority of Berkeley students are not violent. However, it was frightening after leaving the 2nd UCB Student Senate meeting on the divestment resolution.
In contrast, when Sheida attended the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations which took place in New Orleans, for the first time she saw Anti-Semitic, not just Anti-Israeli, signs outside the conference center.
Despite this, the rhetoric in the USA is far less inflammatory and Anti-Semitic than in Europe.
Both Sheida and Julie conveyed that it helps the students have community support by having older adults attend these pivotal campus events. It is difficult to be constantly on the defensive.
During the Question and Answer portion of the meeting several topics were addressed. Rabbi Chester spoke of the group "Never Again for Anyone." Rather than being used in the context of the Shoah, the phrase has been taken up by a Muslim and Anti-Zionist Jewish Alliance. This group compares Israeli actions to those of the Holocaust. In the past, local Rabbis had been able to dissuade churches from hosting these presentations. Often, they will use a Holocaust survivor who supports their philosophy to legitimize an anti-Israel program and give cover suggesting they could, therefore, not be Anti-Semitic. Unfortunately, more recently a program was hosted at the Presbyterian Church at 27th and Broadway despite Rabbi Chester's prior discussions with the Minister. Stand with Us did stage an enthusiastic counter demonstration that evening.
A question was asked as to whether Israel's actions over the past few years and a rightward shift in the government fostered the type of anti-Israel movements. Riva Gambert put this into perspective by indicating that the comparisons to alleged Holocaust behavior on the part of Israel are not recent and began pre-1967 in the Soviet Union.It has little to do with right or left wing Israeli govenments. Missles launched from Gaza, while not causing a high number of deaths, create a reality of Israelis feeling under attack and undermine peace efforts. The hope of Hamas is that these rockets will generate an Israeli response with the inevitable tragic outcome when defending itself. What is forgotten is the overarching context.
A questioner asked how we can stop the illegitimate statement that Israel is committing war crimes. Riva Gambert suggested coming to the Sunday 5/15 community wide program which will take place at Temple Sinai: Voices of Israel: Celebrating Israel at 63. The Opening Keynote Speaker, Professor Amos Guiora, will address the issue of an approach to the ethical military code in Israel and how breaches are handled.
The speakers and Rabbi Chester were thanked for this excellent presentation.
-- John Tamor Citron, Member, Temple Sinai Israel Education Committee
Here is a bibliography of publications relating to Anti-Semitism in conjunction with the above panel discussion, provided by Riva Gambert, Director of the Israel Center for the Jewish Federation of the East Bay.
Buckley, William F. In Search of Anti-Semitism.
Chazan, Robert. Church, State and Jew in the Middle Ages.
Chesler, Phyllis. The New Anti-Semitism: The Current Crisis and What We Must Do About It.
Cohn-Sherbok, Dan. Anti-Semitism.
Dershowitz, Alan. The Case for Israel.
Felsenstein, Frank. Anti-Semitic Stereotypes: A paradigm of Otherness in English Popular Culture.
Foxman, Abraham H. Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism.
Julius, Anthony. Trials of the Diaspora. A History of Anti-Semitism in England.
Laquer, Walter. The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism.
Lewis, Bernard. Semites and Anti-Semites: An Inquiry Into Conflict and Prejudice.
Lozowick, Yaacov. Right to Exist.
Parkes, James. The Jew in the Medieval Community.
Rosenbaum, Ron, Editor. Those Who Forget the Past: The Question of Anti-Semitism.
Schoenfeld, Gabriel. The Return of Anti-Semitism.
Segel, Binjamin. A Lie and A Libel.
Trachtenberg, Joshua. The Devil and the Jews: The Medieval Conception of the Jew and
its Relation to Modern Antisemitism.
Wistrich, Robert S. A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad.