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Saturday, February 13, 2010

URGENT: Please support free speech in American Universities - Even for Zionists

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren's talk at the University of California at Irvine was aborted because of heckling by a small group of unruly extremists. A number of the students face disciplinary action.
The students are part of a group that has terrorized UC Irvine political gatherings for years, screaming "one state, one state" and preventing opponents from speaking.
The other side is running a write-in campaign to block disciplinary action against the students, so it is important to send as many letters as possible in support of disciplinary action.

Please pass the word to ask UC Irvine officials to expel these people and put an end to the "one state" groupies at Irvine.

Use the addresses/ telephone numbers to support prosecution of the offenders.
Ask to speak with Chancellor Drake or leave a message at: (949) 824 - 5011
and email him at:
Speak to the Dean of Students office, who are determining the punishment at: (949) 824-5181 and email them at:


Since this group of extremists has flourished for many years and has been tolerated, at least, by UC Irvine administrators, you can and should, in addition to the above, contact the Governor of the State of California and the regents of the University of California:

University of California Regents:

California Governor Schwarzenegger:

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Big choice at York University Israel debate

One state or one state, take your pick at the York University debate on "paths to peace." This is a wide and fair choice, really. You can have a secular Palestinian democracy like Syria or an Islamic Republic like Iran. Yes, "peace" can be achieved by destroying your enemy. It would not be the first time that peace was achieved through genocide.
Good thing Jeff Halper is invited. No hate-Israel gathering could be complete without Jeff Halper, who has done a monumental job of discrediting the cause of peace and Palestinian rights and turning it into an insane mockery. Halper is a veteran of the hatemongering fake "peace" movement.
The worst aspect of these activities is that the bad, fake peace makers inevitably drive out the good ones and make it impossible for them to work by delegitimizing the cause of peace. If the Palestinians do not want self-determination, it is their business, but they needn't try to foist this idea on the Jews.
It is really sad that York university has succumbed to this sort of cheap racism and Stalinist debating style. The terror groupies already tried to hold an "Israel Apartheid Week" at York University. You'll be glad to know that one of their speakers was scheduled to be "Sahabphan Jesuthasan. York Student, President, Tamil Students Association." The problem of the Tamil Tigers terrorists, one of the most notorious suicide terror groups, was since settled in a most satisfactory manner, by eliminating the group and killing their head, proving that it is possible to win an assymmetric war. Terrorists are not invincible. Nobody counted the civilian casualties. Sri Lanka declared a national holiday. If you will, it is no legend. Yes, peace can be achieved by wiping out your enemy. However, those who wish for that kind of "peace" should take into account that it is probably their side that will get wiped out.



Gerald M. Steinberg

Chair, Political Science, Bar Ilan University

and Executive Director, NGO Monitor

The President of York University in Toronto has issued a statement attempting to defend his university's sponsorship of an event headlined "Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace", scheduled for June 22 to 24. This response to intense criticism of the program attempts to portray serious criticism as an attack on academic freedom. However, in examining the details and the debate over this event, and in the context of vulgar anti-Israel activities and physical intimidation of Jewish students at York, these bland words are a diversion -- a straw man aimed at deflecting criticism, and blocking the important public debate over the role of university campuses as battlefields in the Arab-Israeli narrative wars that perpetuate the violent conflict.

York's defense seeks to answer the public statement issued by Hershell Ezrin, head of the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy (CIJA). This analysis was based on a careful examination of the speakers and their topics, which reveals that this conference "aims to explore a one-state, bi-national solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, the imposition of which would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state. The conference will include a number of speakers who are recognizable for their roles as organizers and outspoken proponents of 'apartheid week' and the Israel boycott movement."

Far from an attack on academic freedom, such criticism highlights the very absence of the free exchange in a marketplace of ideas which is the indispensible foundation for academic freedom. The extremely complex history of the Arab-Israeli conflict and multiple dimensions of peace efforts contrast starkly with the narrowly constricted ideologies reflected in the list of 44 speakers. This information is readily available using the internet, and had the eleven sponsors -- six from York, four from Queen's university and a government funded research framework -- exercised "due diligence", they would have found that many of the speakers are virulent anti-Israeli activists, and are far removed from academic work to understand complex issues through research and debate. In other words, it is the conference that constitutes a brutal attack on academic freedom, rather than the analysts and critics.

For example, the first speaker on the list is Ali Abunimah, who runs a propaganda internet site known as the "Electronic Intifada", specializing in demonization of Israel through articles such as "Why Israel won't survive".. Abunimah is also affiliated with a political organization (PCHR) based in Gaza that systematically distorts and exploits the language of human rights – also to attack Israel. Abunimah's groups frequently condone Palestinian terrorism using the euphemism of "resistance" and terms like "apartheid" and "racist" in reference to Israel – the exact opposite of promoting compromise and a two state solution. Attempts to feature speakers like Abunimah under the banner of peace research is dishonest, and rather than attempting to prevent this criticism by pretending that academic freedom is at stake, York university officials should welcome the analysis

While the ideological bios and activist records of all 44 speakers would fill dozens of pages (a task that the sponsors at York University should undertake as a public service), a few more illustrations are useful. Jeff Halper is another veteran pro-Palestinian campaigner, far removed from any academic pursuits. He runs a small organization that claims to oppose the demolition of Palestinian houses, but most of his activities are aimed at generating support for the Palestinian narrative. He recently participated in sailing a few small boats from Cyprus to Hamas-controlled Gaza, hoping to engage in publicity-generating confrontations with the Israeli Navy. Halper often appears in support of Naim Ateek, whose speeches include classical antisemitic references, such as accusing Israel of "crucifying Palestinians". The context of Palestinian mass terror attacks, the mangled bodies, and the hatred against Israelis that promotes this inhuman behavior, is entirely erased.

An Israeli columnist recently witnessed Halper urging "his Muslim listeners in an American university to reject the Arab Peace Initiative, because it serves the Muslim tyrants. He told his listeners that Israel is actually a force that serves world capitalism, in the framework of the attempt to make enormous populations in the world disappear. The antisemites could not have said it better." To label such activities as promoting peace or remotely connected to university discourse is an insult to intelligent people. Recently, Halper's main benefactor, the European Union, rejected his application for renewed funding, but YorkUniversity – for reasons yet to be explained – is giving him the façade of academic legitimacy.

Amidst the long list of speakers, there are also few genuine academics – whom critics might dismiss as fig leaves for the hard-core propagandists -- but even here, the ideological range runs from strongly critical of Israel (but accepting the legitimacy of Jewish sovereign equality) to extremely critical (one-state promoters, tantamount to "wiping Israel off the map".) Although there are many academics whose research goes beyond one-dimensional Israel bashing, and examines the failures of Arab, Palestinian, and Moslem leaders to contribute to peace making, these dimensions are conspicuously absent from the program. In this Orwellian twist, the use of "academic freedom" is a mask for the crude censorship at York.

With so many obvious distortions, the defense offered by the President of York University is a farce. Without a free market of ideas, academic freedom, and even the concept of a university, is meaningless. Given a conference which fails to even hint at the complexity of the issues, the result is not censorship, but the transformation of the university into a macabre circus that sells hatred, martyrdom and murder.

In a free society, the circus, like the university, is open to all – as P.T. Barnum observed, "There's a sucker born every minute". But in the Middle East, such farces will only serve to fuel the vicious warfare and mass terror which has taken the lives of tens of thousands of Israelis, Palestinians, and others, and is escalating into nuclear confrontation. And York University has become an accomplice in this crime.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Media Watch International: some background

Here are some notes on Media Watch International, a pro-Israel advocacy group that has been mentioned in media reports about Prime Minister Olmert's finances.

Israel police on July 9 questioned Sharon Tzur, executive director of the New York-based group. Investigators reportedly asked Tzur about her connection to Morris Talansky, who had told police that Tzur was present on at least one occasion when Olmert received an envelope containing thousands of dollars. Media articles have described Tzur as an Olmert confidante and former Likud activist, and as "the mastermind behind"

In May, the newspaper Haaretz reported that in 2005 Tzur and Media Watch International paid a $2,200 bill for Olmert and his wife, Aliza, at the Peninsula hotel in New York City. According to the newspaper, Tzur said Olmert, who was then a cabinet minister, took part in eight meetings on behalf of her organization.

According to the group's website, "Tzur founded Media Watch International to counter the growing media bias in coverage of the Middle East. She oversaw the runaway success of, until it reached over 50,000 activists and became an independent organization."

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency quoted Tzur in 2001 as explaining that Aish HaTorah helped create Media Watch International: "In December [2000], the Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah, an Orthodox group focused on outreach to secular Jews, provided close to $150,000 in seed money to create Media Watch International for a dual purpose: to absorb HonestReporting and continue with its activism and media watchdog work, and to educate the media with position papers, Tzur said." HonestReporting began as a project of Jewish university students in London after the Second Intifada broke out in late September 2000.

On its U.S. tax return, Media Watch International states that its primary purpose is to "monitor, review and evaluate the accuracy, quality and fairness of media coverage regarding the Middle East."

In 2006, the most recent period for which its tax return is available, Media Watch International reported it received tax-exempt gifts of $496,468 and spent $522,566. The outlays included $111,430 in salary and pension benefits for Tzur, who is listed as the organization's president. Its assets at the end of 2006 were $29,100 in cash, according to the tax return.

According to the tax return, the group's corporate name is "Media Caravan Inc. D/B/A Media Watch International."

The Media Watch International website states that its flagship program is Caravan for Democracy, which "fosters pro-Israel sentiment about Israel and the Middle East on colleges throughout the United States."

Media Watch International's website lists four other key people in addition to Tzur:

* Laura B. Newmark, manager of programs

* Lenny Ben-David, consultant and writer. A former deputy chief of mission at the Israel embassy in Washington, Ben-David is an independent consultant and publishes a blog at

* Ronn Torossian, communications and marketing consultant. Owner of a New York public-relations business with a Los Angeles office, Torossian publishes a blog at

* "Our ghost writer," described as a New York native who lives in Israel.

How does Media Watch International compare to other pro-Israel organizations engaged in public affairs and media monitoring? Here are some highlights from tax returns for 2006:

The Israel Project, Washington, D.C.
Purpose: "The purpose of the Israel Project is to help protect the existence of Israel and the Jewish people and to combat anti-Semitism by educating the public in the US and in other countries about Israel and situation in the Middle East, and by educating opinion leaders and the media to the same effect."
Total revenue: $6,088,157
Officers' salaries and benefits:
$200,000 - Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi
Net assets: $2,808,608

Zionist Organization of America, New York City
Purpose: "Public affairs -- to create public awareness in communities around the country about the happenings affecting the Jewish people. Zionist education -- to educate the public concerning the values of Zionism."
Total revenue:
Officers' salaries and benefits:
$279,346 - Morton Klein, president
$170,144 - Meir Jolovitz, executive director
$48,000 - Sheldon Fliegelman, executive director
Net assets: $11,315,771

Middle East Media and Research Institute, Inc. (MEMRI) Washington, D.C.
Purpose: "to serve as a clearinghouse for information regarding news and other cultural media in and on the subject of the Middle East"
Total revenue: $4,078,038
Officers' salaries and benefits:
$87,268 - Steven Stalinsky, executive director
$62,314 - Yigal Carmon, president (20 hours per week)
Net assets: $1,551,622

Committee on Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, Inc., Boston, Mass. (CAMERA)
Purpose: "To provide the educational services necessary to give members and the general public the ability to evaluate Middle Eastern reporting"
Total revenue: $2,559,469
Officers' salaries and benefits:
$174,368 - Andrea Levin, president
$115,707 - Alex Safian, associate director
Net assets: $4,169,269, Inc., New York City (Middle East Media Watch, Skokie, Ill.)
Purpose: "To monitor and promote objective reporting by the media of events emanating from the Middle East in connection with the Israeli-Arab conflict."
Total revenue: $1,146,018
Officers' salaries and benefits:
Net assets: $230,626
NOTE:, Inc., reported a total U.S. payroll of only $20,880. It listed as key officers [Rabbi] Ephraim Shore, Beitar, Israel, president; Joe Hyams, Beit Shemesh, international director; [Rabbi] Shraga Simmons, Kiryat Sefer, Israel, secretary; and Michael Weinstein, Jerusalem, treasurer. Its largest expense item was a $414,476 payment to HonestReporting Israel.

--Joseph M. Hochstein, Tel Aviv

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Being pro-Israel on Campus

Ilana Diamond's complaint about Israel advocacy on campus is common to many of us. Progressive and Middle of the Road Zionist groups are conspicuous by their absence. Surely a large group like Arza should have some campus presence in the fight for Israeli legitimacy? Ilana writes:
It is extremely hard to fight fire with fire and remain respectable. The images the pro-Palestinian groups put onto posters are deplorable. Texans for Israel will try to avoid the pity ploy, but on today's college campuses it seems that that's what it takes to gain support for a cause. A group has to be loud, crude, over the top, and gut wrenching for their message to be heard. Simply showing the positive side to a cause no longer captures attention.
Pro-Israel activists can talk up the positives of Israel until we are blue in the face, but until someone sees Israelis as victims, they will just ignore our message.
Indeed, it is sad that what "works" among these "budding intellectuals" is blood, gore and sensation, "personal messages" and the like, rather than facts and rational argument. The cult of Rachel Corrie and Yasser Arafat is a much more effective advocacy tool than a dozen boring tracts about international law.
Ami Isseroff

Ilana Diamond , THE JERUSALEM POST Apr. 15, 2008
Many people put much faith into average college students, assuming that they are curious enough to explore every facet of information given them. But people who think this of college students are severely misguided.
The majority of college students are looking for something to believe in. So when pro-Palestinian on-campus groups wave around posters with pictures of "mutilated" Palestinian children, it's easy for students to fall into the "Israel is the aggressor" trap.
This is a widespread problem on numerous college campuses - not only in the United States, but Canada and European countries as well.
On the University of Texas at Austin campus, where I am a student, it's a daily problem. There are some five pro-Palestinian student groups currently active on campus. Guess how many pro-Israel student-run groups there are. One.
Well, maybe two. There is also the Union of Progressive Zionism, but I am not yet convinced that their main battle won't be fighting the "occupation."
Meanwhile, one could say there are about seven institutionalized forces working against Israel on the UT campus.
This year alone, these groups have brought in speakers such as John Mearsheimer, author of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, a book denouncing AIPAC; Alison Weir, journalist and the founder of If Americans Knew, a group that argues the US is sending too much money to Israel and that the Palestinian plight is underrepresented in American media; Neturei Karta Rabbi Dovid Weiss, who attended Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial conference and is a member of Jews United Against Zionism; and Anna Baltzer, a pro-Palestinian American Jew.
Needless to say, the Palestinian sympathizers at UT know how to make their events look credible, and the events are usually well attended. This is the part where putting too much faith in college students starts to go wrong.
STUDENTS ATTEND these lectures and hear how AIPAC is supposedly wasting taxpayer's money, how Israel is supposedly brutalizing and killing innocent Palestinian children, and so on. The organizers of these events know these issues are compelling, and that any Joe-shmoe is going to sympathize with their cause.
The average college student attending is likely to be hearing about the Arab-Israel conflict for the first time, and can end up believing that what they've just learned is the whole story, thus creating a large problem for pro-Israel activists.
It is especially undermining when some of these anti-Israel speakers are of Jewish heritage. Students interpret that to mean that if a Jew doesn't like Israel, then Israel must be really bad - so it's ok if I don't like Israel either.
In fact it is not uncommon to see scattered clueless middle-class kids schlepping to class with a keffiyeh around their neck because they sympathize with Palestine and believe they are wearing a "freedom scarf," as is called by the clothing store Urban Outfitters.
To combat anti-Zionism on campus, TFI (Texans for Israel) has brought in speakers such as Middle East expert and former Jerusalem Post editor David Makovsky, Nonie Darwish, the Muslim-born Christian who founded Arabs for Israel, and David Brog, the founder of Christians United for Israel.
However when speakers like these appear, Palestinian sympathizers come and make accusations against them. A member of the Palestine Solidarity Committee got up to ask Nonie Darwish a "question" which began: "You can't be serious. You are not a serious speaker. What are you trying to accomplish by speaking to a bunch of white American Jews?"
Nor can these relatively few speakers compete with the onslaught of weekly posters put up around campus with pictures of bloodied Palestinian children, body bags, and misquoted statements from Israeli officials seeming to suggest that Palestinians are asking for it. For some reason - perhaps the way the media covers the conflict - many college students seem to be more skeptical of pro-Israel speakers than anti-Israel ones.
SO FAR TFI has taken a non-confrontational stance when addressing the gory posters and signs claiming "Zionism equals racism." The Palestine Solidarity Committee even protested at an Israeli cultural event that had nothing to do with politics - proving that it is not aiming for peace or even dialogue.
However in response to the recent "Apartheid Week" (that actually went on for two weeks) and the Campus Anti-War Movement to End the Occupation which displays posters with cartoons comparing Gaza to Auschwitz, TFI is stepping up our game, and preparing exhibits on the current situation in Sderot, minus the overwhelming gore.
It is extremely hard to fight fire with fire and remain respectable. The images the pro-Palestinian groups put onto posters are deplorable. Texans for Israel will try to avoid the pity ploy, but on today's college campuses it seems that that's what it takes to gain support for a cause. A group has to be loud, crude, over the top, and gut wrenching for their message to be heard. Simply showing the positive side to a cause no longer captures attention.
Pro-Israel activists can talk up the positives of Israel until we are blue in the face, but until someone sees Israelis as victims, they will just ignore our message.
But is it right for pro-Israel groups to capture attention by exhibiting photos of suicide bombing victims? Or life under continuous rocket attack?
Israel prides itself on being able to quickly pick up the pieces and move on. By stooping to the level of showing bombed-out homes, are pro-Israel groups helping or hurting the country? I am not sure.
Luckily the semester is almost over, and we will have a whole summer to gear up for another 10-month-long war of words and rethink the tactics we are using.
The writer is a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin studying journalism and Middle Eastern studies. She was a Jerusalem Post intern last year.

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