April 04, 2016

UC Regents Condemn anti-Semitic anti-Zionism: Media Disapprove

                                                       published at Honest Reporting

A “landmark” first step was taken by the University of California system this week to combat anti-Semitism on campus. The Regents’ statement of principles condemns “anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism” and declares that such behaviors “have no place in the University of California.”

“There is absolutely no doubt that anti-Zionism is the driving force behind the alarming rise in anti-Semitism at UC and at schools across the country” says Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, the UC Santa Cruz faculty member who heads the AMCHA Initiative that tracks on-campus anti-Semitism.

But much of mainstream reporting on the Regents’ statement erases this link between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Headlines refer to anti-Semitism but not to anti-Zionism and reporting suggests that there is no real need for the Regents’ statement or that free speech is at risk.

The LA Times made their position explicit in an editorial: “In reality, it is perfectly possible to oppose Zionism—or advocate for a secular state in what is now Israel and the West Bank—without being anti-Jewish.”

Leaving aside that Jewish Israel is predominately secular and is surrounded by Muslim counties that unlike Israel do not have religious freedom, and leaving aside the secular Zionist founders of the Jewish State, I find most disturbing the phrase “in what is now Israel and the West Bank.”

Somehow the LA Times, the largest newspaper in the city that has the second largest Jewish population in the US, whose editorial board defines anti-Zionism as “opposition to the idea of a Jewish State,” cannot understand that college students report they are ostracized and harassed because they take the minority view (on campus) that the world’s only Jewish state should continue to exist.  Students are experiencing old fashioned anti-Semitism to such a degree that even the Regents of UC, who have many other things to worry about, have noticed.

I’ll admit that I struggle to understand what forms of anti-Zionism are not anti-Semitic. The LA Times’ definition that anti-Zionism opposes even the idea of a Jewish state suggests that anti-Zionism is necessarily anti-Jewish. However, anti-Zionism is also its own form of bigotry. The push for legalistic language to protect Jewish students arises from the reality that anti-Zionism is quite acceptable on campus while, at the same time, Jews are not a “protected minority.”

The hundreds of anti-Semitic incidents catalogued by AMCHA are connected to the widely heard campus position that Israel should not exist as a Jewish state and to demonizing Zionism. Tellingly, Associated Press reports that ran in many California papers including the San Francisco Chronicle contrasted “Israeli supporters” with “backers of Palestinian rights,” although Zionism is the concept of Jewish rights to self-determination. No report that I could find considered pro-Israel students to be “backers of Jewish rights.”

In fact, the LA Times headlined its editorial “Striking a Balance Between Free Speech and Bigotry,” as if anti-Zionism is not a form of bigotry and as if anti-Zionist speech is not protected by the first amendment.

No one explains the situation better than UCLA professor, Judea Pearl:

“UC guidelines opposing anti-Semitism are grossly inadequate in curbing the current wave of anti-Jewish hostilities on campuses, which by and large are directed not against those who practice their religion but against those suspected of supporting Israel…

…the UC regents have not banned anti-Semitic, Islamophobic or white supremacist speech, and do not propose to ban anti-Zionist speech; rather, the regents rightly want to make it clear that the latter is beyond the pale of civil discourse.

So if the regents adopt the principles against intolerance, they won't officially restrict free expression. But, and here is an important distinction, they will send a message to the community that anti-Zionism, like Islamophobia and other hateful ideologies, has “no place,” culturally, “at the University of California.”

January 02, 2016

Terror on My Street

                                                Dizengoff Circle, Tel Aviv

                                            published at Times of Israel

Maybe I am too new to Israel to call Dizengoff my street, but I know parts of it well and yesterday I was about to go to Dizengoff Center, truthfully because I thought a movie might change a stressed mood. I almost got on the wrong bus, which I've done before, and then I would have walked over to Dizengoff at just about the time a terrorist was pulling out his rifle and firing into a pub and two cafes. 

But I decided that before the markets closed for shabbat and before it started raining again, I'd get groceries. So I wasn't there. Most of Tel Aviv and even most of the people walking on Dizengoff were not there in the line of fire. But two young Israelis, Alon Bakal, age 26 and Shimon Ruimi, age 30, were murdered; eight others were injured and hospitalized; and many people were traumatized. Just the day before, Alon Bakal had sent his father a text: "I'm having fun; I love to live."

For on Friday afternoon, the streets and cafes of Tel Aviv are crowded with people enjoying life here. 

When I got back home with my groceries, I saw on Channel 10 news what had happened, what has been happening in some part of Israel nearly every day for the past three months: a terrorist had attacked Israeli Jews for being. For existing.

As I watched the news on my computer, flipping among channels 10 and 2 and the English language Israeli news sites, I didn't feel afraid, though maybe I'll feel that later, as I walk to my ulpan every Sunday and Tuesday past the cafes that yesterday were riddled with bullets. And I didn't feel like I wanted to rush back to the US any more than I might on other days when I'm missing family and friends.

In fact, I felt like what I had been thinking about and worrying about that afternoon was so trivial it did not even matter what this particular day's obsessions were. I felt: I'm alive and safe and life is incredible.

And I wish for this front-line that is Israel to start being a place the rest of the world notices -- not, as has so often been the case, in order to blame it for defending itself; and not, as has so often been the case, to blame its victims of terror for the abuse heaped on them. And especially not to pretend that there are no connections of ideology linking the terror in Paris and San Bernardino and Tel Aviv. But to notice that what happens here is happening in Europe and America and for the same reasons.

In the US it is hard to follow Israeli news events, even though Israel is always in the news. If you watch CNN, you may think there is some possibility that this was a "criminal" rather than a terrorist attack. You may wonder how it is that, while still at large, the killer has an attorney who is being quoted in the New York Times. You may have missed the information that as soon as the killings were reported, the Hamas government of Gaza praised them.

You may even miss the fact that these "lone wolf" attackers are actually following a herd, one that supplies weapons, training, (in this case) a get-away, and most important, an agenda. Someone should tell Reuters News Service that, as far as we know, not a single perpetrator of a stabbing, or shooting, or car-ramming against Israelis has said he or she did this because peace talks are stalled or because there are settlements. The goal is to eliminate Israel.

But the good thing is that if you come to Israel tomorrow, what you'll see if you walk down Dizengoff Street is that the terrorists' goal has absolutely no chance of succeeding.