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Posts Tagged ‘5 Broken Cameras’

Cockroach Curses and Jew Hunting in California Colleges

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Hyper-politicized college student programs dealing with the Middle East these days often end up as actual or virtual shoving matches between two ideological camps: those that support Israel and those that denounce her.  Questions about ideology — is Israel defending itself from terrorists or murdering innocent children — morph into questions about whether the Israel’s campus advocates, or Israel’s campus enemies, were the ones to curse, hit, shove, or obstruct, or the ones to lie about some or all of the above.

We saw this recently at Brooklyn College, where four Jewish pro-Israel students were booted from a speech sponsored by a public university on the demand of a single twenty-something advocate for economic and political warfare against Israel. That (non) Student for Justice in Palestine organizer had been given control of the event, the room where it took place, and the university’s entire security apparatus.

Alone among a raft of public security and university faculty and administration, this one man claimed the Jewish students had been disruptive and had to be, and were, removed.  The claims of allegedly aggressive Jews attempting to stifle debate and bar academic freedom become merged with claims of aggressive Israeli soldiers impeding innocents at Middle East checkpoints.

That story only fell apart, and the university was only forced to abandon its initial blame of the pro-Israel students — and to agree that they’d done nothing wrong — after a tape of the event surfaced that made it impossible to believe the version put out by the anti-Israel partisans. Only then did a university “investigation” follow, which concluded the Jewish students had been wrongfully ejected from the public event, which was a publicly funded call for the boycott of Israeli products.  Your tax dollars at work.

Another story is now unfolding in California, where another public attack on Israel precipitated contradictory accounts of improper conduct by Israel’s advocates and enemies.

Because what happened on the ground so quickly and so often becomes grist for the ideological mill of Israel’s enemies, it’s worth bearing down to determine as clearly as possible what really happened, why, and whether it provides any guidance for how to handle future events.  There will be many more.  This case is also instructive for seeing who rallies to which side, and why.

This is the first article in a series looking at a specific incident that took place at Claremont McKenna College in California, and how and whether it is possible to tease out what happened and why.

The players include several perfect archetypes, and the situation is a classic one:  Anti-Israel students engage in “street theater,” mimicking brutal, oppressive Israel Defense Forces soldiers. The victims, pro-Israel students, are traumatized and believe themselves unable to stand up for themselves.  In this case a pro-Israel student goes to an Israeli professor seeking his help.  The professor is annoyed by the street theater, is provoked by the anti-Israel students, and bad things happen, including claims by the anti-Israel students that their free speech rights were violated.

This article will lay out the basic facts, as best as they can be discerned. Subsequent articles will look at how each school made a determination about what happened, what evidence was made available, how much outside “information” played a role, and what, if anything, can be learned from this case.


Jewish Israeli professor Yaron Raviv, walked up to a peaceful Students for Justice in Palestine “street theater mock Israeli checkpoint” demonstration at Claremont McKenna College.  The professor had been watching the demonstration for awhile. He then approached the demonstrators and told them they weren’t allowed to perform and they had to leave.  The professor then tried to get other school officials to shut down the pre-approved demonstration.

A kefiyah-clad Arab Palestinian student, Najib Hamideh, politely asked the professor to show his identification (it was after 5:00, and he was concerned about a visitor on campus without permission), the professor turns on him, calls him a “f[expletive deleted] little cockroach,” asked where the student goes to school, then says all students from that school are cockroaches.  The professor then showed the public safety officer his school ID, and then the professor left.

The word “cockroach” is a racial slur, according to the student and his advocates, either because it’s what Israelis call Arab Palestinians, or because “language gets meaning from context” and cockroach is a disgraceful, dehumanizing term, especially when used by a Jewish Israeli professor about an Arab Palestinian student.

That’s one version of an incident that took place at Claremont McKenna College on March 4. It’s the one told by the demonstrators, the Students for Justice in Palestine.

Here’s the other version, the one told by the professor:

A professor, Yaron Raviv, gets a call from a Jewish student asking for help because student protesters pretending to be thuggish IDF soldiers are blocking the cafeteria and intimidating anyone who wants to pass through, demanding other students first show their school ID cards.  The professor goes to investigate, sees students in camouflage standing shoulder to shoulder in front of the main entrance to the cafeteria, sees some other students handing out flyers, and sees students on the side crying.  When the students insist the professor show his ID, he refuses and goes inside, and  tells the dining hall manager that the students can protest but not block the entrance.

The dining hall manager tells the students to move, and initially they do, but as soon as the manager goes inside they get back into formation, shoulder to shoulder, in front of the entrance. The professor calls the public safety office and goes outside to speak with an officer. While the professor is walking, one of the students, Najib Hamideh, dressed like an Israeli soldier, leaves the demonstration.

The student gets in the professor’s face and says, “Who are you? Are you a faculty here? Or a visitor? Show me your ID. If you are a visitor you cannot be on campus ground after 5pm.” The professor goes up to the officer, to whom he shows his ID, the student sees it and says to the professor, “oh, you’re faculty!  I will hunt you down!”

With that, the professor, a Jewish Israeli, loses his cool and calls the student a “f[expletive deleted] little cockroach.”

The student gleefully responds: “oh, I’ve got you now!”

With that, the professor turns, goes over to the student who had originally sought his help, tells that student “the public safety officer will take over from now,” and walks away.

The versions diverge on several points: (1) did the demonstrators block the main entrance to the CMC cafeteria; (2) did the professor try to shut down a pre-approved, peaceful demonstration; (3) did the student say “I will hunt you down” before the professor called him a “f[expletive deleted little cockroach,” if at all, and did the professor know that the student demonstrator was of Arab Palestinian heritage.

There have been several investigations of the incident.  One investigation was conducted by Claremont McKenna College, the school at which the demonstration and the incident at issue occurred and at which the professor, Yaron Raviv, is a faculty member.  A second investigation was conducted by Pitzer College, a member of the Claremont University 5 school Consortium.  Most of the students involved in the “Israeli checkpoint street theater demonstration” on March 4 were Pitzer students, and the one involved in the confrontation at issue, Najib Hamideh, is a Pitzer junior.

The school officials have been completely closed-mouthed, referring reporters to their respective communications officers.  The communications officers, in turn, refuse to say anything more than that they “stand by” the statement issued by each school upon the completion of their respective investigations.

And even more unfortunately, the investigations of the two schools concluded with conflicting factual findings, even though, presumably, the two schools were able to share any and all information, witnesses and documents, and both schools stated that they cooperated with each other.

The next article will look more closely at the different reviews and sets of findings, but the final review for Claremont McKenna found that: (1) Professor Raviv’s language was inappropriate and unprofessional, but, given the context, did not constitute a violation of the school’s harassment policy; (2) the SJP event was not in compliance with Claremont’s Demonstrations Policy because the demonstrators blocked access to the cafeteria and impeded with students’ freedom of movement; and (3) Prof. Raviv did not improperly interfere with or attempt to stop the event.

Pitzer College, however, found that (1) there was no violation of Claremont’s Demonstrations Policy, and (2) the professor used inappropriate, insulting and hostile language against the student and there has not been a public apology.

Pitzer College’s finding that the SJP students had not violated the demonstration policy nor done anything that was inappropriate because they moved each of the three times they were asked to do so.

Is there anyway to determine what actually happened? Is there a way to come to a conclusion about what is most likely to have occurred, one that isn’t simply based on predilections for believing either a pro-Israel or a pro-Arab Palestinian point of view?

The different pieces of information, the veracity of those who testified or who are now talking about the incident and the bases for the differences in the findings of the two schools will be examined.  But there are many other issues that should be considered.

How did the Israeli professor become involved?  What is his background? Was he wise to intervene or, given the refusal of the pro-Israel students to speak up on his behalf after, according to him,even though he only became involved because they sought his help – that’s worthy of attention.

How and why and what does it mean that a Jewish Pitzer professor has inserted himself into the incident, acting as an adviser and advocate for Hamideh.  That’s worthy of attention.  Are his statements and revelations entirely trustworthy? What motivates him, how emblematic is he, who counters him on the other side?

What role did the film “5 Broken Cameras” play in this drama, and how is it playing out in other areas where it is shown?  The SJP students watched a screening of the film just a few hours after the street theater demonstration, the Jewish Pitzer professor talked quite a bit about the film’s significance, at least one college student reporter was influenced by the film and its impact infiltrated the interview she conducted with Raviv, shortly after the incident.  The impact of this film on how the Arab-Israeli conflict is treated on campuses is another lens through which we will look.

To conclude this article, it is worth looking at a piece of objective evidence which puts into question one claim made by the student, and it is the basis for the allegation of racism against Prof. Raviv, something that he says has harmed him already.

Najib Hamideh claims that when Raviv called him a cockroach, that was a racial slur.  Dan Segal, an anthropology professor at Pitzer and someone who had been acting as an advocate for Hamideh, insists the term is racist, because, as he told The Jewish Press, “calling a Palestinian student a cockroach, in this racially charged atmosphere, was racist, because language takes its meaning in context.”  Segal insisted that given that Raviv “is a staunch, uncritical defender of the state of Israel,” his use of the word turns it into a dehumanizing and demeaning term.

But that argument only works at all if Raviv knew Hamideh was of Arab Palestinian descent.  Raviv insists he did not have any idea what Hamideh’s racial heritage was.

Segal insists Raviv had to know.  Why? “Because,” Segal told The Jewish Press, “the student identified as a Palestinian, he was at a pro-Palestinian event and he was wearing the scarf [keffiya].  Segal insisted, although he admitted not being present, that Hamideh was wearing a keffiya.

Raviv told The Jewish Press that Hamideh was definitely not wearing a keffiya.  How can he be so sure?

“I know he wasn’t wearing a keffiya, for sure, for two reasons.  One, the student was engaged in street theater pretending to be an IDF soldier, he was dressed as an IDF soldier, of course he was not wearing a keffiya.  The second reason is that Raviv saw Hamideh at the event, and “he was not wearing the scarf, the keffiya.”  A picture of Hamideh at the Israeli checkpoint demonstration is at the top of this article and below.

Najib Hamideh and other SJP students at Claremont McKenna College, after mock Israeli checkpoint demonstration, March 4, 2013

Najib Hamideh and other SJP students at Claremont McKenna College, after mock Israeli checkpoint demonstration, March 4, 2013


Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Dustin Hoffman a No-Show, But Sent Love via Audio to Israel-Hater

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Dustin Hoffman did not make it to the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s 22nd Annual Media Affairs Gala in Los Angeles this past Saturday night.  As reported in The Jewish Press, Hoffman was scheduled to present MPAC’s Media Award to Emad Burnat, the co-director of the Arab Palestinian propaganda film “5 Broken Cameras.”

That film is riddled with half-truths and full omissions, but because it fits the standard Hollywood position of “Israel bad, Arab Palestinians good,” its lack of veracity and documentary standards did not prevent it from being nominated this year for an Academy Award for “Best Documentary.”  At least it did not win.

But Dustin Hoffman seemed to be an odd choice as the presenter of the award on behalf of the Muslim Public Affairs Council – he is neither Muslim or Arab, nor is he Middle Eastern.  In fact, the only connection between Hoffman and either the movie “5 Broken Cameras” or the Arab-Israeli conflict – which is the topic of the film – is that he is Jewish.

Because Hoffman had – or so the story goes – “contracted a very serious virus,” he did not show up at the Gala Saturday night.  Perhaps someone with an actual yiddishe kupf advised Hoffman it may not be the best move of his career to appear in promotional pictures with the MPAC leader, Salam al-Marayati.

That’s because Salam al-Marayati tried to blame the 9/11 attacks on Israel and has lobbied the U.S. government to remove Hamas, Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad from its Foreign Terrorist Organization list.  Who knows how pictures of Hoffman at the MPAC Gala might have been used later to boost the legitimacy of MPAC.  “See? Dustin Hoffman – and everyone knows he’s a Jew! – loves us, we must be good.”

Hoffman’s taped message of congratulations to Burnat was played at the Gala, and MPAC posted it online.  Based on what he says in the brief message, Hoffman appears to have either watched the movie or at least read what it was about.  It also appears he made no effort to determine whether the film was a truthful documentary or a mere propaganda film.  This is the message Hoffman sent:

Hello, this is Dustin Hoffman.  I’m sorry that illness has made it impossible for me to be with you tonight, and that I am compelled to speak to you through this recorded message. I had been looking very forward [SIC] to being the one who, as a fellow artist, would present the award to Emad Burnat and “5 Broken Cameras,” a film he co-directed. It was for me a most powerful, moving and sometimes a very tender film and in it he demonstrates, I think, out of the texture of his own life experience, in the village of Bi’ilin, that his is, indeed, a voice of courage and conscience.  Courage and conscience – those are virtues so greatly needed for this troubled and confusing time.  Wherever we find them, they should be embraced and celebrated and that’s why I am so thrilled that “5 Broken Cameras” and Emad Burnat are being honored – it is so well deserved.  Emad, congratulations, and I hope to see you soon.  Thank you.

Courage and conscience?  Actually watching the film and making an effort to determine its veracity might warrant such weighty words.

But MPAC and Burnat, both of whom were probably disappointed that their opportunity to have a real live famous Jewish movie star pose for pictures with them, were not deterred. In fact, they had another Jew on hand to present the award. Quoting surah 3, ayahs 113-115, MPAC President Salam Al-Marayati introduced Rabbi Leonard Beerman, to present the award to Burnat.

The 91 year-old Beerman is on the J Street Advisory Council, was on the rabbinic cabinet of the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace before it merged with J Street, and in 2009 signed a public letter opposing Israel’s policy in Gaza, which stated, in part,


As human beings, we are shocked and appalled at the mass destruction unleashed by the State of Israel against the people of Gaza in its military operation, following years of Israeli occupation, siege, and deprivation.

As Americans, we protest the carte blanche given Israel by the US government to pursue a war of “national honor,” “restoring deterrence,” “destroying Hamas,” and “searing Israel’s military might into the consciousness of the Gazans.

“My camera is a strong weapon and a strong witness,” Burnat said upon receiving the award.

“We should tell our stories before others hijack them. I got the idea to make this film from one of my friends who said ‘Why don’t you make a film about us, who live here? You know how it is to live under the pressure, under the army, under the occupation.’

“I did this film from my point of view, from my heart, from my mind. I’m very happy because the message was sent to the world, and everybody was shocked and moved by its story.”

No doubt especially shocked were the many members of the Israel Defense Forces who appear in the film which, they claim, was spliced and edited into such a distortion of reality that an organization which represents IDF members and alumni has asked the Israeli Attorney General’s office to bring charges of slander and incitement against the filmmakers.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Dustin Hoffman – Latest Jew to Give Israel-Hater an Award

Friday, April 26th, 2013

America’s favorite serious Jewish actor for much of the 1960’s and ’70’s, Dustin Hoffman, is about to present an award to a filmmaker at an event put on by the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

The recipient of the award is a professional Israel hater, and MPAC is led by someone who publicly suggested Israel was to blame for 9/11 and who advocates for the removal of Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad from the American terrorism list.  With Jews like Dustin Hoffman, who needs enemies?

This Saturday, April 27, Dustin Hoffman will appear at MPAC’s Media Award Gala in Los Angeles to present MPAC’s Media Award to the anti-Israel film “5 Broken Cameras.”  According to MPAC, Hoffman is a “supporter of the documentary.”

The objective of  “5 Broken Cameras,” like that of so many Pallywood videos, is to portray Arabs as the innocent victims of the rapacious Israel.  This movie began as video clips of the protests that were submitted as “evidence” to Israeli courts and handed over to be used by mainstream media to show the sad plight of the Arabs.  The videos which then became this movie were taken and put together by someone participating on one side of a propaganda war, and not by an objective film maker seeking to document reality – as is the role of documentaries – that fact should have sounded alarm bells for a professional actor of Hoffman’s stature.

In his very first film, “The Graduate,” (1967), Hoffman played a recent college graduate whose parents expect him to do great things, but who was stuck in an emotional and motivational dead zone.  His character, Benjamin Braddock, is turned off by the plastic values of his parents’ generation, but has no passion or interests to replace them.  And so he is portrayed floating in his parents’ swimming pool, suspended below the water, cocooned in indifference, pondering the bizarre lecture given to him by a family friend about “plastics.”

Over the course of his career, Hoffman’s extraordinary roles included the disabled homeless vet Ratzo Rizzo, in “Midnight Cowboy” (1969), the highly talented yet self-destructive break-through comedian Lenny Bruce in “Lenny” (1974).  Hoffman won an Oscar for portraying a newly divorced father painfully attempting to know his young son in “Kramer v. Kramer” (1979), and was nominated for an Oscar for playing the opportunistically gender-bending actor/actress title role in “Tootsie!” (1982).

Hoffman’s stature as a great actor continued into the late 1980’s – he was riveting as an autistic man, Raymond Babbit, in “Rain Main,” for which he won his second Oscar (1988).  Hoffman’s movie roles have become more sporadic and less artistically and financially successful in recent years.

Perhaps that explains why he was willing to be used as the latest in a long series of Jewish “fig leaves,” for anti-Israel projects.  There seems to be no other reason why the Muslim Public Affairs Council would call upon Hoffman to present an award for a documentary film which portrays Israel in the worst possible light, with no balance or nuance.

Hoffman has never been involved in Middle East issues or interests – other than co-starring in a disastrous film set in Morocco. “Ishtar” (1987) was described in London’s Time Out as “so bad it could almost have been deliberate.”

There had been a rumor – which caught fire and remains rampant on the Internet – that Hoffman snubbed Israel and pulled out of appearing at a Jerusalem Film Festival in 2010 in the wake of the Gaza flotilla incident. However, Yigal Molad Hayo, the associate director of the Cinematheque at which the festival takes place, was quoted in an article in the Jewish Chronicle that the account had not been accurate, and the discussions with Hoffman had not progressed even before the Mavi Marmara incident.

It isn’t hard to imagine why the Muslim Public Affairs Council would want a famous Jewish actor to give them the kosher certification of acceptability (“Dustin Hoffman, the famous Jewish actor, hangs out with us, we must be fine” is the not-so-subtle message). But why would Hoffman agree to participate?

Hoffman is someone whose Jewishness seems to have played very little role in his life other than as a trigger to anti-Semitic bullies, and the fact that his height, his nose, his nasal voice and his plucky, outsider roles are all stereotypically Jewish.  Hoffman recently spoke about the complete absence of anything Jewish in his life growing up.  He did not become a bar mitzvah and he never learned any Hebrew.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Two Israeli Films Harshly Critical of Israel Get Oscar Nod (+Trailers)

Friday, January 11th, 2013

The nominations for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards best movies of 2012 were announced yesterday, January 10, and two Israeli films are among those nominated.

Of course, both movies portray Israel in a negative light, so calm down before kvelling.

The movies, “5 Broken Cameras,” and “The Gatekeepers,” were both nominated in the category of Best Documentary film.  Both films portray Israelis as primarily violent thugs who are intent on oppressing the Arab Palestinians.

“5 Broken Cameras” is produced and directed by an Arab Palestinian, Emad Burnat, and an Israeli Jew, Guy Davidi.  It won the World Cinema Directing Award at the 2012 Sundance Festival.

Emad Burnat, the storyteller in “5 Broken Cameras,” is from the village of Bil’in, which is the site of a weekly protest by the villagers and numerous activists hungry for fights with Israelis.  The protests are ostensibly about the creation of Israel’s security fence – which opponents often refer to as an “Apartheid wall,” and the film documents these protests.  The 5 broken cameras in the movie’s title refer, according to Burnat, to five different cameras of his which have been broken by the Israelis in  “brutal” attempts to squash the Arabs’ “non-violent” protests.

No doubt the true story behind the death of Jawaher abu Rahma, on December 31, 2010, was not included in the movie.  But the story behind her death might do a better job of educating the world about the conflict than a movie like “5 Broken Cameras,” which simply promotes the standard, one-sided, often false, understanding of the conflict.

Abu Rahma’s death made headlines because it was claimed that the 36 year old woman was killed by tear gas thrown by Israelis who were trying to control one of the “non-violent” demonstrations at Bil’in.  As was eventually revealed only through the piecing together of information that few wanted to see the light of day, it turns out that abu Rahma was not even at the Bil’in demonstration on the day she was allegedly killed by the Israeli tear gas. Instead, it appears that she died as the result of medical malpractice at a Ramallah hospital, where she was taken for an unrelated medical issue.

It is hard to believe that “5 Broken Cameras” would have been considered for Academy Award status were it not in lock-step with the glitterati world view of the Arab-Israel conflict: Arab good and non-violent, Israeli oppressive, brutal occupiers.

The film has been used by its creators to “expose” Israel as a brutal force, and Davidi in particular seems determined to ensure as many young Israelis as possible see the film so that they, like he did, will refuse to serve in the IDF.  As the radical-left +972 site reported:

Guy Davidi has decided to take this film and use it as an educational tool to try and raise awareness among Israelis, most of whom either haven’t heard of Bil’in or don’t really know (or believe) exactly what has gone on there. The Education Ministry’s “culture basket,” which determines which films and other media and programming are introduced in Israeli schools, doesn’t take politically charged films – certainly not one like this, which exposes the darkest sides of the IDF’s violent, illegal and unethical conduct – and which shouldn’t be surprising considering that Education Minister Gidon Sa’ar is behind instituting Israeli school trips to occupied Hebron, and the effort to open a university in the settlement of Ariel.

Davidi is therefore launching a campaign to try and bring the movie to Israeli schools, to teenagers who are gearing up for their army service. If he cannot do it through Israel’s formal educational institutions, then he is doing it informally, through independent initiatives.

No doubt the Oscar nomination will make Davidi’s goals even easier to achieve, with star-struck Israelis and American Jews preening over an Israeli film making it to “the big time.”

The second movie selected for the Best Documentary category, “The Gatekeepers,” also presents Israel in the caricatured fashion the world has come to expect, as peopled by brutal thugs whose goal in life is to do nothing more than make the lives of the poor, non-violent Arabs as difficult as possible. This film, directed by Dror Moreh, takes interviews with all six surviving directors of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, and intersperses the interviews with newsreels and bomb sites.  “The Gatekeepers” was named the best nonfiction film of 2012 by the National Society of Film Critics in the United States.

The movie site, Slant, provides a fairly good example of how many people who are even slightly inclined towards seeing Israel in the worst possible light, will understand “The Gatekeepers”:

Moreh’s not so lucky. As skilled an interviewer and documentarian as he may be, he’s squaring off against intelligence officers who didn’t just execute systematic torture, abuse, and other “enhanced interrogation techniques,” but devised them. And even when the so-called Gatekeepers offer up damning testimony against their organization, there’s no real threat that they’ll ever be held accountable for it. Rather, their willful participation in this documentary seems to function as a form of tacit forgiveness, rendering all the un-redacted revelations contained within doubly disquieting.

What a shame that a truly lovely film by Rana Burshtein, “Fill the Void,” about the charedi world in Tel Aviv, did not make the cut in the Academy Award’s foreign language category.


5 Broken Cameras trailer


The Gatekeepers trailer


Fill the Void trailer

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/two-israeli-films-harshly-critical-of-israel-get-oscar-nod/2013/01/11/

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