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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Brandeis University’

Dear Fred Lawrence, President of Brandeis University

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

An Open Letter to the President of Brandeis University

Dear President Lawrence:

I do not want to take up too much of your time. I understand that you are a busy man and that you have been tasked with running a university whose tradition of upholding excellence and moral resoluteness traces back to the days of its founding.  But it is in that same spirit of excellence that I feel compelled–as a simple citizen of this great country–to question your recent decision to rescind the honorary degree you were initially going to bestow upon Ms. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a human rights activist and feminist who has done so much to advance the cause of women’s rights in the world.

I understand that there are students at Brandeis University who take issue with Ms. Hirsi Ali’s views on Islam and the Muslim world. Moreover, many in the muslim community feel offended and insulted by her views on this topic. Indeed, they have pressured you into making this decision.

What a beautiful country we live in, President Lawrence, where students and citizens are able to voice their opinions in a free and open society. Yet here is a stark irony. These students have the temerity to critique someone because of her views, but they do not see fit in affording her the same right to critique views she too deems insulting. In making your decision you have chosen to sanction one topic of criticism while denying the right of individuals to criticize another.

But sir, you must see the moral ramifications of the decision you have made. It is a question of priorities and you have tragically made the mistake of choosing the wrong one. In choosing to revoke the honorary degree that Ms. Hirsi Ali so richly deserves, you have implicitly placed greater value upon the “feelings” of individuals over the lives of hundreds of thousands of women around the world. Those criticizing her here, in America, have the privilege of living in a society where they are able to speak. But who will speak for the others?

Who will speak for Sarah and Amina Said, two teenagers in the prime of their life who were murdered by their father in 2008 in Texas, their bodies left bloodied and mutilated in a Taxi cab because they were considered to be too “Western.” Will you speak for them sir, or is that too going to be found to be too “insulting” to certain individuals to discuss? Will that also be too “offensive” to be grappled with?

Who will speak for Morsal, a German Afghani young woman of 16, stabbed twenty-times in a parking lot by her brother? Who will speak for Rasha Abu Arra killed in the West Bank in a so-called “honor killing.” She was a mother of six children and her body was left hanging on a tree. She could not exercise her right to free speech. She could not exercise her right to disagree. She could not exercise her right to freely express. So who will speak for her? Will you speak for her? Or are the petty hurt feelings of dissenting naysayers worth more than her life?

Who will speak for Leyla Hussein, whose genitals were ripped open and sliced apart with a blade when she was only 7 years old in Somalia? Will you speak for her, Mr. Lawrence? Or will you simply tell her that this issue cannot be discussed and that a woman who takes up her cause and the cause of thousands of other women cannot be heard because people take “offense” to her.

Will you speak for Ayesha, forced into a marriage by her family in Pakistan and repeatedly raped during a four month ordeal? She did not have the luxury of worrying about “offending” people by her speech since her freedom was snatched away from her as her husband forced himself on her routinely.

Brandeis Caves to Pressure, Withdraws Honor to Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

In a complete collapse of rectitude, Brandeis University’s president Fred Lawrence issued a statement on Tuesday evening, April 8, announcing the withdrawal of women’s and human rights champion Ayaan Hirsi Ali as a recipient of an honorary degree from the school at this year’s commencement.

For two days Muslim students and supporters raged against the decision to honor Ali because, they claimed, she is Islampohobic.

Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia. In 1992 she escaped an impending arranged marriage to a relative, running to the Netherlands, where she learned the language and established a life. She rose to become a member of the Dutch parliament, where she worked to further the integration of non-Western immigrants into Dutch society.

In 2004, Ali made a film with her friend, Theo Van Gogh. That film, “Submission,” is about the oppression of women in conservative Islamic cultures.

After “Submission” was aired on Dutch television, an Islamic extremist murdered Van Gogh who was enraged by the portrayal of Islam.  A letter pinned to his body contained a death threat to Ali. She eventually fled Holland and Ayaan Hirsi Ali now lives in the United States.

Ali evolved from being a devout Muslim to one who questioned her faith, to ultimately and resolutely rejecting it.

“I left the world of faith, of genital cutting and forced marriage for the world of reason and emancipation. After making this voyage I know that one of these two worlds is simply better than the other. Not for its gaudy gadgetry, but for its fundamental values.” That is a quote from Ali’s book, “Infidel.”

Ali has been extremely and indeed harshly critical of the Islamic world in which she suffered, both as a child in Africa, and also as a hunted creature, in Holland, from the angry immigrants who brought with them to Europe a profound inability to accept criticism of Islam.

And now, here in America, Ali is still being hounded by those who refuse to live by the standards of the West, of tolerance, of robust confrontations, but ones not knife-edged with intimidation.

The Facebook Page denouncing Ali and the decision to honor her at Brandeis’s 2014 Commencement decried her for her “hate speech.” The Muslim Students Association claimed that honoring her “is a direct violation of Brandeis University’s own moral code as well as the rights of all Brandeis students.”

Most chillingly, while the students acknowledged Ali had experienced “terrible things in her life,” their bottom line was “we will not tolerate an attack at our faith.”

And so they issued a fatwa: the invitation to Ali had to be rescinded. The school newspaper, The Justice (yes, the irony!) ran both a “news article” and an editorial denouncing the decision to give Ali an honorary degree.

Brandeis University president Fred Lawrence echoed the students (and a large number of faculty members, including the Women’s Studies professors) in his statement:

Following a discussion today between President Frederick Lawrence and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ms. Hirsi Ali’s name has been withdrawn as an honorary degree recipient at this year’s commencement. She is a compelling public figure and advocate for women’s rights, and we respect and appreciate her work to protect and defend the rights of women and girls throughout the world. That said, we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.  For all concerned, we regret that we were not aware of these statements earlier.

Commencement is about celebrating and honoring our extraordinary students and their accomplishments, and we are committed to providing an atmosphere that allows our community’s focus to be squarely on our students. In the spirit of free expression that has defined Brandeis University throughout its history, Ms. Hirsi Ali is welcome to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue about these important issues.

In other words, Ali’s decades of devotion to helping women enslaved by misogynistic practitioners of the Muslim faith – who dominate the governments of Muslim countries – was neutered by the pronunciamento by students that they “would not tolerate an attack on [their] faith.” And in still other words, on American campuses criticism of religion – which has been a fixture of campus life – is no longer permitted. What words, what thoughts will be deemed unacceptable next?

A Response to Thomas Friedman: We Need More Sheldon Adelsons

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

In Sunday’s edition of the New York Times, Thomas Friedman wrote a scathing column against Israel’s foremost supporters and lovers. Friedman’s column is a hit piece meant to serve as fodder for some of the NY Times’ anti-Israel and left-wing readership. But instead of delving into the author’s motives for writing the piece, I’d like to examine the various claims he makes.

The thesis of his column is that Sheldon Adelson’s “loving Israel to death” serves Iran’s interests and makes Adelson “Iran’s Best Friend.” What an absolutely pathetic and fallacious claim.

I have the great privilege of knowing Sheldon Adelson personally. There is nobody in the philanthropic arm of the Jewish community that has been a more vocal opponent of Khameini and Iran than Sheldon.

We in the Jewish community know that there are few things Khameini and his ilk hate more than the idea of promoting Jewish continuity and preserving the memory of the Holocaust. On that note, there is nobody who has invested more dollars into both of these initiatives than have Sheldon and Miriam Adelson.

When it comes to promoting Jewish continuity, the Adelsons have served as the principal supporters of Birthright Israel – thereby responsible for sending over 350,000 young Jews from across the world to experience their birthright firsthand. Surely we can agree that Khameini and his adherents seek more than just the delegitimization and destruction of Israel; but also the destruction of the Jewish people.

Then there is the Adelsons’ investment of tens of millions of dollars toward preserving the memory of the Holocaust. They have done this to not only ensure that members of my generation never forget about the slaughtering of 6 million Jews, but to also educate the senseless and intellectually dishonest Jew-haters about the Holocaust, many of whom are found in the Iranian leadership.

It’s no secret that Rouhani is a Holocaust denier. Perhaps Mr. Friedman could please explain how Mr. Adelson’s gift of $25 million to Yad Vashem, the largest in the museum’s history, makes Adelson “Iran’s best friend.” I would instead posit that these two major philanthropic endeavors that the Adelsons have proudly taken upon themselves make Khameini and Rouhani cringe – as they should.

Friedman goes on to talk about the so called “occupied territories” and how the continuation of such a policy under the auspices of the Israeli government is what is truly responsible for the BDS campaign and the world’s increased hostility toward Israel. This is evidence that what Mr. Friedman needs more than anything else is a history lesson.

The West Bank or Judea and Samaria were not lands that Israel conquered through a war of its own choosing. Instead, Israel captured these lands from the actual illegal occupiers of it, the Jordanians, the ones who attacked Israel and forced her into battle there in 1967. The term “occupied territories” is therefore a farce, one designed to delegitimize Israel, much like the BDS campaign and its proponents.

Perhaps Friedman should reassess which team he belongs to; is it the Adelson camp? One that supports and loves Israel to the point of courageously standing against its enemies even when it means being subjected to the wrath of some in the mainstream press. Or instead, does Friedman belong to the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign camp, a camp that does not include supporters of Israel? Should Friedman be counted amongst those working vociferously to delegitimize Israel by continuing to harp on the fallacious claim that the Israelis are “occupiers?”

Mr. Friedman, as a current student of your Alma Mater, Brandeis University, I can tell you with full confidence that the BDS campaign has little to do with the reality of life in the so-called “occupied territories” and is instead rooted in pure Jew hatred. I urge you to visit some college campuses next year during Israel Apartheid Week so that you can witness this first-hand. The folks behind the BDS effort aren’t looking for peace. They are merely anti-Semites trying to conceal their genuine motives through a campaign that folks of your stature have deemed to be, and thereby appear to make, credible.

Brandeis Senior Makes $5k Challenge to Apartheid Week Promoters

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Why is the ardently pro-Israel Jewish senior at Brandeis University, Joshua Nass, offering $5000 to promoters of anti-Israel propaganda?

The answer is, Nass wants whoever deceitfully inserted a news clip of him into a promotional trailer for Israeli Apartheid Week to come out of hiding, admit his wrong doing, and debate Nass in the public square.

Joshua Nass, a native New Yorker, is now in his senior year at Brandeis University, located in Waltham, Massachusetts. Nass is unusual in many ways. He began his own non-profit organization – Voices of Conservative Youth – he has appeared on Fox News dozens of times, and he has his own YouTube channel.

On national television, Nass has debated such hot topics as whether or not Obamacare will lead to job loss, how the Republican party needs to focus more on smaller government and less on social wedge issues, and on the marketing of Obamacare.

On Jan. 2, 2014, Nass was on Varney & Company with Stuart Varney, on the Fox Business Channel.

Nass was on air speaking about the decision of the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli academic institutions, and the response by (at that time, it’s now well more than doubled) more than 90 university presidents, who rejected the ASA’s boycott.

Varney was incredulous that the boycott of Israel proponents had gotten a toehold onto the American college campuses. Nass explained that this effort was rooted in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, which had met with some success in Europe.

“The BDS movement is rooted in intellectual dishonesty. They try portraying the Israelis as occupiers, there is no such thing as Israeli occupiers, there is no such thing as occupied territories, there is no such thing, in my opinion, as disputed territories,” Nass explained.

Varney says, “Five thousand American academics voted to boycott Israel? It is absolutely incomprehensible, that the only democracy of any sort in the Middle East, the only one, and they are going to boycott it?” and Nass responds, nodding, “it is astounding.”

The clip goes on a bit, with Nass ultimately ending the segment by calling on the universities to fire every academic who voted in favor of the boycott.

Nass thought he was done with that segment, until he was riding in a bus on his way back to Brandeis this past Sunday, Feb. 23. As he was riding, he received an email from someone he knew back in sixth grade. Nass hadn’t heard from the guy in all those years, so when he read the email, which said “Josh, when did you start working for the other side?” he was doubly confused.

The friend from his past forwarded a promotional clip for the upcoming Israel Apartheid Week. In it, Nass appears, nodding, as if he is in agreement with the views of those promoting BDS and Apartheid Week.

Nass was incensed.

Since Sunday, Nass has received dozens of emails, asking him how he could be promoting the BDS movement and supporting those that say Israel is an Apartheid state.

“To be honest, it has been gratifying to publicly and resoundingly reject any association with that despicable movement,” Nass told The Jewish Press on Tuesday afternoon, “and it is helpful to be able to show, point blank, how desperate and despicable are the people behind the BDS movement.”

“Still, it is beyond distasteful to in any way be associated with those who spew such thinly veiled anti-Semitism.”

When asked why he thought the clip of him was inserted into footage that include such outspoken opponents of Israel as Roger Waters, Stephen Hawking and Fareed Zakaria, Nass had an interesting reply.

Mandela Grandson at Brandeis Disses US, Israel, Insults China

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

It was the kind of opportunity most Jewish institutions are incapable of passing up. Two of the grandsons of the iconic Nelson Mandela,  Ndaba Mandela and Kweku Mandela-Amuah, agreed to share the keynote speech at Brandeis University’s annual celebration of “social justice,” in an event known as the “Deis Impact.

It happened on Wednesday, Feb. 5, in the ballroom of the school’s student center. The two grandsons gave the keynote speech(es) in collaboration with the Ruth First Memorial Lecture, which is sponsored by the Brandeis African and Afro-American Studies Department.

The topic of the talks was “Africa Rising: The Mandela Legacy and the Next Generation of African Leadership.”

Africa Rising is the name of the foundation created in 2010 by the two Mandela grandsons to “create a new legacy and understanding of Africa as a continent showcasing the tremendous potential and unprecedented growth.”

Andrew Flagel, the school’s senior vice president for students and enrollment, sounded elated as he gave a preliminary introduction to the event. He talked about the social justice festival, begun 3 years ago, which is distinctive because it is “university funded, but student organized.”

Flagel talked about the incorporation of the arts, music, film, global justice, ethnicity, into Deis Impact, and how it is all about delving into the meaning of social justice.

Following Flagel, the student union president, Ricky Rosen, introduced the two speakers. Rosen spoke about what distinguishes Brandeis from other small liberal arts schools in the Boston area.

What did the Brandeis Student Union president come up with? That Brandeis is “unconventional.” Not only is Brandeis unconventional, but the students are intensely proud of being that way.

Rosen described Brandeis students’ unconventionality by comparing what they do with walking the wrong way on an escalator, or swimming against the tide, working harder to get anywhere. That sounds admirable. It’s really hard, especially for young people, to swim against the tide.

But do they?

What does not sound so great is the kind of reaction the Brandeis audience gave to one of the Mandela grandsons, when he went through a litany of the kinds of discrimination to be challenged in the world.

The Mandela grandsons are not the great orators their grandfather was, but they are young and they will get much more practice as they continue on their lofty quest.  Their goal is nothing less than to create the great African Dream.

First Kweku Mandela-Amuah spoke. He is the less forceful speaker of the two cousins, but he is a film producer and director, with his own production company, Out of Africa Entertainment.

The second Mandela grandson to speak, Ndaba, is a more relaxed, natural speaker. He was a political consultant at the Embassy of Japan in Pretoria, and his attempts to engage and energize the audience met with some success.

Ndaba Mandela started with a classic public speaking rhythm: you give the crowd a tagline, and then wait for them to understand it comes after every pause.

The tagline this Mandela was teaching at the Brandeis Social Justice event was “That is discrimination.”  He preached a descriptive line about governmental authority or oppression, and the tagline was “That is discrimination.” This is what he said:

Discrimination is the enemy of social justice.

Multinational companies mining gold in Australia, on land that historically belongs to the indigenous  people, the Aboriginals, which are making billions, while the Aboriginal people make nothing and the government says zero….That is discrimination.

When Africans from North and West Africa and France are consistently harassed, victimized and searched on the streets by police…That is discrimination.

Brandeis Paid Former President Reinharz $811,000 for Unused Sabbatical

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

Brandeis University disclosed that it paid former university president Jehuda Reinharz $811,000 for accumulated sabbatical leave that he never took during his 17-year presidency.

The payment was part of a $4.9 million lump sum payment Reinharz received Jan. 2 as deferred compensation, according to a statement issued by Brandeis.

The amounts paid were set aside in previous years’ budgets and will not impact the university’s current finances, Brandeis said.

The voluntary announcement came as part of changes to the school’s executive compensation policies, unanimously approved on Jan. 22 by its board of trustees. Among the changes are a commitment to full transparency about compensation and inclusion of a faculty representative on the compensation committee.

The changes follow a harsh and vocal backlash against the school by alumni, faculty and students after disclosures about Reinharz’s pay since leaving the presidency in 2010.

Reinharz reportedly receives more than $600,000 a year in retirement pay. According to the Boston Globe, Reinharz has earned at least $1.2 million for part-time advisory work since stepping down as president at the end of 2010.

“Our new policies set very high standards,” said Perry Traquina, the university’s board chair.

Addressing the controversial payments for the first time, Brandeis University president Frederick Lawrence said, “I welcome the thoughtful approach taken by our board. Our intention is that these changes will put Brandeis on the leading edge in terms of governance best practices.”

Faculty Senate president Eric Chasolow told the Boston Globe that while the accumulated payment is a “very bitter pill for the faculty to swallow,” he hopes the changes will help avoid a similar situation in the future.

The Trustees also announced that Reinharz, who it credits with an unprecedented campus expansion and more than quadrupling the school’s endowment, will maintain his half-time appointment on the faculty through 2024, at an annual salary of $180,000.

Reinharz is also director of the Tauber Institute and also chairs the advisory board for Brandeis’ Crown Center for Middle East Studies.

J Street, Marginalized in D.C., Leeching into the Hillels

Friday, January 24th, 2014

The controversial organization J Street had its first annual conference in 2009.  The organization initially snagged a large number of members of congress to speak at the conference, and an even larger number to merely allow their names to be used as “co-sponsors” of its Gala. But when word got out that despite its self-description as a “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization, most pro-Israel folks – including the actual Israeli government – had quite the opposite view of the organization, many congressional members beat a hasty retreat.

J Street has had its public ups, and even more public downs, with Americans who believe themselves to be pro-Israel. There was the revelation that while J Street said the virulently anti-Israel George Soros was not a donor, in fact J Street’s tax records proved that not only he, but members of his family were bankrolling the organization. There was also the J Street claim that the vast majority of its donors were American Jews, when it was later revealed that there were quite a few non-Jewish donors, and actually the largest donor for at least one year was neither Jewish nor American.  The list goes on.

J Street has recently been reduced to publicly crowing not about how many members of congress were willing to speak at its conference, but instead how many were willing to take its money. Imagine that! your biggest achievement is that a politician was willing to take your money.

But as J Street was slowly eased out of its comfort zone in Washington, D.C., it proved itself to be very adaptable. It oozed out into the countryside, where it was harder to mobilize a critical mass of knowledgeable critics.  At least in part because of that diffusion, J Street found homes at the municipal level. The Big Tent approach of most mainstream Jewish Federations was a tremendous boon, even more so are the fecund, ultra-liberal, anti-authoritarian pastures known as university campuses.

While some Hillels were initially wary, others were welcoming.

One Hillel which initially responded to J Street’s approach very gingerly was the Hillel of Greater Philadelphia, a Hillel whose campuses include not only the University of Pennsylvania, but also Temple University, Drexel University, Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College and Swarthmore College, as well as some smaller schools.

J Street approached HGP and asked to have the roll-out of its local J Streets hosted at the University of Pennsylvania Hillel, on Feb. 4, 2010. The roll-out was going to be webcast to 20 other cities across the country. The HGP leadership, anticipating the objection of at least some board members, extracted a firm commitment from J Street Chief Jeremy Ben-Ami. That commitment was an element of an agreement to rent the space to J Street as part of a business transaction. It was affirmatively not an ideological vote of confidence.

Not to worry, said J Street to the local Hillel leadership: “We promise not to mention that we’re using your facility, and to make clear in our written and oral statements that Hillel does not endorse us.”  That condition was agreed upon—it was “not just a promise, it was an agreement”—according to Rabbi Howard Alpert, the executive director of all the Philadelphia area Hillels.  On the strength of that essential agreement, Hillel went ahead and rented J Street its space.

And then? Within seconds of beginning his welcome to the live audience in Philadelphia and to all those listening and watching through the livestreaming, J Street’s Ben-Ami said exactly what he’d promised not to say—that he was speaking “here at Penn Hillel.” He failed to say a word about what he’d promised solemnly to make clear: that Hillel does not endorse J Street or its message.

(Even More of) 2013′s Bright Pro-Israel Lights on US Campuses

Monday, January 6th, 2014

There were so many new and/or successful pro-Israel initiatives on U.S. campuses in 2013, that, in order to explain how creative and successful each one was, we had to divide the article into a two-part series.

This is the second part, the first ran on December 31, “Guess What: 2013 was a Great Pro-Israel Year on US Campuses!

Most of the stars reported here were born out of some stalwart’s refusal to allow the anti-Israel forces to get away with the kind of mischief they have enjoyed for far too long on far too many campuses.

Hat’s off to the initial seven and to the following five:

8.  A brand new, student conceived of and run organization was created in late 2013 in response to a specific event, but so generalizable, it’s a surprise it took this long for pro-Israel students on U.S. campuses to create.

The name of this new initiative is Students for Accuracy about Israeli and Palestinian Affairs. According to Daniel Mael, co-founder and Brandeis University junior from Newton, Massachusetts, SAIPA was not created as a “hasbara” organization. Instead, it is intended to ensure that public conversations or events about the Arab-Israeli conflict take place before an audience that has been provided with accurate facts and appropriate context.

Think of SAIPA as a CAMERA-like organization that deals with campus events about the Middle East, rather than with media coverage of the Middle East.

Mael, whose op-ed in The Jewish Press described a pro-Israel event at Brandeis last spring that went wrong and which was one of the main inspirations for SAIPA, and co-founder and fellow Brandesian Guy Morag launched SAIPA in October. It became an approved student organization at Brandeis in December.

9. Tammy Rossman-Benjamin teaches Hebrew Language at the University of California, Santa Cruz.  A few years ago she and a colleague, Leila Beckwith, started the AMCHA Initiative, the mission of which is to  investigate, document, educate about, and combat antisemitism on U.S. college campuses.  If this list were not year-specific, the AMCHA Initiative would be on the list. But what Rossman-Benjamin did in her personal capacity in 2013 has earned her a spot.

The Hebrew professor originally filed a Complaint alleging anti-Jewish discrimination by California colleges in 2009.  But the Office of Civil Rights, the entity which has jurisdiction over such claims, rejected Rossman-Benjamin’s complaint and two others alleging anti-Semitism at California campuses this summer.  Rossman-Benjamin refused to accept the dismissal.

The mistakes made by the OCR which Rossman-Benjamin pointed out in the appeal she filed in October – ones that are made constantly and nearly universally by academic institutions – is the confusion between “free speech” and “academic freedom” to make horrible, false statements about Jews and/or the Jewish state, and support of such events by the academic institutions themselves.  The latter constitutes an element of discriminatory harassment, one that is not blanketed with immunity with constitutional protections, even when those may at times may be applicable for individual speakers.

So whether the Office of Civil Rights is willing to recognize Rossman-Benjamin’s painstakingly thorough appeal as valid, her efforts to require academic institutions as well as the U.S. Office of Civil Rights to apply appropriate legal standards and offer legal protection to victims of anti-Semitic activities on U.S. campuses is heroic and a model to be emulated.

10. An example of pro-Israel (or simply anti-anti-Semitic) activity similar to Rossman-Benjamin’s was undertaken by several pro-Israel Brooklyn College students who refused to accept their ouster from an anti-Israel event on campus.

On February 7, Brooklyn College hosted an event co-sponsored by its own political science department promoting the economic and legal warfare movement against Israel known as BDS (Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against Israel).  Efforts to remove the school’s official promotion of the event went unheeded.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/even-more-of-2013s-bright-pro-israel-lights-on-us-campuses/2014/01/06/

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