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July 3, 2015 / 16 Tammuz, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Brandeis University’

Dear J Street: Time to End the Hypocrisy

Friday, May 9th, 2014

On Friday, April 25, on the way back to his dorm room, Brandeis student Daniel Mael passed a  group of his peers with whom he had previously engaged in civil discourse about the state of Israel and the complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Although they had often disagreed on many aspects of this issue, according to Mael, he felt that it was necessary to extend a hand of graciousness and respect to them in the name of civil and polite discourse. After all it was the Sabbath, and politics should never interfere with showing kindness to your fellow man.

And so, that Friday night, Mael wished these students a “Shabbat Shalom.”  Yet Instead of responding with the same respect and cordiality Mael afforded her, according to witnesses present,  Talia Lepson, a J Street U Brandeis board member, shrieked at Mael, “Jews hate you!” and “You’re a [expletive deleted]bag!” It was also reported that another unidentified male in the group echoed Lepson’s words, again hurling the vulgar epithet at Mael.

Understandably taken aback by this verbal lashing and feeling unsafe in such a hostile environment,  Mael filed an incident report with the university police. He also wrote at length about it on his Facebook page, wondering why this simple act of saying ‘Shabbat Shalom’ elicited such a hateful response. Yet by the time the Sabbath was over, he put the incident out of his mind.  Thinking it had passed, he began to focus on more important things like taking finals and finishing the semester.

But he was wrong.

That following Sunday afternoon, J Street National posted a blog on its website denying the incident had occurred. Moreover, they accused Mael of making up the story and claimed that he was the one harassing them. They wrote that he had engaged in a “campaign of personal intimidation and harassment” and implored others to distance themselves from “this blogger and others with a history of conduct driven by malice and deceit.”

But suggesting that Mael would make up a story which witnesses corroborated and then proceed to report that same story to the police is risible. He would not only be incriminating himself but the people with him who witnessed the incident.

According to Mael, he was deeply upset by this slander. It was bad enough to have been verbally attacked on campus. It was worse to have the perpetrators blatantly lie about it on a national forum and suggest that he should be shunned by the entire Jewish community. This bullying and  intimidation caused him great physical and emotional turmoil.

Unfortunately J Street’s behavior  is typical. Founded in 2008, J Street is an extreme left-wing national advocacy group that claims to be a pro-Israel organization. According to its website, J Street is committed to “fighting for the future of Israel as the democratic homeland of the Jewish people.”

But J Street has lobbied for anti-Israel legislation: it endorsed a North Carolina resolution proposed in 2012 by the North Carolina Democratic Party which called for negotiations with Hamas and it has supported efforts to divide Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.

J Street also has university chapters known as “J Street U” whose students have promoted anti-Israel activity. For example, at UC Berkley, J Street U students have supported the BDS movement, which calls for a boycott of the only Jewish state in the Middle East. Also, just last week at Swarthmore University, J Street U students co-hosted an event with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a rabidly anti-Semitic organization that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state and which also promotes BDS on campuses.

Moreover, J Street has had a history of attacking and maligning its opponents and then, when called out for such behavior, it accuses others of harassment and claims to be the victim. For example, J Street has hosted rabidly anti-Semitic speakers such as Sam Bahour on its national stage. Bahour peddles slanders against the Jewish people, accusing them of engaging in ethnic cleansing and genocide against Arabs. Yet when activists in the Zionist community reject allowing such an immoral group into the pro-Israel “tent,” J Street claims it is being bullied.

Would HaLevi have Turned in Rushdie? Or Banished Spinoza?

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

My esteemed colleague, Yossi Klein Halevi, together with the Muslim chaplain at Duke University, Abdullah Antepli, have penned a defense of Brandeis’s decision to disinvite Ayaan Hirsi Ali, “What Muslims and Jews Should Learn From Brandeis.”

They write that Brandeis President Lawrence has provided an “essential teaching moment,” one that they hope will “prevent our descent into a holy war which would desecrate our faith and devour us all.”

In service to this messianic dream, Halevi and Antepli support the dishonoring of Hirsi Ali as a “renegade;” they do not see her as a “dissident” whose rights they might otherwise respect.

I wonder whether Halevi would have argued for the ex-communication of Spinoza on these same grounds. Perhaps, “renegades” are radicals and dissidents are “reformers.” We certainly need both points of view.

My colleague Yossi is truly a dreamer.

His most recent prize-winning book has “dreamers” in its title,  (and it is a book that I love). A previous Halevi book envisioned interfaith harmony between religions. Its title: “At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew’s Search for God With Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land.”

I remember a lunch we once had in the East 50′s sometime after the Al Aqsa Intifada and certainly after Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. “Yossi,” I asked, “how is your interfaith work coming along in Ha’aretz?

Sadly, he told me that it was no longer possible for him to visit Gaza or parts of the West Bank safely.

Has Halevi found some new interfaith partners in America?  I am in favor of such alliances and am proud of my own.

But really: Who gets to decide who is a “renegade” and who is a “dissident”?  And do Halevi and Antepli honestly believe that this symbolic but resounding gesture of Brandeis’s can stop Al-Qaeda, Hamas, or the Muslim Brotherhood?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an important ally in the battle against Islamism–just as important as are religious Muslims such as Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser. Most of all, Western concepts of freedom of speech and academic freedom should protect, not banish truth-tellers who stand for women’s rights in fundamentalist cultures.

Halevi and Antepli go further and almost–but not quite–view the Jew-hatred in the Muslim world as morally equivalent to the kind of alleged insult to Islam represented by one woman. One woman. Who offers us reasoned argument and personal experience.

Hirsi Ali does not rant and rave, she is very cool and careful.

Sadly, neither Halevi  nor Antepli are “dissidents” or “renegades.” I am sorry that they cannot extend their generosity and compassion to a genuine hero at a moment of potential peril.

Reprinted with permission of the author.

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/mandela-grandson-at-brandeis-disses-us-israel-and-insults-china/2014/02/20/

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