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September 23, 2014 / 28 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘campus’

Monitoring Professors Who Hate and Attack their Country

Monday, May 6th, 2013

Israel Academia Monitor, an organization devoted to monitoring anti-Israel academics, hosted a conference in Tel Aviv with the goal of drawing attention to the fact that anti-Israel academics exploit their positions of influence in order to promote an anti-Israel agenda.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon does not lie solely within universities abroad, but also exists within Israel. These professors utilize their position as a means to prove the justness of their cause while the fact that they are Israeli adds a sense of legitimacy. The danger is tremendous. As Cicero once wrote, “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within.”

The first speaker to address the conference was Prof. Ofira Seliktar, who noted the orchestrated campaign to delegitimize Israel utilizing soft asymmetrical conflict.

Soft components of this conflict are designed to delegitimize the target country and improve the image of the challenged group” as well as the “causes they represent,” Seliktar said.

The founders of the Neo-Marxist critical perspective, according to Seliktar, were the first to adopt soft asymmetrical conflict, which Edward Said in turn applied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Michael Gross, another speaker at the conference, pointed to professor Neve Gordon of Ben Gurion University, saying that Gordon has “a long track record of calling for boycotts of Israel” and has referred to “Israel as a so-called fascist Nazi apartheid-like state.” 

In addition, other professors at Ben Gurion University behave similarly, including Oren Yiftachel, who devoted “most of his career to misrepresenting Israel as an apartheid regime;” Lev Grinberg, who is best known for “accusing Israel of committing symbolic genocide” when Israel killed the leader of Hamas and compared Hamas terrorists to the “Maccabee heroes”; and Eyal Nir, who teaches chemistry at BGU and “is not only anti-Israel but was in the media in the past year for openly calling for critics of the left to be murdered.”

Panel at Israel Academia Monitor Conference, Tel Aviv

Panel at Israel Academia Monitor Conference, Tel Aviv

In the concluding session of this conference, I participated and spoke about how soft asymmetrical conflict was applied at Ben-Gurion University, where anti-Israel activism was quite widespread as part of an orchestrated campaign to educate international students to view Israel negatively.

Examples of this included the social coordinator at the time, Noah Slor, organizing anti-Israel trips, professors teaching about Israel in an anti-Israel propagandist style; and instances of pro-Israel students, such as myself, facing intimidation for having the chutzpah to speak out against the anti-Israel activism that was taking place on campus.

For example, Professor Yiftachel was teaching international students that “Israel is in a colonial situation with the Palestinians,” “the whole Israeli state is what you call an ethnocracy,” “Ashkenazis colonize the Mizrahim,” “Israeli Arabs have ghetto citizenship,” “Israel is like Sudan in ethnocratic structure,” and that “Israel imposes Judaism on her Palestinian citizens.”

When I attempted in the past to write exposés on this, Yiftachel arranged to have me intimidated by the then head of the Middle Eastern Studies department, Dr. Avi Rubin, who threatened “possible ramifications” and the involvement of the university’s legal department. While every thing turned out fine for me in the end, due to Israel Academia Monitor providing me with legal representation, not all students who are outspokenly pro-Israel at BGU are this lucky.

Here’s a brief portion of my concluding remarks:

When you combine people like [Professor] Yiftachel… [and] a social coordinator who, by the way was the one who organized the demonstrations on the campus in favor of the Gaza Flotilla … it has an indoctrinating effect.

I emphasized that choosing to speak out against this intimidation wasn’t an easy decision. Nevertheless, what the international students are taught is important, for many of these students will return to their countries and may hold prominent positions within the government as experts on the Middle East.

I concluded:

 

[I]t is important to study the Middle East; but not in the way that it is currently being done. It needs to be done in a way that you actually learn; that you actually gain some insight, a marketplace of ideas,” I explained. “It shouldn’t be only one opinion. And oh, you can’t challenge it if you don’t have a Ph.D. That’s not how it works. Students also have academic freedom and my academic freedom should be respected just as much as anybody else.

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Why Israel is NOT an Apartheid State

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

As we speak, anti-Israel activists across the globe are gearing up for or hosting Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) events on various college campuses, with the goal of delegitimizing the State of Israel.  As an anti-Israel student group at American University announced, “The aim of IAW is to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build support for the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.”  While anti-Israel student groups like the Students for Justice in Palestine frequently make such statements, it is critical to remember that such assertions are nothing more than slander designed to harm Israel.

Many of the young anti-Israel activists who claim that Israel is an apartheid state don’t understand what the definition of apartheid truly is.  According to Merriam Webster’s English dictionary, apartheid is “racial segregation: specifically, a former policy of segregation and political and economic discrimination against non-European groups in the Republic of South Africa.”

According to a report published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on the subject, among the policies that were implemented in apartheid South Africa were legal prohibitions on sexual relations between different races; forced physical separations between races, in restaurants, neighborhoods, swimming pools, public transport, etc.; restricting members of the black community to unskilled labor in urban areas; forbidding blacks from voting; educational restrictions for blacks, etc.

Benjamin Pogrund is a former deputy editor of the South African Rand Daily who reported on apartheid for 26 years and was an anti-apartheid activist himself.  After his newspaper was shut down because its owners were under pressure by the apartheid government, he made Aliyah to Israel.  Pogrund, as someone who is familiar with both South African apartheid and Israel, claimed that these conditions listed above do not exist in Israel.   He asserted in the Guardian that “Arabs have the vote, which in itself makes them fundamentally different from South Africa’s black population under apartheid. And even the current rightwing government says that it wants to overcome Arab disadvantage and promises action to upgrade education and housing and increase job opportunities.”

Upon witnessing how both Arabs and Jews worked and were treated in Israeli hospitals, in another instance, Pogrund claimed, “What I saw in the Hadassah Mount Scopus Hospital was inconceivable in South Africa where I spent most of my life, growing up then and working as a journalist who specialized in apartheid.”   Yet the existence of Arab voting rights, government initiatives to decrease the gap between Jews and Arabs, and coexistence in hospitals are not the only aspects of Israeli society that prove that Israel is not an apartheid state. Incitement to racism is a criminal offense in Israel, as is discrimination based on race or religion, implying that the Israeli legal system fundamentally rejects apartheid ideology.

In fact, Israel is a liberal democracy, where the Arab minority actively participates in the political process.   Arabs like Major General Hussain Fares, Major General Yosef Mishlav, and Lieutenant Colonel Amos Yarkoni have served prominently in the IDF, while Arabs such as Ali Yahya, Walid Mansour, and Reda Mansour served as Israeli Ambassadors.  Salim Joubran sits on the Israeli Supreme Court, while Nawwaf Massalha and Raleb Majadele were members of the Israeli Cabinet.   Arabs have also served as university professors, heads of hospital departments, management level positions in various businesses, and in senior level positions in the Israeli Police.  Indeed, Israeli Arabs have reached positions that blacks in apartheid South Africa could only dream of. Thus, Israel is the polar opposite of being an apartheid state.

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Pink Anti-Semitism is Still Anti-Semitism

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

The core characteristic of anti-Semitism is the assertion that everything the Jews do is wrong, and everything that is wrong is done by the Jews. For the anti-Semite every rich Jew is exploitive, every poor Jew a burden on society. For the anti-Semite, both capitalism and communism are Jewish plots. For the anti-Semite, Jews are both too docile, allowing themselves to be led to the slaughter like sheep, and too militant, having won too many wars against the Arabs. For the anti-Semite, Jews are too liberal and too conservative, too artsy and too bourgeois, too stingy and too charitable, too insular and too cosmopolitan, too moralistic and too conniving.

To the anti-Semite, every depression, war, social problem, plague must have been the fault of the Jews. Whenever the Jews appear to be doing something good – giving charity, helping the less fortunate, curing the sick – there must be a malevolent motive, a hidden agenda, a conspiratorial explanation beneath the surface of the benevolent act.

Now the very twisted illogic that has characterized classic anti-Semitism is being directed at the Jewish state, which for the anti-Semite has become “the Jew” among nations. When Israel sent help to tsunami and hurricane victims, the Jewish state was accused of merely trying to garner positive publicity calculated to offset its mistreatment of Palestinians. When Israeli medical teams save the lives of Palestinian children, they must be up to no good. When it was disclosed that the Israeli army has the lowest rate of rape against enemy civilians, radical anti-Zionists argued that this was because Israeli soldiers were so racist that they did not find Palestinian women attractive enough to rape! Nothing the Jew or the Jew among nations does can be praised, because its purpose is always to “manipulate,” to “conceal,” to “divert attention away from” or to “distort” the evil that inheres in all Jewish actions and inactions.

That is the bigoted thesis of a new anti-Israel campaign being conducted by some radical gay activists who absurdly claim that Israel is engaging in “pinkwashing.” This burlesque of an argument first surfaced in a New York Times op-ed in late 2011 that claimed that Israel’s positive approach to gay rights is “a deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violation of Palestinians human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life.” In other words, the Jew among nations is now being accused of feigning concern over the rights of gay people in order to whitewash – or in this case pinkwash – its lack of concern for Palestinian people.

How this pinkwashing is supposed to work, we aren’t told. Is the media supposed to be so obsessed with Israel’s positive policies toward gays that it will no longer cover the Palestinian issue? If so, that certainly hasn’t worked. Are gays around the world supposed to feel so indebted to Israel that they will no longer criticize the Jewish nation? That surely hasn’t worked, as evidenced by increasingly rabid anti-Israel advocacy by several gay organizations.

Well, to the unthinking anti-Semite, it doesn’t matter how the Jewish manipulation works. The anti-Semite just knows that there must be something sinister at work if Jews do anything positive. The same is now true for the unthinking anti-Israel bigot.

In Israel, openly gay soldiers have long served in the military and in high positions in both government and the private sector. Gay pride parades are frequent. Israel is, without a doubt, the most gay friendly country in the Middle East and among the most supportive of gay rights anywhere in the world. This, despite efforts by some fundamentalist Jews, Muslims and Christians to ban gay pride parades and legal equality for gays.

In contrast to Israel are the Palestinian ruled areas, where gays are murdered, tortured and forced to seek asylum – often in Israel. In every Arab and Muslim country, homosexual acts among consenting adults are criminal, often punishable by death. But all this doesn’t matter to the “growing global gay movement” against Israel, which according to The New York Times op-ed, regards these positive steps as nothing more than a cover for malevolent Israeli actions.

The pinkwash bigots would apparently prefer to see Israel treat gays the way Israel’s enemies do, because they hate Israel more than they care about gay rights. Nor do these pink anti-Semites speak for the majority of gay people, who appreciate Israel’s positive steps with regard to gay rights, even if they don’t agree with all of Israel’s policies. Decent gay people who have themselves been subjected to stereotyping, recognize bigotry when they see it, even – perhaps especially – among other gay people. That’s why so many prominent gay leaders and public officials have denounced this “pinkwashing” nonsense.

Why Bibi is Not Intimidated by Obama

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

I’m sure Jeffrey Goldberg got it right. Whatever the reason the President leaked his unhappiness with Bibi to Goldberg just a few days before the Israeli election – whether in an effort to influence the vote against Bibi, serve payback to Bibi for a perceived preference for Romney, or because the President could simply no longer suppress his dissatisfaction – it must indeed be unnerving to be the most powerful man on Earth and have the elected leader of a tiny Middle Eastern country defy you.

That’s especially when that country, in your opinion, owes you so much! You are their only reliable friend who watches helplessly as that little nation continues to isolate itself through its self-destructive policies. According to Goldberg, Obama has “become inured to what he sees as self-defeating policies of his Israeli counterpart… Obama said privately and repeatedly, “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are… Netanyahu is moving his country down a path toward near-total isolation.”

If only Israel would recognize the President’s genius. If only it would stop building in Jerusalem and E1 and allow the President to sprinkle his magic peace dust, then Hamas would beat its rockets into ploughshares and Hezbollah would turn its bombs into pruning hooks. But no. Ungrateful to the last, Bibi insists on disobeying the President and claiming all of Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capitol.

No doubt the President is likewise mystified at the Israeli people as well. How could the polls show that they will this week re-elect the intransigent Prime Minister who is doing so much to harm their country? The most powerful man on Earth is reduced to watching from the sidelines and complaining to journalists that he knows how to protect Israel far better than the Israelis themselves.

Such an ungrateful nation.

And yet, perhaps the Israelis have finally figured out that they are a sovereign people whom, while immensely grateful to America for its friendship and support, are still best qualified to judge their security needs better than anyone else. Perhaps they have come to understand that another Democratic president named Bill Clinton, whom no one would argue has a sincere love of the Jewish people and a Jewish son-in-law, still pushed Israel into the Oslo agreements that left a thousand Israeli civilians blown to bits. Perhaps they have come to understand that if Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, was correct that, as a legislator from Nebraska he was “not an Israeli senator. I’m a United States senator,” then the Prime Minister of Israel is the likewise the leader of the Jewish state who must put the security of the Israeli people even before a nod of approval from the President of the United States.

Over the past four years Bibi has grown into one of Israel’s greatest leaders ever. The country is booming economically and in terms of security. Cranes dot the skyline of expanding Israeli cities, terror incidents are negligible compared to the Clinton era, and unlike the anemic American economy, Israel is humming along at about four percent annual growth. And if President Obama is right that, in spite of this prosperity, Israel is isolated in world opinion, then it is arguably no more so than it has been in the past, and, besides, what is better, a popular Israel riddled with dead Jews or an unpopular Israel filled with living ones?

But what President Obama does not understand about Netanyahu is that the inflexibility he accuses him of is born not of a narrow-minded obstinacy but rather of a confident Jewish pride and deep-seated conviction that has been Bibi’s lifelong hallmark.

In my desire in 1990 to launch a robust response to anti-Israel speeches at the Oxford Union, I booked Netanyahu to lecture at the University. Bibi, just 41 years old, had already electrified the world as Israel’s most capable defender at the U.N. Bibi agreed to come with a single stipulation: “If I’m already making the trip, then work me like a horse.”

We obliged.

We picked him up in a special branch police car and as we drove through the grandeur of Oxford’s ancient center, he commented on the majesty of British academia and its incongruence with some of the petty anti-Israel sentiment that is often expressed within its halls. Arriving at St. Antony’s College for a private forum with Oxford Middle East experts, Bibi put one foot on a chair and for the next 90 minutes held forth on the justice of Israel’s cause, surrounded as it was by nation’s sworn to its destruction. As he finished, the attacks came in fast and furious in what had to be one of the most hostile audiences he ever addressed. He did not blink, he did not flinch, he did not bend. When the last question ended, he turned to me to ask what next.

Why Jews Are So Bad at PR

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

The biggest question surrounding the State of Israel is why it is so hated. The conventional wisdom is that the world remains hopelessly anti-Semitic and is therefore deeply biased against the Jewish State. No doubt there is some truth to this assertion.

But to absolve Israel and the Jewish people of any involvement in this monumental failure to communicate strikes me as convenient and allows us to blame others for our shortcomings.

In truth, while the State of Israel was asleep the Arabs pulled off one of the great propaganda coups in global history. They somehow convinced the nations of the world that six million embattled Jews, with a deep commitment to democracy, human rights, and religious pluralism were the aggressors in a war with hundreds of millions of oil-rich Arabs, whose governmental commitment to women’s and religious rights is tenuous at best and appalling at worst. The Palestinians in particular demonstrated a black belt in PR by convincing the world that amid their rejection of every peace deal ever offered to them, including the 1947 UN Partition plan, that it is Israel that has no interest in peace.

More than anything else ours is an age of media. Those who master media rise to great heights while those with contempt for PR most often fall. In 2000 Barack Obama lost in his run for Congress. Eight years later he was the most powerful man on earth. Why? Because in that time he mastered the media, wooed radio and TV producers, and won over op-ed columnists with his vision for America. Agree or disagree with this policies, his meteoric rise is a demonstration of how mastery over the organs of communication ultimately leads to mastery over the opinions of the people.

Yet here we are, a nation with a Biblical charge of serving as a light unto the Nations, that is simply terrible at communication. Perhaps we Jews feel that we will never be understood anyway, so why try. Or perhaps it’s that Israel’s cause seems so self-evidently just that it requires no explanation. Or maybe it’s that we find PR to be trite and superficial, all form with little substance. No matter the explanation, we have ceded the PR ground to Israel’s enemies.

The price paid is steep. What good is having Apache helicopter gunships, or Merkava tanks, to defend your citizens against attack if you can’t even use them because the world thinks you’re always the aggressor? Indeed, in the recent war in Gaza Israel did well in the PR battle precisely because it was using a defensive weapon – Iron Dome – which the world, amid its bias, could not possibly construe as an offensive instrument.

But the people paying the biggest price for Israel’s often deplorable PR efforts are Jewish students on campus the world over. It is at universities which are, for the most part, great bastions of liberalism that PR attacks against Israel are the most strategically coordinated and most effective. I remember as Rabbi at Oxford how well funded the Arab student organizations were while we struggled to convince donors of the importance of influencing impressionable young minds with pro-Israel advocates. Inevitably, the haphazard Jewish response by mostly volunteer activists on the world’s campuses is no match for the well-coordinated and well-funded efforts of anti-Israel campaigns that have become de rigueur on campuses throughout the world.

It is for this reason that at universities, more than anywhere else, there must be an effort to galvanize Jewish student leaders who are naturals at PR. And they must be cultivated from an early age.

The news stories this week that Ron Dermer, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s senior adviser, may be tapped to be Israel’s next Ambassador to the United States, is a case in point. If the news is accurate then American Jewry can look forward to an electrifying few years of pro-Israel arguments on the American airwaves with little previous parallel. Michael Oren, Israel’s current Ambassador, is already one of the greatest communicators ever to occupy the role. As a world class historian prior to taking the post, he has further distinguished himself as an eloquent and magisterial defender of the Jewish State.

Cut from the same cloth, Dermer will take this to the next level. In my experience, Ron is quite simply the most capable and erudite advocate for Israel alive anywhere in the world today. From the time that he arrived at Oxford in the mid-1990s as a brilliant political science superstar from the University of Pennsylvania, he shone as a leader and as one of the University’s most charismatic students. At the time, the battles we faced in making the case for Israel at one of the world’s premier universities was intense. Oxford receives a great deal of Arab philanthropy and each year graduates the sons and daughters of the leading Arab families of the Middle East. In addition, the University has long had a romantic history of Arabism and Lawrence of Arabia was one of Oxford’s greatest twentieth century products.

Touching the Opposite Sex

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

I hate the term and have no clue how that term came into being. I don’t think it is even used in Charedi circles at all. Shomer Negiah – meaning guarding against touching the opposite sex – implies that physical contact between the sexes is some sort of Chumra. That according to the strict letter of the law, it is completely permitted.

That is not true. With the exception of parents (and according to many opinions siblings), it is against Halacha for men and women to have any physical contact with each other unless they are married. While there are Halachic opinions about whether platonic contact is permitted, certainly any contact that is sexual in nature is not permitted by anyone.

When young people say they are Shomer Negiah they usually mean that they do not touch members of the opposite sex in the context of dating – where holding hands for example is a lot more than platonic touching. And certainly it applies to things like kissing and more aggressive forms of touching that are completely sexual in nature.

The thing is that being Shomer Negiah really means that one is following Halacha. It is just as Assur to hold hands with your girlfriend as it is having a glass of milk with your roast chicken. And yet there are Orthodox students who will casually say that they are not Shomer Negiah as though they are saying that they are not Machmir on something like Chalav Yisroel.

I think most religious high school students realize that. And yet this is how Shomer Negiah is treated. Like a Chumra that many do not observe.

Bearing all this in mind I found an article in the Forward about being Shomer Negiah on college campuses very intriguing. I was very happy to see that there are many Orthodox Jewish students  who attend secular universities that are very careful about these things. It was also gratifying to see that many non Jews or secular Jews are very understanding and supportive of them.

On the other hand I also found that some students who were Shomer Negiah gave it up as they made their way through the four years of college. And there are also many people who ridicule such strictures in 21st century America. After all non marital sex is about as common and as American as apple pie.

What is interesting for me is that even those who are meticulous about keeping this Halacha, acknowledge the difficulty in doing so in a culture that glorifies ‘hooking up’. That is indeed one of the ‘highlights’ of the campus life in an ‘away from home’ university.

Human nature is what it is. For the majority of mankind the libido (sex drive) is a very powerful force. Temptations to satisfy that drive are often very difficult to overcome. Being in an environment where both sexes interact socially and encourages sexual freedom is no place to be if one wants to guard themselves from temptation.

That said, of course it can be done. And is. Which is to the credit of those who do. Like Chana Lavaddin, a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania. Of course it helps to have a support system like the one at Penn where I am told there are many Orthodox students who for the most part have an on campus Orthodox social structure  complete with a Rabbi, Minyanim and Sedorim for Torah study.

But even with that resisting temptation is not easy when one considers that one will inevitably be involved with others (both teacher and students) who do not understand our religious values and often challenge them. Or even ridicule them. Which means that in some cases Orthodox students go in observant of these Halachos and come out not observant of them.  As was the case with another student, Jordan Katz. She called it evolving. And explained her reasons in the Forward article.

The fact is that the sex drive is hard to control even under the best of circumstances. Even in sex segregated environments like YU and Stern.  Not only that but even the most religious people in the world can succumb to temptation as did one Rosh HaYeshiva that I know about in Israel who ended up having an affair with a married woman.

Even if we go back to the era of the sages – the Gemarah tells us time and again about how certain sages were tempted and how difficult it was for them to overcome those temptations.If I recall correctly there is a Gemarah that says something to the effect that the greater the individual – the greater the temptation and the harder it is to resist.

Which is why the Gemarah also says “Ain Apitropus L’Arayos”. There is no real way to guard against sexual temptation. I think this is why Chazal built so many safeguards into our daily lives. It was to try and minimize temptation as much as possible.

That said, one can go too far with anything and there are certain segments of society that take these laws and extend them way beyond all reason. To the point where it becomes counterproductive.  It’s all about balance. Not extremes.

The concept of Ain Apitropus L’Arayos is real, however, and does not go away just because some people misuse it in the extreme.

Which is why I am opposed to co-ed high schools as a rule. (Although I admit that there is a place for such schools in some circumstances.) And why I support Yeshiva University and Stern as the best way to be balanced about these things. That is not to say that there aren’t problems there too. Every approach has problems attached to it.  The point is that in an ideal world one must neither be isolated from – nor blindly immersed in our sexually permissive culture.

In any case, the Forward article gives us some valuable insight as to what campus life is really like from the perspective of Orthodox students and is well worth reading.

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Chabad Emissaries Gathered in New York

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Some 4,000 Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries and communal leaders from more than 75 countries gathered in New York for their 29th international conference.

Many of the rabbis attending the conference over the weekend brought relief supplies and funds from their communities around the world to help victims of Hurricane Sandy, and volunteered their time for relief efforts.

Highlights of the conference included a visit to the gravesite of the last Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson; a group picture in front of the Chabad-Lubavitch worldwide headquarters in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn; and the annual banquet featuring an international roll call.

Conference workshops included topics such as helping people through the global economic crisis; expanding the horizons of college campus outreach; and multi-sensory approaches to Jewish education.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/chabad-emissaries-gathered-in-new-york/2012/11/13/

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