Photo Credit:
Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts

Last week The Jewish Press ran an op-ed,  “J Street Activists Defame Former Israeli Spokesperson.” It was written by a Brandeis junior, Daniel Mael.

That op-ed was an edited version of one which had briefly appeared as a blog post, but had been pulled by a Times of Israel editor. It was removed post-publication, even though the editor had read and approved the blog post before it was published. The reason it was removed, according to the editor, is that the subjects of the post complained that information in the article could hurt their chances for employment. Since when is that a justification for censorship?


Here’s the full background.

Mael wrote the op-ed in order to provide a fuller context, and to correct misrepresentations in an op-ed penned by two other Brandeis students about an event that took place on their campus this fall. Mael was present for the entire event. The op-ed to which Mael was responding was printed in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent (the two authors are from the Philadelphia region) and various J Street publications and sites.


As Mael explained, the J Street U students described negative feedback they received as being solely based on the “Brandeis pro-Israel tent” rejecting their critical view of Israel.  It set up the authors as the brave defenders of the minority viewpoint, struggling to have their voice heard amongst a crowd of adamantly, single-viewpoint supporters of Israel.

In fact, as Mael pointed out, one of the op-ed’s authors, who is the current president of Brandeis J Street U, was indeed heavily criticized by many other Brandeis students.  But the criticism was not of his political views, it was of his hostile and disruptive verbal attacks on the event’s speaker, former spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces, Capt. Barak Raz.

Following the Raz talk, but before penning the op-ed, Eli Philip wrote on his Facebook page that Raz had lied to the Brandeis audience when he said there were “no checkpoints in the West Bank.”

As Raz himself pointed out in the comments that followed, Philip would have understood what Raz was saying had Philip been present during the first hour of Raz’s talk.  It was during that time that the former IDF spokesperson set up the context for his statement, and provided the technical definitions of terms he used – including checkpoint – throughout his talk.

Philip walked in an hour late to Raz’s talk – he had first attended that night’s J Street event, a speaker from Breaking the Silence.

Because he was so late, Philip missed the explanations Raz gave. Having missed those explanations, what Philip heard Raz say seemed entirely inconsistent with what Philip believed to be true.  That is why Philip challenged Raz, in a manner that even Philip acknowledged in his op-ed was intemperate.

Mael provides the context, and linked to the Facebook exchange in which Philip wrote that Raz lied to the Brandeis audience.  That entire portion of Philip’s Facebook wall has since been deleted.  But before writing the op-ed, Philip knew that Raz had provided official definitions of the terms he was going to employ in his talk before Philip entered the room. So even if Philip actually believed Raz lied when he posted that statement on his own Facebook wall, by the time he penned and submitted his op-ed, he knew he was omitting a relevant fact.


Now back to the Times of Israel disappearing act.

Frustrated by what he believed were distortions of reality in the Exponent op-ed, Mael wrote up his description of the event and of Philips’s behavior and its aftermath, and posted it as a blog on the Times of Israel. His op-ed went live following the pre-publication editorial review for bloggers. People began reading his version of events.

But in less than 24 hours, Mael’s Times of Israel blog post was deleted from the site, with no explanation.  It just disappeared.

Mael and other students who wanted to read his explanation of what happened at the Raz talk were perplexed by the blog disappearance. Several people wrote to the Times of Israel editor to ask what happened, including staff for pro-Israel organizations.

The reason the Times of Israel editor gave for pulling Mael’s op-ed was that the J Street U students who were the “subjects of its criticism made a convincing case that it could cause them economic hardship in terms of future employment.”


It’s okay for the students to disrupt a speaker brought to campus, it’s fine to publicly call a former IDF spokesperson a liar on social media, and it’s just dandy to pen and have published an op-ed that paints yourself as someone victimized because of unpopular political opinions (which are actually the mainstream political opinions on American campuses, so where’s the glory in that?) while omitting critical inculpatory details.

But when someone who disagrees with your version of reality, who was an eyewitness to the event, calls you on showing up an hour into a speaker’s talk and being disruptive, rude and even slandering the speaker, you turn tail and whine about possible harm to future employment?


There is a lesson for students to learn from this experience, lessons that are applicable to their lives as students and beyond.  First, students need to understand that the safe university bubble only extends as far as the university.  Once you venture out into the public – the first step here was calling Capt. Barak Raz a liar in a Facebook posting, the second was publishing an op-ed in a non-university publication – you might actually be held responsible for the consequences of your actions.

Perhaps the Times of Israel editor thought she was doing the Brandeis students a favor by pulling a post that named and shamed them. But everyone, even college students, need to stand up for their convictions. If the fallout threatens their livelihood and they fold when that happens, perhaps their convictions weren’t that strong in the first place.

Here’s a catchy shorthand version of the lesson: “if you can’t do the time, don’t commit the crime.”


Previous articleKerry Rushing Back to Israel This Week
Next articleThe Land of Eternal Summer
Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email:


  1. First of all, Eli and other members of J Street U Brandeis were late for this event b/c they were wrapping up their own event which featured another former IDF soldier. The group hosting Barak Raz knew that people would be late and seemed totally fine with it. Furthermore, I dont know if being there for the beginning would make Raz's claim of there being ‘no checkpoints in the West Bank’ any more legitimate. As a Brandies student, I am proud that someone stood up to Raz and questioned him. I think questioning people is an integral part of the discourse involving Israel, and a key aspect of Jewish life in general. To demonize a student for questioning a statement that is empirically false (there are still many checkpoints in the West Bank) is unjust and unwarranted. The only debate following this event should be on the merits of checkpoints, not if a student walked in late, or didn’t use the right tone. There are real issues at hand – let’s talk about them please.

  2. Hi. I'm Meir kahane. I want to kick all the arabs out of Israel and make it an un-democratic state. I'm also a former editor of the Jewish Press

    Hi. I'm an IRS agent. I recently investigated Lori Lowenthal Marcus's group "Z Street" for ties to terrorism.

    Hi. I'm a young Jew. I, unlike Z street, do not support kahanism or terrorism.

  3. @H Fragman Abramson- I'm going to assume by clicking on your profile picture that you were not at the event in question. So, I'm going to have to say that you can't determine what truthful reporting is in this situation

  4. Mael and Marcus claim to be on the side of "facts and honesty," but instead seem set out to attack and defame college students.
    Are there checkpoints in the West Bank? Yes.
    Was Philip wrong in insisting that a former IDF spokesperson present facts? No.
    It seems that Mael and Marcus are using this incident (which seems to have occurred months ago, by the way), as an opportunity to bash on organization with which they disagree politically. Marcus is a well-known opponent of J Street and its opinions. From their ad hominem and repeated public statements about Philip and J Street, it seems that they are much more focused on discrediting an organization that they disagree with, rather than actually promoting a positive and productive conversation about the issues.
    If there is any example of "angry rhetoric" "factual misrepresentations" "threatening members of the pro-Israel tent" than this piece as well as Mael's are perfect examples.

  5. The issue was not whether or not Eli Phillip was right or wrong to question the information, the issue is that he was rude and disruptive, then wrote an article saying that he did not receive a warm and welcoming response. Political views have nothing to do with this.

  6. liam194894 – By stating "Are there checkpoints in the West Bank? Yes" you are not promoting a productive conversation, rather you are forcing the reader to ignore facts and context in favor of a yes/no, court room type question. You're entitled to do it, but you cannot possibly say you're promoting discussion.

    The difference between the former checkpoint policy, which was essentially preventive, and the new policy, which is based on specific, localized intelligence information, is that the former made life very difficult for Arab and also Jewish residents on an ongoing basis — while the current approach is less annoying and restrictive. Those are the facts appears to have been making, only to be ignored — as you are ignoring the information now.

    You may say that since you disapprove of Israeli rule in the disputed territories, anything Israel would do there is inherently illegal — but Israel's right to the territories is not the topic of discussion here, and to make it the topic is to disrupt and confuse the discussion — just as the J Street people did.

    The IDF is deposited with an assignment to maintain law and order in the territories. It used to do it in a way that disrupted life there a lot, and now it has switched to methods that make life more tolerable. That's the point being discussed, and to ignore it is to do precisely what you're accusing Lori and the Jewish Press of doing — imbuing a report about facts with political messages.

  7. and so the face of "J street Hooligans " is shown and proven right here…. Please guys the j-street people are swarming like bees here, they need to be taught a lesson by combating with written words their lies, so please respond to them on each comment they make here , its important .

  8. First of all it was rude by him to enter in the middle and then claim that Barak Raz was lying when in fact Barak stated that had this student entered the lecture at the beginning he would have heard that Barak had addressed the checkpoint issue , further more, insisting on asking a question that focuses specifically on the "Checkpoint" issue shows exactly what type of organization is J-street, it is an anti israel organization .

  9. All I am seeing here from J street sympathizers is censure and censoriousness, meaning they can "dish it out," but they can't take it, a sure sign of a weak argument. I wasn't standing in Hitler's bunker, but surely i have a right to argue the merits of the historical record, as does H Fragman Abramson. But no worries, their casual thought process is undoubtedly an adolescent mistake they will eventually out grow.

  10. The truth about J Street is that it is a tool of wealthy, powerful Judeophobes. Some of its funding comes from the likes of George Soros who collaborated with Nazis in Budapest during the war. Some comes from persons close to the Iranian ayatollahs' regime. J Street's leader, Jeremy Ben Ami, openly stated that he had Obama's back. Obama uses the vast power of the US Government to unjustly pressure Israel to surrender Jewish human and civil rights in the Jewish homeland, the Land of Israel, specifically in Judea-Samaria. Olbama and Kerry's policy favors anti-Jewish racism and anti-Jewish apartheid. After all, if Jews can't live in their own ancestral homeland, then where do they have the right to live?? In other words, Obama & Co. also threaten the human and civil rights of Jews in the United States –and elsewhere in the world. Recall that US policy toward saving Jews during the Holocaust was NOT to save them. That was the policy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one of Obama's idols. And Obama in turn is the idol of Jeremy Ben Ami of J Street. So J Street works for the enemies of the Jews and J Street favors anti-Jewish racism and apartheid.

  11. In an article recently published in The Jewish Exponent, the co-presidents of the Brandeis University chapter of JStreet U, Eli Philip and Catie Stewart, stated that the Jewish community on college campuses values unity over values and necessary debate. Their major example was a disagreement between Philip and Barak Raz, a former spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces, at a recent event at Brandeis over the nature of checkpoints in the disputed territories.
    First off, I would like to apologize to the audience that was subjected to the intellectual dishonesty that Philip and Stewart provided in their article. This manipulation of fact is not an accurate representation of the academic standard at Brandeis University. Philip failed to mention that the “student leader” referred to in their article was Philip himself. Also absent from their article is that fact Philip came to the event over an hour late and missed Raz’s explanation about what constitutes a checkpoint versus security position, thereby not understanding what Raz meant when he said there were no more checkpoints in the West Bank, and that the only students who clapped after Philip’s interruption were his fellow JStreet members. There was no support for his statement from other members of the student body that were present. Another conspicuously missing article of information was the fact that the day after the event Philip took to social media to personally attack Raz and call him an outright liar.
    Philip and Stewart do not understand the difference between fact and opinion. What for them is a “checkpoint” designed to discriminate against Palestinians is for Raz, and many others, a security position necessary to protect Israel from terrorist attacks. Barak Raz, in a response to Philip’s Facebook attack, stated,
    “Of the 44 checkpoints that divided the West Bank and prevented free traffic between Palestinian cities that once existed, essentially none are left…What you have are ten positions which remain…they are better likened to forward positions that can look for a vehicle when AND IF there is related intelligence.”
    What Stewart and Philip don’t realize is that it they themselves who are causing the tension within the pro-Israel tent at Brandeis. The other members of the tent are not telling JStreet to not voice its opinions, as Philip believes, but rather to voice them with civility and the professional manner expected from the head of a campus organization. What was at issue was not the beliefs that Philip and Stewart hold, but rather how they expressed them. As Raz himself stated, “Criticism is fine, even necessary in a democracy (Israel), however, your criticisms would be better served when presented in a way that falls in line with basic behavioral norms.” Philip, according to multiple reports, was disruptive from the moment he set foot into the event, which, again, was over an hour after it began. The hypocrisy here is astounding: Philip and Stewart allege that it is their voices being shut down; generally, however, interrupting someone means not allowing them to speak their mind. JStreet members are allowed to repress the views of others, but when their own viewpoints are challenged they retreat into a victim position. I hope that in the future Philip and Stewart can give a more accurate perspective of events rather than slanting the story to fit their narrative.
    Philip and Stewart further asserted, “When having pro-Israel unity consistently means we must compromise on our democratic and Jewish values, perhaps it is time we forego it.” In this they are correct – if JStreet refuses to cooperate with other pro-Israel groups in an appropriate manner, perhaps it is time the pro-Israel community foregoes its connection with JStreet, an organization that seems to only promote views contrary to the very meaning of what being “pro-Israel” is.

  12. J Street Jewish activists who attend Brandeis and other "institutions of higher learning",with their crass,denigrating comments about Israel, would soon recant if they attended the virulent, vitriolic Jew bashing Al-Kuds University in East Jerusalem.

  13. you wanna write an op-ed that is a personal attack every time someone is rude then? im not a J-Streeter, but jeez calm down. "according to multiple reports" were you even at the event? because i was and all i heard was a challenge by philip, a response by raz, and a subsequent comment from the "breaking the silence" spokesperson saying "you're wrong" (something that has yet to be reported) followed by J streeters clapping. so things got a little out of hand in the moment, but i dont think dwelling on that and complaining about one person's behavior is very helpful, do you?

Comments are closed.

Loading Facebook Comments ...