Assault On Truth
Information delivery to the public is key to establishing power. This is just as true in totalitarian regimes as it is in progressive and democratic states. It follows that information dissemination is relevant to social reform (see for example importance of media in ending the war on Vietnam, civil rights, anti-Apartheid movement, women's right to vote etc.). That is why attempts at misinformation is also accompanied by attempts at silencing free speech. In this section we will focus on issues of attempts to silence free speech which alert the public to lies, anomalies and corruption. For samples of the propaganda and lies click on Lies and Truths. Yet, it is obvious from history that lies, maligning people and distortions always backfire. That "blowback" is an issue on its own that we can address but is beyond the scope of this article. The discrediting of Jeff Jacoby of the Globe and the success of several legal actions for defamation and libel (one against the ADL that netted a sgnificant compensation to those labeled anti-Semites a handsome sum) are just examples. But let us go through and doccument for the records some stories (many obviously are yet to be completed with follow-up).
If the public had the full range of information they would not go along with spending 30% of our foreign aid budget to support ethnic cleansing of Palestine of its native people (Christian and Muslim). Israel's population currently is 0.1% of the world population which means that the average Israeli is getting orders of magnitude more of our foreign aid than an average world citizen. So far over $250 billion dollars were spent (some estimates adding interests, free deliveries of weapons, economic losses to the US go as high as 2 TRILLION). This aid is also intended to retard development for peace. 60% of all US arms exports go to the Middle East, our support of Israel against the will of over 140 countries resulted in 6 million Palestinian refugees and displaced people. That is why Alison Wier, the founder of If Americans Knew, was sent death threats. Many of us who are active in trying to speak the truth are similarly "targeted" for silencing. 60 million dollars was spent just in one year by the Zionist movement to influence American perceptions. This excludes tens of millions on sending "decision makers" and youndg students on free trips to Israel for programmed schedules of indoctrination. It also excludes all the free legwork done by sympathizers around the US (but apparently not in Europe which is considered not important). The attempts to silence the truth and spread propaganda do not merely come from rogue or extremist Zionists but from many groups thought by some Americans to be "mainstream." These are well funded, organized campaigns intended pn preserving the status quo of US support for oppression and colonization in Palestine. In this assay, we illustrate just few of the examples. A far more descriptive and thorough analysis is found in Congressman Paul Findley's book They Dare to Speak Out. More recent examples abound. Palestinian activists like Amer Jubran and others were targeted by the Zionist movement because of their views in support of basic human rights (indiginous rights of teh Palestinians). Their few defenders also had to contend with Zioist racism and attempts to silence their right to free speech and civil liberties. An article by Noah Cohen explores Repression of Palestinian Activists in the US and silence of civil rights organizatons.
The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 to defend Jews against acts of anti-Semitism and guard "Jewish interests" here and abroad. In 1980, the ADL covertly distributed a twenty-one-page booklet containing "background information on pro-Arab sympathizers active on college campuses" who "use their anti-Zionism as merely a guise for their deeply felt anti-Semitism." In the 1980s the ADL was fined and signed a statement pledging not to engage in spying and collecting information after federal investigators found that ADL had paid investigative police officers to gather information on Arab Americans and African Americans active in the movement against apartheid South Africa. This has become well known as the ADL Spy Case. Some agents working for Zionist organizations will also claim support of Arabs and Arab causes. Their attempts to divide the movement by planting seeds of dopubt among activists have become known techniques. An example maybe cited of Mark Richey.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee was founded in In 1979, AIPAC formed a Political Leadership Development Program enlisting hundreds of college students in order to: "to collect information on pro-Palestinian professors and student organizations." By 1983 the program had attracted more than 5,000 students on 350 campuses in all fifty states... the findings were published as The AIPAC College Guide: Exposing the Anti-Israel Campaign on Campus."
Daniel Pipe established the group "Middle East Forum" (MEF) with eth explicit idea of promoting Israeli agenda couched as an American agenda to combat what he terms anti-American and anti-Israeli trends on US campuses. One of the most controversial projects was that this group set up a website to "monitor" academics. The website http://CampusWatch.org was considered a witchhunt (Scott Smallwood, "Web Site Lists Professors Accused of Anti-Israel Bias and Asks Students to Report on Them," Chronicle of Higher Education - web daily - September 19, 2002). The Nation had a report and in part it said:
Based in Philadelphia and headed by anti-Arab propagandist Daniel Pipes, CampusWatch unleashed an Internet firestorm in late September, when it posted "dossiers" on eight scholars who have had the audacity to criticize US foreign policy and the Israeli occupation. As a gesture of solidarity, more than 100 academics subsequently contacted the Middle East Forum asking to be added to the list. In response, Pipes has since posted 146 new names, all identified as supporters of "apologists for suicide bombings and militant Islam." Kristine McNeil, The War on Academic Freedom, The Nation, November 11, 2002 http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20021125&s=mcneil
Pipes was undetterred. He wrote a defamatory article titled "Professors who hate America" listing people Like Noam Chomsky, myself, Glenda Gilmore (Yale), Thomas Nagy (George Washington Univ), and others all because we criticized US foreign policy in the Middle East. Many of us subsequently received threatening letter (Gilmore was threatened with rape). George Bush had the temerity to nominate Pipes for the US Institute for Peace. When people around the nation complained (Senators, academics, civil rights groups etc), Bush went around this by appointing Pipes without Senate approval (a loophall called Summer appointment which means Pipes would serve one year without need for Senate Confirmation). Senator Edward Kennedey thought that such an appointment was extremely harmful to the reputation of the US government and its "Institute of Peace" to appoint such a figure. Unfortunately, Prof. Tom Nagy left he United States writing a letter explaining why he would not stay in country that allows such demagogue as Pipes to intmidate and pressure professors. Even after being appointed to the "Institute of Peace" Pipes still attacks Muslims and Arabs and any defenders of basic human rights for Palestinians. He also continues to write to newspapers to try to intimidate them. He wrote a letter to teh Day recently threatening lawsuits. See more on Daniel Pipes As An Example Of McCarthian Silencing. Dan Levine also reported on more recent Pipes' efforts Piping Up Against the Day . Fortunately, Pipes' appointment expired and Bush did not request a SEnate hearing so Pipes was out. There is hope for sanity.
Subsequently, political Zionist were instructed to find anything they can to attack any such professors. To the credit of major newspapers and editors (and perhaps because of success of some legal actions), defamatory articles were rejected. Occasionally such lackeys put their articles in gossib newspapers dominated by Zionists. Those newspapers ofcourse refuse to publish corrections or even letters to editors from anyone who may not tow the (Zionist) line. A good example of this is an attack on me in the Sun Newspaper for which Sun Editors did not allow a rebuttal. Martin Kramer is part of Pipes' organization (MEF) and is the editor of its "Middle East Quarterly." He, Pipes and Kunz were not happy about experts in Middle East Studies not towing the party line they wanted. So theyt advocated federal oversight. The only leverage they could find was money the federal government spends as part of Title VI of the Higher Education Act. Since the 1960's Title VI provided federal funding for area studies and the study of underrepresented languages and cultures. With the neoconservatives and Likudnick Zionists entrenched in both executive and legislative branches of the US government, the stage was set for such an attack on academic freedom. With pressure from the Israeli lobby, the House of Representatives passed resolution 3077 which sets an "advisory board" to monitor what educational institutions do and insure they fit with perceived US governmental interests. There is a challenge to this now in the US Senate and the ACLU is getting involved. But people like Pipes keep pushing the limits of decency.
Following writings and attacks by Pipes and others like "Yale Friends of Israel" (including one Zionist editor and one Zionist journalist working in Yale undergraduate newspapers), many of us received hundreds of messages ranging from the bizarre to the highly offensive.
Here are just two examples of messages I received:
"..your people (those who have not lifted their hand against the Israelis (with rock, sling shot, Molotov, knife, or rifle) are still guilty of harboring violent criminals in their midst and if not harboring then at least tolerating and for this you suffer the punishment from the Israeli army....I charge your people collectively with inciting us to this level of behavior and the results will unquestionably be your collective fault. I mentioned in the beginning that I don't want you to misunderstand. I do not hate your people as you do ours. Many of the Arabs I have met have been fine people of outstanding character and despite the way some of your Sheiks have twisted the observance of Islam, I also have respect for your religion and your peoples adherence to its values. Despite all of the good, the bad is bad and cannot be tolerated. I had hoped for better. I now, not only don't want any new refugees but for practical and nationalist reasons, I want all the current Arab residents out of Israel. I think this would be best not only for us but for all of you as well."
BBK in Maon, ISRAEL (firstname.lastname@example.org)
And this one from email@example.com (copied to the JDL Discussion list, apparently originating from Ben Zion, Chief of operations for JDL in South Africa):
"Dear Mazin Qumsiyeh, Ph.D.
I am so glad that your hometown was bombed!! However, I see that your cousin was not killed. What a great pity....The life of a Palestinian is not worth the cuttings from my toenail. You have no virtues to speak of. You are nothing - not a people, not a country, not a nation. You don't have your own language or culture, and even your anti-Semitic diatribes (which is the essence of your national being) are not original. You are a pathetic bunch of weaklings.
Actually, there is one thing that you Palestinians are okay for. You make good targets for Israelis who need to practice warfare conducted within towns. Your children are also good targets for Israeli sharpshooters, who need to practice their aim when firing specifically at eyes and knees. Furthermore, Palestinian victims provide good training for Israeli medics, who would not know how to treat such casualties if it wasn't for the steady supply of injured "guinea pigs" that you provide.
Perhaps you guys should consider pulling out of Israel. You don't belong there, are not wanted there, and are not really having an enjoyable stay there either. You must go!"
This was also followed by Email Spam and Forgeries.
Media and other Pressures
Zionist group with deceptive names are well funded to intimidate, coerce, and muzzle media coverage. A good example is the so-called "Committee on Accuracy on Middle East Reporting" (CAMERA) which not only boasts of its ability to inundate newspapers with letters and articles but also puts advertisements in such papers as the New York Times spouting Israeli Government propaganda (including that Palestinians are violent and sacrifice their children) and insisting that the media has not covered things "fairly" for the "only democracy in the Middle East." CAMERA is not shy about describing its tactics and organizational structure and how they pressure the media to adopt pro-Israel lines. Even organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League (supposedly interested in rights of Jews living in America), has a concerted media campaign for support of traditional Israeli objectives.
Because the US media is so overwhelmingly supportive of Israel there are few cases of mistakes or bias that can be cited by the well-funded Zionist groups like CAMERA and "Honest Reporting". Thus, they try to get the maximum noise generated per incident of perceived bias or error with the goal of ensuring that no cracks in media support of Israeli policies become evident. This noise can be daunting as illustrated and as still is being used in the case of a mislabeling of a photograph by the Associated Press. Here is FAIR's description of this mountain from a molehill scenario:
On September 29, the first day of the al-Aqsa uprising, the Associated Press sent out a photograph of an injured man in Jerusalem, crouching near an Israeli soldier holding a nightstick. AP's caption identified the wounded man as a Palestinian, but he turned out to be an American Jew named Tuvia Grossman, who was studying at a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem.
An AP editor in the Jerusalem office had received garbled information from the Israeli photographer who took the picture, and hastily assumed the wounded man was a Palestinian hurt in the day's demonstrations. In fact, Grossman had been beaten by a crowd of angry Palestinians as he tried to make his way to the Western Wall to pray. The AP photo and the erroneous caption were picked up by seven or eight U.S. newspapers, including the New York Times (9/30/00), which printed it alongside several photos on page 6. When relatives of Grossman saw the photograph and recognized him, they called the AP to ask for a correction. The AP corrected the mistake, and almost all of the newspapers promptly printed corrections as well.
To the untrained eye, the Grossman affair might seem like the sort of routine journalistic error that occurs every day in the news business. Corrections to erroneous stories appear all the time. No one alleged any deliberate falsification in the Grossman case; the vast majority of injuries in Jerusalem the day the Grossman photograph was taken were sustained by Palestinians, so the assumption that the wounded man was Palestinian was plausible, though careless.
But the pro-Israel media critics cried bias. Newspapers across the country carried angry commentaries and letters by supporters of Israel brandishing the mislabeled photograph as palpable proof of their long-held suspicions. The New York Post (10/5/00) and Wall Street Journal (10/6/00) each ran op-eds on the photo. In commentaries, the mislabeled photo was proof that pro-Palestinian "misreporting by the media has been rampant" (Albany Times-Union, 10/25/00), and that "Anti-Israel Bias Warps American Minds" (Providence Journal-Bulletin, 10/13/00). Daily Oklahoman columnist Edie Roodman (10/13/00) accused the media of "indirectly stimulating riots" by Palestinians.
When Ted Koppel arrived at the East Jerusalem YMCA to produce a television special, he was "assailed by indignant American expatriates who complained to him about the mislabeled AP photograph" (Jerusalem Post, 10/13/00). "We've gotten a flood of emails and a number of phone calls about the photograph," the editor of a Jewish newspaper in Boston told the Boston Globe (10/7/00).
The New York Times went to unusual lengths to remedy the error. After printing an initial correction setting out the facts (10/4/00), the Times published a second correction a few days later (10/7/00) to further explain that the officer in the photo was "not beating Mr. Grossman," but rather telling angry Palestinians to move away from the man--even though the original caption had not accused the officer of doing anything to Grossman. (The caption had simply said "an Israeli policeman and a wounded Palestinian.") the correction apologized for having "omitted an explanation of the scene" of the photograph.
Apparently even these two corrections were not sufficient. The Times also ran a 670-word news article about the incident (10/7/00), tracing the caption error from its genesis in the AP's Jerusalem newsroom to the New York Times and the other newspapers. The Times reprinted the original photo beside the article, this time with an accurate caption. Yet, literally thousands of mistakes, inaccurate and biased coverage that villify Palestinians, ignore facts of the brutal colonization and occupation go unchallenged (see http://ifamericansknew.org.
CAMERA still uses this picture in its web page and in its fundraising efforts. The sensationalism and emotionalism is intended to obscure the facts of coverage and which direction is bias in the media. These remained little investigated. In short its is not an issue of fairness but an issue of taking a media that is 98% supportive of Israel to be 100% supportive. This also provides some cover for some editors who instead of looking objectively at the coverage argue that since some complaints come from both sides, it must be that they are doing a fair job. Of course, an independent investigation could easily ascertain what is covered and how it is covered.
Israeli apologists have found ingenious ways of getting their way. Only in Europe is such pressure tactics challenged. These interesting excerpts from an article by David Leigh in the Guardian (Thursday February 22, 2001):
Why would the Guardian provide moral and medical justification for the multiple murder of innocent Israeli civilians?
It's a pretty bizarre question, but we found ourselves being asked it over and over again this week. Emails clicked in to the letters page by the hundred, all making the same weirdly alliterative points. This followed publication of a Guardian article trying to understand the motivations of the Palestinian bus driver who ploughed into a queue this month, killing eight Israelis (soldiers).
The mysteriously similar emails - from all over the world - started coming in, too, to our foreign editor; to our website; and to the personal email address of our Middle East correspondent, Suzanne Goldenberg.
....This global blitzing was tending to crowd out genuine expressions of opinion from our readers. Our suspicions aroused, we tried to discover what was going on. It wasn't straightforward. But eventually we discovered the trick. A website calling itself HonestReporting.com was set up in London last autumn.
It has recruited 12,000 subscribers to its database, it claims, all dedicated to fighting anti-Israel "bias" in the media. The aim was to recruit a total of 25,000. Every time someone writes something they don't like, details of the offending article are circulated round the world, together with a handy form of protesting words, ready to be lightly embroidered and electronically dispatched at the push of a button.
...Their first success, HonestReporting boasted, was with the London Evening Standard. Its columnist Brian Sewell wrote last autumn calling on Israel to "become a multicultural society" and cease exploiting the Holocaust to justify unacceptable behavior.
"The next day, (we) sent out a letter to subscribers." Standard articles recorded "a wave of complaints... hundreds of Jewish readers have written in". Then "after more pressure" there followed a pro-Israel article by Simon Sebag-Montefiore. "This is an example of what we can do."
...Who was behind this Internet harassment? the website gave no address. It had been registered last October under a London name and phone number that seemed not to exist. Eventually, it transpired that it had been set up by a 27-year-old Jewish web-designer from north London called Jonathan.
...But the operation was now being funded and run from the US by an organization concerned with media fairness, Media Watch International. And who were they? "We're pretty new," says their director, Sharon Tzur, speaking from Manhattan. "It's a group of concerned Jewish business people in New York."
Yet a bit more inquiry reveals that this is not quite the whole story either. For this week's bulletin denouncing the Guardian was in fact composed in Israel by a man named Shraga Simmons.
And when he is not working for HonestReporting, Mr. Simmons is to be found employed at another organization altogether - Aish HaTora. This is an international group promoting Orthodox Judaism. "I do some work for Aish," Mr. Simmons says, from Israel. And Jonathan, the web- designer who started it all in London, also concedes: "I go to the odd class at Aish."
Aish verge on the colorful in their antics. Founded by Rabbi Noah Weinberg, who complains that "20,000 kids a year" are being lost to Judaism by marrying out, Aish invented speed-dating - eight-minute sessions in cafes to help New Yorkers find compatible Jewish partners. They're widely regarded as rightwing extremists. And they're certainly not people entitled to harass the media into what they would call "objectivity".
While the Guardian obviously mocked such tactics and where less susceptible to them, many have been more susceptible. Robert Fisk reported in the Independent 14 November 2000 in an article titled "the biased reporting that makes killing acceptable":
"Then we have that old bugbear the "clash". Palestinians die "in clashes" - as if they are accidentally shot rather than targets for Israeli snipers. The use of that word - and the opportunity it affords journalists of not stating that Israelis killed them - is little short of a scandal. Take Reuters' report from Jerusalem on 30 October by Howard Goller, which referred to five Palestinians "wounded in stone-throwing clashes" and the funerals of Palestinians "killed in earlier clashes". Yet, in a report on the same day, Goller wrote of an Israeli shot dead by a "suspected Palestinian gunman", while his colleague on Reuters, Sergei Shargorodsky, referred to "Palestinian shooting attacks on Jewish settlements" and an Israeli man stabbed to death, "presumably by Palestinians". Funny, isn't it, how the responsibility for the killing of Israelis tends to be so explicitly - and rightly - apportioned, while blame for the killing of Palestinians is not? .... Such journalism is already leading - despite the extraordinary casualty figures - to a public view that the Palestinians are solely responsible for the bloodbath, that they are generically violent, untrustworthy murderers. I think this kind of reporting helps to condone the taking of human life."
Affecting coverage can and has been done on some occasions by intimidation and in other times by overwhelming and persistent pushing which resulted on occasion in loss of jobs. Debbie Ducrocq was managing editor of the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle. She received an unsolicited opinion letter by another Jewish American (Judith Stone) and published it on November 10, 2000. She was promptly fired. Not much was said about the travesty of justice or freedom of speech to these two Jewish women. Perhaps these excerpts from Stone's article had something to do with this:
"Where are the Jews of conscience? No righteous malice can be held against the survivors of Hitler's holocaust. These fragments of humanity were in no position to make choices beyond that of personal survival. We must not forget that being a survivor or a co-religionist of the victims of the European Holocaust does not grant dispensation from abiding by the rules of humanity.
Poland is a vast graveyard of the Jews of Europe. Israel is the final resting place of the massacred Palestinian people. A short distance from the memorial to the Jewish children lost to the holocaust in Europe there is a leveled parking lot. Under this parking lot is what's left of a once flourishing village and the bodies of men, women and children whose only crime was taking up needed space and not leaving graciously. This particular burial marker reads: 'Public Parking'.
Two years ago I drove through Palestine and watched intricate sprinkler systems watering lush green lawns of Zionist settlers in their new condominium complexes, surrounded by armed guards and barbed wire in the midst of a Palestinian community where there was not adequate water to drink and the surrounding fields were sandy and dry."
Everything Stone stated was factually correct. Her language was somewhat strong but that is understandable considering the anguish that many decent Jews feel for the plight of the Palestinians at the hands of Jews who claim to represent Jews all over the world. Also, it is obviously simply an opinion (not news).
Jewish writers who advocate Human Rights are targeted for daily attacks (e.g. Norman Finkelstein, Marc Ellis). They survive on shoestring budgets as they are excluded from the Jewish Federation systems. Leaders of those Jewish Federations are mostly ardent Zionists who meet regularly to "coordinate" efforts. Since their membership is diverse, the only things they really want to coordinate are actions common to all and Israel tops the list.
By contrast, Jewish newspapers and magazines under the control of the Jewish federations refuse to publish opposing views and when they accidentally do (as in the case illustrated above of the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle) they overreact by firing people or rearranging their staff. The Connecticut Jewish Ledger published an article that called me an "apologist for terror" without addressing the substance of my messages and published articles elsewhere. Yet, they refused to even allow me to put in my rebuttal. Alas truth is very hard to deal with.
Amy Pagnozzi lost her job as a columnist in the Hartford Courant after some Zionist Rabbis exerted pressure on the editor. Yet, these pressure tactics are have failed to remove Charlie Reese from his job at the Orlando Sentinel. More and more this issue is less important but journalists and editors still try to "not rock the boat" too much and so practice what many call "self censorship."
Many editors, commentators, journalists and owners of media outlets in the US work feverishly to suppress the truth. Such folks are groomed early as University newspaper editors and journalists, suppoted many times by grants from some of teh same organizations as discussed above. They practice their skills at local events and local individuals (e.g. writing negative about certain individuals who do not "tow the party line"). A more significant factor is the trend of media concentration and consolidation in the US. The Nation magazine published an analysis on Jan 7, 2002 that showed that the ten largest media "oligopolies" (AOL/Time Warner, Disney, General Electric, News Corporation, Viacom, Vivendi, Sony, Bertelsmann, AT&T and Liberty Media) disseminate most of the information arriving to average consumers. The Nation then concluded:
In short, certain news divisions of the media cartel appear to work against the public interest--and for their parent companies, their advertisers and the Bush Administration. The situation is completely un-American. It is the purpose of the press to help us run the state, and not the other way around. As citizens of a democracy, we have the right and obligation to be well aware of what is happening, both in "the homeland" and the wider world. Without such knowledge we cannot be both secure and free. We therefore must take steps to liberate the media from oligopoly, so as to make the government our own (The Nation, 2/7/2002).
Some of thousands of experiences with attempts to silence free speech and suppress the truth:
The Association of Latin American Students (ALAS) at Housatonic Community College organized a panel that included two Jewish Americans, one Palestinian American (myself) and Prof. Dimitri Gutas (an expert on Islamic and Arabic culture) to talk about events in the Middle East and the role of the US. The college administration decided to cancel the event and the speakers were informed as they came in to give their talks. The given reason was that the students did not follow the protocols for holding events. We decided to hold the event outside of the University building and room designated and went ahead with it as a matter of principle of free speech. Investigation later revealed that the administration was under pressure from those who did not like the tone of the flyer that was used to advertise the event and also disagreed with the whole concept of critical examination of US support for Israel. John Lugo, the vice-president of ALAS wrote and complained and requested an explanation from the dean. No reply was received.
When professionals at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) in New Britain and Tunxis Community College in Farmington offered lectures on Islam and the Islamic World, certain Jewish community leaders started a campaign of distortions and pressure against the two colleges. The Connecticut Jewish Ledger wrote an article titled " CCSU, Tunxis institutes for teachers lack balance, Jewish leaders say" ( Adam N. Schupack, June 28, 2002).
A similar attack occurred against the Western Connecticut State University in Bridgeport because of a panel that included a Jewish American Professor and two Palestinian Americans addressing issues of peace in the Middle East. The faculty member who organized this as well as moderated the talks (Carina Brandhauer) received copies of many letters sent to her president asking for a range of requests from her dismissal to organize a different panel with a Zionist perspective.
A Palestinian Theater group called Al-Kasaba ("The Straw") was invited to present at the New Haven Arts and Ideas Festival. They had already performed a play called "Stories under occupation" and received great reviews in Europe. This was to be their premiere show in the US. The Connecticut Jewish Ledger wrote an article highly critical of the decision to bring this "biased" play to Connecticut and asking all readers to call the Governor to complain. The Anti Defamation League also complained. The Governor’s office declined to support this call at censorship of the art. When the Festival failed to cancel this performance, demands shifted to having a panels to "discuss" and "put in context" the play. Under this pressure an in an unprecedented fashion, the artists agreed but only if the discussion is not political and centers on the art itself. Many in the community thought the idea of a discussion following an art show like this is harmful. A handful of letters to the editor attacking the play (and a few responses) were published in local papers. About 20 demonstrators showed up to demonstrate on the first night and their numbers dwindled to 1 by the third night. The "controversy" probably helped increase ticket sales and the all five nights of performances in New Haven were completely filled.
Human rights activists including myself have received occasionally threatening letters or verbal attacks. Campaigns to target people by asking listserves to write employers complaining about a certain employee are common place. Some activists have complained to the FBI. For example, after the attacks of 9/11/2002 in the US, I and other activists received a number of threatening messages. The thought was that those who send emails directly are more likely to be mere talkers and not "doers". However, after many activists continued and accelerated their activities for human rights, there was increased attempts at shutting down these activities. The American Jewish Committee (AJC.org) for example created a task force in Connecticut to "deal with" the activities of human rights advocates in Connecticut.
My name among others surfaced on several Zionist Web sites as someone who is advocating positions at variance with Israeli government positions. Some of the sites went on to make the absurd and slanderous claims that we are "anti-Semitic" or "hateful" or "support terrorism" etc. Sites ranged from mainstream Zionist sites like the Anti-Defamation League to the Connecticut Jewish Ledger (where I was slandered as an "Apologist for terror"]), to the American Jewish Committee (AJC.org , see under activism in Connecticut), to rabid Zionists with Jewish Defense League mentality like Masada2000.org (see [http://www.masada2000.org/petitions.html] where they had an action alert for people that included my picture and asking their members to write to my chairman).
Soon after, some other strange things started to happen effecting me and other activists (including Jewish human rights activists). Letters that I or other human rights advocates published in newspapers were strongly attacked using aggressive language (calling us liars, "apologists for terror", "anti-Semites," "self-hating Jews", "extremist", "un-American" etc). Then on June 4th, 2002 a hacker sent an email to thousands on the internet with a forged "from" field showing falsely that it came from my Yale email account (falsely appearing to come from me). This email was generated through an insecure server in Taiwan ([http://dehwa.com.tw]). As soon as I discovered this (due to hundreds of bounced messages "returned" to me for incorrect addresses of recipients flooding my email inbox), I contacted the administrator of that server and alerted them about the use of their site for spamming/hacking. The same day, emails were sent to many in Yale using forged messages. The forger took a message I had posted to a private list and added to it my academic affiliation and then sent it to, what later investigation by Yale Information Security shows to be, over 1500 Yale email addresses (including deans, chairman, and even the president).
The same technique was used spamming tens of thousands with messages that appear falsely to come from dozens of other activists. Some of the activists were Jewish (who obviously oppose Israeli policies) and the messages disseminated had things like "I am a really sick $%$%", from activists with American sounding names saying things like "I am a sociopath", and some from activists with Arabic or Muslim sounding names had messages like "I enjoy killing children". Most included deceptive subject lines and many included articles that supposedly buttress the Israeli government position.
In the days to follow, these tactics continued. In total, three forged messages were sent to Yale staff and faculty. The second one sent through the open relays at Dina-graphics in California was sent to 1947 email addresses at Yale (per the research done by Yale ITS) . But for outside, literally dozens and perhaps hundreds of messages were sent to perhaps tens of thousands of addresses (numbers and extent of this unknown). On June 12, 2002 (a few days after the initial large wave of spams) and within 24 hours of the second forged message sent to Yale addresses, I contacted the FBI in New Haven and reported this to them. I met June 13 in my office at Yale with two FBI officers assigned to the case. See also Email Spam and Forgeries.
From June 13 onward, I supplied the FBI with a steady stream of additional information, links, tips from fellow activists, and other material I deemed useful to their investigation. On June 18, I contacted the ACLU and asked them to see if there is anything else that can be done especially since such hacking/spamming infringes on civil right. I also continued to contact any server I found being used for such hacking and asking them to secure their servers. Nothing came out of this and it seems that such things are very low or absent from FBI's "to do" lists. Many human rights activists of all faiths feel that we must not allow such attacks to achieve their goals to intimidate, cause fear and confusions, and silence free speech among human rights advocates. In this sense such cyber-attacks become a form of cyber-terrorism. Yet, this is very painful and distressing especially since the law enforcement authorities fail to take such threats seriously.
In Connectiut, we had a mass demonstration in front of the ADL offices to protest their repeated attempts at silencing free speech in academic institutions. Every major media outlet showed up. Media coverage was surprising to us (used to be ignored by local media; perhaps this was due to the exxtreme controversy and the visual effects employed). ADL transiently became more subdued and careful in how they approach institutions in Connecticut (although they continue to be very aggressive in other states). They also now do it through front extremist groups (one called Kol Israel at Wesleyan University) or just using individual faculty or students (sometimes giving them scripted letters). A good example of this is the reaction towards our Activism 102 workshops held at Wesleyan. The conference and many of the participants were labeled "anti-semitic".
Many of us who criticize Israel’s apartheid system and its ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians are labeled "anti-Semitic" or “self-hating Jews.” I was reminded of the passage from the Old Testament about Prophet Elijah and King Ahab:
“When he (Ahab) saw Elijah, he said to him, "Is that you, you troubler of Israel?" "I have not made trouble for Israel," Elijah replied. "But you and your father's family have…” Bible 1 King 17-18
That is precisely what many dictators and despots fall into: insisting that they represent the country and the people. How dare prophet Elijah “trouble Israel” and I am Israel. Hence, any criticism of policies is deemed anti-this or that: Anti-Israel/anti-Semitic (label used by Zionist defenders of Israel like the ADL), anti-American (label used by right wing zealots), anti-Russian (label used by Stalin and his government to quell dissent).
Literally thousands of such incidences and such bigotry are experienced by human rights activists. Some lost their jobs (I knew at least seven including Congresswomen Cynthia McKinney; but she is coming back). My contract at Yale was not being renewed due to this kind of pressure but I am in a field with great shortage and I got other options and now have two jobs and mre flexibility to do activism :-)
A for talks, Zionist pressures always tries to cancel talks or when they give up demand "balance" (ofcourse no balance is demanded of their talks). Whether they succeed or fail in canceling such conferences, they fail in their uptimate McCarthian goal of silencing dissent and actually help grow it. They rarely succeed in stopping a meeting as has happened when the elite [Fieldston] School in NY canceled my talk. The attempts gave students the chance to read my website and get educated and host me outside of the official venue. More importantly, an excellent educational opportunity to thousands across the WWW. See [Fieldson] for a sampling.
The stories, letters and coverage of an activism conference at Wesleyan University are good examples of the phenomenon of not succeeding in canceling. They illustrate what I think is a typical trend these days: human rights activists doing great work being attacked by shrieking, hysterical Zionists tossing defamatory names and labels for lack of a better argument and refusing to engage in public debate. Dr. Schwarcz, one of those who lied about this conference, turned down our challenge for a public debate. The conference was a great success resulting in formation of student networks, activism skills development etc. An example of the call to attack and “disrupt” the conference is found at this racist website: [http://www.dafka.org/NewsGen.asp?S=4&PageId=726]. Below appeared at Wesleyan University student newspaper (the Argus).
Respect the conference
By Students for a Free Palestine
On Saturday, Students for a Free Palestine(SFP) will host the Middle East activism conference, “Activism 102.” The goal of the conference is to teach students and non-students how to be effective activists concerning Middle Eastern politics. “Activism 102” assumes a ‘pro-Palestinian’ stance; while it is not intended to tackle political issues, the conference will undoubtedly touch on them. SFP has held numerous events in the past that were meant to be educational in nature concerning Palestinian issues. This conference will not directly address such issues, but will focus its energies on teaching methods to be an effective activist.
Disparaging remarks regarding the conference vocalized by certain Wesleyan faculty members and students have recently been brought to SFP’s attention. We had assumed the conference would be held without coming under fire from the Wesleyan community: the conference is not intended to be a debate, but a learning experience. However, unfounded, racist charges have been made against SFP’s intentions in holding “Activism 102. “ We are not writing this Wespeak to defend ourselves, as we find all the accusations to be reactionary, false in nature and wholly unworthy of response.
Rather we would like to take this opportunity to explain the ground-rules SFP has decided upon for Saturday’s conference. In the spirit of education, all questions are welcomed and encouraged; however, given the undercurrent of reactionary racism that has been expressed by members of the Wesleyan community, SFP would like to make clear that no disrespectful disruptions will be tolerated.
We are holding the event to foster learning among those who are dedicated to enriching themselves as activists of Middle Eastern politics, and we will not have it reduced to a venue for racist or Zionist rants. If we find attendees to be disruptive, the disruption will be addressed immediately. Again, we hope “Activism 102” will be a learning experience for those attending, and expect everyone to remain respectful at all times throughout their participation in the conference. We hope the conference will be a positive experience for the Wesleyan community, and that all who attend will respect the purpose of this conference and participate wholly.
Students for Free Palestine is a student group.
Conference in conflict with our community of learning into a frightening direction
By Vera Schwarcz
Dear Doug, (Doug refers to the University President!)
All day I was hoping we had it wrong--that this “program” for Saturday is a mistake, another Wesleyan, another time. Now, we are faced with a great sullying of our collective mission as a community of learning. What is scheduled is nothing less than naked hatred of Jews and misinformation about Israel. As a historian, you know that we cannot ignore the context of the “text”: the groups affiliated with the speakers and their funding is known for anti-Semitic work. In light of the rising hate crimes in the United States and abroad--what is Wesleyan doing? Why are we giving space, voice and legitimacy to acts of vicious defamation? Just last week, we heard a young German-born scholar give a talk about the new anti-Semitism. Wesleyan students asked explicitly whether anti-Zionism is always/invariably anti-Semitic? This thoughtful Cambridge-trained historian gave the tough answer: “Sure, in the abstract, anti-Zionism can be distinguished from Jew hatred. In fact, in our current historical circumstances it is not very likely.” He concluded by begging students to avert the tragic possibility that the State of Israel will cease to exist in our lifetime. The students there were shocked--and sobered. It was the first of a very long overdue campus discussion of rising anti-Semitism. And now, this! To call Saturday’s program “free speech” is to lace its vindictive mission with a human rights agenda--which is brutally challenged daily by terrorists in the Middle East and elsewhere.
As a China historian--I see echoes of the student-propelled violence of the Cultural Revolution. Wesleyan is already soiled by an undercurrent of anti-intellectualism. Solid, tough-minded learning is seen as “elite” somehow. As the daughter of survivors of the Holocaust, I shudder to think that the educational institution that I have built for three decades could be filled with such hate of who I am, and what I stand for. Doug, we have a weighty task ahead. If we cannot clarify what is truly at stake here, as Bill Firshein asks, Wesleyan will become known as the place where lies and truth are all the same. I hope there is time--and some avenue--for preventing disaster.
Schwarcz is a Professor of East Asian Studies
Conference calls for violence
By Kol Israel
This Saturday, a “Students for a Free Palestine”-sponsored conference entitled “Activism 102: a day of skills workshops for Middle East activism” will take place at Wesleyan. We write this letter out of fear and concern that this event will promote hatred, ignorance, and anti-Semitism on a campus that greatly values tolerance and equality. While we fully support the right of free speech, there are a number of factors that lead us to believe that this event will not promote education and tolerance, but rather incite half-educated and hate-driven behavior.
For one, the sponsor organizations and speakers notoriously preach the destruction of the State of Israel. One sponsor, Al-Awda, bears the motto, “INTIFADA! Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea,” and carries a logo depicting a key over the state of Israel. The motto and logo, which mimic that of various Palestinian terror groups, imply that Israel is an illegitimate state and deny its right to exist. They are not interested in a peaceful or two-state solution. Mazin Qumsiyeh, one of the cofounders of Al-Awda and a facilitator of the conference, was charged last spring with committing Anti-Semitic acts at Yale. Qumsiyeh was accused of falsely implicating Yale’s “Friends of Israel” (a Jewish Activist group) as pro-war activists in an attempt to incite animosity towards them amongst the highly anti-war student body. Another featured speaker, Adam Shapiro, co-founded the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a movement that “unconditionally supports Palestinians’ human right to resist occupation and oppression by any means necessary.” Any means indeed: ISM has been directly linked to a recent terrorist bombing in a Tel Aviv bar that killed 3 and injured over 50!
Are these the kinds of speakers we want at our University? Wesleyan is an institution devoted to academics, education, thought-provocation, and scholarly pursuit. The sponsors and speakers of this conference directly contradict these aims by inciting hatred and violence, providing half-truths and misinformation. While we personally may not agree with the political views driving the conference, we respect every individual’s right to their own opinions. However, the motives of these groups are antithetical to the academic discourse required to come to sound political conclusions, whatever they may be. Although everyone has a right to their views, we are not obligated to provide anyone a forum to promote hatred.
Furthermore, the conference has been advertised throughout New England with Wesleyan’s name attached to it. It is not limited to one or two speakers and our student body, but is a full-day affair attracting participants from around the country. Other prestigious and liberal schools have refused the same speakers a forum for the very reasons we should. By refusing to associate ourselves with these promoters of ignorance, we would join the likes of Columbia and Harvard, who have chosen not to dirty their names and reputations. To quote our illustrious website “At Wesleyan we aim high…we work to free our students to make choices through their lives that will allow them to be effective leaders.” Freedom is achieved through education and dialogue. Let’s live up to this ideal and prevent the spreading of intolerance through one-sidedness.
P.S. Don’t take our word for it, look it up yourself:
[http://www.yaleherald.com/article.php?Article=2377], (MQ adds: see also [http://www.yaleherald.com/article.php?Article=2472] both highly distorted and libelous)
Kol Israel is a student group.
Middle East workshops teach activist skills
by Katey Rich News Editor
Despite protests from students and faculty, the Activism 102 conference was held Saturday. Titled “A Day of Skills Workshops for Middle East Activists,” the event gathered between 70 and 80 students and others involved in Israel-Palestine issues. It took place without incident, to the relief of many community members who feared conflicting opinions would escalate to unsafe levels.
The conference was organized by Wesleyan’s Students for a Free Palestine (SFP), New Haven organization Middle East Crisis Committee (MECC), and the Conn.-based Palestine Right to Return Coalition (Al-Awda). Representatives from each group and many other local and national organizations were present to lead workshops and lectures.
“It [was] for Middle East activists to develop various skills, like media work and organizing and how to run a political organization,” said Stanley Heller, chairperson of the MECC. “We don’t like the words ‘pro-Palestinian’ or ‘pro-Israeli’-- we’re trying to create dialogues and peace.”
The all-day conference was divided into four sessions featured two workshops each. Topics ranged from “Influencing Government” to “Protest Art,” and each focused on means for Palestinian activists to join together to affect change.
“I think it’s important for us to organize and be together and feel like we can make a change,” said SFP member Javier Gaston-Greenberg ’05. “One of our main issues is to make sure that we branch out. That’s where we find power.”
The morning began with opening statements from Ady Ben Israel ’96 of Jews Against the Occupation (JAO) and Patrick Connor of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), both pro-Palestinian groups.
Israel told the audience of her work in “direct action” in Palestine, meaning activism that directly affects the lives of Palestinians, such as physically stopping soldiers or assisting Palestinian farmers.
“‘Go home and tell our stories,’” Israel said, quoting the Palestinians she met. “‘Your work is in the U.S.’ ”
As a Jew with strong connections to Israel, she also stressed the prevalence of many opinions on the conflict among Jews.
“I think it’s incredibly important that we stand up as a voice of opposition in the Jewish community,” Israel said. “It’s really important for us to show that there’s not a monolithic point of view on this issue.”
Connor and Israel conducted an exercise in which they asked audience members to consider certain situations involving pro-Palestinian protesters and judge for themselves whether the actions were violent or non-violent. Both speakers focused on the importance of non-violent direct action in the Middle East, despite its potential ramifications.
“It’s for participating in this type of peaceful protest that I’m not being allowed back into Israel,” Connor said afterwards.
Participants signed up for one of two workshops given during each of the four sessions during the day. Most focused on general activism tactics, but often included items specific to pro-Palestinian activists.
“I think a lot of the stuff at the conference could have been useful to activists from other groups on campus,” said Zach Strassburger ’06, who attended the workshops. “[However] I think that the people who were there benefited from the specificity of it.”
One workshop, titled “Networking and Outreach,” featured facilitators who had worked in both the Middle East and the United States on Palestinian issues.
“Do not lose opportunities to get your message out,” said facilitator Fatma Ahmed, a member of the multi-faith group We Refuse to be Enemies and the Islamic Association of Greater Hartford. “I think we tend to generalize if we do not know. Education is the key issue.”
Another workshop, which focused on means to influence government through activism, received a positive response from some attendees.
“I loved it,” said Walter Zielinksi of Staffordville, Conn. “This is great information. I think what it’s teaching me is how to become more active in government.”
One of SFP’s major goals was to network with other pro-Palestinian groups on local college campuses.
“I think it was a successful event in that many more students from surrounding schools were able to attend the conference,” said SFP member Angela Saad ’04.
Mike Butterfield ’06, an SFP member who led the student-networking workshop, also appreciated the chance to meet with other student activists.
“I wanted to get a student network going,” Butterfield said. “The time that we had to build an idea of what we wanted was pretty productive I thought. We’re planning to go to some other people’s events and meet again to have further discussions.”
Several Wesleyan students, some from pro-Israel organizations like Kol Israel, attended the conference with the intention of questioning and possibly opposing the speakers and viewpoints presented. Fears had been raised before the conference that the speakers may present anti-Semitic statements, prompting President Bennet to send a campus-wide email on Friday stating his confidence in Wesleyan to host the conference in a civil manner. (For more information on the controversy surrounding the conference, see “Conference goes on, despite controversy” page 4.)
Other students from outside Wesleyan attended, skeptical of the speaker’s opinions.
“As someone who leans a little more toward Israel, I get to view the other side,” said Sarah Mossberg, a first-year student at Smith College. “I think that that’s part of being any kind of activist or any kind of educated person.”
The day ended with a lecture by Adam Shapiro, a leader of ISM who had recently spent time in Iraq filming a documentary about the issues surrounding U.S. occupation of Iraq. Shapiro compared his experience in Iraq to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
“We have a responsibility to Iraq, whether we are for the war or against the war,” Shapiro said. “Resistance to the occupation has to happen here.”
“I thought he made some good connections to the war in Iraq,” Strassburger said of the lecture.
The lecture drew about 150 people, some of whom attended it, like the conference, expecting to be critical.
“Adam Shapiro dodged the difficult questions, and I was frustrated that he did not answer the controversial questions about terrorism,” said Jewish University Chaplain David Leipziger. “I thought for someone who’s a Ph.D candidate speaking to bright college students and educated people, there should have been more.”
Despite the criticism that sprang up around the conference, organizers and participants believed the day was a success.
“Everyone in SFP will take something from this and do something with it,” Saad said.
News Editors Laura Goldblatt and Josh Brandstadter contributed to this report.
Schwarcz, this is my education
By Bayard Love
Dear Prof. of History Vera Schwarcz,
Restraining from a defense of this weekend’s conference, (where I learned how to run efficient meetings, make phone trees and four-foot puppets) I think it necessary to show how the tone and language of your Wespeak contributes to silencing a variety of voices. The tone of the text attempted to legitimize your own comments by speaking above the students and to Bennet, as if anyone else reading was sitting in on a conversation between two marble statues. Addressing Bennet, you wrote, “As a historian, you know that we cannot ignore the context of the ‘text’…” Then, in an attempt to validate a debated opinion you leave a source unnamed while stressing his scholarly Cambridge training. Finally, without any evidence or incorporation of differing perspectives you write, “Wesleyan is already soiled by an undercurrent of anti-intellectualism.”
Perhaps we have differing views of what intellectualism means. To me it means constantly challenging the idea of a singular hegemonic history that is validated through the positionality of those who construct that history. As a historian, your Wespeak, and the idea that you and Doug have control over this ‘educational institution’ are complicit in this.
Professor of Anthropology at Johns Hopkins University, Michel-Rolph Trouillot writes, “in most of Europe and North America: the role of the historian is to reveal the past, to discover or at least, approximate the truth. Within that viewpoint, power is unproblematic…At best, history is a story about power, a story about those who won.” It is in resistance to this objective history and education that multiple histories and stories develop. Often, these are never encouraged within the educational institution because, for whatever reason, they are not seen as, “Solid, tough-minded learning.” (How was X-House established? Why is there such a reluctance to bring in Ethnic Studies?) In fact, most of those narratives act in direct opposition to the idea of a ‘historian’ or ‘history’ specifically because those voices, experiences and languages are being erased by an objective history and the educational institution.
I would question how the reaction to organization around Palestinian struggle is related to rising hate crimes against Arabs and South Asians in the U.S, blindness to targeted violence against Muslims in Gujarat, or the current war in Iraq. How does an educational system run by predominately ‘objective’, ‘tough-minded’ white people contribute to oppression and violence? (How much does Alan Dachs, the chairman of the board, stand to profit from Bechtel’s involvement in Iraq?).
To end with, I look to your concluding comment, “Doug, we have a weighty task ahead.” Personally, I’m not concerned with your weighty task of educating the young students, I’m concerned with educating myself. History is never dead and the ideas presented here don’t disappear outside ivory walls. That’s why I went this weekend, because this education is mine to create, not yours to give.
Love is a member of the Class of 2005.
Rock Throwing 101 class
By Aaron Sussman
I am SUPER-PSYCHED about Saturday’s “Skill(z) Workshop for Middle Eastern Activists”! I’ve always LOVED shawarma and HATED oppression, so this looks like the perfect workshop for me! I really don’t know too much about the Israel vs. Palestine situation, but I am hoping to learn and find out what team I should be backing. Right now I’m leaning towards Palestine, ‘cause they have Yassir Arafat – he won the Noble Peace Prize! Also, when I was 13, one of my Jewish friends had his Bar Mitzvah party and the theme was “Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” and the MC was DJ AraPHAT…it was rad! We played this game called “Coke and Pepsi,” but this time they called it “Bulldozers and Palestinian Homes.” DJ AraPHAT kept on yelling “holla!” and then holding up this Jewish bread and people laughed. I didn’t get it though.
Anyway, I can’t wait for this active(iz)ism-filled day of fun! The first workshop I am going to is called “Trajectory and Velocity: The Mechanics of Rock Throwing.” Then I’m going to one called “Arab Leaders: Profile on Edward Said and Paula Abdul.” That one should be fun, but what about Tony Shalhoub?! He was HILARIOUS on Wings! Maybe they’ll mention him. The third workshop is called “Developing Tank-Destroying Sling-shots.” I hope they stop for lunch at some point. All of that zany activism makes me hungry! It can also stress me out, which is why I was super-excited when I heard that you can get a free full body Mossad!
I don’t want to brag or anything, but I got an email from President of Wesleyan. Doug Bennet, about Saturday’s event. Apparently there have been concerns about anti-Semitism! That’s DEF not cool. My roommate told me that the term “anti-Semitism” doesn’t make sense, ‘cause “Arabs are Semites, too.” I told him that was a really awful thing to say and I walked to another room. See, conflict averted! It is wrong to discriminate against Jewish people, especially when TONS of Jews have contributed so much to society, like: Albert Einstein, Barbara Streisand, Sigmund Freud, Lenny Kravitz, Dick Cheney, Woody Allen, Keiko the Whale, Justin Timberlake, John Wayne, Serena and Venus Williams, Hank Greenberg, Hank Aaron, John Stamos, three members of Wu-Tang, I.M. Pei, Gwen Stefani, Moses Malone, Pat Robertson, Pikachu, Bob Dylan (before he converted to Wahhabism), Karl Marx, Ralph Macchio, Aaron Sussman, Jackie Chan, Ben Stiller, Michelangelo (the Turtle), Lance Armstrong, Adam Sandler, Bishop Desmond Tutu, A.C. Slater, Alan Dershowitz, and Mel Gibson. That’s A LOT of culture! People think that Jews are just good at accounting and finance and law and that stuff, but they can also do stuff like sports or music or even construction – just look at the Pyramids or that huge Security Wall!
In Prez Bennet’s email, he said, “…and Wesleyan students can become leaders in the quest for peace.” Where do I sign up for that!? I would be SO PSYCHED about being one of them. I’d call my mission PeaceQuest. We’d have theme music. Kinda like the Star Wars theme, but Klezmer style. PeaceQuest! I think that this Workshop should include other issues, like animal rights. They could call it “From PETA to Pita”! That’d be so cute!
In conclusion, I just want to say that if we all try to look at situations from another person’s shoes (or makeshift, inadequate footwear), we will reach a level of understanding and love and realize that we are all the same, and fighting just leads to more fighting, but love leads to more love. And sometimes babies. Enough babies to start an army! PeaceQuest!
Sussman is a member of the Class of 2007.
Prof. Schwarcz changed my mind
By Sasha F. Chavkin
As a Jewish member of the Wesleyan community, I was deeply troubled by Professor Vera Schwarcz’s Wespeak condemning Students for a Free Palestine’s conference as “nothing less than hatred of Jews.” In her Wespeak, Schwarcz takes her place alongside Abraham Foxman, Alan Dershowitz and numerous others in a broad intellectual movement that seeks to redefine anti-Zionism. For them it includes almost all criticism of Israel, as an expression of the rising tide of a new anti-Semitism. The truth is that it is their intellectual leap, and not the agonizing and age-old reality of violence and hatred toward Jews, that conjures up the frightening specter of anti-Semitism lurking in every corner of our society, and in doing so detracts from the real meaning of the word.
As well as being logically flawed, this argument opens the door to a brand of religious McCarthyism in which everyone who is not with Israel at all times must be against the Jews. I can remember very few experiences as infuriating as being called a self-hating Jew for criticizing Israel’s actions on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as if the lessons about racism and abuse of power that I drew from my own family’s painful history in the Ukraine and Germany were somehow unacceptable. I had not been planning to attend Saturday’s conference because of my reservations about the International Solidarity Movement, but after reading Professor Schwarcz’s Wespeak, I decided to change my mind.
Chavkin is a member of the Class of 2005.
Conference given bad rap
By Stanley Heller
As chairperson of one of the sponsoring organizations of “Activism 102,” I’m outraged by the false characterizations of our conference by Professor Vera Schwarcz and the student group Kol Israel. They hurl slurs like “vicious defamation,” “hate,” and “anti-Semitism” without mentioning a single true fact. The conference to Schwarcz echoes “violence” of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. I suppose learning how to write a press release is just a short step away from parading professors with dunce caps.
A Jewish Israeli-American opened the event, and the main talk, which was open to the public, was given by Adam Shaprio, who leads an organization that is dedicated to non-violence even though it has had members murdered by the Israeli army. I’m an American Jew, too, as are some members of the Wesleyan Students for a Free Palestine, not that it should matter.
In Israel we have a ethnic supremacy state which has destroyed 10,000 Palestinian homes since the ‘67 occupation. It administers collective punishment and torture routinely. It puts millions of people under siege conditions and humiliates them whenever they attempt to cross checkpoints in their own land. And to call attention to this is “hate” and “defamation”. Give me a break.
Stanley Heller is the Chairperson of the Middle East Crisis Committee based in New Haven, CT.
Anti-Semitism labels are Defamation
Two lengthy letters published in Argus (one by Dr. Vera Schwarcz and one by "Kol Israel") attacked a human rights conference at Wesleyan using labels such as "anti-Semitism" and "hate mongering." I am one of the organizers who was specifically "targeted" by one of those two articles. Hosted by Wesleyan Students for a Free Palestine, this conference was a chance for activists to exchange experiences and ideas about how to reach out to advance human rights, equality, and justice. The campaign attacking this conference included a website and an email "alert" encouraging some to attend and "disrupt the conference." Fortunately most people are not that uneducated or unintelligent and the conference was extremely successful. Adam Shapiro's public lecture in the evening was attended by 150. Most people could see that Adam and several of the speakers and workshop facilitators at this conference were themselves Jewish and thus the
absurdity of the claims. Several of our most active members advocating human rights for Palestinians are themselves Jewish.
This "anti-Semitic" label is not only not true but is also dangerous. Before I explain the danger let me state that I prefer the more accurate term "anti-Jewish" rather than "anti-Semitic" for the obvious reason that many Jews are not Semites (e.g. European white Ashkenazi Jews or Ethiopian Jews) and many Semites who are not Jews (e.g. Palestinians). But the term (BTW initially coined by a racist German anti-Jewish man) is now so Common so let us use it here. Why is labeling human rights advocates, including anti- and post-Zionists, as anti-Semitic dangerous? Zionists always claimed that they represent "the Jewish people". The reality is that Zionism is a colonial political movement with adherents among people of various religions including Christian Zionists like Jerry Falwell. Judaism on the other hand is one of the three great monotheistic religions. There are many Jews, and even thousands of Israelis, who are anti-Zionist (and many more who are post-Zionist).
Labeling those who advocate human rights (including the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands) as "anti-Semitic" attempts to gut this term of any meaning and makes the term almost a respectable designation. This is dangerous because there are people who hate Jews (as there are people who hate Muslims and those who hate Christians). There are real hate-mongers who want to burn synagogues, as there are real anti-Muslims who want to burn mosques. By not distinguishing between human rights advocates and these people, you give legitimacy to hate and you encourage people to think that it is OK to attack Jews because Judaism=Zionism.
I am not going to answer the other notes sent via email and letters written with snippets of selective information (most lies and distortions) by trying to answer these in such a short letter (limitations of space allowed). Instead, I want to challenge "Kol Israel" (the group that defamed the conference and me) to organize a public debate between me and Dr. Vera Schwarcz (the history professor who labeled this conference with all sorts of names). We can then really address the issues. Maybe a panel at Wesleyan with two panelists invited by Kol Israel an two invited by Students for a Free Palestine would be appropriate (moderated by an impartial Wesleyan faculty member or a dean). This can discuss Zionism and the Palestinian Right of Return since these were the two issues the conference detractors latched onto as being the most important. Just for the record on my own political beliefs, I have a book out in April called sharing the land of Canaan in which I advocate equality and a pluralistic society for all its people in Israel/Palestine (see [http://Al-Awda.org/sharingthelandofcanaan] ).
Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
Bennet’s high mark in Activism 102
This past weekend, the Students for Free Palestine hosted a conference aimed at educating its members on effective methods of activism. In the days leading up to the event, “Activism 102,” there was an extreme amount of criticism, both from faculty and students, directed at the administration for allowing the conference to take place on campus. Many of the objections stemmed from participants at similar meetings having been accused of promoting anti-Semitic thought. President Bennet attempted to put a halt to the rising tensions when he sent an email to the Wesleyan community on Friday assuring everyone that the students involved with the conference would not let the rhetoric be hateful in any way.
The issues raised at the conference were controversial and arguments that it was one-sided were valid. Despite that fact, Bennet should be commended for taking a strong, swift stance on the issue in the face of the harsh criticism and the pressure that he received. It would have been against the liberal ideals of this institution for him to cancel the event simply because it did not reflect the viewpoints of the entire campus. He made the right decision to allow the conference to take place and in the end, it ran without problems.
Regardless of the outcome, many members of the Wesleyan community still remain upset. In the future, when a potentially volatile conference like “Activism 102” is scheduled to take place on campus, it is vital that opposing parties find a middle ground to avert a fruitless war of words. This means more than just a stream of angry Wespeaks, which too often serves as a venue for unproductive monologues. Actual dialogue through face-to-face meetings has to take place so that the tumult of the last week can be avoided.