The flag in question looked like this. Via WikiCommons

On anti-Semitism at Chicago Dyke March


I am a queer Israeli Jew of Arab and North African descent. I’m no stranger to oppression in many forms. My family escaped Iraq in the early 1950s as anti-Semitism in Iraq reached a peak. I grew up in an underprivileged neighborhood in Israel and struggled to make my way out of it. I served in the Israeli army as an openly queer commander for five years, and had to endure many battles on the path for acceptance. Yet I cannot wrap my head around the bigotry, hatred and anti-Semitism coming from my LGBT community.

On June 24, the final red line was crossed at the Chicago Dyke March. What was supposed to be a march for equal rights for an oppressed minority turned into a hate-fest targeting Jewish people — yes anti-Semitism in the guise of LGBT rights. Three LGBT Jewish participants were forced out of the parade for holding a rainbow flag with a Star of David on it. For the organizers, it was unacceptable to have a Jewish symbol at the parade. While you might think that they would try to apologize after this shameful act, they didn’t. The organizers took to Twitter and argued: “Queer and Trans anti-Zionist Jewish folks are welcome here …” In other words, some Jews can join, but they will decide which ones.

It is not a political stand; we all know it is not. If this were political, why are they not targeting the countless countries that ban homosexuality and target LGBT people on a daily basis? Would they be removing Iranians from the parade for holding a flag with crescent on it? In Iran, they hang gays every day. Why not Gaza, where they throw gays off of rooftops? Or Chechnya? It is not political, it is ideological, an ideology called intersectionality. The problem with intersectionality is that it doesn’t even adhere to its original meaning: All struggles for rights are inherently connected. It has now become a tool to be used against not only Israel, but Jews in general, who are accused of “white privilege” even though we’re not white.

What does the support of Zionism (the movement to liberate the Jewish people in their ancient homeland) have to do with your LGBT identity? What does your religion have to do with it? Even if you are critical of Israel’s politics and policies, as I am and many Israelis are, why are the organizers supporting only “anti-Zionists”? The only meaning of anti-Zionism is the destruction of Israel, the only Jewish state. For the organizers of the parade to support anti-Zionism can mean only that they support the end of Israel, destroying the Jewish state. Iran’s leaders, ISIS, and many terrorist groups hold similar views to the organizers of the Dyke March. It can be defined only as anti-Semitic.

We are witnessing a trend among many in the progressive camp, a camp of which I am a part, that is losing its true identity and being used by campaigners and strategists manipulating them. Some queer groups and other minority groups are being used as tools to promote hatred of the Jewish state and the Jewish people. They are being told to use their identity, be it their race, gender or religion, to fight Israel for a cause they have no connection to. These groups must ask themselves, before taking a stand about Israel, when was the last time they took a stand about another conflict around the world? When was the last time they’ve judged a participant in an event based on his ethnicity or religion? Why is it only with Israel and Jews that they feel that they have the liberty to boycott, to discriminate and to hate?

The signs are clear and this type of hateful incident is a red flag for the LGBT community. What is this community if not a community that is fighting for equality and justice, for our community and for all? Although it is not popular to stand up for the Jewish people and the Jewish state, we must remember the lessons of history. It might start with us but it never ends with us.

Also, everything can change very quickly. The just thing to do is to stand up to this type of hatred and call it what it is, nothing more or less than anti-Semitism.


Hen Mazzig is an Israeli writer, speaker and social activist from Tel Aviv. You can follow him @HenMazzig.

 

A sign reading “Fascist Free Campus” on the University of California, Berkeley, campus in the aftermath of the cancellation of a speech there by conservative political commentator Ann Coulter on April 27. Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Who’s an anti-Semite?


The Jewish left has been calling conservatives “anti-Semites” — not to mention “fascists” and “racists” — for as long as I have been alive.Yet, outside of the Muslim world, virtually all anti-Semitism and Israel-hatred comes from the left. Of course, to most left-wing (as opposed to liberal) Jews, Israel-hatred is not the same as anti-Semitism. One can even help those who wish to destroy Israel — through supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, for example — and still be honored by Jewish institutions. Two local examples: Ed Asner was just given a lifetime achievement award at the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival. and Cornel West was invited by the UCLA Department of Jewish Studies to give a keynote address.

But no matter how destructive the left is — not only to Jews and Israel, but to civilized society as demonstrated by the intolerance and violence at our left-wing universities — it’s the right that frightens most American Jews.

Which brings me to an advertisement in the May 12 edition of the Jewish Journal by a Jewish leftist attacking Ann Coulter as an anti-Semite and me for defending her against that charge.

I don’t know what prompted the ad, since none of the allegations against Coulter is recent. The issue is gone and largely forgotten. My best guess is that precisely because there is so much Israel- and Jew-hatred emanating from the left, the man who took out the ad felt it necessary to find a prominent right-wing example of anti-Semitism. And since it is so rare, he revived the Coulter issue.

The irony is that even if Ann Coulter were an anti-Semite, this lone voice would hardly come close to matching the anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism coming from the left that permeate Western universities, intellectual life and the media.

But even that irony doesn’t apply, since Ann Coulter is strongly pro-Israel. But, again, neither matters to most Jews on the left, since, as far as these Jews are concerned, being pro-Israel doesn’t make you a friend of the Jews and being anti-Israel doesn’t make you an enemy of the Jews.

Now, to the charges.

During the course of the second Republican presidential debate, Ann Coulter, tweeted: “How many f—ing Jews do these people think there are in the United States?”

Her explanation was that she was frustrated with the candidates’ remarks that concentrated on things nearly all Republicans agree on — admiration of Ronald Reagan, opposition to abortion and support for Israel — while ignoring what she considers America’s biggest domestic problem: illegal immigration. She regarded the candidates’ remarks as “pandering” to various Republican constituencies and tweeted out a series of critical and angry comments, including the one about Jews.

If all non-Jews were as anti-Semitic as Ann Coulter, we Jews would be living in a Jewish utopia, a world without enemies.

She was condemned by Republicans — myself included — and Democrats for the tweet. It was wrong, and it damaged, at least temporarily, Republican and conservative supporters of Israel. But as I wrote at the time in a piece published by both The Jerusalem Post and the Forward, Ann Coulter is not an anti-Semite. She constantly has defended Jews and Israel. Every mention of Jews or Israel I’ve read in any of her books is a spirited defense of Jews and Israel, or an attack on those who attack Jews and Israel. I should add, for the record, that she has been to my home twice for Shabbat dinner.

If all non-Jews were as anti-Semitic as Ann Coulter, we Jews would be living in a Jewish utopia, a world without enemies.

Those Jews, like the ad writer, who label her an anti-Semite point to that 2015 tweet and to something she said in a 2007 interview with Jewish TV personality Donny Deutsch. She said that America (and presumably the world) would be better if everybody were a Christian.

Deutsch asked if that meant all Jews should become Christian. Coulter said yes, and Deutsch was offended. He was further offended when she labeled Christians and Jews who became Christians as “perfected Jews.”

But those are hardly anti-Semitic sentiments. Believing the world would be better if everyone were a Christian hardly renders one a bigot, let alone a Jew-hater. Don’t progressives believe the world would be better if everyone were a progressive?

And why is the belief that Jews who become Christian are “perfected Jews” anti-Semitic? Why is that different from a Jew believing that a Christian or anyone else who converts to Judaism becomes a member of the Chosen People? Or from Orthodox Jews who believe that Christianity is idol worship? I don’t agree with that view, but that hardly makes Orthodox Jews Christian-haters. I know a prominent Orthodox rabbi who thinks Christianity is idol worship and who works constantly with evangelical Christians whom he adores.

We need to be very careful before labeling people anti-Semites. This is especially so with regard to Christians who believe that the only way to salvation is through belief in Christ. The fact is that the Jews’ and Israel’s best friends in America are largely those evangelical Christians who believe that only faith in Jesus saves.

In addition, epithets are not always a good indicator of who our enemies are. Harry S. Truman wrote home when he visited New York City that he was in “Kike-town” and wrote very disparaging things about the Jews in his diary. Yet, as president, he became the man who had America recognize the newly formed State of Israel within minutes of its declaration of independence — against the advice of his entire State Department.

When Hillary Clinton was accused of calling a campaign aide a “f—ing Jew bastard” — an account attested to by three witnesses — I wrote a column for The Wall Street Journal defending her against the charge of anti-Semitism. Unlike the ad writer who, like so many others on the left, smears ideological opponents, I defended Hillary Clinton, even though I have no respect for her. I defended Clinton because it was the right thing to do. And because if Jews cry wolf by calling virtually every opponent an anti-Semite, when the real anti-Semites come, no one will take us seriously.

And one more thought: With our universities more hostile to identifying Jews than at any time in American history, with many young Jews fearing to wear a Star of David or a yarmulke on more and more left-wing campuses, a Jew looks pretty foolish taking out an ad in a Jewish publication to attack Ann Coulter and Dennis Prager.


Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles on KRLA (AM 870) 9 a.m. to noon. His latest project is the internet-based Prager University (prageru.com).

University of Wisconsin students proposed a resolution blaming Israel for police violence against African-Americans in the United States. Photo by James Steakley via WikiCommons.

University of Wisconsin student resolution blames Israel for police violence against African-Americans


The student government of the University of Wisconsin-Madison included an amendment specifically targeting Israel in a resolution calling for divestment from companies operating in many countries.

The resolution was passed Wednesday by the Associated Students of Madison by a 24-0 vote, with two abstentions. It calls on the university and its foundation to divest from companies involved in private prisons, arms manufacture, fossil fuels and border walls, and banks that “oppress marginalized communities.”

It also blames Israel for training U.S. police in tactics it says harm African-Americans.

The vote comes a month after a divestment resolution specifically targeting Israel failed to pass the student government and two weeks after the student government passed a proposal to create a new financial transparency and ethics subcommittee. The meeting was held April 12, the second day of Passover, when several Jewish representatives were absent.

Wednesday’s resolution uses language brokered between Jewish student leaders and the authors to target unethical corporations in more general terms without attacking Israel. However, during the open forum discussion prior to the vote, some students called for the one-page resolution to be amended to include specific countries and issues, the Daily Cardinal student newspaper reported.

In a statement issued after the vote, the university administration said the resolution is nonbinding and will not result in a change in university policies or its approach to investing.

Jewish students said an amendment added to the one-page resolution brought the resolution more in line with the proposal that failed a month ago. The amendment blames Israel for police violence against African-Americans, citing an exchange program in which senior American police officers travel to Israel to learn about counterterrorism, the pro-Israel organization StandWithUS said in a statement.

During debate on the resolution, anti-Israel activists called the Jewish community “oppressors” and said that Jewish students oppose divestment against Israel because it threatens their “white privilege.”

A Jewish member of the Associated Students of Madison was publicly targeted and harassed by other members of the student government during the meeting as well, according to the campus Hillel.

“The behavior of members of ASM to publicly target and harass the Jewish students and in particular the one Jewish student on ASM was reprehensible,” the university Hillel’s executive director, Greg Steinberger, said in a statement issued following the meeting. “We look forward to engaging the university and the state in a review of what happened tonight at the ASM meeting.”

In their statement, university administrators said, “We are concerned that the actions taken tonight appear to violate a ruling of the Student Judiciary; Jewish members of student government, who raised this issue with the Student Judiciary, walked out of the meeting after expressing concerns that the process was undemocratic and not transparent.

“UW-Madison values and welcomes members of all faiths and identities. We have heard clearly from the Jewish community how targeted they feel by the actions of the last month. Chancellor [Rebecca] Blank has made clear her opposition to the concept of BDS and academic boycotts.”

Israel Action Network, which monitored the campus events along with Chicago’s Jewish federation, said ASM leaders “acted in bad faith and manipulated the rules” to bring back the BDS resolution targeting Israel.

“Anti-Semitism has no place on college campuses, and students should not have to be made to choose between their progressive ideals and their Zionism. IAN, which was founded by Jewish Federations across North America, is committed to ensuring a safe environment for Jewish students on campus,” said Ethan Felson and Geri Palast, IAN executive directors, in a statement.

Jewish leaders call for UK’s Labour Party to act on anti-Semitism ‘cancer’


Almost half a century ago, when he first became an active supporter of Britain's Labour Party, Rabbi Abraham Pinter said it had far less of a problem with anti-Semitism than the country as a whole.

But while other political groups have recognized the need to address prejudice against Jews, Pinter said the country's main opposition party was stuck in the past.

Labour now faces accusations of anti-Semitism in its ranks – from its high-profile former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who said Adolf Hitler had supported Zionism, to students at Oxford University. This has fanned concern among Jewish communities already alarmed at increasing levels of hate crimes.

“The Labour Party never recognized it had a problem. It's really where it was 50 years ago,” said Pinter, a former Labour councillor who speaks for the orthodox Haredi Jewish community in the Stamford Hill area of north London.

“It's been there and it's still there,” he told Reuters.

Some within Labour say they are being accused of anti-Semitism simply for expressing legitimate criticisms of Israel. Senior figures have said prejudice is limited to a small fringe and was being used to smear party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

But the row could play a role in Thursday's London mayoral election. Labour candidate Sadiq Khan, widely tipped to become the capital's first Muslim mayor, said he was appalled by Livingstone's comments and that they could harm his chances in a city home to an estimated 170,000 Jews.

Moshe Menezira, manager of the Kosher Deli in Golders Green in north London, which has a large Jewish community, said there seemed to be a problem within Labour and that it was leading to many Jewish voters reconsidering whether to back Khan.

“I know a lot of Labour supporters but they're in two minds because of what is going on,” the 65-year-old said.

Last week, Labour's leadership suspended Livingstone and ordered an inquiry into anti-Semitism in the party following comments the ex-mayor made in a radio interview that Hitler had supported Zionism in the 1930s before “he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews”.

Livingstone had been defending a Labour Muslim lawmaker after she apologized for posting online messages which included a suggestion that Israel should be relocated to the United States to solve the problems in the Middle East.

The incidents sparked accusations from Jewish leaders that Labour leaders and those on the British political left were doing too little to combat anti-Semitism in their ranks.

“There is now a cancer in their party and it is getting worse by the day,” the Jewish Chronicle newspaper said in an editorial in March. “If Labour is not to lose the last residue of trust from our community, it must recognize and deal with that cancer.”

SUSPENSIONS

Opponents of Labour have previously leveled accusations of anti-Semitism against socialist Corbyn, who was elected party leader last September. They pointed to a speech he made about the Middle East in 2009, in which he described Hamas and Hezbollah – groups designated as terrorist organizations by Britain and the United States – as “friends”.

Conservative Prime Minister raised those comments during heated exchanges with Corbyn in parliament on Wednesday.

“Are they your friends or are they not? Because those organizations in their constitutions believe in persecuting and killing Jews,” Cameron said. “They're anti-Semitic organizations, they're racist organizations, he must stand up and say they are not his friends.”

Corbyn replied: “Obviously anyone that commits racist acts or is anti-Semitic is not a friend of mine.”

The Labour leader has previously said he had used the term friends in “a collective way”.

The parliament exchange and the row surrounding Livingstone followed damaging headlines for Labour in February, when the co-chairman of the Oxford University Labour Club quit, saying “a large proportion of both OULC and the student left in Oxford more generally have some kind of problem with Jews”.

On Tuesday, Labour said it had suspended three councillors in northern and central England because of anti-Semitic remarks.

Independent Jewish Voices, a human rights group set up in 2007 which criticizes some of Israel's policies, said it was concerned at sweeping suggestions that anti-Semitism was pervasive in the party.

“We also reiterate our view that the battle against anti-Semitism is undermined whenever opposition to Israeli government policies is automatically branded as anti-Semitic,” it said.

But some Jewish leaders say Labour has more than a fringe problem, with anti-Zionism often used as a cover for being anti-Jewish.

“In recent days, we have heard anti-Semitism in the Labour Party described variously as 'a smear' and as 'mood music' being manipulated by political opponents of Jeremy Corbyn,” Britain's Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis wrote in Wednesday's Daily Telegraph newspaper.

“There has been nothing more disheartening in this story than the suggestion that this is more about politics than about substance.”

'BECOMING ACCEPTABLE'

The anti-Semitism row is casting a shadow over Khan's push to become mayor of London, a city of about 8.5 million people.

Most Jewish voters say they have no problem with Khan himself, who said he was disgusted by Livingstone's remarks.

“I think the Labour leadership generally needs to act far more decisive and swiftly when these sorts of comments are made,” he said on Tuesday. “It can't be right that there are Londoners of Jewish faith who feel the Labour party is not a place for them.”

In Golders Green, where Jewish men wearing skull caps push prams along the street past Kosher shops and restaurants that line the main highway, there is real concern that the row engulfing Labour could fuel prejudice in Britain.

Police figures showed an increase of more than 60 percent in anti-Semitic incidents in London last year, while the Community Security Trust, which advises Britain's estimated 280,000 Jews on security matters, said 924 incidents were recorded across the country during 2015, including 86 violent assaults.

Earlier this month, parliament's Home Affairs Committee said it would hold a short inquiry into anti-Semitism over concerns prejudice was on the rise.

In the London Jewish Family Centre in Golders Green, Denise, 61, who declined to give her surname, said anti-Semitism in Britain had got “way worse” since she moved from South Africa four years ago.

“Six to eight weeks ago I was walking across a bridge and a car stopped and the people inside called me a bloody Jew. The first time ever it's happened to me in four years,” she said.

The row has been disheartening for Jews involved in Labour politics who support Khan's stance.

Mike Katz, the National Vice-Chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement and a Labour candidate for the London Assembly, said the expansion from about 200,000 to about 380,000 party members since Corbyn became leader had led to the number of people with anti-Semitic views also increasing.

“People over recent years have found it easier to pursue a discourse where it is acceptable to say these things and blur the lines between legitimate criticism of Israel and something which goes far further,” he told Reuters.

Rabbi Pinter, who said he was embarrassed that he used to count Livingstone as a friend, said those in Labour who denied there was an issue were part of the problem.

“People are getting concerned that this is causing anti-Semitism to become mainstream. My concern is it's becoming acceptable,” he said.

The University of California is guilty of Zionophobia


There is a new, dangerous epidemic throughout the world — Zionophobia. The disease has stricken the world at large, but students on campus are left trying to combat it alone with no proper action by their university administration. The University of California is guilty for not addressing the issue, and so recently they have taken responsibility to change the course of the epidemic by assigning a task force to respond and effectively address the issue of anti-Semitism on campus.

As a proud Zionist on campus, I am constantly forced to defend my identity and its inherited connection to the State of Israel, because nobody else will.

I was born a Jew. Jew comes from a Greek root referring to the geographical location of Judea, which lies in the modern day state of Israel. My identity is more than a religion, culture and nationality. Zionism describes all of those things. Jews are bonded by a common history, culture, language, and values and therefore, Zionism is an inextricable part of the Jewish identity and my identity. In all past proclamations, UCLA Chancellor Block has talked about civil discourse and mutual respect.  He has even talked against anti-Semitism, but not once did he mention the core of the problem: anti-Zionism. But let me make it clear that Zionophobia is racism. Pope Francis, President Obama, British Prime Minister Cameron and French Prime Minister Valls agree.  Each have stated that denying Israel’s right to exist is anti-Semitism.  And just last month, Secretary of State Kerry stated at the U.N. that the U.S. “will condemn anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, no matter how their proponents attempt to cloak it in some false mantle of respectability.”

How dare any member of the University community attempt to destroy or denounce my identity. I am ashamed that the university has allowed my identity to be politicized by swastika signs, Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaigns that repeatedly cross the line from criticism of Israeli policies into blatant anti-Semitism, Apartheid Week and Anti-Zionism Week. All these activities have one thing in common they are not an attack on policy rather a personal attack on Zionists. These events are scare tactics geared at the Jewish community. They are used to incite disruption on our campus and widen the bridge between communities. Groups like Students for Justice in Palestine pride themselves as the antithesis to Zionism. Their slogan “from the river to the sea” is nothing but a call to destroy and annihilate the Zionists.

There is a loud call and action to condemn all hate groups against other minorities, with the exception of those who are anti-Zionists, which today is one of the clearest and rampant form of racism which marginalizes and calls for the elimination of a people — the Zionists. Thankfully the UC Regents understand the problem plaguing my school.  They have appointed a committee to address all types of intolerance and specifically the frightening rise in anti-Semitism which has been spurred by condoned Zionophobic racism.

If the UC Regents deliberation ends up with another condemnation of anti-Semitism, we have accomplished nothing to curb anti-Jewish assault on campus, because the hate mongers will continue to hide under the slogan “Zionism is not Judaism”. The University must gather the courage and name the hate at its core, i.e., Zionophobia.

The Regents must declare the University of California campuses a “hate-free” zone, and this should include all forms of racism, explicitly Zionophobia, Islamophobia, and anti-black incitement. Religions and skin-color do not have a monopoly on racism. All identity-forming symbols should be respected equally.

The Regents must take responsibility and not allow others to unrightfully and hatefully define my identity and experience at this University. I am the physical manifestation of Zionism and I am proud.

Menna is an undergraduate student at UCLA and a board member of the Bestemming Project, a movement to combat anti-Semitism through the arts.

Letters to the editor: Time to die; Gun control; Anti-Zionism


Determining Time

Dr. Neil Wenger’s intriguing opinion piece about the need for some patients to accept that it is “time to die” overstates the comparison between Moses’ death and what happens in contemporary ICUs (“When it’s Time to Die,” Oct. 9). 

Moses was the greatest prophet ever. When God declared that it was his time to go, there was no questioning the clarity or definitiveness of that command. The same cannot be said today, not merely because there are almost always accepted interventions that can prolong — or even save — lives, but also because the meaning attached to the life saved is open to interpretation. Today’s decisions are thus excruciatingly difficult and very different from the death of Moses. 

Wenger argues that aggressive end-of-life therapies don’t preserve the patient’s humanity and are thus not “befitting a human.” But whether that is so, in the case of Moses’ death, it was left up to God. Today, our struggle is to find God’s direction, which may sometimes legitimately include doing everything possible to try to save or prolong life and avoid any chance of hastening death. Our rabbis appreciated this struggle. That’s why they told us that it is “against your will you are born … against your will you will die.” We should also acknowledge that complexity.

Rabbi Jason Weiner, Cedars Sinai Medical Center, Spiritual Care Dept.

Remembering a matriarch 

Thank you for printing Rabbi Laura Geller’s tribute to Rabbi Regina Jonas, the first female rabbi (“A Collective Effort to Remember the First Woman Rabbi on her Yahrzeit,” Oct. 2). For all women who must place themselves in the stories of “mankind” and live with presumed male pronouns when we speak of rabbis, leaders, community elders … how refreshing to know that women such as Rabbi Jonas were providing necessary comfort to our families’ souls during the Shoah.

And thank you, Rabbi Geller, for picking such an appropriate yahrzeit for Rabbi Jonas.

Yes, Shabbat Bereshit!  How appropriate to mark the beginning of remembering this great soul.

Aviyah Farkas, Los Angeles

Shotgun Logic

I disagree with almost everything Rob Eshman writes, but he was spot-on about gun control in the Oct. 9 issue of the Journal. Politicians who cower before the NRA and allow more guns on the streets aid and abet the horrible massacres perpetrated by the deranged, and Eshman correctly points out that strict gun control laws would greatly reduce deaths by gunfire. On this subject, my friends on the right have taken leave of their senses.

Chaim Sisman, Los Angeles

Jew-hater or Angry Neighbor?

I am a Jew and I am a Zionist. The Palestinians who act against Jews in Israel are acting not because they are Jews, but because they are Zionists. Thus calling it “Jew-hatred” only helps to invoke the historical hatred Jews have suffered under, mostly under Christianity. 

This is a fight between two national movements, one which has a state, and another group that could have had a state, had it accepted the partition plan in 1947. Certainly, when it comes to the religious shrines like the Temple Mount, the successionist elements of Abrahamic religiosity becomes prominent and the clash between the rightists among the Zionists on the Temple Mount is who is supreme, the Jewish or the Muslim “Abrahamics.” 

Because of this, in 1967, when the Temple Mount fell into Israeli hands, Moshe Dayan himself, the hero of the ‘67 war, ordered an Israeli flag removed because he realized that Israel’s fight is not with the 1.2 billion Muslims in the world, but the much smaller Palestinian national movement.

Today, many rightists among the Zionists believe they should assert their claims to the Temple Mount, overlooking the rabbinical prohibitions based on the uncertainty of the location of the “Holy of Holies” site where no Jew dare tread because of its ritual sanctity.

I don’t believe this is a matter of who is right or who is wrong, but who is rational and who is irrational. Right now, it appears that the irrationals are winning.

Jerry Blaz via jewishjournal.com

David Suissa responds: Anti-Semitism very often veers into anti-Zionism. But even if you wanted to separate the two, there are countless examples of blatant Jew-hatred throughout Palestinian society. To cite just one recent example from official Palestinian TV: “Humanity will never live in comfort as long as the Jews are causing devastating corruption throughout the land.” If you want to see more examples, check out the website for Palestinian Media Watch.

European governments must act to stem rising anti-Semitism


The conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is spilling over into Europe, where in the past several weeks, Jewish communities have witnessed a chilling display of anti-Semitism, the likes of which has not been seen in many years.

European governments need to act decisively to stem this tide of hatred.

No longer content with cloaking hatred of Jews in the garb of anti-Zionism or opposition to Israel, demonstrators have marched through the streets of Berlin, Brussels and other European cities to the cry of “death to the Jews” and “gas the Jews.” In Paris and its suburbs, wild mobs bent on destruction have run amok, attacking synagogues and the Jewish worshippers in them. They’ve burned cars, looted shops and smashed store windows.

It wasn’t that many years ago when legions of storm troopers paraded through German streets chanting “Sharpen the long knives on the pavement; let the knives slip into the Jews’ bodies.”

The irony that most of today’s demonstrators are themselves recent migrants to Europe or descendants of newcomers cannot be lost on anyone. Sadly, however, this pathology is not only confined to European Muslims but to a whole host of rancorous elements in European society.

Of course, there is another side of the coin that is cause for cheer. Remarkably, all 28 foreign ministers of the European Union member states have called for the disarmament of Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza. Moreover, some Arab countries, most notably Egypt, are quietly rooting for Israel on the sidelines in the hope that it will eventually succeed in neutralizing Hamas.

But that still does not diminish the gravity of the terrible scenes being played out across Europe. As much as we can draw attention to this worrisome phenomenon, at the end of the day it is the European governments, along with the people of Europe, that must take a stand. Some of the governments have already begun to do so, but one can only hope that more will follow and act with vigor.

The World Jewish Congress has called on European governments to strengthen police protection of Jewish sites and to ban or disband violent rallies. Governments must stop the agitation and protect their Jewish populations or Jews will ultimately turn their back on those countries.

Jews live in Europe by right, not sufferance. Their manifold contributions to the development of what we call European civilization are too numerous to recall, even if they are not always recognized, and certainly not by those who have an anti-European agenda.

Given the present ambiance in Europe, it is understandable that some of them will eventually decide to leave the continent. Thousands of French Jews have already done so, and more are on the way. We certainly respect their decision and will aid our brethren however we can.

Beginning at the end of the 1980s, with the fall of communism, Jewish life has been revitalized in many cities in which no one would have believed there was a Jewish future — places such as Warsaw and Vilnius, Bucharest and Sofia. At that time, no one questioned why Jews in Paris or elsewhere in Western Europe were living where they were. That we have to do so today is a sad commentary on where we have come since then — 70 years since the embers of the ovens of Auschwitz went cold.  But we will never award Hitler and his modern-day disciples a posthumous victory by acquiescing to a Judenrein Europe.

Today’s fight is between supporters of Hamas and people who believe in decency, mutual respect and liberalism — all the best in European traditions. But Europeans will have to reach that conclusion themselves. The most thoughtful among them already understand that a continent in which Jews do not feel comfortable is not a healthy place for anyone.

(Robert Singer is the CEO of the World Jewish Congress, which represents Jewish communities in 100 countries to governments, parliaments and international organizations.)

Kerry: Turkish PM’s Zionism comments ‘objectionable’


Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday the United States found a comment by Turkey's prime minister, likening Zionism to crimes against humanity, “objectionable”, overshadowing their talks on the crisis in neighboring Syria.

Kerry, on his first trip to a Muslim nation since taking office, is meeting Turkish leaders for talks meant to focus on Syria's civil war and bilateral interests from energy security to counter-terrorism.

But the comment by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan at a U.N. meeting in Vienna this week, condemned by his Israeli counterpart, the White House and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, has clouded his trip.

“We not only disagree with it, we found it objectionable,” Kerry told a news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, saying he raised the issue directly with Davutoglu and would do so with Erdogan.

“That said, Turkey and Israel are both vital allies of the United States and we want to see them work together in order to be able to go beyond the rhetoric and begin to take concrete steps to change this relationship,” Kerry added.

Washington needs all the allies it can get as it navigates the political currents of the Middle East, and sees Turkey as the key player in supporting Syria's opposition and planning for the era after President Bashar al-Assad.

But the collapse of Ankara's ties with Israel have undermined U.S. hopes that Turkey could play a role as a broker in the broader region.

Erdogan told the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations meeting in Vienna on Wednesday: “Just as with Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it has become necessary to view Islamophobia as a crime against humanity.”

Erdogan's caustic rhetoric on Israel has in the past won applause from conservative supporters at home but raised increasing concern among Western allies.

Ties between Israel and mostly Muslim Turkey have been frosty since 2010, when Israeli marines killed nine Turks in fighting aboard a Palestinian aid ship that tried to breach Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.

“If Israel wants to hear positive statements from Turkey it needs to reconsider its attitude both towards us and towards the West Bank,” Davutoglu told the news conference.

Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Michael Roddy

Opinion: Zionism, anti-Zionism and the Federal Reserve


Anti-Zionists insist their views aren’t anti-Semitic. They’re often lying; but anti-Zionism continues to gain respectability, even among Jews. This is a challenge Zionists aren’t adequately addressing.

Patricia McAllister is a typical specimen. This former LAUSD substitute teacher popped into public view last October at Occupy L.A., when she told an interviewer: “I think the Zionist Jews who are running these big banks and our Federal Reserve — which is not run by the federal government — need to be run out of this country.”

You are maybe wondering, does Zionism have any connection to the Fed? No. But anti-Semites like McAllister are like Humpty Dumpty: Zionism means whatever they want it to mean.

Now, Zionism has an actual meaning. Zionism is simply Jewish nationalism and devotion to the state of Israel — as benign and natural as the devotion to their respective homelands of, say, Italians, Koreans, Armenians or Mexicans. And aside from not being “racism” or “colonialism,” Zionism obviously has nothing to do with the Federal Reserve. But when a McAllister says “Zionism,” she doesn’t mean “the right of the Jews to have their own country.” She means “the most vile, depraved and hideous evils a perverse imagination can charge the Jews with.” Anti-Semites have turned “Zionist” into a content-free term of abuse. It serves the same function as “fascist” did for an earlier generation, or “neoconservative” more recently (another intended slur hurled disproportionately at Jews).

McAllister nicely illustrates the phenomenon. Her ideas are bonkers, and she is quite unable to maintain the pretense that she despises only Zionists, not Jews. Here’s a sample of her Facebook postings:

“These jews [sic] are not God’s chosen. If anyone was God’s chosen it was Hitler. Hitler was the only person who saw these Jews for what they are . . . demons.”

“If Israel attacks Iran, Israel might get blown off of the face of the earth. Many would applaud that, because we may then at once have world peace.”

“It does not matter what the truth is, these Zionist Jews will not admit that 6 million Jews were NOT killed in the Holocaust.”

“Can you believe these Jews? They are now talking about taking God off of our money. I think they want to put on our money, ‘In Jews We Trust.’ They actually feel like they are Gods.”

“These Zionist Jews who own the Federal Reserve Bank, and who print our money, think that they are going to starve the American people to death.”

“These Jews are now trying to further conquer the American people by making more of us drug addicts.”

“Most Americans don’t know it yet, but I think that our U.S. government has been taken over by the Zionist Jews.”

“30s Poland must have been a bloody paradise when this [sic] inbreds lived far away from the general public in their isolated ghettos.”

“Obama is a non-Jew and any non-Jew can be killed at any time according to Israeli law . . .”

Any distinction between McAllister’s anti-Zionism and her anti-Semitism is too subtle to detect without a microscope.

And using Zionism as an all-purpose insult is not the tactic only of marginal, laughable figures like McAllister. Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani recently attributed an unfavorable International Atomic Energy Agency report to a Zionist plot. Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, called Henrique Capriles, his opponent in the coming election, a Zionist (and a gay neo-Nazi, for good measure).

Anti-Zionists have a standard defense: They protest that Zionists smear any criticism of Israel or Zionism as anti-Semitism. Of course, this is false. Natan Sharansky has created an excellent analytical framework for distinguishing legitimate criticism of Israel and Zionism from anti-Semitism. He calls it the “3D test” of demonization (such as comparing Israelis to Nazis), double standards (singling out Israel for criticism) and delegitimization (denying Israel’s right to exist).  This “3D test” smelts the anti-Zionist arguments, letting the anti-Semitism bubble up for all to see. But as McAllister shows, sometimes such rational,  careful analysis isn’t necessary — one simply has to turn over the rock to see what is crawling underneath.

How did anti-Semites get the job of defining Zionism? The Arabs learned European anti-Semitic tropes from Nazism, before and during World War II (as when Amin Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, was Hitler’s guest in Berlin), and after the war (when fleeing Nazis found refuge among the Arabs), and called it anti-Zionism. Their allies in the Soviet bloc took up the refrain. Now anti-Zionism/anti-Semitism is firmly embedded in the “progressive,” illiberal left, as well as the less-influential far right.

Tragically, even Jews are affected by this poisonous environment. Jewish identification with Israel is withering, and American Jewry’s Zionist consensus is probably finished. The Palestinians have managed to convince the world, including many Jews, that Israel’s “occupation” of “their” land, rather than the Arab refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state, is the root of the conflict.

The crucial task is to stop letting our enemies define us. Zionism has nothing to do with the Federal Reserve, with drug trafficking or AIDS; it isn’t the puppeteer behind either communism or capitalism; it’s not a plot to conquer the world. We have to push back against the idiocy and the insanity. Zionists respect legitimate criticism of Israel, as well as the First Amendment rights of anti-Semites and lunatics. But their right to spread lies and garbage does not negate our right to expose them.

Most of all, the Jewish people must again proudly embrace Zionism as the splendid philosophy it is. Perhaps easier said than done, but the alternative is to let the Patricia McAllisters of the world have the last word.


Paul Kujawsky writes a column on the Middle East for Examiner.com.

The United Nations, Durban III and Israel [VIDEO]


UC President says Muslim student groups’ anti-Semitism can’t be censored


Addressing the tension between free speech and hate speech on University of California campuses at a forum in Orange County, UC President Mark Yudof told a Jewish group that university administrators cannot censor anti-Semitism propagated by Muslim student groups, even while he condemns the hateful rhetoric arising from their anti-Israel programs.

The answer, he said, lies in strict enforcement of university codes of conduct and strong student activism.

“On a personal level as a Jew, I find [the anti-Semitic speeches] absolutely abhorrent,” Yudof told a crowd of several hundred Orange County Jewish community members at a Nov. 4 speech at Temple Bat Yahm in Newport Beach. “One can be committed to the principles of free speech but be very personally offended by the content of that speech.”

An authority on education law and freedom of expression, Yudof said the constitution prevents state universities from stifling speech based on content.

“Our institutional responses must follow the law,” he said. “There are time, place and manner restrictions, but to the extent that it’s just vitriolic, we cannot shut it down.”

The Rose Project, a program of Orange County’s Jewish Federation and Family Services, arranged Yudof’s visit as another step in its ongoing effort to counter anti-Israel and alleged anti-Semitic activity by the Muslim Student Union (MSU) at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), which has polarized Muslim and Jewish students. Tensions between these two groups came to a head in February when 11 students, nine from UCI, were arrested for disrupting a speech by Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States. Rose Project co-chair Jeffrey Margolis said his group extended an invitation to Yudof because the community wanted to hear his views on anti-Semitism at UCI and other UC campuses in the aftermath of this incident.

Jewish students and community members have raised concerns that the MSU, which is under suspension for the fall 2010 quarter for its role in planning and coordinating the disruption of Oren’s speech, continues to operate on campus under the guise of two alternative student organizations, Al Kalima and Students for Justice in Palestine. Al Kalima is UCI’s Muslim student publication, which has distributed anti-Semitic and militant Islamist literature on campus. Yudof suggested there was little the administration could do, because both groups are legitimate student organizations.

Yudof, who was appointed to his current position in 2008, noted actions taken by the university system after Jewish, black and gay students were targeted in hate-motivated incidents on several campuses last spring, including tighter student codes of conduct that more clearly define hate crimes and enhanced sanctions of code violations motivated by religious bias. In June, Yudof formed the UC Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion to address challenges in enhancing and sustaining a tolerant, inclusive environment on each of the university’s 10 campuses.

Jewish organizations, including StandWithUs and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, have warned that the problems of Jewish students on campuses would not be sufficiently addressed without an explicit focus on anti-Semitism.

Yudof acknowledged that his actions will never be satisfactory to everyone, but cautioned the audience that free speech is not a protection that should be taken lightly.

“Censorship won’t work in terms of the legalities of the situation. Censorship is not the way of the Jewish people. That’s what many people are asking me to do, and I cannot do that.”

Rather, Yudof said, he has encouraged UC chancellors to fulfill their moral obligation to condemn anti-Semitic speech and imbalanced, anti-Israel programs on campus.

Earlier in the day, Yudof heard from nearly 40 Jewish students about Muslim-Jewish relations on campus. UCI Chancellor Michael Drake attended the meeting.

Students have had conflicting views in the past on whether UCI is a welcome climate for Jews. Prior to Yudof’s presentation, UCI Hillel President Matan Lurey presented a video depicting thriving Jewish life punctuated by five active Jewish student organizations.

“The idea that UC Irvine is a hotbed of anti-Semitism is a cruel but well-constructed untruth,” Lurey said. “It’s a lie.”

Other students offered a different perspective.

“The students are feeling no difference [from last year], because the MSU has resurfaced with a new name, so it’s pretty much the same,” said Briana Booth, UCI Hillel’s vice president, who said she feels uncomfortable on campus. “The conflict, the hostility, the passion, the anger, the hatred — it’s all still very much there.”

Yudof said that while the Jewish community should continue to monitor the situation on campus, anti-Semitism is better countered through an activist student approach.

“We have to have more confidence in our students and in the way we raised them and in their ability not to be taken in by the speech,” he said. “Like you, they are strong and deeply imbued with Jewish values. They are not easily deceived.”

Jewish Groups Call Oliphant Cartoon ‘Anti-Semitic’


Jewish groups have denounced a cartoon by a prize-winning political cartoonist as anti-Semitic.

Pat Oliphant’s cartoon, published Wednesday, shows a headless figure goose-stepping while pushing a large Star of David with fangs and pursuing a tiny woman carrying a child labeled “Gaza.” The syndicated cartoon appeared in newspapers around the world.

“Pat Oliphant’s outlandish and offensive use of the Star of David in combination with Nazi-like imagery is hideously anti-Semitic,” Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League national director, said in a statement. “It employs Nazi imagery by portraying Israel as a jack-booted, goose-stepping headless apparition. The implication is of an Israeli policy without a head or a heart. “

The Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a statement: “The imagery in this cartoon mimics the venomous anti-Semitic propaganda of the Nazi and Soviet eras. It is cartoons like this that inspired millions of people to hate in the 1930s and help set the stage for the Nazi genocide.”

The Wiesenthal Center called on online media to remove the cartoon from their Web sites.

To see the cartoon, click here.

Ahmadinejad spews same old hate at U.N.


NEW YORK (JTA)—Iran’s president delivered a scathing attack on Zionists at the United Nations.

In an address replete with classical anti-Semitic motifs, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that Zionists are criminals and murderers, are “acquisitive” and “deceitful,” and dominate global finance despite their “minuscule” number.

“It is deeply disastrous to witness that some presidential nominees have to visit these people, take part in their gatherings and swear their allegiance and commitment to their interests in order to win financial or media support,” Ahmadinejad said.

“These nations are spending their dignity and resources on the crimes and threats of the Zionist network against their will.”

Ahmadinejad said the “Zionist regime” was on the path to collapse and that a messianic age of peace and brotherhood is soon to arrive.

The Iranian president also sounded a defiant note with respect to his country’s nuclear program, which he described as peaceful but which Western nations suspect of pursuing weapons capability. Ahmadinejad called nuclear power his country’s “inalienable” right and accused “a few bullying powers” of opposing Iran’s progress.

“It is very natural that the great Iranian people, with their trust in God and with determination and steadfastness, and with the support of its friends, will resist the bullying and will continue to defend its rights,” he said. “We will not accept illegal demands.”

Ahmadinejad also included the “underhanded actions of the Zionists” as among the causes of the recent unrest in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times published Tuesday, Ahmadinejad said Israel’s demise would benefit everyone, especially the United States.

“The regime resembles an airplane that has lost its engine and is kind of going down. And no one can help it,” he said. “This will benefit everyone.”

Free speech on campus


That campus anti-Semitism thing, you say it’s your birthday


Quiet War at UCI

It is unfortunate that The Jewish Journal would choose to run as its cover story two weeks ago an article by Brad Greenberg that preys on the deep and recurrent fears of some in our community of a rampant anti-Semitism on our college campuses (“Quiet War on Campus,” Aug. 22).

There was nothing newsworthy about the article, no recent event or episode to prompt it. The episodes and anecdotes recounted in the story were months and, in most cases, years old — and have been amply rehashed in the Jewish press.

Indeed, the chief novelty that we discerned in Mr. Greenberg’s article was his willingness to report that “the amount of anti-Israel activity on campus is so negligible that it is almost impossible for students to find unless they are looking on all but maybe three campuses a year” —and this from the director of student programs at AIPAC [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee], an organization that is usually not deemed to be slack in defending Israel.

What is even more unfortunate were the letters last week in support of the article. They revealed precious little awareness of the state of affairs on college campuses, and even less of the nature of academic freedom. One letter suggested that we should be outraged because a certain UCLA professor did not submit to a request from an off-campus group to invite a “mainstream speaker” to offer a competing view to his on Zionism. We value the principle of academic freedom and regard it not only as the cornerstone of the American university, but as a key stimulus to intellectual creativity and innovation.

We may not agree with the views of all our colleagues on Israel or other subjects. But to begin to demand — and even legislate — the introduction of so-called balanced perspectives in the classroom is a step not to be taken lightly. Where does it start and where does it end? Should we have insisted that the course on the history of Israel taught at UCLA last year by a distinguished historian of Zionism should have included a speaker who advocated the dismantling of the State of Israel? Is that the kind of balance required? We think not and see the university as a free marketplace of ideas, where logic, quality of argumentation and fine scholarship win out over shoddy research and propaganda.

At the end of the day, we, as longstanding observers of and participants in college life today, concur with the AIPAC official that, thankfully, anti-Semitism is a negligible presence on our campuses today. To regurgitate episodes from four to six years ago is not only not news. It is a disservice to the legitimate fight against anti-Semitism, as well as to the important work of Hillel and other groups in nurturing a vibrant Jewish life on so many college campuses today.

Professor Aryeh Cohen
Rabbi Susan Laemmle
Professor David N. Myers
Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller
Professor Roger Waldinger
UCLA

There was little explanation in your article as to why the conclusions of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) — dismissing the Zionist Organization of America’s (ZOA) civil rights complaint that anti-Semitic harassment at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) was not being adequately addressed by university officials — were wrong.

The major problem with OCR’s decision was that it denied Jewish students the protections of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI protects against racial and ethnic harassment, but to OCR, Jewish Americans are a religious group, not an ethnic group, and thus fall outside the scope of the law.

Jews are an ethnic group, sharing an ancestry, a heritage, traditions, language, homeland and culture. Not protecting them from anti-Semitism on college campuses means that a national problem may go unaddressed, because colleges and universities need not answer for their conduct.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, representing groups across the religious and political spectrums, complained about the decision in the ZOA’s case against UCI and urged OCR to reconsider it, saying that “[t]his decision will affect Jewish students not only at UCI, but also at other colleges and universities across the United States.”

In addition, three Republican U.S. Senators and six Democratic U.S. Representatives, including California Representatives Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and Linda Sanchez (D-Cerritos), sent letters to the secretary of education, complaining about OCR’s decision. According to the Senators, OCR’s conclusion was “inconsistent with its prior policy statements.”

Similarly, the Congress Members emphasized that it “reversed OCR policy, as clarified in 2004, of protecting Jews against anti-Semitism.”

Fortunately, congressional efforts are underway to amend Title VI so that it is clear that Jewish students are protected and they can get their education in an environment that is tolerant and welcoming, rather than intimidating or threatening.

Morton A. Klein
National President
Susan B. Tuchman
Director
Center for Law and Justice
Zionist Organization of America

Kaplan’s Birthday

There is a time and a place for everything. Marty Kaplan’s birthday article is inappropriate and does not belong in The Jewish Journal (“Happy Birthday to Me,” Aug. 22).

Paul Venze
Los Angeles

Joe Biden

I am happy to say that I spent many years in Delaware. My children and granddaughter still live there [and] I have worked on Senator Biden’s campaigns (“Rob Eshman’s Monday Journal,” Aug. 18).

Biden understands the issues of the Israel and her neighbors better than most Senators including our own California Senators.

Biden definitely makes a difference I am thrilled to be able to say that I worked on his campaign and that he would always answer my phone calls when I needed him.

I believe he is a great asset to the ticket.

Gila Katz
via e-mail

DeLet: The Solution

I was pleased to note that Rob Eshman identified DeLeT as a “solution” to the “shortage of top-quality teachers in Jewish day schools” and that he singled it out as a “model” of how “to streamline qualified professionals into the teaching profession” (“The Teacher,” Aug. 29).

This is precisely what the funders and founders hoped DeLeT would become when they designed the program seven years ago.

In the ensuing years, DeLeT — Day School Leadership through Teaching — a fellowship program of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion with a parallel program at Brandeis University, has launched over 90 new Jewish day school teachers.

Today, DeLeT continues to take a novel approach to preparing teachers for day schools by helping novices learn the most powerful research-based approaches to teaching and learning while integrating Jewish and general studies.

Anyone interested in learning more about this novel approach to teacher preparation can check out the DeLeT website (www.huc.edu/delet) or e-mail Rivka Ben Daniel, DeLeT’s Education Director at rbendaniel@huc.edu.

Dr. Michael Zeldin
Director
Rhea Hirsch School of Education
and DeLeT
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

The New Jewish Funeral

Your article takes me back several years when a friend lost her 4 1/2-year-old son (“Green is the New Black,” Aug 8).

Thank God I knew someone, Rob Karlin from Los Angeles Funeral Service, who was the most helpful and compassionate person in this time of sorrow. Through his knowledge and contacts, he arranged casket, service and flowers through several resources and by the time we were finished with the comparison of prices from the first quote, Mr. Karlin saved by friend over $3,500 … a major difference in my friends needs.

Several months after the funeral, my friend contributed a portion of her savings to the Tay-Sachs Disease Support Group in memory of her son.

Ursula Reeg
Los Angeles

Two cheers for the Administration’s flawed anti-Semitism report


Last month, the State Department issued its report on contemporary global anti-Semitism. There’s much to admire in it, albeit with a significant reservation.

It’s a melancholy fact that such a report is necessary. Many American Jews of the post-war generation believed — or at least hoped — that anti-Semitism was dying. Our experience was of acceptance and assimilation. Surely Jew-hatred was going the way of flat-earthism, demonic possession to explain mental illness and other such irrational doctrines.

We were wrong.

“The oldest hatred,” ever smoldering, has burst into flames again. So we have to be aware of anti-Semitism, study it, monitor it, condemn it. Various Jewish organizations are doing a good job of keeping an eye on our enemies. But in this great and good country, the government itself has lent its prestige to officially exposing and deploring world anti-Semitism. It’s worth taking a moment to reflect on how unusual that is, historically.

One great virtue of the report is that it rejects the purported distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism: Denying the Jewish people its right of national self-determination (the essence of Zionism) is a sort of anti-Semitism. Describing anti-Zionism as “the new anti-Semitism,” the report states that it “has the effect of promoting prejudice against all Jews by demonizing Israel and Israelis and attributing Israel’s perceived faults to its Jewish character.”

Anti-Zionism is common among, but not limited to, Muslims in the Middle East and in Europe.

In addition, the report does not just go after the obvious and politically easy targets, such as the Holocaust-deniers, the cemetery desecrators or the Arab disseminators of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” The State Department boldly condemns the anti-Semitism of the United Nations. It explores the dismal record of many U.N. bodies, including the Israel-obsessed U.N. Commission on Human Rights (recently replaced by the no-better Human Rights Council), the Division for Palestinian Rights, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories. Such undiplomatic honesty is praiseworthy.

But here’s a puzzle. The State Department can find anti-Semitism all over the world — in Venezuela, Argentina, France, Hungary, Belarus, Syria, Iran, South Africa, Indonesia, New Zealand and many other countries. It properly identifies anti-Semitism at the United Nations on behalf of the Palestinians. But when it reaches the Palestinians themselves, the report is unexpectedly reticent. Reporting on Hamas is limited to its use of the “Protocols” (footnote on Page 21); a quotation trivializing the Holocaust (Page 24); and a mention of broadcasts featuring the suicide-bomb-encouraging Mickey Mouse rip-off Farfour (Page 56). (Oddly, this is in the section on “Anti-Semitism in Private Media.”) When it comes to the Palestinian Authority, the State Department has even less to say: a single reference to Holocaust denial back in the 1990s, and only by the PLO-affiliated Palestinian Red Crescent (page 24).

Given the stated aim of the Bush administration to prop up Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, suspicion arises that the anti-Semitism report has pulled its punches for political purposes.

Jaime Petersen, spokeswoman for the State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, firmly denies the charge. She observes that the report is intended to be illustrative, not exhaustive, and suggests that the department’s religious freedom and human rights reports give fuller accounts.

That would be fine, if it were true. But the International Religious Freedoms Report 2007 does not fill in the gaps. Actually, it’s more interested in how Israeli security measures impede access to mosques than in anti-Semitism. Indeed, it includes this remarkable claim: “Terrorists did not systematically attack anyone in the occupied territories for religious reasons ….”

The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2007 is not much better on this score.

So the impression lingers that, for whatever reason, the U.S. government is soft-pedaling Palestinian Authority anti-Semitism. To get a truer picture, one must go to groups like Palestinian Media Watch (PMW). From PMW we learn, for example, that the official PA newspaper described Aladin Abu-Dheim, the murderer of eight students at Mercaz HaRav yeshiva, as a “groom” and his burial as a “wedding” — the language of martyrdom. We learn that on Feb. 28, 2008, Abbas told a Jordanian newspaper: “Now we are against armed conflict because we are unable. In the future stages, things may be different.”

We learn that on April 20, 2007, Dr. Ahmed Bahar, the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said on PA television: “Allah, take hold of the Jews and their allies, Allah, take hold of the Americans and their allies…. Allah, count them and kill them to the last one and don’t leave even one.”

America cannot support peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians with wishful thinking and willful ignorance of the character of the PA. Only American pressure to liberalize Palestinian society, including the elimination of official anti-Semitism, has a hope of working. So we should thank the State Department for its anti-Semitism report and wish it continued success, and even greater clarity and accuracy.

To view the State Department’s report, visit ” target=”_blank”>http://www.pmw.org.il.

Paul Kujawsky (kujawsky@pacbell.net) is a member of the board of directors of Democrats for Israel, Los Angeles.

You have the right to feel offended


A conference organized by the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute in Jerusalem last month dealt with anti-Israel attacks in the United States that constitute, according to organizers, a “long-term threat” to Israel’s standing.

Brandeis University President Jehuda Reinharz told Ha’aretz that American academics are at the forefront of those denying Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and admitted: “I see no combined effort to fight this by the Jewish organizations, and, in truth, I myself don’t know how this could be done.”

I doubt whether organizational efforts could stop anti-Israel attacks, but two incidents in the past few weeks have suggested for me a grassroots approach that, if pursued vigorously, might well slow down their growth.

The approach calls for exercising honesty, moral assertiveness and personal indignation against attacks on Israel’s legitimacy.

The incidents I am talking about started with a rather routine scenario. In fact, it has probably happened to you so many times that it did not leave a memorable mark.

Like many of us, I am on the e-mail lists of friends and colleagues who occasionally call my attention to an article worth reading.

So it was that on one of these bright California mornings, I received a message from a colleague with an article and a comment: “Palestinians, with all their suffering under the Israeli apartheid regime, have never been Holocaust deniers.”

It is, by today’s standards, a rather commonplace remark — one that could have been written by any of my friends from the far left or the Muslim community. I would normally either brush it off with a head shake: “There he goes again, the same old rhetoric,” or start an argument on whether the comparison to apartheid South Africa is appropriate.

I do not exactly know what it was that morning that compelled me to do neither of the two but resort, instead, to what I normally refuse to do — take offense. It may have been the recent vote in the U.N. Human Rights Commission, calling for a ban on “religious insults” or it may have been the latest press blitz on the moral ills of Islamophobia.

Whatever the cause, somehow an invisible force jolted me into writing my colleague thus: “The word ‘apartheid’ is offensive to me. In fact, it is very, very offensive. And, since I am not situated on the extreme end of the political spectrum, I venture to suspect that there are others on your e-mail list who were offended by it and who may wish to tell you that this word is not conducive to peace and understanding. It conveys anger, carelessness and a desire to hurt and defame. Hence, it shuts off the ears of the very people you are attempting to reach.”

After a short exchange of polite messages, in which my colleague explained that, echoing his idols, President Jimmy Carter and journalist Amira Haas, he used this word not to offend but to evoke a sense of justice among his Jewish friends, I realized that I handled it correctly.

I realized that taking offense is a statement of conscience that shifts attention from the accused to the legitimacy of the accusation. It calls into question the accuser’s choice of words, his assumptions, his worldview, as well as his intentions, and, thus, turns the accuser into a defendant, at least for a short moment of reflection.

For a split second, I even ventured to imagine how powerful it could be if each one of us were to implant a moment of reflection into the mind of an anti-Israel colleague, but I soon forgot about the incident, and I received no further messages from this colleague. Evidently, he had either deleted my name from his mailing list or had taken note of our exchange and become more conscientious of what he sent and to whom.

A few weeks later, a similar incident occurred. This time, harsh anti-Zionist slurs were scattered throughout an essay authored by the sender — a history professor at an American university. Essentially, the author blamed Zionism for being the evil force that drives Bernard Lewis’ “anti-Muslim diatribes.”

Emboldened by my previous experience, I sat down and wrote this man — let’s call him Mahmoud — a message, this time a little longer. I explained that I had found his contempt of Zionism deeply offensive and that given that I consider myself progressive and open-minded, others may share my feeling but were too polite to say so.

“I hope,” I said, “that as a writer who spends pages describing how offensive Orientalism and Islamophobia are to Muslims and Arabs, that you will be able to understand other people’s sensitivities and accommodate them in the future.”

I then went further and explained to Mahmoud that, for me, Zionism is the realization of a millennium-old belief in the right of the Jewish people to a national home in the birthplace of their history, a right that is no less sacred than that of the Palestinians or the Saudis. Additionally, I wrote, it pains me to see my hopes for peace being spat upon. Such hopes require that all sides accept a two-state arrangement as a historically just solution, and anti-Zionist rhetoric, by negating the legitimacy of this solution, acts as an oppressor of peace.

Mahmoud explained that he did not mean to delegitimize Zionism or the two-state solution. His portrayal of Lewis’ Zionism as the mother of all evils was apparently triggered by a speech delivered at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in March of 2007, in which Lewis pitted Europe and Islam against each other, coupled with AEI (and Lewis’) one-sided support of Israel. Personally, I have never understood why a one-sided support of Israel, which to me is tantamount to a one-sided support of a quest for coexistence, would be considered a crime, but this takes us away from our main story.

The point of my story is that, again, I felt invigorated by exercising an almost forgotten right — the right to be offended.

L.A. gets ready to be the center of Jewish universe


In just three weeks, more than 3,000 leaders of the international Jewish community, including the prime minister of Israel, are coming to Los Angeles.

What, you hadn’t heard?

This season’s best-kept secret among L.A. Jews seems to be that the 75th annual General Assembly (GA) of the United Jewish Communities is being held in Los Angeles — the first time in 26 years this city will host one of the largest annual gatherings of Jews in North America.

“This is a great opportunity for Los Angeles to participate in this national convention, where we don’t always have a critical mass participating,” said John Fishel, president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. “More importantly, we have some extraordinarily talented Jewish human resources and some extraordinarily creative programming in L.A., and this will be an opportunity for us to highlight those individuals and programs.”

But while some locals have already signed up, and hundreds have volunteered, a mention of the GA is more likely to elicit a blank stare than an excited nod in most Jewish circles.

“Never heard of it,” said Marlene Kahan, a teacher who lives in Beverlywood. “But it sounds interesting. I’d love to read about it and find out what happens there.”

The GA is one of the largest Jewish events on the North American calendar (the Reform movement’s biennial conference surpasses the GA, with about 5,000 attendees), with thousands of lay and professional leaders from hundreds of communities gathering to explore the state of the Jewish world, and to set a vision for the year to come.

The United Jewish Communities represents 155 Federations and 400 independent communities, and the four-day conference, Nov. 12-15 at the Los Angeles Convention Center downtown, brings together Federation machers as well as other organizations and activists from around the world. Anyone who wants to be a player in the Jewish community is at the GA.

The powerful bloc of participants attracts an impressive roster of leaders, scholars and experts to run daily plenaries and a menu of hundreds of sessions on topics from global anti-Zionism to new trends in Jewish education to savvy solicitation techniques.

Anyone can register as a delegate. Southern Californians are offered a local’s discounted rate of $275 (non-residents pay $525), and people who have volunteered to help out for a few hours can attend the conference on that day (volunteer slots have been filled). All events — including a concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on Monday, Nov. 13 — are open to registered delegates and volunteers only.

But word has been slow to trickle out to the far-flung L.A. Jewish community.

While a call for volunteers went out to synagogues and organizations months ago, full-page ads have only shown up in the last few weeks, and the UJC Web site didn’t post program details — such as speakers and session topics — until early October.
There are currently 425 local delegates signed up, along with about 300 to 400 student delegates, some of them at Southern Californian schools, signed up through Hillel. About 750 Angelenos have also volunteered to staff the convention, which is estimated to attract 3,000 delegates and an additional 1,000 exhibitors, organizers and staff, according to Judy Fischer, who is the Los Angeles Federation staff GA director. Fischer is working with lay host community chair Terri Smooke to organize the event.

Organizers admit publicity has been slow because the program was revamped following the war in Israel.

“The focus was transformed in light of what happened over the summer, and particularly in light of the implications of the war for Israel and for the Jewish people in our communities and across the world,” said Michael Kotzin, executive vice president of the Chicago Federation, and head of programming for the GA. “There is a strong sense of connection with Israel, and recognition that as much as this means as a single war, it wasn’t just that. It has a deeper meaning.”

The theme chosen over the summer was “On the Frontlines Together: One People, One Destiny,” meant to encompass the war’s implications regarding the Israel-Diaspora connection, global Jewish security, Israel’s identity, its military, its leadership and how that reverberates out to Jewish communities across the world.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is scheduled to deliver the keynote on Tuesday evening (though in the past prime ministers have often ended up canceling or speaking through video feed). A record four Knesset ministers are also scheduled to address the group, including foreign minister Tzipi Livni, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s ministers of education and tourism.

During and following the war, federations from across the country funneled $330 million dollars to Israel through UJC.
“In some ways this was kind of a breakthrough in the recognition of the centrality and significance of the UJC Federation system,” Kotzin said. “The prime minister wants to be able to come and participate to express his appreciation and to advance ties between Israel and the North American Jewish Community. The GA exists at a moment where we can really keep up with what is going on and move things forward.”

Other speakers include Canadian Parliament Member Dr. Irwin Cotler; Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International; and French philosopher Bernard Henri-Levi.

A plenary on “The Jewish Future” will feature a panel with Norman Cohen, provost of the Reform Hebrew Union College-Jewish Insitiute of Religion; Arnie Eisen, chancellor-elect at the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary; and Richard Joel, president of the Orthodox Yeshiva University.

But all other conference-wide sessions will focus on Israel, as will more than half of the smaller sessions.
It is a shift that not everyone is thrilled with.

“As someone who lives in Israel and is a Zionist, I think it is unfortunate and actually speaks to the lack of an overarching vision for the future of the Jewish people,” said Yossi Abramowitz, founder of Jewish Family and Life, who now blogs daily at peoplehood.org.

Abramowitz has attended around 20 GAs, and moved to Israel this summer.

Touring With Lévy a Dizzying Experience


“American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville,” by Bernard-Henri Lévy (Random House).

Date: Saturday, April 8, 2006.
Time: 9 a.m.
Place: The Beverly Hills Hotel lobby.

I have come to this palace of privilege to meet Bernard-Henri Lévy, France’s philosophy king, the author of 30 books, including best sellers “American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville,” released earlier this year, and “Who Killed Daniel Pearl?” (Melville House, 2003).

Lévy’s boyish good looks, intellect and swashbuckling charm have made him a superstar in his native France, where he is simply known as BHL, a veritable brand name as famous for his personae as for his words.

In addition to philosopher, he is a novelist, diplomat, TV personality and documentary maker who first made a name for himself nearly three decades ago. In his book, “Barbarism With a Human Face” (Harper & Row, 1979), he had the temerity to call out France’s old-guard intellectuals for their support of Marxism. Soon thereafter, a movement known as Les Nouvelles Philosophes, or the New Philosophers, coalesced around him.

Married to the beautiful French actress, Arielle Dombasle, and the proud owner of a Moroccan palace, the 57-year-old Lévy would appear to have it all. Vanity Fair called him “Superman and prophet,” while The New York Times said, “Bernard-Henri Lévy does nothing that goes unnoticed.”

A rumored recent affair with Sharon Stone has done little to diminish his reputation as a libidinous libertine with a brain.

“Lévy is probably America’s best known French intellectual,” says New Republic Editor in Chief Martin Peretz. Peretz recently defended Lévy and “American Vertigo” in a New Republic column after the appearance of a scathing front-page review in The New York Times Book Review by writer and public-radio raconteur Garrison Keillor.

I sit nervously as the minutes tick by, waiting and waiting and waiting. Suddenly, a frumpy-looking Donald Trump passes by. Like Lévy, Trump knows how to capture the media spotlight and market himself as a star attraction. Unlike him, though, Trump is a crass creation of America’s unbridled capitalism, a man with little charm or class but with lots of cash. French designer Jean Paul Gaultier walks by looking très chic. But still no Bernard-Henri Lévy.

After a flurry of frantic phone calls to his New York publicist, Lévy finally appears — 45 minutes late. European time. He is tall and tan. He wears sunglasses, even though he’s indoors. His stylish shirt is untucked and unbuttoned at his navel, revealing a flat stomach. His black slacks hang just so. Despite middle-age, jet lag and his globetrotting life, Lévy looks more like a male model on holiday than an intellectual hawking his latest work.

“Hi, I’m Bernard-Henri Lévy,” he says, extending his hand.

I am with a veritable French legend. After helping to “dethrone socialism, Marxism and communism in France,” in the words of the New Republic’s Peretz, through his attacks on French intellectuals’ love affair with Stalinism, Lévy trained his sights on Judaism.

His iconoclasm continued with the publication of “The Testament of God” (Harper & Row, 1980), in which he encouraged French Jews — burdened by memories of the Holocaust — to celebrate their identities rather than flee from their heritage through assimilation.

These days, he raises hackles with his “anti-anti-Americanism.” Unlike many French intellectuals, BHL loves America, loves its freedoms, loves its democracy, even if he abhors its penchant for “obesity,” the idea that bigger homes, bigger cars and bigger churches are somehow better.

Lévy, his celebrity notwithstanding, is seen in some circles as lacking intellectual heft and rigor. Many critics note a lack of footnotes and an abundance of opinion in his books.

“I am not sure whether serious philosophers would consider him their equal,” says David N. Myers, a professor of Jewish history and director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies. Still, Myers adds, he finds Lévy “an interesting observer and bellwether of the Jewish condition in Europe today,” and respects Lévy’s ability to synthesize historical and sociological data with philosophy.

Myers recently hosted an April 11, UCLA speech by Lévy on European anti-Semitism before a near-capacity crowd of 400.

My plan is to drive with Lévy around Beverly Hills, Fairfax and the Pico-Robertson district, engaging him in conversation about the city’s Jewish life. He doesn’t like the idea.

“Why do you want to drive around?” he asks sourly. “Don’t you think we could get more done just talking here at the hotel?”

His reaction surprises me. I had cleared the plan with his publicist, who, I assumed, had relayed it to Lévy. More importantly, he amassed the material for “American Vertigo” by traveling more than 15,000 miles around the United States by car.

My sister-in-law, Elizabeth Vitanza, a Ph.D. student in French at UCLA, leads Lévy; my brother, John (doubling as a photographer), and me to her Toyota Corolla. The philosopher reluctantly steps in and takes a seat next to me in the back. I am sure he is accustomed to traveling in a better class of vehicle. He does not put on a seatbelt. As we drive through Beverly Hills, I point to a mansion. I tell him that more than one-third of the residents in this city of multimillion-dollar homes are Jews. Looking at these houses, I ask, what can one say about the concept of Jewish obesity?

A good question, I think. Shows that I’ve read his book and digested the big ideas. He, apparently, doesn’t share my opinion. Lévy furrows his brow. He looks disappointed.

“I would not enter into that,” he says. “I’ve met many poor Jews in my travels in Los Angeles. Some really lower middle-class Jews. They are not victims of this syndrome of obesity at all.”

Strike One. A French intellectual whom I’ve admired since my junior year at La Sorbonne in Paris more than 20 years ago thinks I’m a dolt — perhaps just a cut above the cop who, in Lévy’s book, chastises him for urinating at the side of the road. What to do? Like any good journalist, I do the obvious: I ask Lévy about himself.

“You’re a self-proclaimed agnostic,” I say. “Yet, you call yourself a Jew. Isn’t that a contradiction?”

The cool demeanor melts away, and the conversation, like Lévy himself, perks up.

“I believe [being an agnostic] is one of the best ways to be a Jew,” he says. “Jewishness is an experience of the nonevidence of God. That’s one of the main differences between Judaism and other faiths. The Jewish faith, the Jewish relationship to God, is the one most aware of [God’s] absence sometimes, the silence often. If you read really the prophets of the Bible, you’ll find that their main experience isn’t one of the warm presence of God, but of the despairing absence of it.”

Passionate Jews like himself need not believe in God to embrace the bedrock Jewish value of tikkun olam.

“At least, I would say for me, it is the only viable conception of an individual,” Lévy says. “If you are not committed to repairing the world, better do something else.”

Lévy points out the car window to an Orthodox Jew wearing a kippah and says, sadly: “This in Paris, you don’t see so much. In some parts of Paris and the suburbs, it exposes you to blows.”

American Jews, unlike French Jews, have the freedom to openly practice their Judaism without fear. They are also for the most part free, he says, from “the stupid loss of time” of constantly having to fight anti-Semitism.

And what accounts for this anti-Semitism? Many factors, Lévy says, including “the Shoah, the Holocaust. Europe is still bleeding.”

But wouldn’t that historical memory make the French and other Europeans more sensitive to the Jewish plight? I ask.

“They are fed up with guiltiness!”

Then, are teaching and talking about the Holocaust bad for Jews?

Absolutely not, he says. Sure, some people might complain about being bombarded with Jewish suffering, but knowledge of that suffering helps others’ become more compassionate. In France, he says, the Jews, with their history of the Shoah, were among the first to raise their voices against the slaughters in Bosnia, in Rwanda and, now, in Darfur.

“If Holocaust education stopped it would be bad for the Jews,” Lévy says. “It is a wall, a shield against anti-Semitism.”

It quickly becomes clear that he has little desire to comment on the landmarks of Jewish Los Angeles and is far more interested in letting our conversation take us where it will. As we pass Jewish day schools, synagogues and kosher restaurants, he speaks of his pride in his Jewish roots, despite never having set a foot in a synagogue until he began working on “The Testament of God” in the late 1970s.

“The tradition of Talmud is as great as the tradition of Voltaire and Racine and La Fontaine and Rabelais,” he says.

Strong words for a man of French letters.

We stop at Canter’s. He poses for two photos in front of the deli’s mural, one with his sunglasses on, the other with them off. No smile. As we enter, Lévy checks messages on his incessantly ringing blackberry. He grabs his pants as they start to slide off his tiny waist.

“I have to be careful,” he says, flashing a smile.

“I wish I had such a problem,” I respond, suddenly self-conscious about the extra 15 pounds I’ve packed on since college.

We seat ourselves in a booth, with Lévy taking a place next to my attractive sister-in-law, Elizabeth. He orders black tea, but doesn’t touch the chocolate ruggalah on his plate. Then, he holds court, telling us that the old anti-Semitism, the anti-Semitism that blamed the Jews for the killing of Jesus and vilified Jews as an inferior race, is largely dead. In its place, a new anti-Semitism has taken shape that is every bit as dangerous and disturbing.

“If I had to describe this, I would describe it in three words,” he says, pausing for effect. “Israel and anti-Zionism.”

This “anti-Zionism as a vehicle for anti-Semitism,” Lévy says, appears in newspaper and magazine articles that attack Israel without providing the political and historical context found in stories about other countries. Another variant of this new anti-Semitism occurs when the Jews’ enemies resort to anti-Semitic canards in their vicious attacks on Israel.

“A lot of things that you are no longer allowed to express, that you don’t dare to express, you can express through your hatred for Israel,” he says. “For instance, you can no longer say Jews are thieves, but you can say Israel has robbed the earth of the Palestinians.”

There is a final example of this new anti-Semitism, and it is coming from unexpected places, Lévy says. In America, minority groups such as Native Americans, African Americans and Latinos, just like large swaths of Europe’s immigrant communities, have increasingly come to view Jews as competitors for the spoils of suffering. In this zero-sum game, to borrow a political-science term, Lévy says Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan and Native American activist Russell Means, among others, have concluded that sympathy for the Jews somehow diverts attention from and diminishes concern for the plight of Indians, Latinos and blacks.

In “American Vertigo,” Lévy writes about his disturbing encounter with Means, a veteran of the 1973 takeover of Wounded Knee. Meeting the Indian icon at his home in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Lévy feels proud to be in the presence of such a hero — until Means opens his mouth.

“You here, Mr. Lévy? Not in Israel yet? But I heard on the radio that Sharon wanted all the Jews in France to emigrate to Tel Aviv! Ha, ha!”

Shocked, Lévy doesn’t laugh. He considers himself sympathetic to the Indian cause, so he asks Means why no one has suggested creating a kind of Yad Vashem of Indian suffering? Why, instead, do Native Americans seem to unite around “the casinos that are a slow-working poison?”

Means response: “I don’t need advice from Zionists; you understand?”

The Indian activist goes on to say that Indians are “the poorest of the poor” in America and the “most diseased people in the Western Hemisphere.” The whole world is against Native Americans.

Back at Canter’s, Lévy argues that this competition among minority groups for “the crown of martyrdom” has mutated into virulent anti-Semitism.

“It’s an absurd, disgusting, ridiculous belief that suffering is like a market, and, in a market, you have a limited number of shares,” he says. “So, if there is a booming share for one community, there will not be for the others. You have some people in America and Europe who believe human consciousness, the human mind is unable to shed tears twice.”

“In the United States, my prediction, my fear is that more and more [minorities] could start to say, ‘Stop with the Shoah, the Holocaust. The more you speak of this past suffering, the less you keep space in the public debate to think about our presence,'” Lévy says.

What about the evangelical Christians? I ask. Are they a danger?

Yes and no, Lévy replies. They say they like us, but offer their friendship for the wrong reasons. He turns to Page 77 in “American Vertigo” and reads: “And beyond all that, what about the brilliant evangelical Protestant idea of the need to ensure a peaceful, faithful, and, above all else, Jewish Israel for the time when the Christian Day of Judgment comes?…. Perhaps I’m wrong. But I wouldn’t like to bet on American support, for the survivors of the Shoah if it comes down to depending, really depending, on an outlook of this sort.”

“Let’s realize we don’t have so many allies,” he later remarks. So let’s take their support; but with a gun under the pillow.”

A sobering thought.

Back in the car, I tell Lévy that, according to the National Jewish Population Study of 2000-2001, the U.S. Jewish population has dipped 5 percent, to 5.2 million, since 1990. Not to worry, he says. The problem of Jewish assimilation dates back to the fall of the Second Temple.

“You see a tendency to come back, and a tendency to withdrawal,” he says.

From the 12th or 13th century until the end of the 18th, Lévy estimates that maybe half of the Jewish population disappeared, some from pogroms by the majority, from conversion and assimilation.

That sweeping statement raises my suspicions. Smart as Lévy is, he occasionally seems to exaggerate for effect, substituting philosophy and opinion for factual analysis. In “American Vertigo,” for instance, he calls Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, “the cradle of a national religion, the new Nazareth.”

A national pastime, maybe, although the shrinking World Series audience might belie that. But a national religion? Only in Yankee Stadium.

Similarly, Lévy opines that Sun City, Ariz., an upscale retirement community that bars children and teenagers, a “gilded ghetto,” in his words, could serve as a model for future planned cities that bar the elderly, gay men, women or Jews. Nice theory, but existing housing laws prevent such discrimination.

Is Lévy right? Did the Jewish population shrink by half from the late Middle Ages to the Enlightenment?

Although the Jewish population did dip to less than 1 million by 1500, disease and illness accounted for the decline more than Lévy’s claim of conversion and assimilation, UCLA’s Myers says. Furthermore, the drop in the Jewish population was consistent with general societal trends. Contrary to Lévy’s assertion of a Jewish population shrinkage that continued until the 18th century, Myers adds, the number of Jews began to rise in the 16th century with medical advances, among other factors.

As we hurry back to the Beverly Hills Hotel for Lévy’s noon interview, I ask him a final question: Is it easier to be a Jew in America or in France?

“It’s not completely comfortable to be a Jew anywhere,” he says. “Don’t believe, my friends, that there won’t be an uneasy tomorrow. You have uncomfortable friends. You have strong enemies. You have new arguments that make it easier to spread anti-Semitism.

“Of course, you will win,” Lévy adds.

“Rushmore as a Myth,” excerpt from “American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville,” by Bernard-Henri Lévy (Pages 63-66)

Rushmore as a Myth

Three small facts that I’m not sure the countless tourists who come every year in pilgrimage to Mount Rushmore know and that I, at any rate, was unaware of.

First, the architect: the famous John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum, to whom we owe the idea for, and then most of the construction of, the four stone faces that are the symbol of American democracy the world over, especially since Hitchcock’s film, “North by Northwest.” In Wounded Knee I learn, from the mouth of an old Indian woman I meet at the entrance to the little monument built on the site of the 1890 massacre, that he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan; that his first great project was a memorial in Georgia to the glory of the Confederate heroes Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Stonewall Jackson; and that it was only after the failure of this first project — and thus his break with the dubious United Daughters of the Confederacy — that he fell back on Rushmore.

Then the site itself. This magnificent place, chosen for the way it takes the light, the profundity of its granite rock, and its resistance to erosion through the ages. But its other characteristic, its location in the heart of the Black Hills, a holy place for the Indians and for the Lakota Nation in particular, to whom it had been guaranteed by the terms of the Treaty of Fort Laramie. Other options had existed. The Rockies, even the Appalachians, weren’t lacking in superb places where the admirer of Rodin could have given shape to his dream. But he chose this one. He and his sponsors, beginning with the secretary of the South Dakota Historical Society, Doane Robinson, could think of nothing better than to stick their monument in this highly disputed area, in the heart of what the Indian nation holds as most sacred.

Finally, the name: Rushmore, which I had always thought, because the sound of it was unfamiliar to my French ear, was some sort of traditional Indian name. Not so. There is nothing less age-old than the name of Mount Rushmore. For here is an extraordinary detail I discovered a little later on, as I was surfing Internet sites devoted to tourism in the regions: it’s the name of Charles E. Rushmore, a lawyer who in 1885 — in the midst of the gold rush, when people were looking for all the military and legal methods of expropriating the last Indians — crisscrossed the Black Hills on behalf on an American mining company. What is the name of this rich mountain? he is supposed to have asked his guide. No name, the guide replied. It’s an old Indian mountain without a name. Give it your name, and this act of naming will justify expropriation….

….This temple of the Idea, this semisanctuary, where millions of Americans come believing they can find the elemental spirit of their country’s manifest destiny, this cluster of icons that that a former member of the Ku Klux Klan sculpted on land that was stolen from the Indians and christened by a gold prospector (I discovered later that, after his break with the KKK, Gutzon Borglum never completely renounced his anti-Semitism or his ideas on the supremacy of the white race) — all this an outrage as well as a memorial. Do the Americans know? Do they feel, even obscurely, that their Founding Fathers are, here, also Profaning Fathers? Is that the reason the memorial, which was originally meant to be enlarged, to make room for and honor other figures, finally remained as it was? All I can say is that the American Idea is too important, too beautiful, and also too indispensable to the symbolic economy of the world to be left in the care of the fetishists of Mount Rushmore.

Excerpted from “American Vertigo” by Bernard-Henri Lévy, copywright 2006 by Bernard-Henri Lévy. Reprinted by arrangement with The Random House Publishing Group.

Awareness Week at UCLA Hit by Apathy


Last week’s anti-Semitism conference at UCLA had the potential to be powerful and mind-expanding — except that almost no one showed up.

It wasn’t just the general student population who didn’t show.

Jews didn’t show up either.

The numbers speak for themselves. Some 4,000 UCLA students identify themselves as Jewish. Yet the movie “Gentleman’s Agreement” and the post-film discussion brought in roughly 20 students. And a workshop on curbing anti-Semitism drew only eight.

It wasn’t the conference programming, which offered compelling events: Polish Holocaust survivor Bella Friedman told an emotional tale of suffering at the hands of Nazis. The week’s events concluded with a hopeful look toward the future and toward Israel, featuring Donna Rosenthal telling tales from her book “The Israelis.” Students were able to connect to Israel’s existence to Jewish identity, and they addressed concerns that campus anti-Semitism is often masked as anti-Zionism.

Rosenthal underscored the transformation from Jewish despair in the Holocaust to Jewish hope in Israel with her discussion of the Nuremberg laws, which made anti-Semitism state policy in Nazi Germany.

“The same ancestral connection to Judaism that got you a one-way ticket to Auschwitz … got you a one-way ticket to Israel,” she said.

Although anti-Semitism was the main focus of the conference, organizers wanted to end on a hopeful note that stressed the importance of supporting Israel.

The Jewish Student Union (JSU) of UCLA sponsored Anti-Semitism Awareness Week. Rosenthal’s appearance was co-sponsored by the campus Hillel.

Event organizers concluded that most Jewish students just don’t feel threatened by anti-Semitism.

“We have it lucky, in this large Jewish community of Los Angeles, that we don’t necessarily feel the anti-Semitism,” said Deborah Greene, a fourth-year student who serves as JSU vice president.

In other words, the Los Angeles Jewish community — the third largest outside Israel — provides a strong and supportive environment, which creates apathy towards issues such as anti-Semitism, issues this conference attempted to address.

The UCLA campus itself has been the scene of “anti-Zionist” events with more than a tinge of anti-Semitism, including the staging of mock Israeli checkpoints and the placing of Nazi posters in dorms. Anti-Semitism at other campuses has involved vandalism targeting Jewish organizations and hate speech.

Yet students walked right by these events.

“Lots of people feel that anti-Semitism happens less now,” said Andy Green, JSU president and a third-year student. “People ignore or neglect it. This hate still does exist, though it is easy to say that it is something of the past.”

UCLA’s college paper, The Daily Bruin, walked past, too — electing to ignore the conference.

“Had there been a more overt act [of anti-Semitism] that really impacted the campus and added momentum,” said editor Charles Proctor, the conference probably would’ve been covered. “[Anti-Semitism Awareness Week] just did not create a particularly excited reaction from the staff.”

Such apathy is a danger in itself, said Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, executive director of Hillel at UCLA: “The greatest threat is not from without, but indifference from within.”

That indifference was on full display this week at UCLA’s anti-Semitism conference.

Rona Ram, a fourth-year student majoring in communications studies with a minor in Jewish studies, is president of Hillel at UCLA.

Watch Necessary on Campus


American Jews have spent a lot of time worrying about the difficulties facing college students in recent years. As a result, American Jews have put their money and ingenuity to work on behalf of programs that would combat assimilation on campus.

We have poured more funds into Hillel-supported organizations, supported the Birthright Israel project, which has brought students to Israel for their first trip to the Jewish state, and philanthropists have endowed Jewish studies and Holocaust-education programs that have proliferated across academia. All of these initiatives have had positive effects on Jewish college life.

But despite this, we have witnessed an upsurge in anti-Israel activity across North American campuses that has mixed traditional anti-Semitism with the vicious protest tactics of the far left.

While academia has long been a stronghold of the left, the main focus of collegiate extremists has rarely been on Israel in the past. But Jewish students, parents and concerned citizens are only just now coming to realize that there is no greater stronghold for hatred of Israel than American colleges and universities.

The core of this anti-Israel cadre is the growing body of academics in the field of Middle Eastern studies. In his authoritative study of this genre published last year, "Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America" (Washington Institute for Near East Policy, $19.95), scholar Martin Kramer detailed the abyss of partisanship into which this discipline has fallen. Far from a bastion of impartial study, Middle East studies is a preserve of those devoted to whitewashing radical Islam, bashing Israeli policies, critiquing and undermining support for Zionism, and supporting the Palestinian Arab war to destroy the Jewish state.

Though you might think this field boasts of scholars with differing sentiments, in Middle East studies, only one point of view is welcome. Scholars sympathetic to Israel and critical of radical Islam are treated as pariahs in Middle East studies and an endangered species elsewhere in the academy. Even worse, much of this so-called scholarship is being funded by the federal government or by donors from Islamic countries.

Muslim and Arab student organizations, aided by their leftist allies, are making campuses hotbeds of anti-Israel protest. In response, the Jewish community can and should devote energy and money to educating Jewish kids to be informed pro-Israel activists.

But no student can expect to hold his or her own against a professor determined to indoctrinate a class with anti-Zionism and hatred for Israel. The issue of what students are being taught in class about Israel may turn out to be far more important than whether or not Jewish students can be effective advocates. The good news is that a Philadelphia-based think tank, the Middle East Forum, which is led by scholar and author Daniel Pipes, is seeking to begin the work of monitoring anti-Israel activity on the campus with a new Web site (www.CampusWatch.org) that has provided a vital store of information on the topic.

Predictably, the response from academia has been swift and vitriolic. Academics and institutions that have been listed on the site, as well as others who share their feelings, have come out swinging, falsely accusing Campus Watch of "McCarthyism" and suppressing academic freedom.

The truth is just the opposite.

It is, in fact, the campus Israel-bashers who have sought to banish any scholar who disagreed with them from the discipline. Having effectively blacklisted a brilliant scholar like Pipes from a major academic post, the academic mafia that controls Middle East studies is now seeking to ensure that any criticism of their work is branded as extremist.

But it is not Pipes, but the pro-Arab and anti-Israel academy that is creating a hostile environment for Jewish students. Bringing their biased work and course offerings to a wide audience, as Campus Watch has done, isn’t intimidation. It is merely exposing nefarious activity to the light of day, where donors to universities and taxpayers can properly evaluate it.

The Middle East Forum and the invaluable Pipes are to be commended for taking this initiative, and for braving the vituperation of both the academics and their mindless cheering section in the national press. But, unfortunately, no major Jewish organizations, including Hillel or the Anti Defamation League, has chosen to support Pipes’ stand or to criticize those seeking to stigmatize him.

Pipes is taking the heat on this issue, but he and his colleagues at Middle East Forum and Campus Watch should not stand alone. Anyone who values academic integrity, as well as the struggle against the growing scourge of anti-Semitism, needs to stand with him.

i>Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Jewish
Exponent in Philadelphia. He can be reached at jtobin@jewishexponent.com
.

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