FILE PHOTO: British rock star Roger Waters of Pink Floyd walks along the controversial Israeli barrier in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, June 21, 2006. REUTERS/Ahmad Mezhir/File Photo

Boycotting the Israel Boycotter in Germany


“It’s hopeless.”

“Petitions are so stupid.”

“He won’t even read your email.”

These were some comments Malca Goldstein-Wolf received when she told people she was going to start a movement to get the director of Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), the Cologne-based affiliate of Germany’s consortium of public broadcasters known as ARD, to pull out of sponsoring an upcoming June concert by Israel’s most famous boycott advocate, Roger Waters. The ex-Pink Floyd front man regularly makes headlines these days as the leader of the cultural wing of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Goldstein-Wolf proved the skeptics wrong. When she reached out to WDR Director Tom Buhrow, sending him a Change.org petition with more than 1,500 signatures, Buhrow decided to end WDR’s sponsorship of the Waters concert. After Germany’s popular tabloid Bild broke the story, four other ARD regional affiliates followed Buhrow’s lead.

“I’m so sick of this growing anti-Semitism, so I decided to do something about it.” — Malca Goldstein-Wolf

While Waters’ summer concert tour in Germany will still go on, Goldstein-Wolf, 48, is pleased that it will do so without help from the German taxpayer.

“I’m just an amateur activist,” she said via Skype from her home in Cologne. “I don’t do things like this normally but I’m so sick of this growing anti-Semitism, so I decided to do something about it. I heard the promotion on WDR, and I couldn’t believe they wanted to support Waters. I thought: ‘Oh, my God. This is impossible.’ So I just sat down and wrote to Buhrow, and I did this petition.”

One columnist for Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper said ARD should thank Goldstein-Wolf for saving the broadcasters from embarrassment. Waters’ concerts sometimes feature politically controversial antics, such as releasing a pig-shaped balloon — based on an image from Pink Floyd’s 1977 album, “Animals” — emblazoned with dozens of illustrations, including a Star of David and corporate logos. Waters has pressured well-known artists scheduled to perform in Israel to cancel shows.

Goldstein-Wolf, who comes from the world of fashion, was born in Frankfurt. Her Jewish father journeyed to Israel from Romania, while her mother converted to Judaism when Goldstein-Wolf was a child. Her husband is the biological grandson of a Nazi whose widow married an Auschwitz survivor and then raised him as his own grandson. Goldstein-Wolf, who visited Israel regularly in her youth, said she considers the Jewish state as the “life insurance for all Jews in the world.”

But according to Goldstein-Wolf, Germany’s true hero in the story is Buhrow for taking a stand.

“I was really kind of desperate when I wrote,” Goldstein-Wolf said. “The answer he gave me was absolutely touching. I would have never even thought about getting such an answer. He has my deep respect for it.”

Buhrow’s email response to her was brief and to the point. “I sense that not many words or arguments will convince you, rather clear action,” he wrote. “I’m notifying you, because it’s important for me that you believe how important your feelings are to me, that I’m responding to your request: the collaboration with the concert has ended.”

The Central Council of Jews in Germany praised ARD’s decision, with its president Joseph Schuster stating: “The swift and decisive reaction of the broadcasters to massive public criticism is an important sign that rampant Israel-related anti-Semitism has no place in Germany.”

Waters’ German promoter, Marek Lieberberg, a son of Holocaust survivors, called ARD’s decision “ridiculous.”

“Two things have to be separated here: private opinion and artistic work” the 71-year-old CEO of Live Nation Germany told a German newspaper. “The canon of Roger Waters and Pink Floyd is and remains brilliant. On the other hand, he has a questionable private opinion about Israel and is quite an open member of boycott movement, which I completely reject. But I cannot and will not deny him his right to freedom of expression.”

While Goldstein-Wolf is proud of this particular victory, she foresees more battles ahead. Most recently, German courts backed Kuwait Airways’ rejection of Israeli passengers. Israel also had to pull out of an exhibition at the Frankfurt Bible Museum showcasing the Dead Sea Scrolls because the German government couldn’t guarantee their return should Palestinian or Jordanian authorities claim them.

For now, though, Goldstein-Wolf will focus her efforts on BDS and artists involved in the movement.

“There’s no option to give up,” she said. “You always have to fight. If you’re really authentic, if you touch people, there’s always a chance to change things.”

Photo from Public Domain Pictures.

European Parliament: EU Should Ostracize BDS


The European Parliament has issued a letter to the European Union (EU) that calls on the EU to completely ostracize the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

According to European Jewish Press, 60 members of Parliament from multiple parties signed a letter to EU Foreign Affairs Chief Federica Mogherini stating that “no public funds go to organizations calling for a boycott of the State of Israel, and to instruct agencies not to engage with companies, organizations or other entities involved with the BDS movement.”

The letter added that the BDS movement is “discriminatory” and that the EU needs to take an active role in fighting against efforts to undermine the nation of Israel.

MEP Cristian Dan Preda, who is one of the key figures behind the letter, said that it would it be terrible idea to acquiesce to calls of rescinding bilateral agreements with Israel.

“It’s in the interest of this House, and of our citizens, to see an upgrade in the partnership agreement with Israel,” said Preda. “We should not allow the current stalemate in the peace process to dictate the terms of our relationship with Israel.”

Europe Israel Public Affairs Founder Rabbi Menachim Margolin praised the letter.

“The European Parliament takes pride in its diversity, and we are glad to see such a wide support for investment, rather than divestment from something that has been for more than 3 decades a mutually advantageous bilateral relation,” said Margolin.

In November 2016, Mogherini stated that while the EU opposes the BDS movement, they have the right to promote their tactics.

“The EU stands firm in protecting freedom of expression and freedom of association in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which is applicable on EU Member States’ territory, including with regard to BDS actions carried out on this territory,” Mogherini wrote to an MEP.

However, Moghernini noted that “the EU rejects the BDS campaign’s attempts to isolate Israel and is opposed to any boycott of Israel.”

In April, the EU put forward a stronger rejection of the BDS movement in their commercial competition report, which called on the European Commission “to fight against unfair collective boycotts, defined as a situation in which a group of competitors agree to exclude an actual or potential competitor, as restrictions of competition by object.” While Israel is not specifically mentioned in the aforementioned section the report, the language was included in the report as a rebuke against BDS.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Report: Michigan Students Behind Divestment Resolution Made Controversial Statements About Jews and Israel


A new report suggests that the students behind University of Michigan’s anti-Israel divestment resolution made some controversial statements about Jews and Israel.

The Washington Free Beacon obtained video of  Ahmed Ismail, who is a part of the Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) club that pushed the resolution, referred to Zionism as “a dirty political ideology” and tried to disassociate Israel from Judaism.

“There’s no nation called ‘Judaism,'” said Ismail. “Where on the map is there a country called ‘Jews’?”

Ismail defended his comments to the Free Beacon, stating: “Any person who is a Zionist believes in the State of Israel, even though it oppresses and kills millions of Palestinians—which I call terrorism.”

Ismail said that while most Jews were Zionists, he didn’t think Judaism inherently breeds terrorism and that he had several Jewish friends.

The video also caught students concurring with the notion that the pro-Palestinian crowd should reconsider its “past nonviolent stance” as well as a Palestinian student telling a Jewish student she wouldn’t engage in a conversation with him simply because he’s pro-Israel.

“I’m not going to have a conversation with you,” the student said. “Those are my guiding principles.”

The Palestinian student did tell the Jewish student that he could listen to her.

Earlier in November, the University of Michigan’s student government passed a resolution calling on the university to divest from companies that conducted business in Israel. The university signaled that it wouldn’t be divesting from any company in the near future since it wouldn’t make sense from a business standpoint.

Hours after the resolution passed, a swastika was found emblazoned in the men’s bathroom in one of the university buildings.

Roger Waters performing at Yankee Stadium in New York City on July 6, 2012. Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images

German Broadcasting Station Ends Sponsorship of Roger Waters Concert Due to Waters’ Criticism of Israel


A German broadcasting station is revoking their sponsorship from a Roger Waters concert due to Waters’ frequent criticism of Israel.

Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), a public broadcasting station in Germany, was set to broadcast Waters’ concert in the city of Cologne in June until they received an email from Malca Goldstein-Wolf, who had garnered 1,500 signatures on a petition for WDR to pull their sponsorship.

In her email to WDR, Goldstein-Wolf accused the station of using taxpayer dollars to provide a platform to “a hater of Jews.” Tom Buhrow, the director of WDR, responded to Goldstein-Wolf that her petition convinced him to end the station’s sponsorship of Waters.

“Our cooperation for that concert is finished,” wrote Buhrow.

Buhrow added that the move is “a personal message of trust and understanding” between the station and the Jewish community.

Waters has come under fire with his vehement criticisms of Israel and embrace of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The former Pink Floyd bassist has featured the Star of David along with dollar signs on a floating pig at his concerts, Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center condemned as a “grotesque display of Jew hatred.” Waters has also attempted to pressure artists like Radiohead and Bon Jovi from performing in Israel.

In a 2013 interview with Counterpunch magazine, Waters compared Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews.

“There were many people that pretended that the oppression of the Jews was not going on,” said Waters “From 1933 until 1946. So this is not a new scenario. Except that this time it’s the Palestinian people being murdered.”

He also claimed that “the Jewish lobby is extraordinary powerful here” in the United States.

Waters’ remarks prompted the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to criticize him for perpetuating “conspiratorial anti-Semitism.”

The musician is also planning on putting on a concert in Bethlehem in December to show solidarity with the Palestinians.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Anti-Semitic Graffiti Discovered at University of Michigan


A piece of anti-Semitic graffiti appeared in a bathroom at the University of Michigan on Wednesday.

According to the Michigan Daily, two Jewish students discovered a swastika emblazoned on a bathroom stall in permanent black marker in the Modern Languages Building. One of the students, Sammy Lawrence, reported the incident to the campus Division of Public Safety and Security.

Lawrence told the Daily he “felt particularly targeted by this Nazi symbol.”

“Giving a platform and validating anti-Semites or individuals who support causes that embrace anti-Semitism makes hateful speech towards Jews acceptable,” said Lawrence. “I call on the entire (U)niversity to condemn this anti-Semitic incident, reach out to a Jewish peer and check in with them, and reflect on how we can prevent this moving forward.”

The other student, Ryan Schedit, told the Daily he “was fearful” that the swastika was connected to Michigan’s student government calling for the university to divest from companies that do business in Israel.

“If it was drawn this morning after the vote, I hope it has nothing to do with divestment, but it would scare me if it did,” said Schedit.

A university spokesperson told the Algemeiner that don’t know when the swastika was drawn and they don’t have any current suspects.

On Wednesday morning before the swastika was discovered, Michigan’s student government approved the divestment resolution by a margin of 23 in favor, 17 against and five abstaining. While the university seems to be unwilling to divest from any company, those in the Jewish community on campus criticized the resolution for being divisive and targeting Israel.

The tactic of divestment has been popularized by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which has been criticized by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for its “anti-Semitic rhetoric.”

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

University of Michigan Student Government Passes Anti-Israel Divestment Resolution


University of Michigan’s student government passed a resolution on Wednesday morning that called for the university to form a committee to look into possibly divesting from companies that operated in Israel.

The resolution passed with a vote of 23 in favor, 17 against and five others who abstained. The vote occurred under a secret ballot with the rationale that it was necessary to protect pro-Palestinian students from being blacklisted.

Those who argued in favor of the resolution claimed that it wasn’t targeting Israel, it was giving representation to the Palestinians.

“I want to emphasize over and over again that this resolution emphasizes the voices of Palestinian students … and to give this community a voice for the first time in CSG history is to not take away from any other community,” said senior Hafsa Tout, a representative from the College of Literature, Science and the Arts.

Those against it argued that the resolution was in fact targeting Israel and the Jewish people.

“It was about singling out Israel as the sole entity responsible for the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians,” Tilly Shames, the director of the university’s Hillel chapter, told Jewish students. “And that’s an oversimplification, overgeneralization of an historically complex conflict that really can’t be attributed to one side or the other.”

Despite the resolution’s passage, the university won’t be divesting from these companies that conduct business in Israel.

“The university’s longstanding policy is to shield the endowment from political pressures and to base our investment decisions solely on financial factors such as risk and return,” said Rick Fitzgerald, the university’s spokesman.

There had been 10 prior attempts to pass the resolution, they had all failed.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Ohio legislators put forward bill condemning the BDS movement


A group of legislators in the Ohio House of Representatives are looking to pass a bill condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that undermines the nation of Israel.

The bill, House Concurrent Resolution 10, voices the House’s support for Israel as “the greatest friend and ally of the United States in the Middle East” and warns of anti-Semitism increasing around the globe. The bill also states that the goal of BDS is for Israel to cease to exist and that the movement has “increased animosity and intimidation against Jewish students” on college campuses.

“The members of the General Assembly condemn the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement and its activities in Ohio for legitimizing anti-Semitism and for seeking to undermine the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, which they are fulfilling in the State of Israel,” the bill reads.

The bill also encourages college campuses to shield Jewish students from “anti-Semitic actions and intimidation” and to ensure that free speech is protected on campus.

Rep. Andrew Thompson (R-Marietta), a supporter of the bill, told reporters in front of the Ohio Statehouse that BDS focuses on “wiping Israel off the map.”

“If we don’t stand strongly and firmly against that, if we do not insist that our campuses protect the rights of Jewish students and allies of Israel, we could potentially face much darker outcomes,” said Thompson.

Back in December, Ohio became the 14th state in the country to prevent the state government from granting contracts to companies that boycott Israel. There was also an effort to get Ohio State University to divest from companies that do business with Israel, but that effort was shot down in March.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has described BDS as engaging in “the demonization and delegitimization of Israel” and is inherently anti-Semitic.

“Many individuals involved in BDS campaigns are driven by opposition to Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state,” the ADL states on its website. “Often time, BDS campaigns give rise to tensions in communities – particularly on college campuses – that can result in harassment or intimidation of Jews and Israel supporters, including overt anti-Semitic expression and acts.  This dynamic can create an environment in which anti-Semitism can be express more freely.”

A 2016 Brandeis University study found that the BDS movement was a key factor behind an increase in anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses that year. The amount of BDS activity on college campuses declined in 2017, but their campaigns have become “more sophisticated and aggressive,” according to Israel on Campus Coalition.

Saree Makdisi

UCLA Professor: What’s wrong with Jews being a minority in Israel?


Finally, after about an hour of partisan arguments from both sides, I heard something that got my attention.

I was attending an event sponsored by the UCLA Debate Union, billed as “A Spirited Debate on BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions).” It featured, on one side, professor Judea Pearl, who was born in Tel Aviv, and students Philippe Assouline and Joseph Kahn, and, on the other, professor Saree Makdisi, who is of Palestinian descent, and students Ahmad Azzawi and Wali Kamal.

In front of a diverse audience of about 100 people, Pearl’s side argued the motion that “BDS is not moral.”

Nothing surprised me too much in the back and forth. The Pearl side reiterated the well-known arguments against BDS — namely, that it is out to undermine the Jewish state rather than search for peace — while the Makdisi side framed BDS as fighting the Israeli occupation with the best nonviolent tool available.

While we’ve heard many of the arguments before, it was helpful to hear them all in one place and in a polite manner, with no yelling or insults. You could feel some underlying tension throughout the debate, but the panelists made a genuine effort to conduct themselves with civility.

Makdisi based many of his arguments on universal values such as fairness, equality, justice and so on. Focusing on those values helped him finesse the Achilles’ heel of the BDS movement — the fact that it doesn’t recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state. Promoting the “right of return” of millions of Palestinian refugees to Israel, for example, means the effective end of the Jewish state, what a panelist on the Pearl side called “national suicide.”

Makdisi took that word — suicide — and ran with it, almost ridiculing it as an example of needless hysterics from the Zionist side. You could see where he was going. What kind of just society would treat the arrival of Palestinians as a national suicide? Sure, there may be a huge number of Palestinians who would enter the Jewish state, but what’s wrong with Arabs and Jews living side by side, in full equality, in the same state and under the same government?

My grandparents in Morocco never got to fight for their rights, as Arabs do in Israel. They weren’t allowed.

Then, he really got the audience’s attention when he blurted out these words: “What’s wrong with Jews being a minority?”

There was a gasp among pro-Israel supporters. Pearl made a grimace, commenting that minorities are not treated very well in the Middle East.

I have a feeling Makdisi himself regretted his words as soon as he said them.

Why? Because he’s no fool. He’s a knowledgeable professor, and he surely knows what’s wrong with Jews being a minority in a country in the Middle East.

He knows that, for centuries, Jews in Arab and Muslim countries were treated as second-class citizens, or dhimmis. He knows that many of those Jews were persecuted and expelled after the birth of Israel in 1948.

He knows that there are 50 Muslim countries in the world, but only one Jewish state.

He knows that in many of those 50 countries, minorities are routinely persecuted and oppressed.

And he knows that in the Jewish-majority country of Israel, the Arab minority has more civil rights, freedom, legal protections and economic opportunities than Arabs have virtually anywhere else in the Middle East.

He knows all of that.

So, when he said, so innocently, “What’s wrong with Jews being a minority?” he probably forgot who was in the audience. Maybe he thought he was talking to a Students for Justice in Palestine crowd, for whom a Jewish minority in the Jewish state would be like manna from heaven.

But he wasn’t. There were some proud Zionists in the audience, and I was one of them.

I’m a Jew who was born in an Arab country, where my ancestors were a minority for centuries. The stories I heard were not of human rights and equality. They were stories about surviving by behaving — by keeping our heads down and never forgetting our second-class status. My grandparents in Morocco never got to fight for their rights, as Arabs do in Israel. They weren’t allowed.

That’s why, for 1,900 years, Jews from all over the world yearned to return home to Zion and Jerusalem. That’s why the Zionist movement fought so hard for the rebirth of the Jewish state — because the Jewish experience of being a vulnerable minority in a hostile land is not one we want to relive.

When Makdisi suggested that Jews should become dhimmis again in their own country, he confessed what the BDS movement is really about — and it isn’t very moral.


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

UC Santa Barbara students react to the UCSB student government’s rejection of a proposed Israel divestment resolution. Photo by Rabbi Evan Goodman

Cal State Long Beach, UCSB differ on Israel divestment resolutions


The topic of Israel divestment and higher education returned, front and center, last week as students at two Southern California universities voted on the issue — with differing results.

The student government at Cal State University Long Beach on May 10 voted in favor of Israel divestment while students at the UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) voted against it a day later.

Associated Students Inc., an advocacy group at Cal State Long Beach, passed a resolution calling on the university to divest from companies that the resolution alleges perpetuate Israeli oppression against the Palestinians, citing such companies as Caterpillar, General Electric and Hewlett-Packard. The vote was 15-7, with one abstention.

“I was very disappointed with the passage of the bill,” Jeffrey Blutinger, the Barbara and Ray Alpert Endowed Chair in Jewish Studies and the director of the Jewish studies program at Cal State Long Beach, told the Journal. “While I’m not going to say [all] anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic, this one is.”

The resolution is titled “Suggestions for Socially Responsible Investing: Companies Complicit in and Profiting from Palestinian Oppression.” General Electric, according to a draft of the resolution, has provided supplies to the Israel Defense Forces “used in violent attacks on people living in Israel and Palestine.”

The vote followed an April 26 statement by Cal State Long Beach President Jane Close Conoley expressing opposition to the resolution. She said she could not support it despite her reservations about the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians.

“A careful study of the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] movement illustrates to me that this movement is opposed to the existence of the State of Israel,” Conoley said.

Blutinger, faculty adviser at Beach Hillel, which serves Cal State Long Beach, said Conoley’s opposition to the resolution garnered criticism from pro-divestment faculty members.

“I thought that was nonsense. The fact that she spoke out does not prevent them from speaking out, and the fact she is the president of the university does not mean she doesn’t have the right to express herself,” he said. “If she was supporting them, they would have been happy.”

While the passage of the resolution at Cal State Long Beach is more symbolic than practical — it will not impact Cal State Long Beach investments — Beach Hillel Executive Director Rachel Kaplan said last week’s events reinforced the unwelcoming environment facing pro-Israel students. “In terms of campus climate, we have a lot of work to do,” Kaplan said.

Further north, the Associated Students of the University of California, Santa Barbara, the UCSB student senate, voted 16-0 with seven abstentions against an Israel divestment resolution, according to the Daily Nexus, the campus newspaper. The vote followed an all-night debate that concluded at 4 a.m. with more than 400 students and observers attending. Among them was Rabbi Evan Goodman, the Edgar M. Bronfman Executive Director at the Santa Barbara Hillel.

“Resolutions like this are symbolically attempting to destroy Israel, so I don’t stand for it and our students don’t stand for it,” Goodman said in a phone interview on May 12.

This was the fourth time in five years that a resolution calling for divestment in Israel has come before the UCSB student senate. Goodman described last week’s meeting as more agreeable than previous ones.

“It was a pretty civil discussion overall, and the comments made [on both sides of the debate] were by and large appropriate,” he said.

Rose Ettleson, a sophomore and president-elect at Santa Barbara Hillel, said a familial atmosphere galvanized the pro-Israel side.

“On our side, it really felt almost like a family gathering. There were lots of rabbis from the local Chabad. And the local Jewish Awareness Movement, JAM, they brought food for everyone. Hillel staff brought food. People were studying. People were writing what they were going to say,” she said. “Some people were sleeping in some moments.”

The campus group Students for Justice in Palestine on April 23 proposed the UCSB resolution, titled “Divest From Companies that Profit From Human Rights Violations in Palestine/Israel.”

The university “has the highest percentage of Jewish students in the UC system and probably the largest total number of undergraduate Jewish students,” Goodman said.

In statements released May 11, pro-Israel organization StandWithUs, which works with college students to combat anti-Israel sentiment, hailed the UCSB vote while condemning the vote at Cal State Long Beach.

Tali Shaddaei, a fifth-year Cal State Long Beach student from Pico-Robertson, said the intention of the resolution’s supporters at her school was to quiet pro-Israel advocacy on campus. But the 22-year-old founder of 49ers for Israel, a pro-Israel education club at Cal State Long Beach, said the passage of the resolution could have the opposite effect.

“My hope is it ignites a fire within the pro-Israel community to fight stronger and be more united in our efforts,” she said. 

Matthew Modine, Ed Asner, actress Ruby Modine and Hilary Helstein, executive director of the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival. Photo Credit: James Franklin at RozWolfPR

Ed Asner honored for lifetime achievement at L.A. Jewish Film Festival [VIDEO]


Ed Asner, the 87-year-old Hollywood actor and liberal activist, was the center of attention last night during the opening gala of the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival (LAJFF).

The event honored Asner — star of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Lou Grant,” and, more recently, “Elf” and “Up” — with the Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of his “commitment to Jewish values and humanitarian causes.”

“I’m always pleased to show up somewhere where there’s popcorn,” Asner said in typical curmudgeonly fashion upon receiving the award, addressing a crowd assembled in the Ahrya Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills.

His colleagues were more traditional in their praise. “There couldn’t be anyone in Los Angeles who is more deserving of this honor than my friend Ed Asner,” said actor Matthew Modine, who directed Asner in the 2016 short film, “Super Sex.” That 8-minute comedy screened last night along with the 2014 documentary, “My Friend Ed.”

A red carpet event kicked off the evening. Escorted by a small group of family and friends, Asner walked with a cane along the sidewalk of Wilshire Boulevard toward a group of eager photographers waiting in front of the theater to take the honoree’s picture. As reporters snapped photographs of Asner, a man in a car passing shouted, “Ed!”

The actor soaked it in, telling the Journal he was proud of being honored. Asked what Jewish historical figure he’d like to play onscreen one day, Asner said the late Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky or the late Israeli military leader and politician Moshe Dayan.

 

A cocktail reception in the lobby of the theater followed the red carpet, which also drew actor Ed Begley Jr.; director Aaron Wolf,” whose documentary film “Restoring Tomorrow” spotlights the restoration of Wilshire Boulevard Temple; Ruby Modine, Matthew Modine’s daughter and co-star of the film, “Super Sex”; Shelley Fisher, who stars in the forthcoming theater show, “The Hebrew Hillbilly”; Aimee Ginsburg Bikel, widow of the late stage actor, Theodore Bikel; comedian Avi Liberman; veteran actress and Hollywood blacklist victim Marsha Hunt, and others.

“Ed is a treasure because he cares so deeply about bringing the past into the present and keeping the values he absorbed throughout his life,” Ginsburg Bikel told the Journal.

Everyone gathered inside the theater for the award presentation, which included comments from Hilary Helstein, LAJFF director; actress Sharon Gless; Zane Buzby, actress and founder of the Survivor Mitzvah Project; director Sharon Baker; and Matthew Modine. Los Angeles Councilmember Paul Koretz offered words of praise as well. The speakers emphasized Asner’s longevity in an industry where staying power is a rare thing, his unique commitment to standing up for the marginalized, and his warmth — underneath all that curmudgeonly-ness.

“That’s quite a grope,” Matthew Modine said as Asner posed for a photo with him, the latter’s hand invisible to the audience. “I’ve just had my prostate checked.”

“He doesn’t have long,” Asner quipped.

Buzby, who works with Holocaust survivors, described Asner as a “champion of compassion.”

A screening of “Super Sex” followed. The short film features Kevin Nealon and Elizabeth Perkins as grown-up siblings who buy a prostitute (Ruby Modine) as a birthday gift for their elderly father (Asner).

“My Friend Ed,” directed by Baker and produced by Asner’s daughter, Liza, features interviews with Asner, actor Paul Rudd, Begley Jr., Valerie Harper, his co-star on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and others. It offers a glimpse into Asner’s life and career and the inevitable ups-and-downs of working 50 years in show business.

The film examines how Asner’s sometimes unpopular political activism related to unrest in Latin America, the compensation of actors in the Screen Actors Guild and other issues during the Reagan era led to his being ostracized by some in the Hollywood community. The challenges peaked in 1982 when CBS canceled the award-winning show “Lou Grant,” an hour-long drama about journalism. In the film, Asner and others say the show had high ratings and the studio canceled the show because of Asner’s political views.

“I try to do good. I try to do effective work. It could be better,” Asner says in the film.

Asner’s views engendered a touch of controversy the night of the gala, when a lone woman protester stood outside the theatre wrapped in an Israeli flag to protest Asner’s views on Israel. The actor sits on the advisory board of Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization that supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. However, in a statement released to the Jewish Journal earlier this week, Asner said he “does not support the BDS movement.”

The festival, a program of TRIBE Media Corp., the parent company of the Jewish Journal, continues until May 3.

Ed Asner. Photo from Wikipedia

Ed Asner: ‘I do not support BDS’


Legendary television actor Ed Asner made clear Tuesday morning that he no longer supports the movement to Boycott, Sanction and Divest from Israel, known as the BDS movement.

“I have a deep commitment to Jewish life, the Jewish people and the unity of the Jewish people worldwide,” Asner said in the statement, released through a publicist.  “I do not support BDS. I just want peace.”

The 87-year-old actor sought to clarify his position after a handful of critics took issue with his receiving an Award from the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival. Asner is set to receive the award at the Festival’s opening Wednesday evening. (The LAJFF is a program of TRIBE Media, which also publishes the Jewish Journal).

The BDS movement has been criticized by a broad segment of the Jewish community as being anti-Israel because it promotes the boycotting of all of Israel and not just the disputed territories.  Left of center groups like J Street and New Israel Fund have gone on record as being against BDS.

After Asner viewed information LAJFF provided him about BDS, he released the statement.

In an interview with the Jewish Journal’s Avishay Artsy earlier this month, Asner had already distanced himself from supporters of BDS.

The crowd at last year’s AIPAC conference at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.

AIPAC seeking bipartisan spirit in a polarized capital


Maintaining Iran sanctions, crushing BDS and ensuring aid to Israel are high on the agenda, of course.

But the overarching message at this year’s conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee is, if you want a break from polarization, come join us.

“This is an unprecedented time of political polarization, and we will have a rare bipartisan gathering in Washington,” an official of the lobby told JTA about the March 26-28 confab. “One of the impressive aspects of our speaker program is that we will have the entire bipartisan leadership of Congress.”

That might seem a stretch following two tense years in which AIPAC faced off against the Obama administration – and by extension much of the Democratic congressional delegation – over the Iran nuclear deal.

But check out the roster of conference speakers and you can see the lobby is trying hard.

Among Congress members, for instance, there are the usual suspects, including stalwarts of the U.S.-Israel relationship like Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the minority whip in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Rep. Ed Royce, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Vice President Mike Pence is speaking, and so are the leaders of each party in both chambers.

But also featured is Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a freshman who had the backing of Bernie Sanders, the Democratic presidential candidate who had his request for a satellite feed at last year’s conference turned down. Also present this year and absent last year, for the most part: Democrats who backed the Iran deal.

Among the other speakers are Obama administration architects and defenders of the nuclear deal, which traded sanctions relief for a rollback of Iran’s nuclear program.

One striking example is Rob Malley, a National Security Council official who didn’t join President Barack Obama’s team until his second term in part because pro-Israel objections kept him out in the first four years. (Malley, a peace negotiator under President Bill Clinton, had committed the heresy of insisting that both Israelis and Palestinians were to blame for the collapse of talks in 2000.)

If there’s a let-bygones-be-bygones flavor to all this, it results in part from anxieties pervading the Jewish organizational world about polarization in the era of Trump. Jewish groups get their most consequential policy work done lining up backers from both parties.

“We continue to very much believe in the bipartisan model because it is the only way to get things done,” said the official, who like AIPAC officials are wont to do, requested anonymity. “This is the one gathering where D’s and R’s come together for high purpose.”

J Street, the liberal Middle East policy group, demonstrated at its own policy conference last month that it was only too happy to lead the resistance to President Donald Trump, who has appalled the liberal Jewish majority with his broadsides against minorities and his isolationism. J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, explicitly said he was ready to step in now where AIPAC would not.

AIPAC is also under fire from the right. Republican Jews who consider the lobby’s bipartisanship a bane rather than a boon were behind the party platform’s retreat last year from explicit endorsement of the two-state solution. More recently, Trump has also marked such a retreat, at least rhetorically.

The Israeli American Council, principally backed by Sheldon Adelson, the casino billionaire who in 2007 fell out with AIPAC in part over its embrace of the two-state outcome, has attempted to position itself as the more conservative-friendly Israel lobby. The right-leaning Christians United for Israel is similarly assuming a higher profile on the Hill.

And so, in forging its legislative agenda, AIPAC is doing its best to find items both parties can get behind. There are three areas:

* Iran: Democrats are still resisting legislation that would undo the nuclear deal, but are ready to countenance more narrowly targeted sanctions. AIPAC is helping to craft bills that would target Iran’s missile testing and its transfer of arms to other hostile actors in the region.

* Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions: AIPAC will back a bill modeled on one introduced in the last congressional session by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Ben Cardin, D-Md., that would extend to the BDS movement 1970s laws that made it illegal to participate in the Arab League boycott of Israel.

* Foreign assistance: AIPAC activists will lobby the Hill on the final day of the conference with a request to back assistance to Israel (currently at $3.1 billion a year, set to rise next year to $3.8 billion). Support for such aid is a given, despite deep cuts to diplomatic and foreign aid programs in  Trump’s budget proposal.

Also a given will be the activists’ insistence that aid to Israel should not exist in a vacuum and should be accompanied by a robust continuation of U.S. aid to other countries. With a Trump administration pledged to slashing foreign assistance by a third and wiping out whole programs, AIPAC is returning to a posture unfamiliar since the early 1990s, when it stood up to a central plank of a Republican president.

Notably absent from the agenda is any item that robustly declares support for a two-state outcome. AIPAC officials say the longtime U.S. policy remains very much on their agenda, but the lobby’s apparent soft pedaling of the issue is notable at a time when other mainstream groups, including the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, have been assertive in urging the U.S. and Israeli governments to preserve it.

An Israeli flag is seen near the minaret of a Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City. Nov. 30, 2016. Photo by Ammar Awad/REUTERS.

ZOA endorses Israel’s anti-BDS law


The Zionist Organization of America endorsed a new Israel law that would ban entry to supporters of boycotting Israel or its settlements, setting it apart from an array of Jewish groups who oppose the law.

“The ‘boycott, divestment and sanctions’ (‘BDS’) movement against Israel is unjustified, discriminatory, harmful economic terrorism, powered by virulent Jew hatred,” the ZOA said Friday in a statement.

“Israel thus has every right to protect herself with this law, which bans entry of persons who are not Israeli citizens or permanent residents if they, or the organization in which they are active, knowingly issued a public call to boycott Israel or pledged to boycott Israel or areas controlled by Israel,” the group said.

The law, adopted Monday by the Knesset, bans entry to foreigners who publicly call for boycotting the Jewish state or its settlements. It has drawn mounting criticism from American Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, as well as the Reform and Reconstructionist movements. First to condemn the law were an array of left-wing Jewish groups, including J Street and the New Israel Fund.

On Friday, the Association for Israel Studies condemned the law, saying it would turn Israel into an “isolated entity open only to those who ascribe to official policy.”

The Trump administration has said that border crossings are a sovereign matter, but added that it favors free expression.

 

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