November 19, 2018

SJP Worksheet Accuses Zionists of ‘Wiping Out’ Palestinians

Screenshot from Facebook.

The Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter in Houston, Texas held a session at a recent immigrant youth conference that accused Zionists of “wiping out” the Palestinians.

At the United We Dream National Conference, from Oct. 5-7, attendees could “meet with undocumented and immigrant youth from across the country,” according to the conference’s website. Students at the conference provided StandWithUs with the relevant information regarding SJP.

A screenshot of a “Key Terms and Sources” worksheet from the session, titled “Palestine Without Borders,” has Zionism defined as “the ideology that advocates for the establishment of an exclusively Jewish state that necessitates the wiping out the native Palestinian people from their homeland.”

The worksheet goes on to define white supremacy as the “establishment of white dominant empires all over the world from the U.S. to Israel,” adding that Israel is trying to uphold a majority of “white Jewish people.” The worksheet also listed Israel as examples implementing apartheid and “settler colonialism”; the latter was defined as the “type of colonialism materializes through the occupation of a land by completely uprooting and displacing the native population.”

Nofar Salman, an Israel fellow at the Houston Hillel, posted on Facebook, “SJP is targeting the Jewish students on campus and we will NOT be victims of anti-Semitism and twisted lies.”

“We are choosing #LoveOVERHate.”

Shabbat Shalom Y’all. A lot of people have suggested to me not to post the anti-Semitic incidents that happen on our…

Posted by Nofar Israel Fellow on Friday, October 12, 2018

Talia Lerner, StandWithUs’ southern campus coordinator, said in a statement, “American Jews have a long history of supporting immigrants, making it particularly shameful that SJP brought anti-Semitism into this conference. At a time when Americans are so divided, we should be coming together against hate instead of having groups like SJP fan the flames.”

National SJP is scheduled to host its annual conference from Nov. 16-18 at UCLA.

A Holocaust Education in the Arab World

Morocco recently decided to include Holocaust studies in its educational curriculum. How important is this step, and how is the issue playing out in other Arab countries? 

Morocco’s King Muhammad VI recently decided to integrate the study of the Holocaust into the country’s educational curriculum. Moroccan Education Minister Said Amzazi publicly announced the king’s decision during a roundtable discussion on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week. 

According to Le Desk, a Moroccan news website, Amzazi relayed the king’s message regarding the matter, saying that anti-Semitism is the “antonym of freedom of expression. It manifests the negation of the other and is an admission of failure, insufficiency and the inability to coexist.
“This is the anachronistic return to a mythical past,” the education minister continued. “Is this the past that we want to leave as a legacy for future generations?

“For all that, the battle against this plague cannot be handled carelessly. It is fought neither with the military nor with money; it above all depends on education and culture. This battle has a name: education. And in the interest of our children, it is important for us to win it because they will be the beneficiaries and our ambassadors in the future,” Amzazi concluded. 

Israeli parliamentarian Michael Oren (Kulanu) immediately praised the decision on Twitter, writing: “Morocco’s King Muhammad V (sic) sent a profound moral message to the world. Anti-Semitism & Holocaust denial is rising in the West, the leader of a proud Arab country is introducing Holocaust education into Moroccan schools with the goal of fighting anti-Semitism. There is indeed hope.”

Le Desk also reported that Morocco had considered incorporating Jewish-Moroccan history, as well as Holocaust studies, into its educational system back in 2008. The government, however, failed to devise a concrete plan toward that end. 

But in more recent years, Moroccan educational authorities began to collaborate with other institutions, notably the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, to develop an appropriate curriculum and pedagogy—one that includes Holocaust studies with the general aim of countering racial hatred. 

“The leader of a proud Arab country is introducing Holocaust education into Moroccan schools with the goal of fighting anti-Semitism. There is indeed hope.” — Michael Oren

Morocco’s decision marks a turning point in what some analysts see as shifting Arab perspectives toward the region’s Jewish community, although it is unclear how teaching about the Holocaust could translate into warmer relations with Israel. The kingdom, like many other Arab countries, does not recognize the Jewish state.  

Professor Meir Litvak, chair of the Department of Middle Eastern and African History at Tel Aviv University, told The Media Line that in the Arab world the general view on issues surrounding the Holocaust “has always been ‘whatever happened to the Jews in Europe was a European affair. Europeans were perpetrators and the Jews were victims. But the real price was paid by the Arabs when Israel was established.’” 

Therefore, he explained, attitudes among Arabs toward the Holocaust were often seen as part and parcel of the conflict with Israel, and not as an event in itself. This led to various views of the Holocaust on a spectrum from total or what is called “soft” denials of it, to sometimes justification of it, as well as various equations between Zionism, Judaism, and Nazism, or between Israel and Nazi Germany. 

Many Arabs also believed that Israel benefited from the Holocaust, which the Israelis used to gain political support and money. 

“But starting in the 1990s, we see a different and minority view emerging among some Arab intellectuals — especially many liberals, many of whom lived in the West — which held that ‘there was a Holocaust, it was horrible and we should try to understand and accept it,’” Litvak said. 

It happened for two reasons, he explained. First, these intellectuals felt that to be part of the civilized world, Arabs needed to accept and recognize the Holocaust. Second, to make peace with Israel, they deemed it important to understand how Israelis viewed such a tragic event in Jewish history.  

“But this is still, unfortunately, a minority position in the Arab world,” Litvak added. 

Morocco’s decision, he concluded, “is significant because it is the first time an Arab state takes such a courageous decision. But how much impact it will have on other Arab countries remains uncertain as Arab governments now have other matters to attend to. Also, raising the issue would clearly arouse the anger of Islamists.”    

Ido Zelkovitz, an expert on Palestinian history and politics and a Policy Fellow at the Mitvim Institute, told The Media Line that “by and large, the Holocaust has played a major role in Palestinian discourse regarding Israel and Zionism. 

“The Palestinians have used it in the past — and perhaps also in the present—to describe themselves as ‘the victims of the victims,’” Zelkovitz said, adding that “the issue of victimization is a central pillar of modern Palestinian identity.” 

But in the last few years, he added, we are seeing progress among Palestinian elites in the way they are approaching the topic. “We saw delegations of Palestinian activists who came to explore Yad Veshem [Jerusalem’s World Holocaust Remembrance Center] and later even published their impressions of the visit.”   

The Holocaust has also played a large role among Palestinian politicians in their efforts to better understand Israelis, Zelkovitz explained, recalling that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas wrote a 1984 book on how the Nazi-perpetrated Holocaust had been exaggerated by Zionists for political ends. 

“Though he didn’t deny the Holocaust in the book, he vastly underestimated the number of its victims. One can argue that this is a form of Holocaust denial,” he contended. 

“From the Palestinian perspective, I don’t see any true empathy when it comes to the Holocaust and its implications, but there is an understanding of how the Palestinians can use the event in their political calculations with the Israelis,” Zelkovitz concluded.  

“But perhaps this is a sign that in fact the Palestinians already recognize the Holocaust. And maybe in the future, from recognition they can move to the next step of perhaps not compassion, but a deeper understanding of it.”

Columbia U Pro-Israel Students to Protest Handling of Anti-Zionism Incidents on Campus

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A group of pro-Zionist students are planning to hold a rally on Thursday protesting Columbia University’s handling of complaints of anti-Zionist harassment.

The event page on Facebook states that Students Supporting Israel (SSI) sent “a detailed, thorough, and evidence-based complaint documenting our members’ harassment by anti-Zionist groups and individuals on campus, and of their clearly numbered violations of the CU Rules of Conduct.”

The complaint, which The Lawfare Project helped write, stated that groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) were involved in tearing down SSI flyers and disrupting SSI events, such as a lecture by Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon in February 2017.

Additionally, the complaint stated that in fall 2017, there was an incident in which “SJP members started a hostile, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic chant simply because they recognized SSI members walking by.”

“Video of this event shows a small handful of horrified and terrified Jewish students standing huddled together while surrounded by a raging mob of around 50 angry activists encroaching on them in a physically threatening and intimidating way,” the complaint states.

However, according to the Facebook event page, Columbia University dismissed the complaint.

SSI also filed three other complaints, including one about the daughter of the Israeli Consul  General in New York being harassed by SJP members for her Israeli background. But the university has done nothing about these complaints, according to the Facebook page.

“SSI has spoken with university administrators on numerous occasions, but all our requests have fallen on deaf ears,” the event page states. “It is time to show the university that we will not stand by quietly while we and other pro-Israel students are harassed and systematically silenced on our own campus.”

The event will take place from 4-6 p.m. EST (1-3 p.m. PST) close to the main gates of the university.

Bari Weiss Likens Her Work to Smashing Idols

New York Times Op-Ed writer Bari Weiss

Hours after Christine Blasey Ford’s and Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s testimonies before the Senate Judiciary Committee transfixed the nation, New York Times op-ed writer Bari Weiss told a Sinai Temple audience she could personally relate to the political divisions roiling the United States.

“I’m the daughter of a Trump-curious man who was forbidden from voting for him because my mom withheld sex,” Weiss said, eliciting laughter from the approximately 100 people in attendance.

Weiss appeared on Sept. 27 for a discussion with Sinai Temple’s Max Webb Senior Rabbi David Wolpe. During their hour-long conversation, the journalist and the rabbi discussed Ford’s allegations of Kavanaugh’s sexual assault, President Trump’s impact on the nation’s discourse, anti-Semitism in the U.S. and abroad, and how Weiss, 34, became an opinion writer at one of the nation’s most prominent newspapers.

Wolpe said he saw people’s reactions to Kavanaugh’s and Ford’s testimonies as evidence of how polarized the country has become. “I don’t know of anyone on the right who was convinced by her testimony, and anyone on the left who was convinced by his,” Wolpe said. “Everybody was reinforced by what they went in for.”

Weiss had a slightly different perspective: “I was struck by the fact that a lot of people I talked to actually said they were sympathetic in both directions.”

Weiss has been an op-ed writer and editor at The New York Times since joining the newspaper in 2017. Prior to that, she was an op-ed and book review editor at The Wall Street Journal. She also worked at the Jewish online magazine Tablet. Her opinion pieces at The New York Times have included one headlined “When Progressives Embrace Hate,” in which she denounced anti-Israel activist Linda Sarsour.

Transitioning last year from The Wall Street Journal to The New York Times, she said she went “from being the most left-wing person at a conservative editorial page to one of the most conservative people at a liberal editorial page.” 

Weiss’ politics are not easy to pinpoint. Though she has won conservative readers for her willingness to criticize left-wing progressives and for her support of Israel, she is no fan of the president. 

When Wolpe asked: “I don’t think there is a figure in my lifetime that has garnered anything like the kind of attention [Trump] has — why?” 

Weiss responded: “Because — and I’m sorry to the Trumpers in the room — it is absolutely shocking this man is the most powerful man in the world.” 

Weiss, who was raised in Pittsburgh and attended Columbia University, did not always envision herself becoming a journalist.

“I’m not someone who from a young age imagined myself being a writer, or had dreams of being a novelist, or anything like that, but I was always very driven by ideas and by values, and that is the reason I got into journalism,” she said.

“I am used to being politically homeless, which I think is a very, very Jewish position.”

She said she found her voice at Columbia University. She entered college identifying with the political left but revised her thinking after experiencing Israel bias among those who also considered themselves in the left wing.

“All of a sudden the progressive Zionism I thought was normal and standard … I was told [that] to be a Zionist is to be a racist,” she said.

Weiss, who had once thought of pursuing a career in the rabbinate, likened her columns to sermons. “They’re just called op-eds,” she said. 

Weiss and Wolpe also addressed contemporary challenges facing the Jewish people.

Weiss said Jewish life in Europe was “dead or dying.”

“I don’t know a Jew in France that doesn’t have an apartment in Tel Aviv or Ramat Gan or Jerusalem,” Weiss said, adding there is a need to take anti-Semitism in America seriously, “both on the far right and the far left.”

“On the far right it’s very easy to see, I think. It is often more dramatic. It is people marching with tiki torches in Charlottesville [Va.] saying, ‘The Jews will not replace us,’ ” she explained. “… On the left, it is a bit harder because, frankly, it is people we are friends with. It is people in our communities and it is people who are trying to convince us that, because they are cloaking it in the language of anti-Zionism, it is not as threatening.”

Weiss said she believes Judaism and journalism share a commitment to the truth. She pointed to the biblical story of Abraham smashing idols before starting the world’s first monotheistic religion as a metaphor applicable to her career.

“The smashing of the idols is smashing the cultural mores of the time to tell a deeper truth about the world,” Weiss said.

And throughout her career, Weiss said, she has experienced the loneliness of “telling the truth as I see it.”

“I am used to being politically homeless, which I think is a very, very Jewish position.”

Shalhevet Students Meet With Koolulam Founder

Photo by Ricky Rachman

Every morning, Or Taicher, one of the founders of Israel’s social flash mob-style sing-along craze Koolulam, opens his email in search of inspiration to start his day. A few months ago, a message sent by Shalhevet High School administrators did the trick. 

“That’s the reason I’m here today,” Taicher told more than 200 Shalhevet students gathered in the school’s gymnasium the day before erev Yom Kippur. An online link led Taicher to a Koolulam-inspired video of Shalhevet’s student body, aided by live instrumentation, singing Matisyahu’s “One Day” in honor of Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. 

“I was truly moved by what I saw,” he said. And that’s saying something. 

Since kicking off in Tel Aviv last year, Koolulam — a play on the English word “cool,” the Hebrew words “kulam” (everyone) and “kol” (voice), and “kululu,” a festive ululation of Sephardic Jews — has soared in popularity throughout Israel. Thousands of tickets to take part in arena-filling Koolulam events are sold in minutes. Swaths of strangers come together … to sing. 

Koolulam partners with nongovernmental organizations and local municipalities to reach every sect of Israeli society. To date, more than 100,000 people from diverse backgrounds have attended to learn musical arrangements (which take about an hour) and sing well-known songs in English, Hebrew and Arabic. The videos garner millions of online views, making Koolulam an international phenomenon. 

During Taicher’s recent visit to Shalhevet, proceedings kicked off with 30 seconds of silence in honor of Ari Fuld, the American-Israeli terrorism victim who was stabbed in Gush Etzion on Sept. 16. The Shalhevet choir then sang “One Day” for Taicher before 17-year-old Lucy Fried interviewed him.

“It all started with curiosity,” Taicher said. “Two years ago, I saw a video of thousands of people praying at the Wailing Wall. I was so moved, so inspired. I asked myself, ‘How can I pass that along? How can I inspire others?’”

Taicher, a filmmaker, recalled brainstorming ways to help unify a fractured Israeli society marred by a lack of constructive political dialogue. He immediately considered the international language of music. 

“I wanted to do something that could make connections instead of separating people,” he said. “This is how it began. I feel that music has a lot of power. It can open hearts and build bridges.”

Beyond bridging ethnic and religious divides in Israel, the mass singing sensation has proven to be a diplomatic tool. Earlier this summer, Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf, the secretary general of the world’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, which is based in Indonesia and has more than 60 million members, called Taicher on his cellphone and confessed to being a Koolulam fan. 

“I wanted to do something that could make connections instead of separating people. This is how it began. I feel that music has a lot of power. It can open hearts and build bridges.” — Or Taicher

“I hung up. I thought it was a joke,” Taicher said. But it wasn’t. Taicher and his two co-founders, Ben Yefet and Michal Shahaf Shneiderman, set off to plan a truly majestic event for Staquf’s Jerusalem visit slated for mid-June. The 800 available tickets sold out in six minutes. The attendees included Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders. The crowd convened at midnight in the courtyards of the Tower of David in the Old City of Jerusalem to sing Bob Marley’s “One Love” in English, Hebrew and Arabic (the Journal reported on this story in its June 29 edition).

Shortly after the Koolulam event, Indonesia, a country with no previous diplomatic ties to Israel, opened its borders to Israeli passport-holding tourists. “This showed me that what we’re doing, our movement, it’s working,” Taicher said. 

He also noted that Koolulam receives Facebook messages from Arab fans around the world. Some even contain apologies for harboring unfounded hate of Israel. 

Koolulam’s founders will receive the 2018 Asia Game Changer Award in New York next month, which Taicher called “an unbelievable honor.” Fellow honorees include the founder of the Syrian White Helmets and the Thai rescuers who saved a dozen teenage soccer players in a flooded cave earlier this year.   

Ari Schwarzberg, Shalhevet’s dean of students, told the Journal that initiatives like Koolulam help frame conversations on Zionism divorced from politics. 

“I think that the way our school views the value of Zionism, one of the ways we deeply feel it, is demonstrating that Israel has the great potential to be a place that models the best version of the Jewish people,” he said. “It gets complicated with politics. But this seemed to be one of those initiatives that represents the best of the Jewish people and a way to show our students and our community a way of deepening the understanding of what Zionism is.” 

Taicher told the Shalhevet students it was an uphill battle to get Koolulam off the ground, saying he heard the word “no” a lot. “You can’t let it stop you,” he said. “Now we have over 100 people working for us and we’re making a change.”

He also spoke about Koolulam’s expansion plans, which he said may involve opening branches in Los Angeles, New York, South Africa and Abu Dhabi. A South African event is scheduled for November. 

“It was really cool to get a chance to talk with [Taicher],” Fried said following the discussion. “It’s really inspiring that he created something so powerful despite all the rejection he faced.” 

Many Shalhevet students expressed interest in attending a potential future Koolulam event in Los Angeles. Tobey Lee, 16, told the Journal the idea sounded fun, but it’s not the singing he’s drawn to.

“Koolulam is something bigger than just singing a song,” he said. “It’s creating something bigger than music. It’s really cool that it’s creating peace.”

Reform Judaism Doubles Down on Zionism

In June, the Reform movement decided to resist the headlines announcing the growing, “unprecedented” rupture between American Jewry and Israel by doubling-down on “our ties to Israel,” in the words of Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) President Rabbi Rick Jacobs. The URJ’s North American board meeting passed a resolution re-affirming the Jerusalem Program, the basic articulation of the Zionist Idea. As the “official platform of the World Zionist Organization and the Zionist Movement,” the Jerusalem Program proclaims that “Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people … views a Jewish, Zionist, democratic and secure State of Israel to be the expression of the common responsibility of the Jewish people for its continuity and future.”

It’s outrageous. With one move, that darned movement defied three stereotypes distorting the Jewish — and American — conversation about Israel. How dare the Reform movement affirm its loyalty to Israel and Zionism when everyone knows its members are liberal traitors who prove that liberalism and Zionism are incompatible. How dare the Reform movement refute the claim that relations between American Jewry and Israel are deteriorating. And how dare those Reformers resist the universalist and anti-Israel drift everyone insists is sweeping American Jewry!

Apparently, such insolence runs much deeper than a quick, easy resolution. Rabbi Josh Weinberg, the young, dynamic head of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA), reports that ARZA and the URJ are deepening their institutional ties. “Increasingly,” Weinberg said, “we will be building programming, in North America and increasing our support for our movement in Israel, in the pews, in our camps, and in Israel’s streets, reflecting a basic commitment of every Jew to God, Torah and Israel.” Acknowledging that we’re living through “exciting and challenging times,” Weinberg said, “we’re looking to enhance our connection to Israel and to make Israel a central part of every Reform Jew’s identity.”

Rabbi Josh Weinberg
(Photo from Facebook)

Sarcasm aside, the Reform movement is doing precisely what it should be doing. This valued member of the Zionist movement won’t be defined by its enemies — either within the Jewish world or beyond. True, Reform Jews are overwhelmingly politically liberal. But anyone who knows anything about Zionism knows that Zionism without liberalism ain’t Zionism. Israel’s Declaration of Independence — and daily realities — bring liberal nationalism to life.

Even a brief history of Reform Zionism goes deeper. It proves how Zionist the Reform movement has become. It shows how much closer American Jews and Israeli Jews are than they once were. And it suggests that Reform particularists should have an upper hand in the intellectual civil war they must win against universalists.

“Judaism is fundamentally national,” the Cultural Zionist Ahad Ha’am insisted in 1910, denouncing “the ‘Reformers’” efforts “to separate the Jewish religion from its national element.” Initially, Reform Jewry rejected peoplehood and Palestine. America’s Reform rabbis distorted Jewish history and ideology — anticipating today’s ultra-ultra-Orthodox Jews — in their 1885 Pittsburgh Platform when they declared: “We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community.”

“Anyone who knows anything about Zionism knows that Zionism without liberalism ain’t Zionism.”

The Holocaust erased any doubts that we are one people, intertwined. In 1937, the Reform movement’s Columbus Platform affirmed the “Jewish people” and their “obligation … to aid” in “up-building Palestine as a Jewish homeland.”

Three decades later, the process peaked. The 1967 Six-Day War’s impact surprised many Reform Jews, deepening, as Reform theologian Eugene Borowitz recalled, “a very personal existential sense of the particularity of what it is to be a Jew, the specificity of being a Jew as a member of an ethnic community.” When “Old Jerusalem was captured and was somehow, to use that marvelous word, ‘ours,’ ” Borowitz wrote, “it hit us with an impact which we couldn’t imagine, and suddenly we realized the depths of roots we had in a very specific place.”

Rabbi Richard Hirsch has made “Zionizing” Reform Jewry his life’s work. A progressive activist who lent his Washington, D.C., offices to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1960s, Hirsch moved to Jerusalem in 1973. In establishing the Hebrew Union College’s magnificent campus overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City, Hirsch said the movement was marrying history.

In 2000, Hirsch articulated Reform Jewry’s “Declaration of Interdependence”: “of people and faith, of Jewish tradition and contemporary needs, of the universal and the particular, of Israel and the Diaspora, of each Jew with all Jews. ” The “establishment, protection, and development of the State of Israel are integral premises of Progressive Jewish belief,” Hirsch wrote. “This eternal covenant between God and the people of Israel is inseparable from the Land of Israel.”

Rabbi Richard Hirsch
(Photo from Vimeo)

While ideological rivals, Borowitz and Hirsch affirmed peoplehood and land — not just religion and ethics — as central to Reform Jewry. Rabbi David Ellenson has continued Hirsch’s teaching, demonstrating that the best way to be a good universalist is to be a proud particularist. Dismayed that too many secular Israelis build their identities solely on national and communal lines while too many American Jews build their identities around “individual choice and religious voluntarism above peoplehood and nationality,” Ellenson challenges all Jews to embrace their “national and religious foundations.”

An academic with deep Los Angeles roots, currently serving as interim president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Ellenson celebrates the Jewish people’s “return to history” as an opportunity to apply high ideals developed over millennia in a modern state. “Reform Zionism needs to know and affirm the religious significance of this [political] fact,” he wrote in 2014. Ever balancing, Ellenson explains: “Our Zionism must be built upon the dialectical foundations of universalism and particularism and the interplay between them.”

This is the proud legacy the URJ affirmed. This is the ideological vision it must embrace. I invite Reform Jews to join Jews throughout the world in hosting Zionist salons this year. Read Reform Zionist texts like these, which appear in my book “The Zionist Ideas.” Read other religious Zionists and compare their visions. Discuss progressive Zionists with whom you agree — or even right-leaning Zionists you might dislike.

Let’s jumpstart a modern Zionist conversation, house by house, boardroom by boardroom, synagogue by synagogue. And let’s embrace “identity Zionism,” not only asking what we can do for Israel, but understanding what Israel, land, peoplehood, Zionism, do for us —  individually, collectively, existentially.


Recently designated one of Algemeiner’s J-100, one of the top 100 people “positively influencing Jewish life,” Gil Troy is the author of the recently released “The Zionist Ideas” (Jewish Publication Society), an update and expansion of Arthur Hertzberg’s anthology “The Zionist Idea.” A distinguished scholar of North American History at McGill University, Troy is the author of 10  books on American history, including “The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s.” www.zionistideas.com

Sarsour: American Muslims Shouldn’t ‘Humanize’ Israelis

Screenshot from Twitter.

Women’s March leader Linda Sarsour said over the weekend that Muslims shouldn’t be humanizing Israelis, referring to Israel as the “oppressor.”

As reported by The Investigative Project for Terrorism and the Algemeiner, during the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)’s conference, Sarsour declared that American Muslims “are complicit in the occupation of Palestinians, in the murder of Palestinian protesters” if they’re not actively promoting the Palestinian cause.

“If you’re on the side of the oppressor, or you’re defending the oppressor, or you’re actually trying to humanize the oppressor, then that’s a problem,” Sarsour said.

Sarsour added that Muslims who didn’t speak out were not patriotic:

“When I stand up here and I’m fighting for your rights and the rights of all people in these United States of America, I am a true patriot. And those of you who have fear in your hearts and don’t have the courage to stand up for your deen (religion), for your communities, for your religious institutions, for your children, that is not just a question of your patriotism. It is a question of your iman (faith).”

Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal in a phone interview that Sarsour’s comments about humanizing the oppressor are what “you would associate… with Hamas.”

“You wouldn’t automatically associate such language on the part of someone who is touted as an elite spokesperson for women’s rights, equal rights in the United States,” Cooper said.

Cooper added that Sarsour’s comments likely stem from “desperation” due to recent global developments of Gulf Arabs having “unprecedented normal contact” with Israelis.

“This has nothing to do with making America a more inclusive and welcoming society,” Cooper said. “This is about recasting the values of our nation to fit her mindset and we can only hope that there will be more and more voices within the progressive leadership that denounce her.”

Sarsour has previously called Zionism “creepy” and that someone cannot be both a Zionist and a feminist, telling The Nation, “You either stand up for the rights of all women, including Palestinians, or none.” She also doesn’t believe in a two-state solution, as Sarsour is an advocate for a single Palestinian state.

Sarsour also made headlines recently for being arrested for disrupting Supreme Court nominee’s Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday.

Former Chief Rabbi of Britain Calls Out Corbyn on ‘Anti-Semitic’ Remarks

Photo from Flickr.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of Britain, spoke out against Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn’s recently unearthed comments on Zionists not understanding “English irony” as “the language of classic pre-war European anti-Semitism” in an interview with the New Statesman.

In the interview published on Tuesday, Sacks decried Corbyn’s comments as “the most offensive statement made by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell’s 1968 ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech.”

“It was divisive, hateful and like Powell’s speech it undermines the existence of an entire group of British citizens by depicting them as essentially alien,” Sacks said.

Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech involved then-Defense Minister Powell railing against massive immigration into Britain.

Sacks added that Corbyn “has given support to racists, terrorists and dealers of hate who want to kill Jews and remove from Israel from the map.”

“When he implies that, however long they have lived here, Jews are not fully British, he is using the language of classic pre-war European anti-Semitism,” Sacks said. “When challenged with such facts, the evidence for which is before our eyes, first he denies, then he equivocates, then he obfuscates. This is low, dishonest and dangerous. He has legitimized the public expression of hate, and where he leads, others will follow.”

The Labour Party is claiming that Corbyn was only talking about “a particular group of pro-Israel activists as Zionists,” but Corbyn’s remarks seem to have been a breaking point for some British Jews. The London Times’ Josh Glancy wrote in a Monday New York Times op-ed:

The video was a watershed for many. Daniel Finkelstein, a Tory peer and columnist for The Times of London, called the revelation “qualitatively different from anything that has come before.” Ben Judah, a Labour-voting author, said that “the nasty comment from Mr. Corbyn on ‘Zionists’ not getting ‘English irony’ has finally snapped the benefit of the doubt extended by many Jewish progressives.” 

A writer for The Guardian, Simon Hattenstone, who has repeatedly defended Jeremy Corbyn against charges of anti-Semitism, called his speech “unquestionably anti-Semitic.” And it wasn’t just the Jews. George Monbiot, a giant of the British left, described the comments as “anti-Semitic and unacceptable.”

And from Mr. Corbyn’s most vehement defenders, such as the Guardian columnist Owen Jones or the Novara Media columnist Ash Sarkar? Crickets.

“This was classic anti-Semitism,” Glancy wrote. “Here were a group of Jews with whom Mr. Corbyn has a political disagreement. And he smeared them not on the basis of that disagreement but on the basis of their ethnicity. He accused them of failing to assimilate English values, of not fitting in, of still being a bit foreign. Had they been Christian Zionists, he could not have insulted them in this way.”

The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, a British watchdog group, has called on Corbyn to step down from the Labour Party.

“We had hoped that the Labour Party might at some point rise to the defense of British Jews by removing Jeremy Corbyn or by demanding his resignation, but the institutions of the once proudly anti-racist Labour Party are now corrupted and will not act,” the watchdog organization said. “Instead, they merely persecute those members who stand up to anti-Semitism.”

UCLA Unsure About Hosting Anti-Zionist Conference in November

Photo from Public Domain Pictures.

National Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) announced on their website that UCLA’s SJP chapter will be hosting the national SJP conference in November. However, when the Jewish Journal contacted UCLA, they had not yet confirmed that the conference would be happening on campus.

Algemeiner first reported that UCLA would be hosting the conference, linking to National SJP’s announcement, which states: “Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA will be hosting the 8th annual National Students for Justice in Palestine Conference on November 16-18, 2018 in Los Angeles, CA.”

 But Ricardo Vazquez, UCLA’s associate director of media relations, told the Journal in an email that UCLA had first learned about the conference in a Facebook post on August 21.

“We [are] working to verify the information in the Facebook post,” Vazquez wrote. “SJP is a student group, and most students are still away from campus until we start the fall quarter in late September. To clarify again: This would be an SJP-sponsored event that the organization plans to host on campus.”

UCLA’s SJP and National SJP decried Zionism in the announcement as “perverse in all aspects of Palestinian life and aims to destroy Palestinian existence and culture.”

“With the Nakba and the Naksa, relentless attacks on Gaza, cementing apartheid into law, and the everyday oppression of Palestinians at all levels of life, it may seem at times like all hope of seeing a free Palestine has been diminished,” SJP UCLA and National SJP wrote on the National SJP website. “And yet, Palestinians have persevered through the generations by means of their resistance and resilience.”

They also referred to Zionism as “ethnic cleansing, destruction, mass expulsion, apartheid, and death” and that it “can be destroyed” and said that they would discuss divestment campaigns as one of the ways they can be active on college campuses.

UCLA’s Students Supporting Israel (SSI) chapter called on UCLA to deny SJP from being allowed to host their conference on campus in light of the May 17 disruption of an SSI event.

“SJP clearly aimed for the destruction of our event, the denial of our free speech, and the negation of the academic freedoms which our university stands for, a similar pattern of action used by them on US campuses time after time,” UCLA SSI wrote on Facebook. “While for some the events of May 17th are well in the past or act as merely a reminder of the growing prevalence of anti-Semitism Zionophobia across university campuses, for us, SJP across the country serves as an organization that denies freedom of speech and uses violent methods to silence their opponents, methods that lead to bullying and violence.”

They added that the SJP conference aims “to further subject our university to their racist, hateful, and Zionophobic tactics and messages.”

“Zionism is the national movement of the Jewish people that called for Jewish sovereignty and led to the establishment of the state of Israel,” UCLA’s SSI wrote. “Zionists believe in the return of an ancient and indigenous people into their homeland after a millennia, and the right of the Jewish people to finally become masters of their own destiny. Today, decades after the Jewish people have returned to their homeland to established a Jewish, indigenous, and democratic state, those who support the existence of Israel face anti-Semitism and Zionophobic attacks and disruptions against them on college campuses, and those efforts are greatly led by SJP.”

The post concluded with the call for the UCLA administration to “take the appropriate actions in not allowing a well-known hate group like SJP to host their national conference on our campus.”

“In doing so, the administration will set a national example that denial of free speech, disruption, intimidation of students, and violence will not be tolerated in the academic community,” UCLA’s SSI wrote.

UCLA professor Judea Pearl had a similar reaction.

“My students and colleagues at UCLA express revulsion and indignation at the idea that our campus will be hosting a racist Zionophobic conference aimed at the destruction of the Jewish homeland,” Pearl said in a statement sent to the Journal. “Israel is a cherished symbol of identity to thousands of students on this campus, and sponsoring a blunt Zionophobic conference at their face is telling them they are not welcome at the University of California. Zionophobic racism is still racism.”

“We plead with the Chancellor to react to this proposed conference the same way he would react to any racist conference, be it Islamophobic or white-supremacist.”

When asked about how UCLA would address concerns of pro-Israel students about the SJP conference, Vazquez responded:

UCLA is bound by the First Amendment, which protects everyone’s right to express their ideas, even those that are controversial or unpopular. UCLA officials condemned the disruption of the ‘Indigenous Peoples Unite’ event on May 17, activating UCLA’s student conduct process and forwarding complaints filed by students to the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, which is now reviewing the matter. UCLA remains committed to protecting all of our students, regardless of their religious or ethnic identities or political beliefs. We will hold everyone to the same standards and continue to work to foster an environment where everyone’s rights are protected. Today we are proud that UCLA has many intellectual and cultural links to Jewish and Israeli institutions. Many UCLA schools, departments, and institutes have active student and faculty exchange programs with Israel and we have study abroad programs at the Hebrew University, the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the Technion.”

As of publication time, neither UCLA’s SJP nor National SJP had responded to the Journal’s request for comment.

University of Arizona Hires Hezbollah Supporter to Teach Course on Politics

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

New documents obtained by Judicial Watch reveal that the University of Arizona is paying Noam Chomsky, a long-time critic of Israel who has praised Hezbollah, at least $62,500 a year to teach a political course for the university.

According to Judicial Watch, Chomsky was initially brought on as a guest lecturer, and then became a part-time “consultant” for the university, where he was paid $10,000 per lecture and was only required to show up for six lectures. The university then signed Chomsky to a three-year deal from 2017-2020 with annual salary of $250,000; the average yearly salary for a full-time engineering professor at UA is $80,000. The university disputes the $250,000 figure, claiming that Chomsky will only receive 25 percent ($62,500) of that salary.

Chomsky is teaching a general education course at the university called “What Is Politics?”, a general education course that discusses “political analysis” and “how governments differ” as well as giving seminars on linguistics.

Chomsky has long been a critic of Israel. In 2014, he told Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman in 2014, “In the Occupied Territories, what Israel is doing is much worse than apartheid. To call it apartheid is a gift to Israel.” Chomsky also said that interview that he is “strongly supportive” of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

His criticism for Israel goes as far as expressing support for the Hezbollah terror group; in 2006, Chomsky said that “Hezbollah’s insistence on keeping its arms is justified” after he met with the terror group in Lebanon.

“I think [Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan] Nasrallah has a reasoned argument and [a] persuasive argument that they [the arms] should be in the hands of Hezbollah as a deterrent to potential aggression, and there is plenty of background reasons for that,” Chomsky said.

As the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) points out, shortly after Chomsky’s comments Hezbollah launched “an unprovoked attack on Israel.”

Additionally, UK Media Watch’s Adam Levick noted in an Algemeiner column that Chomsky recently told the UK Independent, “Israeli intervention in US elections vastly overwhelms anything the Russians may have done.” Levick also cited past statements from Chomsky in which he claimed that anti-Semitism is only an issue because “Jews in the US are the most privileged and influential part of the population” and that “Hitler’s conceptions have struck a responsive chord in current Zionist commentary.”

Chris Sigurdson, The UA’s vice president of communications, has defended the decision to have Chomsky teach a class by arguing that the campus has frequently hosted conservative speakers, such as filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza.

Stanford Student Who Threatened to ‘Physically Fight’ Zionists Steps Down from RA Position

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Hamzeh Daoud, the third-year Stanford student who threatened to “physically fight” Zionists in a Facebook post, announced that he would be stepping down from his position as Resident Assistant (RA) to a Stanford dormitory in the fall.

In an August 3 op-ed in The Stanford Daily, Daoud described himself as “a third-generation Palestinian refugee” and called his Facebook post “an emotion filled moment” in response to the recently passed nation-state law.

“After spending a few hours away from Facebook, I read over my post again and realized how infused it was with the same hatred that has caused my own family so much suffering,” Daoud wrote. “It was the antithesis of why I chose this path in life. A sloppy comment made during an emotion-filled reaction to yet another layer of trauma, the comment did not convey my values, who I am currently, or who I hope to become.”

Daoud went onto explain that he later revised his post to read “intellectually fight Zionists on campuses” while acknowledging that he had originally written “physically fight” because he didn’t want to “be misrepresented and misunderstand.”

“Although I was accused of horrible things and began to receive graphic death threats and messages filled with Islamophobia and xenophobia, I acknowledge the language in my first post had a strong negative effect on many in our Stanford community,” Daoud wrote. “I apologize from the bottom of my heart to everyone who was triggered by it. I recognize that I was projecting my own trauma onto others in a way that is never acceptable.”

Daoud added that he would begin undergoing “trauma-based therapy” at the university so he cann better manage his emotions.

“I am hopeful that I can continue to grow and become a person I can be proud of; someone whose actions aligns with their values,” Daoud wrote. “I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has helped me through this, including the Stanford administration.”

He then concluded his op-ed by announcing his resignation as a Stanford RA so he “can focus on my studies and on processing the repercussions of my post.”

In an August 3 statement, Stanford University said on their website that they determined that Daoud “does not pose a physical threat to other members of the community.”

“At the time of the original Facebook posting, the author rapidly amended it to make clear that he does not support physical violence, and he apologized for the original post in a letter to members of the Jewish community at Stanford,” the statement read. “In addition, in a new statement he has made, the student acknowledges the adverse effects this episode has had in our community. His decision to step down as an RA puts the interests of the broader community first.”

However, some Jewish groups think that Stanford needs to do more to address the issue.

“It is important that Stanford rightly recognizes that ‘threats of physical violence have absolutely no place in the Stanford community’ and commits to meeting with affected students to find ways to address issues of intolerance and create a safe learning environment for all,” Anti-Defamation League Central Pacific Regional Director Seth Brysk said in a statement. “This incident requires proactive measures by the Stanford administration to enforce established community norms and expectations as enumerated in the university’s Fundamental Standard. Jewish students must feel safe on campus, and threats of physical violence against Jews, or anyone, cannot be tolerated.”

Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper said in a statement sent to the Journal that even though Daoud has stepped down from his RA positions, “the issue for the Jewish community is not closed.”

“So-called ‘activists’ like him act with impunity against Jewish students and other supporters of Israel at many major universities,” Cooper said. “The reaction of the Administrations are tepid or non-existent.  People like Hamzeh Daoud and the groups they are involved must be held fully culpable for such bullying, hate and intimidation. We will continue to pursue this goal with Stanford and other schools as well as push for the passage of the Anti-Semitism Act in Congress that would pave the way for the US Department of education to protect Jewish students from such campaigns.”

Lawfare Project Executive Director Brooke Goldstein said in a statement sent to the Journal:

“We  are  proud  of  how  the  Jewish community  came  together  to  make  clear  that  these blatant threats are  absolutely  unacceptable.  When  we  are  united,  we  can  stop  discrimination.

“There  is  no  world  in  which  a  student  who threatens other students should  be  in  position  of  authority  on  campus.  Even though the student at issue  resigned  from  his  position,  Stanford  is still in a position to take disciplinary action.  Further, we hope the DA’s office will look into whether there was a violation of the California criminal code which specifically outlaws the making of willful threats to harm another. This is a necessary step to prevent this kind of behavior from being repeated.

“For  too  long,  Jewish  students  have  faced  bigotry  and  discrimination  under  the  guise  of  anti-Zionism.  There  is  no  excuse  for  this.  Our  community  must  continue  to  work  together  to  ensure  that  pro-Israel  and  Jewish  students  are  not  victimized  on  college  campuses.”

More Expletive-Laden Anti-Zionist Social Media Posts Emerge from Stanford Student Who Threatened Violence Against Zionists

Photo from Flickr.

Stanford student Hamzeh Daoud has been under fire for a recent Facebook post threatening physical violence against Zionists. More social media posts of his have been unearthed that reveal similar invectives.

In a July 31 letter sent to Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, attorney Jerome M. Marcus, who is representing an anonymous student at Stanford, highlights the following posts from Daoud:

· “f*ck your liberal Zionist ass. f*ck your jewish state. and f*ck the notion that makes you believe that the resilience [sic] and beauty that embodies judaism, jewish people, and the jewish religion is Israel. Israel is a state that needs to be dismantled. Any other opinion is complicity.”

· “For those that don’t speak arabic; this translate [sic] to God curse Israel. God curse the sh*t out of Israel :)! <3”

· “Salam! Your daily dose of f*ck Israel and have a nice day!”

Daoud has deleted his various social media accounts, but the aforementioned posts were captured in screenshots.

Marcus noted in the letter that “Zionism is an important element of the Jewish faith.”

“Jews pray three times a day for the return of the Jewish people to Zion and Jerusalem; they pray so every time they say grace after meals, and whenever they comfort a Jewish mourner, among many, many other times,” Marcus wrote. “These religious commitments are shared by many Jewish people around the world.”

Marcus added that the aforementioned posts from Daoud shows that he has “uncontrollable contempt and rage for this part of the Jewish faith,” meaning that he cannot uphold his duties “to create an inclusive, supportive, and stimulating residence community” as a Resident Assistant at a Stanford dormitory, a job that Daoud is slated to start in the fall.

“Stanford is now clearly on notice that Daoud has threatened violence in the very recent past and that he has displayed gross intemperance as well as intolerance of views other than his own on issues that are important to him and to other students,” Marcus wrote. “Stanford cannot responsibly continue to employ such a person without, at a minimum, completing a full investigation of all of his statements, as they all provide a valuable window into how he is likely to speak and conduct himself in the future.”

Marcus then pointed out that Stanford has previously intervened with student speech that deemed as harmful to campus climate, highlighting the following instances:

· Cutting funding from the Stanford Anscombe Society for planning to “discuss traditional values and marriage” in a press conference.

· Suspending housing for the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity after some of its members made degrading jokes toward women.

· Students that put posters deriding those who are opposed to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were required to attend a meeting with the Associate Dean of Students where they had to give a rationale for why they put up the posters because other students took offense to them.

“There seems no room for doubt that if a Stanford student had made statements like those made by Daoud, but directed at black students, or gay students, or women students, or Muslim students, he would not be afforded the opportunity to change his physical threats into a statement of a plan to demolish their ‘asses intellectually,’” Marcus wrote. “And even if that change were made, there can be no doubt that Stanford would not be indifferent to the resulting threat to ‘abolish’ a black student’s or a gay student’s or a woman student’s, or a Muslim student’s ‘ass’ intellectually, whatever that means. Neither would it be tolerated if a Stanford student publicly tweeted ‘f*ck’ any such group or category of people.”

Marcus told the Journal that he hasn’t heard back from Stanford yet. Stanford has also not responded to the Journal’s request for comment.

S.F. Schools Under Fire Over Anti-Zionist Course

The Jewish community is pushing back against the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) after it provided a contract to an anti-Zionist organization to hold workshops on “cultural empowerment.”

SFUSD’s board voted 6-1 on May 22 to provide the contract to the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC). The contract allows the organization to offer workshops once a week at five San Francisco high schools.

Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) spokesman Jeremy Russell told the Jewish News of Northern California after the May 22 vote that it would “be very difficult for the district to enforce its nondiscrimination policies on an organization that fundraises on an anti-Zionist platform.”

AROC has a long history of anti-Zionism, including a 2014 tweet from the organization stating, “Help us kick Zionism out of the Bay Area.” Its website also refers to Israel as “racist” and “exclusionary.” AROC Executive Director Lara Kiswani said in November 2014, “Bringing down Israel really will benefit everyone in the world and everyone in society.”

In 2015, Kiswani told Al Jazeera, “No Arab is going to be OK with the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, so inherently we must take a position of solidarity with the Palestinian people.”

AROC also led the 2014 Block the Boat campaign to prevent a cargo ship partly owned by an Israeli company from reaching the Port of Oakland.

Anti-Defamation League Central Pacific Regional Director Seth Brysk said in a statement to the Journal, “ADL has deep and continuing concerns about the Board of Education’s selection of [AROC] to conduct trainings for SFUSD. AROC has a long history up to the present of consistently engaging in strident and extreme anti-Israel activism and trafficking in anti-Semitic tropes in keeping with their biased views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [Kiswani] has proclaimed as much in multiple instances evoking long-standing, offensive and hurtful anti-Jewish stereotypes of money, power and nefarious motives.”

Brysk added, “SFUSD should only partner with providers that are inclusive and will reinforce the district’s goals of creating respectful schools and communities.”

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) also denounced the contract in a letter to SFUSD. “Anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination surely have no place in your schools, either,” ZOA wrote.

After the May 22 vote, AROC posted on its Facebook page, “After 3 years of not being allowed to work with OUR community in SF public schools, 3 years of attacks from Zionist organizations, and 3 years of pressuring the Board of Education, AROC’s MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) is finally reinstated! We can now continue to support Arab youth in the Bay Area!”

Responding to Anti-Semitism: Revisiting Old Assumptions, Understanding the New Threats

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

A renewed assault on Jews is now underway. The incidents of anti-Semitism are again on the increase. The forces that today are driving hatred in America, and more directly, contemporary anti-Semitism and racism appear to be fundamentally different and the responses will likewise need to incorporate alternative approaches if we are to effectively succeed in minimizing religious bigotry and ethnic and racial prejudice.

There exists a growing consensus that the political landscape in America is poisoned by the deep fissures found within the political culture. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2043, white Americans will cease to comprise this nation’s majority. This factor, among others, is contributing to a backlash among certain sectors of this nation that are fearful of a fundamentally different type of society. In response to these demographic shifts and changing economic conditions, there has been a significant growth in hate-based organizations, conspiracy-driven websites and media personalities expressing hostile views toward such ideas as pluralism, multiculturalism and globalism. This renewed focus on nationalism and race has given license to attacks on religious constituencies, ethnic groups and immigrant communities. The rise of factionalism and the politics of blame represent today the new political mindset requiring a Jewish response.

Indeed, the data revealing the growth in anti-Semitism must be seen as disturbing. The 2017 Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Audit on Anti-Semitism identifies a 57 percent increase, representing the largest single jump on record. The 1,986 incidents comprise cases of harassment (1,015 cases), vandalism (221) and assaults (36). These figures account only for specific actions but do not reflect the hostile messages delivered on social media. Yet, just a few weeks ago, the ADL released a study identifying some 4.2 million anti-Semitic tweets that have been posted this year.

Jonathan Weisman in his new book, “(((Semitism))): Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump,” suggests that the 2016 campaign would bring to the surface the alt-right with its conspiracy theories and hate messaging. But the assault is evident as well on the left, as we observed leaders associated with the Women’s March and the Chicago Gay Pride Parade making statements and taking actions that must be seen as unwelcoming to Jews and hostile toward Israel. Case in point, Linda Sarsour, one of the organizers of the Women’s March, who suggested that one cannot be a Zionist and a feminist.

The initial question we should be asking when it comes to anti-Semitism, “Why now, and why here?”

To be certain anti-Semitism is not pervasive, but there are most certainly changes occurring within the fabric of American culture and intergroup relations. While we are reminded by opinion surveys that most Americans hold favorable attitudes toward Jews and Israel, the tenor of social interaction has become far more challenging and uncertain. Elsewhere, I have written about the toxic political climate as a contributing factor to religious and racial hatred. “As factionalism and the politics of blame have increased in this country, some Americans are fearful of the future, triggering their fury and anger against the current state of this society.”

The Cycle of Hate: Historian Jonathan Sarna reminds us that in fact this nation has experienced various periods of social unrest, when anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudicial behaviors were present. Sarna noted in particular that with the election of Warren G. Harding in 1920, the country would experience a period of heightened anti-immigrant responses and a spike in anti-Semitism. Social and political conditions promote the repetition of prior forms of racial and religious expressions of hate.

Responding to Anti-Semitism: For more than 100 years, the American-Jewish community has been managing its response against anti-Semitism by employing a set of accepted community relations tactics. In examining some of the core assumptions that defined the community’s understanding of anti-Semitic behavior and its “treatment,” is it possible that these strategies may no longer be effective?

The policy of “isolation” that defined Jewish practice for much of the 20th century no longer works. Historically, Jewish institutions opted to embrace this strategy of systematically “isolating” bigots and anti-Semites. Today, with the presence of social media and other vehicles of open communication, it is no longer possible to contain such voices of hate.

The motivation for minority political organizing was based on the collective proposition that these groups endured a shared sense of powerlessness. In this current environment, these “traditional” minority communities are no longer necessarily seen as marginalized or without power. As Jews, for example, became “white folks” or were seen by some to be part of the established order, their case for victimhood was diminished, just as certain enemies of our community now define American Jews as operating outside the boundaries of an oppressed peoples. Indeed, some have described the contemporary position of Jews in America as the new “WASPS” (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants). The current rhetoric critiques Jews as power brokers who are seen as part of the existing political elite class. By adopting this new definition, it is then possible to assign blame to the Jews for the problems that confront our society. If, in the past, Jews were defined by their enemies as the subversive outsider, today we are described as the “oppressive insider.”

In modern times, anti-Semitism has metastasized to encompass anti-Israelism and other manifestations of political and religious hate. Rather than containing anti-Judaism as a religious expression, the community has experienced an increase in the different forms and varieties of anti-Jewish sentiment. In the past, the national defense agencies have treated all varieties of anti-Semitism through the same lens; this proposition no longer has merit.

If anti-Semitism was at one time seen as either being generated by the “right” or from the “left,” today there is a simultaneous assault on Jewish interests by groups on both edges of the political spectrum, creating new challenges to our community.

One of the propositions adopted by the Jewish community relations enterprise contended that history must be seen as linear, implying that past injustices and prejudices will give way over time to a more enlightened understanding of the human condition. Under this notion, anti-Semitic behavior and other forms of social hatred will dissipate as individuals are exposed to the shared story of all peoples. Education would free folks from their prejudicial past, empowering them to better manage ethnic and racial differences. This supposition has not proven to be correct.

If, in the past, Jews were defined by their enemies as the subversive outsider, today we are described as the “oppressive insider.”

The promise of 20th century nationalism and the founding of the Zionist movement held out the mistaken assumption that creating a “nation state” for the Jewish people would forever end anti-Semitism. If Jews had their own national identity, they would be seen and treated “like other peoples,” removing the seeds of anti-Jewish rhetoric and behavior.

At one point, Israel was seen as vulnerable, making its case more appealing to potential allies. Today, Israel has become the lynchpin for the new anti-Semitism. The enemies of the Jewish state, for example, have craftily employed Nazi symbols and terms, applying these images to Israel’s conduct. The Jewish community viewed the Nazi experience as unique to a particular ideology and political culture. Jews would contend that any cross-reference to Nazism is inappropriate and has no comparative basis. Many of Israel’s enemies reject this argument, as they move forward to impose Nazi labels on the Jewish state and introduce their Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) proposals. Today, anti-Israel sentiment is one of the major challenges in our fight to push back against anti-Semitism. Clearly, we need to separate out those who express particular criticism of Israel in connection with specific policy matters from the opponents of the Jewish state who seek to challenge its very existence.

Anti-Semitism is driven by the un-educated and uninformed. For the past 100 years, the community relations establishment held to the position that in order to “defeat” anti-Semitism, educational initiatives would need to be employed to offset misunderstandings, ignorance and prejudicial judgments about Jews and Judaism. Indeed, for decades our national agencies launched a series of informational programs designed to dispel myths that were fostered about Jews. Today, however, the new reality suggests that well-educated individuals know very well their case against Jews and Israel is designed to influence public opinion and to seed doubt about the role of Jews in our society. Today, we face a highly sophisticated strategy directed against Judaism and the Jewish community.

In the early decades of the 20th century, the model of Jewish organizing was constructed around the proposition that other like-minded communities will want to coalesce with Jewish organizations and leaders in opposing hate-based activities. This assumption was based on the common plight of prejudice endured by minority constituencies. Today, there are significantly different and individualized approaches employed by groups in responding to hate-directed attacks. There appears to be no longer a shared strategy for opposing prejudice and racial hatred, nor are some communities necessarily interested in being identified with the Jewish community.

Social elites were seen as the essential civic glue necessary to build public support in opposition to anti-Semitism. For decades, the Jewish “defense” strategy was directed toward mobilizing these elites as a wedge in condemning anti-Semitic rhetoric and behavior. As societies have radically changed, these leadership elites in such disciplines as government, business, the arts and religion no longer carry the same credibility or leverage that they once held, minimizing their impact on social behaviors.

For much of Western history, Jews contended with Christian theological anti-Judaism. Over the course of the 20th century, Christian-Jewish encounters would significantly alter the negative historic patterns associated with Christian religious views on Jews and Judaism. In the Western experience, Jews never formally had to deal with Islam. This is no longer the reality. As Islam has become an integral part of Western political culture and as Muslim influence has expanded, at this point in time, Jews are bereft of a strategy in managing Jewish-Muslim connections on a broad scale.

As anti-Semitism reasserts its presence on the political stage, these new assaults present significant yet different challenges to the Jewish community relations enterprise. Traditional responses appear to be no longer appropriate. The historic practice of “containment,” as an example, does not represent a viable strategy, but neither are the existing operational principles. The Jewish communal system will require a different framework for political and religious engagement in managing these contemporary threats against Judaism, Israel and the Jewish people.


Steven Windmueller is the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Studies at the Jack H. Skirball Campus, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles. A version of this article appeared on eJewishphilanthropy.com. His writing can be found on his website, thewindreport.com.

Reverse Hasbara

I once broke up with someone for calling me a “Zionist pig.”

Let’s call him Nir. We met through mutual friends, exchanged phone numbers, and then met up at a bar.

We asked each other the usual first date questions (How many siblings? What kind of music do you like?) and had a few laughs. At one point, he stopped the conversation and said, “How about we rate our date on a scale of 1 to 10?” The question made me nervous, but I figured that he wouldn’t have asked me if he wasn’t having as good a time as I was. “I’d give it an 8 out of 10,” I said.  “Just eight?” he asked. “I was going to say nine, but OK. Fine. Have it your way.” I laughed. He laughed. I was sold.

The only catch was that he didn’t live in Israel. He was one of those Israelis who lives in Berlin. A documentary filmmaker, he was in Tel Aviv conducting some interviews for a film he was working on about a little-known Israeli poet. He would be in the country only for a week — and then again in a few months, and then again a few months after that.

It didn’t slow us down. We played house while he was in town and talked on the phone when he wasn’t. I was hoping he would move back to Tel Aviv but also decided to go visit him in Berlin. If I liked it there, I thought, maybe that would be something we could talk about.

In the public’s perception, Israel is an idea rather than a place. This is so even among those who love Israel.

Of course, that was not how things played out. Our Tel Aviv romance didn’t translate to Berlin. This was immediately noticeable when I arrived. There was something different about his attitude — something cold and distant — but I couldn’t yet understand what or why it was.

In any event, I was on vacation and wanted to enjoy myself. We went out to bars and clubs at night and, during the day, I wanted to sightsee. It was my sightseeing trips that first clued me as to the reason Nir had cooled on me. He was happy to go along with me to Tempelhof, but scoffed when I wanted to go to the Holocaust memorial and teased me for being a Jewish cliché. He wanted to join me when I went to see the Berlin Wall, but laughed at me when I went to the Jewish museum.

The week passed tensely. Our past intimacy and ease were gone, and I was frustrated. But the day before I was to fly back to Tel Aviv, it all came into focus when we met a group of his friends. We encountered them by chance. Until then he had not introduced me to anyone. “This is Matthew,” he said. “He’s a Zionist pig and lives in Israel.”

I stifled whatever shock I felt and put on a smile, though I was blushing. One woman, incredulous, asked me if I was really a Zionist. I laughed and my eyes widened. Zionist is one of those words that I like to define before discussing. Otherwise you wind up having two simultaneous discussions with someone about two completely separate things. “Yes?” I said. “Well … you know … it’s …”

“Like, is that why you moved to Israel?”

I laughed again. “I moved to Israel,” I said, “because I love Tel Aviv.”

This seemed to be as good an evasion as any. The conversation drifted and eventually my “friend” and I were on our own again.

“I think I’m going to take a walk,” I said. “Alone.”

And off I went.

I’ve been thinking about this incident lately, as well as what followed it, in the wake of actress Natalie Portman’s decision to sit out an Israeli awards ceremony because of “recent events” in Israel. The news was shocking to many people. How could a Jerusalem-born woman who holds dual citizenship do something that so resembles what the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement does?

For me, however, Portman’s actions were not so shocking. I recognized them right away for what they were: reverse hasbara.

Hasbara is an Israeli-ism that refers to Israel PR. It means “explanation” and is a sort of Israeli cultural directive — the idea that wherever you are, if you are a Jew or an Israeli, it is your obligation to counter anti-Israel bias and spread a pro-Israel narrative.

Less talked about is reverse hasbara, something that Israeli leftists and Israel-supporting liberals feel compelled to do when they are around non-Israeli and non-Israel-supporting people. Reverse hasbara means explaining to people that you (despite the fact that you either live in Israel, immigrated to Israel or are from Israel) are not an Arab-hating fascist. The assumption is that this is what progressives will think of you if you don’t explain otherwise. I’m not sure this assumption is true but I’ve been in a few situations where I wanted to hedge my bets.

As a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, a super-progressive liberal arts college just north of Manhattan, and also as a queer person, my liberal stance on most issues easily can be  guessed. This can lead some of my American friends to call into question my love of Israel. Why is it that, although I’m left on every other issue in the world, I’m right on Israel?

It’s a fair question. My answer would be that I’m not right on Israel, and that I don’t relate to Israel as an “issue” on which one can be right or left. I relate to Israel as a place. It is the place where I live and it is a place that has been good to me. Connected to Israel are all sorts of political issues, and on these I generally fall on the left side of the spectrum. But I see Israel as more than the sum of its headlines.

That said, many people do not. And yes, I am guilty of reverse hasbara. Last New Year’s Eve, I was at a party with friends in New York and found myself grumbling about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Not because I cared to have a political conversation at that moment, but because I wanted my friends to know that I was still the same progressive Matthew they knew from Sarah Lawrence.

I’ve often wondered about reverse hasbara and why it is that so many of us feel the need to engage in it. It’s not as if American leftists have to wander around the world apologizing for everything President Donald Trump says. There is a natural separation in people’s minds between aspects of American life: the life of its cities, its people, its government and its military.

With Israel, there is no such separation. All are lumped together.

In the public’s perception, Israel is an idea rather than a place. This is so even among those who love Israel. I’ve met several devoted American Zionists who have no sense of (or love for) Israel the place. They love the Jewish state — but do they love this Jewish state?

Similarly, among Israel’s critics, Israel is little more than an ideology that must be disavowed.

Nir, I realized, had been carefully building a life for himself in Berlin based on reverse hasbara. And then I showed up — not only an Israeli person but an Israeli by choice. When we ran into his friends, he was put on the spot — caught between selves. He had two options in that moment. And he chose the second one. He threw me under the bus.

Leaving Israel is perhaps the strongest form of reverse hasbara there is. “Yes, I’m from that place. But I left. Because of recent events.” There’s something tragic about it. No one should feel ashamed of being from a certain country, and no one should assume anyone’s politics based on their passport.

I had a few other friends living in Berlin. As I walked away from Nir and the “Zionist pig” incident, I texted one of them to ask if I could crash at his place. Nir also was messaging me to ask if I was upset. I told him we could talk about it the next day. I would be heading back to Israel in the afternoon and needed to get my things anyways before heading to the airport.

We met at Nir’s place the next morning. I packed my bag and then we strolled to Tempelhof park and sat in the grass. He apologized. I accepted his apology. We understood quietly that our week together in Berlin would be our last week together anywhere. We moved onto other subjects of conversation — like his movie. It was mostly finished and he would soon be screening it.

“I was wondering,” he said, “if I should put something at the beginning of the film. A kind of dedication that says I’m against the occupation.”

“Why would you do that?” I asked. “The movie has nothing to do with the occupation.”

“Well, it sort of does,” he said. “It’s about Israel.”

“OK,” I said. “But why do you really want to put that disclaimer there? It seems a little unnecessary if you ask me.”

“I dunno,” he said. “Just so everyone knows how I feel.”


Matthew Schultz is a writer living and working in Tel Aviv.

Amanda Berman: Can progressives also be Zionists?

Amanda Berman, founder of the Zioness movement, discusses the opposition liberal Zionists have faced within the progressive movement, and how her new movement is working to change that.

Check out this episode!

Gil Troy: Is there more than one Zionism?

Historian Gil Troy discusses his new book, The Zionist Ideas, which makes the case for Zionism as a multi-dimensional work in progress. He also weighs in on the Natalie Portman controversy.

Check out this episode!

Cal Poly Students Target Zionist Groups

Screenshot from YouTube.

A group of students at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo issued a list of demands on April 13 in response to a racial incident; among the demands included a call for all non-Zionist clubs to have an increase in funding.

Cal Poly’s Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity posted photos online that featured a member donning blackface and other members posed with gang signs with the caption “She want a gangster not a pretty boy.” The university suspended the fraternity, but the fact that they did not expel the students prompted a backlash on campus.

As part of the backlash, a group of students called The Drylongso Collective, which describes itself as a group focused on ending “structural inequality” at Cal Poly, issued a letter with a litany of demands that the university undertake; the most controversial demand in the letter was the one that stated, “We want an increase in ASI [Associated Students Incorporated] funding for ALL cultural clubs, with the exception of organizations that are aligned with Zionist ideology.”

The Drylongso Collective attempted to justify this demand in a statement that was featured on the Cal Poly Multicultural Center’s Facebook page claiming that being anti-Zionist does not mean that they are anti-Semitic. The statement encouraged people to read the works of Jews Against Zionism, Noura Erakat, who happens to be the niece of a Palestinian Authority negotiator, and Angela Davis, who has past associations with the Black Panthers and Communist Party.

“Black folks and other People of Color have a long-standing history of standing in solidarity with Palestinian folks,” the statement reads. “The quotidian experiences of Palestinians include a long history of dealing with violence, colonization (particularly through land dispossession), and oppression. We cannot in good conscience advocate for our own liberation without being mindful of the current and historical liberation struggles of others locally, nationally, and globally.”

Later on, the statement added that The Drylongso Collective was focused on “anti-Black and anti-Brown racism at Cal Poly.”

“To attempt to decenter Blackness from our discussion by focusing on an accusation of anti-Semitism based on a false equivalency of Zionism and Judaism is deeply disturbing and speaks of not only the lack for anti-Semitic acts committed by non-Black/Brown students but also of the coalition work that remains to be done,” the statement reads.

Cal Poly Media Relations Director Matt Lazier told Campus Reform that the university would not consider The Drylongso Collective’s anti-Zionist demand.

“I can tell you that the specific point you reference about organizations aligned with Zionist ideology is not consistent with the university’s values and not something university administration will consider,” Lazier said.

Shiri Moshe of The Algemeiner noted The Drylongso Collective’s “demand would impact Jewish student groups including Hillel of San Luis Obispo, which has supported programming on campus related to Zionism, the movement for Jewish national-self determination in the Levant.”

“No other cultural clubs that cater to students of a particular national or ethnic background would be affected,” Moshe wrote.

The Drylongso Collective has not responded to the Journal’s request for comment.

The New Zionist Plants Vines, Not Trees

Adam Bellos.

Adam Bellos’ stated mission is as grandiose as his personality. “I’m here to reignite the Zionist movement,” he says, without an ounce of facetiousness.

Injecting new blood into Zionism was the impetus for The Israel Innovation Fund (TIIF), a nonprofit Bellos founded last year to highlight Israeli culture. He points to both demographics and the Jewish state’s evolving image when he asserts that North America has lost its crown to Israel as the center of the Jewish world.

“Israel is cool and sexy and holy and fun. It’s the creative state,” he says. “It’s not your bubbe’s Zionism. It’s about ‘Fauda,’ it’s about Gal Gadot. We are ‘Wonder Woman’ Zionism.”

TIIF, he’s quick to add, is composed of 60 percent women, and aside from its executive director, David Hazony, and newly appointed president, Ted Sokolsky, all of TIIF’s staff members are under 40.

Stopping short of naming names, Bellos takes a shot at the reigning kingpins of the Jewish world, charging them with being wholly out of touch with the drives and desires of young Jews.

“You’ve got these old guys in a New York office telling a 25-year-old in Israel what Zionism is when they have no idea,” he says. Rejuvenating Jewish identity isn’t about gala dinners and planting trees, says Bellos in a not-so-subtle jab at the Jewish National Fund.

“It’s not your bubbe’s Zionism. It’s about ‘Fauda,’ it’s about Gal Gadot. We are ‘Wonder Woman’ Zionism.” — Adam Bellos

TIIF’s millennial version of tree planting is its flagship project, Wine on the Vine. The online fundraising platform connects people to Israel by planting vines at select wineries, with the lion’s share of proceeds going to support Israeli charities. The organization also hosts revenue-positive parties, from Zionist-feminism soirees to wine tasting events in art galleries.

Not bad for a boy from Cincinnati who, by his own admission, wasn’t exactly an honor roll student. But there’s no love lost from Bellos for his hometown. “There’s a reason I left at 18 and never looked back,” he says.

Having always nurtured dreams of being a filmmaker, Bellos moved to Chicago to study film and theater. But a 2007 stint in a study-abroad program at Tel Aviv University turned out to be a life-altering experience that would put his Hollywood ambitions on the back burner.

“I fell in love with a girl and I fell in love with Zionism and I fell in love with Israel,” says Bellos, his face breaking into a million-watt smile.

Even when the romantic relationship fell through, Bellos knew without question that Israel would become his home. He returned to the United States to study Judaism and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Arizona before making aliyah and volunteering in the army. Two-and-a-half years later, Bellos left Jerusalem to accept a job in Ningbo, China, running a belly dance company.

After a year, Bellos returned, this time to Tel Aviv. He enrolled in a master’s degree program at Tel Aviv University, but he never quite found his place professionally. He dabbled in everything from volunteering with the city’s young, professional community to consulting for former ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren for the 2015 election, in which Oren was elected to the Knesset. Eventually, Bellos settled on playing the stock market, a venture that proved lucrative enough for him to realize his real passion of promoting Zionism.

He’s unapologetically pragmatic about the checks and balances of his ideals.

“I gotta be the guy who makes the money,” he says. “There’s so much passion out there and all these people have these great ideas, but you need money.

“Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to launch the hottest Jewish organizations in existence.”

Why Israel?

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Last week, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad used chemical weapons on his own people. The government of Israel responded to that atrocity, as well as Iran’s use of Syria as a thoroughfare for weapons transfers to terrorist groups like Hamas, by bombing Syria’s T4 airbase. The media responded by castigating Israel: for example, the Associated Press headlined, “Tensions ratchet up as Israel blamed for Syria missile strike,” and accompanied that story with a photo of suffering Syrian children targeted by Assad, making it seem that Israel had targeted the children.

That media treatment was no surprise — the week before, the terrorist group Hamas used large-scale protests against Israel on the Gaza border as a cover for terrorist attacks on Israeli troops. When Israeli troops responded with force, the media falsely suggested that Israel had indiscriminately fired into the crowd. Meanwhile, reporters touted the story of a supposed photographer killed by Israeli forces; it turns out that the photographer was a known Hamas officer.

A few weeks earlier and some 2,000 miles away in France, 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll was stabbed 11 times and her body set on fire by a Muslim neighbor who knew her well, and had convictions for rape and sexual assault. In 2017, there were 92 violent anti-Semitic incidents in France, a 28 percent year-on-year increase.

Moving across the English Channel, Israel’s Labor Party finally was forced to cut ties completely with the leader of the U.K.’s Labor Party, Jeremy Corbyn, a longtime anti-Semite who has routinely made nice with terrorists and defended open Jew-hatred in public. And, of course, in the United States, the alt-right’s anti-Semitism continues to make public discourse more crude and the Women’s March continues to make nice with anti-Semites such as Louis Farrakhan.

In other words, there is a reason for Israel to exist.

Israel’s self-interest is good for the Jews, good for the West and good for the world.

That reason is biblical, of course: Israel is the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people and the wellspring of Jewish practice. God’s promise to the Jews is inextricably intertwined with the existence and future of the State of Israel.

But over the past few decades, too many Jews have forgotten about the practical need for the Jewish state. In the same way too many Jews ignored the Zionist movement, believing that assimilation into tolerant non-Jewish societies provided the best pathway to a decent life, too many Jews today see Israel as a remnant of a hackneyed and counterproductive ethnocentric worldview. That dislike for Israel’s very existence has led many Jews to demonstrate their “world citizen” bona fides by using every opportunity to criticize Israel.

But Israel’s existence is not about ethnocentrism. Israel is multiethnic and multicultural, of course: Judaism is a religion far more than an ethnicity, as Russian and Ethiopian Jews can attest. Israel’s existence, on a secular level, is about enshrining a state that is safe for Jews the world over — and that can defend Jews and Western values in the face of regional and international threats. When Israel stands up to Syrian atrocities, it is acting out of a Judaic commitment to prevent the degradation of human beings made in God’s image; when Israel offers a road for European Jews on the verge of extinction, it is acting not merely out of solidarity but out of decency. Israel is a decent country, because it was founded on a decent purpose — and because it was founded on the basis of a tradition of decency.

That doesn’t mean Israel’s government is mistake-free. Far from it. But Israel’s extraordinary treatment at the hands of the world community is a demonstration that Israel is an outlier — and that’s a good thing. The United Nations that condemns Israel is filled with repressive dictatorships and corrupt plutocracies; the supposed “family of nations” is more like a squabbling band of self-interested moral idiots.

When Syrian children, mostly Muslim, gasp from chlorine poisoning, it is Israeli jets that provide a possible respite. Israel doesn’t act out of the pure goodness of its heart; it acts from self-interest. But Israel’s self-interest is good for the Jews, good for the West and good for the world. Forgetting that means trusting that the better angels of others’ natures will persevere over their internal devils. Historically, that’s been a rotten bet.


Ben Shapiro is a best-selling author, editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire and host of the podcast “The Ben Shapiro Show.”

‘ZIONIST IDEAS’: Re-examining Visions for the Jewish Homeland

Today, as we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, it is all too easy to forget how long the Jewish people longed for a homeland and how unattainable it seemed, even on the eve of statehood in 1948. To put it another way, the history of modern Israel is measured in decades, but the idea of Zionism is measured in millennia.

Israel was only 21 years old when Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg’s “The Zionist Idea” was first published. Now the Jewish Publication Society has published what it calls a “renewal” of Hertzberg’s classic text, that is, a new and expanded anthology of writings titled “The Zionist Ideas: Visions for the Jewish Homeland — Then, Now, Tomorrow,” ably edited by Gil Troy, a distinguished scholar of North American history at McGill University and the author of 12 books, including, “Why I Am a Zionist.”

Ironically, perhaps the single most significant difference between Hertzberg’s book and Troy’s book is the addition of an “s” to the title, thus making explicit the notion that Zionism must be — and is — a pluralistic enterprise rather than an article of faith.

“We need a modern book celebrating, as Professor Gil Troy notes, the Zionist ideas: the many ways to make Israel great — and the many ways individuals can find fulfillment by affiliating with the Jewish people and building the Jewish state,” writes Natan Sharansky, one of the modern heroes of the Zionist movement, in his introduction to the book. “A revived Zionist conversation, a renewed Zionist vision, can create a Jewish state that reaffirms meaning for those already committed to it while addressing the needs of Jews physically separated from their ancestral homeland, along with those who feel spiritually detached from their people.”

As Troy explained in an interview with the Jewish Journal (see page 22), “The Zionist Ideas” is something more and something different from the original text, and for more than one reason. Troy managed to reduce the length of the book while, at the same time, expanding the number of contributors (or “thinkers,” as he calls them) and the breadth of the conversation. So we hear more voices, and more varied voices, in “The Zionist Ideas” than we did in the 1959 edition.

Ironically, perhaps the single most significant difference between Hertzberg’s book and Troy’s book is the addition of an “s” to the title, thus making explicit the notion that Zionism must be — and is — a pluralistic enterprise rather than an article of faith.

It’s a project that required not only Troy’s own deep knowledge of Jewish history, politics and culture, but also a healthy dose of chutzpah. “Since 1959, ‘The Zionist Idea’ has been the English speaker’s Zionist bible, the defining text for anyone interested in studying the Jewish national movement,” Troy explains. “To some academics and activists, Hertzberg’s tome was such a foundational work that any update is like digitizing the Mona Lisa or colorizing ‘Casablanca.’ ”

But an update was urgently needed, if only because Zionist conversation has changed from the simple question of whether a Jewish homeland could be achieved — “History’s affirmative answer [is] ‘Yes!’,” writes Troy — to the far more complex question of what the Jewish homeland should aspire to be. “Israel’s 1967 Six-Day War triumph stirred questions Hertzberg never imagined, especially how Israel and the Jewish people should understand Zionism when the world perceives Israel as Goliath, not David.”

Troy helpfully divides the Zionist movement into six “schools” — Political, Labor, Revisionist, Religious, Cultural and Diaspora Zionism — and he divides the contributors into three categories: the “Pioneers” (including Herzl, Jabotinsky and Ahad Ha’am), the “Builders” (including David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir and Menachem Begin) and the “Torchbearers,” ranging from Peter Beinart to Leon Wieseltier, whose article on the concept of bitzu’ism (which he translates as “implementationism”) transformed my understanding of the Zionist saga history when I first read it in the New Republic in 1985: “The bitzu’ist is the builder, the irrigator, the pilot, the gunrunner, the settler.”

Troy is vividly aware — and wants his readers to be aware — that Zionism is a work in progress rather than a set of commandments carved in stone.

Of course, the very idea of Zionism has always had its nay-sayers, who once included both the Reform movement and the most observant strands of Judaism. Nowadays, Israel is a benchmark of Jewish identity in all branches of Judaism, except a few Chasidic courts. Even so, Troy is vividly aware — and wants his readers to be aware — that Zionism is a work in progress rather than a set of commandments carved in stone.

“Like Abraham’s welcoming shelter, the book’s Big Tent Zionism is open to all sides, yet defined by certain boundaries,” he writes. “Looking left, staunch critics of Israeli policies belong — but not anti-Zionists who reject the Jewish state, universalists who reject nationalism, or post-Zionists who reject Zionism. Looking right, Religious Zionists who have declared a culture war today against secular Zionists fit. However, the self-styled ‘Canaanite’ Yonatan Ratosh … who allied with Revisionist Zionists but then claimed Jews who didn’t live in Israel abandoned the Jewish people, failed Zionism’s peoplehood test.”

And so, like Tevyah, there are limits to his open-mindedness, and the exclusions say as much about the diversity of thought in the Jewish community. “Sadly, the most frequent question non-Israeli Jews have asked me about this book is, ‘Will you include anti-Zionists, too?’ ” he muses. “When feminist anthologies include sexists, LGBT anthologists include homophobes, and civil rights anthologies include racists, I will consider anti-Zionists.”

Troy points out that Abraham’s tent has always been capable of accommodating a Jewish community of remarkable diversity and vitality. Zionism has changed over time, as Troy repeatedly reminds us, starting when Herzl was repudiated by his fellow Zionists for famously proposing Uganda as the site of the Jewish homeland, and continuing without pause as Zionism wrote itself into world history. But Troy also insists that its core values include not only the land of Israel but also the democratic character of the Jewish state itself.

Significantly, one of the documents in “The Zionist Ideas” is the Jerusalem Program of the World Zionist Organization as proclaimed in 1951 and reissued in 2004. The two versions are different in many details, but one aspiration appears in both versions — “a Jewish, Zionist, democratic and secure State of Israel.”

To which Zionists, one and all, are surely able to say: Amen!


Jonathan Kirsch, author and publishing attorney, is the book editor of the Jewish Journal.

Passover and Zionism: Three Sephardic Views

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

“This year we are here, next year in the Land of Israel. This year we are still slaves, next year may we be a free people.” This text appears in most Ashkenazi versions of the Passover haggadah.

In the Sephardic version, the second line is slightly different. It reads, “This year we are still slaves here in exile, next year may we be a free people in the Land of Israel.”

Given the emphasis on “exile vs. Israel” in the Sephardic version, how did Sephardic rabbis in post-1948 Israel understand the haggadah in light of the newly declared Jewish state?

In a pre-Passover address in April 1949, Rabbi Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel, who was born in Jerusalem and served as Sephardic Chief Rabbi under Ottoman and British rule, recognized the paradox of saying we are still slaves in exile. Just 11 months earlier, on May 14, 1948, he was in “the room where it happened” when David Ben-Gurion said, “We hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Yisrael, to be known as the State of Israel.”

Now as the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of the first Jewish State in close to 2,000 years, Uziel said: “Throughout our lengthy exile, Passover infused us with the hope to be redeemed in our ancestral homeland. By the grace of God and the Israeli military, we are now happy to say: This year we are a free people in the Land of Israel.”

Nissim called Passover “the holiday that most deeply preserved the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.”

By mimicking the haggadah’s language to reflect the Jewish people’s new reality, Uziel seemed to infer that the change in the Jewish people’s status warranted a change in the haggadah’s text.

Uziel’s successor to the Sephardic Chief Rabbinate was Rabbi Yitzhak Nissim.

In 1958, Nissim called Passover “the holiday that most deeply preserved the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.” He proclaimed the modern State of Israel as “the beginning of our redemption,” but said that we have “yet to cross the sea into complete freedom.” Different than Uziel’s idealistic Israel of 1949, by 1958, Israel was a deeply divided society, especially along Sephardic-Ashkenazi ethnic lines. Given this reality, Nissim used the metaphor of God “tearing apart” (kara in Hebrew) the sea, saying, “we cannot declare ourselves a fully free people on Passover until we ‘tear apart’ all of these divisions in our midst.”

In 1973, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef replaced Nissim as Israel’s new Sephardic Chief Rabbi. By then a renowned scholar of halachah (Jewish law), Yosef counted among his many published books a detailed commentary to the Passover haggadah titled “Hazon Ovadia.”

Reflecting upon the stanza in the song “Dayenu” that states, “Had God given us the Torah but not brought us into the Land of Israel, that would have been enough,” Yosef writes:

“These words are directed against the secular Zionists who think you can build the Land of Israel without the Torah of Israel. The Torah precedes the Land of Israel in importance, because the Land of Israel without Torah is no better than living in the diaspora. Indeed, it is preferable to stay in the diaspora as an observant Jew rather than angering God by living a secular lifestyle in the Land of Israel.”

In a radical departure from his Sephardic predecessors, Yosef demystifies the existence of Israel and posits that the secular orientation of Zionism actually angers God. Yosef’s creative reading of “Dayenu” deems it preferable for the Jewish people to have stayed “slaves in exile” as religiously observant Jews rather than being a “free people in the Land of Israel” in a Jewish state with a decidedly secular orientation.

As we transition from Passover into Israel’s 70th anniversary, Israel’s first three Sephardic Chief Rabbis inspire a new set of “Four Questions”: Are those of us living in exile still in slavery? Does Jewish independence in Israel automatically mean Jewish emancipation? Is a polarized Israel a true expression of freedom? Can secularism and religiosity coexist in a Jewish state?

Perhaps we should have another seder on Yom HaAtzmaut to ponder those questions.


Rabbi Daniel Bouskila is the director of the Sephardic Educational Center.

SF Professor Under Fire for Saying That Zionists Aren’t Welcome On Campus

Screenshot from Facebook.

San Francisco State University (SFSU) Ethnic Studies Professor Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi is in hot water for declaring that Zionists would not be welcomed on campus.

Abdulhadi’s comment stemmed from SFSU President Leslie Wong apologizing for declining to state in May that Zionists would be welcome on campus. Abdulhadi called Wong’s statement “a declaration of war against Arabs, Muslims, Palestinians and all those who are committed to an indivisible sense of justice on and off campus.”

“I am ashamed to be affiliated with SFSU administration and demand the immediate retraction of this racist, Islamophobic and colonialist statement, and the restoration of SFSU social justice mission,” Abdulhadi wrote in a Facebook post. “At a time when we are marking 50 years since the 1968 SFSU student strike and the quest to decolonize the curriculum, it is embarrassing to have our campus leadership cater to donor pressures and the Israeli lobby.”

Her post was shared on the Facebook page for the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas’ (AMED) program, which is run through the College of Ethnic Studies, as well as on the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS) Facebook page. Abdulhadi is the faculty advisor to GUPS.

Abdulhadi’s post resulted in “60 Jewish, Christian, education, and civil rights organizations” sending a letter to California State University (CSU) Chancellor Timothy White and the CSU Board of Trustees to investigate the matter.

“It is appalling and deeply disturbing that Professor Abdulhadi would, in her role as director of AMED, promote a statement that denigrates Jewish and non-Jewish students who identify as Zionists and state that they are unwelcome at the university,” the organizations wrote. “Even more disturbing is Abdulhadi’s highly inflammatory suggestion that the mere presence of students who identify as Zionists constitutes a ‘declaration of war’ against Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians — a statement which could be understood as incitement to violence and a direct threat to Jewish students at SFSU.”

But what the organizations found even more concerning was “that AMED, an academic unit in the College of Ethnic Studies at SFSU, would re-post such a hateful message and give it both academic and institutional legitimacy.”

“We believe that AMED’s reposting of Professor Abdulhadi’s hateful message violates Jewish students’ inalienable rights to freedom of expression and full participation in campus life, rights that are guaranteed to each and every CSU student,” they wrote.

The letter concluded by calling for “AMED and its administration” to be investigated.

Mary Kenny, SFSU’s Director of News and New Media Strategic Marketing and Communications, told the Journal in an email, “The University has asked that the post be removed from the University-affiliated Facebook page.” Kenny did not respond to the Journal’s follow-up question on if any further action would be taken against Abdulhadi. As of this writing, Abdulhadi’s post was still up on AMED’s page.

Wong did denounce Abdulhadi’s post in a statement.

“Dr. Abdulhadi’s post does not reflect the opinions, values, or policies of San Francisco State University,” Wong said. “To the contrary, SF State promotes the principles of inclusion, thoughtful intellectual discourse, and sharing of ideas that are central to our academic environment. All are welcome at SF State and a diversity of perspectives helps us grow as an institution. ”

Michael Uhlenkamp, the senior of director of Public Affairs for the CSU Chancellor’s Office, told the Journal in an email that they would be responding to the letter but any investigation would have to be taken up by SFSU.

The Journal reached out to Abdulhadi for comment and received an automatic reply about how she’s “traveling and will be going on a partial Family Medical Leave due to work conditions.”

Anti-Semitic incidents have been occurring with rising frequency recently at SFSU, prompting two Jewish students to file a lawsuit against SFSU for insufficiently responding to anti-Semitic incidents on campus. According to the Algeimeiner, the complaint states that Jewish students have been subjected to “displays and events on campus that equate them with Nazis and baby murderers; deprivations of their rights to speak, listen, and assemble; threats, harassment, intimidation, and bullying.”

Back in May, Wong was asked if Zionists would be welcomed on campus. His response at the time was, “Am I comfortable opening up the gates to everyone? Gosh, of course not. I’m not the kind of guy who gets into absolutes like that.”

In February, Wong met with the campus Hillel and relented and declared, “Zionists are welcome on our campus,” a statement that Abdulhadi apparently took umbrage with.

The Canary Mission website has documented how Abdulhadi has lavished praise on Palestinian terrorists like Rasmea Odeh, who faces a life sentence for playing a role in the bombing of a Jerusalem grocery store that killed two Hebrew University students and Leila Khaled, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) leader who took part in hijacking a couple of airliners. Abdulhadi also referred to Hamas’ 2014 kidnapping of three Israeli teens as “the disappearance of three settlers.”

The Eternal Debate on the ‘Idea’ of Israel

We are still arguing among ourselves over whether the two-state solution is dead, but here’s a question that is rarely, if ever, asked: Exactly when did the idea of peaceful co-existence between a Jewish state and an Arab state first enter the international diplomatic conversation?

The surprising answer is 1936, 12 years before the State of Israel was declared. That’s when the British government, which then ruled over all of Palestine, proposed the so-called Peel Plan, which would have carved out a Jewish state between Tel Aviv and the border with Lebanon, reserved Jerusalem and Nazareth to Great Britain, and turned over the rest to the Arab community. Even then, the plan immediately sparked a rhetorical civil war among Labor Zionists, Revisionists and religious Zionists that is all too familiar to us today.

So we learn in Michael Brenner’s “In Search of Israel: The History of an Idea” (Princeton University Press), a timely and useful survey of the differing and sometimes diametrically opposed points of view that have been asserted by men and women who all regard themselves as good Zionists. He allows us to see that the core idea of Zionism has always been situated somewhere between two poles — the aspiration toward a sovereign Jewish state “like any other” state, and the belief that the Jewish state is destined to be exceptional, a divine gift bestowed on a Chosen People and “a light unto the nations.”

“[Our heart] … lies with the heart of the Jewish people in Eretz Israel and the Diaspora in fearing the royal commission’s conclusion regarding partition of the Land of Israel, which amputates our land, cuts off entire limbs and robs us of Jerusalem,” declared one group of Hebrew writers in a public manifesto when the Peel Plan was first proposed.

Brenner, the Seymour and Lillian Abensohn Chair in Israel Studies and director of the Center for Israel Studies at American University, and a professor of Jewish History and Culture at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, points out that the debate goes all the way back to the first stirrings of political Zionism in the 19th century, when Theodor Herzl offered his own solution for the “Jewish Problem” in “The Jewish State.” Notably, Herzl did not regard the Holy Land as the only place to create one. Herzl believed that “[if] a Jew is refused a normal life in Paris or Vienna, then he or she has to create a path to normality elsewhere, and in a Jewish society — be it in Palestine or in Argentina,” Brenner explains.

The core idea of Zionism has always been situated somewhere between two poles — a sovereign Jewish state “like any other” state and one destined to be exceptional.

The tension between normality and exceptionalism, as Brenner shows us, is a thread that runs throughout the history of Zionism. Early Jewish socialists like Jakob Klatzkin believed that only by working on the land and in the factories of a Jewish state would the Jews “leave behind elitist Jewish traits and become a real people.” The Jewish state should not only include “peasants and craftsmen but also soldiers and armies,” as Brenner writes. Thus did Yosef Trumpeldor famously fall in the defense of the Jewish settlement of Tel Hai in 1920 with stirring words on his lips: “It is good to die for our country.”

Of course, the Labor Zionists were not alone in embracing secularism. Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky, Trumpeldor’s comrade-in-arms and the founder and leader of the Revisionists, “expressed his conviction that the fight for a Jewish state would not be decided through prayer or negotiation, but only through a bloody struggle,” Brenner writes. Jabotinsky, who is the founding father of the movement that now finds political expression in the Likud party, wrote a hymn that captured his vision of how the Jewish state would come into existence: “From the pit of decay and dust / With blood and sweat / Shall arise a race / Proud, generous and cruel.”

While Brenner’s book is essentially the history of an idea, it is enlivened and enriched by the fascinating details and incidents that he has retrieved from the historical record. He recalls that Herzl himself did not believe that Hebrew could become the national language of the Jewish state: “Who amongst us has a sufficient acquaintance with Hebrew to ask for a railway ticket in that language?” Herzl famously observed. Brenner points out that the name of the Jewish state that was declared in 1948 was a matter of much debate — Zion, Judah, Canaan and Eretz Yisrael were all considered and rejected in favor of State of Israel. And David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, insisted on regarding the Jews of the Diaspora as nothing more than raw material: “We have turned human dust, gathered from all over the world, into an independent, sovereign nation, occupying a respectable place in the family of nations.”

Even when the “human dust” is gathered in, however, Zionism is faced with another vexing and often heartbreaking problem: Who is a Jew? The Law of the Return, which assures citizenship to any Jew who reaches Israel, has been the occasion for a long and continuing debate. “[A] person might be considered a Jew by a rabbi even though he had converted to another religion, but the same rabbi would not consider him a Jew when he was called to the Torah in the synagogue,” explains Brenner, citing the writings of Avishai Margalit.

As Brenner explores the contradictions and contentions that make up the history of Israel, he encourages us to see the commonalities, too. Religious Zionists demanded “a state based on religious principles,” for example, while Labor Zionists embraced “the notion of a Zionist movement under entirely secular leadership and with a secular language.” Yet even Labor Zionism can be seen as “a secularized version of traditional messianism,” and “the socialists’ talk of the redemption of the soil provided the basis for claims by some in the Labor Party after the Six-Day War that the whole of the Land of Israel was sacred.”

Ben-Gurion embraced something of the same idea: “In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.” Brenner quotes Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, vice president of the American Jewish University, for the proposition that “Israel’s existence is a miracle.” And so, when Brenner ends his book with a series of provocative questions about the future of Israel (“Will it be a democracy with equal rights for all its citizens or an ethnocracy that favors one group over another?” “Will the society remain a dominantly secular one, or will religious groups make more inroads?”), we are left with the notion that even something as miraculous as a two-state solution is not yet entirely out of the question.


Jonathan Kirsch, author and publishing attorney, is the book editor of the Jewish Journal.

Israel Basher Leaves UCLA After Sexual Harassment Charges

Photo from YouTube.

The once respected academic career of UCLA historian Gabriel Piterberg has come to an apparent end, not because of his unrelenting hostility toward Israel and Zionism, but due to long-standing sexual harassment charges by two women students.

While Piterberg has denied the accusations, UCLA authorities last week capped a five-year investigation by concluding that he had violated the university’s sexual harassment policy.

As a result, Piterberg agreed to leave UCLA, forego any future employment on any University of California campus and forfeit any future emeritus status, office space and other academic privileges, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday(3/13).

The charges against Piterberg dated back to 2013, when two female graduate students complained to UCLA authorities that the professor had harassed them over many years by making offensive sexual comments, pressing himself against their bodies and forcing his tongue into their mouths.

Piterberg has rejected all requests for media interviews.

Piterberg became a member of the UCLA history faculty in 1999. He soon became a controversial figure on campus, though not for his alleged sexual proclivities.

According to his own resume, Piterberg was born in Buenos Aires but grew up in Israel. He served in the Israeli army in the early 1980s and saw action against the forces of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in southern Lebanon.

After his army discharge, he studied and received academic degrees – all with highest honors – from Tel Aviv University in Middle East history and political science, and a Ph.D. degree from Oxford University, where his research focused on the history of the Ottoman Empire.

Subsequently he taught at England’s University of Durham and at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

After arriving at UCLA, Piterberg seemed set for a bright academic career, advancing to a full professorship in 2008 and in 2013 becoming director of the Gustav von Grunebaum Center for Near Eastern Studies.

At seminars and in specialized scholarly publications Piterberg soon earned a reputation as an unrelenting critic of the creation and existence of Israel.

Until the sexual harassment charges against Piterberg became public, his fellow history professors – like most academics – were loath to criticize a colleague for his opinions, however offensive.

An exception on the UCLA campus was Judea Pearl, a professor of computer science, director of the Cognitive Systems Laboratory and considered one of the world’s foremost authorities on artificial intelligence.

He and his wife Ruth are also co-founders of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, created in memory of their son, a journalist murdered by Islamic extremists in Pakistan in 2002.

Judea Pearl has shown no reluctance to express his abhorrence of Piterberg’s views. He believes that Piterberg’s “scholarly” contributions can be summed up as “bash Israel as viciously as you can, someone might listen and take it seriously.”

Pearl added that “Piterberg belongs to a group of extreme left so-called ‘historians,’ who see their role as the re-interpretation of history to fit their political agenda.

“His agenda is to malign Zionism…which he sees as an organic part of ‘white settler colonialism,’ the 19th century effort by European powers to create societies in their own image by dispossessing the indigenous people…He even attributes Nazi origins and Nazi ideologies to most Zionist leaders.”

Asked what might have turned Piterberg from an Israeli soldier and brilliant student into a bitter foe of the Jewish state, Pearl answered that he was at a loss for an answer.

Meanwhile, the two women students, Kristen Glasgow and Nefertiti Takla, found the UCLA administration less than eager to pursue their case and in 2015 they filed a lawsuit against the University of California.

Although the two women were granted some monetary compensation and Piterberg was told to talk to students only with his office doors open, he continued in his teaching capacity.

But by 2016 campus opinion turned against Piterberg, with large student protests and a petition by 38 history professors complained that “students, staff and faculty must contend with the presence of a harasser in our midst.”

Finally, 10 years after Glasgow’s first humiliating encounter with Piterberg, she learned her harasser had lost his job. She described her reaction on learning the news to the Los Angeles Times as “I cried, I laughed, I screamed. It was 10 years and 10,000 pounds of weight off my shoulders.”

Columbia Professor Calls Zionists ‘Master Thieves’ in Facebook Post

Screenshot from Facebook

A professor at Columbia University railed against Zionists “infiltrating” the Women’s March on Facebook, going as far as referring to Zionists as “master thieves.”

Hamid Dabashi, who teaches Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature, was irked that actress Scarlett Johansson was a featured speaker at the Women’s March since she was once the spokeswoman for SodaStream, which was based in Israel.

“Scarlet Johansson is a violent Zionist deeply committed to the systemic theft of Palestine and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homeland— she appears on commercials selling Israeli products made on the stolen and occupied Palestinians lands — her appearance on Women’s March rallies deeply compromises the moral authority of the movement,” Dabashi wrote.

Dabashi called for members of the Women’s March to “denounce this pernicious infiltration and appropriation of the movement.”

“Zionists are master thieves— they steal Palestinian land and culture, they steal Jewish history and heritage, and they steal every progressive movement to twist it to their advantage— beware!” Dabashi concluded the post.

Dabashi continued his tirade against Johansson in the comments section, where he attacked her for being a “careerist Zionist” and promoting “a product made on stolen Palestinian land and with abused Palestinians labor.”

The Columbia professor has a history of vitriolic anti-Israel statements, including calling Israel supporters “Gestapo appratchniks” and that Israelis have “a vulgarity of character,” per Discover the Networks. Dabashi is also a Hamas apologist, having once referred to the terror organization as “the poor and impoverished representative of a poor and impoverished people” and disparaged those who criticized Hamas.

“The obscenity of first demonizing Hamas and then blaming it for the vicious war crimes that Israel is perpetrating against Palestinians has now passed any measure of common decency,” Dabashi said. “Hamas is the legitimate and democratically elected representative of Palestinian people – a grassroots organization deeply embedded in and integral to the Palestinian national liberation movement.”

Hamas had a major electoral victory in the 2006 Gaza elections; the following year they cemented an iron grip on the region after a violent conflict with Fatah. Elections haven’t been held in Gaza ever since.

Dabashi also has an “awful” rating on RateMyProfessors.com.

“I learned very little in the course and he contradicted himself a lot, as if he were thinking out loud,” one former student wrote on the site. “People became more reluctant to ask questions because he always shut them down and tried to embarrass anyone asking something he did not like.”

H/T: Campus Reform

Aharon Appelfeld’s Path to the Hebrew Language

Photo from Wikipedia.

“From the moment I arrived in Israel, I hated the people who forced me to speak Hebrew,” wrote Aharon Appelfeld in his memoir, “The Story of a Life.” Appelfeld’s mother tongue was German. “The effort to preserve my mother tongue amid surroundings that imposed another language upon me proved futile,” he said. “My mother and her language were one and the same. Now, as that language has faded within me, it was as if my mother (killed early in World War II) were dying a second time.”

As I contemplated composing a literary tribute to the great author Aharon Appelfeld, who passed away on Jan. 4 at the age of 85 (born Feb. 2, 1932), there were many angles I could take. His traumatic experiences as a child during the Holocaust, his coming of age into a newly born Jewish state, his journey toward becoming a writer, even his deep love for Jerusalem’s cafes (to which he devoted an entire book), all could serve as captivating themes.

But what fascinates me most about Appelfeld is that he wrote in Hebrew. Every time I read an Appelfeld novel in the original, I recall that for him, Hebrew was not “the original” until his teenage years. As a “refugee from World War II” (that’s what he called “Holocaust survivors”) and as a new immigrant in the emerging State of Israel in 1946, Appelfeld struggled to learn Hebrew. He read the current modern Hebrew literature of his day. But his struggles were more than linguistic. “Every page was a hurdle for me,” he said. “And yet I read voraciously, as if trying to familiarize myself with the strange country into which I had been thrown.” As much as he tried, Appelfeld could not connect to the characters of this new Hebrew literature, “soldiers or officers or farmers in the open fields.”

Conflicts between his German mother tongue and Hebrew are best understood through Erwin, the protagonist of his novel “The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping.” Like Appelfeld, Erwin is a “refugee from World War II” who immigrates to Palestine. Once there, Erwin is inducted into the classic Zionist lifestyle, tending the land on a kibbutz and performing guard duty. In an exchange of fire with snipers, Erwin is injured. During his recovery, Erwin spends hours reconstructing his past in his mind, all the while setting out to teach himself proper Hebrew. Eventually, he decides to become a writer.

In his 43 Hebrew books, Appelfeld sent a message that Hebrew is an ancient language that cannot be divorced from its past.

Erwin’s decision to write in Hebrew — a lens on Appelfeld’s decision — represented a plot twist in Zionism’s narrative. While Zionism prided itself on reviving the Hebrew language as part of its “negation of the Diaspora,” both Erwin and Appelfeld chose Hebrew as the language through which they would spend their lives exclusively devoted to recounting their experiences in the Diaspora.

Appelfeld’s literary journey would blossom when he learned that most modern Hebrew writers were bilingual. “This was a sensational discovery for me,” he said. “It meant that the ‘here’ and the ‘there’ were not cut off from each other, as the slogans proclaimed.” Appelfeld began to read writers such as Mendele Mocher Sefarim, Bialik and Agnon, all prolific in both Hebrew and Yiddish. “Their Hebrew was connected to places with which I was familiar, to landscapes I remembered, and to forgotten melodies that came to me from my grandparents’ prayers,” he said.

In his 43 Hebrew books, Appelfeld sent a message to Zionism, to his peers, and to his readers that Hebrew is an ancient language that cannot be divorced from its past. Quite an impressive feat for someone who once hated those who forced him to speak Hebrew.


Rabbi Daniel Bouskila is the director of the Sephardic Educational Center.

What Would My Father Say?

People often ask me how many years it has been since my father’s death. I never want to answer. For them, it may be counted in years or even decades — such a long time. For me, it feels like yesterday. Some might say the trauma of his death is still with me, but I would say that his presence remains so vivid in my life that talking about his death feels odd and unreal.

My father, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, has been present in my life this past year with particular strength because of the many horrors that I know would have been devastating for him to witness. He always used to reassure me that the Nazis were defeated, that the United States was safe, that what happened would never happen again. To see the KKK marching in the streets, neo-Nazis celebrating, with ugly racism coming from the White House — and so much more — I know he would again be pacing the floor, unable to sleep, as he was pacing and sleepless over the horrors of the Vietnam War.

Today the Jewish world seems horrifically engaged in a kind of internal civil war, a war that is anything but civil. For my father, life was precious, every moment. He used to say, time is life, and to “kill time” is to commit murder. He was intensely engaged at every moment. The efforts today by Jews to attack and try to destroy one another out of political disagreements would have horrified my father. Zionism was supposed to unite us, not divide us. Racism he called blasphemy, satanism, unmitigated evil. There are Jews who confuse the Code of Laws with God. Some people try to be religious the way their grandparents were religious — my father called that ‘spiritual plagiarism.’ Selfishness, indifference, a cold heart — this was the opposite of a religious person, for whom awareness of God begins with wonder.

What is a religious person? A person who is maladjusted; attuned to the agony of others; aware of God’s presence and of God’s needs; a religious person is never satisfied, but always questioning, striving for something deeper, and always refusing to accept inequalities, the status quo, the cruelty and suffering of others.

What is a religious person? A person who is maladjusted; attuned to the agony of others … never satisfied, but always questioning.

My father was grateful for allies. He always listened, and he sought bridges with those who disagreed. Yet he was also often lonely and hurt — by colleagues and academic politics, by students who complained when he rescheduled a class in order to attend a demonstration, and most of all, by the callousness he encountered.

Yet he never despaired — despair is forbidden, he used to tell me with a smile. You must have faith and hope, he would say. In his presence, I always did.

Where did my father find his faith and hope? In prayer, most of all. I loved to sit in his study while he prayed, just to be near him and feel enveloped by his prayers. I think of him, praying with tallit and tefillin, and I feel his warmth and love. More than anything, he was a person of enormous depth; you could talk to him about anything, he was so open and able to feel so deeply. His empathy was extraordinary.

God was rarely present in the Shabbat services we attended at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Instead, he would daven at the Gerer shtiebl on the Upper West Side, led by Rabbi Cywiak. During the week, his spirits would be renewed when he spoke by telephone with his brother in law, my uncle, the Kopycznitzer rebbe, one of the kindest, most gentle and loving people I have ever met. My father discussed everything with him, including the war in Vietnam, his involvement in Vatican II, his protests on behalf of Soviet Jews, his collaboration with Martin Luther King, Jr.

My father’s voice is always needed, but these days I feel most strongly that I need him for strength and hope. There are so many wise people delineating the horrors we are now facing, and we know that we have to muster our strength for a long and difficult struggle to preserve our democracy, to save our planet, and most of all to protect the many human beings whose lives are being destroyed by American militarism, racism, xenophobia, antisemitism, and cruel, inhumane economic “policies.”  The mendacity that my father saw in the United States government has increased, but so has our ability to recognize it and fight back.

My father’s yahrzeit follows the Torah portion Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26), about the death of Jacob and the blessings he gave to his sons and grandsons. Where are the daughters, I ask? My father had only one child, a daughter, but he gave me blessings the Torah gives to sons. The haftarah of Parashat Vayechi comes from I Kings 2: 1-12, about the death of King David and the blessing he gave to his son, Solomon, while on his deathbed. My father dedicated his book “Who Is Man?” to me by quoting the parallel passage in I Chronicles 28:20: “Be strong and of good courage and act. Do not be afraid or dismayed; God is with you.”

I share that blessing with all those who strive to follow in my father’s footsteps, imbued with his teachings and fortified by his faith and hope.


Susannah Heschel is the Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies and chair of the Jewish Studies Program at Dartmouth College. This piece was written for The Shalom Center. (theshalomcenter.org)

A Hunger for Memory

Meme Suissa, bottom left, with her parents and siblings at a pilgrimage in Morocco, circa 1934.

Why would my mother serve an Arab kid before serving her own hungry children? I was about 6 years old, and my family was on one of those pilgrimages to visit the gravesite of a Jewish holy man on the anniversary of his death. Along with hundreds of other Moroccan Jews, we would camp out for a few days in some type of wilderness location, not far from the gravesite. For kids, it was a chance to ride on donkeys, play a little soccer and have some “camping fun.” For the grown-ups, it was a chance to pray and bask in holiness and blessings.

As my father was pitching the tent and we got settled in, I recall my mother cutting up slices of a megina, a type of omelet pie, to feed her four hungry kids. But before serving the first slice, she noticed a young Arab boy sitting off to the side, his eyes fixated on the pie. Quietly, she took the first slice and brought it to him, and then came back to serve us. She didn’t say a word about it — no “teachable moment” about caring for the stranger, etc. — and neither did anyone else. It was one of those innocuous moments that has lingered silently in my memory for decades, not dramatic enough to ever discuss, but not routine enough to ever forget.

Years later, when my Jewish journey triggered the memory of that moment, I brought it up to my mother. She had no recollection. Evidently, she had just followed her natural order of things — she felt the hunger of a kid, and she gave him some food.

It is a different type of hunger — a hunger for memory — that has triggered our cover story this week by my friend Aomar Boum, assistant professor of anthropology at UCLA. Aomar is a practicing Muslim who was born and raised in the southern province of Tata, Morocco. From what I’ve been told, my ancestors were also from the south of Morocco, and were called the “people of the Sous” (hence my last name).

Aomar and I share more than geography in common. We both love Moroccan culture. We both love holiness. And we both love memory.

Aomar’s story brings these three loves together. It’s the story of Muslims who for centuries have cared for the Jewish holy sites throughout Morocco. At our Shabbat table last Friday night, he elaborated on this unique attachment between Muslims and holy Jewish sites. But as he has written in the past, this is only one chapter in a larger, more complicated story.

By the late 1980s, about 240,000 Jews had emigrated from Morocco, many to Israel (we moved to Canada). Today, fewer than 3,000 Jews remain. In his book, “Memories of Absence,” Aomar explores how the Jewish narrative in Moroccan history has largely been suppressed. A good part of his scholarship is devoted to reviving that narrative.

He writes: “Called ‘people of the book’ (dhimmi) by Muslims, the majority of Jews lived under the protection of the Moroccan king.

My mother recalls the unique coziness of growing up in a Jewish neighborhood in a Muslim country… and the holiness of Jewish gravesites that perfumed the Moroccan air.

“The Jews had ambivalent relations with their Muslim neighbors. Although Jewish communities resembled Muslim ones in language and custom, Jews faced occupational and social restrictions, such as in farming, and were mainly artisans, peddlers, and merchants.

“Rabbis and wealthy leaders who enjoyed special ties with Muslim authorities administered the Jewish community’s internal social, legal, and religious affairs. Around 1862, the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) built schools in the coastal cities and later in the hinterland, enabling many Jews to integrate into the wider world beyond Morocco.

“Around the same time, however, political Zionism began to make inroads among the Jews of Morocco, and a century later, in 1956 after Moroccan independence, Jews were affected by the new government’s Arab-Islamic policies and a widely celebrated national Arabization program. Zionist movements began to encourage Jews to move to Israel, and many people of Jewish descent left.”

In this story of gradual physical absence, pretty much all we have left is memory.

“Moroccans are left with the memories of a Jewish life that once existed,” he writes. “The great-grandparent and grandparent generations continue to discuss nostalgically the richness of Jewish-Muslim life in the past; the younger generation demonstrates narrow and misinformed perspectives of Jews.”

My mother belongs to the grandparent generation, from the Jewish side. She may not recall an anecdote of serving an omelet slice to an Arab boy, but she recalls a lot more. She recalls the unique coziness of growing up in a Jewish neighborhood in a Muslim country, the textures of an Arab culture that infiltrated Jewish life through food, music and language and, maybe above all, the holiness of Jewish gravesites that perfumed the Moroccan air.

It’s true that memory can play tricks on us — that we have a tendency to exaggerate the past, whether in a positive or negative light. It’s also true that we hunger for memories that can nourish our present.

Maybe I’m blessed that the trauma of the Holocaust did not contaminate my childhood memories, as it did for many of my Ashkenazi friends. I’m left with a nostalgia for a past I barely knew but still remember, a past that I now see through the lens of others who tell me story after story of what life was like for the Jews of Morocco.

As my own Jewish journey has progressed, I have found myself constantly looking back to my Moroccan heritage for some kind of spiritual nourishment. I want to learn more about my ancestors, my bubbes and zaydes, and I want to hand down these things to my own children.

I especially love that it’s a Muslim friend who is helping me on this journey, just like my mother helped that Muslim kid.

USC Professor Suggests That Israeli Zionists Are Terrorists

Photo from Facebook.

A professor at the University of Southern California (USC) suggested in an October lecture that Israeli Zionists are terrorists.

International Studies Professor David Kang gave a presentation on terrorism on October 26 in front of 200 students in the International Relations 210 class. One of the slides was titled “Who are terrorists?”and listed “Israeli Zionists” along with Kim Jong-Il and Mao Zedong below it:

Another slide featured a quote from Hamas’ spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin stating, “We are not ready to move our struggle outside the occupied Palestinian land.  We are not prepared to open international fronts, however much we criticize the unfair American position.”

Another slide quoted Osama bin Laden as stating that his goal was to stop the U.S. from “occupying the lands of Islam” that terrorism stems from poverty and another suggested that U.S. foreign policy and poverty are the roots of terrorism.

One of the students who was in the class, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Journal that he was disturbed by the slides, especially since they seemed to be “legitimizing” Hamas and gave the impression that Israeli Zionists should be associated with the likes of Mao Zedong and Kim Jong Il.

“He didn’t really talk about the issue any further, which… I think is the problem here,” the student said.

The student added, “I know other people who were a little disturbed to hear that, people who had taken his class who were just confused.”

Roz Rothstein, the international director of StandWithUs, criticized Kang’s PowerPoint presentation in a written statement to the Journal.

“USC Professor David Kang dehumanized all Israelis, Jews and others who believe in Israel’s right to exist during his lecture this past October,” wrote Rothstein. “His generalization that ‘Israeli Zionists’ are terrorists is simply hate speech, which has the potential to create a hostile learning environment for Israelis and others who attend USC. It is also an abuse of his role as an educator, who is supposed to uphold academic integrity and help students think critically about the world.”

Rothstein added, “This is especially unacceptable given his position of power as a professor, given that students may risk getting lower grades by challenging him. USC should condemn Kang and adopt a policy similar to the UC Regents Principles Against Intolerance, to make clear that anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry have no place on campus. StandWithUs will continue to be there for students who experience this kind of hate from professors and others.”

In a statement sent to the Journal, Kang claimed that the slide was part of an exercise.

“I was not labeling any group as terrorists, only making the point that these groups have been called terrorist organizations by others,” said Kang. “The point of the exercise was to get students to think about how and why organizations are labeled as terrorist organizations, and to foster a discussion about who does the labeling and for what purpose.”

However, the anonymous student remembers it differently.

“His class was critical thinking based but in this case he did not make that clear when presenting the slide nor gave any explanation to the historical context as to why Zionists would be a labeled a ‘terrorist’ organization,” the student wrote in a text message to the Journal, “and there were likely many impressionable students in the class who aren’t familiar with the issue who could now associate Zionism with North Korea and Al Qaeda, etc.”

Kang’s rating on RateMyProfessor is a 4.3 out of 5; various reviews on the site praised him for his lecturing skills and the depth of his knowledge. He is known for his expertise on North and South Korea.

The anonymous student described the class as “a good introductory class” overall, but those slides were “one of the only things that bothered” the student about the class.

“I thought he was so rational,” the student lamented, which made Kang’s slides all the more confusing for him.

This article has been updated.