Advocates for Civil Liberties Hold First Forum: Jews Fight Back

by Fern Sidman, INN NY Correspondent, Israel National News, 2-20-11

[Photo : from left,Dr. Gil Troy, professor of history at McGill University, 3rd from left, Dr. Phyllis Chesler, op-ed contributor for Israel National News, 4th from left, Dr. Catherine Chatterley, founder director of the Canadian Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism.]

Advocates For Civil Liberties (ACL), a new organization of attorneys, professionals and concerned citizens dedicated to spotlighting anti-Israel propaganda on university campuses across North America, held its first event last week.

The day-long symposium that drew over 400 people, entitled “When Middle East Politics Invade Campus,” was held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Toronto.

Conference coordinator Meryle Kates explained that the ACL has been established to advocate for civil liberties protection in Canada, particularly in university settings:

“The ACL seeks to collaborate with academic officials to devise appropriate, enforceable ground rules for campus political activities. Increasingly, demonstrations such as, but not limited to, the upcoming “Israeli Apartheid Week” on campus, create a hostile atmosphere, and one that stifles the genuine exchange of views on sensitive Middle East issues.”

Israeli “Apartheid” Week

“The only way to disprove a lie is to establish the facts,” declared Judge Hadassa Ben Itto as she delivered the opening remarks of the conference via video feed from Jerusalem. Judge Itto is best known for her scholarly monograph entitled “The Lie That Wouldn’t Die, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” (2005), on the text that has been used for a century to demonize Jews and delegitimize Israel.

“In 1964, the Protocols were finally declared ‘the hoax of the century, yet both the Jewish people and Israel are now targets of haters who still insist that there is a Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world”, she observed.

“The organizers of Israeli Apartheid Week prove that they know nothing about Israel. Professors at some universities are guilty of presenting distorted information about Israel along with one-sided bias and slanderous rhetoric. Boycotts of academics and the assault on the free marketplace of ideas are replicas of the public square where public opinion is dictating policy today.”

Adding that she personally witnessed “real apartheid” in South Africa years ago, she condemned the concept of an Israeli Apartheid Week as “outrageous” and called for responsible educators to set the record straight.

Campus Harrassment

Students at York University in Toronto are no strangers to the acrimony that is engendered during Israeli Apartheid Week as their campus has previously morphed into a hotbed of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hatred during past events of this kind. Five appeared at the event.

Sara Akrami, an Iranian second year political science student at York said, “Clubs are established at York with the sole purpose of creating discord and promoting anti-Israel violence and the administration takes no action against them.” Ms. Akrami noted that the November 2010 appearance of British parliamentarian George Galloway was opposed by a majority of the students at York. Galloway is a highly polemical figure who achieved notoriety as a rabid hater of the Jewish state.

Josee Chiasson, a fourth year student at York completing an honors BA in psychology, has assumed the role of president of Christians United for Israel (CUFI).

“I knew nothing of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during my first year at college. It was only when I visited Israel and witnessed the truth firsthand, did I begin to understand that the insidious rhetoric of the organizers of Israeli Apartheid Week simply did not hold true.”

Ms. Chiasson said, “Hitler promised world peace if only the Jews were eradicated and so did Galloway. He said that if Israel makes peace with the Palestinians then there would be world peace and we know that that is a complete falsehood.” She exhorted students and faculty alike to, “challenge the radical beliefs that are rampant on our campuses” as she spoke of “students who have been targeted for abuse and threats” by vehemently anti-Israel organizations on campus.

Michael Payton, a cognitive science major at York, sociology major Afroza Mohammed and Noah Kochman told of students being subjected to verbal invective and physical assaults by members of the Muslim Student Association and other anti-Israel groups. Mr. Kochman, a member of the Canadian Association of Jewish Students, spoke of the violent outbursts of Palestinian student groups that led to the cancellation of an address scheduled to be delivered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Concordia University in Montreal as far back as 2002. “Pro-Israel student demonstrators were trapped in their own space, unable to move, because of the overt aggression of the demonstrators who resorted to violence.”

Academic Boycotts

Andrew Roberts, noted British author, historian, lecturer and founding member of the Friends of Israel Initiative,  spoke of the aims of that relatively new organization.

Established in August of 2010 to challenge the British boycott of Israeli academia, Mr. Roberts said that among the goals of the Friends of Israel Initiative were to “counter the growing efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and its right to live in peace within safe and defensible borders. The Initiative arises out of a sense of deep concern about the unprecedented campaign of delegitimization against Israel waged by enemies of the Jewish state, and perversely, supported by numerous international institutions.” Among the founding members of the Friends of Israeli Initiative is John Bolton, former US ambassador to the United Nations.

Jihad on Campus

Professor Richard Cravatts of Boston University and author of a forthcoming book entitled, “Genocidal Liberalism: The University’s Jihad Against Israel”, which documents the web of Islamist influence on the university campus, spoke of “brand hijacking” in terms of Israel’s global image. “Those who would re-write the history of Israel and the narrative of the Palestinians in the Middle East have hijacked Israel’s branding”, he said, adding that we live in a “world turned upside down in its relationship to the interpretation of the reality in the Middle East.”

“We ignore the fact that Arabs in the territories would receive the death penalty for selling an apartment to a Jew, but we never raise our voices when Israel is roundly condemned for building 1300 apartments in East Jerusalem; a right that any other nation takes for granted.”

Warning of the existential threat that Israel faces from the burgeoning Muslim Brotherhood, Eliot Chadoff, a political and military analyst and lecturer on the history of the Middle East said, “There is an all out assault on Israel taking place” and reminded his audience of the parallel between the recent revolution in Egypt and the Iranian revolution that took place in 1979. “It was students, intellectuals and shopkeepers that led the revolution against the Shah of Iran,” he said, but the teachings of the Muslim Brotherhood were predicated upon a Nazi-like ideology.

“The campuses have become increasingly and aggressively anti-Israel and pro-Islam”, declared Dr. Phyllis Chesler, prolific author, emerita professor of psychology and women’s studies at CUNY and a foremost expert on gender and religious apartheid in the Muslim world.

“Pro-Israel students are verbally humiliated and physically attacked. Professors in Middle East Studies teach students only one point of view — the pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel point of view”, she said, adding that “this has been the case at York University, Concordia University and the University of California at San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Berkeley and Irvine.”

On apartheid in the Middle East, Dr. Chesler said, “Israel is not an apartheid nation. Islam is the world’s largest practitioner of both religious and gender apartheid. Muslims have persecuted, murdered, and forcibly converted the entire Middle East, India, parts of Africa, Asia and now Europe.”

Dr. Chesler outlined her work on the phenomenon of “honor killings” of Muslim women throughout the world that was published in 2009 and 2010 in the Middle East Quarterly. “Islamic gender apartheid is a human rights violation and cannot be justified in the name of cultural relativism, tolerance, anti-racism, diversity or political correctness” .

“We are facing two jihads”, said Dr. Gil Troy, professor of history at McGill University in Montreal and author of the book, “Why I am A Zionist.”

“As we’ve discussed today, there is the jihad on campus and a jihad in the classroom, in our textbooks and emanating from our professors,” he said. Exhorting students and parents to become more involved in the sphere of academia, Professor Troy said, “We are living in a golden age for Jews on campus, but we must raise the standards of teaching and rescue academia from corrupt academics and fight educational malpractice.”

Attacking multiculturalism, Salim Mansur, professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario said, “The right of Israel to remain a safe and secure state must be defended against the ideology of multiculturalists”, adding that “multiculturalism is a big, odious, disgusting lie. China, Japan and the Arab nations are not practicing multiculturalism so why are we?”

Dr. Catherine Chatterley of the Canadian Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism spoke of the historical basis of Israeli Apartheid Week saying, “The ideology behind Israeli Apartheid Week is not a new one. The former Soviet Union was a leading proponent of this anti-Zionist philosophy. This was the ideology that declared that Zionism is tantamount to imperialism, racism, discrimination and organically linked to the repression of the human being.”

“The concept is part of a global, political strategy to dismantle the Jewish state. The week began as a Canadian invention and now takes place in over 55 cities worldwide. She added that the organizers of Israeli Apartheid Week are making concerted efforts to build alliances with the disenfranchised in general, thus furthering their anti-Zionist distortions.

Impetus for founding ACL came from Canadian professionals, including Lorne Saltman, an attorney with the firm Cassels Brock & Blackwell, LLP, Stephen Posen of Minden Gross, LLP, and Robert Grant of FusionPro UK.  Jonathan Kay, a managing editor at Canada’s National Post newspaper and a columnist on the newspaper’s op-ed page, acted as forum moderator.


Ian McEwan Missed the Real Israel

By Gil Troy, Jerusalem Post, February 22, 2011

The delegitimization campaign tries to rob Israel of its normalcy, poisoning the conversational stream about Israel so everything becomes about settlements, occupation, conflict, violence.  This Palestinian conceit makes everything about Israel be about Palestinians, exaggerating their hardships, caricaturing Israelis as uniquely evil, rooting every Middle East problem in one local conflict. Those of us seeking a peaceful two-state solution should explain that both a delegitimized Israel and a Palestinian culture of victimization are obstacles to peace.   Woe-is-me self-pity and righteous indignation discourage generosity; feeling demonized or demonizing your enemy prevents compromise.


To resolve this conflict – like all conflicts – truth, nuance, subtlety, complexity, criticisms, contradictions and moral clarity are our friends.  In that spirit we should welcome the British novelist Ian McEwan, who accepted the Jerusalem Prize at Sunday night’s opening ceremony of the Jerusalem Book Fair as a friend to Israelis and Palestinians. Minister of Culture and Sport Limor Livnat sounded pathetic in telling McEwan: “We appreciate your decision to come to Israel despite many pressures.” She should have welcomed him more grandly, less defensively, to a country that “embrace[s] freedom of thought and open discourse,” which administers “the Jerusalem Prize as a tribute” to its “precious tradition of a democracy of ideas” – which was how McEwan described Israel.

In accepting the prestigious prize, McEwan impressed the crowd with his magnificent soul and eloquent tongue — an artist who believes in the novel’s liberating power and a novelist who believes art can reveal truth. Nevertheless, when he stopped talking literature to talk politics, he sounded naive.

Unlike most British intellectuals who simply condemn Israel, McEwan acknowledged that “hostile neighbors” threaten Israel. He condemned Hamas’s charter for incorporating “the toxic fakery of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and repudiated “the nihilism of the suicide bomber, of rockets fired blindly into towns … of an extinctionist policy towards Israel.”

Still, seeking “balance,” his indictment of Israel was sloppy and superficial. He said “It is nihilism to make a long term prison camp of the Gaza Strip,” exaggerating Gazans’ suffering and implicitly blaming Israel when the 2005 disengagement could have spawned a free, prosperous Gaza had the Palestinians built one. He blamed “Nihilism” for “unleash[ing] the tsunami of concrete across the occupied territories,” when it was self-preservation. And he claimed “East Jerusalem is steadily being drained of its Palestinian inhabitants,” when East Jerusalem’s Palestinian population jumped from 66,000 in 1967 to 268,000 in 2008. B’tselem reports 22 houses demolished with 191 people displaced in 2010, hardly a “drain.”

This is not to claim that Israel is beyond criticism – zero demolitions and displacements are ideal. But incorrect albeit trendy criticisms undermine McEwan’s search for “creative” paths to peace. More deluded was his claim that Jerusalem “lacks … small talk,” because “politics enters every corner of existence.”  Perhaps when a famous novelist defies boycott threats to visit, he only hears politics. But Israel’s charm – and part of the conflict’s messiness – comes from being a country of small talk, middling lives, and tall tales, making it livable for Arab and Jew alike.

No, Mr. McEwan, Israel is not only defined by the conflict. Seeing Israel through that lens exclusively is like seeing England only throughLondon’s fog – everything appears grayer, grimmer.

Israel’s rich, complex, sometimes depressing sometimes inspiring but surprisingly normal life was demonstrated dramatically in Tel Aviv, the same night McEwan spoke in Jerusalem. A premiere of “Strangers No More,” the Oscar-nominated documentary about Tel Aviv’s Bialik-Rogozin school showcased an Israel of messy problems and creative solutions, of soaring aspirations and impressive achievements.

Bialik-Rogozin educates more than 800 children from 48 different countries who have landed in Israel as refugees or as children of migrant workers.  The film follows three students through a school year – one 12-year-old from Eritrea never attended school before. This school of hugs and hope accepts kids the world has rejected into a loving, stimulating, embracing multicultural refuge where Hebrew functions as the cultural touchstone and linguistic safety zone. “In education, there [are] no strangers,” the principal, Karen Tal, explains. “Everyone has a special story,” their own traumas. “We cannot change the past.” But “we can influence our future.”

This prophetic principal, these gallant teachers, undertake heroic efforts for “their kids,” making house calls, buying them bicycles, arranging visas for parents. “This is my life, this school,” Mohammad from Darfur exclaims. “I feel like I’m with my family here.”

The legendary hi tech investor Yossi Vardi supports the school. Vardi is a myth-busting pioneer with a heart of gold and a platinum rolodex, er contact list. Years ago, he proved you could make money with Israeli start-ups. Now, by mobilizing his many friends and considerable resources to teach these kids, he is showing that Israelis can take responsibility for themselves philanthropically – and that not everything about Israel is about Palestinians.

Noting that for the last three years, an Israeli film concerning some aspect of “HaMatzav,” the situation, was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, the President and Founder of S-Curve Records, Steve Greenberg, ended the evening by praising the film – and Vardi’s army of do-gooders — for focusing on the real Israel. Even more important, Greenberg said, these visionaries prove that no matter what Israel’s challenges, the Jewish impulse toward “Tikun Olam” can mend the world – making great art out of life’s difficulties while using great art to heal life’s difficulties – just as McEwan and other great novelists do.

Vardi’s army proves that Israel is not merely an Embattled State or a Start-Up Nation, but what we at the Shalom Hartman Institute call a Values Nation.  Vardi’s people, like many Israelis, live in prose, making small talk – while also making grand, healing gestures which ennoble us all and reveal the real Israel.

Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and a Shalom Hartman Research Fellow in Jerusalem. The author of “Why I Am A Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today,” his latest book is “The Reagan Revolution: A Very Short Introduction.”