42 knees in one day-terrific

Moshe Sharret Israel’s second Prime Minister only wrote in his diary the truth of what Israel was becoming “The phenomenon that has prevailed among us for years and years is that of insensitivity to acts of wrong…..to moral corruption…What is our vision on this earth – war to the end of all generations and life by the sword?”

The answer is Yes

Diaspora Jewry must acknowledge that it finds Israel’s militancy, callousness, and chutzpah repugnant, a far cry from the values of Judaism.

Yaakov Rabkin University of Montreal

Hilo Glazer in Haaretz  March 6.Edited for space

42 Knees in One Day’: Israeli Snipers at Work 

Over 200 Palestinians were killed and nearly 8,000 were injured during almost two years of weekly protests at the Israel-Gaza border. Israeli army snipers tell their stories

Seeing is believing

The mass demonstrations on Israel’s border with the Strip began on Land Day, in March 2018, and continued on a weekly basis until this past January. These ongoing confrontations, in protest of Israel’s siege of Gaza, exacted the lives of 215 demonstrators, while 7,996 were wounded by live ammunition, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Despite the large number of casualties, the grim protests and responses along the fence continued unabated for nearly two years, until it was decided to reduce the frequency to once a month. Yet even in real time, the violent Friday afternoon ritual provoked little public interest in Israel. Similarly, the international condemnations – from allegations of the use of disproportionate force to accusations that Israel was perpetrating massacres – faded like so much froth on the waves. 

Shedding light on this very recent slice of history entails talking to snipers: After all, they were the dominant and most significant force in suppressing the demonstrations at the fence. Of the dozens of snipers that we approached, six (all of them discharged from the IDF) agreed to be interviewed and to describe what reality looks like through their gun sights.

Eden says he broke the “knee record” in the demonstration that took place on the day the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem was inaugurated, on May 14, 2018. He did it jointly: Snipers usually work in pairs – together with a locator, who is also a sniper by training, and whose task is to give his partner precise data (distance from the target, wind direction, etc.). 

Eden: “On that day, our pair had the largest number of hits, 42 in all. My locator wasn’t supposed to shoot, but I gave him a break, because we were getting close to the end of our stint, and he didn’t have knees. In the end you want to leave with the feeling that you did something, that you weren’t a sniper during exercises only. So, after I had a few hits, I suggested to him that we switch. He got around 28 knees there, I’d say.” 

Itay: “The directive is to keep watching after shooting to see whether the goal was achieved. You only report a hit after an additional look. To look afterward is the easy part, or more correctly, it’s the part that brings relief. Because in this specific case, the terrorist was less than 100 meters from my buddies, and it could have ended badly.” 

And after you look a second time and you see the actual wound, is it still easy?

“You are not meant to see massive bleeding, because in the region of the knee and bones there aren’t a lot of capillaries. If you see blood, that’s not a good sign, because you probably hit too high. The regular scenario is supposed to be that you hit, break a bone – in the best case, break the kneecap – within a minute an ambulance comes to evacuate him, and after a week he gets a disability pension.” 

But Shlomi,says hitting the kneecap is also not desirable: “The objective is to cause the inciter minimal damage, so he will stop doing what he’s doing. So I, at least, would try to aim at a fattier place, in the muscle region.” 

He adds, “You don’t hit those who whip up the crowd because of what they’re doing. It doesn’t come from an emotional place‘He’s the one who’s causing the uprising, so let’s take him down.’ This isn’t a war, it’s a Friday afternoon D.O. [disruption of order]. The goal is not to take down as many as possible, but to make this thing stop as quickly as possible.‘It’s your destiny’

Not everyone succeeds in restraining his feeling of intoxication. A video clip that circulated in 2018 showed a Palestinian approaching the fence and being shot by a sniper, as the soldiers celebrated the direct hit with shouts of “Right on!” and “What a fab clip!” Roy says the soldiers’ response there attests to a lack of professionalism and too much enthusiasm, although he saw nothing similar in his squad. 

“On the other hand, I think it’s human,” he says. “When you have a certain goal, even if you are shooting arrows at a target, obviously there’s joy at the hit. The soldiers’ mistake was in their behavior. Let them laugh somewhere in the back, but don’t make a clip of it. There’s such a thing as appearances, too.” 

Amir,. “The snipers in the squad we replaced were legends. They were IDF champions and they had two or three super-cool Xs [on their rifles] from manning the line in Gaza. We heard the story about the Xs, and we wanted them, too. It’s your profession, your destiny, the essence of your being from the moment you get up until you go to sleep. Obviously you want to display your capabilities.” 

Do you have to celebrate? Isn’t there some other way?

Amir: “No. Actually, the more he does it, the more indifferent he’ll become. He will no longer be especially happy, or sad. He’ll just be.” 

Merkel out of touch

Germans cant seem to get past war guilt 75 years later.Wake up, Gideon Levy tells Angela Merkel

A Different Germany? Not With Its Israel Policy

On Friday, Germany proved that it’s on a downward trend toward its past. Its decision to be a friend of the Israeli occupation at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, alongside beacons of morality like the governments of Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic, should worry all Germans haunted by the past.

Late in her impressive career, under the threat of anti-Semitism in her country, Angela Merkel is willing to forgive Israel everything in an utter knee-jerk reaction. Thus she’s abusing her office as chancellor of the different Germany and one of the last defenders of human rights in the world. We’re left with Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and 

A Germany that doesn’t allow an investigation into war crimes, no matter by what country, isn’t a different Germany but a Germany that provokes war crimes. Sometimes it seems that until Israel adopts the methods of the Nazis – and of course it’s very far from this – Germany will legitimize all Israel’s actions.

Germany thinks it does this to atone for its past, but the truth is the opposite: As long as Germany doesn’t stand at the side of the oppressed and the occupied, it’s betraying the lessons of the past. When it comes to Israel, the country of its direct victims, and the Palestinians, its secondary victims, this is particularly severe.

In its application to be a friend of the court, Germany has accepted Israel’s claims that the ICC has no authority to hear suspicions of war crimes in the territories. The explanation that Germany gave for its position is especially strange: Germany is a firm supporter of the two-state solution and the ICC has no jurisdiction in the matter.

We’ve seen Germany’s firm support over the years; at its height it reached hollow lip service. One issue before the court is the settlements: No other issue has more thoroughly destroyed the possibility of a two-state solution. Now Germany tells The Hague to leave the settlements alone. So who will stop the settlements? The Yesha Council? The Israeli government? The White House? Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Merkel’s partner as a friend of the court

A question for Germany: If not The Hague, who should investigate what happened in Gaza between Black Friday in Rafah and the killing of protesters at the border fence? The Israeli army? AIPAC? Maybe that renowned expert on international law, Donald Trump, through his son-in-law, that honest broker Jared Kushner?

It took ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda five years to conclude that there are suspicions of war crimes regarding the settlements, the 2014 Gaza war and protests at the Gaza border fence. Does the Merkel government believe that these suspicions shouldn’t be investigated? Why not? Because the suspect is Israel?

After the Bundestag’s decision that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is anti-Semitic comes its support in The Hague for the Israeli occupation, casting a heavy moral shadow over Germany. Germany’s obligation is to do everything for Israel’s security and prosperity. It should also be cautious in its criticism of Israel, more than any other country.

But to jump to the head of the line of those supporting Israel’s complete immunity is a step too far that works in the exact opposite direction of the lessons of the Holocaust. Immunity for Israel isn’t a gesture of friendship, nor does it reflect concern for its image. The founders of the different Germany would be ashamed. Back in the first half of the ‘70s, German Chancellor Willy Brandt wouldn’t have lent a hand to such a step. And his Austrian counterpart, Bruno Kreisky, wouldn’t have let his country stand up for the occupier and against the victim.

On Friday, Germany said to Israel: Expand the settlements to your heart’s content, bomb Gaza as much as you like, continue shooting at protesters with real bullets, unrestrained. You’re immune to all criticism and certainly to prosecution in The Hague. The Hague is for weaklings. The Hague is for Yugoslavs and Africans, not for Israeli political leaders and military officers.Germany says to Israel: You are a country above all suspicion. This is how far guilt has led the most enlightened leader in Europe today. When it comes to Israel, Merkel is the same as Trump. Nothing less.

What more can we ask for?Racist, not us


Leave it to the secular prophet Gideon Levi to shred the credibility of one Yoaz Handle. One may ask are there  any other kinds of prophets in Israel where Zionism has corrupted Torah Judaism and the rabbinate, save a  brave few are taking to the evangelicals who voted Trump.

Actually Mr Levy has topped himself in his prophetical utterances. In one incredible phrase he has summed up the tragic transvaluation of Judaism into jewish nationalism or Zionism with his phrase “seeing holiness in stones.”For these true believers Judaism is about land and not profound ethical values, not too dissimilar to the blut und boden” (blood and soil of Nazi Germany). This was exactly the devastating critique of the brilliant rabbis of the early 40’s (Reichert, Phillipson, Berger et al) who saw  the tragedy of Jewish identity defined by the allegiance to a nation state.

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Gideon Levy

Head of the splendidly named Institute for Zionist Strategies, founder of a (likewise perfectly named) human rights organization, Blue-and-White Human Rights, devoted to preserving human rights and improving Israel’s standing, and whose findings are relayed to the IDF for investigation.

Member of the public council of Beit Hillel Rabbis and of Natal – the Israel Trauma and Resiliency Center, and of the board of Bshvil (which supports IDF combat veterans). Author of the book “In an Unsown Land: An Israeli Journey,” resident of a picturesque moshav in the Jerusalem hills.

What more could we ask for?

Hendel is the embodiment of the beautiful Israeli because he tells us that we can have it both ways, that we can have it all. This is just how we want to see ourselves – liberal and nationalist, moral and Zionist, occupiers and humanists, Jewish and democratic, secular but basing our claims on a divine promise, enlightened and believing in our exclusive right to the land, modern and seeing holiness in stones, Jewish and Israeli, moral and ethical, patriots who love to hike the Israel Trail and sing patriotic songs together, and of course to do reserve duty with the unit

Hendel is the beautiful Israeli because for him, there is never any ugliness. The IDF is the most moral army, Israel is a beacon of justice, the occupation was imposed on us, we are really its victims. “It pains me that we have to do this, but there’s no choice,” he said about the horrors of the occupation.Israelis love this kind of thing: the Chosen People, but having no choice. The most moral, but this was all imposed on us. We shall never forgive the Arabs who force us to shoot their children.

In an interview with Ravit Hecht on February 7, Hendel said: “I believe Arab culture is the jungle. There you find gross violations of every human right that we recognize in the West. They haven’t reached the stage of evolution in which there are human rights.”

An Israeli speaker, an enthusiastic supporter of the occupation – one of the cruelest tyrannies in the world – dares to speak about human rights and preach to others. This has to break the record for chutzpah and lack of self-awareness.

Hendel is the political center’s dream come true, which is why he found his place in Kahol Lavan. Neither right nor left, both right and left, something in the middle. This something in the middle is most often a right wing in disguise with a minority from the cowardly left. Hendel belongs to the first group. This is the dream, too: to get the best of all worlds, to be with and feel without.

Hendel is not a racist, God forbid; what is racist about him? He is a Zionist. And see how impressed he is with his doctor wife’s reports about how Arabs are treated in the hospitals, and he also enjoys seeing an Arab woman compete on “Master Chef.” What’s racist here? They will never obtain national rights, he said. A state? They can call it whatever they want. He’s not a hilltop settler who beats on Arabs. He’s not Itamar Ben-Gvir. He just understands what everybody understands.

But now his right-wing, nationalist, racist face has been revealed and the enlightened Israelis are beside themselves with anger. How dare he refuse to sit in a government with the Joint List? How dare he rip the mask off our faces? How dare he become so racist? That’s not who we are at all.

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Please help me to understand

United Church minister calls on Trudeau and Champagne to reconsider their accusation that boycotting Israel is “anti-Semitic”

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Reverend Steve Berube of St-Paul’s United Church in Riverview, NB. has been in Palestine several times. In 2018, he frequently visited Ofer Prison where Palestinian children are tried in Israeli courts. He also visited hospitals where other children are being treated as a result of injuries inflicted by Israeli police or military forces. In a painful personal letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Champagne, he explains why boycotting Israel has nothing to do with anti-Semitism and everything to do with human rights. Read his letter here. …

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Dear Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Champagne,

I wish to join you in condemning anti-Semitism and all forms of religious and ethnic hatred around the world. I have worked hard on these issues for over 25 years as a United Church of Canada minister.

It was a privilege for me to live in Bethlehem and visit Jerusalem frequently in 2013. Many suspect my strongest memories are of the Church of the Nativity, the Dome of the Rock, the Western Wall or other scared sites. They are wrong.

My strongest memory from Bethlehem is of sitting in a hospital next to 14 year old Mohamed Kurdi who had been shot by an Israeli sniper in the abdomen. One of his doctors told me he had never seen as many internal organs damaged by a single shot caused by a “dum-dum” bullet.

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15 year old Fathi Saleh in hospital in Bethlehem after being shot in head by Israeli soldiers.

My strongest memory from Jerusalem is of a hospital room with 15 year old Odai Nael Fathi Saleh who was in a vegetative state as a result of being shot in the head by an Israeli sniper in Bethlehem. Doctors said they would never be able to remove all the bullet fragments. I remember his family’s outrage when authorities presented them with a bill for 25,000NIS for his treatment due to an Israeli soldier shooting him.

Both of these children were innocent bystanders posing no threat to any Israeli. But their images will forever haunt me.  

Gideon Levy’s recent column in Haaretz focused on an Israeli military spokesperson who said it is appropriate to shoot children. Apparently, what was condoned by Israelis in my time continues today.

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Reverend Berube participated in a World Council of Churches observer mission called Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).

In 2018, I visited the Israeli military courts in Ofer Prison. Each year, 500-700 Palestinian children face these courts that have a conviction rate of over 99%. Over 75% of Palestinian children report being abused or tortured while in Israeli custody awaiting trial.  Please try to imagine, the fear a child you know would experience after spending two or three nights alone in prison, most likely enduring torture or physical/psychological abuse and having no access to their family or legal counsel before entering a military court where the court officials speak a language the child does not understood. Would you wish this on the child you thought of or any child? Should these practices not be condemned?

I cannot unsee what I have seen. Day after day, I witnessed the abuse of Palestinian human rights and violations of the 4th Geneva Convention by Israeli officials including innocent children being shot and their lives being ruined. Therefore, my perspective is radically different from the dominant narrative about Israel and Palestine that recent statements by your government portray.

As a human rights advocate and peace activist, can you help me understand why on Feb. 6, Minister Champagne rose in the House to condemn the peaceful, nonviolent BDS movement and linked it to antisemitism?

BDS is a form of free speech that calls attention to the egregious actions of the Israeli government and its daily violations of International Human Rights laws, the 4th Geneva Convention, along with ignoring motions adopted by the UN Security Council and the judgments of the International Court of Justice. Linking BDS to anti-Semitism is an attempt to delegitimize the valid criticism of Israel over its documented human rights violations against Palestinians. Further, linking BDS and antisemitism deepens prejudice against Palestinians and those who support the rule of law and international treaties. 

Your government prides itself on supporting international human rights. Yet, you often seem to fail to criticize Israel for its ongoing violations of its responsibilities as an occupying power and as a high contracting party to the Geneva Conventions. Can you help me understand why your government seems to be progressive on most human rights issues except for joining the vast majority of countries who speak out on behalf of Palestinians who have lived under the longest occupation since WW II?  

Please join with me and other human rights supporters in working to eliminate anti-Semitism as well as the prejudice stoked by those who unjustly criticize Palestinians.       

I look forward to your reply.  

Rev. Steve Berube 

St. Paul’s United Church, Riverview, NB

Taking a Knee vs the Occupation

And this guy Ari Berrman  is a teacher? Would you stand if you were a Palestinian and they played the anthem of the country which stole your land and humiliates you on a daily basis? This is why the author below, Dave Zirin is the best sportswriter in  America today.He refuses to give SportsWorld a free pass as sacred outside the culture.  Where is Berman’s ultimate allegiance in the universal values of Judaism or a political movement which traduced those values? 
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Taking a  knee against the occupation
In the tradition—and the extension—of this movement, two volleyball players from Brooklyn College went to one knee before a game against the Yeshiva. They kneeled during the playing of Israel’s National Anthem this week, which Yeshiva plays before every contest, as a protest against Israel’s racism and state violence; most pointedly against Israel’s apartheid policies of occupation that keep the two million Palestinians of Gaza in an open-air prison surrounded by checkpoints and walls. They weren’t just going to stand for Israel’s anthem, hand over hearts, and do nothing.

The two athletes, Hunnan Butt and Omar Rezika, were immediately slandered as anti-Semites because of their simple, silent gesture of dissent.download-2.jpg
Yeshiva University president Dr. Ari Berman went on the attack, and in a shockingly irresponsible—not to mention dangerous—statement about two students, he said:

It is unfortunate that some members of the opposing team disrespected Israel’s national anthem. We are proud to be the only university who sings both the American and Israeli national anthems before every athletic competition and major event. Nothing makes me prouder to be an American than living in a country where our religious freedom, our Zionism and our commitment to our people will never be impeded and always be prized.

Think about the irony of this statement. Berman prizes “living in a country where our religious freedom, our Zionism and our commitment to our people will never be impeded and always be prized,” yet this educational leader is willing to demonize two teenagers for exercising our most cherished freedom: freedom of speech. Berman also doesn’t see the irony in the fact that this was the national anthem of another country in which the players kneeled, not the country in which the players were in fact living or playing.
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Berman, by turning up the heat instead of seeking some kind of dialogue, opened the floodgates against these two students, who have since set their social media to private in the face of a tidal wave of attacks. 

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, to take just one example, described their actions as “this flagrant display of antisemitism,” and demanded Brooklyn College punish the students.

Not surprisingly the story was also picked up by hard right-wing Zionist twitter feeds, none of which I care to give free publicity to. But suffice to say, these same feeds that praise a President who makes anti-Semitic comments and whose acolytes chant “Jews Will Not Replace Us” are slandering two young people in frightening fashion because they dared stand for the voiceless of Palestine.
Several of these feeds have also spread the lie that the athletes did not shake hands with their opponents following the game, something that both Yeshiva and Brooklyn College have denied.

I reached out to Noura Erakat, the author of Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine. She said to me,

There’s a stark distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. And though there has been a deliberate effort to conflate Jewish liberation with Zionism, that is neither universally accepted and hardly historically accurate. These students took a clear stance against a national symbol of the state in a manner that echoes protests among Black athletes in the US. And just as Black protest has been maligned in order to avoid the issues of racial injustice, so too is the students’ legitimate protest being unjustly attacked.

I also talked to Yousef Munayyer, from the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights. He commented,

These young athletes demonstrated the courage of their convictions and chose to send a message of dissent with this simple act. At a time when activism for Palestinian rights is increasingly facing attempted repression, they stood tall for justice by taking a knee. They should be applauded.

Now, the two athletes are not making any comment, perhaps fearful that being put on “jihad watch” by one web site (seriously) could affect their lives. This is not Israel. If Yeshiva wants to play the anthem that is their business. To expect athletes to stand with their hand over their hearts, only demonstrates just how many inroads Trump’s brigade of Christian soldiers (who think we are going to hell come the rapture) along with their pro-Occupation allies have made in challenging basic freedoms of speech. Many rushed to Colin Kaepernick’s side in solidarity when he took the knee. We should do the same for Hunnan and Omar.

Only Norman Finkelstein

Only a Jew could have written  what Norman Finkelstein wrote on New Year’s day 2020. The world’s greatest researcher on Israeli illegal Occupation wrote a smoker to bring in the new year/

First, he is right about the terrible, almost shocking beliefs of columnist Bret Stephens.  Like many Jews Stephen’s family changed their names to “pass” in what was certainly an anti-Semitic time. Many of my own friends did this for survival. To me this was understandable. Stephens need not apologize for his grandfather’s Moldavian background or his name change from Ehrlich. Most people however who read his columns on the Middle East  should realize that this man is a committed  Zionist who regularly pens truly bigoted nonsense in the paper of record.

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Most people also do not know the real Russian names of almost every israeli Prime Minister.Their names were changed to sound biblical to hide their original provenance as aliens to a largely Muslim Arabic country. Gurion was Gruen, Meir was Malbovitch, Sharon was Scheinerman, Barak was Brog,Netanyahu was Milkovsky and so it goes—ruussians masquerading as indigenous.

As for another regular Jewish columnist Bari Weiss who spent her years at Columbia trying to get rid of Palestinian profs Rashid Khalidi and Joseph Massad. Glen Greenwald wrote in the Intercept that “her entire career had been built on trying to suppress, stigmatize, and punish academic criticisms of Israel.”

 She never  seems to have made any connection with universal Judaism’s “human dignity”and “freedom” to the indigenous people of Palestine. Her  blinkered Zionism occludes the magnificent gifts of Judaism suborned by a false religion.

As for the chosen people I take my cue from Gideon Levy who wrote on  September 15  2018  a majority of Israeli Jews responded in the Haaretz-Dialog poll published then.” We are a chosen people. A majority, 56 percent, are sure of this. The figure rises to 79 percent, an overwhelming majority, among self-identified right-wingers.”

Theologically there are no chosen people.That God chooses a special people is an ethnocentric idea which no Christian can accept. This makes a mockery out of how one perceives the Godhead.  None  are  chosen. or all are chosen.The human race has an opportunity collectively to respond to the holy and engage in life-building activity or that of tikkun olam, repairing the world.

On to the brave Finkelstein

The New York Jewish Times

There’s a big brouhaha over at the N.Y. Times.  One of their regular Jewish supremacist columnists, Bret Stephens, wrote a meditation on “The Secrets of Jewish Genius” (27 December 2019) that effectively posits the genetic superiority of Jews.  Stephens came under attack for his political incorrectness so the Times had to publish a half-hearted “correction.”  Honestly, I can’t fathom what’s the big deal.  First, Stephens is the former editor of the Jerusalem Post, house organ of Israel’s uber Jewish supremacists.  Surely the Times knew what it was getting when Stephens was taken on board. 

Second, I’ve never met a Jew who didn’t believe Jews benefited from superior intellectual endowments.  (My close comrade Jamie Stern-Weiner swears never harboring this sentiment, but that’s just proof positive he’s a self-hating Jew.)  Stephens’ transgression was saying out loud what every other Jew thinks.  

Third, can it really surprise that none of the Times’ editors spotted Stephens’ “slip”?  The paper might as well be christened The New York Jewish Times.  Not a single week, literally, passes without a Holocaust story featured on the homepage (“New Recipe for Cheese Blintzes Found Buried in Auschwitz Barracks”). In part, the Times is just pandering to its readership base of alte kaker billionaire Jews on the Upper East Side. But it’s also true that the Times truly believes Jewish life is inherently more sacred, its loss more tragic—which is why the Nazi holocaust is still newsworthy after 75 years, unlike, for example, the several million Vietnamese killed by Americans less than 50 years ago. Fourth, consider this passage from a recent book:

We are a people descended from slaves who brought the world ideas that changed the course of history.  One God. Human dignity.  The sanctity of life.  Freedom itself.  That is our inheritance.  That is our legacy.  We are the people commanded to bring light into this world.

Only a flea’s hop separates this paean from Stephens’ genetic lucubrations.  It was written by Stephens’ Jewish supremacist colleague on the op-ed page, Bari Weiss, in her widely lauded How to Fight Anti-Semitism.

The bogus cry of antisemitism

The  worn out and totally discredited cry of “antisemitism” is the latest rendition of the boy who cried wolf.The desperate attempt to conflate criticism of the state of Israel with a hatred of Jews has proven again and again to be a canard.Three cities  have already panned this ludicrous and desperate attempt at censorship but never discount clueless Toronto  mayor John Tory (“#Israel is a beacon of respect for #democracy and human rights in the region.”  and rabid Zionist councillor James Pasternak from flogging this anti-democratic dead horse.

Onne of the latest attempts occurred at  UBC and officials have strangely reamained mum about  it.

Academic freedom at UBC threatened by false allegations of anti-semitism (edited)

By Paul Tetrault and Sid Shniad

In 2018, six members of the UBC community were the subjects of an investigation based on allegations that they had engaged in antisemitic behaviour after they declared their opposition to holding the Geography Department’s year-end party at Hillel UBC. 

Their email comments explaining this opposition became the subject of a six-month investigation that ended with an outside investigator finding there had been no expression of antisemitism. Although the 52-page report was completed in October 2018, UBC officials have refused to publicly acknowledge the fact that the case was dismissed. In addition, they have not released the investigator’s findings.

As members of Independent Jewish Voices Canada(IJV), a grassroots organization that opposes all forms of racism and advocates for justice and peace for all in Israel-Palestine, we provided support to the students who werethe subject of the investigation. Because we were participants, we were given redacted copies of the investigator’s report. After careful consideration, we have become convinced that the findings in this investigation are too important to be kept secret. 

Here, in brief, is what happened. In February 2018, the executive members of the Geography Students Association (GSA) announced in a departmental email discussion group that they had decided to hold their annual party, the Geogala, at a rental space owned by UBC Hillel. After several professors and students objected to renting from Hillel because of its unqualified support of Israel despite the country’s horrific treatment of Palestinians, the GSA executive members chose another venue for the party.

The email discussionleading to the decision to change venues included reference to Hillel’s “ongoing role and politics,” mention of the “controversial nature of Hillel,” “being all too familiar with Hillel’s politics,” and the statement that “I found article …that outlines growing Zionism in organization (and its fervent opposition to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions)”. 

Much of this is not contentious. Hillel’s website prominently declares that “Israel is at the heart of Hillel’s work.” Hillel is so dedicated to supporting Israel that it proudly declares it will not host organizations, groups or speakers that “support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the state of Israel.”

It was Hillel’s political stance that the Geography students and faculty were opposing when they made their critical comments. There was never any evidence that either these comments or the GSA decision to change venues had been motivated by hatred of Jews, which is the standard definition of antisemitism. UBC responded by appointing an outside lawyer, Lindsay M. Lyster, to investigate the charges. 

When Ms. Lyster issued the report of her investigation in October 2018, she found that there had been no violation of UBC’s Policy 3 and no expression of antisemitism on the part of the respondents. 

Unfortunately, the situation that arose at UBC is far from unique. Internationally, pro-Israel campaigners are lobbying national, provincial and municipal governments as well as universities, school boards and police departments, to adopt CIJA’s “new” definition of antisemitism. Known as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition, it includes a list of 11 examples of antisemitism. Seven of theserelate to Israel and/or Zionism. The campaigners hope that the IHRA definition will focus the conversation on instances mislabelled as antisemitism in order to discourage criticism of Israel’s egregious behaviour.

We agree with the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, which declared that theIHRA definition is “extremely vague, open to misinterpretation and a threat to freedom of speech because it conflates criticism of Israel with antisemitism”. Independent Jewish Voices notes that the supporters of the IHRA definition are using society’s concern about real antisemitism to suppress criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights. In so doing they are actually undermining the fight against genuine antisemitism, which is increasing with the spread of the Alt-Right and white nationalism.

Regrettably, Canada’s Liberal government chose to include the IHRA definition in its anti-racism strategy adopted this past year. But when the IHRA definition was brought before Vancouver’s city council in July 2019, the council referred the matter to the city’s Racial and Ethno-Cultural Equity Committee, asking the committee to make recommendations on how to oppose all forms of racism, including antisemitism. Recently, the Calgary City Council was asked to simultaneously recognize January 27 as Holocaust Remembrance Day and adopt the IHRA definition, but the IHRA definition was deleted when the final version of the resolution was passed. (See item 10.1 in the November 18, 2019 Combined Meeting Minutes.) And most recently, when the IHRA definition was brought to the Montreal City Council, it generated sufficient opposition that demands were made to give the matter further study. Instead, the motion’s sponsor withdrew it altogether. 

We believe that it is legitimate to voice criticism of an organization that provides unqualified support to Israel and its mistreatment of the Palestinians. That graduate students at an institution like UBC were investigated for expressing such critical views constitutes a violation of the very fundamental purpose of the university.

In a time when concern for the plight of Palestinians suffering repression at the hands of Israel is growing dramatically, it is incumbent upon university officers and administrators to resist demands to investigate specious charges of antisemitism that are designed to suppress the expression of these legitimate concerns.

Sid Shniad is a member of Independent Jewish Voices Canada. Paul Tetrault is a supporter of Independent Jewish Voices Canada.