Tuesday, October 30, 2018

"Fake Universalism" from the Trump administration about Pittsburgh massacre

Thread from Jeet Heer, on Twitter.
1. Let's talk about how the Trump administration is trying to erase the Jewish dimensions of a Jewish tragedy. The technical term is "de-Judaization" -- fake universalism in the service of suppressing a particular identity.
2. First we had the ineffable Kellyanne Conway saying that the synagogue massacre was an example of "anti-religiosity" spurred by late-night comedians:
3. Then Mike Pence invited a Christian "rabbi" to deliver a prayer -- one that didn't name the dead in the Tree of Life synagogue but rather Republican candidates
4. Jeff Sessions made a comment similar to Kellyanne Conway, that this was an assault on all religions. Again with the effect of removing the synagogue massacre from the category of an anti-Semitic crime to a more generic offense.
5. All of this adds up to a pattern, one seen earlier when Trump White House released statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day that didn't mention Jews.
6. So: let's be clear: the Saturday massacre was the most lethal anti-Semitic massacre ever on American soil. The alleged gunman from all evidence had deeply imbibed anti-Jewish hatred. His goal was a specific one of killing Jews, not generic anti-religiosity.
7. The particular idea that spurred on the killer (Jews as mastermind bringing in non-whites to destroy whites) is not generic anti-religiosity but an anti-Semitic trope with deep roots, a variant of Nazi myth of udeo–Bolshevism.
8. The Pittsburgh massacre can only be understood through the specificity of Jewish history and a very particular type of anti-Semitism. In their public statements, the Trump administration is intent on denying that specificity.
9. A good analogy is how foes of "Black Lives Matter" responded with "All Lives Matter." An adoption of a spurious universalism that is designed to shut down particular voices speaking of particular problems.
10. So what's going on here? Why this pattern of de-emphasizing the Jewish particulars? The worst case answer is anti-Semitism, either deliberate or unconscious. But there are other possible answers.
11. The most benign possible answer is that this is the common way that Gentiles of all stripes handle anti-Semitic crimes: try to make them more "relatable" and "universal" -- i.e. early version of Diary of Anne Frank which erased some Jewish references.
12. A more specific answer is timing and politics. We're a week out from the mid-terms. Talking about anti-Semitism doesn't help the GOP and could (given stoking of Soros conspiracy theories) hurt them. There voters are evangelicals. Make it about anti-religiosity.
13. I think it's really important for reasons to go beyond partisan politics to resist the erasure the Trump administration is engaged in. That resistance has to also oppose the tendency towards a facile ecumenicalism from some non-Trump people.
14. The proper understanding of the Tree of Life massacre is that it a Jewish event: fuelled by the particular anti-Semitism that scapegoats Jews for social unrest. We should oppose all forms of bigotry but can't fight anti-Semitism unless we name it as such.

Judicial Watch - pushing antisemitic conspiracy theories about George Soros

TPM (Talking Points Memo) has flagged two stories involving anti-semitic conspiracy theories being publicized by Judicial Watch, one of the most important right-wing organizations that pushed the Kavanaugh nomination to the Supreme Court.

On October 27 Josh Marshall highlighted a remark made by Chris Farrell (Director of Investigations and Research at Judicial Watch, also a member of the organization's board of directors; he also teaches journalism law at George Mason University), when he was interviewed by Lou Dobbs on Fox Business News: "Straight out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Just moments ago, Lou Dobbs guest Chris Farrell (head of Judicial Watch) says Caravan is being funded/directed by the "Soros-occupied State Department."

There was enough attention paid to this that Fox Business "issued an apology, took the episode off the air and said Chris Farrell would no longer be booked on Fox Business News or Fox News."

Oliver Darcy of CNN, however, found another clip with Farrell saying exactly the same thing: "Of note: This is not the first time this particular guest has talked about the "Soros occupied" State Department. He made a similar comment earlier this year in May."

Marshall concludes: "It is another part of the story of the growing convergence verging on indistinguishability between the country’s nominally center-right party, the GOP, and the revanchist nationalist right, with all its racism, anti-Semitism and conspiratorial mindset."

Mother Jones reported, and TPM picked up another story about Judicial Watch and antisemitism.

"Radio TelevisiΓ³n MartΓ­, a network overseen by the U.S. government that broadcasts to Cuba," produced a video segment that was partly based on information from Judicial Watch, about how George Soros was dangerous to Latin America.
“George Soros has his eye on Latin America. But Judicial Watch, an American investigative legal group, also has its eye on Soros and what it sees as his lethal influence to destroy democracies,” the narrator of the segment says in the video, according to an English translation published by Mother Jones. “It describes him as a millionaire investor and stock market speculator who exploits capitalism and Wall Street to finance anti-system movements that fill his pockets.”

The video also refers to Soros as “the multimillionaire Jew of Hungarian origin whose fortune is estimated at $8 billion” and “a non-believing Jew of flexible morals,” according to Mother Jones.

The video has been removed from the broadcaster's website:
The CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which oversees U.S. government-run news outlets, announced on Monday that those responsible for a segment broadcast in Cuba describing Democratic donor George Soros as a “multimillionaire Jew” will be placed on leave while USAGM investigates how the segment made it on air.
In both of these incidents the person and the video were removed from Fox Business News and from the government website. But both incidents are the responsibility of Judicial Watch. I haven't noticed anyone before this saying that Judicial Watch is spreading antisemitic conspiracy theories about George Soros - it's good that TPM noticed this and reported upon it.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Update: Political antisemitism in the United States 2016-2018.


I originally posted this on November 5, 2016, three days before Election Day. It seems particularly relevant today, after the murder of 11 Jews in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, by an open anti-semite.

Don't be fooled by Trump's words today condemning antisemitism. Remember that in August, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia, he said that there were "good people on both sides" - meaning that the neo-Nazis who chanted "Jews will not replace us" were "good people." He was lying today. He doesn't care about antisemitism. He doesn't care about African-Americans, or Muslims, or LGBT people (especially transgender people), or Sikhs, or people from Central America.


Today, Donald Trump issued his last ad of the campaign, and it explicitly makes use of antisemitic language and associates it with several well-known Jews. This is the analysis of Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:
Take a moment to look at this closing ad from Donald Trump.

From a technical and thematic perspective it's a well made ad. It's also packed with anti-Semitic dog whistles, anti-Semitic tropes and anti-Semitic vocabulary. I'm not even sure whether it makes sense to call them dog whistles. The four readily identifiable American bad guys in the ad are Hillary Clinton, George Soros (Jewish financier), Janet Yellen (Jewish Fed Chair) and Lloyd Blankfein (Jewish Goldman Sachs CEO). 
The Trump narration immediately preceding Soros and Yellin proceeds as follows: "The establishment has trillions of dollars at stake in this election. For those who control the levers of power in Washington [start Soros] and for the global [start Yellen] special interests [stop Yellen]. They partner with these people [start Clinton] who don't have your good in mind." 
For Blankfein: "It's a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the [start Blankein] pockets of a handful of large corporations [stop Blankfein] and political entities." 
These are standard anti-Semitic themes and storylines, using established anti-Semitic vocabulary lined up with high profile Jews as the only Americans other than Clinton who are apparently relevant to the story. As you can see by my transcription, the Jews come up to punctuate specific key phrases. Soros: "those who control the levers of power in Washington"; Yellen "global special interests"; Blankfein "put money into the pockets of handful of large corporations." 
This is an anti-Semitic ad every bit as much as the infamous Jesse Helms 'white hands' ad or the Willie Horton ad were anti-African-American racist ads. Which is to say, really anti-Semitic. You could even argue that it's more so, given certain linguistic similarities with anti-Semitic propaganda from the 1930s. But it's not a contest. This is an ad intended to appeal to anti-Semites and spread anti-Semitic ideas. That's the only standard that really matters. 
This is intentional and by design. It is no accident. 
Trump has electrified anti-Semites and racist groups across the country. His own campaign has repeatedly found itself speaking to anti-Semites, tweeting their anti-Semitic memes, retweeting anti-Semites. His campaign manager, Steven Bannon, is an anti-Semite. The Breitbart News site he ran and will continue running after the campaign has become increasingly open in the last year with anti-Semitic attacks and politics
Beyond that, this shouldn't surprise us for a broader reason. Authoritarian, xenophobic political movements, which the Trump campaign unquestionably is, are driven by tribalism and 'us vs them' exclusion of outsiders. This may begin with other groups - Mexican immigrants, African-Americans, Muslims. It almost always comes around to Jews. 
It's true there is son-in-law Jared Kushner, a Jew and Ivanka, who converted to Judaism. But this isn't terribly surprising. Kushner appears to be conscienceless. And as I noted here, there is a storied history of anti-Semites being happy to distinguish between good Jews and bad Jews. 
There's been a lot of discussion of anti-Semitism and the Trump campaign but a fierce resistance to coming to grips with the fact that anti-Semitism is a key driving force of the Trump campaign, that the campaign itself is an anti-Semitic one even though the great majority of Trump's supporters are not anti-Semites. When he closes out his campaign with a blatantly anti-Semitic ad, it's time to rethink that resistance.

Josh Marshall has written several good analyses of the antisemitism in the Trump campaign. For links to more articles, see:
http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/is-trump-an-anti-semite (by Marshall)
http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/nationalism-into-the-abyss - this discusses the speech that the advertisement above uses (Marshall)
http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/trump-conspiratorial-picture-florida (news article by Matt Shuham) about the speech

Monday, October 22, 2018

Cary Nelson on Jasbir Puar's book, "The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability."

Cary Nelson, the Jubilee Professor of Liberal Arts & Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the coeditor of The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel, has just published a scorching criticism of Jasbir Puar's anti-Israel book, The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability in the Times of Israel. The book just received an award from the National Women's Studies Association, which has been wholly taken over by the BDS movement.

But the organization that represents many faculty members and graduate students in the field—the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA)—has increasingly embraced political aims that display contempt for the objective, self-critical standards that guide the best scholarship. Now it is clear politics has won; the NWSA’s political mission will not be qualified by objective standards. The organization is committed to criminalizing and delegitimating the state of Israel. In 2015 it passed the most far reaching anti-Israel resolution of any major professional association, going well beyond an academic boycott to isolate, and condemn, and do as much economic and cultural damage to Israel as possible. With that NWSA became officially intolerant of all alternative political opinion.
On Puar's book:
The NWSA has now crossed a further line in self-discreditation by honoring Jasbir Puar’s December 2017 book The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability, a publication that discards evidentiary standards and instead bases its accusations against the Jewish state on its author’s personal fantasies. In September 2018 the NWSA awarded The Right to Maim its Alison Piepmeier Book Prize, describing the book as a “major milestone.” It has now officially endorsed an irresponsible and discriminatory research agenda for feminist faculty and students.

My book in manuscript—Israel Denial: Anti-Zionism, Anti-Semitism, & the Faculty Campaign Against the Jewish State—devotes its longest chapter (30,000 words) to an analysis of Jasbir Puar’s publications. Most anti-Israel faculty publications focus on debatable propositions. Not Puar. You can debate the claim that Israel discriminates against its Arab citizens, but so long as there is evidence of racism among some Israelis you cannot wholly discredit the accusation. Puar, however, makes arguments that can actually be proven factually right or wrong. They are consistently false.

Take one example: she claims that Israel has been stunting the growth of Palestinian children. Stunting (below normal height) means children are at greater risk for illness, reduced cognitive capacity, and premature death. The WHO, UNICEF, and other groups publish statistical reports on this and other health concerns. So does the Palestinian Authority. There are scores of published academic papers on the subject. All come to the same conclusion: comparing stunting rates across the world proves it is not a major health problem in Gaza or the West Bank. The WHO standard for classifying stunting as a major health concern is 20%. Stunting in the West Bank Gaza runs at 7-10% of children aged 1-5 years. By comparison, Egypt’s rate is 19.8%. Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia include countries with dramatically higher stunting rates: India (38.4%), Ethiopia (38.4%), Zambia (40%), Pakistan (45%), Madagascar (49.2%), Eritrea (50.2%), and Burundi (57.5%). Puar cites none of this research. If Israel is stunting the growth of Palestinian children it is doing a very poor job indeed.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Antisemitic posters in Sterling Heights, Michigan (and other places) from the National Socialist Legion

The city of Sterling Heights, Michigan, has recently been plastered with antisemitic and racist posters.

Here's are couple of examples:

The posters are from a group called National Socialist Legion (nslegion.org), which has a large assortment of other disgusting posters on its website.

Earlier this year, Richard Spencer and his band of Neo-Nazi antisemites planned to hold a meeting at a large German-American cultural association in the city, the Carpathia Club. When the police informed the club who the group was, the management closed the club for the day.
Carsten Grotloh, hall manager of the Carpathia Club, said he was contacted Saturday night by the Sterling Heights Police, which shared information about the Foundation for the Marketplace of Ideas, as well as "the negativity that surrounds the event."

Grotloh said he emailed the group about 2 a.m. Sunday, saying he would have to cancel its event. Grotloh says he received an "OK" as a response and a request to get the security deposit back.

"I don't Facebook stalk people when they book rooms," said Grotloh. "The police asked me if we were aware when we booked the event who these individuals were. I said I had no clue. I don't do a background check."
The NSL's posters have been up in various places around the country:

Eastern Florida State College in Cocoa, Florida - Racially offensive fliers placed on cars at Eastern Florida State College.

Antisemitic posters from the National Socialist Legion were also found earlier this year in Durham, NC, near the Duke University campus. (This image is from the Twitter feed of Israeli Matzav

Duke professor Gavin Yamey reported seeing anti-Semitic posters near Duke’s East Campus. He contacted the Duke campus rabbi and other officials, according to the student newspaper the Duke Chronicle. 
“It’s not subtle—it’s violent anti-Semitic imagery, so I take this obviously very seriously,” Yamey told the student newspaper. 
He told the Herald Sun: “I was deeply disturbed and, to be honest, frightened. I’m Jewish and these vile anti-Semitic threats, including the image of a gun pointing to a Jew, really rattled me.” 
“I lost family to pogroms and in the Holocaust,” he added. “Seeing incitements to shoot Jews in my hometown is not something I ever imagined.”
NS Legion posters were also found at Columbian Park, in Lafayette, Indiana, on September 1, and were denounced by the Interfaith Leaders of Greater Lafayette. This wasn't the first incident there of racist or antisemitic fliers being found.
LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The concession stand area at Loeb Stadium and other spots in Lafayette’s Columbian park were papered over Saturday with fliers touting Nazi symbols and the rhetoric of a white nationalist group. 
Tobi Beck, a Democrat from Avon running for the 4th District seat in Congress, said she was at the park in central Lafayette for a Labor Day weekend event when Cindy Shriner, a Lafayette resident walking to the park Saturday morning, came up to her with a flier and asked what she should do with it. 
“My whole team and I went and scoured the area looking for these things,” Beck said.
Beck said they found a handful of fliers – one that featured a swastika and read, “Satanism is for the weak, and the weak will be crushed” – taped to the walls of the concession stand at Loeb Stadium and on posts in other parts of the park. 
The fliers included the web address of the National Socialist Legion, a spinoff of Vanguard America, a white nationalist group – then known as American Vanguard – that has distributed posters and propaganda in the past two years at Purdue University. 
The group’s site includes a page of posters, including the ones found in Columbian Park, ready to download and print out. The posters include a number of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli messages, calls to defend the white race and tributes to Adolf Hitler.
According to its website, the National Socialist Legion is “dedicated to protecting the white European race” and performs “both activism and readiness for the coming racial holy war” and “to protect our people from the ‘browning’ of America.” 
A June 2018 report from the Washington-based Anti-Defamation League said the National Socialist Legion recently split from Vanguard America. In November 2016, posters designed by Vanguard America – complete with images and rhetoric that recalled Nazi-era Germany propaganda – were found on kiosks and in classrooms at Purdue. Posters from the National Socialist Legion collection online were found under wiper blades on windshields at a Purdue parking garage in recent months. 
The Anti-Defamation League report stated that reports of white nationalist activity were up 77 percent on college campuses between the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years. The report referenced reports of propaganda that included “veiled white supremacist language to explicitly racist images and words, often includes a recruitment element, and frequently attacks minority groups including Jews, Blacks, Muslims, non-white immigrants and the LGBT community.” 
There have been other fliers and threats tied to white supremacists found in Greater Lafayette in the past 18 months. Among them: 
► In May 2017, West Lafayette police received numerous complaints about fliers rolled up and delivered on doors and in driveways near campus with unsigned, uncredited death threats to singer-songwriter Jackson Browne, with warnings to residents: “Hey, you p---- college liberal’s (sic), its Trump time now, shut your mouth or pay the consequences!! Just like this (piece of crap)!!” Police investigated but did not report arrests. 
► On Jan. 12, business and drivers in downtown Lafayette found Ku Klux Klan recruiting pamphlets on their doors and under windshield wipers. Those fliers, distributed just ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, read: "Why you should become a Klansman.” Police took a handful of reports about those fliers, which listed the phone number of a group calling itself Soldiers of Christ, American Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, based in Moselle, Mississippi. A J&C review of video surveillance footage from downtown Lafayette security cameras showed a lone man distributing the fliers, but no one took credit or was identified. 
► On Jan. 21, someone tied bedsheet-sized banners on a fence outside the Unitarian Universalist Church, 333 Meridian St. in West Lafayette, with slurs about gays and lesbians, African Americans, Hispanics and – again – Jackson Browne. Those banners included threats, referencing a mass shooting in at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas that killed 58 and injured more than 500 more people. West Lafayette police, assisted by federal law enforcement, investigated but made no arrests. A rally at the church a few nights later drew an overflow crowd of church members, city officials and clergy from other congregations.
Other places that National Socialist Legion has posted its antisemitic fliers are in Colorado, California, and Tennessee.

In summer of 2018, the ADL published a study showing that:
From Sept. 1, 2017 to May 31, 2018, ADL’s Center on Extremism documented 292 cases of white supremacist propaganda on college campuses — including fliers, stickers, banners, and posters — compared to 165 during the 2016-17 academic year. Since Sept. 1, 2016, ADL has recorded 478 propaganda incidents, targeting 287 college campuses in 47 states and the District of Columbia.
The propaganda messages range from veiled white supremacist language to explicitly racist images and words that attack minority groups, including Jews, Blacks, Muslims, non-white immigrants, and the LGBTQ community. Some recent examples focus on the baseless perception of danger posed by undocumented immigrants traveling toward the Mexican-American border. 
Identity Evropa (IE), a group focused on the preservation of “white American culture” and promoting white European identity, was responsible for nearly half (230) of the 478 incidents. Patriot Front — which was formed within the last year — was responsible for 70 incidents. 
Campuses in Texas and California were the most frequent targets of white supremacist propaganda, with 67 and 58 incidents, respectively, since September 2016. Those states are home to the most concentrated and active memberships for both IE and Patriot Front. Florida and Washington state followed with 24 incidents each.
In addition to on-campus activity, white supremacist groups have stepped up their propaganda efforts in other public spaces, targeting locations such as highway overpasses (see March 2018 ADL report about this trend). ADL has recorded 185 non-campus propaganda distributions since January 2018 — an average of more than one incident every day so far this year.

“Our data shows that white supremacists’ propaganda campaign continues to accelerate, both on and off campus, online and on the ground,” said Oren Segal, director of the Center on Extremism. “The alt-right segment of the white supremacist movement remains a driving force behind this activity.”

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

On those who are against Christian Zionism (Stephen Sizer, cont'd)

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Anti-Zionist, Antisemitic Vicar Stephen Sizer in the US

I just learned via Twitter that Stephen Sizer, the antisemitic Anglican vicar, is now in the US to attend the "Christ at the Checkpoint" conference in Oklahoma. The conference,  which is usually held in Bethlehem, Palestine, fights against Christian Zionism. Sizer's first book was a denunciation of Christian Zionism. Here's a link to the article in Fathom about Sizer and the conference: Anti-semitic conspiracy theorist featured at Christian anti-Israel conference.
Luke Moon, the Deputy Director of the Philos Project in New York, told The Tower that “The goal of Christ at the Checkpoint is to undermine Christian support for Israel. Having attended the last four CATC conferences in Bethlehem this one is proving to be the worst.” 
He added that “The organizers have gone too far in hosting Stephen Sizer…The positive relationship between Christians and Jews is at an all-time high and it’s conferences like this one that seek to drive us back to the days of antagonism and distrust—and I will fight hard against that.” 
The CATC manifesto states that the “suffering of the Palestinian people can no longer be ignored” and that “Evangelicals must reclaim the prophetic role in bringing peace, justice and reconciliation in Palestine and Israel.” Their employees have accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing,” erecting an “apartheid wall,” and enacting a “crucifixion system” against the Palestinians. 
“Christ at the Checkpoint has long been a forum for bigots and anti-Semites,” said Yona Schiffmiller, director of the North America desk at NGO Monitor. “Predictably, this gathering seems poised to follow in that dubious tradition. The decision to give a platform to a 9/11 conspiracy theorist—a participant in Iranian Holocaust-denial conferences—and to those who try to engage avowed terrorist organizations in ‘non-violence training’ exemplifies the radical agenda of this gathering’s organizers.”

Professors who refuse to write recommendations for students to study in Israel

A new article on John Cheney-Lippold's refusal to write a letter of recommendation for a student to study in Israel, from Steven Lubet, who is the Edna B. and Ednyfed H. Williams Memorial Professor of Law at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law: What to Do About Professors Who Refuse to Offer Recommendations to Students Who Want to Study in Israel.
Cheney-Lippold is well within his own rights to boycott Israel, but he is quite wrong to insist that solidarity with the BDS movement privileges him to withhold a reference from a qualified student. The Tel Aviv program is officially approved by the University of Michigan, and Cheney-Lippold is not entitled to impede a student’s access to it, just as he could not bar nonboycotting students from his courses, decline to grade their papers, or refuse to call on them in class. Every instructor has a professional responsibility to treat their students impartially, without regard to personal politics. In a letter to the campus community, President Mark Schlissel and provost Martin Filbert stated unambiguously that “faculty members’ personal political beliefs cannot interfere with their obligations to our students with regard to letter-writing and all other modes of academic support.” Withholding students’ recommendations would “violate their academic freedom and betray our university’s educational mission.”....
Even so, Cheney-Lippold’s discipline went too far for a first offense. A reprimand and warning would have been sufficient, and would have avoided raising difficult issues of academic freedom, First Amendment rights, and faculty governance. There is certain to be litigation, in which Cheney-Lippold will argue—as explained by one BDS advocate—that “participating in boycotts to advance progressive causes has a long and time-honored history in the United States.”

Sunday, October 14, 2018


Statement from the Alliance for Academic Freedom calling for permission for Lara Alqasem to enter Israel and study at Hebrew University. I signed this statement. 

We the undersigned members of the Alliance for Academic Freedom (AAF) stand in solidarity with the presidents of all Israeli universities in urging the Israeli authorities to permit the American student Lara Alqasem to enter the country to pursue her studies at Hebrew University. We join with the many faculty members and organizations throughout the US that have endorsed her right to study at any university to which she gains admission. As a last resort, we urge the Israeli Supreme Court to intervene and reverse the government’s decision.

We recognize that Israel has the independent right and responsibility to apply its security concerns in evaluating any individual’s entry into the country. We do not, however, believe that support of the BDS movement in itself poses a security threat. Though we condemn many of the statements and actions of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), we do not believe student activism in SJP rises to that level of threat either.

Undergraduate student political opinion is often very much in flux and typically lacks the documentary evidence available in evaluating the views of older persons. We are also very much concerned with the government’s reported reliance on the Canary Mission website to inform itself about this case. Canary Mission routinely condemns students without a sound basis for judging where students stand.

We also understand that, unlike colleges and universities, governments are not obligated to honor academic freedom. While not, therefore, technically a violation of Alqasem’s academic freedom, the decision to deport her and prevent her from studying in the program to which Hebrew University has admitted her clearly abridges her academic freedom. It also undermines the right a university has to admit students of its choice.

The AAF has consistently opposed academic boycotts of Israeli universities. We are also dedicated to supporting Israeli democracy. Democracies benefit from supporting freedom of speech and the right to dissent. Universities cannot thrive without those freedoms. We believe those rights mandate permitting Lara Alqasem to enter Israel and attend Hebrew University.

Yael Aronoff, David Abraham, Deborah Achtenberg, Ernst Benjamin, Zachary J. Braiterman, Susana Cavallo, Alan Dowty, Peter Dreier, Steve Eichel, Peter Eisenstadt, Joan S. Friedman, Gary Gilbert, Todd Gitlin, Karla Goldman, Henry Greenspan, Atina Grossmann, Susannah Heschel, Ulle V. Holt, Robert D. Johnston, David Kader, Marion Kaplan, Wayne Karlin, Samuel D. Kassow, Alice Kessler-Harris, Rebecca A. Kobrin, Jack Kugelmass, Rebecca Lesses, Joe Lockard, Steven Lubet, Shulamit Magnus, Frances Malino, Jonathan Malino, Jeffry Mallow, Daniel Mandell, Tony Michels, Deborah Dash Moore, Sharon Ann Musher, Cary Nelson, Nigel Paneth, Sharrona H. Peal, Jeff Rice, Chaim Seidler-Feller, Irwin Sandler, David Schraub, Robert W. Snyder, Kenneth Stern, Paula A. Treichler, Irene Tucker, Judith Vichniac, Michael Walzer, and Alan J. Weisbard.
Alliance for Academic Freedom

The AAF currently consists of over 120 liberal and progressive scholars, affiliated with The Third Narrative, who are dedicated to combating academic boycotts and blacklists, defending freedom of expression and promoting empathy and civility in the debate over Israelis and Palestinians. More information on the AAF can be found at: https://thirdnarrative.org/community/campus/aaf/

Signatures updated on October 15, 2018.

Incendiary kites flown from Gaza into Kerem Shalom,Israel

Entrance to Kibbutz Kerem Shalom
I just read an article on Haaretz that made me realize how much I don't understand about the kites that Palestinians from Gaza are using to start fires in Israel. This happened on Friday, near Kibbutz Kerem Shalom, which is right on the Gaza-Israel border:
At 3:05 P.M. there was a first hint of what was about to happen. A gigantic kite, to which a burning tire was attached, hovered over the border, slowly approaching the kibbutz. Within minutes there was a second, third and fourth one, and an hour later there was an acrid smell in the air. At 4:30 P.M. there was smoke over the kibbutz.

Kibbutz Kerem Shalom
The Gaza Fence from Kerem Shalom

Wall protecting Kerem Shalom on the Gaza side

From a longer article this summer about the incendiary kites:
In recent months Gazans have sent hundreds of burning kites into Israel. Acres of yellowing fields have gone up in smoke. The people living on the Gaza border don’t hear “red alerts” any more, they see them and they’re angry and scared. So far no fence or obstacle presented by the army has stopped the flimsy airborne armada. Missile interception systems aren’t geared for such primitive “weaponry.”

Absent solutions, more and more kites have taken to the air; if at first just a few fell into Israel, the sorties multiplied – and became more sophisticated. The first kites were a take on Molotov cocktails but later ones were equipped to explode, and kites were also joined by helium balloons. ...
Whatever, it doesn’t matter to the next number, which is 25,000. That’s the number of dunams burned so far (in acres, 6,250), and it’s equivalent to the extent of the Carmel forest fire in 2010. But that’s where the similarity ends. There the fire burned forest while by Gaza, the main casualties are crops. 
Pictures of flaming forests may be more dramatic, but real damage has been caused by the kites, says Avner Yona, director of field crop operations at Kibbutz Nahal Oz. About 1,300 dunams of wheat and irrigation systems have gone up in flames. The big losses are mainly in the irrigation systems, he adds: Replacing irrigation systems takes time and turning the water back on takes two more days. Ultimately, instead of producing, say, seven tons of crop, they produce four.... 
The list of sites where fires broke out is long and varied. Beyond orchards and various crops, fire also consumed large swathes of the Kissufim Forest, the Be’eri Crater nature reserve, areas near the water reservoir of Kibbutz Nir Am and areas around the Besor Stream. These places were burned more than once, sometimes dozens of times. 
The damage isn’t just to the landscape. The residents in the area are breathing the smoke and suffering from it. This is particularly palpable among high-risk groups like children and asthmatics....
Whole nature reserves burned: The Parks and Nature Reserves Authority says 10,000 dunams of conservation ground has gone up, including 5,500 at Besor Stream (according to the latest estimate). Thousands of animals have died, notably small species, rodents, reptiles and insects. But not just them: Foxes, jackals, tortoises and lizards have died too and that’s just the start of the list.

Israel’s nature reserves are relatively small, and the destroyed areas are a big part of them, Gilad Gabbay, manager of the southern district for the Parks and Nature Reserves Authority, told Haaretz. There has been a huge loss of habitats for animals in the region, he says; recovery will take years. “In the short term, it is almost impossible to compensate for the damage. In the long term, we will have to see what we can do to rehabilitate the reserves,” Gabay says. At the Besor, everywhere you look you see burned turtles, he says.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Today's Antisemitism Report: George Soros as the "anti-Christ"

First, a case of vandalism.

The Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia was marked with large swastikas this morning. Senator Tim Kaine reports on Twitter:

Removal of the hateful graffiti:

Second, Rudy Giuliani, President Trump's lawyer, reposted an antisemitic remark that blamed George Soros for the demonstrations this week in Washington, DC, against the Brett Kavanaugh nomination to the Supreme Court. Soros, of course, is the whipping boy of both the left and the right, despite his work for democracy in Eastern Europe, his founding (and funding) of Central European University in Budapest, the work of the Open Society Foundations for democracy around the world, etc.

Soros is Jewish, originally from Hungary, where he narrowly escaped being murdered by the Nazis when he was a teenage boy. Calling him the "anti-Christ" is blatantly antisemitic - akin to blaming Jews for the death of Jesus.

Giuliani was just following his master, Trump. Yesterday, Trump blamed Soros for funding the anti-Kavanaugh protestors:

George Soros did not pay for people to protest Kavanaugh. And by the way, at almost every demonstration organized by an existing group there are identical signs. There are identical signs at campaign events for Republican and Democratic candidates. The NRA buys identical signs, as does NARAL. It's not something sinister to have printed signs.

From Buzzfeed:
Soros, a hedge fund manager and longtime donor to the Democrats and other liberal causes, is often the target of a right-wing conspiracy theory that claims he controls global politics.

The use of the term “anti-Christ” is specifically loaded as Soros, who is Jewish, is often the target of anti-Semitic attacks. In some Christian teachings, the Antichrist is the enemy of Christ and the church, who appears before the end of the world.

Soros has been a frequent target of Republicans during the Kavanaugh debate. Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley, asked by Fox Business on Friday if Soros was funding the protests, said, “I tend to believe it.”

The person who wrote the “anti-Christ” tweet had not been replying to Giuliani, but instead to Tom Fitton, the head of a conservative organization called Judicial Watch, who posted a video titled “Leftist Efforts to Destroy Kavanaugh.”

On Saturday Trump continued claiming that people protesting Kavanaugh are “paid professional protesters who are handed expensive signs.”
And guess who else blames Soros for funding the anti-Kavanaugh protests? RT, the Russian propaganda network - see a report of theirs on Youtube: Anti-Kavanaugh protesters linked to billionaire George Soros.

NB: Soros was not a collaborator with the Nazis in Budapest when they occupied the city in 1944. He was a victim, who narrowly escaped with his life.

From the Snopes article on the libel that he was a collaborator:
As a prominent political activist and supporter of left-wing causes, Hungarian-born billionaire financier George Soros has frequently been the target of smear campaigns, and none more odious than the persistent — and false — claim that Soros, a Jew, was a Nazi sympathizer, collaborator, and/or paramilitary officer during World War II.

That Soros was only nine years old (born in 1930) when the war broke out and all of 14 when Nazi Germany surrendered in May 1945 hasn’t dampened his detractors’ enthusiasm for spreading these rumors, including the absurd claim, which first surfaced in November 2016, that Soros literally served as an officer of the paramilitary Schutzstaffel (SS) in Germany.

This allegation continues to make the social media rounds in the form of a black-and-white photograph of a young man — supposedly Soros — wearing an SS uniform (...), accompanied by some version of this caption:
... I give you George Soros. A SS in the National Socialist German workers party. Nazi party. He served under Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler. He said it was the best time of his life. The destruction and agony around him was euphoric to him. This man was making policy with Hillary Clinton. And some of you think Trump is dangerous. Wow!
Wow, indeed. But given his age, Soros couldn’t have joined the SS (whose minimum age requirement was 17) even if he had wanted to. Moreover, as a Hungarian Jew he couldn’t have met the SS requirement for pure “Aryan” heritage. Quite to the contrary, Soros and his entire family were obliged to hide their identities and pose as Christians to avoid being forcibly housed in ghettos, interned in concentration camps, deported, or killed during the 10-month Nazi occupation of Hungary beginning in 1944.
Was Soros a Nazi Collaborator?
It is also claimed that Soros survived the German occupation of Budapest by becoming a Nazi “collaborator.” Fox News pundit Glenn Beck alleged in November 2010, for example, that the 14-year-old Soros “help[ed] the government confiscate the lands of his fellow Jewish friends and neighbors,” and, worse (in Beck’s view), was unrepentant about it:
So when George Soros was 14, his father basically bribed a government official to take his son in and let him pretend to be a Christian. His father was just trying to keep him alive. He even had to go around confiscating property of Jewish people. Now, imagine you are Jewish and you have to go and confiscate the property of your fellow Jews. And you are pretending to not be a Jew and if anybody finds out, you’re dead. He actually had to endure watching people sent off to their eventual murders, watching people gathering their stuff, sending them off knowing that they were going to go to their death.
“I don’t want to question the 14-year-old,” Beck disingenuously stated during a series of broadcasts devoted to painting Soros as an evil “puppet-master” of the left. “I would have, however, liked to question the 80-year-old man who has never once said he regretted it,” he added.
Central to Beck’s case were quotes and clips from a 1998 60 Minutes interview (which can be viewed in its entirety here), an excerpt from which was also used as the centerpiece in a commentary on the conspiracist web site InfoWars.com in which host Alex Jones claimed that the teenaged Soros “helped round up thousands of people” and “stole hundreds of millions of dollars” from Hungarian Jews on behalf of the Nazi occupiers.
Conservative author Dinesh D’Souza (who has gone so far as to compare the 14-year-old George Soros to Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele) revived the “Nazi collaborator” claim in his 2017 book The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left, doubling down on it in a social media campaign to promote book sales:
.@georgesoros, now a principle financial backer of violent thugs, admits his collaboration with Hitler and says he has no regrets: pic.twitter.com/P1Xl1vo87T
Other conservative and alt-right media figures followed suit:

Yet the simple truth is that George Soros neither said nor did anything resembling what he has been accused of. In no sense was Soros, who turned 14 years old not long after the Germans occupied Hungary in 1944, a “Nazi collaborator.” At no time did he confiscate (or help confiscate) the property of Jews, “identify Jews to the Nazis,” or help “round up” people targeted for deportation or extermination by the Germans (to answer just a few of the accusations leveled against him). And although Soros did attest during the infamous 60 Minutes interview that he regrets nothing about the time of German occupation, he also said it is precisely because he didn’t do any of the things attributed to him that his conscience is clear....
Did Soros Serve Jews with Death or Deportation Notices?

Another “Nazi collaborator” trope holds that young George Soros helped send fellow Jews to their deaths by delivering deportation notices on behalf of Budapest’s Jewish Council (Judenrat in German), an organization tasked by the Nazis with helping enforce Nazi policies on the Hungarian Jewish population:

However, as in the case of the “confiscation” rumors already discussed, here we find innocuous facts about George Soros’s adolescence twisted and exaggerated into a grotesque lie. According to Soros’s father, school-age Jewish children were required to run errands for the council. Among those errands (he came to find out) was delivering deportation notices to prominent Jews. But although George did, in fact, spend all of two days as a Jewish Council errand boy, he didn’t perform his assigned tasks exactly as ordered, taking it upon himself to warn the recipients of the notices that they ought not to comply [From George’s father, Tivadar Soros, in his 1965 autobiography, Masquerade: Dancing Around Death in Nazi Occupied Hungary].
As Jews couldn’t go to school any more and their teachers couldn’t teach, they were ordered to report to council headquarters. The children were enlisted as couriers under the command of their teachers. My younger son, George, also became a courier. On the second day he returned home at seven in the evening. 
‘What did you do all day?’ 
‘Mostly nothing. But this afternoon I was given some notices to deliver to various addresses.’ 
‘Did you read what they said?’
‘I even brought one home.’ 
He handed me a small slip of paper, with a typewritten message: 
You are requested to report tomorrow morning at 9 o’clock at the Rabbinical Seminary in Rokk Szildrd Street. Please bring with you a blanket, and food for two days. 
‘Do you know what this means?’ I asked him. 
‘I can guess,’ he replied with great seriousness. ‘They’ll be interned.’ 
Children are often good guessers. I wondered whether he knew what being interned meant. Did this child of mine realize that these people would be deported to Germany and very possibly murdered? I felt too ashamed of the world I had brought him into to enlighten him. 
‘The Jewish Council has no right to give people orders like that,’ I told him. ‘You are not to work there any more.’
‘I tried to tell the people I called on not to obey,’ he said, clearly disappointed that I wouldn’t let him work any more. He was beginning to enjoy his career as a courier: it was all a big adventure.