Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"Why the Media Get the Middle East Wrong" with Jeff Jacoby

Last Tuesday night (12/2) Tikvah hosted Jeff Jacoby, columnist of the Boston Globe, to talk about "Why the Media Gets the Middle East Wrong." It was a fascinating talk with about 45 people in attendance. Jacoby began the evening by reading news stories from various American newspapers and pointed out how when it comes to the Middle East, publications like to leave certain facts out. For example, when UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on Palestinians to stop firing rockets into Israel and for Israel not to respond with excessive, a respected newpaper reported the story as saying: "Ban Ki-moon tells Israel to stop using excessive force on Palestinians" without making any mention of the rest of his statement. There was another case with Newsweek Magazine when on the cover the face of a female suicide bomber was placed next to a picture of a female victim of the bombing. Their two stories were profiled equally and their faces were the same size. This sort of imagery creates a sense of moral equivalence between the murderer and the murdered. There are countless other similar examples.

Jacoby then went into why such a bias exists. Logically, it doesn't make sense that such a tiny region with such a relatively small conflict (compared to ones in Darfur and Congo with MUCH more violence) gets so much coverage, and negative coverage at that. The reasons are as follows: First, access to Israel is much easier for international journalists than it is to many other places. Tel Aviv is very hospital to reporters and there is a thriving free press in Israel. Reporters are much more likely to spend months posted in a beautiful hotel by the beach in Tel Aviv than they are to stay in Sudan or Congo. The next reason is fear. In the Islamic fundamentalist countries around Israel, journalists are threatened and intimidated by the government for writing anything critical. In Israel, it is more than OK to criticize the government -- Israelis do it more than enough! Another reason is the media's general leaning towards the left side of the political spectrum. While the Left and Right in this country are supportive of Israel, it is a trend of late for the Left to be more critical of Israel. Because most major media outlets in this country are left-leaning, this tendency to be critical of Israel is apparent. Lastly, there is often reporting based on nonfactual information. When a reporter goes to the Middle East and doesn't know the local language, they depend on translators and guides to give them the story of what's going on. The translators/guides in Palestinian territories often work for the government and take journalists to staged scenes of children throwing rocks that are not genuine at all. Reporters don't have any other options so they run with the fake story and photographs and people in the rest of the world take them to be true. Following his talk, Jacoby took questions from people in the audience, some journalists themselves and some just interested students.

Overall it was a great evening and a wonderful way to end the semester. Thanks to all of you who showed up! We look forward to seeing you for more events after the break.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Address the Real Problems at Berkeley

The following is a statement made by ZFA Director Yehuda HaKohen. We are posting it here because of its relevance to issues affecting Zionist students at Cal.

Address the real problems at Berkeley
by Yehuda HaKohen

As director of the Zionist Freedom Alliance and one of the organizers of Israel Liberation Week at UC Berkeley last month, I was disturbed to learn some of the things being said about the ZFA not only by the “Students for Justice in Palestine” and their supporters but also by the Bay Area’s organized Jewish leadership. For readers unaware of recent events at Berkeley, the ZFA hosted Israel Liberation Week on campus from November 10th-14th. On the afternoon of Thursday November 13th, we brought Jewish, Black and Mexican performers together for a concert advocating Jewish national rights. A series of unnecessary events that began with a disruption of the concert by the SJP and ended in a violent confrontation between Arabs and Jews has since become the focus of media attention.

Rather than address the underlying tensions at Berkeley that led to the unfortunate incident, the Jewish community leaders have placed the blame for the violence on the ZFA, labeling us as an “extreme right-wing” group and accusing us of brainwashing impressionable Jewish students towards confrontational behavior. But this libel holds no water when one looks at what we stand for and what we stand against. The ZFA message carries absolutely no anti-Arab or Islamophobic sentiment. ZFA has never brought speakers like Daniel Pipes* or Walid Shoebat to any campus, nor have we ever screened alarmist anti-Muslim films like Obsession. To the contrary, genuine efforts were made to dialogue with members of SJP and the Muslim Student Association. I even personally invited SJP leaders to an Israel Liberation Week event called “Moral Dilemmas Confronting the State of Israel Today” that deals with certain problematic areas of Israeli government policy. Although similar efforts to engage in genuine dialogue with Muslim and Arab students on other campuses have been well received, we encountered only a hostile atmosphere at Berkeley to anything that could be labeled Zionist.

In truth, the perception that Zionist students at UC Berkeley are “confrontational” is simply the most recent outgrowth of an obvious intolerance on campus for any individuals or groups who appear supportive of the Jewish state. In all my years working on university campuses, I have never encountered a climate of hate towards Israel like that at Berkeley. During the week I spent on campus, I witnessed pro-Israel students incessantly mocked, taunted and ridiculed by their peers. The Zionist students justifiably feel discriminated against by the university. The dean of students, Jonathan Poullard, told me following the concert that these Zionist students (most of whom are members of the Tikvah organization) have been making trouble on campus for the last year. But such “trouble making” simply means that these students have been assertive in their opposition to the anti-Zionist bigotry and SJP propaganda that has flourished unchecked at UC Berkeley for years. Before Tikvah, the activities of anti-Israel groups went unchallenged and no one contested the erroneous narrative that Zionism is akin to racism or that Israel is an oppressive colonial regime. But now Jewish students at Berkeley proudly proclaim their national rights and anti-Israel groups know that they no longer have free reign.

Marginalizing any ideological group is dangerous, yet this is precisely what the UC Berkeley administration, dean of students, Jewish Student Union and campus Hillel have done to the leaders of Tikvah. If the administration is truly interested in calming tensions on campus, the first step is making pro-Israel students feel that their political views are valid and that Zionism has a legitimate place among the many other just causes at UC Berkeley.

The ZFA’s overall message is one of Jewish rights. We unapologetically assert that the Jewish people, like all other peoples, enjoy national rights – specifically the right to self-determination in our homeland; without denigrating anyone else. Even though some Jewish leaders and groups are curiously afraid to vocally assert such rights, these are mainstream views within the Jewish community. Just because we promote the Jewish people’s legal, moral and historic rights to our country does not justify labeling the ZFA as a “right-wing” group. And neither does defending oneself from physical attack. It was the assertion of our own people’s legitimate rights that prompted the regrettable disruption of our concert by the SJP and the physical confrontation that ultimately followed.

The ZFA leadership fully understands that the deplorable incident at our concert has justifiably alarmed many in the Bay Area community. We understand that it has brought long standing tensions to the forefront and forced Jews and non-Jews alike to deal with deeply rooted problems that have in the past been swept under the rug. But rather than seek a convenient scapegoat to deflect blame from local Jewish leadership, why not work together and address the real difficulties confronting pro-Israel students at Berkeley? Why not take advantage of ZFA’s experience and expertise in making the Berkeley campus, and the Bay Area in general, a more accepting place for those who speak of Jewish rights?

*NOTE: Tikvah has hosted Daniel Pipes in the past because we feel that it is important to bring speakers of many viewpoints to this campus. Again, it was a Tikvah event, not a ZFA event. These are two separate organizations who have worked together in the past but don't necessarily share the same viewpoints on everything.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Members of Students for Justice in Palestine Attack Jews at UC Berkeley Hip-Hop Concert

While the event referenced below was not a Tikvah event, we want to express solidarity with the Jewish students who were attacked by members of Students for Justice in Palestine after the Jewish students made a civil request for illegally draped Palestinian flags to be taken down. The Zionist Freedom Alliance statement is below. Dozens and dozens of eyewitnesses, some of which are Tikvah members and others who are not, attest to this statement.


Members of Students for Justice in Palestine Attack Jews at UC Berkeley Hip-Hop Concert
(Berkeley, CA- November 13, 2008)

We, the Zionist Freedom Alliance student group at Cal, are deeply concerned by the latest in a series of attacks on Jewish and pro-Israel students at UC Berkeley perpetrated by members of Students for Justice in Palestine. On the night of November 13, 2008 at around 6:00 PM, members of Students for Justice in Palestine disrupted our hip-hop concert that celebrated the Jewish connection to the land of Israel. Then they attacked students who asked them to stop their disruption.

Three members of the Students for Justice in Palestine illegally draped large Palestinian flags behind the stage of the concert, which was part of Israel Liberation Week. Yehuda De Sa (one of the performers), Cal alumnus Gabe Weiner, and current ASUC Senator John Moghtader walked to the balcony from which the flags were hanging and asked the students to remove the flags as they misrepresented the concert's message. The SJP members immediately became hostile at this request and current SJP leader Husam Zakharia instigated a physical altercation by striking Weiner on the head. As Weiner and the performer tried to defend themselves, Moghtader stood away from the scuffle and then made a successful effort to break up the fight.

Members of Students for Justice in Palestine shouted anti-Semitic epithets referencing the Holocaust throughout the ordeal. Zakharia and others from SJP were detained by the police and charged with battery. Citizens' arrests were filed against SJP members who took part in the altercation.

The violence, intimidation, and harassment exhibited by members of Students for Justice in Palestine at the concert is only one act in a pattern of similar behavior that they have exhibited towards Jewish and pro-Israel students on this campus. Last year, multiple charges were filed against SJP and some of its members citing harassment, violence, intimidation, and violation of numerous other campus rules. These charges all went ignored by Dean of Students Jonathan Poullard.

We call on state officials, the President of the University of California, the Chancellor, the Dean of Students, faculty, and the student body to take a unified stand against the continued harassment of Jewish and pro-Israel students on this campus, particularly by members of Students for Justice in Palestine.

The Zionist Freedom Alliance Student Group at Cal

Contact: ZFAatUCB@gmail.com

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tikvah on the Finkelstein Event

Tikvah: Students for Israel held a peaceful protest outside the Finkelstein event on Wednesday, October 15, 2008. Many students took part in the protest, which sought to highlight Finkelstein's notoriously dangerous and racist views.

The speaker- Norman Finkelstein- is a vocal and adamant supporter of Hezbollah (considered a terrorist organization by the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Israel, Australia, and many others). Beyond that, and most hurtfully, he is a Holocaust revisionist. The Washington Post on December 3, 2002 wrote, “Norman Finkelstein [is] a writer celebrated by neo-Nazi groups for his Holocaust revisionism and comparisons of Israel to Nazi Germany.”

Following the protest, a group of students (some from Tikvah and others not) decided to speak out within the actual event.

Those who spoke out respect the right of groups to bring speakers of their choosing to campus in the name of free speech and exercised their right to free speech in response.

None of the protesters used any profanity at the event.

Members of my community and I made sure that our voices would not be silenced in the face of these indescribably hurtful messages.

So long as terrorist supporters and Holocaust revisionists like Finkelstein voice their extremism and hatred on this campus, there will be a louder voice in response.

Monday, September 8, 2008

First General Meeting

Come to Tikvah: SFI's first general meeting of the year!
When: Tuesday, September 9 at 8pm
Where: 101 Moffit
- A presentation about our group highlighting events we hosted last year.
- Introductions from the chairs of each of our 8 committees. Learn about different ways you can get more involved in Tikvah.
- Discussion about events we are planning for the upcoming semester. Your input will help to make our group as productive as possible.
- For those interested, sign-ups for committees.

FREE FALAFEL will be served and you will get the chance to meet others interested in advocating for Israel.

Sign up to get a FREE Tikvah T-shirt.

We're looking forward to an exciting year and we hope to see all of you at the meeting!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Good Stuff to Come...

Welcome back to school! We at Tikvah are excited to start a new year of advocating for Israel on campus. We have tons of great events planned and look forward to meeting anyone who is interested in participating in the club. We'll keep you all updated on our schedule for the year. Be sure to come to our first general meeting (time and place TBA) to find out how you can participate. See you soon!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Video of Prager at Cal

In case you are interested in seeing video of Dennis Prager's speech at Cal for Israel's 60th Birthday, follow this link.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Reflection on Yom Ha'atzmaut

We hope that everyone has had a meaningful Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israeli Memorial Day, and Israeli Independence Day. If you have not already done so today, now would be a good time to take a moment and read Israel's Declaration of Independence, just to remind yourself of the principles on which Israel was founded.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Some Photos from Dennis Prager's Lecture

Dennis Prager's talk yesterday at Dwinelle proved to be a successful start to "Israel at 60 Week." Some 250 people, both students and community members, filled the lecture hall as Prager explained why American universities espouse hatred of Israel, when, by all logic, one would think they would support Israel.

According to Prager, people tend to divide the world into two types; for example, Prager himself has always perceived people to be either "just" or "unjust," and subsequently favors the "just" in any situation. University professors, however, generally seem to have a different classification system, that of the "strong/rich" versus the "weak/poor," and tend to favor the latter category, perceiving the underdog as more exciting and romantic. Up to 1967, Israel had been classified as the underdog and had a romantic image: a country founded as a product of draining swamps, making the desert bloom, escaping the Holocaust and immigrating to Israel on ships.

After 1967, however, when Israel captured the West Bank in a defensive military maneuver, all this changed. Israel came to be seen as "strong" and therefore "bad;" the negative image was only compounded in the eyes of the university as Israel's technological infrastructure improved and Israel started to look more like America, and therefore became boring and unworthy of support. Thus, while the university advocates values like tolerance, equality and compassion and should by all appearances support Israel for being a champion of these values, its tendency to eschew the "just/unjust" classification system has obscured its moral clarity.

May Israel stay strong, stay just, and may university professors realize that it is a society's practice of justice, rather than that society's military capability, socio-economic status, skin-color, or any other criterion, that determines whether that society is good. Stay tuned for other Tikvah events throughout the week.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Dennis Prager Coming to Berkeley on Monday, May 5

Don't miss Dennis' talk coming up in a couple days!
Monday, May 5, 2008
7:00pm - 9:00pm
UC Berkeley, Dwinelle 145
Topic: “Why Berkeley Should Be Celebrating Israel’s 60th Birthday”

Dennis Prager is one of America's most respected radio talk show hosts. He has been broadcasting on KABC Radio in Los Angeles since 1982. He has written numerous books, including Happiness Is A Serious Problem, Think A Second Time, The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism, and Why the Jews ? The Reason for Anti-Semitism, regarded by many as the most persuasive explanation of anti-Semitism written. His writings have appeared in Commentary, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times. Mr. Prager was a Fellow at Columbia University's School of International Affairs and was appointed by Ronald Reagan to the U.S. Delegation to the Vienna Review Conference on the Helsinki Accords. New York's Jewish Week described him as "one of the three most interesting minds in American Jewish Life."

No signs, banners, posters, fliers, or noise makers allowed at the event.

Friday, April 11, 2008

"Pro-Israeli" and "Pro-Palestinian" are Not Mutually Exclusive Terms

The other day, guest speaker Aryeh Green, a long-time advisor to human rights activist and former Israeli minister Natan Sharansky as well as a proponent of Sharansky’s ideas on how to increase respect for human rights throughout the world, laid out a unique and important solution to the so-called “Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.”

Green pointed out that two democracies, that is, nations in which citizens are not persecuted for their beliefs, have never gone to war against one another. Therefore, in order to promote peace in the region, make Palestinian society democratic. The relentless Palestinian terror war against Israel is a result of the anti-Semitic educational system enforced by Palestinian dictators. As such, it is the job of existing democracies to encourage “moderate” Palestinians (and here Green clearly distinguished TRUE moderates from Mahmoud Abbas) to speak out for freedom , for with international support these moderates can overthrow the existing terrorist governmental system. And any person, once he is unencumbered by dictatorial government and propaganda, will simply want to live in peace so that he can lead his life in the way he chooses.

Seen in this light, the “conflict” is not really between Palestinians and Israelis, but rather between Palestinians and their own leaders. To want the best for Israelis is to want the best for Palestinians, for the extent to which Israel lives in peace and security is directly proportional to the extent to which Palestinian leadership affords Palestinians the ability to think and act freely. In Green's words, “I am one of the most pro-Palestinian people I know, and I am most certainly pro-Israeli.”

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The World is Larger than Berkeley

After Jewish students suffered harassment and hate speech (including outbursts of "f--- Israel!" and "You think you are the Chosen People and can just kill people!") from members of Students for Justice in Palestine at SJP's "die-in" several weeks ago, members of Tikvah took their grievances to the ASUC Senate in order that appropriate action might be taken against the haters. However, through the course of several Senate meetings, it became obvious that Tikvah was not going to find the sympathies of UC Berkeley officials; on the contrary, Dean of Students Jonathan Poullard made it clear that he is willing to condone acts of terror in order to justify hate speech coming from Israel-haters. According to the minutes of the Senate meeting on March 5,

Regarding hate speech and what that really meant, and what hate was, he would ask if it was hateful to say “f[***] Israel”? And it probably was. Was it hateful to say “Palestinian terror”? Probably. There were always two sides to every single story around dialogue. And the truth was always somewhere in the middle.

Obviously no progress towards justice can be made when the arbiter asserts that condemning acts of terror against Israeli civilians is not only a bad thing, but is just as bad as denigrating the entire country of Israel simply for existing.

On the bright side, however, Tikvah's efforts are not going unnoticed internationally. Several days ago, Aish.com published an article on its website about the struggle being taken on college campuses to ensure that a truthful image of Israel is conveyed to the public, and out of the campuses mentioned, UC Berkeley received top billing. As Aish is an internationally renowned organization, this article will be read and internalized by people all over the world. If UC Berkeley officials are not going to align themselves with the cause of justice on our campus, at least people across the United States and the rest of the world will do so. To read the full Aish.com article, click here:


Monday, March 17, 2008

Hamas Needs to be Held Accountable

As tensions rise in the Middle East, one can only wonder how things escalated so fast and if peace is still a possibility in the violence-stricken region. What is the root of this problem? And who are the true victims in a battle where civilians on both sides are dying? Upon closer inspection, one can see that the conflict at hand is not one between governments and not one about land. It is simply a case of two groups of people, two nations, being held hostage by the ruthless and careless acts of the Palestinian terrorist organization -- and current parliamentary majority -- Hamas. While Hamas has supported the firing of Quassam rockets into southern Israeli towns with the sole intention of killing civilians, it has also brought suffering upon its own people. Since Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, the amount of rockets fired from there has quadrupled. It is important to realize the fact that the plight of the victims in Gaza was brought about by Hamas and its ruthless acts of violence.

Last Monday, the Students for Justice in Palestine participated in a "die-in" to show solidarity with those killed in Gaza. What SJP didn't say is that many of these "civilian" casualties were actually a result of human shields created by Hamas, or actual victims of Hamas militants. At the “die-in,” a demonstrator shouted anti-Semitic slurs at a student who challenged the purpose of the rally. Another student was physically roughed up and told to “get the hell out of here.” It was a hostile environment where the free speech of people not agreeing with SJP’s message was being suppressed. Such fear tactics may work for Hamas in Gaza, but they are unacceptable at UC Berkeley. Those who truly care about the plight of the Palestinian people need to stop blaming Israel for everything and victimizing themselves. Rather, they should look at the situation they are in, think about how they got there, and plan a progressive, constructive way to improve the quality of their lives. Electing a violent and racist group to government is not the right move on the path to peace. I call upon the Students for Justice in Palestine to stand up and be willing to criticize the acts of an Islamic fundamentalist group that has caused much harm upon its own people. Hamas needs to be held accountable for its actions. When Israel's partner for peace is targeting innocent civilians, how can peace even be a possibility? The Arab-Israeli conflict has gone on long enough, and the voice of moderacy, not extremism, is the way to go.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Stay Active

It's been a rough week for Israel and the Jewish people.

At the beginning of the week, the Israeli Army commenced with "Operation Warm Winter," in which the Israeli Army engaged in fierce fighting with Arab combatants in Gaza in an attempt to stop the rockets being sent from Gaza into Israel. Further, yesterday a horrific act occurred in West Jerusalem: an Arab terrorist entered Yeshivat Merkaz Harav, a premier institution of Jewish learning associated with the Religious Zionist movement, and opened machine-gun fire on a bunch of students engaged in studying Jewish texts as they anticipated the beginning of the celebration for the arrival of the new month on the Jewish calendar. 8 were left dead, countless more wounded; of the dead, some even still clasped the text they had been studying as they lay sprawled and bloodied on the floor.

Of course, whenever the Israeli Army undertakes a large-scale military operation with the purpose of defending it's citizens, anti-Israel organizations nation-wide attempt to portray the IDF as a terrorist organization; at Berkeley, the "Students for Justice in Palestine" (SJP) staged a "die-in" on Sproul Plaza to protest Israel's military operation in Gaza, during which, they claimed, "hundreds of innocent civilians" had been willfully killed in a "holocaust."

Meanwhile, on the internet, a UC Berkeley blogger named Yaman Salahi identifying with SJP employed a barrage of logical and factual casuistry to declaim Tikvah for speaking the truth about what is happening in the Middle East. Instead of fighting for the truth so as to be able to target those aspects of the region that need to be remedied in order to bring about peace and security, Salahi urges us to

stop, think, and take a look at what is going on. The real conflict is not a competition about whose deaths are more valuable or less justified. To stop the violence, step back from it. Recognize the legitimate grievances of all people in Israel and Palestine.

Independent of his dishonest rhetorical construction (the issue brought up by supporters of Israel was never "whose deaths are more valuable or less justified," but rather that Israel's targeting of armed combatants in a war situation so as to protect innocent civilians from death is justified, while the INTENTIONAL TARGETING OF INNOCENT CIVILIANS, as perpetrated by Arab terror organizations, is never justified), Salahi seeks to quell all rigorous discussion concerning who is morally in the right. It does not matter, he claims, who is right; one must simply pretend that Hamas' targeting of innocents out of hatred and Israel's targeting of armed combatants out of a need to save innocent lives are morally equivalent.

However, anyone with a genuine sympathy for one's fellow human beings cannot honestly "step back" with moral detachment and treat the ruthless murdering of innocents, such as was perpetrated yesterday in Israel as equivalent to Israel's military operation in Gaza. Neither does SJP really believe in the sort of moral equivocation proposed by Salahi; it actually believes that Israel is in the right. Otherwise it would not feel the need to lie that Israel was engaging in a "holocaust" and could simply state the truth: that Israel undertook a military operation to protect its citizens. The clear fact, then, shines through that SJP and its affiliates hate not merely Israel's policies, but its very essence, and are thus taking a PROACTIVE approach (i.e. they're not passively "stepping back" to reflect upon the "legitimate grievances" of both parties) in making Israel look as bad as possible, without a care as to the truth of their claims. Thus Salahi's exhortation to "step back" is in reality a call for Jews to stop fighting injustice, to watch on the sidelines as the SJP and other Israel-haters destroy Israel.

While SJP is taking a proactive approach in disseminating lies and hatred, Tikvah cares about improving the world, and thus stands up for the truth. Members of Tikvah were present at the "die-in" protesting the propaganda, and although several members of Tikvah encountered harassment and hate-speech from SJP members, Tikvah was successful in indicating to passers-by that SJP's demonstration was predicated on deceit. In lieu of the tragedy that occurred yesterday in Israel, it becomes more important than ever to make a concerted effort to disseminate the truth: that the Arab educational system is racist and breeds hatred of and violence against Jews, that Arab leaders contribute to the continued squalid circumstances of Palestinians by withholding Western aid from them, that the Jewish people have a right to exist as a nation in their spiritual and historic homeland without the fear of an impending terrorist attack. Only by actively pursuing the truth can we isolate the sources of conflict and thus come up with effective solutions to the conflict. May we merit following the words of the Torah: TSEDEK, TSEDEK TIRDOF-- justice, justice, you shall pursue.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Terrorist Attack at Yeshiva Kills 8

A Palestinian terrorist opened fire at a central Jerusalem yeshiva late Thursday night, killing eight students and wounding 10 others. As security forces raced to the scene, the gunman fired round after round of ammunition into the library at Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, one of the most prominent places of Jewish learning in Israel. About 80 students had gathered in the library to celebrate the Hebrew month of Adar II, which begins on Friday evening, when gunshots were heard. Thousands of Palestinians poured into the streets of Gaza to celebrate, firing rifles into the air.

This act of terror is one of the most despicable in recent memory. Every time a civilian dies, it is a tragedy. When a terrorist goes into a place of religious learning, full of students as young as 18 who have nothing to do with the conflict at hand, it is incomprehensible. In times of war, there must be some things that are off limits. Such an act is not about politics, is not about religion, and is not about land. It is an act of hatred, and act of pure murder in cold blood. The purpose of this act was simply to kill Jews, and in this day and age, it is frightening to think that there are still people out there with such genocidal tendencies. Can there be hope for peace with a people who targets innocent students who simply want to spend their time in religious study? After todays horrific happening, my optimism is greatly shattered.

Monday, March 3, 2008

More Arab Terror Against Children

Today, Israeli children continue to be plagued by the trauma and danger of terror, as Grad missiles launched by Arab terrorists in Gaza landed in the small Israeli town of Ashkelon. One of these rockets injured a little girl, who suffered when shrapnel flew out of the rocket and hit her. Three other children barely managed to get to a secure room before the rocket landed on their house. They all suffered emotional shock afterward. Another rocket landed on top of a playground, causing hysteria among children nearby, fortunately none of whom were hit. Rockets also were launched from Gaza into other parts of Israel, including Kibbutz Nahal Oz and Sderot. All this comes after Israeli soldiers withdrew from Gaza after stage one of "Operation Hot Winter", having eliminated 90 terrorists. Let us all pray for the children of Israel in these hard times, and for the Israeli soldiers who bravely fight to defend Israel's children against people who have no regard for children's lives.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

On the Concept of the Two State Solution

The concept of the so-called "Two State Solution" is that of two states, one Jewish and one Arab, living peacefully side by side in the Middle East. Although the name itself is a relatively recently contrived political shorthand, Israeli leadership has been proposing solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict predicated on this notion from the early 20s up to the present day. In turn, such proposals are historically always rejected by Arab leadership, which instead then chooses to wage a war of some form or another to "wipe Israel off the map."

Meanwhile, in the middle of the UC Berkeley campus, I was walking along when I came upon the display of a student group called "Students for Justice in Palestine" consisting of an eight-foot-tall board of wood cut into the shape of Israel, but painted completely in the colors of the Palestinian flag. Israel, it appeared, had literally been wiped off the map.

Student opinion is both a reflection of societal opinion at large and an indication of what societal opinion at large will be in the coming generations, since today's students are tomorrow's societal movers and shakers. And today's young representatives of Palestinian nationalism on campus are evidently not truly concerned with acting for "justice in Palestine." This, of course, would entail calling for an end to the Palestinians' corrupt leadership, which steals all foreign aid meant for the people, and an end to Palestinian society's encouragement of child suicide bombing and other forms of violence. Instead, Palestinian student activists call for Israel's destruction, just like Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon did on the eve of the founding of the modern state of Israel, just like Hamas, Osama Bin Laden and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continue to do.

The Jews have always been a hopeful people; after all, they kept the hope alive that they would see a large-scale return to their homeland of Israel for two thousand years. However, as long as the Jews continue to propose a two-state solution while the Arabs continue to believe in a one-state solution-that is, one Arab state (amongst a plethora of other Arab states) and no Jewish state--the Jewish hope for peace may similarly continue for another two thousand years, or, chas v'shalom, until Israel is destroyed by its enemies.

The Forgotten Refugees

Many people have heard of the Palestinian refugees of the Middle East. Few, however, think to reference another group of Middle Eastern refugees whose stories deserve recognition: these are the Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Such was the topic of Stanley Urman, director of a group called Justice or Jews from Arab Countries, when he recently came to speak at UC Berkeley. Having suffered terrible human rights violations, including pogroms and other officially sanctioned violence, confiscation of property, beatings and imprisonment, most of these refugees were ultimately forced to flee their countries of origin to the land of Israel. Indeed, statistics show that while there were about 856,000 Jews living in Arab countries as of 1948--up to the founding of the modern state of Israel--in 2001 there were only 7800. As such, Urman's group and others, including JIMENA (Jews Indgenous to the Middle East and North Africa) are undertaking an "International Rights and Redress Campaign" for these immigrants, which seeks to "record the family histories of Jews diplaced from Arab countries and document the loss of individual and communal assets [so as to] compile the legal and factual basis necessary to assert the rights of the Jewish refugees displaced from Arab coutries." In his speech, Urman also advocated two new bills to be voted upon in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Remarkable for their bipartisan nature, having been drafted by politicians from both sides of the political spectrum, the bills urge the President that any "explicit reference to the Palestinian refugees is matched by a similar explicit reference to Jewish and other refugees, as a matter of law and equity."
If you are a Jew whose family suffered human rights violations at the hands of an Arab government, click here to register your family's history for the International Rights and Redress Campaign:
To read the House and Senate resolutions, click here:

Monday, February 11, 2008

Some Photos from Israel Peace Rally last Wednesday

The rally for solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Israel saw an impressive showing of people, Jews and non-Jews alike. The rally opened at Sather Gate with a spirited performance by the UC Men's Octet. Then everyone walked together to the middle of Sproul Plaza, as they sang "Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu" ("Peace will Soon be Upon Us"). The rally continued with yells of "Israel Wants Peace!" and the singing of Hebrew songs, even as an anti-Israel rally on the steps of Sproul Hall spewed hatred and lies against Israel. As we continued to celebrate with unbridled positive energy, however, it soon became clear that this other rally was not going to ruin our moods.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Israeli Peace and Diversity Week at UC Berkeley

Am Yisrael Chai! This week marks Tikva SFI's "Israeli Peace and Diversity Week," a celebration of the optimistic and tolerant spirit that Israel has always borne even as terror attacks continue to plague its people on a daily basis. On Wednesday, a mob of Jewish students and other supporters congregated in the middle of Sproul Plaza in a rally to show solidarity with Israel, as they sang Israeli songs and chanted "Israel wants peace!", in the process effectively dwarfing an adjacent anti-Israel rally. Today, the members of Tikva put on a presentation in front of Sproul Hall that dramatized the plight of the inhabitants of the Israeli town of Sderot, into which terrorists from Gaza shoot rockets every day. Other events during the week included movie screenings such as Brooke Goldstein's "The Making of a Martyr, " a documentary which shows how the Palestinian educational system encourages child suicide bombing, thus highlighting the severe need for Palestinian educational reform. The final event, called "The Path to Peace," will take place along Sproul and will highlight the numerous times throughout Israel's history that it has sought to achieve peace with its neighbors. Ultimately, the week is a reminder of how amazing a country Israel is, how diverse are the people that make up its borders, how Israelis hope for peace even as they cope physically and emotionally when another rocket almost destroys another Israeli house. Judging by the sheer numbers of Jews who came to show support for Israel this week, and the passion and energy that pervaded the events, it appears that a strong pro-Israel presence has once again returned to Berkeley. BARUCH HASHEM, BERKELEY NOSHEM!!!!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Ismail Khaldi Speaks to UC Berkeley Students

On Thursday, Ismail Khaldi, the Israeli Consul to San Francisco, spoke to a turnout of about 50 UC Berkeley students concerning the unfair image of Israel portrayed in the media. Khaldi, a Bedouin who grew up as a shepherd in a small village in the Western Galilee of Israel, spoke about the importance of Israel as the only true democracy in the Middle East, unique in the region for the rights, educational opportunities, and religious toleration it affords its minorities. Proudly identifying himself as an Israeli, Khaldi cited personal experience, relating how, growing up with Jewish peers, he was always treated the same as everyone else. UC Berkeley students in attendance included leaders from various student groups on campus.