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, 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 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.