Monday, February 21, 2011

Richard Goldstone Lecture at Berkeley

Last Thursday, Justice Richard Goldstone spoke on campus at an event entitled “International Law and Human Rights: The Search for Justice,” sponsored by the Institute for International Studies. Two points Goldstone made—that Israel is not Apartheid and the sanctions do not work—stood out. Goldstone’s report was the lynchpin of the argument in support of divestment at UC Berkeley last semester. Integral to the argument for divestment was that it is either untrue or irrelevant that a double standard is being applied to Israel, and that divestment had the possibility to put pressure on Israel.

Goldstone claimed that sanctions are not effective and it seems impossible that divestment could make a difference either. Goldstone also admitted that a double standard is applied to Israel. He defends his report with the following metaphor. To him, the situation is analogous to a city where 14 murders are committed in one day; however, the police department is only able to prosecute three of the murders. Goldstone asks, shouldn’t the police still complete their investigations even if not every murderer can be brought to justice? The analogy has a major flaw, the same flaw in every argument supporting singling out the Jewish State. In Goldstone's city, what if the suspects in three of the murders are Jewish, and the other eleven from different ethnic groups. Wouldn’t there be something wrong if only the murders where Jews were suspected are investigated and prosecuted while the other eleven are ignored?

While there is much criticism of the methods and assumptions Goldstone made to complete his report, Goldstone still makes it clear that Israel is not Apartheid and does not speak of the nation as pariah in the same way as those who have embraced his report. Even more appalling than the shoddy investigative methods Goldstone used is his continued tacit-approval of people using his report to support claims that he does not make, like the claim that Israel is an Apartheid State. Furthermore, his lecture made it clear that the divestment movement is happy to pick and choose whom they find credible based on what is being said. To them, Goldstone is credible when he says Israel commits war crimes, but despite what he said on Thursday, Israel Apartheid week is sure to be held this year.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Delegitimization of Israel: the New Antisemitism

Yesterday evening, David Olesker spoke to us about delegitimization of Israel. He introduced Natan Sharansky's 3-D heuristic for assessing when anti-Israel arguments become anti-Semitic. Legitimate criticism of Israel is fine, but it crosses a line if it holds Israel to double standards, demonizes Israel, or delegitimizes the Jewish state.

Like every country, Israel has political, social, and economic issues which its citizens struggle with. They debate the wisdom and morality of actions taken by the government. But no matter what that Israel does, it does not undermine the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in their homeland.

Here in Berkeley, we frequently hear arguments which deny the historical Jewish connection to the land of Israel and the right of the Jewish people to a sovereign state, deliberately take facts about Israel out of context to make Israelis out to be monsters, or hold Israel to a different standard than any other country. And all too often, they are defended in the name of dialogue. These arguments are bigoted and fail the 3-D test. Tikvah strives to educate the campus community that this type of discourse about Israel is not acceptable criticism, it is antisemitism.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bigotry, racism, and discrimination against Jewish students at Rutgers

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but our Jewish friends at Rutgers are once again the victims of antisemitic hatred. BAKA: Students United for Middle Eastern Justice, an anti-Israel group at Rutgers with a history of using hateful tactics to defame Israel and intimidate Jewish students, has shocked us again.

On January 29th, Jewish students came out to protest an antisemitic BAKA event "comparing Israelis to Nazis" called "Never Again for Anyone." Aaron Marcus, one of the organizers of the protest, said "We came out because the mere accusation that Israeli acts of self-defense are in the smallest amount comparable to the systematic genocide of more than 11 million people is deplorable."

To make matters worse, the Jewish students who were speaking out against the hateful rhetoric were harassed and intimidated. An admission charge to the event was unequally applied to the Jewish students, while the event organizers set out to "pompously and racially find anyone looking like an anti-Israel supporter and give them green wristbands, telling the Jews huddled together that they were event staff and security."

After publishing a column in the school newspaper, the Daily Targum, expressing his disgust with the hateful BAKA event, Marcus himself was threatened on facebook by a fellow student, who posted the status: "As I was reading the Aaron Marcus column this morning I realized how Im a pretty angry person. Id be happy to see him beat with a crowbar. Violence doesnt solve problems but it shuts up people who shouldnt speak". The post was 'liked' by at least seven others, including one who commented: "Or makes them martyrs, furthering the strength behind their beliefs. And skinning them alive so they see the afterlife."

This incident is another disturbing reminder of the growing antisemitism on American college campuses. Anyone who claims that the Jewish people do not have a right to self-determination and self-defense in their historic homeland is applying a bigoted double standard to the Jews. While publicly calling oneself an antisemite has fallen out of fashion, hatred of Jews is back, this time masquerading as anti-Zionism.

Jewish students at UC Berkeley have witnessed similar hateful anti-Israel rhetoric, as well as harassment and intimidation. Tikvah: Students for Israel, the Zionist voice on campus, is a student group which speaks out against the defamation of Israel and stands up for Jewish students.

In solidarity with our colleagues at Rutgers,

Brian Maissy
Tikvah: Students for Israel

BAKA must end hateful tactics, Daily Targum
Admission changes cause controversy, Daily Targum