Beating the Bullies

In this week’s piece for Souciant, I look at how the radical supporters of Israel’s worst policies, out of necessity, employ bullying tactics to silence others. I may not always agree with those others, but they have a right to be heard free of censorship and intimidation.

And, for the record, so do supporters of Israel’s worst policies. The only difference is that no one is able, or trying, to bully them into silence.

For Yom Kippur, Jewish Federation Tries To Muzzle Muzzlewatch

The Jewish Federation has been running a poll to recognize “Jewish heroes.” My friend and colleague, Cecilie Surasky, had been doing rather well in the voting. And then, suddenly, she was simply deleted.

Cecilie Surasky, Deputy Director of Jewish Voice for Peace and Editor of Muzzlewatch

She disappeared without a word, without notice and without explanation. The deletion came the day after San Francisco’s major Jewish weekly, J, published an article remarking on Cecilie’s being in the running and in the top 10 in polling in her category. And then, in classic Orwellian fashion, Cecilie became an unperson in the poll.

Obviously as a former JVP staffer I’m outraged. But one can’t help laughing at the stupidity of the Fed here. I mean, on Yom Kippur eve, no less, they give the absolute definitive example of muzzling to none other than the founder and driving force behind Muzzlewatch, the blog which describes its purpose as “Tracking efforts to stifle open debate about US-Israeli foreign policy.”

And they wonder why they’re losing the new generation of Jews?

On one level, it was of some interest that the Fed allowed Cecilie into the competition in the first place. But when she was demonstrating that she has significant support within the Jewish community, and was acknowledged in that by a mainstream Jewish newspaper, well, that just carries open debate and exchange of opinions too far for the Fed. Continue reading

How to Create Consensus: Fire the leftist columnists

In my latest piece for Babylon Times, hosted by Souciant, I look at the firing of columnist Larry Derfner of the Jerusalem Post, what he did wrong and how it drowned out some very important and insightful points that he made.

UPDATE: Derfner was not permitted to publish his defense of himself against the scurrilous piece by radical right-wing columnist Isi Liebler. You can see what he wanted the JPost to publish here.

URGENT: Journalists’ petition against the prosecution of Uri Blau

Uri Blau is the Ha’aretz report who received information from IDF reservidt Anat Kamm. You can read about that case here and you can find more in-depth background here  and here.

Blau may or may not be prosecuted, but, particularly in light of the massive WikiLeaks and Palestine Papers revelations, this sort of reporting has to be protected. It’s not just an Israeli issue–if Blau faces prosecution, this could have implications for journalism around the world.

Dimi Reider at 972 magazine offers analysis and background, but more importantly, includes a petition for journalists, bloggers and other writers to sign. If this fits you, please do add your name; instructions for doing so are also included in Dimi’s piece. Even if it does not, please spread word of this petition around. In the realm of ideas, free speech and the spirit of investigative journalism, there isn’t a more important issue today.

CUNY Said to be Reconsidering Kushner Degree

The New York Times is reporting that the CUNY Board of Trustees is plannign an emergency meeting Monday to reconsider the decision to drop Tony Kushner from their list of honorary degree recipients for this year.

I think we can all pat ourselves on the back for this one, but really, the decision was so outrageous, there was hardly any support for the revolting behavior of Jeffrey Wiesenfeld.

I have no doubt that the CUNY trustees were simply cowed by Wiesenfeld, and thought they were taking a path of least resistance. That’s usually how it is with such bodies. University trustees are notoriously leery of controversy, because any controversy tends to be of concern to the parents of prospective students and to donors.

But in this case, they simply underestimated how widespread the opposition would be. Hell, even Ed Koch, another degree recipient and certainly not one who sees Arabs and Muslims, much less Kushner’s views, in a positive light, objected in very strong terms. He even called for CUNY to kick Wiesenfeld off the Board of Trustees, and I can only hoep that plea also doesn’t fall on deaf ears.

Good news here, but until some sense of reason can be brought to debate on the Israel-Palestine conflict and, most particularly, to the US role in it, it’s only a drop in the ocean.

Bigot Who Slammed Kushner Spews More Bile–What You Can Do About It

Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, the champion of anti-Arab bigotry who blocked an honorary degree from the City University of New York (CUNY) has reached a new low. In an op-ed about his contemptible action, he actually has the audacity to compare Kushner to David Duke (as well as to Sonny Carson and Lynne Stewart, rather bizarre trio).

This is because, according to Wiesenfeld, when you criticize Israel, you are an anti-Semite, by definition.

Anti-Arab bigot Jeffrey Wiesenfeld

Wiesenfeld considers anyone a racist who states simple historical fact: that driving Palestinians from their homes was part and parcel of Israel’s creation. This is a fact not open to debate; it is clearly recorded in no less a source than the Hagana archives. Tochnit Dalet (Plan D) clearly called for emptying and destroying Palestinian towns.

The historical debate is over the intent of this plan, not over its existence or execution. Even if you subscribe to the more sympathetic view of that intent, the event – that Palestinians were driven from their homes and not allowed to return – is not in dispute. Except, of course, in the mind of bigots like Wiesenfeld who purport that Israeli motives and actions are always pure and Arab ones always nefarious.

Wiesenfeld has an ugly history of bigotry. It is nothing short of appalling that he, a noted bigot, tries to paint Kushner, a courageous fighter for LGBT rights who was still willing to brave the fire, in his spare time, of defending the rights of Palestinians, and criticizing Israeli policy in an attempt to not only secure justice for the Palestinians but also a better future for Jews in and outside of Israel.

Action

A call has been put out for personal letters to be written to the trustees.

One easy step is to visit the Facebook page set up for this issue and click “like.” You can also write to the trustees and voice your objections. This has actually proven to be effective in the past, so this isn’t just an exercise. The e-mail addresses of the trustees are:

charlie.shorter@davisbrodyaedas.com; croman@cityhall.nyc.gov; dimartino@att.net; DRHMORALES@msn.com; ffostertolbert@gmail.com; joe@lhota.net; judah.gribetz@bingham.com; kathleen.pesile@mail.cuny.edu; kaympesile@aol.com; peter.pantaleo@dlapiper.com; philip@philipberryassociates.com; provost.cory@gmail.com; sam.sutton@aeny.com; Sandi.Cooper@csi.cuny.edu; vlancaster@mrbeal.com; wellingtonchen@yahoo.com; wellingtonzchen@gmail.com; wiesenfeldjs@bernstein.com; Jay.Hershenson@mail.cuny.edu

It’s also worth noting that The Atlantic’s Jeff Goldberg, not someone inclined to defend critics of Israel, has severely criticized this move by CUNY.

CUNY Gives Award To Bigot, Not To Jewish Opponent of Occupation

[UPDATED BELOW]

[NOTE: My thanks to Cecilie Surasky, Deputy Director of Jewish Voice for Peace and editor of the blog Muzzlewatch for alerting me to this story]

Here are some words from a man who is getting an honorary degree from the City University of New York:

“…there are hundreds of millions[of Muslims] who are terrorists. They want to kill every Christian, every Jew, every Hindu who won’t convert.”

Tony Kushner

Congressman King is now seeking to protect America and the Muslim American community.  How?  By holding hearings on whether or not the American Muslim community is becoming radicalized and giving aid and comfort to America’s enemies. “

Do we side with the repressive governments that are friendly to the U.S. – Mubarak of Egypt and Abdullah of Jordan and others as well – or do we simply support those mouthing the chants of democracy and take our chances, knowing that many in those mobs would, if given the chance, slit the throats of every Christian and Jew who won’t willingly convert to Islam.”

The man has made many similar comments, demonstrating his deep and abiding bigotry against Muslims.

These are the words of Ed Koch. In fairness, Koch was mayor of New York and during his term… uh, well…um…hey, both the Mets and Yankees won World Series while he was in office. No other mayor of New York can say that. So there!

Why do I care if CUNY gives Koch an award? Because of who they dropped from their list of awardees.

They dropped playwright Tony Kushner, a fierce fighter for just causes, and a writer whose play, Angels in America, was a groundbreaking dramatization of the experience with AIDS in the 1980s. Kushner, who has plainly stated his support for Israel — “I want the state of Israel to continue to exist. I’ve always said that. I’ve never said anything else. My positions have been lied about and misrepresented in so many ways. People claim that I’m for a one-state solution, which is not true,”—is being barred because of his opposition to Israel’s occupation and to what Zionism has become today.

Here are the statements which the report in the NY Jewish Week cites as the basis of the demonization of Kushner: Continue reading