Well, Yippee & I’ll Be Darned! J Street Knocked Back At Berkeley

 Many who read this will have read the following in The Times of Israel, by a young former IDF soldier flabbergasted at what he’s experienced as a StandWithUs shaliach in North America:
California dreamin

‘…. I was shocked … by the anti-Israel bigotry and hostility I encountered, especially in the greater Seattle area, Oregon, and Berkeley. I had been very liberal, a member of the leftist Zionist party, Meretz, but the anti-Semitism and hatred for Israel that I have seen in the U.S. has changed my outlook personally and politically.

This year, from January through May, I went to college campuses, high schools, and churches to tell people about the history of modern Israel, about my experience growing up in the Jewish state, and about my family. I also always spoke about my military service as an officer in an IDF COGAT unit that attends to the needs of Palestinian civilians who are not involved in the conflict and promotes Palestinian civil society. Each time I would speak and take questions for an hour or more. I have shared my personal story with over 16,000 people at many, many college campuses and high schools, including UC Berkeley, Stanford, the University of Washington, Seattle University and many others. Many of those to whom I spoke were supportive, friendly, and open to hearing about my Israel. But, sadly, far too many were not.

When I served as a soldier in the West Bank, I got used to having ugly things said to me, but nothing prepared me for the misinformation, demonization of Israel, and the gut-wrenching, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic hostility expressed by many students, professors, church members, and even some high school students right here in the Pacific Northwest.

I was further shocked by how unaware the organized Jewish community is and how little they are actually doing to counter this rising anti-Semitism, which motivated me to write this article.

This new form of bigotry against Israel has been called the “new anti-Semitism,” with “Israel” replacing “Jew” in traditional anti-Semitic imagery and canards, singling out and discriminating against the Jewish state, and denying the Jewish people alone the right to self-determination. The new anti-Semitism is packaged in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS), which claims to champion Palestinian rights though its real goal is to erode American support for Israel, discredit Jews who support Israel, and pave the way for eliminating the Jewish state. One of BDS’ central demands is the “complete right of return” for all the descendants of the original Palestinian refugees, subtle language that means the end of Israel as the Jewish homeland because it would turn Israel into a Palestinian-Arab majority state.

It is surprising that an extremist group like BDS is ever taken seriously, but BDS advocates have found receptive audiences in some circles. Their campaigns are well organized and in many cases, well financed. They have lobbied universities, corporations, food co-ops, churches, performing artists, labor unions, and other organizations to boycott Israel and companies that do business with Israel. But even if these groups don’t agree to treat Israel as a pariah state, the BDS activists manage to spread their anti-Israel misinformation, lies and prejudice simply by forcing a debate based on their false claims about Israel….

My experiences in America have changed me. I never expected to encounter such hatred and lies. I never believed that such anti-Semitism still existed, especially in the U.S. I never knew that the battlefield was not just Gaza, the West Bank, and hostile Middle Eastern countries wanting to destroy Israel and kill our citizens and soldiers. It is also here in America, where a battle must be waged against prejudice and lies.

I implore American Jews: do more….’ (Read the entire article here)

You’ll note his mention of the University of California at Berkeley.  That campus, a by-word for student radicalism in the 1960s and afterwards, where this inveterate critic of Israel teaches, where this initiative occurred, and which back in April passed a BDS motion (albeit, according to this report, in a diluted form) would seem to be a campus at which J Street (“the enemy within,” as argued here) would thrive.

But it’s evident that the campus Jewish Student Union is deeply distrustful of J Street [see NGO’s synopsis regarding J Street here], which last year invited Yehuda Shaul, founder of Breaking the Silence [BtS], to campus; he’ll be speaking there next month. [See NGO Monitor’s synopsis regarding BtS here]
A couple of days ago the Jewish Student Union voted (by eight votes to two, with two abstentions) to deny membership to J Street, which having been turned down in 2011, on grounds that included its invitation to campus of a co-founder of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement [see NGO Monitor’s synopsis of that body here], was making a renewed bid for inclusion.

Yesterday’s Daily Californian reports:

‘…. The bylaws of the Jewish Student Union, an umbrella organization for Jewish student groups on campus, stipulate that a member organization must not host speakers who demonize Israel, said Jewish Student Union President Daphna Torbati.

That requirement was a point of contention surrounding J Street U, which advocates a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Much of the disagreement focused on J Street U’s relationship with Breaking the Silence, an Israeli military veterans’ organization that criticizes Israel’s military operations in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, said Elon Rov, a co-chair of J Street U.

“We are not afraid, as American Jews, to address those [difficult issues],” said Shayna Howitt, J Street U’s national communications co-chair. “We are not afraid … to host people who we might disagree with. We’re not afraid to stand up and question how we can best support Israel, because we’re committed to the safety of Israel.”

Breaking the Silence, however, has garnered serious criticism from other Jewish groups that belong to the Jewish Student Union. Torbati said she was concerned the group unfairly disparages Israeli soldiers.

Jewish Student Union members Avi Hecht and David Eliahu said Jewish students with connections to Israel would be alienated if J Street U were allowed to host Breaking the Silence under the Jewish Student Union umbrella.

“For a lot of members … the (Jewish Student Union is) the only place where they can express their love for Israel because of such an anti-Israel campus climate,” Torbati said. “A lot of people have said that they want the (Jewish Student Union) to stay a place they feel comfortable saying they love Israel.”

Hecht added that Breaking the Silence does not offer a fair picture of Israel’s military operations.

“Regardless of J Street’s intents, the effect of bringing a public event like BtS is detrimental to the image of Israel on our campus,” Eliahu said….”

Read more here

From the Award Winning Daphne Anson Blog Here:

Daphne Anson

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  1. A sobering account of what America presents in matters religious-political.
    USA may have the largest Jewish population outside Israel, but it also holds the tradition of many a religious christian strands with solid antisemitic traditions. The “conquering” of the West or, for that matter, the whole of America meant exactly that, a race for prevalence, fertile grounds for competition and, implicitely domination of one group over the other competitive ones. Antisemitism in America is as old as post-conquest America. It has matured now into a phenomenon which had absorbed everything and anything akin to its fundamental ideology coated in many cases in theological arguments, the most perfidiously effectve.
    We run here, once again, into JStreet, something those yet to be awaken in Australia to its underhanded tactics, should consider very carefully.
    Back home, the recent ZFA irrational move to “advise” Israel in favour of “relaxing” tolerance toward all religious-ideological strands of “Judaism” – postulating the “reality” of multiple splits within one necessaryly cohesive belief – , can only be conducive to creating oportunities for “in-house” detractors of everything essential to the Jewish identy, the strength of a reliable Zionist entity.
    This shows that statistically the Jewish fold is but a minuscule quantity in a complex world of enmity towards Judaism. ZFA, still an issue, is worried that suport for Zionism is diminishing in numbers, so anything that will enhance the “electoral” base is good for Zionism, obviously regardless of the KNOWN agendas ” all invited” contain. It goes well beyond the desperate and touches seriously on the intellectually touched…………….

  2. This young former IDF solder’s account of the “gut-wrenching, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic hostility expressed by many students, professors, church members” reflects what’s happening on campus in Australia and within many of the churches.

    The Uniting Church in particular is virulent in its support for the ‘Palestinian’ cause and its hatred of Israel, while the Anglican church seems to be split, with noble people like Mark Durie firmly pro-Israel, but others equally firmly pro-Palestinian.

    As for campuses, they are often hostile places for Jewish students. RMIT is extremely bad, as it has privileged Muslim students, with a special handbook Salaam RMIT, and as we know, the more a place extols Islam, the worse it gets for Jews. It’s incomprehensible how a secular country like Australia should allow its universities to be taken over by religious extremists. Monash University gave land for the building of a mosque. Why do taxpayers have to fund special facilities for religious groups on campus?