Dialogue and Deceit

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Thus, the outrage over the OTI is twofold: first, the organization’s entanglement with individuals such as George S. Rishmawi and Mazin Qumsiyeh is highly problematic in the sense that, not only does the OTI provide a platform for their vicious misinformation and propaganda, but by simply extending these individuals a seat at the table, their views are elevated to the status of legitimate dialogue. However, George S. Rishmawi is not interested in dialogue. Neither are the numerous other OTI-affiliated individuals who share his cause. They traffic solely in Palestinian propaganda and the incitement of absolutist anti-Israelism. Their entire raison d’être is the delegitimization of Israel and the conversion of supporters to that cause. Secondly, sending young Jewish students into the arms of individuals who are behind organizations like the ISM, who have forsaken dialogue by their commitment to warfare (of one kind or  another) against Israel, is simply setting students up for indoctrination of the worst possible kind. It should be no surprise that students come away from the program with a new appreciation of the systemic “racism” of Israel, or that the people who spread this narrative are really “nice” once you get to know them.

It should also be no surprise that where the views of Israel-demonizers have been brought into legitimate debate, the discourse has accordingly become more acerbic and hateful. This, in fact, has proven true at UC Irvine. In 2010, a talk by Michael Oren, ambassador of Israel to the U.S., was momentarily overtaken by a mob of anti-Israel students, who had to be forcibly removed from the event — but not before hurling accusations of Israeli-perpetrated genocide and intimidation the ambassador into silence. The incident made national news and disgraced the university. UC Irvine is part of a growing number of colleges hosting the misinformation campaign known as “Israel Apartheid Week” and whose student governments are considering divestment of university funds from Israel, a process in which external anti-Israeli organizations are often actively involved.

More than mere anti-Israelism, these “Israel Apartheid Weeks” are often harbingers of naked anti-Semitism — sometimes in such an extreme form, it bears comparison to the darkest eras of Jew-hatred in modern history. Gary Fouse, adjunct teacher at the UC Irvine, has observed that anti-Semitic activity is rare at Irvine, but it peaks during the annual Israel Apartheid Week or when anti-Israel speakers are invited to the campus. One speaker such, Imam Muhammad Al-Asi, said to his Irvine audience in 2001:

We have a psychosis in the Jewish community that is unable to co-exist equally and brotherly with other human beings. You can take a Jew out of the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out of the Jew.

Jews have been harassed and, in at least one instance, a classically anti-Semitic caricature of Ariel Sharon was affixed to a mock rendition of Israel’s Gaza defense barrier, Fouse reported.

At another UC school, the University of California – San Diego, conservative author and activist David Horowitz delivered a lecture as an answer to the Muslim Student Association’s (MSA) 2010 Israel Apartheid Week. During an exchange with an MSA member after the talk, Horowitz asked the student if she was “for or against” a statement from the leader of Hezbollah professing that he wanted all the Jews to gather in Israel so he didn’t have to hunt them down globally. The student said she was “for it.” The incident was thankfully captured on film and was picked up by the media, giving the world a glimpse of the horror that is infecting our universities. But the problem only continues to grow.

Credibility of anti-Israeli views is especially reinforced when they are expressed under the auspices of respected organizations like the Jewish Federation and Hillel. The Jewish Federation at Orange County has dismissed this criticism by saying that it provides students with “nominal” funding to participate in OTI trips through its Rose Program and that it is important for Jewish students to have a presence in the program. Numerous citizens, religious leaders, and respected activists, however, are resolute in their outrage over the association. Roz Rothstein and Roberta Seid, PhD, CEO and education director of StandWithUs, respectively, have spoken out about the OTI and its involvement at UC Irvine. To highlight the severity of the concern, Rothstein also attested to witnessing George S. Rishmawi tell an audience that the Israelis had developed a gas that slowed Palestinians down so that they could be shot in the back. There was, sadly, no evidence of what the nature of the gas was, he admitted, because the clever Israelis pick up the canisters before anyone can see them.

The request of the aggrieved is a simple one: no one is disputing the right of individuals like Rishmawi to speak at universities or the right of Jewish students to attend his talks or even adopt his deeply misguided views if they like. Neither is there a desire to see funding stripped from Hillel of UC Irvine or the OC Jewish Federation. The issue that has enraged so many, activists say, is that Jewish philanthropic money is being used to either host these individuals or send young Jewish students into what are quite literally anti-Israel indoctrination retreats abroad.

The justification, supporters say, is ever-fashionable “dialogue.” But what value is there in dialogue with terrorist co-conspirators? Why waste philanthropic resources for trips to the West Bank when students are already exposed to the worst aspects of the dialogue in their own universities? At the very least, we should expect alleged bridge-building programs to produce actual results in terms of peace and understanding — but it has ushered in only more anti-Semitism, more hatred, more legitimacy for the killing of Jews. Renowned world leader Rabbi Aba Dunner, who represents all orthodox rabbis of the U.K. and Europe as executive director of the Conference of European Rabbis, deftly highlighted this absurdity in a recent letter to the OC Jewish Federation CEO, Shalom Elcott. The trend of exposing “youth to all that is available is valid up to a point. But not when it endangers the continuity of the Jewish people.”

Unfortunately, the Jewish Federation of Orange County’s response has so far been unsatisfactory to OTI objectors. The request of concerned parties has consistently been that the Jewish Federation of Orange County disassociate from the OTI, particularly in terms of any funding for student participation in OTI programming, yet there is no evidence that this has been undertaken.   Communities leaders have expressed frustration that the federation will not even investigate the extent of the group’s ulterior motives and its negative impact on Jewish students. This is in stark contrast to Israeli government’s recent decision to probe domestic NGOs, which, although entitled to free expression, may owe much of their ability to wage political warfare against Israel to the financial beneficence of foreign government, activists, and financiers. This engenders the obvious question: if the Israel government is concerned enough to investigate these groups, some of which (Breaking the Silence and Ir Amim) have clear association with the OTI, why won’t the Jewish Federation of Orange County do the same?

A reasonable enough resolution has been raised by the Orange County Independent Task Force on Anti-Semitism, which has formally asked the Orange County Jewish Federation to adopt the Jewish Community of San Francisco’s guidelines for funding. Among other things, the guidelines prohibit funding for any activities that “advocate for, or endorse, undermining the legitimacy of Israel as a secure independent, democratic Jewish state, including through participation in the [BDS] movement, in whole or in part.” Whether such a measure or other reconciliatory actions will be undertaken by the federation is sadly unclear. The need for such action, however, is not.

To find out more, click here.

Ryan Mauro contributed to this report.

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  • USMCSniper

    Why did you delete my comment?

  • USMCSniper

    It is our killer instincts which must be harnessed if we expect to survive in a war with the Jihadists. Our weapons are only tools. It is a hard heart that kills. If our killer instincts are not clean and strong we will hesitate at the moment of truth. We will not kill. We will become dead Americans. And then you will be in a world of trouble. Because there are a billion Muslims and on a few of us who will fight! Do you understand?

    • Andres de Alamaya

      Right on!!!!!

  • Snarky

    How does one research an organization like OTI to learn its sources of funding and actual purpose?

  • Raymond in DC

    It's been suggested that a liberal is one who will take the other's side in an argument. That too often seems to apply to the very liberal Jewish organizations in the US.

    A few years ago it was the SF Jewish Film Festival that featured a film about Rachel Corrie (with the ISM-supporting martyr's mother in attendance). In Washington, DC we had the JCC putting on the anti-Semitic play "Seven Jewish Children" and, more recently, the pro-Palestinian play "Return to Haifa".

    Then, of course, we have the campus Hillels that, when they're not hosting groups like Breaking the Silence and J Street, are dialoging with groups linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. Ironic that they have forgotten Rabbi Hillel's "If I am not for myself, who will be for me?"

    • Steve

      Nobody. It will be complete silence…beleive me…it was silence then, it is silence now, it WILL be silence tomorrow…

  • Andres de Alamaya

    While Muslims produce suicide bombers, the Jewish left produces suicide voters and the suicidal blind.

    • Steve


  • muchiboy

    "delegitimization and demonization of the Jewish State."

    As was shown for Apartheid South Africa and racial Rhodesia there can be legitimate criticism and questioning of the core values and very (existential) existence of such states as they exist.Israel is no exception.If it can be shown that the core values of the Zionist state are inhumane,and the impact on its people,even,and especially, those wrongfully denied their homeland and birthright,anathema to western and humanitarian values,then a similar approach to restructuring this state is both legitimate and morally imperative.That is not to say a restructured Israel cannot serve as a homeland for Jews,but needs to include the Palestinians as equal partners in every sense.Those who cannot live in such a state,Palestinian or Israeli,should settle elsewhere.There are both risks and benefits for all,and much to gain and lose.muchiboy

  • MixMChess

    "If it can be shown that the core values of the Zionist state are inhumane,and the impact on its people,even,and especially, those wrongfully denied their homeland and birthright,anathema to western and humanitarian values,then a similar approach to restructuring this state is both legitimate and morally imperative."

    Very clever, Ronald Grant (aka Naziboy Ontario Corrections Officer), create your own test to apply double standards to Israel. Unfortunately (or fortunately) you are not clever enough to defame Israel even with a self-created standards!

    By your own admission, if a nation has Western and Humanitarian values than it is both legitimate and moral. Israel is without question a legitimate and moral nation, especially when applying your self-created Western and Humanitarian values test… Lets take a closer look shall we?

    Israel does not discriminate against anyone. Israel is an secular democracy is the only country in the Middle East that provides civil rights, human rights and equal rights to all of its citizens regardless of race, religion or sexuality. This includes Israel's 1.5 million Arab citizens which make up roughly 20% of the population. Recall, Israel provides more rights to its Arab citizens than most European nations and every single Arab/Islamic country in the world.

    Israel is the only Middle Eastern country that hosts several gay pride parades throughout the year (in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv). In fact, Jerusalem had a gay mayor! Israel is the only Middle Eastern country that guarantees religious freedom and protects its religious minorities (such as Bahai, Sufi Muslims, Christians etc.).

    Lest we forget that Israel provides humanitarian aid to its neighbors and the world at large. Israel provided over 1 million tons in aid to the Gazans in 2009 alone! Israel also provided the economic aid and security necessary to allow the W. Bank to experience a economic and financial boom in 2008-2009 that continues to this day! But Israel doesn't limit its aid to just the Palestinians. Israel provided humanitarian aid to countries such as Lebanon, Egypt, Iran, Vietnam, Bosnia, Kosovo, Eritrea, Sudan and even Turkey (Earthquake relief in the late 90's).

    In fact, Israel outranks most Western countries when it comes to Western and Humanitarian values. For instance, Britain still uses forms of torture that were permanently banned in Israel over a decade ago. Israel gives full rights to its Arab citizens, whereas countries like France refuse to do the same.

    "That is not to say a restructured Israel cannot serve as a homeland for Jews,but needs to include the Palestinians as equal partners in every sense."

    Israel already treats the Arabs as full and equal citizens under the law. Israel has constantly treated the Palestinians as equals in peace negotiations. Why is it that the Palestinians refuse to accept Jews as equal partners in peace or even as equal human beings? When will the Palestinians stop being xenophobic and renounce their intention of genocide of the Jews?

  • 1000roses

    All who wish to reproduce my comment on mailing lists, repost on other blogs, or send to congress, senators and state representatives, or use for lobbying are welcome to do so. Let justice be served:

    The only solution for a lasting peace is absolute democratic process (that we Americans cherish so passionately) for the entire territory in question, otherwise, the peace will not last. All people who lived there without regard to religion, race, etc. should vote on how they would like their one country to be run. I favor one state solution because two states would only attempt to “legalize” Zionist occupation that will be remembered in history until it is corrected by future large scale conflicts, so no lasting peace will result.

    The only issue with the fair democratic process is what to do with all manipulated Jewish people who the Zionist regime imported for decades to increase the Jewish population from around 100,000 to over 5 Million since the start of the occupation. This is obviously an attempt to unjustly manipulate any future democratic process by forcefully increasing the occupier’s population at the expense of others. Any compromise other than the absolute fair democratic process with no manipulated population will be temporary with terrible conflicts looming to correct it in the future.

    The truth is that the Zionist regime will not accept any democratic process even if the manipulated Jewish population is included because it cannot exist as a democratic country as Zionists will be outvoted by all others who live there (Zionists were in an infinite minority before the occupation). The Zionist regime can only temporarily exist through the force of its arms as a one people country where only select ones can vote and where different laws apply to different people.

    The world must stand up against the Zionist regime by cutting all diplomatic and economic relations with it. Many countries have already stopped all relations with the Zionist regime and others are in the process of doing the same. We Americans need to completely distance ourselves from this oppressive regime through urging our state representatives and senators to do what the rest of the world is doing

  • GreySky

    If it is ever reached, the current and any other artificial “peace agreement” will be illegitimate before it is ever signed because (1) all people living in Palestine regardless of religion, race, origin, etc. (hereinafter “All People of Palestine”) were never given a choice on how they want their land to be governed, and (2) all contracts signed under duress are null and void.
    The biggest problem in Palestine is that the Zionist regime never offered a choice to All People of Palestine on how they want to govern their land because the Zionist regime cannot exist as a democratic entity. If there was ever any democratic process in Palestine, Zionists would have been outvoted and the Zionist regime would have never existed. That is why the Zionist regime is the occupier because it does not offer choice (i.e. democracy), but instead imposes its regime (i.e. occupies). Imagine if Russians would simply occupy a town in the U.S. where they are in significant numbers and attempt to create a Russian state there without giving the rest of the Americans living there a choice. Imagine then if they would try to institute a “peace agreement” that would attempt to legitimize their occupation. The “peace agreement” would logically and legally be illegitimate because the Americans were not given a choice.

    Under all countries’ laws, any contract is null and void if it is signed under duress. The current Palestine “peace agreement” process reminds me of The Godfather movie where the mafia boss (i.e. the Zionist regime) made a guy “an offer he could not refuse” by placing a gun (i.e. Zionist conventional and nuclear arsenal) to his head and making him sign the contract. Like the mafia boss’ offer, any “peace agreement” other than the choice for All People of Palestine is a crime, and the contract is legally null and void.

    The bottom line is that All People of Palestine never wanted to divide their land into artificial two states the way the occupation and this “peace agreement” attempt to divide it. From the beginning of the Zionist regime to its unavoidable end, All People of Palestine and the region never wanted the Zionist regime and they do not want it even more after all the atrocities the Zionist regime committed. I just cannot believe how the Zionist regime can be so ignorant to think that this or any other “peace agreement” that does not allow people to choose how they want to be governed will last and ensure its people’s survival. The Zionist regime fails to realize that no matter if it succeeds in muscling this “peace agreement” by unspeakable historic coercion tens of millions of moral people around the world will oppose it until it is corrected, and until justice and free choice prevail. Also, ever increasing number of Jewish people are realizing that Zionism is becoming a destructive force for them and are leading the global resistance to it

  • Justice4all

    Why would Zionists want to discuss any peace agreement with the Palestinians when they have overwhelming military supremacy, seemingly ultimate power, and apparently bright future? Because the future is completely opposite and Zionists know it.

    1. All military powers in history with no exception ultimately came crashing down. Someone stronger always comes, and it does not take a rocket scientist to see (just look around you) this coming and not ending well for the current military power in Palestine. Forward-seeing Jewish people under the Zionist regime already started packing up and leaving for Australia, South America, and the U.S. before this occurs.

    2. It is obvious that the Zionist regime survives mainly because of its external allies who so far provided it with money, weapons, political support, access to markets, etc. After countless U.N. human rights violations, killing of its allies’ citizens (search on youtube for American “Rachel Corrie” video of Zionist bulldozer crushing her to death), forging of its allies’ passports in acts of murder, etc. its former allies are increasingly turning against the Zionist regime. Who would want to be remembered in history as an accomplice in international murders and especially of their own citizens.

    3. Not only that the list of remaining supporters is growing thinner, but an international coalition is formed and growing larger of countries that are cutting all economic and diplomatic relations with the Zionist regime.

    4. No country ever survived a complete isolation from its neighbors. No person of the area currently under Zionist occupation can obtain any type of visa from any of the surrounding countries for any reason – a complete land lock.

    5. Well attended speeches take place almost weekly at colleges and universities across the U.S. and the world condemning the Zionist regime, their remaining supporters, and companies that do any business there. These speeches are often lead by moral Jewish people, church leaders, business people, etc., in addition to traditional peace activists.

    6. The West where most of the traditional supporters of the Zionist regime are located is loosing global influence. China, the Middle East, South East Asia, Russia, South America, etc. are emerging as new pockets of economic and political power where the Zionist regime has angered most of the population.

    7. Not only that the West is declining, but Zionists are loosing political control in the declining West. Diversity is bringing minority groups into politics, groups that are actively opposing the Zionist regime.
    In conclusion, the Zionist regime is negotiating now because its future is changing for much worse. It knows that it temporarily exists now only through the force of its arms and this will be short-lived. It knows that it is at its peak and a downturn has come. It is a mistake to negotiate with the Zionist regime at the present time. But, if you have to negotiate, do not accept anything less than a single region in question (single state) where all who live there are equal. Any other “solution” would just reward the Zionist regime at the time of its demise. If the Zionist regime wants true piece, let’s not make it dependent on Zionist political and land acquisition goals, but on democratic vote for all who live there and making everyone equal (something we Americans cherish so passionately).

    All who wish to reproduce my comment on mailing lists, repost on other blogs, or send to politicians and public officials are welcome to do so. Let justice be served!