The Patrons of Anti-Israelism

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As to the claim of “balance” frequently touted by OTI supporters and repeated in The Jerusalem Post without scrutiny, a simple look at an OTI itinerary shows that this is not the case. Itineraries show a preponderance of extreme anti-Israelism (including an over-representation of BDS supporters) and Palestinian-exclusive narrative. UC Santa Cruz lecturer Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, who analyzed the 2010 itinerary, asserted that an “overwhelming majority [of speakers] have expressed an overt animus towards” Israel, which she objected to in a letter to Elcott in 2010. In 2009, students were in the Israel region almost five days before they encountered a pro-Israel speaker even remotely comparable to the level of anti-Israel indoctrination they received. Students’ initial impressions of Israeli-Palestinian relations were shaped by: the two Rishmawis; Mazin Qumsiyeh; Zoughbi Zoughbi, an anti-occupation activist and BDS supporter; a Palestinian whose son was killed by the IDF; a Bethlehem resident “affected by the wall,” and a tour of a refugee camp.

The JFOC has also been dishonest in the disclosure of its funding of the OTI. The federation has publicly denied that it provides significant funding to the program. In December of 2010, Jeff Margolis, co-chair of the federation’s Rose Project (through which the federation says it funds the OTI), told Pajamas Media that the project provides “nominal” funding of the OTI, and Margolis told the Post that the federation was “only one of a number of sponsors.” But in fact, the federation letter to Chancellor Drake regarding the Hamas meeting identifies the federation as the “largest funder” of the OTI and further describes the federation as being central to the program’s development. Moreover, documents recently obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show that the Rose Project has given tens of thousands of dollars to the OTI in the last several years. Notably, in the Post article, neither Elcott nor Margolis denied that Jewish communal funds have been used to fund the program, as Post editor Caroline Glick alluded to in a recent column. The use of communal philanthropic funds has been a major bone of contention for opponents of the OTI, and is a characterization that the federation has objected to. In all reality, however, the issue of communal fund use is largely moot, as any support whatsoever for the program is objectionable.

The purpose of the OTI is clear for anyone with eyes to see: by taking the most anti-Israel of the anti-Israel fringe and putting it on par and in such considerable proportion to mainstream views on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the OTI seeks to render virulent anti-Israelism mainstream by association. And contrary to what the OTI claims, where these insidious views are provided a legitimate platform, the public discourse drastically degenerates and naked anti-Semitism thrives. The campus at UC Irvine, home to Israeli Apartheid Week, provides an overwhelmingly hospitable environment for these anti-Israel views, and has been identified as a center of anti-Semitic activity by the Anti-Defamation League. It is not coincidental that the university put itself on the map last year when students associated with the school’s Muslim Student Union attempted to shout-down a speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, defaming him and his country with outlandish accusations of genocide. On May 31, the Chabad House at UC Irivine, home to the rabbi and his wife, was vandalized, its front window smashed. The perpetrators remain unknown; the environment that enabled them is not.

[A pledge to prevent Jewish federation funding of BDS-related activity has been developed in response to the Olive Tree Initiative. To view the pledge, click here.]

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  • Raymond in DC

    Jewish communal leaders often wonder why fewer Jews are supporting Federation activities. Well, they should look inward to see how some of their sponsored activities have deviated from Jewish communal interests and values as, for example, promoting Rachel Corrie at a San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, putting on anti-Semitic plays like "Seven Jewish Children" at Washington's Theater J, or bringing groups supporting BDS under the Jewish "tent".

    • Alexander Gofen

      You are absolutely correct: spiritual Jews must disassociate themselves from the so called "Federation", ADL, and similar liberast "Jewish" misnomers, which only bring shame (and catastrophies) on our people.



    • MixMChess

      No, but being moral (regardless of your religion or lack thereof) means that you should support Zionism and Israel. Of course, if you support terrorism, torture, murder and hate human life, by all means, support the immoral Palestinians. Just don't get all salty eyed when you get called out for being a hate-monger.

      I am American number one. I don't believe in the whole dual citizenship mumbo-jumbo. As an American I have been inculcated with a duty to support democratic allies that are free and moral nations and support civil rights and liberal ideas such as gay rights. Based on that criteria alone I strongly support Israel.

      Get a clue.

  • Shmuel

    This article is a gross misrepresentation of the Olive Tree Initiative. It is unfortunate that Front Page is incapable of providing an objective analysis of the Olive Tree. Sure there are legitimate criticisms, but it is obvious that the purpose of this article is to delegitimize the program.

    • Robert

      Mr. Shmuel: Are you aware that what has been written by the supporters of the OTI only superficially, if at all, addresses the points in the FP article? Do you find it odd that the leadership of the JFOC would write an alarming letter to the Chancellor of UCI about the 2009 OTI trip, then gloss over the incident and fail to address the substantive issues about OTI sessions with virulent anti-Israel speakers?
      I found it interesting that you made the statement "but it is obvious that the purpose of this article is to delegitimize the program. " I thought that delegitimization in this day and age was a policy almost restricted to Israel. A smile emoticon might be appropriate here, but the subject is too serious even for jest.

    • mlcblog

      I believe you may be being misled and trusting people who are wrong.

  • Alexander Gofen

    We are in existential war with Islam. Those who seek negotiation offering an "olive tree" to the mortal enemy during the war are traitors – even if their actions were based on naivete (and they are not). Those nothing-but-ethnic "Jews", alas, exemplify the birth defect characterizing our people.

    "Raymond in DC" is correct: spiritual Jews must disassociate themselves from the so called "Federation", ADL, and similar liberast "Jewish" misnomers which only bring shame (and catastrophies) on our people.

  • garyfouse

    The Post article conveniently omits any mention of the 2009 meeting with Aziz Duwaik. It also omits how the Fed and Hillel in OC tried to smear Dee Sterling in 2010 for raising the first objections about the ISM people involved in OTI. All the while, they were neglecting to inform the community of this 2009 mess with Duwaik.

    Now empty-suit Elcott takes his road show to Israel and the best explanation for this venture is that Jewish students will learn the debating points of the other side and be better advocates for Israel.

    How lame is that?

    It is also inaccurate and unfair to label OTI critics as "right-wing extremists".

    Wait until one of these kids gets harmed in the West Bank and watch the lawsuits fly aganst anyone associated with this monster.

  • garyfouse

    I note that Campus Watch has cross-posted this piece with (Inc Tammi Rossman-Benjamin) attached to the title.

    I don't understand this. Tammi is a strong supporter of Israel and an opponent of OTI. The article notes her own research into the OTI. The addition of her name in the title implies that she is part of the problem. She is not. Could someone please clarify this for me?