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Members of Brooklyn College’s Palestinian Club recently held an Israel bashing political street theater performance during their annual “Israel Apartheid Week” hate-fest. They staged a mock Israeli “checkpoint,” acting out the “brutal Israeli occupation” (sic) with students dressed as IDF soldiers harassing keffiyeh-clad “Palestinians” who were on their knees, blindfolded.
Alarmed Jewish students wondered whether to complain or do something in response. Rather than counter this with the customary tepid response from Jewish students groups with the lighting of candles and displaying photos to memorialize Jewish victims of suicide bombing attacks, Wiesenfeld advised that a bolder approach was necessary. Those who seek Israel’s destruction love to see dead Jews. We need to answer them with some factual street theater of our own to show why there are checkpoints. Jewish students should dress up as Shahids and strap on mock suicide belts. Acting out scenes of bloody carnage, they would yell out “Allahu Akbar!” as they pulled the cord. Holding up pictures of burnt out buses, bombed pizza parlors, terrorist carnage, and signs saying, “Hamas,” Hezbollah,” “Peace without Israel,” would make a hard-hitting counter-statement. But Hillel and other Jewish student groups shied away saying they wanted no part of such provocation. One brave Brooklyn College student invited David Horowitz, a controversial conservative speaker and the Jewish groups still declined to support. This sad state of spinelessness and acquiescence must be overcome if we hope to challenge the propaganda war against Israel on campus.
Wiesenfeld described a particularly ugly episode he was involved in earlier this year when he spoke out candidly at a CUNY Board of Trustees meeting in defense of Israel. He objected to the awarding of an honorary degree to playwright Tony Kushner, on the grounds that his anti-Israel views crossed the line from mere criticism of Israel to blood libel against Israel and the Jewish people. Kushner serves on the board of the radical leftwing organization, “Jewish Voices for Peace” which promotes the BDS campaign for the destruction of the State of Israel. He called Israel’s founding a “mistake,” and accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians. This accusation was a false libelous charge. Other board members agreed with Wiesenfeld’s objection and the motion to grant the honorary degree was defeated and further discussion was tabled. In response to the torrent of protest against the board’s decision and Wiesenfeld in particular, the board hastily scheduled an executive meeting and reversed their decision allowing Kushner to receive the honorary degree.
The ensuing backlash, gained momentum even after the board reversed course. After Kushner fired off an angry letter defending himself as the victim of a “vicious attack,” ironically claiming he is a supporter of Israel and that Wiesenfeld is a right-wing extremist, the New York Times, New York’s cultural and political elites and the entire academic community rallied in Kushner’s defense and directed their wrath at Wiesenfeld. It wasn’t surprising that the virulent anti-Israel CUNY faculty union, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), the American Association of University Professors, and other radical leftwing academic associations stood up for Kushner and branded Wiesenfeld with the customary “McCarthyism” accusation. The academic world has united in censorship and punishment of a brave soul who dared to challenge the accepted anti-Israel orthodoxy on campus. But what was particularly disheartening was the silence from the major Jewish organizations, some of whom even joined the fray in demonizing Wiesenfeld.
It’s shameful that the organizations that are tasked with defending the Jewish people, have succumbed to the comfort zone of silence in the war against Israel that emanates from campus and trickles down through the citizenry. When Wiesenfeld refused to accept the status quo and stood up bravely to defend Israel, all Jewish people and organizations should have rallied to his side instead of yielding in submission to the widespread bashing of Israel. Fortunately there were a few good Jewish organizations that defended him in the storm over the Kushner degree that raged in New York. Pro-Israel groups such as Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME), StandWithUs, Camera, ZOA, and NCJA stood with Wiesenfeld and fired off letters and press releases to the media, wrote articles and took to the blogosphere. It’s a hopeful sign that more and more Jews and pro-Israel organizations are cropping up and actively joining the war of ideas against the repeated lies and demonization of the State of Israel. Wiesenfeld sets a heroic example as a brave fighter single-handedly facing the rising tide of anti-Semitism and the deafening silence from fellow Jews. He called on the supporters of Israel in the Jewish community to follow his lead.
The program came to a close with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous words when he equated anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism:
“How easy it should be, for anyone who holds dear this inalienable right of all mankind, to understand and support the right of the Jewish People to live in their ancient Land of Israel. All men of good will exult in the fulfillment of God’s promise, that his People should return in joy to rebuild their plundered land.
This is Zionism, nothing more, nothing less.
And what is anti-Zionist? It is the denial to the Jewish people of a fundamental right that we justly claim for the people of Africa and freely accord all other nations of the Globe. It is discrimination against Jews, my friend, because they are Jews. In short, it is anti-Semitism….
Let my words echo in the depths of your soul: When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews–make no mistake about it.”
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Phil Orenstein is the Machine Shop Manager at Orics Industries Inc., NY., formerly an adjunct lecturer on Computer Aided Manufacturing at Queensborough Community College. He is a political activist who blogs at Democracy-Project.com and a member of the National Conference on Jewish Affairs.