Organizations tasked with defending Jews succumb to the comfort zone of silence.
As Israel becomes increasingly isolated in the world, an organized propaganda war of hatred and incitement against Israel and Zionism is being conducted on college campuses today. Recently, on November 14, the aptly named event, “The Ugly War Against Israel on College Campuses” at Temple Beth Sholom in Roslyn Heights was an inspirational call to action to stand up for Israel with the faith and integrity of Abraham. Those students and alumni who speak out and fight on the battlefield of our college campuses will make all the difference.
The event was part of an ongoing lecture series sponsored by the Rabbi Herbert Tarr North Shore Institute for Adult Jewish Education. The house was packed with students and attendees from across the political spectrum. Supporters of AIPAC, StandWithUs, a pro-Israel advocacy organization, National Association of Scholars (NAS), and others were in attendance. Various members of the National Conference on Jewish Affairs (NCJA), a new pro-Israel, anti-Islamist umbrella organization of Jewish leaders and groups were handing out literature. They work closely with young Jewish students in the belly of the beast on campus.
The propaganda war against Israel was addressed by two eminent speakers, Irving Roth, Director of Temple Judea’s Holocaust Resource Center and international educator, and Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, trustee of the City University of New York (CUNY) and former FBI Foreign counter-intelligence agent. They both presented personal experiences, research and anecdotal reports on the movement to delegitimize Israel that has overrun college campuses and extends its cult-like tentacles into New York’s highest political and cultural circles, and most importantly, how to fight it.
“The soul of America is at stake. The battlefield of our college campuses is where the fight for the soul of America takes place.” Irving Roth, a Holocaust survivor, trumpeted this message about the urgency of the battle we face as he opened our eyes to the troubling extent of the infiltration of campuses by anti-Israel professors, administrators, department chairs and the Muslim Students Association (MSA), an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. He laid out the alarming details of how well-funded, well-organized and long-standing is this ubiquitous propaganda movement, and just as deadly as the nonstop terrorist violence against Israel.
From the birth of the State of Israel in 1948, Arab armies could not defeat her on the battlefield so they sought to convert American college campuses to a propaganda machine to lionize Islam and demonize Israel. This ongoing campaign of hate and anti-Semitism has been well funded by Saudi Arabian petrodollars with professorships on sale for upwards of $50 million to peddle the Palestinian narrative that Israel is an “apartheid state” that is “occupying” Palestine.
Roth explained that the propaganda tool “apartheid state” was initially applied to Israel at the 2001 Durban “conference against racism,” the first of a series of UN sponsored hate-fests equating Zionism with racism held in South Africa, in order to brand Israel with the likeness of apartheid South Africa. The international outcry against South Africa, where the white ruling minority legally sanctioned segregation for blacks and declared them second class citizens who could not vote, hold office, were denied citizenship and civil rights, was such a powerful mobilizing force that Arab propagandists used it to rally international condemnation against Israel. Roth shared a story of visiting an Israeli hospital, where Jews, Arabs, Christians, and Muslims are all given the same level of care, to show that equating Israel with apartheid is the biggest lie in the world.
The “Big Lie” was taken to campuses and marketed nationally as annual hate-fests named “Israel Apartheid Week” and the global crusade to Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) Israel, based on Israel’s alleged “apartheid” policies. Repeating lies often enough that they will be believed, is the method of indoctrination used on campus by the MSA and its affiliates. This campaign of malicious lies and false scholarship to delegitimize Israel orchestrated by the MSA has been going on for decades where branches have been set up on 150 campuses in America. Well-financed, militant, professional Arab activists enroll in a few classes to qualify as students and infiltrate the college system.
In order to confront this rampant academic deceit, Roth insisted that Jewish students need to be pro-active in the classroom and stand up against lies and defamation of Israel when they hear it from professors or fellow students. Just as the IDF and U.S. soldiers sacrifice their life for freedom and democracy on the battlefield, students are making the relatively small sacrifice of potentially lower grades by speaking out in the classroom.
With an Evangelical Christian population numbering over 80 million in America, Roth admonished us to join together with our Christian neighbors who show stronger support for Israel than most Jews. Roth shared experiences of Evangelical services he attended were he heard spiritual paeans to the State of Israel that moved him to tears. He urged us to share our heritage with college students. For two millennium, the Jewish people have been rejected from countries throughout the world. Now at long last we have the Jewish State, a safe haven that can welcome our people home. We need to teach our youth what the blessing of Israel means to the Jewish people and to stand up and defend it.
Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, the son of Holocaust survivors himself, has often raised his voice fearlessly in defense of the State of Israel and the condition of Jewry worldwide and has repeatedly faced negative repercussions from certain segments of the Jewish community. He railed at these “Jewish enablers” of anti-Israel defamation who disregard the Torah and the commandments, and instead worship at the altar of “social justice.” They are the idolaters of today. He expressed outrage against the Jewish organizations that stood by silently and some of whom, together with the entire academic community condemned him when he stood up forthrightly defending the Jewish State.
Wiesenfeld gave us a taste of the rampant anti-Zionist and anti-Israel fervor on campuses nationwide that has been exacerbated recently by the hostile stance of President Obama toward Israel. He pointed out that the most anti-Israel president in history, who has sold out Israel to curry favor with our adversaries, has given the green light for animus toward Jews and Israel to gather momentum on campuses today.
Anti-Israel events such as “Palestine Day” and “Palestine Awareness Week” at such colleges as University of Pennsylvania, Bryn Mawr College, and many others made the case that Israel, created through “ethnic cleansing” needs to be eliminated, replete with mobs chanting “death to Zionism” and “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” Violent anti-Israel riots broke out at Concordia University preventing Netanyahu from speaking after being invited by a Jewish student group. Recently a professor was heard screaming “death to Israel” at a Kent State event where Ishmael Khaldi, an Arab Israeli diplomat was speaking.
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.