AEPi Sigma Pi Stands with Israel?

Israel/Palestine
on 41 Comments

Update:

Adam Cook, president of the Sigma Pi chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi, asked that his response be removed from the site. He said he wants to make clear that that post below only represents the views and opinion of Benjamin Lawrence, and doesn’t represent the Sigma Pi chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi at American University. Lawrence stands by the facts in his post.

Original Post:

The date is November 14, 2009 as I wait patiently during initiation to approach my future fraternity brothers of the Sigma Pi chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi at American University. It has been a long-time ritual that as part of entering the brotherhood, one must declare their undying support for Israel. Standing quietly, I wait for my turn to put my hand over my heart and say, “AEPi stands with Israel” As I wait patiently, I think to myself, “Do I support everything Israel does?”

As my pledge master started to say the blessing over the candles, I began to think to myself, “What does it even mean to stand with Israel? Does that mean supporting Israel’s human rights violations in the West Bank?” Prior to entering the ceremony, I had never talked about Israel with any other members of the fraternity, and did not find this to be the opportune time to do so. Finally, the ceremony began and I started to think about Israel’s most recent war in the Gaza Strip in 2008-2009. I did not support Israel in its offensive in which Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Kadima was responsible for a massacre that killed 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis (4 of the Israelis were killed by members of the Israel Defense Forces.) Prior to Israel’s assault on Gaza, Israel had launched an offensive attack on Lebanon in 2006. I began to realize that I did not stand with the Israeli government’s latest wars and unjust policies. Finally, it was my turn to put my hand over my heart and say, “AEPi stands with Israel.” I did it.

As time went on, the Jewish majority that our chapter once held began to change rapidly. Most Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity chapters have a ratio of 90 percent Jewish members and 10 percent non-Jewish members. Our chapter at American University is about 60 percent Jewish and 40 percent non-Jewish. With a more diverse crowd of brothers in the fraternity, suddenly the discussions on Israel were growing more intense and I began to be exposed to racism and intense debate. As I debated with various brothers on Israel/American politics I became aware that a handful of brothers were openly racist, and that there were people who were not afraid to hang their Confederate flags next to their Israeli flags in their room. This only re-instilled in my mind the notion that Zionism was indeed a form of racism, and that any plan that puts Jews over Arabs is racist.

The last initiation that I would witness was for the spring class of 2012. As I stood waiting for the class to be initiated, I heard a brother shout that we must include the ritual passage of “AEPi stands with Israel.” The room fell silent and suddenly the Pledge Master raised his voice and said, “We do not say that anymore.” I began to feel my heart pounding faster because I knew during my initiation that I felt uneasy about saying “AEPi stands with Israel.” Suddenly an argument had broken out and the fighting began. People started pointing fingers and calling people “bad Jews” for not standing with the State of Israel or for not observing certain aspects of the Jewish religion. Does standing with Israel mean supporting the settlers’ movement? Does it mean supporting the discriminatory laws within the Green Line that favor Jews over Arabs? Does it mean supporting Israel’s illegal occupation, blockade, and oppression of the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank? The answer is that I DO NOT stand with Israel as it continues practicing apartheid within the Green Line and beyond.

41 Responses

  1. Abu Malia
    August 3, 2012, 10:04 am

    “The answer is that I DO NOT stand with Israel as it continues practicing apartheid within the Green Line and beyond.”

    Amen, Hallelujah and Alahu Akbar!

    • Mooser
      August 3, 2012, 5:12 pm

      I wonder if Benjamin has openly repudiated his oath to the fraternity leadership?

      • Ellen
        August 4, 2012, 3:44 am

        Also my first thought. No easy under all the frat group pressure, but the right thing to do. What are frats doing making oaths on University Campuses to foreign countries?

      • Mooser
        August 5, 2012, 12:48 pm

        What the hell is any intelligent guy doing in a “frat” in the first place?

      • MRW
        August 5, 2012, 1:38 pm

        Does it get public funds?

  2. Taxi
    August 3, 2012, 4:13 pm

    Bravo Benjamin!

  3. Taxi
    August 3, 2012, 4:30 pm

    Do them aepi-sigma-pi of alpha epsilon pi-ers actually get to say “We stand with the United States of America” at any of their… ehm… rituals?

    Just asking.

    Cuz if they don’t…. then I should like to say: tsk tsk tsk with a boom and a bang.

    And that Adam Cook – the nervousness underlying the outrage in his letter – a microcosm of today’s state of zionism in America? A Jewish Spring in the basement?

    • Mooser
      August 3, 2012, 5:20 pm

      “And that Adam Cook – the nervousness underlying the outrage in his letter”

      Somebody reminded him ‘if it’s on Mondo, Mooser will probably see it, and comment on it’, so he e-mailed in a panic, asking for a quick expungement. Wise man.

    • AllenBee
      August 4, 2012, 11:59 am

      In May 2011 as the drama of the neutralizing of Osama bin Laden was broadcast on C Span, link to c-span.org
      with shots of Obama & others watching as the actions unfolded, one of C Span’s cover pages displayed a still photo of a crowd of young people magically assembled in front of the White House, well after midnight on a Monday.

      I thought it was curious that young people would have assembled in a such a timely fashion, at such a late hour on a work night. Young people in DC party hard, but they are uncommon ambitious, and work hard too; the sidewalks roll up relatively early on work nights.

      The revelers were identified on-air as “students from nearby Catholic University.”

      After about 5 or 6 hours, the photo was removed.
      But there’s a screen shot in odd corners in the ethernet.
      The screenshot of the crowd shows a woman w/ blonde hair, apparently on someone’s shoulders, holding an American flag outstretched behind her. She’s wearing a black sweatshirt with the AEPi logo on it in gold letters.

      Doesn’t mean a thing, I suppose. Anybody can buy a sweatshirt.

  4. Mooser
    August 3, 2012, 5:03 pm

    “People started pointing fingers and calling people “bad Jews” for not standing with the State of Israel or for not observing certain aspects of the Jewish religion.”

    People! Please! A little tribal unity, please! Order! Now hold on, the Holacaust killed millions of us, I would think those of us who are left can get along. Wait a minute, over there, it was clearly stated no truncheons were allowed… Hey, what’s that over…oh crap, he’s got a gun!!! Run…!

    • Mooser
      August 3, 2012, 6:00 pm

      As I’ve observed before on Mondoweiss, when elite Jewish-Americans start to out-Jew each other, run! The shivs will be out!

      Where does this behavior come from? Did they award medals or certificates or movie passes or baseball tickets to the ‘best Jew of the week’ in their Hebrew school or something? When somebody is a “bad Jew” who do you tell? Do people grab the Rabbi after service, pull him (or her) into an unused office and whisper “I hate to mention this Rebbe, but so-and-so is a bad Jew!”
      Of course, what really frightens me, and if you read Hophmi’s and Ferdfortz and the rest of them is this: That there are people walking around thinking “I’m a good Jew, better than this Jew and that Jew is just a bad Jew. Why, gosh darn it, I’m the best Jew what ever am!”
      Make ya’ puke, know what I mean?

      • Charles Barwin
        August 4, 2012, 1:47 am

        There was a comment on here I believe about Bibi, Freud, and others thinking themselves the next Moses.

        What were the original Zionists and founders of Israel but atheists who overcame life’s brutal mortality by worshiping themselves as modern prophets, Palestine as a golden calf, and the Jewish “race” as supermen?

        I doubt Bibi, Adelson, Bloomberg, and Rahm believe in God, but they believe themselves to be God-like. Shumer says he is Israel’s shomer, or protector.

        “A little-known but very ambitious Warburg project between the wars was the “Agro-Joint.” Established in 1924 and financed by Felix Warburg, Julius Rosenwald (of Sears, Roebuck), and John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the “American Jewish Joint Agricultural Corporation” funnelled millions of dollars into Soviet Russia to transplant hundreds of thousands of Jews to 215 farming colonies on two and a half million acres.

        …This channeling of money to Soviet Russia greatly upset Zionist leaders such as Stephen Wise and Chaim Weizmann, who grumbled that the millions should have been directed instead to building a Jewish presence in Palestine. Weizmann worked very hard to win Warburg family support for the establishment of a Jewish state there. The Warburgs were skeptical of Zionism, though, fearing that a Jewish state would supplant the traditional organizations, which they headed, as the nexus of Jewish political power.”

        link to ihr.org

      • AllenBee
        August 5, 2012, 2:00 pm

        “. . .“A little-known but very ambitious Warburg project between the wars was the “Agro-Joint.” Established in 1924 and financed by Felix Warburg, Julius Rosenwald (of Sears, Roebuck), and John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the “American Jewish Joint Agricultural Corporation”

        That name keeps popping up —

        Nina Rosenwald, the Sugar-Mama of Anti-Muslim Hate, by Max Blumenthal “. . . a little-known think tank called the Gatestone Institute rolled out the red carpet for [Geert Wilders]. On April 30, before a select crowd that according to Gatestone’s website had paid $10,000 a head, he held forth on the persecution he had endured during his recent trial for incitement to hatred and discrimination. . . .At the April event, Wilders’s seamless fusion of anti-Muslim bombast and pro-Israel cant was gratefully received by the Gatestone Institute’s founder and director, Nina Rosenwald, whom he acknowledged at the top of his jeremiad as another of his good friends. An heiress to the Sears Roebuck fortune, Rosenwald spreads her millions through the William Rosenwald Family Fund, a nonprofit foundation named for her father, a famed Jewish philanthropist who created the United Jewish Appeal in 1939. His daughter’s focus is more explicitly political. According to a report by the Center for American Progress titled “Fear Inc.,” Rosenwald and her sister Elizabeth Varet, who also directs the family foundation, have donated more than $2.8 million since 2000 to “organizations that fan the flames of Islamophobia.”

        A few generations earlier, Martha Dodd, the daughter of the American ambassador to Germany 1933-1937, married

        millionaire Alfred Kaufmann Stern, “an investment broker[20] who acquired great wealth in a prior divorce from the daughter of Sears Roebuck tycoon Julius Rosenwald.

        Alfred & Martha Dodd Stern were Communist spies who, in 1956, fled to Prague rather than comply with FBI subpoenaes to testify concerning their activities. They never returned to the USA.
        —-

        BDS Sears?

      • AllenBee
        August 5, 2012, 2:19 pm

        Otto Warburg: German botanist; born in Hamburg July 20, 1859. From 1879 to 1883 he studied at the universities of Bonn, Berlin, and Strasburg. Having graduated from the last-named university, he continued his studies at Munich and Tübingen; and from 1885 until 1889 he traveled through southern and eastern Asia. He settled in Berlin and became privat-docent in botany at the university in 1891. In the following year he was appointed teacher of tropical botany and agriculture at the Oriental Seminary, and received the title of professor in 1897. A few years ago Warburg began to interest himself in Jewish agricultural colonization, for which purpose he visited the East in 1900, 1901, and 1903; and he founded the first Jewish settlements in Asia Minor. He worked as an active administrative member of the Esra, an organization for the agricultural movement among the German Jews, and in connection therewith founded in Palestine the Neuhof Agricultural Society.
        . . .
        From 1897 to 1903 Warburg was the publisher and editor of “Der Tropenpflanzer,” a journal of tropical agriculture and the organ of the Colonial Agricultural Committee. He is besides one of the principal collaborators on the Zionistic periodicals “Palästina” and “Altneuland.” Warburg is also chairman of the Palestine Commission of the Zionist Congress and a member of the smaller Actions Comité.

      • Mooser
        August 6, 2012, 11:24 am

        “There was a comment on here I believe about Bibi, Freud, and others thinking themselves the next Moses.”

        I thought once that I would be the next Moses, but I turned out to be just another Joshua. Anyway, my career in civil engineering never panned out.

      • Charles Barwin
        August 6, 2012, 3:51 pm

        AllenBee: “BDS Sears?”
        The obvious next step, now that we’re “Trapped”, is to BDS all of these ‘Firster mofos, including the Federal Reserve Note, as much as we possibly can.

  5. Mooser
    August 3, 2012, 5:06 pm

    “The answer is that I DO NOT stand with Israel as it continues practicing apartheid within the Green Line and beyond.”

    “Finally, it was my turn to put my hand over my heart and say, “AEPi stands with Israel.” I did it.”

    So which is it, pal? Or do you just go whichever way the wind blows at the time? Don’t tell me you got to college without being aware of what Israel is? What racism is? What colonialism is? What apartheid is?

  6. Mooser
    August 3, 2012, 5:16 pm

    “I DO NOT stand with Israel as it continues practicing apartheid within the Green Line and beyond.”

    But of course, you do stand with Israel as the Jewish State, don’t you? And that there must be a Jewish State in Israel, or we is all goners, huh?

  7. David Samel
    August 3, 2012, 7:48 pm

    This only re-instilled in my mind the notion that Zionism was indeed a form of racism, and that any plan that puts Jews over Arabs is racist.

    Benjamin, this gets right to the heart of the matter. It is astounding that this utterly reasonable view is considered so extreme and fringe. When I was your age, the UN was passing the Zionism racism resolution, and I shared the prevailing view that it was grossly unfair and antisemitic, so you’re way ahead of me on figuring this out. Good for you!

    • sardelapasti
      August 4, 2012, 12:26 am

      Yes, but on the other hand it seems at least halfway absurd to expect anything even halfway civilized from a goliardic knucklehead secret society (which, to make it way worse, is mindbogglingly majority “Jewish” –no better proof that “Jewish is the new WASP”!)
      So, good for Benjamin to have woken up to the racism, but expecting these barbarians whose only Greek is some letter names *not* to be racist sounds like joining the KKK to end segregation.

  8. Taxi
    August 4, 2012, 1:57 am

    Some UK jews are waking up too:

    link to haaretz.com

    • Blake
      August 4, 2012, 11:27 am

      Matthew Gould was chosen (no pun intended) for that position because he is a (hasbara) Zionist Jew first and foremost.

  9. Avi_G.
    August 4, 2012, 3:23 am

    I didn’t read this article before the “response” was removed.

    But, why was it removed? Unless the response was an e-mail or an audio recording, surely then, Adam Cooke should have no expectation of privacy in that regard.

    In addition, if Cooke objects to the response being posted verbatim, then perhaps Benjamin could rephrase it, or summarize it and include that in his article.

    I simply don’t understand why Mondoweiss removed Cooke’s response upon his request.

    And whatever happened to freedom of expression? Did Benjamin sign some sort of a non-disclosure agreement with Cooke?

    What gives?

    • Annie Robbins
      August 4, 2012, 10:53 am

      avi, my recollection of cooke’s response is that he denied the events as benjamin described. perhaps he shot of an email that wasn’t entirely accurate..i don’t know. perhaps he realized his response would create even a larger controversy.

      anyway, i don’t know why it was removed.

      • Mooser
        August 5, 2012, 12:54 pm

        “anyway, i don’t know why it was removed.”

        Why question a simple act of decency and mercy? Must give some consideration to the hypothesis that in between the euphoria and the amnesia a rational phase obtains for a period.

    • Mooser
      August 5, 2012, 1:08 pm

      If I’m not mistaken, wouldn’t a lot of Jews have been slaves under the Greeks? I mean, just saying…

      • sardelapasti
        August 5, 2012, 7:13 pm

        Not necessarily. Judging from the little we have, not more than any other ethnicity (including other-city Greeks) in any period, including the Eastern Roman Empire. Except possibly for a limited time during the repression of the very murderous Jewish riots of Alexandria, given that the mayhem-makers were mainly Jewish.

      • RoHa
        August 5, 2012, 7:54 pm

        “wouldn’t a lot of Jews have been slaves under the Greeks?”

        There would have been some in the post-Alexandrian period. Slaves were usually captured in war, and there were not many Greek wars fought in Palestine until Alexander.

        Of course, after the Jewish rebellions there were a lot of Jewish slaves under the Romans.

        Incidentally, membership of US fraternities is often referred to as “Greek life”. Those of us who know what ancient Greek life was like recall that associations between Greek men were frequently rather – um – intense. Makes me wonder about these fraternities.

  10. Annie Robbins
    August 4, 2012, 3:31 am

    thank you benjamin.

  11. Annie Robbins
    August 4, 2012, 11:10 am

    i find this fascinating. it means there is a shift happening if a traditionally pro israel jewish fraternity is opening debating support for israel. from new voices (national jewish student magazine) about a palestinian student who joined a different jewish fraternity at American University, Sigma Alpha Mu…’sammy’ for short:

    To Samirah, that contrasted with Alpah Epsilon Pi, the other Jewish frat at AU. When Samirah was looking at AEPi as a potential brotherhood he’d like to join, he wasn’t as comfortable with the pro-Israel sentiments that were monolithic in the group, he said.

    “I felt kind of left out in certain situations when I was talking to people just because they learned the fact that I was Palestinian, whereas in Sammy when they learned I was Palestinian, they were like, ‘Oh, wow, this is intriguing,’” Samirah said.

    link to blog.newvoices.org

    it sounds like the pro-Israel sentiments are no longer monolithic at AEPi.

    • Charles Barwin
      August 4, 2012, 1:41 pm

      The goyim’s best hope is double agent sayanim.

      The Zionist enterprise would crumble if courageous universalist Jews exposed more Steiner Affairs link to mjayrosenberg.com , which probably happen every single day.

      Following the most primative pre-Enlightenment tribalist supremacists to perpetual war and overreach, for the sake of “Jewish solidarity”, is no kind of moral code fit for the 21st century.

  12. russgreen
    August 4, 2012, 1:00 pm

    Thank you, Benjamin, my Jewish brother. Yasher Koach. Well done. You have done a mitzvah for tikkun olam. (A good deed for repairing the brokenness of the world.) This is one of the best, most revealing, most encouraging articles I have read lately. It should be forwarded widely.
    — Russ Greenleaf

    • Mooser
      August 6, 2012, 11:33 am

      “Thank you, Benjamin, my Jewish brother. Yasher Koach. Well done. You have done a mitzvah for tikkun olam. (A good deed for repairing the brokenness of the world.) This is one of the best, most revealing, most encouraging articles I have read lately. It should be forwarded widely.”

      Restraint….must practice restraint…just let it pass…scroll on down the page…..there, that’s better. I nearly said something he’d regret.

  13. RoHa
    August 4, 2012, 11:24 pm

    O.K. I never understood this fraternity business anyway, even when I was teaching at US universities. Now here we find that students at a US university which is actually named “American University” pledge support to a foreign country and display, in their rooms, not only the flag of that country, but also the flag of the Confederacy. The Confederacy ceased to exist in 1865.

    Anyone want to take up the task of persuading me that Americans are not nuts?

    • Mooser
      August 5, 2012, 1:07 pm

      “Anyone want to take up the task of persuading me that Americans are not nuts?”

      Not me, brother, not me. Besides, what’s wrong with trying to return to an imaginary, media-created past, if you can afford it? What else is money and education for?

      • anan
        August 5, 2012, 4:05 pm

        Mooser, what is wrong with everyone being a little “nuts”?

        :-)

        All the greatest people in human history that I can think of were considered nuts by many of their contemporaries.

      • Mooser
        August 6, 2012, 11:38 am

        “All the greatest people in human history that I can think of were considered nuts by many of their contemporaries.”

        Yes, Anan, it’s clear from your activity here how people react to you.

    • Roya
      August 5, 2012, 10:05 pm

      Also interesting to note that American University is a Christian university. This perhaps explains why this chapter has a lower Jewish-to-non-Jewish ratio than usual, but even if it were a “Christian Zionist” university it would be ridiculous for any university-affiliated organization to require students to pledge allegiance to the “Jewish state.”

  14. Roya
    August 5, 2012, 3:09 pm

    Ironic that the university is American University and the fraternity pledges devotion to Israel. I wonder if they also pledge devotion to America…? But thanks Benjamin.

  15. kabobfingers
    August 8, 2012, 8:58 pm

    “I DO NOT stand with Israel as it continues practicing apartheid within the Green Line and beyond”.

    This line is powerful. As you stated, presently the government isn’t doing what it needs to do in order to work towards peace. But, if it were to make some new progressive steps towards peace, would many Israel critics acknowledge it? I’d hope so but I doubt it. This is the reason why I like your last statement so much- because it is a qualifier…you are against the state AS LONG as it continues what it is doing. Unlike many criticisms this is productive. And if what one seeks is peace and equality, why waste time with hateful unproductive criticisms?

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