Israel and its apologists can no longer defend the country on its merits, instead they must try to suppress debate

ActivismIsrael/PalestineUS Politics
on 22 Comments

In yesterday’s New York Daily News, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin scurrilously attacks Brooklyn College President Karen Gould and the university’s Political Science Department for encouraging an open debate on campus about Israel’s apartheid policies toward Palestinians. She baselessly charges that I, having spoken yesterday on campus, support “anti-Semitic” policies, “condone terrorism,” and “advocate the elimination of the Jewish state” in my effort to change U.S. policy toward Israel and the Palestinians to support human rights, international law and equality.

ShatteredHopes_JK_FilesforPrinter.inddCuriously, despite the recent publication of my book Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace, dozens of op-eds, and hundreds of lectures on college campuses, Rossman-Benjamin marshals not one iota of evidence to substantiate these allegations because it does not exist.

As the grandson of a Holocaust survivor of a Nazi concentration camp, I understand “never again” to mean that all human beings have an obligation to abhor and dismantle all forms of racism and bigotry, which includes opposing Israel’s discriminatory treatment of Palestinians.

As someone who was slightly injured in a Jerusalem bus bombing in 1996, I have witnessed the horrors of terrorism and condemn as a violation of international law all forms of violence deliberately targeting civilians, whether the perpetrator of those acts is Israel or a non-state actor.

And I do not advocate for either a one-state or two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but simply point out that Israel’s torrid colonization of Palestinian land is making more remote each day the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state. Israel’s ongoing colonization of Palestinian land is a clear indication that it is not interested in having a truly sovereign Palestinian state on any portion of historic Palestine, thus creating the conditions for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be resolved eventually on the basis of equality between Palestinians and Israeli Jews within the same political entity.

Israel is now demanding that Palestinians accept it as a “Jewish state” that continues to treat its own Palestinian citizens as second-class citizens at best, while privileging its Jewish citizens, and to deny Palestinian refugees their internationally-guaranteed right of return to the homes and lands they were ethnically cleansed from by Israel in 1948. These Israeli efforts to demographically engineer a Jewish majority and deny Palestinians full citizenship fly in the face of universal human rights standards and cannot form the basis for a truly just and lasting peace.

But, to be clear: Ms. Rossman-Benjamin’s attacks are not aimed primarily against me or the organization for which I work, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, whose name she could not even be bothered to get right in her article. Instead, her efforts are part of a concerted strategy by the Israel lobby to stifle freedom of speech on campus and leverage pressure against university administrations to constrain the abilities of chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine from effectively organizing on campus.

Why are Ms. Rossman-Benjamin and her organization, the AMCHA Initiative, exerting such strenuous efforts to attempt to prevent Students for Justice in Palestine chapters from raising awareness on campuses of Israel’s apartheid policies toward the Palestinians–and U.S. military and diplomatic support for them–and why is the Israel lobby spending millions of dollars to try to defeat the increasingly successful student-led movement on campuses for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and corporations that profiteer from its human rights abuses of Palestinians?

Simply put: Israel and its apologists can no longer defend on its merits Israel and its apartheid policies toward Palestinians. Instead, they must try to suppress any such discussion from occurring in the first place because they are backing a losing argument.

The historical tide has turned and the only factor preventing Israel from becoming the international pariah that apartheid South Africa was is the backing it enjoys from the United States and the existence of the charade-like “peace process” it dominates. However, this “peace process” is no longer capable of pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes and is widely viewed as facilitating Israel’s continual land grabs rather than a fair resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As the sputtering “peace process” gasps its last few breaths and as the BDS movement gains more important victories nearly every month, the only thing left for Ms. Rossman-Benjamin to do is hurl her invective ineffectually at those working for peace and justice.

About Josh Ruebner

Josh Ruebner is the National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and a former Analyst in Middle East Affairs at Congressional Research Service. He is author of Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace (Verso Books).

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22 Responses

  1. just
    November 15, 2013, 2:53 pm

    A truly sublime article.

    Thank you Josh, and thanks for all that you do to educate, inspire and rally people to the cause of justice. I, too, was taught the same about “never again”.

  2. Cliff
    November 15, 2013, 3:20 pm

    You are mistaken Josh. Academic freedom is only for Zionist Jews.

    ‘Never again!’ is only for Zionist Jews. However, exceptions can be made but ONLY if support for the non-Jews in question does not undermine or otherwise cast Zionism in a bad light.

  3. Blaine Coleman
    November 15, 2013, 4:00 pm

    Thanks, Josh,

    Remember when a few pissed-off Zionists could shut down any event? Not any more. Why?

    The answer is the BDS movement. I wish it would accelerate! But even in its present tiny form, the demand for “BDS” has given a few students courage.

    What you discover, when you say “Boycott Israel”, is that the Zionists have no power to shut you up!

    Israeli tanks will not roll into your dorm. Israeli drones will not blow you out of the campus swimming pool. Israeli soldiers will not handcuff you at the student government meeting and drag you away from the mike.

    You can talk your head off. The Zionsists have to sit there and suffer. They can’t phone headquarters for an air strike, can they? So you sign up to speak, and then say “Boycott Israel” at every meeting of your student government — if the mood strikes you. Repeat the process at every City Council meeting. For a little color, bring a boycott banner, boycott balloons, whatever strikes your fancy.

    Because the apartheid state is going down. Down like the Klan. As soon as the students say the word, Netanyahu will be in a cell at the Hague.

    That word is “boycott”.

  4. Nancy Kricorian
    November 15, 2013, 4:08 pm

    Fantastic reply to a scurrilous piece, Josh. Bravo.

  5. pabelmont
    November 15, 2013, 4:13 pm

    Usually, at this point, a group gets up a PETITION for us concerned citizens to petition the CUNY (or whoever) asking that they CONTINUE to support free debate and lectures ON ALL SIDES of the Israel/Arab/Palestine conflict. Let us know.

  6. Kathleen
    November 15, 2013, 4:21 pm

    Josh “Simply put: Israel and its apologists can no longer defend on its merits Israel and its apartheid policies toward Palestinians. Instead, they must try to suppress any such discussion from occurring in the first place because they are backing a losing argument.

    The historical tide has turned and the only factor preventing Israel from becoming the international pariah that apartheid South Africa was is the backing it enjoys from the United States and the existence of the charade-like “peace process” it dominates. However, this “peace process” is no longer capable of pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes and is widely viewed as facilitating Israel’s continual land grabs rather than a fair resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    As the sputtering “peace process” gasps its last few breaths and as the BDS movement gains more important victories nearly every month, the only thing left for Ms. Rossman-Benjamin to do is hurl her invective ineffectually at those working for peace and justice.”

    The Palestinian solidarity movement that has grown amongst young Jews over the last five or so years is a such a beautiful and much needed development. Adding to the decades long work of Edward Said, Vanessa Redgrave, Carter, Art Gish, Ilan Pappe, Barghouti, Noura Erakat, Norman Finkelstein what a wonderfully powerful addition. Standing on the shoulders of human rights activist giants!

    “It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”
    ― Mahatma Gandhi

    Although if there is real change the fruit of that change is great !!

  7. pabelmont
    November 15, 2013, 4:46 pm

    Israel cannot “defend on the merits its apartheid policies toward Palestinians.”
    How true. And in the unlikely case that the settlement program is not an instance of apartheid, it has the signal honor of being a violation of various elements of international law.

    Now I really wish someone would ask the President (or a WH spokesman),

    In regard to USA’s policy on Iran, the USA has recently indicated that its national interest and Israel’s (and Saudi Arabia’s) do not coincide. As to Israel, this is rather a new occurrence. But, of course, the USA should conform its F/P to America’s own national interest.

    From that point of view, can you explain: Although it has long been said that protecting Israel’s security was in the American national interest, how is it in the American national interest for the USA to continue to fund Israel, support Israel militarily, and defend Israel in the UNSC in light of Israel’s long continued and illegal settlements program? Does the USA hold that the settlements program protects Israel’s security? And if so, why did we ask Israel to stop expanding them?

    In the same line of questions, how is it in the American national interest for the USA to merely ask that Israel refrain from building NEW settlements — rather than requiring Israel to remove all settlers and the wall and all the settlements?

    And finally, assuming that Israel’s settlements do not advance USA’s F/P or the American national interest and are in fact harmful to them, why has the USA never acted (with the other nations, as it does on Iran) to require and force Israel to roll-back these illegal programs?

  8. traintosiberia
    November 15, 2013, 7:25 pm

    Israel in the mind ofAmerica by Grose is a great resource. Here Weizmaan rewrites a letter to Truman after hearing the negative publicity about the establishment of a state for the Jewish people being referred as a Jewish State by Zionist and denounced t by various figures including Truman for making religion as a basis .
    He categorically says that state would be open to all irrespective of faith and would embrace a functioning democracy as that of Western countries with institutions alike the western counterparts,
    .The prominent Zionist ,publisher of Philadelphia Record announced that he fully agreed with what Truman had in mind- a secular ,democratic ,western democracy.

  9. Shuki
    November 15, 2013, 8:04 pm

    Israel and its apologists can no longer defend the country on its merits, instead they must try to suppress debate

    +++

    Much like the moderation policy of mondoweiss.net. Take, for example, this comment which will never get published.

    • RoHa
      November 16, 2013, 1:37 am

      You were right. It wasn’t published.

    • Sumud
      November 16, 2013, 11:33 am

      Shuki says:

      LIU is a private university.

      They have the right to approve or disapprove whatever they wish.

      Amazing, isn’t it, the hipocracy of the “BDS” movement and its supporters…

      I say:

      Mondoweiss is a privately-owned web site.

      They have the right to approve or disapprove whatever comments they wish.

      Amazing, isn’t it, the hipocracy of the average hasbara bot…

      If you don’t like Mondoweiss, go away. Demonstrate some of that Start-Up Nation innovation hasbara attributes to Israel. Build a better web site. Lure their readers away. Whatever, just quit whining.

  10. Talkback
    November 15, 2013, 9:51 pm

    Josh Ruebner: “She baselessly charges that I … support “anti-Semitic” policies, “condone terrorism, and “advocate the elimination of the Jewish state” …”

    Unfortunately these are classical symptoms of the final stage of zionist encephalopathy. The only thing you can do is to try to take her as serious as possible and hide your laughter behind compassionate tears.

  11. FreddyV
    November 16, 2013, 7:52 am

    ‘encephalopathy’

    Cool word Talkback. Very apt.

  12. Krauss
    November 16, 2013, 8:55 am

    Speaking of media coverage. Here is a pretty amazing – in a bad way – article from the NYT that I somehow missed. It’s very recent.

    Judi Roduren does outright propaganda for Israel. She casts an enforcer of Apartheid in a heroic light, the NYT gushes that he is a “Philosopher-General”. He is portrayed as a wise, brooding man, unfortunately dealt with the bad luck of managing brown uncomfortable people.

    If one phrase can sum up the entire article, it’s “Such Is The White Man’s Burden”.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/16/world/middleeast/to-a-philosopher-general-in-israel-peace-is-the-time-to-prepare-for-war.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0

    P.S. check out the profile photo too, it just reinforces the sense I wrote about.
    I wonder if they’d do as glowing portraits of generals in Apartheid South Africa during the 80s, with such romantic pictures, casting them as ‘Philosopher-Generals’.

    He was directly stationed in the West Bank during the Lebanon war. So he’s inside the system of Apartheid. But nothing at all is mentioned of that in the NYT.

  13. David Nelson
    November 16, 2013, 9:59 am

    When have the Israelis ever been able to defend Israel on the basis of its own merits? When have the Israelis and their friends NOT tried to deceive and rewrite history to fit their own unjust ambitions? Was there once a time when Israel and their friends were noble and good? What decade?

    • David Nelson
      November 16, 2013, 11:59 am

      No good can come of Israel until they achieve a fair and lasting peace with the Palestinians. Until then, Israel is a nation of authoritarian occupiers blinded by the delusions of their ideology, thinking themselves a democracy all the while stealing the life, liberty and vote of the people they occupy.

      Added to all this of course is the stranglehold the friends of Israel have over American government policy and the corporate discourse. As Israel creates is tiered society with second and third class citizens, as well as non-citizens, clearly the friends of Israel, if they really want to be effective, need to reverse the American civil rights movement and roll-back the gains for minorities and out-groups everywhere. And surely since 9/11, isn’t that what we have seen?

      If 9/11 (and the ensuant erosion of the public’s rights, especially certain ethnic groups) was good for Israel, does that mean Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Movement were bad for Israel?

      It sure as hell looks like it from my vantage point.

  14. seafoid
    November 16, 2013, 10:13 am

    They have been silencing and murdering opponents since the beginning. Nice to see the memes dying.

  15. just
    November 16, 2013, 3:01 pm

    Anyone know anything more about this?

    “The Israeli government is prohibiting a former security official from testifying in an anti-terrorism case in an American court, drawing accusations from victims of Palestinian violence that it is bowing to pressure from China.

    The government filed a petition to an American federal court to block the testimony of the former official, who could have tipped the scales. The case was filed by families of victims of suicide bombers who accuse the Bank of China of facilitating terrorist funding via accounts in the U.S.

    The Associated Press obtained a copy of the petition Saturday.

    Critics say Israel is acting out of fear that the testimony could jeopardize valuable trade ties with China. Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, a lawyer representing the families, said the decision sent a message “that Jewish blood is cheap.””

    http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/israel-blocks-witness-us-anti-terrorism-case-20911974

    • American
      November 16, 2013, 3:50 pm

      Yes….it’s the usual.
      A group of US Jews are suing China Bank because they say Hamas used the bank and since Hamas pays suicide bombers any entity doing business with Hamas was complict in injuring Jews and should have to pay them.
      It’s on the same basis as railroads, banks, IBM, insurers , etc. etc being sued for connections with Germany during Hitler period.
      Anyway Netanyhau wants to get closer to China and China said, well then lay off suing our bank.
      The Isr official who supposedly can verify the China Bank knew it was Hamas they were dealing with is the one Netanyahu wont’ allow to testify.
      so Israel now is trying to stop the US lawsuit for better relations with China.
      There have been a blue million of these lawsuits in US courts already, they keep finding new ones to sue all the time.
      The Zio get rich off victims lawfare gang even tried to sue Saudi Arabia for 911 compensation—that one got thrown out of court though…….lol.

    • Ellen
      November 16, 2013, 4:21 pm

      just, I remember when this case started. It is one of those things that when you pull the tread…..a lot of nasty stuff unravels.

      The quotes you have above do tell anything at all really.

      But this is the background from last summer, and as I understand it from what I have read:

      Netanyahu has been courting China. Meanwhile there was an an “Anti-terrorism” case going on in the US that wound up during the discover process concerning itself with funds flowing from Bank of China to Hamas, etc.

      China asked Netanyahu to use his vast influence over the US government to quash the subpoenas. The condition their meeting with him last May is that it would happen ONLY if he would prevent from Israeli’s testifying in this Anti Terror case.

      “Instead of fighting terror, the Israeli government surrendered to the Bank of China, whom it rightly chose to fight,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, an attorney opposing the bank and representing 22 families who have lost relatives to terror and rocket attacks.”
      http://www.thejc.com/news/israel-news/109549/us-anger-israel-over-china-bank-case

      The irony here is that the Israeli government encouraged these cases to be tried in the US court system in the first place.

      But then when following the money it not only lead to China (which Israel is wooing) , but also to Stewart Levy, formerly of the US Treasury — Mr Levey was the first Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence in the US Department of the Treasury. Levy is now with HSBC — formerly called Hong Kong Shanghi Bank of China. (Now with a global presence, but huge in Asia.) Hellooooooo.

      http://www.hsbc.com/globals/hsbc-people/senior-managers/stuart-levey

      Well, to say that things have gotten really murky and filthy is an understatement.

      This is a hot potato-boomerang and Israel now wants the case — they encouraged — to be killed.

      I suspect that Israel will prevail in the US court system to prevent any further discovery.

      Such is the world we live in.

      Meanwhile the hasbarists really believe that their Zio government is protecting the Zio Nation dream, fighting terrorism, blah blah. This is a great example to show how it is simply not so There will only be cryptic reporting on it moving forward and it will die.

      It is always that way — the interests of the few are served by the ill informed and inflamed masses.

  16. just
    November 16, 2013, 4:44 pm

    Clear as mud, indeed. I very much appreciate your insight, Ellen.

    One could pick at the threads, it seems, and end up with a veritable ball of tangled threads. Money. Power. Espionage.

    It does smell to high heaven, though.

    Isn’t it sickeningly ironic that the HL5 got the proverbial book thrown at them with nary a thought toward justice?

    http://electronicintifada.net/content/holy-land-5-case-reveals-double-standard-enforcement-us-law/8935

    • Ellen
      November 16, 2013, 5:10 pm

      just, “ironic” is an understatement. Such injustices perpetuated by government’s onto their own citizens is horrific, but nothing new.

      What might be new now is that many of these crimes and uspurping of the judicial and legislative system is being done on behalf of a foreign government.

      The bigger question for us all is how and why? It can’t only be $$.

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