Opinion

Smear campaign is defused as Tom Suarez speaks at UMass

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When in late August, in response to a casual question on someone else’s Facebook page, I mentioned that I would be in the United States in September for a few talks, a screen-grab of the innocuous exchange swiftly appeared on Zionist blogs and Twitter. Trolling must be a dreary, boring plight.

Yisrael Medad, an American settler in the West Bank and former director of Israel’s Media Watch, was quickest on the case with a hurried critique of the book upon which he assumed my talks would be based. As he put it, having learned that I would be giving “a talk at the University of Massachusetts Amherst … I’m rushing this.”

Mr. Medad’s ‘rushed’ verdict? Mine is

a dangerous book … an evil book.

The British journalist Melanie Phillips seized upon the ‘news’ with a headline that was equally inspirational:

“Has truth lost all meaning”? For Israel-haters, yes.

She warned:

Thomas Suarez is an Israel-hater. He is about to embark on a tour of America. He recently concluded a tour of Scotland. He has spoken at universities in the United Kingdom. A book he wrote, published last year, which vilifies and defames the state of Israel and which references and has been endorsed by other Israel-haters, was honoured with a launch inside a meeting room in the House of Lords.

Her fiction of this “launch”[1] came from two pro-Israel activists in the UK, David Collier and Jonathan Hoffman, who had just produced their own critique of the book, an academic-looking 59 page PDF. Mr. Hoffman, announcing their work on Twitter, added innuendos of Holocaust denial to the brew through an extraordinary non-sequitur to Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor (about whom I have never written or spoken) who conducted deadly experiments on prisoners in Auschwitz.[2]

Except for such libel, any book should of course be critiqued by anyone who can demonstrate flaws. Nor was there anything wrong with the Collier-Hoffman manifesto coming to the attention of three professors at Amherst, where I was scheduled to speak. But if this was intellectually honest, the letter writing campaign that, according to the Amherst Wire, ensued protesting the event and describing it as “supporting ‘identity-based hate’ against Jewish people,” was not.[3]

Amherst Wire article maligning Suarez

Whatever the internal exchanges, my talk proceeded without incident, as did the Q&A, which became more of a discussion among all of us present. A question from an ‘adversarial’ audience member was engaged constructively and amicably. Members of Jewish Voice for Peace who were present contributed to a discussion of a question raised about Israeli-US ‘security’ cooperation.

The evening was introduced by Professor of Communication Sut Jhally, and Interlink Books publisher Michel Moushabeck. Professor Jhally is also executive director of the Media Education Foundation, whose roster of films includes, most recently, “The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States,” narrated by Roger Waters.

Several days later, part of the professors’ letter appeared in the Washington Free Beacon, where I was introduced as “peddling conspiracy theories about Israeli responsibility for terror activities.”

UMass history faculty members Jay Berkovitz, Daniel Gordon, and Jonathan Skolnick released a statement writing off Suarez as an “amateur author” who produced “deeply flawed work … full of factual errors, and distortions of the archival record …It is disappointing to see a student group and outside groups use universities to promote ideological polemics like Suarez’s which only look to demonize an ‘enemy’ … This is unscholarly incitement, not responsible history.”

The Beacon went on to say that

a diligent fact-check [found Suárez’ book] to be “dripping with racial hatred against Jews.”

Thus it was not surprising that Professor Jhally, given his expertise in communication, advertising, and propaganda, wished to learn the nature of the evidence with which his three colleagues had tried to discredit my talk. Through perseverance, he obtained a copy of the full letter, which cited a single source: the same Collier-Hoffman PDF. And what was the source for the Beacon’s “dripping with racial hatred” quote? An advertisement for the same PDF. These two political activists — neither an academic — have a pastime of getting themselves evicted from events and then alleging that they were targeted because they are Jewish. They have not only disrupted and blocked talks by non-academics like me, but have disrupted and blocked talks by the most highly respected and experienced professors, experts on the subject at hand, such as Richard Falk.

Looking up: In Hebron, when the upper storey has been commandeered by settlers, the families remaining in the lower storey install horizontal fencing to protect themselves from the garbage thrown down by the settlers. [Photo: T Suárez]
It was indeed these non-academic (“amateur,” if the word is to be applied consistently) activists in whom the Amherst professors had put their trust, who wreaked havoc when Professor Falk visited Britain in March, successfully intimidating two universities into cancelling his scheduled talks. And they did not forget to invent a way to include the obligatory Holocaust smear — in Professor Falk’s  case, a non-sequitur to David Irving.

At Amherst, the smears were for nought. I spoke. In contrast, Britain’s University of East London, and Middlesex University, in deference to a foreign pariah state, both deprived their students of the experienced, intellectual voice of Professor Falk.

In follow-up to my talk in the 125-year-old Massachusetts Daily Collegian, the same source continues to reappear in difference guises, as though they were corroborating each other. Collegian columnist Joe Frank had not attended the talk; yet he jumped right to “anti-Semitism” in his title and byline:

The anti-Semitism of the Suarez talk is not the way to discuss the Israeli-/Palestinian conflict / Suarez’s rhetoric is a detriment to the Jewish student body on campus.

Most strange of all, the article was tagged with ‘American Symphony Orchestra’, apparently taken from some online bio of mine; but if this was a CanaryMission-esque inspiration, it was wasted effort, as it has been some years since I sat in the ASO violin section.

To demonstrate that UMass is not the first school where I received “backlash from local Jews,” Mr. Frank cited a talk I gave at London’s SOAS in November last year. Perhaps unknown to him, that “backlash” was — yes — from the same two activists upon whom the UMass professors relied, and on whom the Beacon relied.

It was these same two who fed the notorious Daily Mail the tabloid story Mr. Frank repeats: “[Suárez] claimed that the Zionist movement is racist and fascist, and he compared Zionism to Nazism, as reported by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism.” What is left unsaid is that those words were in response to a question where I was paraphrasing words I had earlier quoted verbatim — of British and US war-time intelligence, and the journalist Robert Weltsch, a German Jew who fled the Nazis and found a terrifying similarity in the mentality of the Zionist elite in Palestine.

Nor would many readers in the United States be aware that the euphemistically-named CAA is a political pressure group notorious for trivializing true bigotry against Jews in order to smear good people on behalf of the Israeli state. The tactic continued when a Daily Mail headline flaunted a new lie about me in order to smear by association UK Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, whom I have neither met nor ever had any contact with. Its headline:

Corbyn is urged to cut links with Palestine charity after it hosts anti-Semitic speaker who accuses Jews of exploiting the Holocaust

When he was MP for Islington North, Jeremy Corbyn had a history of Palestinian solidarity. Though that is much diminished since becoming UK Labour leader, he remains a primary target of pro-Israeli activists. Thus the Holocaust fabrication about me is used to smear Corbyn as well.

And it was this same Jonathan Hoffman who so manipulated, and then repeatedly lied about, an incident involving me and the Quakers in Cambridge (UK), that the Quakers issued a formal statement setting the record straight and calling on him to stop. [4] Meanwhile, HotAir, declaring me to be a “particularly odious speaker,” wondered in its headline:

Is it time for conservatives to “shut down” anti-Israel campus speakers?

One of Mr. Frank’s allegations is correct: I violated the US State Department guidelines for anti-Semitism. Indeed, I would be anti-Semitic if I did not violate it. This definition, and the similar IHRA [5] definition that is commonly cited in Europe, seek to impose a nineteenth century ethnic-nationalist settler project as the common destiny of Jews, simply because they are Jews. That is anti-Semitic, not the vast majority of people, a large proportion of them Jews, whose lives Zionist activists have sought to derail.

I am guilty, the article continues, of “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination,” also drawing the same sources and from Zionists’ anti-Semitic definitions of anti-Semitism. Had Mr. Frank attended my talk, he would have heard me address this very issue.

The following is from a word-for-word transcript:

Zionism freed nationalism from the constraints of geographic borders, making ethnicity itself the frontier. Nationalism, and what Zionists needed to consider to be a Jewish race, were made one and the same in the service of the Settler state. Thus, Israel, taken at its word, makes Jews, simply by virtue of being Jews, partner to whatever it does. And the profound anti-Semitism of this is, to me, self-evident. A principal justification being decided by the defenders of Israel’s actions is that Zionism is Jewish self-determination. We hear this all the time now. No — it is exactly the opposite. It is the theft of Jewish individual self-identity and self-determination.

After two follow-up letters in the Massachusetts Daily Collegian stating that Mr. Frank had misrepresented what I had said, a new article, now in the Amherst Wire, was something beyond mere ‘misrepresentation’: it was outright fabrication.

… “There was a moment when he essentially blamed Zionists, his quote, ‘for selling out European Jews to Hitler.’ He basically said Zionists allowed or enabled or directly dealt in creating the Holocaust so they could profit off the Middle Eastern Israeli venture,” said UMass sophomore Anna-Nicole Bosco, a Hillel member and Student Government Association senator for the Class of 2020 … “This speaker comes in and says if we wipe Israel off the map, then the entire region will be at peace, where as [sic] Saudi Arabia and Iran have been fighting for over a millennium,” said Bosco.

Fortunately, I had a video [6]. As a result of the SOAS talk referred to by Mr. Frank, where I was unable to prove what I had actually said and the context in which I had said it, I have recorded every talk since. Professor Jhally had the complete unabridged video transcribed. The Amherst Wire removed the fraudulent article. [7]

A final commentary by a Collegian columnist brought the circular reasoning and self-corroboration to its logical, absurd conclusion: Messrs. Collier and Hoffman have suddenly become academics, Mr. Collier is now a professor, and they, along with the UMass professors who relied upon them, now constitute “a variety of academics” who have “debunked” the book upon which my talk was based.

Following UMass, I spoke at Columbia University in New York, and at the Jerusalem Fund in Washington, DC. (Here is video of these appearances.)

My episode at Amherst is unimportant in and of itself. But it is systematic of the assault on universities and public discourse on behalf of the Israeli state, and an example of how just a couple of political activists with a provable history of sabotage, deliberate distortion, slander, and lies, can exert profound influence on — can ‘occupy’ — the academic and public spheres on behalf of a foreign state.

This is more than an assault on open, democratic society on behalf of a foreign state’s lawlessness; claiming to do so in the name of Jews is an additional affront against us all.

Facing east along Gaza’s eastern “border”*, an armed, remotely controlled Israeli tower enforces a buffer zone entirely on the Gazan side, that keeps Gazan farmers from their most fertile land (*though the land on the other side was to be Palestinian according to UNGA Resolution 181). [Photo: T Suárez]

Notes:

1. Jonathan Hoffman filed a false complaint with the House of Lords alleging that a talk I gave at that institution in December 2016 (at which he was not present) was a ‘book launch’, which would have been illegal. The HoL Committee for Privileges and Conduct investigated and dismissed the complaint, finding that in fact there was not even a copy of the book present (HL Paper 142, 15 March 2017). Mr. Hoffman continues to repeat the invention, now citing as proof a screen-grab of some announcement of which neither I nor the publisher were aware, in which an editor or publicist had inserted the term.

2. Mr. Hoffman’s Holocaust innuendo is based on an endnote in my book, State of Terror. This is the endnote in full.

3. “Hillel students say hate does have a home at UMass,” AmherstWire, October 4, 2017 (article deleted; screen-grab archived)

4. Statement from the Quakers rebuking Jonathan Hoffman (with permission):

Elders of Jesus Lane Friends Meeting (Quakers) are concerned at the continuing misrepresentation by Jonathan Hoffman and others regarding the decision made by Cambridge Jesus Lane Quaker Meeting to cancel a talk by Tom Suarez in May 2017. To be clear, we want it to be known that this decision was arrived at under pressure of time and with incomplete information, in response to a request to reconsider the booking. Jesus Lane Meeting has a long historical relationship supporting Palestinian refugees dating back to the early 1970s and we continue to engage on the issues in the Middle East. Since the cancelled booking some of us have attended the talk by Tom Suarez, which was relocated, or watched a recording of it. Some have purchased the book and read it. Friends (Quakers) who have read the book or seen the video recording of Tom’s talk have no reservations about Tom Suarez or his work.

5. The so-called International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition associates anti-Semitism with criticism of the Israeli state or Zionism, and thus is engineered to shield Israel’s ethnic/racial crimes from scrutiny. It was reviewed and judged unsound by QC Hugh Tomlinson.

6. Complete, unedited video of the entire UMass event, for the record.

7. The author has a screen-grab of the Amherst Wire article.

 

Links :
Sept 18, 20, 25:  Video of US talks
Sept 19, Daily CollegianAuthor Thomas Suarez leads talk on Israel-Palestine conflict
Sept 26, Daily CollegianThe anti-Semitism of the Suarez talk is not the way to discuss the Israeli-/Palestinian conflict
Sept 27, Washington Free BeaconAnti-Israel Speakers Making Rounds at U.S. College Campuses, Libraries
Sept 28, Daily CollegianLetter: Understanding Suarez
Sept 28, HotAir.comIs it time for conservatives to “shut down” anti-Israel campus speakers?
Oct 3, Daily CollegianLetter: Students for Justice in Palestine defend Suárez talk
Oct 4, Daily CollegianUnderstanding commentary, Suarez and others

Sep-Oct, The Link, Suárez, The Cult of the Zionists – An Historical Enigma

 

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Zionism is an evil ideology built on self-righteous entitlement, supremacism, hatred and violence. It’s no wonder Zionists seem impervious to moral values such as truth, justice and equality. Kudos to you, Mr. Suarez, for your steadfastness.

Be a gas to write up the fabrications of the Amherst professors — their reliance on non-academics to trash a book and a speaker — as if their trashing were on solid academic foundation. This all follows the playbook of the Zionists who lauded “From Time Immemorial” and trashed Finkelstein… Read more »

Tom, I just finished reading your book: it is well-written, almost entirely fact-based with little interpretation. The facts related are based on the UK archives in Kew, and that fact in itself is conveniently ignored by your detractors. I commend you for the book, and I can only say: keep… Read more »

You’ve upset Melanie Phillips. Well done, sir.

Aside from endlessly maligning anybody who speaks out about israel’s excesses, Hoffman can often be found (and has been photographed) palling around with highly placed leaders of British far right groups, such as EDL and Britain First. He was also openly supportive of the Irish Times columnist (and holocaust denier)… Read more »