Saturday, February 13, 2016

Mailbag. Toga parties. Double standards. The N-word and the A-word. Action alerts (not one but two!). Intelligent socks. Wardrobe malfunctions...

UAZ #5

The Unabashed Zionist—
            Because an unabashed Zionist is better than a bashed one. Obviously.

[Please feel free to let me know about anyone else who might like to be on this list. I have passed 300 subscribers—let’s grow this thing.]
I suppose you didn’t notice, but I began with a moment of silence. For as I write it is a very important anniversary. 120th anniversary, now that I think of it, which is actually a little ominous if you’re familiar with the expression "until 120 years." Anyhoo, February 14, 1896 saw the publication of Theodor Herzl’s The Jewish State. Probably one of the most influential initial print runs of 500 or less ever, except maybe for the Hebrew Bible, which of course did its thing with an initial print run of 1.

Theodor Herzl (1860-1904)

So, now, licking his wounds a bit, the Unabashed Zionist must admit to having received a bit of bashing this week, with some negative responses to UAZ #4 shattering the tranquility of his inbox.

On the plus side, I suppose, that means he is being read.

On the minus side, despite already being a man of some seasoned years, he still curls up into a little ball when his mother scolds him.

(1) “Not happy with your attack on tikkun olam!”

Why did that sound kind of like “You’ll have no dessert until you eat your vegetables!” or “When will you clean up that pigsty of a room already?” or “Who do you think you are, coming home at this hour?”

OK, I thought. I could threaten to not let her talk to her grandchildren this week. Or I could engage, and we did, with a little back and forth. I wasn’t really attacking tikkun olam, I explained, I was attacking certain nefarious ways that some Jews use the concept to attack Herzl’s state. But I had barely gotten underway when an email from another reader crashed through, a certain Rabbi J, who also took issue with that section of UAZ #4, and by the time I was done taking my beating from his passionately argued email I was thinking I might be better off becoming an abashed Zionist instead.

Thank you, Mom, and Rabbi J. I will try to do better in UAZ #5. Now may I please have my dessert?

Who, me? I didn’t eat the cake.

But first, someone else was

(2) Not happy with your attack on the Lerner School, either!

My first plunge into a little activism taught me the wisdom, perhaps, of the expression, “Look before you leap.” Or maybe “Fools rush in ….”

I was gripped by the story of the Jewish day school in North Carolina that was suing a family that withdrew its children in ideological protest and refused to pay the contracted tuition. I was drawn to it for the bigger issues it raised, about the relationship between Jewish identity and one’s connection to Israel, and I urged readers to sign an online petition supporting the family. So focused on the bigger issues (which in fact the petition was about) I didn’t pay much attention to the way the petition was smearing the school, which does look today to have some pro-Israel bona fides. The school let me know that they weren’t pleased with the 1000+ signatures the petition received in the short time it was up. I hate to say, but perhaps I was—you know—oh what’s the word—begins with a ‘w’, or ‘wr’ maybe—can’t think of it—so let me say that I was perhaps not entirely right in promoting that petition before I thought through its implications.

Having now thought through the implications a little more thoroughly, however, I’m also not convinced that I was actually wrong in promoting it either. (Interesting how much easier “wrong” is to say when preceded by “not convinced that I was.”) In fact I got myself very involved in the case. What you’ve got down there is an entire Jewish community and its day school saying the family is attacking them. But it looks to me rather that the school and the community are attacking the family. The school may be a wonderful bastion of Zionism now, but they are not behaving very well, in my opinion.

The petition has since disappeared but I may have a detailed article out on the case soon. (You may email me privately if you’d like to see a draft now.)

OK, enough going through the mailbag! Let’s turn to

(3) Reclaiming some unabashedness!

New article out last week, offering a new strategy to combat the Boycott, Divest, Sanction movement (BDS), aka the Bully, Deceive, and Smear movement. Lots of groups are doing good and necessary work defending Israel from this movement, but I think it’s also time to go on the offensive. I have two ideas in this realm, and this piece sketches the first.

The goal is to get this into the hands of as many pro-Israel students as possible, as well as all students period. My sense is that, while both sides have vocal activists (the other side has more, and louder), the majority of college students are largely neutral on or indifferent to the Israeli-Palestinian/Jewish-Arab-Muslim-conflict (IPJAMc). (May this absurd acronym serve as a continual reminder that the conflict is complicated.) While I am inclined, in my general hysteria, to think the IPJAMc is the most important issue of our times, a clash of civilizations, possibly heralding the end of times, most college students are more concerned with figuring out which fraternity will have the most beer at this weekend’s party. I would guess that when they take a break from their alcoholic stupors (if they do), they get pretty irritated and annoyed when all the activists start hollering on their campus and hijack the campus discourse and government. So the hope is—if we can spread this far and wide, we might mobilize a few of them, if they’re mobilizable at all, to take back their campuses.

This version of the proposal is directed to pro-Israel students. This other version, expressing the same idea, is directed toward the neutral masses.

Please read and get into the hands of as many college students as you can.

Louie Lou-Eye ...

(4) Two words

“Two words” is itself two words, but I had in mind two other words: “double standards.” Those, and “plastics,” are really all the words you need to know.

Archimedes, the ancient Greek master of all trades, famous for running through the streets naked screaming “Eureka!” before being tackled and hauled off to jail—true story, except for the jail part—is also famous for remarking, “Give me a lever and a place to stand, and I can move the Earth.” Strictly speaking he remarked this in Greek, but you get the gist. A lever is a pretty potent device, if you’ve got one, along with a place to stand.

For a while I’ve been working on a project to isolate the key levers that control people’s understandings of the absurdly acronymed IPJAMc. I am convinced there are really only a few of them, and that if we can isolate them, then manipulate them, we could move at least a few of the Israel-haters more into the non-Israel-haters column. (A guy can dream.) I’m pretty sure that “double standards” is one such lever, though perhaps not quite sure enough to run naked through the streets screaming “Eureka!”

I’ll be brief for now, but I believe that a reasonable person can only be an Israel-hater if they unreasonably apply double standards to the IPJAMc. It’s no accident that even the State Department—historically and contemporaneously no friend of Israel—admits in its own definition of “antisemitism” that anti-Zionism becomes antisemitism when one applies double standards to Israel.

(5) One word

But oh what a word. Some people shudder at the S-word. More recoil, repulsed, from the F-word. Last issue we spoke of the horror, for some, of the N-word (“normalization”). But none of these have anything on—my whole being shudders as I prepare to type it—the A-word.


It hurts even to say it. It is a terrible word, because it refers to a terrible thing. Most of us don’t know much about the details, but we know that it was in South Africa, it was dreadful, and that eventually it was overthrown. Not knowing the details is important, because it is in not knowing the details that otherwise well-meaning people can be turned, as if by a lever, into a hater. For if you don’t know the details, and then someone else tells you that the A-word applies to another situation, you’ll instantly recoil without being able to resist the claim.

And you know what I’m talking about.

The I-word.

Israel, the Apartheid state.

The Israel-haters repeat that phrase so often that people begin to associate the two. This dangerous maneuver is profoundly harmful to the pro-Israel cause. For not only is the A-word bad, bad, bad, but it also connects the anti-Israel movement with the movement burgeoning all over campuses, the progressivism that stands firmly against all forms of racism. So applying the A-word to Israel succeeds in branding Israel as the number one racist state in the world, and campuses get into a veritable feeding frenzy over it. Condemning Israel so brutally becomes not only possible, but mandatory. Just as you can’t get into the gym without showing your campus i.d., you can’t be a bona fide member of the campus community without proclaiming, each day, “Apartheid Israel! Free Palestine!”

Fact: Israel is not an “Apartheid” state, not even remotely. That is nothing more than a straightforward libel that tells you everything you need to know about the person doing the libeling. I won’t argue that here, but as soon as you do even the tiniest bit of research you will know that it is true. For now, just enjoy one from Elder of Ziyon’s classic poster series, which he especially broadcasts during each spring’s campus “Apartheid Week” hatefests:

Happily, finally, the propagandists on our side—and I say that with respect, because “propaganda” is necessary, and it is also good as long as it actually sticks to truths—are realizing they need to counter this very dangerous libel. So the good folks at StandWithUs—an excellent organization, please donate to SWU here—have trotted out a couple of people who know quite a lot about Apartheid, and are touring them around to spread the good word—the truth.

(6) Use your words

Okay, we’ve clearly found a theme for this issue. My wife and I, like many parents (I think?), regularly encourage our small children to go for the jugular only metaphorically not literally. If you’re upset, angry, frustrated, you don’t lash out with your fists. You “use your words” instead.

But words can hurt too.

An issue I’ll explore at some later date is how so many activists living cushy lives far from the Middle East find it so easy to make demands on Israel, to condemn Israel, almost doing it as a recreation or leisure activity—when they don’t have to live under the consequences of their demands, when it isn’t their lives which may be threatened were they to concede to the demands. “Tear down the wall!” Roger Waters and his minions demand of Israel [bonus points to me for that Pink Floyd cleverness!]—but they’re not the ones who will be targeted by murderers when that wall comes down.

But for now, let’s just see what words can do.

It isn’t pretty.

(7) Action alert #1!

As we turn to some better news, here’s some thing you can do! Look before you leap, if you must, but please help support some proposed anti-BDS legislation, and while you’re at it, spread the word to your own minions.

In addition, you can help promote this anti-BDS legislation through AIPAC as well.

But wait—there’s more:

(8) Action alert #2!

If ever there was a good cause, it is this. An admirable young man named Jeremy Crocker is running the March 1 Jerusalem marathon in honor of his friend Ezra Schwartz, recently murdered in a Palestinian terror attack, to raise money for SHALVA, an Israeli organization devoted to the welfare of special needs children.

Jeremy’s good deed here makes a natural segue to

(9) Thinking with one’s feet

You sometimes hear people talking about thinking with certain parts of their body. (I mean when they say “use your head,” for those of you with more than PG-13-rated minds!) Well leave it to those clever Israelis to come up with something, in retrospect, I cannot believe I have lived this long without.

Wonder if they can convert foot odor into energy, too?

I’m sure they’ll turn next to developing ways to boost your self-esteem, after your socks do better than you on your SATs.

But seriously folks—I’ll occasionally highlight some Israeli innovations here, but if you want your own weekly dose of inspiring Israeli technical innovation news, subscribe to the weekly No Camels newsletter.

And finally,

(10) Another kind of wardrobe malfunction

Next time ask for some wardrobe advice before the protest, ya think?

That’s about it for this week in the Land of the Unabashed. Stay tuned—there may be an interesting announcement, and some interesting changes, in the very near future.

Until then, Keep It Unabashed.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Activism! Amnesia International. Hydrocriminals. Disrepairing the world. BIGWIGS. And ooh la la!

The Unabashed Zionist—
            Because an unabashed Zionist is better than a bashed one. Obviously.

[Please feel free to let me know about anyone else who might like to be on this list. I started with just under 200 subscribers, and am now approaching 300—so let’s grow this thing.]

It has been a very busy week in the Land of the Unabashed.

First, some lovely news. Just three issues in, the UAZ has already garnered a little media attention! Read Michael Lumish’s mention of the UAZ here.

With that little blurb now going rapidly to my head, let’s get going with a little

(1) Activism!

Talk later. Let’s do something!

I came upon a very interesting case this week that has my neurons popping. After confirming that I wasn’t having a stroke I thought I should do something about it. The basic facts:

A Jewish day school in Durham, NC turned out to be employing at least three individuals who were open, vehement, anti-Israel activists: a teacher, a board member, and their director of development. A family in the school learned of this and withdrew their children. The school responded by suing them for breach of contract. The family responded by initiating a suit for fraud, claiming that the school advertised itself as a Jewish school promoting Jewish identity and continuity, which the family claimed was inconsistent with having open, vehement, activist Israel-haters in their employ.

There are a lot more details, legal and otherwise, but we can ignore them here. The bigger issue is whether “Jewish” schools can or should include seriously anti-Israel people and ideology in their midst. It reminds me of the growing Open Hillel movement, that the UAZ bashed in an earlier newsletter: the anti-Israel people are trying to infiltrate institutions that are otherwise natural homes for Israel supporters. This time it’s elementary schools.

So here’s your chance to weigh in. A petition has been posted in support of the family, but it’s not really about the family. In fact perhaps they have no legal legs to stand on, and they're going to lose. But it's not about them: it’s about the bigger picture. So please READ, SIGN, and SHARE the petition widely, if you agree with the following statements:

(1) The Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) movement is antisemitic in its effects and underlying motivations.

(2) Jewish schools should not employ individuals who openly support the BDS movement or who actively campaign against the welfare and existence of the State of Israel.

(3) Devotion to (and longing for) the Land of Israel has been a central feature of the Jewish religion for millennia; and for a great many contemporary Jews, their Jewish identity is intimately related to the welfare of the State of Israel.

(4) Parents may reasonably expect that a school for Jewish children would not employ individuals who openly support BDS or actively campaign against the State of Israel, and have a right to demand that their children be protected in a Jewish school from exposure to those with antisemitic views and behaviors.

(PS. You’ll notice the petitioner used the same image that I use for my blog. So I am apparently not alone in copyright-infringing internet images!)

Legal query: if anyone knows the source of that image please email me immediately. I swear I tried to find it.

(2) Amnesia International

After all that activism, time to recover our breath and return to some intellectual brooding. One of the important themes of the UAZ will be to highlight how allegedly neutral Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are incredibly biased against Israel. In past issues we’ve seen how Israel’s Wrongs Watch (aka Human Rights Watch) releases outrageously anti-Israel reports that then become the basis for other organizations to bash Israel in the name of human rights. Today we’ll have a glance at Amnesia International—which somehow can never remember the many terrible human rights infractions by most parties in the world, including Israel’s enemies, at the same time as, uncannily, almost Rainman-like, it never forgets the most minute infractions committed by Israel in the name of self-defense from its enemy-human-rights-violators.

Since it’s about time we expand this little empire into multimedia, this story shall bring you to a television clip, from the recently launched Elder Of Ziyon TV (EOZTV) station.

The story is simple:

Amnesia International apparently has no budget to document (much less critique) rabid Jew-hating antisemitism in the world, but can spend thousands of dollars supporting a terror clown. Okay, “terror clown” is perhaps a little redundant—I find all clowns terrifying, even (or especially) the ones with big painted smiles. But then again, this clown isn’t merely terrifying but actively supports terror.

And Amnesia International supports him.

Eek! Eek! Eek!
(On the plus side, at least this little monster doesn’t have a big painted smile.)

(3) Where providing water is a crime

Okay, all rested from lounging in front of the EOZ TV, our tummies full from munching cheese doodles and popcorn, let’s turn our brains on again, in an effort to comprehend the almost incomprehensible and digest the almost indigestible (and I don't mean just the cheese doodles).

It’s important to try to understand just what the other side wants. I know this is true because my wife regularly commands me to pay attention to someone other than myself once in a while. What the other side in the Middle East regularly says they want, what they demand to the Western media, is a state. Often they make it clear that they want the entire region for themselves, as articulated repeatedly by groups such as Students for Just Us in Palestine. But at the bare minimum, they often say they want a state in the West Bank and Gaza.

But then their behavior often belies those statements.

Famously, the Palestinian Arabs have turned down offers of a state in nearly the entire West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza at least three times, in 2008, 2000, and 1947. (See CAMERA’s summary of statehood offers here.) More importantly—and more recently—but equally incomprehensibly—they continue to take various steps to prevent the development of even the most basic infrastructure necessary for having a functional state.

This time the enemy—Israel—which has already been dastardly supplying electricity and concrete to the West Bank—has gone so far as attempt to supply water to the parched region.


But because efficiently supplying water to Palestinian cities would require “normalization” with Israel—where “normalization” is a curse word on a par with #$%&@! or even (those under 18 please look away) *!#@%$!!—the Palestinian Authority has been working hard to prevent it. As Evelyn Gordon summarizes, it’s apparently “better for Palestinians to do without new houses, electricity and running water than to commit the crime of talking with an Israeli.”

(On the plus side, at least the Israeli criminals in this story aren’t wearing clown suits.)

Wherever there are Israeli hydrocriminals, there is--DEADLY WATER

(4) Still trying to understand the other side

The well-known international news organization, AP—Assisting Palestinians—has been using a new boilerplate in reporting on the daily attacks of Arabs on Jews. (Don’t feel inferior. I had to look up “boilerplate” too.) This article, from Elder again, pretty conclusively shows what the other side is really thinking, thus saving us all those headaches (and occasional stomachaches) in trying to work it out ourselves.

It’s not pretty.

Though Assisting Palestinians would have you believe otherwise, the ongoing violence might not really be driven by ongoing oppression, despair, frustration with the occupation, and so on (with all due respect—that is, none—to Ban Ki-moon).

It’s driven by incitement, Bunky. (I mean Ban Ki.)

Eek! Eek! Eek! Here's what happens to young clowns when they are exposed to endless incitement

(Great, I had just managed to get that image out of my mind.)

(5) I knew there was a reason Jews are not very handy!

Could it be that we’re not supposed to “repair the world”? (That would be good, because I’ve yet to attempt to repair something around the house without damaging it and whatever is near it irreparably. God forbid I attempted to repair the world.)

You almost surely have heard the concept tikkun olam, to “repair the world.” You have probably heard it in the context of Jews talking about how important it is for them, as Jews, to pursue social justice, to help the poor and oppressed, to preserve the environment, and so on. What you have probably heard, too, is that it is not merely a Jewish commandment, but an important Jewish commandment, perhaps (to some) even the most important Jewish commandment.

It surely is an important concept, but not for the reasons above, in my own unabashed opinion.

It’s important because it plays a central role in turning contemporary Jews away from—well, contemporary Jews. Put less opaquely, it is in the pursuit of tikkun olam that many contemporary Jews disengage from their involvement in and devotion to the Jewish people and instead turn toward pursuing justice for others on a global scale. It is in believing that this is the essential teaching of Judaism that many Jews essentially turn away from Judaism.

Holy unabashedness, that was a good line.

It is in believing that tikkun olam is the essential teaching of Judaism that many Jews essentially turn away from Judaism.

There’s nothing wrong with caring about the world, pursuing justice for others, repairing the world, of course. But arguably there is something very wrong with abandoning the pursuit of justice for your own people in order to pursue it only for others—particularly when those others are the enemies of your people, and you become, therefore, one who works against your own people.

And does so “as a Jew,” in the name of Judaism.

Them is fightin’ words, I know, but once in a while the UAZ must take a fighting pose.

Anyhoo, when you’re done being distracted, here’s the best part. It turns out that tikkun olam is not even a genuine Jewish commandment, at least according to Prof. Steven Plaut of Haifa University.

As he puts it, in Judaism it is the job of Jews to repair the Jews, a—warning, gross understatement coming—“not inconsiderable task.”

If he is right, then when people act in very anti-Jewish ways, “as a Jew,” then they may not be acting so Jewishly after all. Which kind of makes sense, if you are not still too distracted by the previous image.

Don’t let Plaut’s article fool you. It is long, and a bit difficult, and it does date from 2013. But trust me—and I say this only when (a) I am very confident of what I’m about to say or (b) I’m about to borrow money—this is important stuff, and important right now. In fact his ideas are really running between the lines in my own article about Jew-washing a few weeks ago, which I will revise at some point and make use of Plaut’s article.

OK, the brain is starting to hurt. Let’s ease up a little, as we call attention to an upcoming

(6) Major conference with BIGWIGS!

In April, in L.A., some BIGWIGS will be speaking at a BIGWIG conference about combatting the boycott movement against Israel, also known as the BDS movement: Bully, Deceive, and Smear.

We’re talking serious BIGWIGGERY. Like Craig Dershowitz, whom I’m assuming is some sort of relation (long lost identical twin?) to Alan Dershowitz. Also Alan Dershowitz. Oh, and if you squint a little, and go down the list of invited speakers—that’s right, keep going—it’s just right down here, you just have to squint a little more—holy unabashedness—it’s the UNABASHED ZIONIST!

All geared up for some BIGWIGGING
(Great, I had just gotten that image out of my mind.)

That’s right, folks. You can be in the same room with me, if you sign up for the conference!

(7) As if that wasn’t good news enough, we get another serving

It has started to happen. My unabashed readers have started sending me suggestions for the newsletter. Unless you get a cease and desist letter from me, please keep it up. This is a story that just might grip your heart. Once you confirm that you are not undergoing a coronary, enjoy.

Apparently this is what a French person looks like after realizing that his BDS ways were all wrong:

This happened after his employer was contacted by a lot of angry people reacting to this post (which named and shamed him):

All right, so the preceding was in French, and I have no idea if it says what this loyal reader says it does. (For all I know it was a long depressing screed about existentialism. For a minute I thought I saw Sartre in there.)

But either way, it’s pretty cool that I can insert links in French, n’est-ce pas?

And either way: we must fight this battle one Israel-hater at a time. And relish each little victory, minor as it may be.

OK, that’s it for now.

Til next time, remember—stay unabashed.


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sometimes occupation is okay! Truth to narrative. Europe's illegal settlements. And good news!

Welcome to the third issue of The Unabashed Zionist!

            Because an unabashed Zionist is better than a bashed one. Obviously.

Some business first:

I’ll be posting these newsletters here, in case you want to direct people to the site:

Do let me know about anyone else who might like to be on this list. (And feel free to email me the single word ‘unsubscribe’ if you prefer not to be on the list.)

And now for the main event….

(1) UAZ in print

Because I am unabashed, I don’t mind keeping you abreast when I appear in print. (At least I’m not asking you for money. Yet.) This week my earlier longer article against Open Hillel got divided into two parts, and posted in a more accessible form on the Huffington Post: part I here, and part II here.

I also posted a piece analyzing just where fair-mindedness can go wrong, for example when people like UN Secretary General Ban-Ki moon end up supporting terrorism against Israeli Jews. My trusting “give the benefit of the doubt” nature keeps telling me that he can’t really mean it the way it came out, and yet the fact that this sort of thing keeps happening does make me wonder whether it’s time for me to get a new nature.

You can find the piece here.

If you had the energy to visit these links, leave some fantastic comments (or at least sincere ones), and then share the links—I’d be much obliged.

(2) YCMTSU: You can’t make this s*** up!

(a) At some point I will document the general rule that whenever the other side accuses Israel of some terrible misdeed X, they are themselves far more guilty of X than Israel. This week’s first YCMTSU segment includes an interesting variation on that theme, perhaps belonging in its own category:

WOSDIIO: When Our Side Does It It’s Okay!

We all know that when one people occupies another people’s territory, it is bad, very bad. Fortunately, as the other side would have you believe, there is only one example of this in the whole wide world, and that is of course Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands (either 1967 or 1948), and of course Israel is bad, very bad. But in fact there are many occupations going on right now, including Turkey’s occupation of Northern Cyprus, China’s of Tibet, Russia’s of Crimea, Morocco’s of the Western Sahara, England’s of Gibraltar and the Falklands, Italy’s of a piece of North Africa, etc. The only difference between these occupations and Israel’s “occupation” is that the latter, very possibly, doesn’t actually count as an “occupation” according to international law—but that is for another newsletter. 

In any case, the Palestinian Authority, which typically condemns Israel’s “occupation” at least three times before breakfast, is fully aware of Morocco’s occupation of the Western Sahara, but, since these are fellow Arabs and Muslims, apparently, guess what:


The Palestinians affirm Morocco’s sovereignty over that territory because, after all—YCMTSU—you say “occupation,” but we say “territorial integrity,” and do so with an entirely straight face.

Elder of Ziyon has the details here.

(b) The following real headline reflects everything that is wrong in the Middle East today:

“UN mediates return of Israeli ‘spy’ bird from Lebanon”

This vulture, you see, joins a long line of other critters that Israel’s Arab neighbors have accused of being Zionist spies (I kid you not). Turns out it was just a bird that was tagged for scientific research, which (you know) the Israelis occasionally putter around doing. Even so, this is the part that gets me. They needed the UN to mediate its return. On the plus side, at least, finally, the UN has achieved something other than giving Ban-Ki moon a platform to endorse terrorism against Israeli Jews.

YCMTSU. The story is here.

(3) Speaking truth to narrative

We all know about the narratives. The Zionists have theirs, the Palestinians have theirs. That is true and unavoidable, but the problems really begin when you either (a) conclude there is no truth at all, only competing narratives, or (b) adopt your preferred narrative without caring much at all about the truth. I want to avoid going all philosophical on you here, so I’ll try to stay focused.

We all know the Palestinian narrative: they are the indigenous people forcibly displaced by Zionist colonialism, and Israeli Jews are the perpetual aggressors while they are the perpetual victims. Even clear unabashed terrorism is called “resistance,” as if the mere existence of a Jew in their presence is itself an aggression to be resisted. Part of the narrative is that the Palestinians are crushingly oppressed and impoverished by Israel. Gaza is regularly called “the world’s largest open-air prison,” for just one example.

But these narratives don’t always stand up well against the truth.

This long but important article from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs will shift your image of things a bit. Turns out there is a decent amount of luxury in the Palestinian territories alongside the poverty, after all, and that on many quality of life measures, Palestinians do pretty well, and better than many/most other citizens in other Arab countries.

Is it possible that their lives under Israeli oppression aren’t all entirely awfully terrible?

See the article here.

As for the “open-air prison,” at some point I’ll share images of the luxury that is available in Gaza as well (resort hotels, amusement parks, swimming pools, expensive vehicles). It might not surprise you to learn that Hamas leaders are extremely wealthy individuals (at least according to what I’ve been reading lately). But it might surprise you to learn that there’s no actual “humanitarian crisis” going on in Gaza, thanks pretty much exclusively to Israel’s generous border policies toward its enemy neighbor to the south. You want a humanitarian crisis, replete with starvation and illness, you’ll have to look elsewhere (and not that far away, in fact.)

On this issue, have a look at Commentary columnist Evelyn Gordon’s “How to Spot a Fake Siege,” available here. 

(Incidentally, in the “good news” department Israel does very well on such measures as overall happiness and quality of life. But it also has a serious income inequality issue, with a very high impoverishment rate (as reported here). Next time you see images of Palestinian poverty, keep in mind that over 20% of Israelis also live below the poverty line. You can always find areas of serious impoverishment in any nation. For a true image of the bigger picture, what you need to examine are not individual images or stories, but statistics.)

One last point to keep in mind when confronted with that opposing narrative. Words are important. What Israel applies to Gaza is not a siege, but a blockade. There is a big difference. Sieges don’t let anything through. They starve out the besieged. Blockades, at least in this instance, restrict only military materials. If you want to see a siege, look at Egypt’s control of the Rafah crossing on its border of Gaza. It has been nearly permanently closed to people and goods for some years now. In contrast, the crossings between Gaza and Israel oversee hundreds of trucks every day in both directions, carrying food and medicine and any consumer products residents of Gaza want to buy. Many individuals also cross daily, for professional, personal, medical reasons, etc.

Oh, and one very last bit of truth against narrative—the U.N. has determined that Israel’s blockade on Gaza is—wait for it—legal: see here.

Imagine that! What a world.

(4) Maybe it is the settlements after all?

But not the settlements you think. For some reason, when Jews build an additional bathroom in Judea or Samaria what they’re building is not a home or a neighborhood but a “settlement,” and everyone clamors about how illegal it is. (There is this mysterious thing called “international law” that everybody insists condemns almost everything Israel ever does. In future issues we’ll go in search of this elusive entity.) But it turns out the Arabs do lots of building in these areas that really is illegal, demonstrably so according to agreements the Palestinians themselves have signed with Israel. The fact that much of this illegal building is funded by the European Union—you know, that conglomeration of countries from which Jews are fleeing in record numbers because of how much Europeans love Jews—would surprise no one who has read Tuvia Tenenbom’s splendid book Catch the Jew!, a book that would be funny if it weren’t so painfully true.

This perhaps could have gone in the WOSDIIO category, but you can read the article here.

The Tenenbom book now makes me realize I need a new category, the

(5) “Would be funny if it weren’t so painfully true” category

The Onion pretty much nails the Israeli-Palestinian conflict here.  Really, if you’re looking for a way to explain how people get so simple-minded (read: mushy-minded) about the Middle East, this is it.

(6) And now we pause for an opportunity

for college students to attend a terrific program run by the Tikvah people, and get paid for it. If you know of an undergrad who wants to learn more about Judaism and Israel, send him or her  here. (Other programs are available for faculty members. I’ve participated in a couple and they were superb. Check out the organization here. They also occasionally sponsor public lectures and panels.)

Finally, we’ll close with a little

(7) Good News!

Israel really isn’t such a dreadful place. In fact it has a thing or two to recommend it. Maybe even as many as 21!

OK, that’s it for now.

Til next time, remember—stay unabashed.


Monday, January 25, 2016

January 25, 2016 ... Campus Misery, Two-Step Solution, Israel's Wrongs Watch, and Middle East Kumbayah

Welcome to the second issue of The Unabashed Zionist!

Well, the first issue of “The Unabashed Zionist,” strictly speaking, which succeeds the single issue of “The Not-Yet-Named” (which in being retired now becomes an instant classic, so be sure to save your copy for future resale).

And why is this newsletter now called “The Unabashed Zionist”?

Because an unabashed Zionist is better than a bashed one. Obviously.

If you'd like to receive these newsletters by email, please send me your preferred email address.

And now let us commence un-abashing:

(1) Jew-Washing, Antisemitism, Zionophobia

Hot off the press! My new article is just out on American Thinker, in which I tackle the phenomenon of "Jew-washing," viz. the practice of using the fact that some/many Jews are anti-Zionists to obscure the antisemitic nature of anti-Zionism. (Modeled on the phrases "whitewashing" and "pinkwashing" ...). As far as I can tell, no one has yet challenged the intellectual basis of Jew-washing so I think I’m breaking new ground (please alert me otherwise!)… It's a bit heavy-going but I can summarize it briefly: anti-Zionism IS antisemitism, and the fact that some/many Jews are anti-Zionists doesn't change that. Jew-washing is a very pernicious phenomenon, and we need to challenge it as much as possible. If you agree, please feel free to share this link widely. (Heck, even if you don’t agree please share it …)

(2) Campus anti-Zionist misery, and Oberlin follow-up

Last time we learned about the dire state at two representative liberal arts colleges, Vassar and Oberlin. Today we get a detailed follow up on Oberlin by Lori Lowenthal Marcus of the Jewish Press. The good news here is that some Oberlin alums are finally trying to organize and fight back. The bad news is that what they are fighting against is an entire campus culture which is overall not very nice for the Jews. This fundamental inversion of reality—that otherwise progressive campuses would vilify Israel—has taken hold all across the academy, and in my view it’s to resisting that phenomenon that we should be devoting much of our limited resources.

(It also turns out some Vassar alums are organizing too. Email me for more details.)

Here’s a nice piece making the same point I just made, and again, we need to be spreading this message as far as possible:

And finally here’s a much longer, theoretical piece on the subject. “Intersectionality” is the new code word for progressives suggesting that all forms of oppression are somehow deeply linked. It’s this concept that allowed the National Women’s Studies Association to recently declare a boycott of Israeli academics, because in their minds the oppression of women in general is connected to Israel’s alleged oppression of the Palestinians. Of course this logic is very strange, particularly since Israel is a beacon for women’s rights compared to all its neighbors in the Middle East, but then again I’ve never claimed to be able to understand women. (OK, that was a joke; for the record, very many women also objected to the NWSA’s boycott!)

Anyway this piece nicely explains how “intersectionality makes you stupid”:

Before we leave campuses, there’s this worthwhile piece from Israellycool, explaining the process whereby so many Jewish students lose their self-respect (and their minds) and become anti-Zionists, calling for the destruction of the one country that might actually save them when all the rest of the non-Jewish Israel haters come after them. Israellycool also makes some very good practical suggestions about how the Birthright program might strengthen itself to fight this phenomenon:

And finally, I just learned of this Facebook Group, “Stop BDS on Campus.” It looks like they have a lot of very active members and they are really engaged in some terrific projects. Check them out if you want to get involved:

(3) Just in case you (or the people you argue with) have forgotten what the Palestinians’ endgame is

We have yet another example of a senior Fatah official reminding us that the “two-state solution” is really a “two-step solution”: first assume complete control of the West Bank and Gaza, and then regain control of the rest of “Palestine”:

Fatah is the main political party headed by Abbas, and a key constituent of the Palestinian Authority. Its leaders regularly tell the Arabic press about their “two-step” plan, while speaking lovely peace-y PC words to the Western English-speaking media. This is a crucial point to keep in mind when discussing the two-state “solution”: will the two states really be the end of the conflict, or does it amount to a victorious step one of the two-step solution? And shouldn’t we take Israel’s security concerns seriously when their “peace partners” don’t even hide their ultimate intentions?

(4) It’s (not) the settlements, stupid!

Probably my favorite blogger is Elder of Ziyon: The man is thorough, knowledgeable, as objective as one can be who has a distinct point of view, and often breaks and pursues important stories. (He’s often good for some delicious snark, too.) I met him once and shook his hand, which explains why I haven’t washed that hand since.

Here he is this week fisking yet another dishonest report just released by Human Rights Watch (also known as Israel’s Wrongs Watch). It’s really worth being on top of this report and EoZ’s response to it, because people regularly use HRW’s (I mean IWW’s) reports to bash Israel. These reports therefore facilitate that dangerous link between social-justice-progressivism and Israel-hating (the “intersectionality” that makes you stupid). When you read EoZ, however, you’ll realize how these reports consistently distort and misrepresent facts, revealing their profound anti-Israel bias. Undermining these reports publicly just might help diminish the evil intersectionality.

On a similar theme, here he is pointing out something very important: those “Jewish” settlements over the Green Line in fact permit Arabs to live in them, and a decent number do. But for some reason the world doesn’t complain when Israeli Arabs move over the Green Line, just when Israeli Jews do. Somehow Jews are denied rights that other peoples have. There’s another word for that: antisemitism.

Let’s end now with a little

(5) Good News!

Just in case you thought that putting “ISIS” and “Iran” in the same sentence with “good for Israel” was impossible, there’s this. Partly fueled by sharing a common enemy, Israel has been surreptitiously building relationships with some of the perhaps slightly less virulently Israel-hating Arab states:

I wouldn’t expect to hear any loud Kumbaya-ing coming from the Middle East any time soon, but still this strikes me as good news (or at least better than bad news).

We also have continuing legal action in the U.S. against the BDS movement, as New York State expands its legal resistance:

And finally, in the “there must be something in Israel’s water that makes them into such smarty-pants” department, a 13-year-old Israeli girl has developed a thingamajooey that makes some science-y stuff in outer space. (Clearly she hasn’t been spending her time the way most American 13-year olds do, staring at screens and maniacally pressing buttons as they meander feverishly around the interweb.)

OK, that’s it for now.

Til next time, remember -- it’s better to be unabashed than bashed. So start un-abashing!