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.