Extreme Israeli group takes root in US with fundraising bid

Jewish radicals convicted of hate crimes are collecting tax-exempt donations from Americans


Yosef Haim Ben David, center, arrives at court in Jerusalem on March 22, 2016, during his murder trial in the death of a 16-year-old Palestinian boy. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean, File)

JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli group raising funds for Jewish extremists convicted in some of the country’s most notorious hate crimes is collecting tax-exempt donations from Americans, according to findings by The Associated Press and the Israeli investigative platform Shomrim.

The records in the case suggest that Israel’s far right is gaining a new foothold in the United States.

The amount of money raised through a U.S. nonprofit is not known. But the AP and Shomrim have documented the money trail from New Jersey to imprisoned Israeli radicals who include Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin and people convicted in deadly attacks on Palestinians.

This overseas fundraising arrangement has made it easier for the Israeli group, Shlom Asiraich, to collect money from Americans, who can make their contributions through the U.S. nonprofit with a credit card and claim a tax deduction.

Many Israeli causes, from hospitals to universities to charities, raise money through U.S.-based arms. But having the strategy adopted by a group assisting Jewish radicals raises legal and moral questions.

It also comes against the backdrop of a new, far-right government in Israel led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, where ultranationalists and extremist lawmakers have gained unprecedented power.


    ISRAEL

  • Blinken headed to Mideast as US alarm over violence grows

  • Palestinians: Israeli troops kill 10 in West Bank violence

  • Israel’s Herzog urges EU to fight resurgent antisemitism

  • Israel’s high-tech economic engine balks at govt policies

    Continue reading

Harvard Reverses Course on Advocate Who Criticized Israel

Blocking the former head of Human Rights Watch stirred debate over academic freedom and donor influence


Kenneth Roth, the former director of Human Rights Watch, in New York last April. The Harvard Kennedy School recently reversed its early decision to reject his fellowship application because of his criticisms of Israel. (Todd Heisler/The New York Times)

Jennifer Schuessler and Marc Tracy, New York Times, Jan. 19, 2023

The Harvard Kennedy School reversed course on Thursday and said it would offer a fellowship to a leading human rights advocate it had previously rejected, after news of the decision touched off a public outcry over academic freedom, donor influence and the boundaries of criticism of Israel.

The controversy erupted earlier this month, when The Nation published a lengthy article revealing that last summer, the school’s dean, Douglas Elmendorf, had vetoed a proposal by the school’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy to offer a one-year fellowship to Kenneth Roth, the recently retired executive director of Human Rights Watch. At the time, Elmendorf told colleagues that he was concerned about perceptions that Human Rights Watch had a bias against Israel, according to two faculty members.

The revelation prompted sharp rebukes from prominent free expression groups; a letter signed by more than 1,000 Harvard students, faculty and alumni criticizing what it called “a shameful decision to blacklist Kenneth Roth”; and private complaints from faculty.

In an email to the Kennedy School community on Thursday, Elmendorf said his decision had been an “error” and the school would be extending an invitation to Roth.

Elmendorf, an economist who served as director of the Congressional Budget Office from 2009 to 2015, also pushed back against the charge that donors had influenced his initial decision, which was suggested in the Nation article and reiterated in public statements by Roth.

“Donors do not affect our consideration of academic matters,” he said in the statement. “My decision was also not made to limit debate at the Kennedy School about human rights in any country.”

He did not specify why he had rejected Mr. Roth’s fellowship except to say that it was “based on my evaluation of his potential contributions to the school.”

As for Roth, who after Harvard’s about-face accepted an offer from the University of Pennsylvania, where he is now a fellow at Perry World House, Elmendorf said, “I hope that our community will be able to benefit from his deep experience in a wide range of human rights issues.”

Roth, reached by phone after the reversal was announced, said he was pleased by the decision, which he attributed to “overwhelming” concern from the faculty, and that he would use the fellowship to work on a book about his decades of human rights advocacy. But he also called for more transparency.

“Dean Elmendorf has said he made this decision because of people who ‘mattered’ to him at the university,” Roth said, referring to published accounts by faculty members. “He still refuses to say who those people who mattered to him were.”

And he called on Harvard to make a stronger commitment to academic freedom, including for people who aren’t in a position to mobilize public opinion.

“Penalizing people for criticizing Israel is hardly limited to me,” he continued. “What is the Kennedy School, and Harvard more broadly, going to do to show this episode conveys a renewed commitment to academic freedom, rather than just exceptional treatment for one well-known individual?”


The Harvard Kennedy School, a public policy school in Cambridge, Mass., is home to a dozen research centers, including the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. (Kayana Szymczak)

The incident was the latest flare-up in the ongoing debate about when criticism of Israel shades into antisemitism, and when charges of antisemitism, in turn, are used to shut down criticism.

In interviews (and on Twitter), Roth, a Jew whose father fled Nazi Germany as a child, said that Elmendorf’s initial decision reflected the influence of those who seek to delegitimize Human Rights Watch, which has monitored abuses in more than 100 countries, as an impartial observer on Israel. And he has described it as a case of “donor-driven censorship,” though he said he had no proof.

Continue reading

U.S. Palestinian Rights Group in Federal Appeals Court 

Confronts Challenge to Human Rights Advocacy

  

Last week a U.S.-based Palestinian rights organization asked the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by the Jewish National Fund and several U.S. citizens who live in Israel. Citing the speech and expressive activities of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, including its support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, the lawsuit  had argued that the group provided “material support” for terrorism. 

In dismissing the suit in March 2021, the lower court said the arguments were, “to say the least, not persuasive.” The suit is part of a broader effort to criminalize and silence the political activities of supporters of Palestinian rights, advocates say. 

“The worldwide movement for Palestinian freedom is growing,” said Ahmad Abuznaid, Executive Director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights. “USCPR’s work to advocate for Palestinian human rights is a critical part of that freedom struggle, or else right-wing forces allied with the Israeli government would not be repeatedly trying to silence us. All the more reason to keep up our work to build toward justice for all.”

Visit our website to learn more.

Distorted Definition: Redefining Antisemitism to Silence Advocacy for Palestinian Rights

One of the primary tactics opponents of the movement for Palestinian freedom have used to silence political debate is the branding of all support for Palestinian rights as anti-Jewish. Roughly half of the incidents of suppression Palestine Legal responds to each year include false accusations of antisemitism, totaling 895 incidents from 2014 to 2020.   

In an effort to add legitimacy to this tactic, Israel lobby groups have employed distorted definition of antisemitism that encompasses virtually all criticism of Israel and have attempted to entrench this definition through policy changes and legislation. 

This page tracks the evolution of the cynical ways Israel lobby groups have abused the definition and the definition’s impact on advocates for Palestinian rights.

We invite you to explore the following components:

 
2004 – 2008

Origins of a Politicized Redefinition

After decades of attempting to smear Palestine advocacy with false antisemitism accusations, Israel lobby groups develop a new Israel-centered definition of antisemitism. It is adopted by an EU body, and the U.S. State Department cites it in a report.

  • The European Union Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) begins working with the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and other Jewish and Israel advocacy groups to expand the definition of antisemitism. The AJC encourages inclusion of criticism of Israel in this redefinition.

    At the same time, Israeli politician Natan Sharansky creates the “3Ds Test” which defines “delegitimizing,” “demonizing” or “applying double standards” to Israel as examples of antisemitism.

  • Continue reading

California cancels Palestinians

Weaponizing Anti-Semitism
to Silence Criticism of Israel

 

Israeli lobby groups redefine antisemitism to include criticisms of Israel as a means of stifling speech

A baseball cap with the words: Make Israel Palestine Again
Activists warn that the adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism will stifle speech on Palestine. (Justin L. Stewart, ZUMA Press)

In September, the West Hollywood City Council unanimously passed a resolution adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism.

The council was following a global trend. Institutions around the world are increasingly adopting the IHRA definition which purports to be a tool for identifying and combating anti-Semitism.

In reality, it is merely the latest attempt to criminalize support for Palestinian liberation. Indeed, the West Hollywood City Council’s vote – and the public outcry it generated – provides valuable insight into the growing threat the adoption of this flawed definition poses to political activism and education.

The council’s actions were foreshadowed by the West Hollywood Public Safety Commission which, on 8 August, voted to recommend that the City Council adopt the IHRA definition. During that meeting, Public Safety Commissioner Tony Berger asked fellow commissioner Robert B. Oliver, who brought the proposal, what the purpose of a safety commission making such a recommendation would be.

“It’s not in our purview to do anything like this,” Berger said. “Aren’t we trying just to protect everybody?”

Oliver, who is currently running for West Hollywood City Council, said his proposal was to recommend to the City Council that the city adopt the IHRA definition as a “non-legally binding working definition to inform the different agencies of our city what anti-Semitism is.”

The West Hollywood move came after both Manhattan Beach and Beverly Hills city councils voted to adopt the IHRA definition. Oliver cited the latter as a reason for West Hollywood to follow suit.

During public comment on 19 September – when the West Hollywood City Counci eventually voted to pass the IHRA definition in accordance with the public safety commission’s recommendation – Palestinian West Hollywood resident Rami Kabalawi said he felt the IHRA definition silenced Palestinians and was concerned with prohibiting criticisms of Israel rather than authentically challenging anti-Semitism.

Kabalawi told the council: “If it’s codified, it will position Palestinian freedom of speech as explicitly anti-Jewish and create a situation of divisiveness that is fueled not about ending bigotry, but classifying our right to speak out as a form of it.”

Recycled language

Many fear that Kabalawi is right.

What is the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, and why is its passage by the West Hollywood City Council such a troubling development?

The story behind the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism begins with a working definition of anti-Semitism conceived of by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenobophia – a European Union agency – in the early noughties.

While the EUMC working definition is uncontroversial, it features several alleged examples of “anti-Semitism” that are simply criticisms of the Israeli state. This working definition was never formally endorsed by the EUMC.

Continue reading

January 3rd CODEPINK Capitol Calling Party

CODEPINK.ORG

You are invited to join our Tuesday CODEPINK CONGRESS Calling Party to talk with special guests about what’s happening in Palestine and efforts to end US complicity in Israeli crimes.

Chat with peacemakers and experts Tuesday, January 3rd at 5 pm PT/7 pm CT/8 pm ET:

None

 

Israeli settler violence against Palestinians escalated in 2022 with West Bank settlers on the rampage, defiling mosques, vandalizing shops and assaulting Palestinians in Hebron and other Palestinian cities. Instead of stopping the settlers, the Israeli military turned on Palestinians, adding to the year’s death toll: 150 Palestinians killed, 33 of them children. Meanwhile, the most racist Israeli government returns to power with former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu – under criminal indictment – set to serve his sixth term. This new ultra-nationalist government stands in explicit – no longer implicit – opposition to a Palestinian state and threatens to strip the courts of their power.

US Secretary of State Blinken insists the US commitment to apartheid Israel is ironclad, despite whispers last month that the Biden administration might refuse to meet with some of the most reactionary members of the new Israeli government. 

Join us as we detail the situation on the ground in Palestine and examine US congressional and grassroots efforts to end US complicity in Israeli crimes. 

Featuring

Mazin Qumsiyeh is an activist, environmentalist and author. He is founder and director of the Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability (PIBS) at Bethlehem University. He served on the faculties of the University of Tennessee, Duke University and the Yale University, and now researches and teaches at Bethlehem university. He is the author of hundreds of articles and several books including Sharing the Land of Canaan and Popular Resistance in Palestine.

Anat Biletzki is a professor of philosophy at Quinnipiac and past professor at Tel Aviv University. She is a steering committee member of FISP – The International Federation of Philosophical Societies. She also serves as Vice-Chair of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University, and is co-founder and co-director of the Program for Human Rights and Technology at MIT. Born in Jerusalem, she was Chair of the Board of B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights NGO, from 2001 to 2006, having served as a B’Tselem Board member for several years before. Her most recent book is Philosophy of Human Rights: A Systematic Introduction (2019).

Take Action!

Continue reading

“International pressure is crucial to ending Israel’s rule over Palestinians”

A portrait of Benjamin Netanyahu with streaks of blue and white paint in the background.
Credit…Illustration by Rebecca Chew/The New York Times; photograph by Dan Balilty for The New York Times

Re “The Ideal of Democracy in Israel Is in Jeopardy” (editorial, Dec. 18):

As the editor of a progressive Jewish magazine that closely covers Israel and Palestine, I was deeply dismayed by the editorial.

Though the editorial is critical of the Biden administration for failing to push back more strongly against Israeli extremism, it doesn’t urge any specific actions. Mr. Biden has many forms of leverage at his fingertips: He could place human rights conditions on the $3.8 billion in military aid that the U.S. sends Israel annually, or halt the sale of U.S. weapons that are used against Palestinian civilians, or end our country’s decades-old policy of shielding Israel from accountability at the U.N. The editorial presses for none of these.

Instead, it echoes the president in emphasizing the inviolability of the U.S.–Israel alliance — a bromide that assures Israel that its blank check is guaranteed.

Israel is indeed on a dangerous path, but the contention that its “democracy” is “in jeopardy” as a result of this election obscures the state’s undemocratic 55-year military occupation of the Palestinian territories, which denies Palestinians their basic human rights.

This new extremist coalition has substantial domestic support, which means that international pressure, especially by the U.S., is crucial to ending Israel’s rule over Palestinians. The Times has meanwhile offered a master class in how to offer nothing but hand-wringing.

Arielle Angel
Brooklyn
The writer is editor in chief of Jewish Currents.

To the Editor:

Perhaps your editorial headline should have read “The Era of Gaslighting in Israel Is Over.” A nation that has deprived an indigenous population of the right to vote for the past half-century is not a democracy.

Department of Education to investigate Berkeley Law School

Complaint from Israeli lawfare group prompts investigation over student group challenging Zionism

MICHAEL ARRIA, MONDOWEISS, DECEMBER 16, 2022

The Right to Boycott: Resisting the Crackdown on BDS

Join CODEPINK and Meera Shah of Palestine Legal on Zoom December 14th at 2pm ET/11am PT for an important and timely call on recent anti-BDS legislation and its impacts on movements for Palestine solidarity, and various forms of divestment.

Since 2014, U.S. legislators have introduced over 200 bills targeting boycotts for Palestinian rights – and the volume of these bills have only increased, with a huge wave of legislative attacks in recent months. What are the latest developments with these anti-boycott laws, and what do they mean? Join us as we explore the impacts these bills are already having on Palestine advocacy work, on other forms of divestment activism, and what we can do in this critical moment.

Meera Shah joined Palestine Legal in 2019. She supports the organization’s casework and public education and oversees the advocacy work on free speech, academic freedom, and the right to boycott.