The Department of Education Gets Anti-Semitism Right, While Its Critics Get It Wrong

Sept. 14 2018

Last month, Kenneth Marcus, the recently appointed assistant secretary of education for civil rights, announced that his office plans to reopen an investigation into an incident in 2011 in which an anti-Israel organization allegedly charged an admission fee only to Jewish students. The Department of Education had closed its investigation into the affair in 2014, finding no wrongdoing. On Wednesday, the New York Times published a heavy-handed front-page story about Marcus’s decision, which confusingly accuses Marcus of supporting a “definition of anti-Semitism that  . . . explicitly defines Judaism as not only a religion but also an ethnic origin.” As Noah Rothman argues, the article exhibits a severely warped understanding of anti-Semitism, and of what it means to be pro-Palestinian:

[The article] contended that Marcus’s decision has paved the way for the Education Department to adopt a “hotly contested definition of anti-Semitism” that includes: denying Jews “the right to self-determination,” claiming that the state of Israel is a “racist endeavor,” and applying a double standard to Israel not “expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.” [But this] is precisely the same definition used by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance [and] adopted almost in total by Barack Obama’s State Department.

[The Times’s author, Erica] Green, went so far as to say that this not-so-new definition for anti-Semitism has, according to Arab-American activists, declared “the Palestinian cause anti-Semitic.” So that is the Palestinian cause? Denying Jews the right to self-determination, calling the state of Israel itself a racist enterprise, and holding it to nakedly biased double standards? So much for the two-state solution.

Perhaps the biggest tell in the Times piece was its . . . inability to distinguish between pro-Palestinian activism and anti-Israel agitation. The complaint the Education Department is preparing to reinvestigate involves . . . an event hosted by the group Belief Awareness Knowledge and Action (BAKA). . . . Green did not dwell on the group, which allegedly discriminated against Jews and pro-Israeli activists. If she had, she’d have reported that, just a few weeks before this incident, BAKA staged another event on the Rutgers campus—a fundraiser for the organization USTOGAZA, which provided aid to the campaign of “flotillas” challenging an Israeli blockade of Gaza. USTOGAZA’s links to the Turkey-based organization Insani Yardim Vakfi, which has long been associated with support for Hamas-led terrorist activities, rendered the money raised in this event legally suspect. Eventually . . . even BAKA conceded the point. . . .

Some might attribute the Times’s neutral portrayal of groups that tacitly support violence and people like Omar Barghouti—an activist who “will never accept a Jewish state in Palestine” and has explicitly endorsed “armed resistance” against Jews, who he insists are “not a people”—to ignorance, as though that would neutralize the harm this dispatch might cause. But [the] benefit of the doubt only extends so far. Even the charitably inclined should have discovered its limits by now.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Barack Obama, BDS, Israel & Zionism, Israel on campus, New York Times

The Reasons for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Staying Power

Nov. 20 2018

This week, Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have narrowly avoided the collapse of his governing coalition despite the fact that one party, Yisrael Beiteinu, withdrew and another, the Jewish Home, threatened to follow suit. Moreover, he kept the latter from defecting without conceding its leader’s demand to be appointed minister of defense. Even if the government were to collapse, resulting in early elections, Netanyahu would almost certainly win, writes Elliot Jager:

[Netanyahu’s] detractors think him Machiavellian, duplicitous, and smug—willing to do anything to stay in power. His supporters would not automatically disagree. Over 60 percent of Israelis tell pollsters that they will be voting for a party other than Likud—some supposing their favored party will join a Netanyahu-led coalition while others hoping against the odds that Likud can be ousted.

Opponents would [also] like to think the prime minister’s core voters are by definition illiberal, hawkish, and religiously inclined. However, the 30 percent of voters who plan to vote Likud reflect a broad segment of the population. . . .

Journalists who have observed Netanyahu over the years admire his fitness for office even if they disagree with his actions. A strategic thinker, Netanyahu’s scope of knowledge is both broad and deep. He is a voracious reader and a quick study. . . . Foreign leaders may not like what he says but cannot deny that he speaks with panache and authority. . . .

The prime minister or those around him are under multiple police investigations for possible fraud and moral turpitude. Under Israel’s system, the police investigate and can recommend that the attorney general issue an indictment. . . . Separately, Mrs. Netanyahu is in court for allegedly using public monies to pay for restaurant meals. . . . The veteran Jerusalem Post political reporter Gil Hoffman maintains that Israelis do not mind if Netanyahu appears a tad corrupt because they admire a politician who is nobody’s fool. Better to have a political figure who cannot be taken advantage of than one who is incorruptible but naïve.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics