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

What Donald Trump Gets Right about Israel and the Arabs

Oct. 17 2019

With a brisk history of American policy toward the Jewish state, Michael Doran highlights the failure of those who have seen a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict as paramount to U.S. interests, and the success of those who have instead made a clear-eyed assessment of Middle Eastern geopolitics. Too often, writes Doran, “Israel’s conflict with the Arabs has functioned as a screen onto which outsiders project their own psychodramas”: a skewed perspective that led to the failed Oslo Accords and to the misguided condemnations of American moves like the relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem. (Free registration required.)

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Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, US-Israel relations