Monday, April 11, 2011

Tap-dancing to AIPAC’s Tune

When I picked up the student newspaper on campus today, I saw a full page ad from the Vanguard Leadership Group, an African-American leadership organization. The ad was signed by several young African Americans who have (or had) leadership positions in leading Black colleges. The message of the ad was that that Students for Justice in Palestine are wrong to use the term "apartheid" in conjunction with Israel, that Israel grants full equality to its Arab citizens, that there is no comparison between Israel and South Africa, blah, blah, blah.

The whole think smelled of AIPAC, and I was not surprised to learn that AIPAC has been working with the group for several years, sending some of them on hasbara trips to Israel, employing others as AIPAC interns, etc. This is no secret; the AIPAC connection was trumpeted on the group's website, and in the JTA article. Even before the ad appeared in the university paper, the Jerusalem Post ran an article about it. Given the play that the ad received (only) in the hasbara blogosphere, it may be that its purpose was to boost morale of the hasbaraniks rather than to influence opinion on campus.

What alerted me to the AIPAC connection was simply the crudeness of the argument, and the half-truths of its author. Although some compare the situation of Arab citizens of Israel with blacks in apartheid South Africa --both suffer(ed) legal discrimination --the comparison pertains to the West Bank and Gazan Palestinians, who weren't even mentioned in the ad. The authors of the ad knew this, but they figured that the students reading it wouldn't, so they threw hasbara dust in their eyes. (The same dust has ended up in the wiki article on Israel and the apartheid analogy) The fact that the term 'apartheid' has been used to describe the West Bank and Gaza by former Israeli prime ministers Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak, anti-apartheid giant, Desmond Tutu, and many others, was not mentioned in the ad.

For a good response to the ad, see Yaman's post at kabobfest

Of course, AIPAC has the right to cultivate relationships with anybody it wants, including the Vanguard Leadership Group. And if the Black group wants to play the hasbara game against Palestinians under a brutal occupation, that's also their right . And certainly college newspapers have the right to take money from advocacy groups like AIPAC and FLAME to publish full page ads parroting Israeli propaganda that even right wing Israelis don't believe any more.

But when Israel supporters whine about the "anti-Israel climate on campus", let's not forget that the only groups with money to take out full-page ads are Israel advocates. Israel advocates on campus have institutional support in Hillel, AIPAC, Chabad, the Israel Campus Coalition, etc., with budgets in the stratosphere. By contrast, Palestinian student groups have virtually no funding and support. The power balance on American campuses mirrors the power balance in Israel/Palestine – one side has everything, the other side has virtually nothing. College newspapers will always tap-dance to the piper with money.

On my campus, SJP has been sponsoring a Palestine Awareness Week, a modest affair with a few outside speakers. It is perhaps fitting that the Vanguard Leadership Group chose my campus to lecture about the inappropriateness of the word "apartheid," despite the fact that there is no Apartheid Awareness Week here. It treats the local SJP as non-existent, just as it treats several million Palestinians living under a permanent occupation as non-existent.

The situation in the Occupied Territories is not apartheid. The Blacks in South Africa were considered South African. Inferior, but South African. They were not completely segregated from Whites; they did not have their own roads. In Israel, nobody views the Palestinians as part of their country, only their lands and resources.

Calling hafrada "apartheid" is an insult to apartheid.


Theodore said...

I find it absurd when I hear people complaining of "anti-Israeli" bias anywhere. I remember a while back on Bill Maher when an Israeli official, who Maher had invited -- a real good amount of honesty can be expected there, spoke of anti-Israeli bias on the mainstream media ... I was floored. What shocked me most was Maher just nodded in support. Absurd! On my campus Zionist groups get as much money for their fundraisers as the North Korea awareness groups, which try to raise awareness and aid for the suffering in that country. Meanwhile only a few weeks ago the Zionists and writers of the local campus review magazine held a "Islamo-fascist awareness weak".

It is all a good joke!

Jerry Haber said...


I had to delete your comment because of its racist overtones.

Please read what I wrote:

"College newspapers will always tap-dance to the piper with money. "

Benedict said...

This is interesting stuff; my grand-father, Leon Roth, was a friend of Magnes and taught philosophy at the Hebrew University; if you have a minute would you drop me an email at (no need to post this publicly) Benedict Roth

Anonymous said...

care to restate your comment that "Very few people compare the situation of Arab citizens of Israel with blacks in apartheid South Africa.."

or do i need to bring you hundreds of other examples?

shmuel said...

Sorry for my ignorance of things American, but what is a "Black College"???

It sounds omminously like some aparteid concept, but I hope it really has something to do with architecture like the English "red-brick colleges"

David Farbey said...

I really wish I could believe that Israeli law and practice never, ever discriminated between Jew and non-Jew, and that the worthy intentions of Israel's Declaration of Independence were in reality the everyday guiding principle of every Israeli politician, policeman, and citizen-soldier. That Israel would be a true "light unto the nations".

emanuelLombard said...

Magnes was marginalized in his time. Everyone ignores a far greater injustice done Israel's Arab Jews.They lived abused in the Arab and Moslem world for up to 2500 years. With UN Israel partition came a failed invasion by five Arab countries and an Arab League revenge that called for the expulsion of the Jews from eleven Arab-Moslem countries. Today, they constitute almost half of Israel's population. No one pleads justice and fairness for them. But somehow the majority of Palestinian deserter-refugees are a special case. How come?

emanuelLombard said...

My nominally Jewish grandparents from Berlin and Odessa had been forced to leave Russia for their help with the revolution and from Argentina for starting the first labor union. In 1911 they arrived in Palestine and I enjoy reading about the land in my 1911 Britannica and savor my mother's stories about her childhood there through WWI. I've lived there, taught at the Hebrew University, enjoy my children, grand and great grand children there. But always upper most in my mind are A. Bostom's well documented accounts of Jewish life in the Arab world over 2500 years. I always wonder how the Mizrahi Jews can be as civil to the Palestinians after all that their parents and grandparents had to endure before their expulsion from Arab states.

Unknown said...

Dar Jerry- Just found your blog. Well written and heartening. Thank you-

Theodore said...

"They lived abused in the Arab and Moslem world for up to 2500 years"

Im sorry... What? The Jews of the Muslim world have been among the least persecuted throughout history, at least in sense of comparative "abuse" (meaning that Jews throughout history and in the various regions looked for the comparative least region of abuse). Jews living in Arab Spain lived in an unprecedented level of peace with the dominant Arab population, as well as Jews in the Muslim Ottoman Empire.

It was only in the creation of national movements that things turned sour (and Zionism can be seen a byproduct of those national movements as well).

Matt said...

Tap dancing? Really? You have to raise the specter of minstrelsy?

emanuelLombard said...

Half of Israel's population consists of Jewish refugees from Arab countries of 60 years ago. If AIPAC is so powerful what has it been able to do for them in all these years? Just an obscure House Resolution on April 1, 2008:
H.Res.185 EH. WOW! Me? I'd hire whatever lobby managed to promote the Pals.and skip AIPAC.
Ever hear of a Palestinian Arab ready to trade his Israeli citizenship for another?

Jerry Haber said...

lombardi, your statistics are wrong, and AIPAC doesn't need to do anything about so-called Jewish refugees -- it's not their charge. You and I agree that they should be given the choice to go back to their native lands and get compensation for what was taken from them, like all other refugees, including the Palestinians. And, frankly, Israel should also pay for their compensation since they often brought them to the new state for cannon fodder and housed them in houses belonging to the Palestinians.

Spoils of war? That's what the Soviets said...and look where it got them.

emanuelLombard said...

Mr. Haber might check AIPAC references. Astounded that you believe that any Arab Jews in Israel would dream of returning to the Arab countries from which they were expelled (1948-67). Some did taste Israel but joined the Mizrahi elites by moving to France or the Americas. Have you ever examined 1948 Arab housing? I did. The best of it was lovely, but the majority was in wretched villages without basic amenities. According to UN authority Prof. Loudermilk, the Arabs had so destroyed the land, that miracles could not restore it to what it had been. Read his books. Read Andrew Bostom too. See Britannica 1911, Palestine. Israeli states indicate that 45-50% are of Mizrahi origin. Obviously, there has been intermarriage. My immediate family ties go back to 1911 and persist to this day. Altho I am Spanish Catholic in origins, I try to be objective.

emanuelLombard said...

Lest I be misunderstood, I am NOT in favor of the Jews going back to the Arab countries from which they were expelled and it is absolutely unrealistic to even contemplate the Palestinians returning to Israel. Most of the original Palestinian refugees are long since dead. And those refugees were shrewdly defined as having been residents in 1945. The Arabs define legitimate Jewish residents of Palestine as having been resident there in 1917 or earlier!
I say shrewdly because a very large number of Arabs arrived after the start of the British mandate as laborers after 1917.
The Brits generally avoided hiring Jews for anything. A great number of landless Arab fellahin arrived after 1902 from Syria and Egypt at the urging of the Arab leadership to circumvent the possibility of a Zionist state. There are no reliable figures for comparable population sectors 1890-1948, but it is my surmise that at least one-third to one-half of the Arab population arrived after 1902 and 1917. The British kept careful accounts of Jewish population but kept none for Arabs.

Jerry Haber said...

emanuel, it's closer to 40%

as for jews who left arab lands, please read this by Rachel Shabi

Jerry Haber said...

oh, and, emanuel, spare me the AIPAC propaganda...nobody in Israel buys that stuff anymore. save it for mitchell bard and other hasbaritas