Perhaps even more disturbing than the news this week of a bus bombing in Jerusalem is Harvard Law School’s efforts to protect the privacy of third-year student Husam El-Qoulaq. He is the head of the Harvard Chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, and at a recent guest talk featuring Israeli dignitary Tzipi Livni, he asked the profound question of why she is so smelly.
This hiding and protecting the student from any future shame as he goes off into the world looking for a job can be seen in the linked article from the Harvard Law Record, where they do not list Husam El-Qoulaq’s name.
Political correctness and tolerating the intolerant is not going to make this growing storm of Jew hatred go away any time soon. Remember, the Nazi party began when it gained strength within Germany’s college campuses.
It’s a good thing there are a lot of good Jewish lawyers.
One of them is my dear friend Joanna Abramson. Here is a Detroit Jewish News article from this week’s issue about her fight, written by Senior Copy Editor David Sachs.
Attorneys who want to help fight antiSemitism on campus can contact Joanna Abramson at (248) 706-1700 or joanna@ abramsonlawoffices.com.
In post-World War I Germany, Joanna Abramson’s grandfather Ernest Gans suffered intense anti-Semitism while attending law school at the University of Munich.
He ultimately fled Germany a month before the Kristallnacht pogrom in 1938. Gans’ granddaughter Joanna, now a West Bloomfield attorney, in sharp contrast, experienced no anti-Semitism whatsoever as a proudly pro-Israel student at the University of Michigan in the 1970s.
But when her son arrived for orientation at the University of Michigan in 2004, new freshmen were met by protestors with signs and chants calling Israel an apartheid state and equating Israel with Nazism.
“It was a completely different University of Michigan than I experienced,” said Abramson. “It was more like the University of Munich that my grandfather experienced. “This is the experience occurring all over the United States today. As attorneys, we can’t sit by and watch this happen.”
Abramson, a board member of the Jewish Bar Association of Michigan (JBAM), organized a conference of local attorneys with featured speaker Yael Mazar, the director of legal affairs at the pro-Israel advocacy group StandWithUs (SWU). She addressed about 50 lawyers April 7 at the Max M. Fisher Federation Building in Bloomfield Township.
Abramson seeks to inspire attorneys to join the fight against anti-Semitism on campus. She got a positive response from attorneys attending the conference. Mazar, a Los Angeles native who is currently living in Israel, conducts legal workshops and advises students on confronting extremist activity. Before joining StandWithUs, she specialized in civil rights and hate crimes law with the Anti-Defamation League. She sought to educate the attorneys attending the conference about anti-Semitism on campus and discuss what they could do to combat it.
Providing the student point of view was SWU-Michigan’s campus liaison Andrew Moss, a junior at U-M in Ann Arbor. Moss works with college and high school students across the state to plan and implement pro-Israel programming.
HATRED OF ISRAEL AND JEWS
Mazar described how easily anti-Israel rhetoric and demonstrations can morph into antiSemitism, giving the specific definition of anti-Semitism promulgated by the U.S. State Department. In addition, she spoke about the staged disruptions by anti-Israel factions when proIsrael speakers seek to speak on campus — which violate the speakers’ First Amendment right to speak and the audiences’ First Amendment right to listen.
She also told of harassment of Jewish students across the country, including, for instance, fake “Israelistyle” eviction notices in college dormitories or bogus student government allegations like those brought up and dismissed recently against U-M student Jesse Arm. Regarding anti-Semitism, Mazar said that absurd charges of the mass killing of Palestinian children were like the age-old blood libel of Jews killing Christian children to make Passover matzah.
She stated the three criteria of how antiIsrael antagonists cross the line into antiSemitism, as laid out by the State Department in its Fact Sheet “Defining Anti-Semitism”: • Demonizing Israel: Using the images of anti-Semitism to characterize Israel, comparing Israel to the Nazis or blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions. • Double Standard for Israel: Requiring of Israel a behavior not expected of any other democratic nation and focusing only on Israel for human rights investigations. • Delegitimizing Israel: Denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination and denying Israel its right to exist. However, the State Department adds, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.
TROUBLE ON CAMPUS
The University of California (UC) regents have recently had to confront rampant antiSemitism on their campuses. Mazar gave the example of swastika graffiti and vandalism aimed at a Jewish fraternity at UC-Davis. She pointed out the case at UCLA in Los Angeles where Rachel Beyda was at first summarily rejected for a student government position because questions were raised that her Jewish faith would affect her impartiality. Also, at UC-Santa Cruz, an anti-Israel faction tried to prevent student representative Daniel Bernstein from voting on a pro-BDS resolution before the student government because he was Jewish. Mazar also discussed the case of U-M student Jesse Arm, a student government representative who was charged with ethics violations for peacefully disagreeing with the builders of an “Israel Apartheid Wall” on campus.
Arm was denied the opportunity to be represented by counsel at a student government hearing but received legal advice in advance from the SWU and West Bloomfield attorney Lawrence Katz. The student government wound up dismissing all allegations against him. SWU has prepared a pamphlet “Know Your Rights!” for Jewish students affected by anti-Semitic intimidation by anti-Israel factions. Included are issues of suppression of pro-Israel speech, challenging hostile professors, hate speech, anti-Semitism and harassment.
Students are given a hotline to get free legal help by filing an incident report through the website EndBDS.com or by calling (844) END-BDS7. Mazar says SWU has a pro bono legal team that will assist students facing antiSemitism with legal tools to utilize. She invited Detroit-area attorneys to get involved through Abramson’s efforts. SWU’s partners in the “Know Your Rights!” project are the American Center for Law and Justice, the Lawfare Project, the Louis D. Brandeis Center and the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA).
EXCEEDING THE RULES
Mazar said one tactic SWU has used against pro-BDS resolutions has been to examine the bylaws of the resolving organization to see if it exceeded its authority by taking action on inappropriate issues.
This succeeded in an instance at UC-Davis. Lawyers can be helpful in advising students about rules and bylaws. Mazar cautioned that even though proBDS resolutions don’t always pass, the torrent of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric could still influence the beliefs of future leaders who are subjected to unsuccessful BDS efforts.
When anti-Israel demonstrators prevent pro-Israel speakers from having their say, Mazar said that the protestors should be arrested and prosecuted. For instance, 10 such demonstrators at UC-Irvine were convicted of disrupting a 2010 speech by then Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren.
Another weapon against anti-Semitism is Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits federal funding to institutions that discriminate. In cases in 2004 and 2010, Title VI was applied to protect Jews. In 2013, the ZOA filed a Title VI action against Brooklyn College when the college did nothing when four non-disruptive Jewish students were ejected from a pro-Palestinian event. In light of the action, the college apologized to the students and implemented policies to prevent future similar discrimination from occurring.
Moss, a junior at U-M majoring in political science and international studies, represents SWU-MI and works to fight anti-Semitism and BDS. “I built this position,” he explained, telling how he assists and educates students across the state. He was trained in pro-Israel activity by SWU prior to starting college in its MZ teen intern program. Moss told the lawyers they should “let the students know the community is behind them” regarding anti-Semitism on campus. He said students are fighting for the ability to present the pro-Israel side. Larry Katz, the West Bloomfield attorney who volunteered his advice to U-M student Jesse Arm prior to his successful hearing before a student government board, attended the attorneys’ meeting and said, “This meeting is the first step in the creation of a community of lawyers concerned about the BDS movement and growing anti-Semitism, particularly on college campuses. “We want to make sure Jewish students and faculty know their rights and have the resources to counter this propaganda.”
Attorneys who want to help fight antiSemitism on campus can contact Joanna Abramson at (248) 706-1700 or joanna@ abramsonlawoffices.com. Local attorneys are especially needed to serve on the legal help hotline. Their services will be available to people and organizations fighting anti-Semitism.
Got plans to visit Israel this winter?
I am so jealous … I mean….you are so lucky! So happy for YOU!
A year ago Chanukkah I was there, with the whole mishpucha (family). We toured, we ate falafel, we hiked, we sang and we cried.
We enjoyed every minute (okay, maybe not the flight…)
One of the worst byproducts of when Israel is embroiled in conflict with her neighbors is that tourism drops.
Israel’s Arab neighbors know this. Israel’s neighbors want this. Don’t give them what they want.
I’ve been in Israel in 1982 during their invasion with Lebanon. In 1989 during the first intifada. I did not notice the conflict.
I know several families who are planning a trip to Israel this summer with their children. I can’t wait for when they return to hear all about it and how this trip transforms your life and perspective on the Jewish people like no other.
So Go! And take lots of pictures.
But don’t take my word for it. Here is the official statement from Israel’s ministry of tourism:
Dear Friends and colleagues,
I am writing to update you on the current situation and to thank you sincerely for standing with us during the recent challenging period.
During the last week, and despite the headlines, thousands of tourists continued to arrive in Israel undaunted. No airline flights were cancelled and while certain tour itineraries were necessarily adjusted to meet the exigencies of the situation, there was neither panic nor overt concern. Altogether, some 100,000 tourists continued traveling in our country and we in Israel were honored by their presence.
Moreover, we were deeply moved by how the travel industry worldwide displayed admirable confidence in Israel tourism. You trusted our country’s ability to keep our travel industry operating, safe and intact. And, most importantly, you showed faith in our determination to ensure the security, safety and well-being of our visitors. We sincerely appreciate this trust.
As we move ahead, please be assured of the commitment of the Israel Ministry of Tourism and the Israel travel industry to maintain the momentum that, with your dedication, has made 2012 the best year ever for tourism to Israel.
Have you seen it?
The video of foul mouthed-middle schoolers speaking foul things not to each other, but to an elderly bus monitor?
Cursing at her? Calling her fat? Touching *touching* her stomach and calling her fat — while she sat helpless, perhaps terrified? This painful video was ten minutes long. This went on for ten minutes.
All the anti-bullying talk. All the anti-bullying this and that. And NO ONE stood up and stopped the bullies!!
And how could the bus driver allow this to go on?
I interviewed a teacher here who is a historian, the keeper and cuurator of a one-roomed school house in Penfield.
Back in those days, kids who were bad, got the switch. At the very least, they were sent to the corner with a dunce cap. There really wasn’t much wiggle room or putting up with bullshit from students.
I’m really fed up with the assinine actions of some of the “minors” in my town:
A year ago, a kid named Luke Buckett and a few of his friends burned a swastika in my town, and they got off because “they didn’t know what it was and didn’t know it was hurtful to people. They were 17.
In Rochester, about four high schools have been severely vandalized by seniors as a “prank.”
Now, we can no longer harshly punish kids. We can’t shame them publicly or make them feel badly about their actions. It might damage their psyche.
It’s hard-working teachers who get disciplined for trying to dicipline kids. But what do you do when kids act so abhorrently, knowing they would be filmed, like this:
So, what should be the proper punishment for these kids? Here are some of my recommendations:
Riding the bus is a privelege. Make these kids walk to school from now on. And it gets cold in Rochester.
Give this poor woman and all expenses paid vacation to wherever she wants. And make the parents of these entitled brats pay for it.
I just can’t hold back on this one. Call me judgemental and harsh. Go ahead.
Today is International Women’s Day. It is also the Jewish holiday of Purim. As the real life story line of life plays out in the news this week, it contains enough twists and turns and ironies to make one believe that some supreme power is having a hand in its design.
Often thought of as a children’s holiday or the “Jewish Halloween” where kids get to dress up in costume, Purim holds many grown up lessons about speaking out against bullying, standing up for oneself and most importantly, to take threats of annihilation – especially if one nation threatens to wipe out another nation – very seriously.
If you are not familiar with the story of the Jewish holiday of Purim, or you see Jewish children dressing up and think it must be a springtime Halloween for Jews, here is a video to fill you in on the story:
Another coincidence in time and news events this week is how much Iran has been in the news on the week we celebrate women. Iran has some pretty abysmal standings for women’s rights. However, it is also on this day that we celebrate the courage of one woman living in ancient Persia, circa 6th Century B.C.E. It was Esther, who, encouraged by her uncle Mordechai, was picked in a beauty contest by King Achashveros, made queen, and revealed her Jewish identity in the nick of time to reveal Haman’s plot to kill her people.
Death. Gallows. Wearing Sackcloth and ashes.
Wait. Wait! This is supposed to be a happy holiday! In fact, right after I write this post, I’m going out to celebrate and deliver baskets of food, or mishloach manot, to my friends and neighbors.
Purim is a joyous holiday because the outcome could have been so sad.
The story dramatically flips from certain annihilation to redemption and defeat of the enemies of the Jewish people.
Does this scenario sound relevant to this week’s news? Of course it does.
Eerily. this year’s Purim celebration comes on the heels of the 2012 Policy Conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The centerpiece of the week’s AIPAC agenda: the increasing Iranian threat of this country’s nuclear capabilities. The potential for another Holocaust. Israel’s right as a sovereign nation to stop this threat.
If the news of the week plays out like a Purim play, brave Mordechai, Esther’s uncle who knew somehow ahead of time that danger was coming to the Jews, was played by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
We all know who is playing the evil villan Haman.
Time and time again, Bibi has warned the United States just how serious the situation with Iran has become. Israel should not have to wait for permission from another country to determine their survival or destiny. This is the cornerstone of why Israel exists, for Jewish survival. Prime Minister Netanyahu has been warning the world for 15 years now on the dangers of Iran developing a nuclear missile. The media call him impatient on wanting to act instead of talking.
Is waiting for 15 years for action impatient?
And as far as the part of the foolish King Achasverous? Well, that would be our president. President Barak Obama.
I did vote for him. And because I cannot stand the rest of the Republican platform stands for, I guess I’ll have to vote for him again.
President Obama this week said to AIPAC the US doesn’t have the stomach to get involved in another war in the Middle East. This week he claimed that he has seen too many consequences of war. It is he who must sign letters to the families of deceased American soldiers.
You know what, President Obama? Israel doesn’t want war either. Because in Israel, everyone serves in the army. In Israel, unlike the here in the US, the bomb shelters are just a little more visible, a little more a part of day-to-day awareness in Israeli society. They are not some dusty, outdated Cold War shelters. Ask a resident of Modi’in, where there is a safe room in every apartment. And school.
And Israel does not want to hurt the people of Iran. Ironically, the largest Jewish community in the Middle East resides in Iran. The Jewish community in Iran is said to be between 25,000 and 35,000 people.
So hopefully, maybe, maybe, the sanctions will work. When we pray, we pray to frustrate the plans of our enemies, not to see them die. Just this week, the Ayatollah said he would allow U.N. inspectors into some of Iran’s “secret” military installations. But then again, the Nazis in 1943 allowed the Red Cross into its Theresienstadt concentration camp to show the world how well they were treating the Jews.
Are we really going to be that nieve again when evil stares us in the face?
Once again, gallows are being built in Persia for the Jews. But they are also being constructed for us, the US.
Just as Modechai warned Esther as she sat pretty in the castle: don’t think that just because we are sitting an ocean away, in our proverbial American castle, that we will be safe. Now is the time to act.
So, I ask again, where is our Queen Esther when we need her?
That day also ended my childhood and woke me up to the harsh realities of the world, realities that couldn’t be imagined away.
On December 8, 1980, I was in the 7th grade. I can’t remember when I started listening to the Beatles. My cousins were into them, and one of them won the Rubber Soul album (yes, not a CD, or a mp3 download, but a vinyl LP) from 101 CBS FM. When playing cards or games at his grandmother’s apartment in Coney Island, if you made a move against him, he would break into lyrics from the song You Can’t Do That – “I told you before — nooooo, you can’t to that!”
So I was well familiar with the Beatles by age 12, though maybe not who the individual Beatles were, or what John Lennon was all about.
I had just received my first radio alarm clock and my radio was tuned to an AM station 77 ABC – with Don Imus in the morning. Don Imus spoofed everything and was always reporting fake news. So when I woke up on that dark December morning and heard that John Lennon was rushed to the hospital for a gunshot wound to the chest, I thought he might be joking. Sure, Imus, I thought, as I went downstairs to get my breakfast.
Then I went down to the kitchen and saw the news on TV – the pictures of Yoko Ono on her knees by the Emergency Room entrance and the announcement that John Lennon was dead.
That day also brings me thoughts of a classmate from the 7th grade. His name was James. I had a bit of a crush on James, though back then, in the brutality of junior high school, liking the wrong boy could get you teased to no end.
James was not exactly what other girls in the class thought of as cool or cute. He didn’t dress cool or act cool. He had thick unruly hair and thick glasses.
But what James had going for him in my book was that he was SMART. Ahead-of-his-time smart.
For a seventh grader, he was certainly up on his politics. After all, what other seventh grader could write poetry that included references to Mohammed Ali as Cassius Clay or Ted Kennedy and the Chappaquiddick incident? What other seventh grader could argue with our social studies in defense of Richard Nixon when most of us barely knew what Watergate was at age 12? James made Nixon impersonations all the time. And he drew great political cartoons. His other idols: Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather of CBS News, a network where he swore he would someday be gainfully employed.
If James was born 20 years too late and had a fascination with the 60’s, his favorite band was of course – the Beatles. So on the morning of December 9, when the world found out that John Lennon was dead, there was an announcement in home room to observe a moment of silence for the slain musician.
At that moment, James did another mature thing that could have a seventh-grade boy drawn and quartered. He cried. Right at his desk, right there in front of everyone.
Now, remember I had a crush on James, who didn’t seem to care that I existed. Who made fun of me about as much as anyone else in the seventh grade. But I couldn’t bear to see him cry. So, seeing that he had no tissue, I got up out of my chair (which I think was against home room rules), crossed the room, put my hand on his shoulder, and offered him one.
“I’m so sorry,” I said.
He looked at me, took my tissue, and thanked me.
It truly was a Wonder Years moment that still remains an entry in my adolescent diary.
And now, 30 years later? I still miss John Lennon and wonder what more music he could have given us, what more he could have taught his son.
Now: my own kids love the Beatles. They sing and listen to their music. They have been to Strawberry Fields and have stood outside the Dakota.
Now: For a fifth grade biography project, Nathan, who is now 12, found a book in the young adult section of the library that ironically was published three months before Lennon’s death. To accompany the book report, we made a milk-jug headed John Lennon puppet, complete with the signature round framed glasses, long wavy hair and a New York T-Shirt. Nathan’s playing the guitar now, and I’m sure It Won’t Be Long until he will be asking for a Beatles song book.
And James? Last time I saw James – in person – was at an SAT prep class held at Wagner College back when we were in High School. The class was held at the student union, and one day, a Beatles cover band was playing in the cafe. James had a great time singing along.
I have seen James since, but on TV: James is a news correspondent: though on FOX, not CBS.
The death of Tyler Clementi is sad proof that bullying is alive and well, even after decades of anti-bullying and tolerance education. What hurts is that this happened at Rutgers University, my college, a place that is supposed to foster higher learning, diversity and tolerance. In the 20 years since I graduated from Rutgers and the 30 years that have passed since my childhood days of being a repeated target to bullies, this death makes me realize that society has gone nowhere when it comes to bullies: conform to what they want you to be or be ridiculed and tormented without mercy.
This suicide, along with the other suicides reported in the news because of bullying, brought up painful memories of my own tormenters. While this wave of anti-gay bullying seems to be the cruelest form of tormenting a human soul, it doesn’t matter if you are gay, straight, black, white, rich or poor. Bullies find their target, draw you out and go in for the kill without mercy.
My first encounter with a bully was in the fifth grade with the boy next door. He would beat me up at the bus stop in the afternoon after I reported him to the early afternoon release bus driver that he was bothering me.
I don’t think the bus driver stopped as my attacker repeatedly unfurled punches into my stomach. He came back for another round in the playground the next day as I played jump rope with some friends in the playground. This time I was ready and delivered him a very satisfying punch in the eye. I made him cry and it felt good. I wised up and took the early shift bus home that afternoon. He never bothered me again.
Then in the seventh grade came even worse bullying, the bullying of the queen bee female kind. The whispers, the looks, and finally, getting tripped down the stairwell between classes.
I was a bully’s dream. I was timid and skinny. I was one of the only Jewish kids in school and yes, I had pennies thrown at me. I had a small face and a big nose. I was called every name in the book: The nose knows nothing. The nose who inhaled Tokyo. Nosenstein. Clinger.
But then again, you also got bullied if you were timid and fat. Anything that made you different made you a target. I can only imagine the torment a young adolescent or young college student faces if a bully finds out you are gay.
My bullying happened before the days of anti-bullying education, a topic that comes up so much in today’s middle school classroom that my eighth-grade daughter says she is sick of hearing about it. Back then, if you were bullied could muster up enough courage to tell a teacher or school administrator about it, you were basically told to ignore the bully. Don’t be a snitch. Stand up for yourself, and eventually, they will go away.
But a bully never acts without a fellow bullier, and it’s hard to ignore a pack of bullies, especially when they are holding you down in the schoolyard and smearing your face with carbon copy paper. One advantage, of being bullied today: scarcity of carbon copy paper.
I don’t know where any schoolyard aides were when this was happening. I also don’t understand why my gym teacher didn’t intervene when they held me down again, took off my sneakers and threw them over to the other side of the gym to the boy’s side. Nor do I understand why my band teacher didn’t see how I was teased as I cried one day into my clarinet.
One day in the cafeteria, the queen bee bully pulls me by my necklace, a Jewish star, and tells me to throw her lunch away. I tell her no.
She then tells me, in front of the worker bees: “You better hide your ass inside your house, because we are coming today to kick the shit out of you.”
I try to shrug it off and walk away. Because that’s what your teacher told you to do, ignore them, right? After all, they didn’t know where I lived. These girls lived across town. And this was the time before GPS, before texting and cyberbullying. At least at home I would be safe.
Regardless, I walked home pretty quickly after I got off the bus. My mom had gone back to work and I had a key to the house. But that day, I realized I forgot my key. Locked out of the house, with the threats of getting the shit beaten out of me very fresh on my mind, I went into my backyard, kicked in the basement window, and shimmied into the laundry room. Lucky I was a skinny kid.
And they did come. With a baseball bat. They found a younger smaller boy in my neighborhood and grabbed him by the collar and threatened him with the bat until he told them where I lived. They rang my doorbell and said they just wanted to talk to me. I –stupidly!– opened the door. They tried to shove their way in but I somehow got the door closed and locked and I bolted up the stairs to call my mother’s office.
I can’t remember what happened next in the exact order. I think my mom called the police, and then she told me to call the mother of one of the few friends I had in school. As proof of how seriously bullying was taken back then, the police showed up about 45 minutes later, long after my friends’ mom came, long after she scared them away.
I still think about that day. I still think about what they would have done to me, with that baseball bat, if I was not strong enough to get that door shut.
If any bullying educator out there is reading this, I know this sounds bizarre, but please consider the plight of the bully as well as their victims. It turns out that the boy next door: he was being raised by his grandparents after his own abusive mother pushed him out the window and broke his legs as a child.
And the queen bee? Well, finally, after the baseball bat incident, she, her worker bee bully accomplice and I were called into the principal’s office. It turns out that my bully’s mother was dying of cancer.
As hellish as my middle school years were, I feel very lucky that I was bullied before the digital age and I hope my kids survive their adolescence unscathed. It seems like a lot more damage can be done with a video camera and a social networking site than a baseball bat.
Hey Mom, Look what I wrote!
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