Only Israeli Scholars Are Complicit In The Actions Of Their Government

As the recent calls for boycotts and sanctions against Israeli universities by the American Studies Association and the Modern Language Association clearly indicate, an ideological imbalance in the professoriate has resulted in a collective antipathy toward Israel as the latest villain in the academic left’s panoply of oppressors — this time the victim of the moment, the Palestinians.

This view of the colonial oppression by the occupier, Israel, against a guiltless indigenous people, the Palestinians, is, of course, nothing new on campus. What is unique about the MLA’s and the ASA’s approach is the breathtakingly Orwellian notion that not only is the Jewish state itself guilty of the many alleged transgressions assigned to it by its libelers, but a boycott against Israeli academics is warranted because the academic establishment itself is complicit in Zionism’s excesses and a core element of the bemoaned occupation, oppression and denial of Palestinian self-determination.

This fatuous notion, in fact, is one of the core principles of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, articulated in its “Academic Freedom or Academic Privilege: In defense of the Academic Boycott of Israel,” which suggests that Israeli universities “are part and parcel of the prevailing ideology that accepts and treats the political regime in all its aspects — the military, the intelligence agencies, the government — as a benign feature of the social-political landscape.”

At the MLA annual conference in Chicago this month, one of those on a panel addressing a resolution to chastise Israel was Omar Barghouti, the co-founder of the Palestinian academic boycott campaign. His view is that Israeli academia not only has a moral obligation to right the wrongs in Israel, but it also is a co-enabler, if not co-conspirator, in the continued occupation and oppression of Palestinians.

“For decades,” Barghouti writes, “Israeli academic institutions have been complicit in Israel’s colonial and racist policies,” and “not only do most Israeli academics defend or justify their state’s colonial narrative, they play a more active role in the process of oppression.”

Making academics responsible for — even complicit in — the machinations of the current government and justifying a boycott as a result is normally an anathematic proposition for professors. Besides applying a perverse double standard to Israeli academics by making them liable for the actions of their government, and punishing them for this perceived liability, the idea that universities in Israel are any more influential in shaping government policy, administering the nation’s laws or overseeing its defense is itself a radical departure from what is ever blamed on a university and the people who comprise it.

As the academic boycotters might have noticed, like Israel’s universities, U.S. universities rely on and frequently accept billions of dollars of defense-applied contracts from the Department of Defense; specifically, between 2000 and 2006 the total number of contracts to universities rose from 5,887 to 52,667 with $46.7 billion granted to universities in 2006 alone.

In fact, many of the universities where some of the foremost defamers of Israel teach benefit from the largesse of the Defense Department and could, by the same logic being applied to Israeli universities, be condemned for facilitating and contributing to the creation of the military/industrial complex that many on the left decry as emblematic of U.S. imperialism, colonialism and militarism.

David Lloyd, another anti-Israel, pro-boycott speaker who spoke on the MLA panel, is a professor at UC Riverside, part of the California university system that in 2009 received $766,179,039 in defense-related research funding. That embarrassing detail about his own university system aside, Lloyd is still content with denouncing any connection between Israeli universities and the country’s military.

“By endorsing the boycott,” he writes, “we withhold our consent from collaboration with academic institutions that are part and parcel of Israel’s ongoing occupation, furnishing its technical infrastructure and expanding onto stolen lands.”

As another example, Stanford University, which in 2011 received nearly $72 million from the Defense Department, is home to Joel Beinin, professor of history and Middle East history. Beinin’s intent, as it is for Israel-haters worldwide, is to make any defensive actions on the part of Israel seem an overreaction, regardless of how many of its citizens have been murdered or how many threats against its very existence have been proclaimed.

“According to both Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon,” Beinin writes dismissively, “Israel is engaged in a war despite the spectacularly unequal military balance in the conflict,” as if a nation reacting to unprovoked attacks on its citizens is compelled to ensure that its enemy is equally armed and that the fight will be “fair.”

In 2011, the University of Michigan was awarded almost $15 million in defense contracts, which ought to have been upsetting to the school’s conspiracy-frenzied Juan Cole, whose regular rants in his blog, Informed Comment, take swipes at Israeli and American defense while simultaneously excusing Arab complicity for violence and terror. In fact, according to Cole, it is the militancy of the West that causes the endemic problems in the Middle East and makes America guilty for its moral and financial support of Israel.

At Harvard University, which annually receives some $44 million of DoD funding, Sara Roy, a researcher at the Center for Middle East Studies, is an apologist for Hamas, intent on absolving Hamas from any wrongdoing. She and Boston University professor Augustus Richard Norton co-authored an article for the Christian Science Monitor in which they conjured up the fantasy of a “New Hamas,” a now-benign political group the authors felt was deserving of recognition by Western diplomats. And in Roy’s own op-ed in the Monitor, she only started counting rockets lobbed into Israel from Gaza after, she said, Israel violated some illusory cease-fire of which apparently only she and the “new” Hamas were aware.

The current accusation made against Israeli scholars that imputes a moral responsibility on Israeli academics for the political behavior of their government is particularly baleful. In this perverse assault on academic integrity, and even good sense, a whole nation of scholars is tarred with the same brush of virulent anti-Israel activism, so, as commentator Howard Jacobson put it, “All are guilty by association with the heinous ideology of their country, that is to say, guilty by simple virtue of being Israelis.”

Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., author of “Genocidal Liberalism: The University’s Jihad Against Israel & Jews,” is president of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.

Finding The Meaning Behind Seemingly Mundane Laws

There is an almost humorous anecdote mentioned in the Talmud in Tractate Brachot. In describing the possible superficial reality of one’s faith in G-d, the Talmud creates the surreal scene of a thief about to secretly break and enter into his victim’s home, whereupon he utters a silent prayer for success in his forbidden activity: “Please, G-d, just this one time, don’t let me get caught!”

Is this scene that surreal after all? Are there not times when we all might engage in questionable behavior of which we would be quick to accuse another but defend the action when it is our own? And then we pray to G-d, “just this one time, don’t let me get caught.”

The Torah addresses this very human condition in the portions of Yitro, Mishpatim and this week’s Terumah. The main event of Parshat Yitro is, of course, the Revelation at Sinai. The tenets of our religion were founded on the witnessing, by sight and sound, by every Jewish man, woman and child, the declaration by our Creator that “I am the L-rd, your G-d, Who took you out of Egypt.” Yet, at this moment of incredible revelation of Divine Truth, the rest of the Commandments issue forth instructing us how to behave: “Thou shall not murder,” “thou shall not steal,” “thou shall not covet,” etc. Is this not amazingly counterintuitive? Wouldn’t this have been a perfect moment for an intense lesson on the deepest philosophical and ethical issues to be shared by our Creator?

The very next Torah reading, Mishpatim, continues down the same path. We are introduced to the body of laws that detail responsibility for compensation of injury and damages by one person to another or to his property. Could that not wait until after we exhaust the deeper mystical treasures of Judaism?

Then we have this week’s reading of Terumah. The Jewish people are instructed to build a mishkan, a “sanctuary” or “tabernacle” that shall serve as the central place of worship. This is a material edifice with specific dimensions for its construction and precise measurements for the manufacturing of its vessels and their placement. Is this, as well, not counterintuitive? Is not prayer and worship a spiritual function?

Why the need for physical symbolisms and defined spaces? Even to this very day, Jews around the world pray three times a day facing the defined space of our Holy Temple in Jerusalem. If prayer is a service of the heart — and it is — why the need to be focused to a limited geographical area?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, of blessed memory, shares a profound insight: The ultimate expression of our Jewish values is in how we seamlessly weave the deepest ethos of our faith into our day-to-day behavior. The message of Judaism is that there is not one area of our material lives that is not enriched by a Torah value. Even a simple drink of water becomes a moment to bless our Creator. Clearly, therefore, the Revelation at Sinai immediately discusses our very human impulses and teaches us to consecrate the mundane. The laws of torts and civil responsibilities immediately follow the Revelation. And then, this week, we are taught how to elevate the mundane items of gold, silver and copper and use them to build a Holy Temple. After all, in G-d’s world, there really is no mundane. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Rabbi Elchonon Lisbon is the director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Park Heights and Cheder Chabad of Baltimore.

Transforming One Family


While thousands of miles from home this past winter on the 2013 Associated Family Mission, Diane Orlinsky discovered the incredible warmth and cohesiveness of Baltimore’s Jewish community. Just as important, it reinforced her views that The Associated can be transformative for a family.

Involvement with The Associated

Diane Orlinsky’s involvement began several years ago, when her oldest daughter, Rachel, was accepted into the 15-month Diller Teen Fellows Program. “At that time, Rachel was a student at Roland Park Country School and didn’t have a lot of Jewish friends,” says Diane. “Through Diller, she became more confident about her Jewish self, more cultural and spiritual.”

Through that experience Rachel became more Jewishly-aware. Today, she attends the University of Pennsylvania and has become involved with her campus Hillel, as well as UPenn’s AIPAC organization.

“I think Diller had an indelible impact on her life and changed how she views the world,” Diane says.

Meanwhile, her son is currently participating in The Associated’s Students Taking Action for Change (STAC), which focuses on social justice and advocacy. He has become closer with other Jewish peers at other schools, as a result of volunteering together.

Several years ago, the family traveled to Israel on vacation. When Diane learned about The Associated’s Family Mission, they decided to return; this time joined by her mother and sister’s family from New York.

The week-long mission included visits to historical sites, a training session with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF)  a lecture at the Herzl Museum in Jerusalem and a volunteer hand-painted art project in Ashkelon, Baltimore’s sister city, that benefits new immigrants moving to Israel.ars ago, the family traveled to Israel on vacation. When Diane learned about The Associated’s Family Mission, they decided to return; this time joined by her mother and sister’s family from New York.

“This was a more cultural and spiritual adventure,” Diane says, comparing it to her family vacation. “The people on the trip were amazing. We bonded together. It made me realize that Baltimore is such a warm Jewish community and it made me realize I belonged to something bigger than myself.”

Diane expects to return to Israel, and of course, visit Ashkelon to see her new friends. In addition, she would like to become more involved in the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership and she has made a pledge to be a Lion of Judah.

“This trip really affected me in such a positive way. It made me passionate about connecting Israel with the Baltimore Jewish community.”

Morocco’s Arab Street Maneuvers

King Mohammed VI of Morocco (PDN/SIPA/Newscom)

King Mohammed VI of Morocco (PDN/SIPA/Newscom)

Morocco is a stable, Western-oriented Arab monarchy, which is also known for its cooperation with Israel dating back decades. Last fall, King Muhammed VI came to Washington as part of an effort to deepen the relationship between the U.S. and Morocco. At that time, Ambassador- at-Large Serge Berdugo, president of the Jewish community of Morocco and former minister of tourism, told the Washington Jewish Week that Morocco has always been “a player of goodwill, trying to do our best to promote peace [between Israel and the Palestinians] and two states with security and dignity — security for one, dignity for the other.”

With so much warm feeling, it might be surprising to learn that Israel and Morocco do not have diplomatic relations. According to most analyses, neither the Arab street nor the people of Morocco would tolerate the monarchy making that move until at least the more active leadership of the Arab world does.

In light of the monarchy’s quiet peace with Israel, it is troubling to see that within Morocco things are moving in the wrong direction. Last summer, five parties in parliament put forward legislation that would criminalize contact with Israel. The two bills make it illegal to trade with Israeli entities. And at least one bill proposes to make it illegal for Israelis to enter Morocco. The legislative trend clearly reflects hostility to the Jewish state and its citizens, tens of thousands of whom are of Moroccan descent.

The bills’ sponsors are not fringe parties. Two are leading parties in the government, and another is associated with the king. This suggests that the legislation could not have moved forward without tacit support of the crown.

Yet the bills are not expected to become law. Although the king has the final word on any such legislation, he is not expected to act openly upon the bills. Indeed, since his Arab street credibility depends upon his not appearing too close to Israel and the West, he needs to orchestrate a different path to stop the bills. Thus, it is anticipated that parliamentary factions with Arab bona fides will withdraw support for the bills, and the status quo will continue. Even so, the whole situation reflects a decline in relations between Israel and Morocco and is cause for concern and caution.

The United States has chosen to remain silent on the legislation, apparently waiting for the storm to pass. But not everyone else is. Last week, the Dutch foreign minister, perhaps acting as a surrogate for the West, criticized the bills. “The very headline of these bills is alarming,” Frans Timmermans told the Dutch parliament, adding the king and government of Morocco should act to prevent them from passing into law. We agree.

Inadvertently Offensive

The Economist made some waves recently with an editorial cartoon showing the difficulty the U.S. and Iran are having coming to terms. President Hassan Rouhani is depicted reaching over a chasm to President Obama, but is being held back by a variety of hardline figures, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Mr. Obama, on the other hand, is shown shackled by the U.S. Congress, whose seal is lined with Stars of David.

The implication on the U.S. side of the picture, of course, is that the Jews control Congress and are preventing the president from reaching out to a willing Rouhani. The cartoon — which managed to hit a bad taste double play by depicting an African American U.S. president in leg irons — drew the inevitable complaints, and was replaced online with a note-cum-apology, that it “inadvertently caused offence to some readers.”

You have to wonder what the editors of The Economist had in mind that made the cartoon only inadvertently offensive. The hackneyed repetition of anti-Semitic accusations — Jews control the government, Jews control the money system, Jews are behind difficult-to-understand events — are intentional, not “inadvertent.” And a lame post-publication statement of inadvertence hardly excuses either the offense or the discriminatory bias that prompted publication.

There was once a time when cartoons like the one in The Economist, and many others much worse, were printed on picture postcards. If you were in the United States, England, Europe or Nazi Germany, you could jot a quick message to a loved one on the back of a card showing a big-nosed Jewish pawnbroker taking advantage of a poor gentile. In his new book Hatemail, Salo Aizenberg has assembled a truly appalling collection of cards, ranging from the late 19th century to the contemporary Arab world, which documents the anti-Semitic activities that conflate Jews and Israel, and identify them with the Nazis.

The ongoing repetition of these offensive proclamations and accusations, and their routine acceptance in certain parts of the world, may help explain the persistence of anti-Semitism in places where there are next to no Jews. For example, a national survey in Poland found that 63 percent of Poles believe in a Jewish conspiracy, Haaretz reported. Yet a full 90 percent of Poles said they have never met a Jew. In response to the troubling survey results, members of the Polish parliament have suggested education measures to combat prejudice. We think that is a good idea.

The open-minded and constructive reaction of some within the Polish parliament to that countryís endemic anti-Semitism is welcome. We hope it will become more than lip service to doing the right thing. At the very least, such education can lead to fewer incidences of people being “inadvertently offensive.” And, if successful, maybe the Polish parliament can offer some of its educational materials to the editors of The Economist for their edification.

Breaking Bread Together

012414_israel_ariIt seems to me that so many Jewish conversations recently have devolved into divisive rhetoric about Israel; rather than being dialogues, these exchanges position one single-minded extreme against the other. Long gone are the age-old positive Jewish characteristics of civility and warmth. Instead, let’s shift the conversation from rights and wrongs to rights and responsibilities.

Created in the image of G-d, we all have the right to be treated with dignity and the responsibility to emulate Ben Zoma’s ethical charge in Pirkei Avot: “Who is wise? One who learns from all humans.”

Hillels across the country pioneered religious pluralism and can model it for Israel discourse as well. Instead of arguing about the dimensions of the Jewish homeland or which side of the political door one places oneself, perhaps we can emphasize Jewish values inside our homes and how they define our Jewish lives and inspire our neighbors.

At Maryland Hillel, the unique Shabbat culture combines tradition, community, religion, culture and celebration, bringing more than 500 Conservative, Orthodox, and Reform Jews all under one roof. Hillel Shabbat serves as a great common equalizer, bringing diverse Jews together to share a Jewish meal and experience Judaism’s splendor. You might find a Birthright Israel alumnus who just celebrated Shabbat for the first time sitting next to a day-school student who has always observed Shabbat. You will meet students on the left, center, right, and off the chart, warmly conversing in deep discussion out of mutual respect and, more important, affinity for the other. Students know that the broad spectrum of opinion brings out the best in them, forming a magnetic and welcoming Jewish community.

This past November, 1,600 diverse students celebrated the Gorlin Family Foundation Shabbat Across Maryland (SHABBAM) in more than 80 campus locations. This endeavor broke down barriers and brought students from different communities together under one Jewish umbrella to eat and schmooze. The focus was on students enjoying each other’s company, celebrating Shabbat on their own terms and celebrating their commonality of being a Jew.

Can we try this in Baltimore? Can we reach out to those beyond our own families and synagogue communities to invite others to our Shabbat table to explore together Judaism’s meaning and relevance? Let’s SHABBAB — Shabbat Across Baltimore — together and open our homes and hearts to all.

This Shabbat, when our table conversations may focus on Israel and other topics that could sadly erect barriers between us, in the spirit of Shabbat menucha, let’s rest and call a Jewish truce and argue over whether one likes hard or soft matzah balls, brisket, gefilte fish or tofu or talk about the relevance of the Torah portion or a good Jewish story. Soak up the moment simply spending precious time with friends, family and loved ones and collectively recharging our spiritual batteries. Then, after Havdallah, let’s serenely discuss Israel with the noble Jewish value of mentchlichkeit.

Rabbi Ari Israel is executive director of Maryland Hillel.

Baltimore’s ‘Little Jerusalem’

I read with interest your obituary for Alice E. Krupsaw (Community, Jan. 10) who passed away at age 106. As stated, she documented memories of growing up in “Little Israel” on Eagle Street. As I lived near Eagle Street on Fulton Avenue, this close-knit Jewish community in Southwest Baltimore, with Wilkens Avenue running through it, was better known as “Little Jerusalem,” not “Little Israel.”

Irvin J. Lustman

A Joint Responsibility

runyan_josh_otDope. Weed. Ganja. Mary Jane. Hash. Herb. Reefer.

This week’s issue of the Baltimore Jewish Times is really not about any of these things. It is instead about responsibility.

The day that Colorado’s legalization of marijuana took effect, National Public Radio ran a report that featured an interview of one of the many citizens and tourists flocking to the regulated dispensaries to buy a joint. Not a resident of the Centennial State, one particular guy spoke with such slurred speech that it gave listeners the impression that he was already high. Unable to smoke up in public — Colorado’s new law does not allow that — his plan was to get invited into somebody’s home to “chill out.”

Legislators and advocates are quick to point out that Maryland is not like Colorado and that the discussions currently under way in Annapolis — unrolling a limited research-based medicinal marijuana program — would preclude our state from becoming a toker’s paradise. And the closest dispensary, a rabbi-owned store over the state line in the District of Columbia, hardly fits the mold of a drug den. But still, the image of an army of stoners mooching off the good graces of others in society prevails. The lure of cannabis has become such a part of our collective consciousness that some have even taken to calling the upcoming pen-ultimate showdown between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks “the Pot Bowl.”

Make no mistake; the legalization of marijuana presents some very real risks. Chief among them is the idea of society giving license to the worst elements of stoner culture. Will we become a nation of teenagers and early 20-somethings taking bong hits and binging on potato chips to get us through the day? Put another way, are we endorsing a culture of laziness and irresponsibility?

In Maryland at least, probably not. What is instead unfolding is an illustration of policymakers, academics and physicians heeding the primary call of government to protect its citizens. If certain cannabinoids alleviate pain and chronic symptoms better than other pharmaceuticals on the market, it behooves us to explore the specific ways in which society can use them to ease the suffering of its members. The same can be said for stem cell research, improving the financial lot of Holocaust survivors, making a mid-career switch into medicine or employing green technologies in synagogues and day schools — all of these examples from this week’s JT look at different ways that individuals and organizations are fulfilling the social compact.

Kabbalistic teachings call taking the mundane and using it for good as a form of birur, of sifting, like in separating the chaff from the wheat. From that vantage point, it’s not surprising that at least one rabbi has apparently found references to cannabis in Jewish writings. The fact that hemp exists means that it serves some purpose in the overall scheme of Creation. It makes great rope, but it also seems to have therapeutic value. On a certain level, we owe it to the less fortunate among us to at least try to extract some good out of it. As for the recreational users of the drug, let’s teach them responsibility by emulating its precepts.


Mourning a Pet Dog

012414_laudau_chaimFor the sake of transparency, allow me to admit that I am an Orthodox rabbi who does own a pet dog. She is a truly wonderful creature: Tame, gentle, loving and tender, she seems to think that everyone on two legs is her best friend and avoids as much as possible the four-legged alternatives. Approaching 11 years in human terms of counting — great-grandmotherly by hers — she loves the finer things of life: lying on her favorite sofa, bed or area in the house, all extended members of our family and, of course, her Kibbles ’n Bits.

She is a black lab and radiates unconditional love, trust and total absolute faith in her household to do what is right for her and accede to her basic needs, which are very few indeed: Feed me, walk me, show affection to me and listen to me. No other relationship comes with such an easy list of responsibilities and at so cheap for the price.

Of course, there are always the party poopers: those who make the claim that dogs are muktzeh and therefore, a priori, are forbidden in a traditional Jewish household. I would respectfully counter that this is a total cop-out. For if there ever was a paradigm of a muktzeh living organism, then I would definitely include the human being, tainted as he or she is, with so many spiritual failings — lashon hara, hypocrisy, judging others before themselves, the list is endless.

So given all those unique qualities inherent in a pet dog and given the vacuum caused by its death, you would want to acknowledge its impact on your life by mourning its passing. I would have to say in all honesty, “Go for it.” I am certainly not suggesting the full menu of keriah, shiva, sheloshim and Kaddish. Rather, if a life has been lived and yours has been eminently enhanced because of that life — and has allowed you to bring out truly the best of your qualities toward that living entity — then absolutely, a certain measure of mourning is quite appropriate and, one might even say, religiously appropriate. For if, in the traditional sense, mourning a two-legged family member who has impacted you most positively and beautifully deserves nothing less than a total religious response in ritual and remembrance, then certainly the four-legged alternative deserves a meaningful ritual response too.

And if you ever needed a response to those who would pooh-pooh the close bonds of affection formed between owner and dog, then never be afraid to counter with the facts of how much time you spend walking the dog, which the latter instinctively rewards with a Jewish response of hakarat hatov with a feisty wagging of the tail. Remind those naysayers of the times you just chilled out talking to the dog and just knowing, by their response, how much they truly understood. And, most
important of all, never forget to mention the sensitivity of their hearts as they stared at you with those eyes that you shall never forget, long after they will have passed away.

And then confidently exclaim that if there ever was an example of a living object that showed so much Jewishness in its behavior, then how could anyone ever question the need to mourn the passing of such an animal? The rabbis tell us that we can learn so much from the animal world; from a loving pet, too, we can learn no less. In that regard, mourning would be most appropriate and meaningful.

Rabbi Chaim Landau serves as president of the Baltimore Board of Rabbis.

An Inseparable Part of Judaism

Maayan Jaffe cites discouraging figures from the recent Pew Research Center survey [on American Jews] to show there is a “stark disconnect” between the youngest generation of U.S. Jews and the Jewish state (“Somewhere In The Middle,” Jan. 3). How ironic, considering that her lengthy article is filled with the anti-Zionist views of people such as Tali Ruskin, Jacob Bogage and J Street speaker Akiva Eldar, who seem to believe that Israel is largely to blame for the Arab-Israeli conflict and for the lack of peace.

The proliferation of these misguided views is precisely what is turning off many young American Jews to the Jewish State of Israel, which was founded on the principles of Zionism. Many of these young, naive individuals apparently have an appalling lack
of knowledge and understanding of what Zionism is all about and of the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. They fail to grasp that the “Jewish/ Zionist narrative” has always been grounded in hard facts and historical truths, whereas the so-called “Palestinian narrative” is primarily based on falsehood, deception and denial of historical truths. They fail to appreciate that Zionism is the epitome of social justice — a civil rights movement for the Jewish people that also affirms the fundamental civil rights of others.

Misguided antipathy toward Zionism bespeaks an urgent need for better Jewish education to foster an appreciation for Zionism as a fundamental and inseparable part of Judaism and Jewish values.

The vaccine we Jews need to inoculate ourselves against the virus of lies propagated by our avowed enemies and their fellow travelers is a better understanding of our own collective history and our own legitimate aspirations as a people rather than succumb to the lies as many young and naive Jews seem to be doing today in increasing numbers.

Marc L. Caroff
President, Louis D. Brandeis Chapte
Zionist Organization of America
Silver Spring, Md.