News Roundup for October 11, 2018

October 11, 2018

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J Street in the News

San Francisco Federation Funds Far-Right US Groups, Not Just Canary Mission, Forward

“San Francisco area chapters of the student group J Street U were engaged in the issue of indirect, guideline-violating federation support for right-wing groups even before the revelation regarding the Diller donation to Canary Mission – whose online dossiers on political activists have been used by Israel to bar some people from entering Israel. ‘We weren’t entirely surprised to learn about Canary Mission, given what we know,’ said Eva Borgwardt, a senior at Stanford University and currently president of the J Street U National Student Board. ‘It is pretty clear that the organized Jewish community – unless pushed – is never going to be as rigorous at enforcing boundaries on the right as it is on the left. This comes from an extremely misplaced sense of what is a threat to our community,’ she said. J Street U has previously confronted federation officials over the issue of donations coming from donor-advised funds and supporting foundations of the central philanthropic body for San Francisco’s Jews….The J Street U representatives, including Borgwardt, complained that the guidelines were being applied solely to left-wing organizations. They noted that donor-advised funds had been barred from supporting events involving groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and American Friends Service Committee, because such organizations support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”

Jewish Groups Call on Israel to Allow Detained U.S. Student Into Country, Haaretz

“In response to the case of 22-year-old Lara Alqasem, who has been held in Israel for over a week over her alleged activism on behalf of the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) movement, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and J Street slammed the move, calling on Israel to release Alqasem immediately….[On] Wednesday, J Street wrote a letter to Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, protesting the decision to ban Alqasem and labeling it as, ‘counterproductive and anti-democratic.’ The pro-Israel student activist group wrote, ‘targeting BDS supporters — or those who merely have critical political views — and banning them from entering Israel does not counter their arguments or stem the global tide of concern for the Palestinian people. It only undermines Israel’s democracy, international legitimacy and long-term future.’ J Street’s letter concluded saying that such a move only, ‘empowers Israel’s fiercest critics and undermines our pro-Israel, pro-peace advocacy on campus.’”

‘It should be taken seriously’: Anti-Semitic posters found on UC Berkeley, UC Davis campuses, Daily Californian

“Anti-Semitic posters were found outside of Eshleman Hall this week — an incident that has been met with widespread condemnation from members of the campus Jewish community and the campus administration….Various student organizations, such as J Street U at Berkeley and Tikvah: Students for Israel, have responded to the anti-Semitic posters. Tikvah, a Zionist group on campus, said in a Facebook post that Jewish students have been raising the issue of Nazi imagery on campus to the campus administration since 2015 — and the administration has ‘neglected to take serious measures’ in response.”

J Street U Leaders to Israel’s Minister Erdan: Detention of Lara Alqasem is Dangerous and Wrong, J Street

“In response to the Israeli government barring American student Lara Alqasem from entering Israel in order to study at Hebrew University, the J Street U National Student Board today sent the following letter to Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Minister of Public Security: […]‘As pro-Israel, pro-peace American Jewish student activists, we strongly oppose attempts to silence and repress college students or any other individuals on the basis of non-violent political views and activities. We firmly believe that the only way for Israel to effectively counter the Global BDS Movement, on campus and beyond, is to pursue and reach a two-state peace agreement that resolves the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and brings an end to the occupation.’”

Top News and Analysis

Unpacking the Actual Impact of BDS on Israel’s Economy, Jerusalem Post

Adam Reuter writes, “Several years ago, I was invited to meet with executives from the Ministry of Strategic Affairs. One of the ministry’s main goals included ‘combating the delegitimization of Israel.’ The purpose of the meeting was a study we conducted at the Financial Immunities company of the effect of BDS on the Israeli economy. To the best of my knowledge, the study we conducted, which began in 2010, was the only one of its kind. It was meant to determine to what extent the Israeli economy was being affected by the BDS organization. The study included queries to hundreds of senior executives of large companies from every economic sector….The results of the study surprised me. I did not expect such a wide gap between the journalists’ reports over the years about the effect of the BDS monster and its actual effects, which were negligible at the most. The study’s figures are correct as of late 2017.”

Lara Alqasem’s detention in Israel exposes campaign to police free speech and suppress critics, Washington Post

Gershom Gorenberg writes, “There aren’t enough synonyms for ‘absurd’ for me to properly describe what is happening to [detained US student Lara Alqasem]. What is even scarier for Israelis worried about the country’s eroded democracy is that her case is no fluke. It’s part of a trend by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to turn law enforcement, and the law itself, into tools for policing opinions. Alqasem was denied entry based on information from Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs — information gleaned from a right-wing U.S. website and some Facebook links that supposedly identify her as a boycott activist. Reality check: One prominent part of the BDS campaign has been seeking to isolate Israeli academia. Alqasem is showing her devotion to BDS by, uh, seeking an advanced degree at an Israeli university.”


Army Destroys Gaza Attack Tunnel That Reached Inside Israel, Haaretz

The Israeli military said on Thursday that it destroyed an attack tunnel reaching from the southern Gaza Strip into Israel.

Two Israelis wounded in stabbing attack in northern West Bank, i24NEWS

Two Israelis were wounded Thursday in a stabbing attack outside an army base in the northern West Bank. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it had launched a manhunt for the suspect, who managed to flee the scene of the attack.

UNESCO defangs anti-Israel texts, drawing praise and one ‘strange’ Israeli jeer, Times of Israel

The Executive Board of UNESCO on Wednesday passed two decisions critical of Israel, but did it in a way meant to answer some of Jerusalem’s concerns. While the cultural agency celebrated the move as a sign of “goodwill,” Israel’s ambassador to the UN still slammed it as further proof of the organization’s “lies and biases” against the Jewish state.

US student appeals Israeli entry ban over boycott, Reuters

An Israeli court on Thursday heard the appeal of [American student  Lara Alqasem] against a decision to bar her entry to Israel, even though she had a study visa, over alleged activities supporting an international boycott campaign by pro-Palestinian groups.

PA says airport detainment of US student is ‘political terrorism’, Times of Israel

The Palestinian Authority lashed out at Israel for detaining a US student of Palestinian descent over allegations that she supports a boycott of the Jewish state, wading into an affair that has placed Israeli border policies under a harsh microscope.

Rocket sirens in Israeli communities false alarm: army, Reuters

Rocket alert sirens that sounded on Thursday in Israeli communities near the border with the Gaza Strip were a false alarm, the Israeli military said.

Bernie Sanders Cites Israel’s Nation-state Law in Slamming Trump for Inspiring Authoritarianism, Haaretz

In a major foreign policy speech identifying an emerging authoritarian strain around the world, Bernie Sanders included the passage of Israel’s nation-state law as an example of President Donald Trump’s inspiring anti-democratic moves.

Opinion and Analysis

Israel Has Detained An American Student For A Week. But No One Cares, Because She’s Not Jewish., Forward

Peter Beinart writes, “When I was detained at Ben Gurion airport in August, Benjamin Netanyahu apologized. So why isn’t he apologizing to Lara Alqasem? After all, I was only detained for an hour; she’s been detained for a week. I was allowed into the country; she’s facing deportation. One answer is that while at the University of Florida, the 22-year-old Alqasem participated in a group that supports boycotting Israel. That runs afoul of a law Israel passed last year granting authorities the right to bar people active in pro-boycott organizations from entering the country. But that same law also gives Israel the right to bar people who publicly call for boycotting only Israeli settlements in the West Bank, something I’ve done. I’m as guilty as her….The more honest answer is that Alqasem is a Palestinian-American and I’m an American Jew. And the Israeli government assumes that when it comes to Americans of Palestinian, Arab or Muslim descent, its actions won’t garner much attention from the American press or much outrage from the American government. It can do pretty much whatever it wants. That assumption, sadly, is correct.”

My grandfather Nelson Mandela fought apartheid. I see the parallels with Israel, Guardian

Nkosi Zwelivelile writes, “Apartheid is defined in international law as an ‘institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other.’ It is about unequal racial power relations upheld by unjust laws that are intended to deny oppressed groups their rights. Even before Israel passed its ‘nation state law’ (stipulating that only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country) it was easy to see, for anyone willing to look, that the country’s government was committing the crime of apartheid. Its segregation wall, discriminatory admissions committees, ID-card systems, settler-only road networks and the bantustan-like fragmentation of the West Bank gave the game away.”