J’Accuse: The World Needs to “Impose a Solution”—on France—for it Betrayal of French Jewry and the Values of French Civilization

According to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, “the world needs to impose a solution” on Israel to achieve Mideast peace. Of course, he gave lip service to “Israel security” without any concrete suggestions for curbing Hamas’ genocidal campaign against the Jewish state. He wants a two state solution—without any expression of concern that, unless the…


Why Do Europeans Increasingly Hate Israel?

Why does European opinion increasingly hate Israel? I think some reconsiderations may be in order. One starting point is to take seriously, at least up to a point, what post-modern European elites claim about their motives.

First, anti-Semitism or Jew hatred is of course operative widely in Europe. But it is not wise to reify it. I am coming to the conclusion that European anti-Semitism is increasingly a farrago of three residual forces: first, Christian Jew hatred which is not to be dismissed as a force, especially in Catholic (and Eastern Orthodox) countries; second, the recrudescence of fascism, which ethnically is more about Muslims than Jews yet does activate some atavistic anti-Semitic memories; third, Muslim immigrant anti-Semitism with is virulent and increasingly influential, yet is still contained within a politically marginal minority community.

Second, if these sources of anti-Israel bias are not the chief motivator among European elites of hatred of Israel—which the French Ambassador to the UK a few years ago over wine and cigars called “a shitty little country”— what is?

I would say it is the confluence of two factors. The first is primarily leftist “anti-colonialism.” Influential anti-Israel zealots who say they are truly “anti-Zionists” really mean it. They disapprove of Israel as the product of a backward-looking ideology which they dislike both because it is a unfashionably “nationalistic” but even more because it allegedly represents the intrusion of a European national fragment into what should be the post-colonial Mideast including a “liberated” Palestine. Of course, this take denies Israeli and Zionist claims for deep Jewish roots in the history of the Holy Land that predate the modern colonial era by more than three thousand years.

In addition to “anti-colonialism,” I would suggest as a second ideological dynamic motivating European elites what might be called “anti-Judeo-Christianism.” European postmodern elites are now monolithically secular and often aggressively anti-religious. It is true that they give the Muslim immigrants a sort of pass, partly because they patronize their religion as an exotic cultural survival and partly because they are afraid of their violence. But their dominant animus is against their own Christian roots and any aspect of traditional culture rooted in Jewish tradition or history. This goes back to Spinoza and Voltaire both of whom used merciless debunking of Judaism—and, in Voltaire’s case, of Jews—as a pivot for their attacks on Christianity.


A Little Touch of Harry in the Night

From the “Forward” on the “Jewish Harry Potter Facebook Page”: Under the heading “A Blow to the Death Eaters,” Snape informs Voldemort of an operational setback in their war with the wizarding establishment. Snape: “Bad news, my lord: the I.D.F. has discovered the tunnel between Borgin & Burkes and Hogwarts.” The leadership Israel needs now…


Michael Walzer’s Failure of Nerve

In “Israel Must Defeat Hamas, But Also Must Do More to Limit Civilian Deaths,” political philosopher Michael Walzer joins the chorus arguing that Israeli soldiers are guilty of “disproportionality” for killing Palestinian civilians—or rather those defined by the Hamascentric-orchestrated media as “civilians.” A generation ago, Walzer made a similar argument in “Just and Unjust Wars”…


What a Year for the Launch of Our Law School Chapters

UCLA LawThe Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law launched law student chapters that will fill an important gap in American legal education, offer the opportunities that members seek, and provide a resource to other members of the university community.   Many law students are eager to combine their legal training with their interest in Jewish civil rights issues, including fighting the contemporary resurgence of global and campus anti-Semitism.  Some students are interested in educational programming, while others want to develop their research and advocacy skills.  Some undergraduate students feel embattled by political controversies at their institutions, such as movements to boycott the State of Israel, and would like support from law students who are trained in applicable legal areas.  Few law schools offer meaningful activities for students who share our mission.  To be sure, some schools have active Jewish law students’ associations that provide important social, cultural and perhaps religious activities, but they seldom provide much substantive legal programming. 


UC Davis: The Louis D. Brandeis Center Approach to Preventing Threatening, Anti-Semitic Behavior

When three Jewish students tried to speak at a November 2012 protest against Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense on the University of California, Davis campus, they were silenced with shouts of “Leave our space!” “Shame on you!” and “Long live the intifada!”

The harassment only got worse.

The protesters then started chanting “F**k Israel” and gave the Jewish students a choice – join the chant, or be removed from the building. When they refused to leave, the three students were forcibly backed against a wall of windows while the protestors pounded their fists in the air, and made threatening physical gestures. The school officials nearby did nothing to try and control the situation.

There was a clear pattern of troubling behavior – these bitter clashes took place shortly after an unrelated outdoor demonstration held on campus turned into a rally against Israel.

UC Davis had quickly become a hostile environment for Jewish students. In addition to fostering a malicious campus culture, by allowing this threatening campus life to continue, the school threatened its federal funding: Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits the use of federal funding for public programs – including public universities – found to discriminate based on race, color or natural origin.


Marcus to Testify on Before Civil Rights Panel Tomorrow

Tomorrow morning, LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus will testify on “Fighting Sexual Harassment in American Higher Education” before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights at a federal briefing on  “Enforcement of Sexual Harassment Policy at Educational Institutions by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Civil Rights Division of the…


LDB Urges Supreme Court to Protect Rights of Jerusalem-born

Earlier today, the Brandeis Center presented the U.S. Supreme Court with an amicus curiae brief in support of Menachem Binyamin Zivotofsky, the petitioner in the so-called Jerusalem passport case, Zivotofsky v. Secretary of State 

LDB, joined by several of the nation’s leading legal and foreign affairs scholars, defended the legality of the statute permitting persons born in Jerusalem to specify that their nation of birth is “Israel.” LDB is concerned, as it explained to the Court, that “the discussion of matters pertaining to Israel often invokes double standards and unduly tortured logic that would uniquely disfavor the Jewish national homeland, and thus negatively impact the status and personal security of Jews the world over.”

LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus commented, “It is both astonishing and infuriating that federal litigation is required to convince the U.S. Department of State to recognize the quintessentially obvious fact that Jerusalem is in Israel.  We are pleased to provide the U.S. Supreme Court with sound guidance prepared by two powerhouse attorneys, and we are gratified that several of the nation’s most highly regarded legal and foreign affairs scholars are joining our brief.”

LDB argued to the Court that this case “lends itself to a much simpler resolution than would a true dispute between the President and Congress regarding the powers to recognize the legal status of states and foreign sovereigns. The dispute over Jerusalem’s legal status is but one of many territorial disputes posing challenges for American foreign policy. While the political branches may disagree about the extent to which either might exercise the power of legal recognition, it cannot seriously be questioned that Congress’s authority to acknowledge, process and related to simple facts regarding foreign territory-disputed or not-is a function necessary and proper to the exercise of its assigned powers.”

The Limits of Empathy: “Eyeless in Gaza”

From Ernest R. May’s “Lessons of the Past” (1973) to Yuen Foong Khong’s “Analogies at War” (1992) to Jeffrey Record’s “Making War, Thinking History” (2006), historians have argued about the use—and abuse—of historical analogies by decision makers. It is now conventional wisdom that Lyndon Johnson’s advisers were misled into going to war in Vietnam by “the Munich analogy.” Yet liberal historians who agonize other the misuse of Munich are often quite happy critiquing American intervention in Iraq as “another Vietnam.” Conservatives or neo-conservatives in the Dick Cheney mold retort that it is Obama liberals who were misled by their Vietnam obsession to make American defeat in Iraq a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It is now clear from an lengthy, interesting account by Ben Birnbaum and Amir Tibon in the “New Republic” of the Obama-Kerry failed Mideast peace mission how the Vietnam analogy was central at least to Secretary of State Kerry’s belief that Israel, led by Prime Minister Netanyahu, was not doing enough to “empathize” with the Palestinians:

“The prime minister opened the meeting by playing Kerry a video on one of his favorite topics: Palestinian incitement. It showed Palestinian children in Gaza being taught to glorify martyrdom and seek Israel’s destruction. ‘This is the true obstacle to peace’, Netanyahu told Kerry.

“‘It’s a major issue’, Kerry replied. ‘And nothing justifies incitement. I hate it. I’ve read Abbas the riot act about it. You know I have. But it is worthwhile to try to understand what life looks like from the Palestinian point of view.’

“‘This has nothing to do with the occupation and the settlements’, Netanyahu said.

“Kerry pressed on: ‘When I fought in Vietnam, I used to look at the faces of the local population and the looks they gave us. I’ll never forget it. It gave me clarity that we saw the situation in completely different ways.’”


The Perils of Proportionality

With Israeli special forces starting operations in Gaza to complement the IDF’s surgical air campaign against the indiscriminate, increasingly long-rage terror barrage from “Hamastan,” the international community , quite predictably, is beginning to rev up its favorite mantra, i.e., that the Jewish state is guilty of “disproportionate response.” After all, Palestinian civilians—ordered by Hamas to stay in their homes rather than evacuate terror targets in residential areas as well as in mosques and hospitals—have begun to die as “collateral damage” in Israel’s anti-terror campaign to protect its own civilians, so far psychologically traumatized but not slaughtered because of Iron Dome and the option of bomb shelters or safe rooms. Hamas prefers to use its cement to build terror tunnels rather than bomb shelters for Gazans.

Such protections that Israelis enjoy are not available to the exposed Jews of France where synagogue goers were terrorized by an enraged French Muslim mob, at first barely contained by five gendarmes whose initial orders seem to have been to act more like World Cup soccer refs than enforcers of the law. Did they have implicit orders from the French government whose commitment to be in neutral in “thought and deed” in the Mideast may have translated into a policy of semi-neutrality against terror in the Paris streets”? Was this a case of “disproportionate response” on the domestic level, but in the sense of inadequate response by a twenty-first century western government that has forgotten that the fundamental definition of the state is “the monopoly over the means of legitimate violence within a given territory” (Max Weber’s definition) and which doesn’t understand that failing to defend that monopoly by the use of force against violent challengers will ultimately undermine the survival of the state as well as the security of its law-abiding citizens?

Internationally, in the Mideast, Israel is, to some extent, being hoisted on its own petard by its ritual adherence to a strict self-imposed code of military ethics, devised primarily by Moshe Habertal, something of a peacenik professor, who believes it is better for Israel soldiers to die than to recklessly risk the lives of Palestinian innocents in ways that dishonor the Jewish state. Despite the aspersions of its critics, Israel is the only country in modern history that in wartime has avoided intentionally using its air force to target the enemy’s civil population. Israel refuses to practice vendetta against Palestinian civilians (as distinguished from Hamas’ terror operatives) for complicated reasons. It doesn’t want to betray Jewish values, alienate international opinion, or encourage civil strife between Israeli Jews and Israel’s Muslim minority.


The “New York Times” Perverts Poetry to Dispense Anti-Israel Propaganda

“Commentary” and other outlets are condemning the “New York Times” for distorting the clear meaning of Haim Nahman Bialik’s poem, “On the Slaughter” (1903), about the Kishinev Massacre to slander Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu called—contrary to the “Times”—for foregoing revenge in the wake of the kidnap-murder of three Jewish teenagers. He quoted the…


The American Founding and Human Rights According to “The New Republic”

“The New Republic”—whose founding editor Walter Lippmann outgrew radical “new psychology” to found a conservative “public philosophy” based on natural reason—graced the Fifth of July with a breathless review of some new books arguing that the American founding fathers were flaming “free thinkers.” The purpose of this agnostic bombast was, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, to stick a finger in the eyes of conservative Christians who see the American founding as a sacred event.

In truth, most of the Founders were moderate Deists, meaning that they believed in a benevolent but removed deity who crafted the universe’s natural laws. They had left behind dogmatic Calvinism, but were far removed from the authentic atheism of radical Enlightenment thinkers like Julien Offray de La Mettrie who wrote L’homme machine or “The Human Mechanism” (c. 1750).

At the popular level, the American Revolution if not the Constitution was rooted in evangelical religion. There might have been a Revolution without freethinking Tom Paine (who nevertheless admired Quakers), but it would have been impossible without the religious enthusiasm unleashed by George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards and the First Great Awakening that convinced many colonists that George III was the Antichrist.

After the Revolution, the Jeffersonian Republican Party relied on the popular support of anti-religious establishment Baptists and Methodists. This is not so surprising given recent scholarship showing that Jefferson himself was not a Deist but a Unitarian who believed in a large moral agency for a heroic if not divine Jesus. After Deism went into eclipse, Unitarianism and “the New England conscience” remained a powerful spur to reform movements including both temperance and antislavery.

This history matters because, as far as I know, there has been no human rights movement in American history without a religious dynamic. This was true of Progressive social reform of the early twentieth century and of the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s. It might seem not to be true of the labor movement of the New Deal Era, but even that had a serious theological component in Reinhold Niebuhr and the Catholic Worker Movement.


Vendetta Claims a Victim

Arab teenager

According to Lee Smith whose beat is the Mideast, Arabs are better at feuding than making war. This is why it was not only a terrible crime, but a tragic mistake when apparently Jewish extremists—outraged by the kidnap-murder of three teenage Jewish boys, Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gil-ad Shaar—invited an Arab-Jewish blood feud by kidnapping and killing an innocent Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem. Multiple arrests have been made in Israel with relative alacrity—in contrast to the Palestinian Authority which lacks the will or the ability or both to arrest those responsible for the triple murder. Whoever killed the Arab boy, Mohammed Hussein Abu Khdeir, should be prosecuted and punished to the maximum extent of the law for a terrorist crime that weakens the moral foundations of the Jewish state. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said as much and virtually every other Israeli in publish life has said as much.

“The abduction of the Arab teenager was carried out by extremists, acting on their own, who stand condemned by every sector of Israel’s democratic society. The kidnapping and murders of three Israeli teens, who have not been yet captured, was carried out by members of a terrorist group (Hamas) that is part of a Palestinian government,” declared Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The young men arrested for burning alive the Arab boy are being compared to European berserk “football hooligans.” No analogy is adequate to the depravity of the crime, but a better one is the kidnap-murder in Paris in 2006 of Jew of Moroccan descent, Ilan Halimi.

There are those among left-wing Jewish commentators whose initial reflex was to demand that we place the kidnap-murder of three Israel teens “in political context.” “Providing this context may be taboo at a time when the entire country is focused on the fate of three kidnapped Israeli teens, wrote journalist Mairav Zonszein, “but it is part and parcel of the story here.” Gidean Levy in “Haaretz” went so as to declare: “Only Israel is permitted to carry out illegal, immoral operations. Only it is permitted to be sanctimonious, to be shocked and to shout from the rooftops when others do the same thing to Israel.”

Zonszein, Levy, and other critics of the Jewish state in western newspapers as well as Israel should take more seriously the perverse reactions—and not only by Palestinians—to the kidnap-murder of three Jewish teens whose deaths should give us all pause.


The Worst Campus Anti-Semitic Incidents of 2013-2014

This past academic year was a turbulent  one on many college campuses, keeping the Brandeis Center’s legal advocacy initiative busy from coast-to-coast protecting Jewish students from hostile environments.  Which incidents do you think were the worst?  Unfortunately, there have been many to choose among.  Here are a few to consider:

BDS protestASA – On December 15, the American Studies Association (ASA) voted to endorse the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.  By a membership vote of 2-to-1, the association supported a limited academic boycott of Israel, the first country the ASA has treated this way.

AASA – Before there was the ASA, there was the AASA.  Earlier this past year, the Asian American Studies Association unanimously approved a resolution endorsing a boycott of Israeli universities.

Vassar SJP neonat HolocaustVassar – Vassar College’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) posted a 1944 German poster on its Tumblr page portraying a many-handed monster wearing a KKK mask, holding a little man grasping a moneybag, while stomping over a European town. The Brandeis Center urged Vassar to take swift disciplinary action against the student group.

New York University – At NYU, SJP members shoved mock eviction notices under students’ dormitories room doors and into their private rooms at two NYU dormitories.  One of the dormitories is known for its high concentration of Jewish students.  The Brandeis Center and The Lawfare Project have urged NYU to “firmly and forcefully” discipline the students.

Michigan IIMichigan – In mid-March, Jewish pro-Israel students were called “kikes” and “dirty Jews,” threatened and otherwise harassed by BDS activists.   The Brandeis Center has urged the university to respond.

San Francisco State – Mohammad Hammad, a then-San Francisco State University student, late last year posted pictures on his Tumblr account with him holding a long knife captioned, “Imagine me cutting off the heads of those in the Israeli Defense Forces with this.” More recently, the Brandeis Center has joined an AMCHA Initiative letter calling for investigation into the use of university funds to sponsor a faculty member’s trip to the Middle East to meet with groups designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. Department of State. In the past, San Francisco State has been very strong at responding to problematic incidents, and we are hopeful that President Wong will maintain former President Corrigan’s strong legacy.

Northeastern University School of LawNortheastern – Northeastern University’s chapter of SJP has been charged with many offenses including sliding unauthorized documents under students’ dormitory doors, not obtaining required permits, and defacing school property.  Northeastern placed the chapter on probation, later reinstating them subject to various important conditions. The Brandeis Center has established a chapter at Northeastern School of Law.

Temple – Recently, a Temple University professor questioned the deaths of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust. These comments come during unsuccessful efforts to convince MLA to adopt resolution critical of Israel. According to a spokesman from the University, Professor Alessio Lerro is “entitled to promote his controversial ideas.” The Brandeis Center has urged Temple President Theobald to respond more forcefully to these outrageous statements.


July 9th Symposium: 10 Years and Counting

The Brandeis Center is pleased to co-sponsor The July 9th Symposium: 10 Years and Counting…” with Heideman Nudelman Kalik and several major national organizations. The event will take place at 10:00 am at the United States Congress’ Capitol Visitors Center.  Ambassador Ron Dermer and former Canadian Prime Minister Irwin Cotler will deliver keynote addresses.  LDB…


The More Things Change…

The late Gary Tobin was often ahead of his time.  Here is what he said about the Presybterian Church nine years ago: The vast majority of Presbyterians are neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Israel.  Yet, a few activists were able to capture the institutional decision-making processes to pass anti-Israel resolutions.  This phenomenon is widespread on campuses as…


Aleksander Dugan: Rasputin Redux?

Speculation is percolating about an emerging “new fascist international”—stretching from France (stamping ground of the Le Pens and the National Front), to Spain (whose extremist rightist figure head is Prince Sixtus Henry of Bourbon-Parma, leader of the Catholic-monarchist Carlist movement), to Austria (where Heinz-Christian Strache heads the fascist Freedom Party), to Greece (where “Golden Dawn” is headed by Nikolaos Michaloliakos), to Hungary (where Marton Gyongyosi heads the vicious Jobbik Party), to Bulgaria (where Volen Siderov is founder to the far-right Ataka Party), to Vladimir Putin’s expansive-minded Russian Federation.

To the extent that there is a nucleus of fact beneath overblown hype, the question emerges who might provide the ideological glue for such a new alignment?

The cultural and religious gaps among these right-wing forces is such that the probable answer is nobody. Yet Putin’s Russia—the prime mover behind the new far right—is also providing the movement with a primus inter pares.

His name is Aleksandr Dugan who is being pictured, not without some plausibility, as a sort of reincarnated Rasputin, the “Mad Monk” whose unbridled charisma helped lead the Russian Empire presided by the last of the Romanovs over a cliff. His roots are uncovered in several recent books including James D. Heiser’s “‘The American Empire Should be Destroyed’: Aleksander Dugan and the Perils of Immanentized Eschatology” (2014).


The Presbyterian Church and the Ku Klux Klan

At their General Assembly on Friday, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted to divest from three companies that supply Israel with equipment used in the West Bank and in the blockade of Gaza. Enemies of the Jewish community are rejoicing.  Former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke  exulted, “Bravo to the Presbyterian Church for standing up to Jewish racism and supremacism!”  Duke is right to praise the Presbyterian divestment vote, which supports what the Ku Klux Klan stands for.

David Duke’s endorsement will undoubtedly embarrass the Presbyterian Church, since it underscores the anti-Semitic character of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.  Regardless of the Presbyterian delegates’ intentions, they have made common cause with a global movement that aims to marginalize and delegitimize the Jewish state.  In this sense, the BDS movement continues longstanding efforts to marginalize and delegitimize the Jewish people.

The connections between BDS and anti-Semitism have not been lost on the Presbyterian Church.  The divestment resolution (Resolution 04-09contains an unusual formal comment by the Church’s Advocacy Committee for Racial and Ethnic Concerns (ACREC).  In this statement, ACREC addressed the anti-Semitism charge explicitly, endorsing the unusual argument the Jewish community should “suspend their campaigns against anti-Semitism indefinitely” in order to focus exclusively on the Palestinians.  In other words, their official position is that it does not matter whether their resolution is anti-Semitic, since anti-Semitism is not as important as Jewish organizations say it is.

This extraordinary argument is taken from American-born Israeli journalist Larry Derfner, whom ACREC quotes as arguing last year:

The ADL [Anti-Defamation League] goes after anti-Semitism with a fist, it goes after Israeli racism with a sigh. As a matter of fact, the ADL and the entire American Jewish establishment should suspend their campaigns against anti-Semitism indefinitely and take a look at what’s going on in Israel.

It is not hard to see why this would be appealing to David Duke, but it is disappointing to see it adopted by a mainline Protestant denomination.  This argument, coming from within the Jewish community, supports Duke’s efforts to convince people to tolerate anti-Semitism. Derfner may not be a household word, but if he is known for anything, it is that the Jerusalem Post fired him a few years ago after he tried to justify terrorist attacks on Israelis, writing, “I think the Palestinians have the right to use terrorism against us.”  Derfner has apologized for his apparent defense of terrorism, which may be explained by his tendency to write hyperbolically.  Unfortunately, the Presbyterians have taken his arguments literally.

What is remarkable is that the Presbyterian Church would find it necessary to adopt Derfner’s argument about anti-Semitism as part of a resolution that does not purport to address anti-Semitism at all.  But the connection makes sense.  After all, the Church delegates must have felt some discomfort at advancing the BDS movement in light of that movement’s unsavory aspects.  Derfner’s argument gives them the blessing they need, even if it comes from a man who seems to have tried to justify terrorism against the Jewish people in the past.

This argument, if taken as literally as ACREC appears to take it, is that Jews exaggerate the extent of anti-Semitism in order to diminish the suffering of other peoples.  This is an example of what is called “anti-Semitism denial,” because it mimics the logic of Holocaust denial.  The global resurgence of anti-Semitism is now well-established.  Those who deny the existence of global anti-Semitism, or argue that it is greatly exaggerated, do not merely express an erroneous opinion.  Rather, their position is that Jews abuse their power to intimidate governments and major institutions, deceiving others in order to gain unfair advantage.  This argument would be entirely implausible, except that it relies on deeply entrenched anti-Semitic stereotypes, that even well-meaning Presbyterian delegates have apparently found convincing.