Friday, February 19, 2010

San Francisco Jewish Community Federation Sets Policy to Prevent Funding Anti-Israel Programs

Almost seven months after the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival's ill-advised hosting of Cindy Corrie, in collaboration with Jewish Voice for Peace and the American Friends Service Committee, the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco has formally responded with a policy statement regarding Israel-related programs by its grantees. While it took a while, this policy certainly appears to meet the needs of the community: preventing misuse of Jewish community funds in supporting anti-Israel groups or presenting anti-Israel events.

The policy states:
"The JCF does not fund organizations that through their mission, activities or partnerships

1. endorse or promote anti-Semitism, other forms of bigotry, violence or other extremist views;

2. actively seek to proselytize Jews away from Judaism; or

3. advocate for, or endorse, undermining the legitimacy of Israel as a secure independent, democratic Jewish state, including through participation in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, in whole or in part."

Not only does this policy apply to the Federation's grantmaking process, but it will also apply to directed donations through its Endowment Fund.

The policy statement goes on to note programs that would not be consistent with this policy:

"1. Panel discussions, speakers series, cultural, artistic or educational programs that as an overall experience – i.e. based on the entire body of work – endorse or prominently promote the BDS movement or positions that undermine the legitimacy of the State of Israel

2. Individual programs that endorse the BDS movement or positions that undermine the legitimacy of the State of Israel

3. Co-sponsorship or co-presentations of public programs on Middle East issues with supporters of the BDS movement or others who undermine the legitimacy of the State of Israel."

And, in case there was any doubt about it, Federation Acting CEO Jennifer Gorovitz stated in her introductory e-mail about the policies "Had the policy been in effect prior to the event accompanying the screening of the movie "Rachel," we believe these guideposts would have made clear that such an event and co-sponsorships fall outside the bounds of the JCF's funding."

The key step will be enforcing this policy and not overlooking violations. Of course, Jewish Voice for Peace will claim that they don't undermine the legitimacy of the state of Israel. We've refuted that assertion so many times that their leaders are either frankly delusional if they still believe it, or staggeringly arrogant if they think anybody else will.

This should become a model for other Jewish community organizations to prevent the undermining of their mission by anti-Israel activists. In particular, Hillel should examine the behavior of their own individual campus organizations through the lens of this policy. UC Berkeley Hillel, as a grantee of the Federation, will have to comply with it; perhaps this will finally bring about the long-overdue end to the subversion of that institution by members of Students for Justice in Palestine.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Can we find 433,971 people to hate on Israel? California's Divestment Initiative

After 10 years of abject failure, the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Movement, like the Energizer bunny, keeps going and going and going...

Chris Yatooma has recently introduced a ballot initiative to force California's state pension funds to divest from companies doing business in Israel. 433,971 signatures are needed by mid-July to put the proposed law on the November election ballot.

The initiative was submitted under the name of the "Israel Divestiture Forum," (IDF). According to an interview in the San Francisco Examiner , Yatooma claims "that's just me having some fun". No, Mr. Yatooma, it's fraud. The same way Paul Larudee of the International Solidarity Movement naming his latest anti-Israel venture the "Association for Investment in Popular Action Committees" ( AIPAC ) is fraud, meant to deliberately deceive. It’s the same tactics we've seen over and over again, as the anti-Israel forces attempt to push their agenda on a disinterested public. In the absence of facts and history, fraud and outright forgery have become the well-oiled tools in the anti-Israel tool chest.

According to Mr. Yatooma, "Public retirement systems in this state currently invest on behalf of the citizens of California in publicly traded foreign companies that may be at risk due to business ties with foreign states such as Israel." Clearly Mr. Yatooma has not read "Start up Nation" . Israel has more companies on the tech-oriented NASDAQ than any country outside the United States - more than all of Europe, Japan, Korea, India, and China combined. Israel also attracts more of the global pool of venture capital investments per capita than any other country, with $2 billion in foreign venture capital invested in 2008. For the last five years the Israeli economy has substantially outstripped the average GDP growth rate of developed countries. Today Israel has the highest density of startups in the world.

Yatooma's initiative is chock full of typos, misstatements and downright lies. His agenda is clear, however- by declaring "territory occupied by Israel since 1949" he denies the right of Israel to exist, within any borders.

Over the years the California initiative process has been hijacked by special interest groups pushing their agenda, and this year is no different. An initiative costs $200 to file, but can cost nearly $2 million to qualify for the ballot. The question is not whether Yatooma find 433,971 people to hate on Israel, but whether he can do it without resorting to fraud, forgery and lies. Given the history of the BDS movement, the odds aren't good.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Freedom of Speech at Universities--Except for Supporters of Israel

Events this week in both the USA and the UK have once again shown the double standard for free speech at universities-- free speech for any type of radical Islamist cause is entirely acceptable, even rewarded, but any expression of support for Israel can be forcibly suppressed without apparent consequences.

Southern California saw this in practice on two UC campuses: Irvine, where Israel's ambassador to the US Michael Oren was speaking, and UCLA School of Law where Daniel Taub of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spoke. While Taub, Principal Deputy Legal Advisor to the MFA, spoke about the Goldstone report on February 8, protestors filed in front of him, preventing him from speaking until they were cleared by campus police. They justified their action by claiming that "“The Israeli government shouldn’t be able to speak with no response” from the Palestinian side" Of course, there are many events at UCLA that promote the anti-Zionist viewpoint, not only from students but also from faculty, without any "response" being allowed-- and without forcible obstruction of the event. At Irvine, which has been the site of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hate speech for years without any condemnation from the university administration, Ambassador Oren was the target of a well organized series of disruptions that resulted in the arrest of 11 students-- and, at long last, Chancellor Michael Drake finally (and tepidly) indicated to the protestors that he was "embarrassed" by their actions.

Judge for yourself--watch the video:

Of course, the proof will be in the consequences provided by these universities. But don't hold your breath. There are two sets of rules in international relations-- one for all countries except Israel, and one for Israel. Other countries have the right to defend their civilians from cross-border attacks; Israel does not. Other countries have the right to decide who may enter their country; Israel does not. Other countries have the right to decide who may become citizens of their country; Israel does not. And, similarly, there are two rules for university campuses-- anti-Israel speech that often crosses the line to overt anti-Semitism cannot be restricted or even criticized, but any event in support of Israel or Zionism can be legitimately shut down by force. In the fall of 2008, the Tikvah student group at UC Berkeley was disciplined merely because some of their members shouted "liar" at Norman Finkelstein as they exited his talk. Yet no action had been taken against the Muslim Students Assocation at Cal when they shouted down Daniel Pipes and harrassed Israel supporters attending his talk in 2004.

Of course, things could be worse: when Israel's deputy foreign minister spoke at Oxford University 2 days ago, he was met not only by assailants who were restrained by police, but by a heckler who shouted "itbach el-Yahud" (Arabic for "slaughter the Jews", the battle cry of pogromists in Mandatory Palestine and of anti-Israel protestors in San Francisco). Ayalon is considering pressing charges . If he does, you can be sure that Muzzlewatch will be all over it--how dare those nefarious Zionists interfere with this man's right to promote hatred!