When the pen is mightier than the sword

How does one put into words the outrage and hurt we feel at the slaughter of innocents in Paris this past week that included journalists, police and members of the French Jewish community? Anger, pain and a deep and profound sorrow. The journalists at satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo  were slaughtered because they represented our right to free speech and expression, a tenet valued as a fundamental value of a democratic society. Police were murdered because they uphold the law that is based on Western values.

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Cartoon courtesy of  RAFO

And four were murdered simply because they were Jewish. Their lives ended while shopping for last minute Shabbat provisions by a terrorist who gleefully admitted that he targeted them because they were Jewish.

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The Victims of the terror attack on Hyper Cacher, a kosher Supermarket in Paris.

Israel and France share the same democratic, Western values.

As Israelis we understand the veracity and trauma of terror that can hit anytime. As Jews we understand persecution and how it feels to be victims of hatred. The rising tide of anti-Semitism around the world makes this threat all the more real.

As someone  who makes a living sharing my opinion, which is sometimes less than well received, news that colleagues in my profession paid the ultimate price for what we value highly (and sometimes take for granted) which is our freedom of speech and expression was at once,  sobering and frightening.

Those of us who work in the field of Israel advocacy are no strangers to views that contravene ours. Sometimes these opinions even border on hate speech. We are used to cartoons that depict us in the most vile, anti-Semitic and stereotypical fashion. Social media has added a different dimension and Facebook trolls and Twitter twits have discovered an effective way of ensuring that their hate invective has a rapid and viral soapbox. We have dealt with all of the above by using the legal options available to us or by strongly worded letters and op-eds and the occasional meme but never a hail of bullets and carnage.

During Operation Protective Edge in 2014, elements of South African society appealed to the leadership to silence me ahead of my impending visit. They were told in no uncertain terms that restricting my freedom of expression was against their constitution. While I respect their right to vehemently disagree with me, my answer is to take to the airwaves and the internet and keep on writing. That is my constitutional and inalienable right.

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The South African Cape Times newspaper features the response to calls for me to be silenced during Operation Protective Edge – and gets the next post wrong!

To allow ourselves to be intimidated by those who scorn our Western value system is to bow to terrorism. Artists draw your truth, writers share your views! We owe it to those who were murdered in France and to everyone who has been killed by virtue of their opinion or religious affiliation to speak on their behalf.

For us as Jews, these terror attacks are deeply personal. We are a nation that feels the pain of every person slaughtered by terrorists deeply. We are all responsible for each other and at this time we mourn and embrace the families of the victims in our hearts.

Today we laid Yohan Cohen z”l, Yoav Hattab z”l, Phillipe Braham z”l and Francois-Michel Saaba z”l,  to eternal rest in the peaceful hills of Jerusalem. We have buried too many, far too many victims of terror. This is not the way we want to bring Jews home to Israel. Making Aliyah, coming home to our ancestral home should be a joyous occasion. For many, this is not the case. A global tsunami of hatred is forcing them to leave the countries that they feel deeply rooted in, despite a strong love and connection to Israel. Whatever reasons anyone decides to call Israel home, we welcome you with open arms.

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Solidarity – “I am a Jew”. Proudly!

To the victims of these appalling attacks, you are always in our hearts and we will do our best to honour your memories by expressing ourselves or celebrating our Jewish and Zionist identities.

To the mourners, may you be comforted and find healing and strength.

May the pen forever be mightier than the sword. Je Suis Charlie. Je Suis Juif. Am Yisrael Chai.

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This week’s commemorative cover of Charlie Hebdo.

We are taking our power back!

This blog post currently appears in The Times of Israel:

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/we-are-taking-our-power-back/

I don’t know about you but I am angry. Anti-Semitism has reached alarming levels on a global scale that we have not seen since pre-World War 2 and some of the invective is worthy of Der Sturmer circa 1938. From the United States to South Africa, France to Australia, Jews are being singled out for persecution.  Facebook has become a battlefield where the lines have become clearly demarcated and many can claim losing life-long “friends” due to differing opinions. Twitter has brought the worst out in twits who tweet nasty. Some twit called me “a bimbo who should change my handle to occupier Barbie”. Hey, I have been called worse! It is merely symptomatic of something far more nefarious.

I have a message for all the haters and intolerators (dig my rhyming skills? Yes, I know it is not an actual word but hey, creative licence!) and it goes something like this:

To those who say we as Jews have no right to a country of our own I say, we are taking our power back

To those who say that we have no right to organize ourselves politically and call it Zionism, I say we are taking our power back.

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To those who call for our destruction, we take our power back.

To those who are outraged at our audacity to defend ourselves, we take our power back.

To those who call our army and security forces “war criminal” and “baby killer”, we take our power back.

To those who intimidate and threaten our Muslim, Druze, Christian and other non-Jewish citizens of Israel, we take our power back.

To those who intimidate and threaten our many non-Jewish supporters around the world, we take our power back.

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To those who get hysterical because we don’t rack up those high casualty numbers in a time of war, we take our power back.

To those world bodies and organisations who focus their attention on the State of Israel and pass a disproportionate (yup, I used THAT word) amount of resolutions against us, we take our power back.

To those who call Israel an Apartheid state, negating the suffering of the millions of South Africans who lived under this heinous regime, we take our power back.

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To those who think that chanting hate speech at protest rallies intimidates and shames us, we are taking our power back.

To those who draw a moral equivalence between Israel and terror organisations, we are taking our power back.

To those who call for Boycotts, Sanctions and Divestment, causing more harm than good to the Palestinian people, who you purport to help, we are taking our power back.

To those who try to camouflage their ill-disguised hatred behind the concept of human rights, you are transparent and we take our power back.

To those who take their anger and hatred out on Jewish community members across the world in museums, synagogues and schools, we are taking our power back.

And finally, to the world media who can’t be bothered to fact check, provide balanced coverage or would rather turn a complicated situation into sensationalistic tabloid style journalism in order to get those ratings, I hold you responsible for a lot of the insanity we are experiencing right now. We take our power back!

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We will stand up against you at protests and rallies. We will wear our religious insignia proudly. We will call our name Zionist. We will proudly purchase and support Israeli industry. We will use every platform at our disposal to fight your invective. We have learnt from our historical experience and the hideous double standard that is applied to us at the expense of those who deserve the attention we receive.

A large part of taking your power back is just showing up. This is why it is important to be armed with facts and disseminate and speak them as far and as often as possible.  We cannot abdicate responsibility anymore by saying it is the work of the government or politicians. We are all responsible for each other.

You detractors, you haters, you intolerators, you genteel anti-Semites, you out and loud hatemongers – you do not have the power you think you have to intimidate and hurt us.

We have taken our power back.

Our Shattered Hearts

This blog post is currently featured in Israel Forever:

http://israelforever.org/interact/blog/our_shattered_hearts/

Where do I even begin to find the words to describe what we in Israel are feeling right now? We are in shock. We are angry. We are grief stricken. Our collective heart is broken. We are demanding vengeance.

It has been almost three weeks since Eyal Yifrach 19, Gilad Shaar 16 and Naftali Frankel 16, were kidnapped by Hamas terrorist on their way home from yeshiva. Today, our worst fears were confirmed. Two Hamas terrorists (not militants, fundamentalists or extremists but TERRORISTS) kidnapped these three boys, two who were still minors and shot them to death within minutes of their abduction and hid their bodies under a pile of rocks in an empty field.

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For almost three weeks we have hoped and prayed that these three boys would be returned to the bosom of their families.  How to we even begin to imagine or understand the pain that these families are feeling?  They have been beacons of strength, dignity and unity for all of us and we have taken succour from their example. On many occasions they have spoken of feeling like they are being held in a tight embrace by all of Israel.  Today we embrace you even tighter, we grieve with you, we mourn your loss. Tonight Israel weeps.

For almost three weeks we have been a nation united in solidarity and hope. Today we are united in grief.

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We have come to know Eyal, Gilad and Naftali personally. Over the last three weeks we learnt that Naftali was a good student and taught himself to play guitar. Eyal volunteered with children less fortunate than himself and was committed to advocating for the release of former kidnapped soldier, Gilad Shalit .  Gilad was a youth counselor who loved to bake and spend time with his grandparents.

These three young men had no vengeance in their hearts. These three young men for the last weeks have become our brothers, our family, our sons. These three young men we hoped with all our might would return home safely.

We ask why but we know the answer. The oldest hatred in the world.  The oldest hatred in the world does not know an age limit or a border.  What kind of monster slaughters children like this? Our Jewish children.  In Israel, children belong to all of us and these monsters know that we value our children above all else. These monsters know that to hurt our children rips at our very core. We are our Brother’s Keeper.

Eyal, Gilad, Naftali. You represented the best of us. You united us in hope and now we unite in our grief for you.  We will hold your families in our tight embrace. We pray they are comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. We will never forget you.

Eyal. Gilad. Naftali. May your memory be a blessing.

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BDS – Belligerent, Disruptive and Silly

This blog post is currently featured in the Algemeiner:

http://www.algemeiner.com/2013/04/26/bds-belligerent-disruptive-and-silly/

‘Tis the season to cause folly? Hot off the trail of Israel Apartheid Week, a global festival of anti-Israel invective that appears on University campuses around the world that extols the “virtues” of boycotts, has come a flurry of anti-Israel activity, compliments of the BDS movement.

 Perhaps the most vocal of all has been former Pink Floyd front man, Roger Waters. Waters has forsaken writing rock classics to concentrate on his campaign of endorsing cultural boycotts against the Jewish State. He felt the bite of the American Jewish community when his plans for a public interview at the Theresa L. Kaufmann Concert Hall was cancelled following outrage from officials at religious group JCC Watch. Waters has done some serious back peddling. He is quoted in the Huffington Post, “I am considering my position. The letter asking my fellow musicians to boycott Israel has never appeared. I am thinking all of this through extremely carefully and I’m thinking it all through extremely carefully because I care more about the outcome, because I care about the people involved, than I do about the moment.” A mea culpa or has sanity prevailed?

While Waters’ previous stance had been comfortably dumb, he is realising that there are repercussions….

 While anti-Israelists do have a democratic right to voice their opinions do they have a

right to be belligerent and disruptive? BDS supporters have taken their right to protest as meaning a right to do harm. This week, three out of the four Jewish students forcibly removed from an event on campus hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at ColumbiaUniversity formally lodged a complaint. The rationale for their removal? A “plausible inference can be drawn that the removal of the four students was motivated by their political viewpoint.”

 Who can forget BDS poster boy, George Galloway, storming out of a debate at Oxford University because he doesn’t “recognise Israel or debate with Israelis.” Tsk Tsk Georgie, perhaps “Respect” is the wrong word for your political party.

 

Who can forget the trolley jockeys in the French town of Carrefour who removed Israeli produce from supermarket shelves or the flash mob in the USA demanding the removal of Israeli hummus to the tune of Lady Gaga’s song “Telephone”. The irony being that Lady Gaga is a recent visitor to Israeli shores…

 

And then there is South Africa. South Africa is a very important factor in the BDS movement as it is not just the birthplace of Apartheid but the seaside city of Durban was the venue for the UN Conference against Racism in 2001 where a variety of NGO’s unleashed this nefarious campaign. Some of Israel’s greatest detractors hail from the southern Africans state – Desmond Tutu, UNHRC’s Navi Pillay and John Dugard. South Africa is perhaps the most important country when it comes to BDS trend spotting. Over the last two months, BDS activists in South Africa have taken their protesting to another level.

 

 During Israel Apartheid Week held on the campus of the University of the Witwatersrand, Israeli concert pianist, Yossi Reshef, who lives in Berlin, had his concert interrupted by vuvuzela-blowing, screaming protesters. Reshef had been invited as a guest of Tararam, an Israeli culture initiative to showcase the myriad of cultural gifts that the country has to offer. The concert abruptly ended after a short while with Diplomatic guests being hastily removed by their respective security. Members of the audience were traumatised and manhandled.

 His crime? Being born in Israel.

 This type of action continued at last week’s Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day) celebrations when BDS protestors threw stink bombs and disrupted a performance by Israeli opera singer Yaniv D’or, in Johannesburg. This time they were in for a surprise because the community fought back. Security officials removed hostile protesters and the concert continued.

 

Yes, something sure smells rotten. In their haste to prove how concerned they are about Palestinian human rights, BDS activists have trampled on the rights of Jews in communities across the world. Our students have a right to protest just like you. Our concert pianists have a right to perform. Our Opera singers have a right to sing. Our community members have a right to decide for themselves. And we all have a right to celebrate our holy and national holidays without intimidation.

 

While the BDS campaign may have enjoyed minor victories, they have failed to score a major boycott goal. But here is a message to BDS activists:

 It is summertime in Israel and apart from expecting the influx of tourists who visit us every year, we are gearing up to welcome a plethora of famous faces that includes Depeche Mode, Cliff Richard, Alicia Keys, Rihanna and another lady you may have heard of (and in my opinion Jewish royalty) Ms Barbra Streisand. We are the start up nation – a natural investment haven for major technology brands like Apple, Google, Microsoft and others who see this as a R&D haven. But don’t take my word for it – ask Warren Buffett or Stephen Hawking…

 Perhaps one of our fabulous start ups will invent some technology that will allow BDS activists to hear the anguished cries of our neighbours who wonder why nobody is paying attention to how their autocratic governments are trampling on their human rights…

 Their failure to do so and their singling out of Israel for opprobrium just enforces the fact that they are belligerent, disruptive and downright silly!

Comfortably Dumb?

This blog post currently appears in the Times of Israel:

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/comfortably-dumb-2/

Calling all Pink Floyd fans! It is time we demand that the band reunites. It is clear that
Roger Waters needs a hobby besides letter writing and Israel bashing.

Last week former band member, Waters admitted to writing a letter to fellow recording artist and UN Ambassador, Stevie Wonder, asking him to not perform at a benefit for the organisation Friends of the IDF. A jurist on the Russel Tribunal for Palestine, a glorified Kangaroo court, Waters has become one of Israel’s most virulent critics. Water’s favourite target is Israel’s “Apartheid Wall”. Hey, this is a man who has built a career singing about walls so he would know….

No Roger, it is not another brick in the wall, rather it is mostly fence with a small percentage of concrete to keep those pesky suicide bombers out. We Israelis object to being blown up in cafes and on buses. You get the picture.

Now Roger’s pet project is advocating BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) against the Jewish State. He has made the switch from writing some of the greatest rock classics to
writing the kind of fictional drivel that should line the bottom of a bird cage. After
targeting Stevie, he has set his sights on Steve van Zandt, member of Springsteen’s E Street Band. This coincides nicely with the campaign Israelis have embarked on to ask The Boss to include Israel in his upcoming world tour. Van Zandt is famous (okay apart from his pompadour he had while playing mobster, Silvio Dante on the Sopranos) for forming Artists Against Apartheid in the 1980’s. Artists against Apartheid advocated cultural bans and boycotts against South Africa which had impact.

What BDS advocates like Waters fail to understand, or maybe they just choose not to, is that the very people that they are trying to help are the ones they harm the most. True peace will only come from discourse and not from boycotts.

The singling out of Israel for approbation at the expense of other conflicts in the world just shows nefarious motivation. Waters and his ilk are comfortably numb when Israel is singled out for rocket attacks from terrorists who target her civilian population. Yesterday remains of a rocket were found in a Sderot kindergarten fired during US President, Barack Obama’s visit to Israel.. By sheer miracle the kindergarten was closed when it fell, sparing the lives of Israeli children.

Waters waxes lyrical (sometimes even literally!) about Apartheid practices but I haven’t heard a word from him about the gender Apartheid practiced by hamas who have instituted gender based schooling or cancelled the Gaza marathon because, heaven forbid, women might participate. Invoking words like Apartheid which are highly emotive and provocative to describe a very complex conflict not only belittles the true victims of Apartheid and makes light of their suffering but shows a great ignorance and dare I say, laziness to investigate the truth.

If Roger Waters and his fellow BDS kangaroo court members are in need of a hobby or wanting to weigh in on human rights abuse, we gladly offer a tour of our Middle Eastern neighbourhood, starting with Syria and moving swiftly on to Iran and the rest. The victims of genocide, rape, persecution and abuse are wondering when their voices will be heard.

One of these days…..?

 

 

The Russell Tribunal – Kangaroos in Smart Clothing….

This article currently appears in The Algemeiner:

http://www.algemeiner.com/2013/03/20/the-russell-tribunal-kangaroos-in-smart-clothing/

With humble apologies and much respect to the fabulous Australian marsupials, it must be said that the Russell Tribunal is nothing more than a kangaroo court. The  Russell Tribunal or International War Crimes Tribunal was founded by British philosopher, Bertrand Russell in 1966 with the aim of investigating America’s foreign policy and military intervention in Vietnam. The Russell Tribunal on Palestine was founded in March 1999 with the purpose of investigating crimes committed by Israel against Palestinians. Charges of practising Apartheid have been levelled at the Jewish state. Strange how no investigations have ever been carried out by the Tribunal against suicide bombings or incitement to hate.

 

This weekend the Tribunal wrapped up four years of “investigations” and members made their recommendation to the ICC to investigate crimes committed by Israelis against Palestinians, simultaneously calling for a boycott on the import of goods from the West Bank.

 

Let’s examine the credentials of some of the esteemed jurists who serve on the Russell Tribunal for Palestine:

 

The jury in this particular Tribunal included the late Stephane Hessel, who claimed to be a survivor of Buchenwald Concentration Camp. On closer inspection it was found that the only records of a Stephane Hessel were of prisoner 10033 who entered Buchenwald on 17 August 1944 and died of typhoid. The Stephane Hessel in question died on the 26th of February 2013 at the age of 88.

 

Former Pink Floyd member, Roger Waters, seems to have forgone bass playing and song writing for political posturing. Fond of commenting on walls, whether it is The Wall or the erm….other wall (we call it a security fence), Waters has made his dissatisfaction and disdain public. On the issue of the rights of Israeli civilians who are targets for rockets and suicide bombers, Waters is comfortably numb.

 

Former South African Minister of Intelligence, Ronnie Kasrils, is also a card carrying member of the ANC.. Kasrils’ own human rights record is almost farcical. Ask him about the Bisho massacre which resulted in the deaths of 28 people. The Bisho massacre is a serious black mark on Red Ronnie’s record. Investigated by the Goldstone Commission (yes, it is true) Kasrils was severely criticised for his part. Then sometimes Red Ronnie goes green – Hamas flag waving green. For a man who prides himself on his fight against the racist Apartheid machine, one has to wonder what he was thinking inviting Hamas leader, Ismael Haniyeh, he who advocates the destruction of Israel and genocide of the Jews to South Africa. Now that is just not cricket…

 

John Dugard is a professor of International Law. A favoured UN lackey, Dugard reports to the  UN Human Rights Council on “the situation in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967″.In 2001 Dugard was appointed as an unpaid expert by the UN Human Rights Commission to investigate only violations by the Israeli side, prompting Israel and the U.S. to dismiss his reports as one-sided. Now with friends like this….

 

Alice Walker is one of America’s most celebrated writers. Famous for writing “The Colour Purple”, Walker was active in the civil rights movement and credits Dr Martin Luther King as the catalyst for her involvement. She must have been absent when Dr King, always a strong supporter of Israel and Zionism declared that “Israel is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvellous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security, and that security must be a reality.” In an interview in June 2011, Walker characterised the United States and Israel as “terrorist organizations” stating “When you terrorize people, when you make them so afraid of you that they are just mentally and psychologically wounded for life — that’s terrorism.” Walker has banned The Colour Purple from being published in Israel. She dishonours the memory of Dr Martin Luther King and all he stood for.

 

                                                                                                     

While the Tribunal enjoys no legal jurisdiction and cannot implement penalties, it can make recommendations as discussed above. In the interest of balance it would behove the Tribunal to allow for pro-Israel jurists or take testimony from victims of terror in Israel.

 

Anything else is just a witch hunt or in this case, kangaroo court, albeit in smart clothing.

Hate-a-Palooza – Apartheid Israel Week Begins!

It is an annual event held on university campuses around the world. An anticipated festival featuring clowns and jokers and a whole bunch of magic tricks. The rock stars of hate finely tune their instruments for the tour that covers over 250 cities across the globe and occurs in February and March every year.

The tour will feature its usual playlist – activists spewing venom and vitriol and leveling accusations of the practice of Apartheid at the Jewish State. If you strip away the “glamour” and look at the motivation behind such an event, it is easy to see that although disguised as concern for human rights abuse, these rock stars of hatred and discrimination single out only one country, Israel, and use words like Apartheid to rally support behind their nefarious cause.

On many occasions I have lamented the tragic hijacking of the word “Apartheid” which in essence meant the legislated and enforced laws of racial segregation that classed the black citizens of South Africa as disenfranchised and second class. Instead, this definition has become a sexy way to package, market and sell anti-Israel hatred. The word Apartheid is provocative, emotive and evocative and inspires a variety of strong emotions. The rock stars of hatred are well aware of what people’s reactions to the word Apartheid will be. In their haste to demonize Israel, detractors have forgotten to define what Apartheid was! The black people of South Africa suffered tremendously under the Apartheid regime and by comparing Israel, an imperfect but thriving democracy, to the former South Africa makes light of their suffering. It is an odious comparison to say the least.

This campaign of hatred is nothing more than a scurrilous attempt to assault the legitimacy of the State of Israel. One must note that even in the darkest days of Apartheid, NOBODY questioned South Africa’s right to exist as a country, no matter how much the world objected to its racist policies. Calling into question Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State or the rights of Jews to organize themselves along political lines and call it Zionism IS racism. By painting Israel as a pariah state that has little right to exist and ignoring true racist states says more about those pointing fingers than our plucky little country. I grew up in South Africa and bore witness to the horrors of Apartheid and I live in Israel and while it is not perfect and yes, racism exists, it is a far cry from the daily humiliation and persecution suffered by the people of South Africa. South Africa is perhaps one of the most important centres for this campaign of delegitimisation because it is the country that not only holds the benchmark for defeating Apartheid but exports anti-Apartheid activists to the above mentioned centres to promote their Boycott Divestment and Sanction (BDS) campaign against Israel and spew forth their vitriol.

And Gaza is the favoured symbol of oppression. It is astounding that some will say that Israel is practicing policies worse than Apartheid in Gaza (an area that Israel completely disengaged from including the uprooting of the dead) while ignoring true crimes of Apartheid perpetrated by Hamas – the guardians of Gaza. Gender apartheid, religious apartheid, restriction of freedom of the press, persecution of political opposition and the persecution of Homosexuals. Should I go on?

Those advocating BDS assume that by “punishing” Israel with cultural, economic, sporting and other sanctions it will bring us to our knees, and we will abandon the idea of a Two State Solution. They assume that by isolating Israel it will result in Palestinians and Israelis living happily ever after in a giant rainbow nation like South Africa and everything will be sunshine, lollipops and roses. Except for one small detail. Palestinians and Jews both have their own national aspirations based on their own ethnic or nationalistic identities.

By advocating a One State Solution, BDS advocates not only patronize Palestinian national aspirations but Jewish as well.

During last year’s on-campus hate fest an attempt was made by an Israeli student to engage with a representative of the BDS movement. His hello was met with a call to F… off. Offensive, appalling and it just proves the point that discourse and engagement is not the aim of these movements, but rather isolation and abuse. It is my belief peace will be built from the ground up and cutting off engagement is contrary to any attempts to broker peace.

It has become trendy to join the anti-Israel frenzy on campus. It saddens me that in order to become pro-Palestinian the trend is to become as anti-Israel as one can possibly be. Academic institutions are supposed to be hotbeds of free thinking so I am going to send this message to students: start a new trend – become rebellious rock stars and buck the system by becoming pro peace and being informed of the realities in this part of the Middle East. Rebel by choosing not to harass Israeli speakers, diplomats and IDF representatives who visit your campus. Look for positive ways to build dialogue and change. Don’t be a supporting act by advocating policies of BDS.

Come on students, this is YOUR time to challenge authority….

Disclaimer: Hate-a-Palooza is in no way a slight or criticism of the highly successful rock tour, Lollapalooza.

This post is featured in The Times of Israel.