From outside one will always triumphantly impress theories upon the world and then fall straight into the ditch one has dug, but only from inside will one keep oneself and the world quiet and true. /FK (Contact: TBONotebooks at fastmail.fm. The Blue Octavo Notebooks welcomes mail, although we cannot guarantee a response. Your email may be posted in part on The Blue Octavo Notebooks unless otherwise requested.) Please enjoy the notebook entries, and thanks for reading.
Thursday, November 13, 2003
At the Edward W. Said Memorial Lecture panel session on Friday evening, I found myself sitting near Ora Wise. As you probably know, since it’s almost guaranteed to be mentioned whenever she makes it into the media, Wise’s father is a rabbi (and her mother is a Hebrew school teacher, although this isn’t as often mentioned). Wise attended Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati, where she garnered a reputation as one of the school’s resident protesters. Walnut Hills is easily the best public high school in the city, if not the state, and Ora (for better or worse) is testimony to its students’ and graduates’ reputation for activism and social awareness. Ora was born in Jerusalem, but like her father grew up in Cincinnati. Today, he is the rabbi of Adath Israel Congregation, a fairly old (est. 1847) Conservative (and conservative) synagogue, while she is one of the more prominent and outspoken activists of the pro-Palestinian solidarity movement. After graduating high school in 1999, she attended the Ohio State University for a few years, where she was one of the leaders in the newly formed OSU Committee for Justice in Palestine (CJP). She then headed off to New York, where she appears to have made a career of sorts as the “anti-Zionist daughter of a rabbi”™. Wise was one of the organizers of this year’s OSU festivities, and her name is listed on the conference’s webpage as one of the media contacts. In addition to being active with “Jews Against the Occupation” and teaching middle school students at Congregation Kolot Chayeinu in Brooklyn, she is one of the more prominent members of the solidarity movement, and has spoken at various universities and events in recent months about how awful Israel is, along with the rest of the predictable solidarity song-and-dance about Apartheid and so on. As would be expected, mention of her father’s profession is practically de rigueur in any media account of these and other such activities.
Like fringe (and similarly self-publicizing) ultra-Orthodox Jewish sects like the Naturei Karta, Wise’s limited novelty is not so much her political views (which are hardly unique or even notable) but that she is a Jew—“the daughter of a rabbi” ™, you may have heard—who is loudly opposed to Israel, Zionism, and so on. (In this respect, she is similar to Adam Shapiro, another prominent pro-Palestinian activist who has likewise made a career of sorts as a Jew who opposes Israel, and who is more than happy to talk about himself and his anti-Israel activism to anyone who will listen. But unlike Shapiro, Wise identifies and regards herself as Jewish.) Having the “young, female, articulate, Jewish, and very beautiful” “daughter of a rabbi” ™ mouth the movement’s tendentious anti-Israel claptrap to anyone who will listen is certainly a publicity coup for them, but one wonders how much longer Wise, now in her twenties, will continue to be publicly defined by the movement in terms of her father’s position and the novelty of being his daughter. After all, for a Jew to criticize Israel is hardly as incongruous as one might be led to believe—in fact, it’s not incongruous at all—as a glance at any Israeli newspaper will show. One hopes for Wise’s sake that while she’s laughing and having a good time with fellow solidarity members, as she was Friday evening, that other solidarity folks aren’t laughing at her (and I imagine the fellows who called me a Yahoodi and a godless idol-worshipper, among other pleasantries, on Friday night certainly appreciate her efforts and her “critical attitude” towards Israel and Zionism).
As I’ve mentioned before, whenever solidarity members offer quotes that seem too good to be true—whether the quotes are supposedly from Desmond Tutu or Edward Said or anyone else—it’s always important to double-check things to make sure nobody’s pulling a fast one. As can be expected, statements from solidarity members themselves are no exception, and Wise’s statements to audiences offer any number of cases in point.
For example, in an article about a talk Wise gave last April at Rice University we read, in a comment about Rachel Corrie (who was accidentally killed last spring while trying to obstruct a bulldozer operation), that “People gathered around Corey (sic) to offer help, but the Israeli troops opened fire on anyone who came near, Wise said.”
Well, this account is certainly fascinating, not only because it’s Orwellian garbage but also because it problematizes eyewitness accounts of ISM members, including those who went to Corrie’s side, none of whom mentioned dodging bullets. Probably just an oversight on their parts that none of them remembered to mention the little detail about getting shot at!
In respect to living under curfew, we read that if Palestinians “‘so much as poke their head (sic) out the door,’ they will be shot, [Wise] said. Often, many are shot inside their homes as well, she said.” Further, “Wise also described how Israeli troops walk through the cities randomly shooting inside homes. In extreme circumstances, Wise said, if someone in a family dies, the family members keep the decaying body inside the house because if they go outside bury (sic) it, they risk being shot.”
Again, this is certainly fascinating not only because it’s Orwellian garbage but because, despite being one of the most media-saturated parts of the world we have never read of this Israeli standard practice of shooting anybody who sticks his or her head out the door or of randomly shooting into people’s homes. Indeed, one wonders about someone who can stand up in front of audiences composed primarily of college students and mouth such drivel. Certainly she can’t believe such nonsense (right?), and one wonders who’s feeding it to her and who's encouraging her to repeat it in her talks.
Which brings us to another interesting point: “Wise also spoke about how an organization called the International Solidarity Movement utilizes people from all over the country to offer some sort of protection for the Palestinians.”
(Note: The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) is (supposedly) a separate organization from the Palestine Solidarity Movement (PSM), although PSM members have worked with the ISM and ISM members have worked with the PSM. Apparently the PSM is more about “educating” people and the ISM is more about “direct action,” but this could well be a distinction of convenience.)
“Members of the movement are welcomed into Palestinian homes and live there so the Palestinians might be able to keep their house for one more day.” Of course, Wise forgets to mention that this also includes sending “activists” to live with the families of terrorists.
The summer activities of an Ohio member of the ISM offer a case in point. Karl, who is also a member of the OSU CJP (the campus group that hosted last weekend’s festivities), sent a communication back in August from the West Bank, where he had been staying with the family of a recently killed-in-action Palestinian terrorist. Jon Lehman (perhaps taking a break from snarfing up webpage addresses) forwarded his report on August 16, in an email that begins, “As many of you know, Karl is an activist with CJP at Ohio State and he is currently in Palestine spending the summer working with ISM.” I suspect Karl is the same Karl who was soliciting funds for his journey at, of all places, last June’s Community Festival. Karl’s forwarded message explains how Israeli troops had recently shown up one night, harassed him and the family, and then “blew up the [family’s] house.” Karl was quite upset at this, but other relevant issues were afoot here, none of which are even vaguely alluded to in his report.
According to Karl’s account, the family’s son, “Amer Ayesh performed an operation in 1948 near Quaqila 5 months ago in which 3 soldiers were killed.” Ambiguous words like “operation,” when used by ISM activists, are red flags to check the quote. Whether “in 1948” is a typo or solidarity parlance for the West Bank is not clear, but what Karl predictably fails to mention, but what a quick Google search for “Amer Ayesh” did mention, is that the son was a member of the terrorist group known as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and had been killed just a few weeks prior to Karl’s arrival while attempting to infiltrate (along with a colleague-in-arms) the Jewish settlement of Shaarei Tikva in the middle of the night. Needless to say, this midnight infiltration was not done to have tea or late night snacks with the families living there, and the son, Amer Ayesh, was killed in a gunfight before he and his comrade could open fire on any sleeping children or other residents. Karl’s account, for some reason, mentions none of this.
The Associated Press, in a report dated August 15, describes the same home demolition, but with interesting details that Karl omits: “In the West Bank city of Nablus, Israeli troops demolished the home of a militant, Amir Abu Ayash, who was killed in a shootout with troops in May after trying to attack a Jewish settlement. Israel routinely razes the family homes of militants to deter attacks.” A caption for an Associated Press photograph also offers interesting details not mentioned by Karl: “A poster showing PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) militant Amr Abu Ayash hangs on a wall of his destroyed family house in the Balata refugee camp as his little brother Shaker walks behind Friday Aug. 15, 2003….Abu Ayash died last May after he entered a Jewish settlement with a gun killing one Israeli and injuring five more before being shot by the army."
How interesting and convenient that OSU CJP’s Karl just happened to be staying with a family whose son not only belonged to the terrorist organization PFLP but who had been killed several weeks earlier while trying to carry out a terrorist assault on a sleeping community.
Yet Karl had no evident trepidation about moving in with the family of this recently killed-in-action terrorist; the ISM had no evident reticence in dispatching him to live there, despite knowing that the son’s “martyrdom operation” might entail his house being targeted for demolition, thus endangering Karl and anybody else sent there; and the OSU CJP had no hesitation in forwarding his misleading account. (Note: The Israeli Defense Forces, as a deterrence and prevention measure against future terror-suicide attacks, includes house demolition in its strategy to discourage and combat the sort of suicide operations in which the family’s son participated.) Not surprisingly, these are the homes solidarity members like CJP’s Karl occasionally end up in, as posthumous house demolitions are even more difficult to carry out when foreigners like him have moved into the premises, intending to make a stand against Israel’s counter-terrorism measure should the Israeli army show up. Granted, perhaps Karl didn’t know that his hosts’ recently deceased son had been killed while trying to carry out a terrorist assault on a sleeping community. But this would show that the ISM has no qualms about sending clueless college kids into dangerous situations of which they have little or no understanding. No wonder ISM members are required to sign a release form exempting the solidarity movement coalition “from any and all liability or claims, demands, rights, causes of actions, whether known or unknown, etc. etc.” And so all the more reason to keep such groups away from university campuses, not least to protect students from such cynical recruitment and manipulation.
As Karl’s message goes on to detail, in cases such as his the foreigners act to impede the IDF’s counter-terrorism measure, not least by trying to disrupt, delay, lie to, and verbally challenge Israeli soldiers until more of their fellow solidarity comrades can be summoned to the scene, presumably with any many cameras as possible. And if the media can be alerted, all the better! Such excitement can afford great anti-Israel publicity, especially if one of the foreigners manages to get injured, and in such cases the ISM spares little effort in milking the member’s misfortune for as much publicity as possible. (The repeated refrain of Rachel Corrie’s “murder” at the hands of the IDF is but one example, albeit a propaganda bonanza in itself.) One might even get mentioned in the news or in the paper or on the Internet (or on eBay), and to this end solidarity members are encouraged to establish as many contacts as possible with their local (and non-local) media back home before leaving. “If you were born in, for example, Jackson, Mississippi,” reads the ISM’s training pack (on page 26; it’s available on their official webpage (www.palsolidarity.org)), “and went to high school in Dayton, Ohio, even if you haven’t been back to either of those towns in 20 years, those local media outlets will probably be very interested in your story.”
Yes, 20 years.
ISM members are also trained in how to express themselves to the media for maximum publicity and effect, and it is no coincidence that a variation of the sentence "It's clear to me that what I'm going through here is nothing compared to what the Palestinians go through every day" appears frequently in solidarity members’ “reports.” In an account published in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz of a training workshop held in the West Bank for solidarity members, the author explains, “they taught us to insert this sentence into every interview with the media.” And insert this sentence, or some variation thereof, they certainly do, as a cursory Internet search reveals. The ISM’s training manual offers other such formulaic “observations” to pander to the media, as well as information about how to sneak into Israel: “You must play it as though your visit is for other, Israel-based reasons, like tourism, religion, visiting an Israeli friend, etc. So do a little bit of research and put together a story that you'll be able to answer questions about.” Also, please note, “We don't usually recommend people ride Israeli busses!” Oho! After all, it would be bad publicity if a newly drafted ISM member, en route to stand in solidarity with Palestinians, were killed by a self-detonating Palestinian suicide bomber on the same bus. Of course, the solidarity movement would likely blame such an attack not on Palestinian violence (or “resistance,” as they are instructed to call Palestinian violence) but on “the ongoing, brutal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and lives,” another of their pithy phrases of moral reversal, and one that can be utilized to demonize Israel for just about any act of Palestinian violence.
At the least, all this makes for a melodramatic letter back to campus about the nefarious IDF, especially if, like Karl in his account of the home demolition, one excludes highly relevant context.
Unfortunately, these sorts of actions, such as inserting oneself into the midst of a military operation in order to actively obstruct and interfere with it, on the part of the ISM endanger (and often exploit) their volunteers. Such actions also further imperil Israeli soldiers who, already operating under pressure, now have to deal with the added obnoxiousness and distractions of OSU CJP’s Karl and his ilk, whose actions are intended in no small part to delay the soldiers long enough for people to come and hurl rocks and other projectiles at them. That three soldiers were not killed in the son’s final terrorist operation is yet another fact that is distorted beyond recognition in Karl’s account. But such contextual omissions, semantic hijinks, and linguistic inversions are tools of the trade for this solidarity movement, regardless of the absurdities they often dissolve into.
As I wrote in a letter to OSU President Karen Holbrook a few weeks back, “This disposition for omission and its subsequent discontents were exemplified at last year’s conference when one speaker went so far as to apologize to the audience for even calling Israel by its name. These are the sorts of convolutions and perversions of language (and logic) that will pollute The Ohio State University should its facilities and hospitality be extended to this group.” Based on what I saw at the opening panel discussion last Friday, my prediction was on the money. (Oh, and don’t get the impression that my letter to President Holbrook was in opposition to the university hosting the conference. Au Contraire, ladies and germs: I fully supported the PSM's right to have their festivities on campus.)
Regarding the ISM: Their training manual offers other previews of how such tactics of pseudo-rhetoric are intended to function. It comes as no surprise that the manual features an entire section on “Press Work,” complete with directions for how to best aestheticize and inflate one’s language for maximum anti-Israel publicity. Such instructions include: “When VIOLENCE is mentioned, say RESISTANCE or RESISTANCE TO INJUSTICE”; “When possible say ETHNIC CLEANSING”; “Instead of APARTHEID, say ISRAELI APARTHEID”; and so on. While slogging through this manual of rhetorical perversions, one is reminded of Orwell’s observation that “The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible.” Hence, in the worldview of the ISM and its devotees, we discover that not just Jews but non-Jewish Arabs are victims of anti-Semitism, since Arabs are Semites, and that this newly redefined, fake version of “anti-Semitism” should be emphasized whenever anti-Semitism is even mentioned. This is semantic claptrap that wouldn’t even pass muster at the Humpty Dumpty School of Linguistics—“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty states in Lewis Carrol’s Through the Looking Glass, “it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less”—yet it epitomizes the solidarity movement’s complete and utter disregard for facts and logic. In attempting to redefine the word anti-Semitism, the ISM and others who subscribe to such semantic hooliganism in effect endeavor to dilute the meaning and experience of anti-Semitism, not least by trying to force the word to absorb various contexts for which it was not intended. It is yet another form of historical revisionism indulged by the solidarity movement. The frivolous and self-indulgent bandying about of terms like “Apartheid” and “Genocide” in relation to Israel are similar in effect.
The ISM, whom Wise speaks of, exhibits the same mocking, self-serving attitude towards linguistics and lexicography as it does toward security procedures at Ben-Gurion International Airport (see page 13 of the manual for their insipid attitude displayed toward airport security). This is hardly the sort of intellectual engagement that one would hope to see at a university, yet the ISM not only encourages students to indulge in such semantic perversions but offers them pointers in how to do so more gratuitously. Most of this, of course, is merely more of the same boorish strategy of delegitimizing and attacking the state of Israel. Regardless of whether it’s being done by the PSM or the ISM, it is hardly an appropriate function of university facilities. Luckily, one of the beautiful things about free speech is that it allows such folks to reveal themselves, all by themselves and by their own anti-intellectual and repugnant quasi-rhetoric, as exactly what they are.
Also, although the ISM movement claims, often quite vehemently, that they are nonviolent and do not support terrorism, their actions to deliberately impede and obstruct Israeli counter-terrorism and anti-terrorist measures offer implicit support for terrorists and terrorism. And actions such as I describe above allow solidarity members to hide behind the transparent excuse that, rather than offering support for terrorists, they merely offer direct and immediate support to families of terrorists, including those, like Amer Ayesh, who were killed while carrying out terrorist attacks (and such support likely goes beyond simply moving in with the families of dead "militants" and writing letters home about them and their deceased terrorist off-spring).
Support for the families of dead terrorists, not support for terrorists themselves: This is the same transparent and insulting excuse offered by the likes of Saddam Hussein to justify sending money and support to the families of fallen (or self-detonated) “militants.” Of course, moving in with the family of a recently killed-in-action terrorist, whether he was neo-Nazi or PFLP or Klu Klux Klan or al-Qaida, speaks for itself. Indeed, rather than moving in with any of the families of the thousands of victims of Palestinian terrorists, ISM members, as we’ve seen with OSU CJP’s Karl, move in with the families of terrorists.
Karl even admits that his actions and those of his comrades are intended to facilitate violence: If they can delay the soldiers long enough, Karl explains, “the soldiers will leave because then they get rocks thrown at them during confrontations.” In his own words, CJP’s Karl details how an objective of his actions is to assist other people in carrying out violence against Israeli soldiers. How the ISM movement or OSU CJP can claim to adhere to nonviolence or any other such principles while its members are openly and admittedly working to enable violence beggars belief.
The ISM claims to be a nonviolent group, but (cf. Humpty Dumpty) one wonders what exactly they mean when they use such a word to describe themselves. Indeed: A nonviolent group that dispatches its members (as documented by the Associated Press), some wearing masks, to attack Israel’s anti-terrorist security fence with wire cutters and other tools (how does one nonviolently, much less peacefully, attack a security structure?); that dispatches its members to obstruct Israeli anti-terrorism measures, to pester and endanger Israeli soldiers, and to delay the same soldiers until other, more violently inclined folk can arrive and attack the soldiers with rocks and any other weapons they have (as documented in the message from OSU CJP's Karl); and that dispatches its members to live with the family of a terrorist like Amer Ayesh. Despite all these less than noble pretensions of “nonviolence,” the ISM probably has little concern for the PSM failing to include any mention of peace with Israel on its conference’s website. One imagines any Israelis who have had rocks or bricks or worse hurled at their heads, thanks to the concerted efforts of nonviolent folks like Karl, appreciate the absolutely peaceful, nonviolent efforts that succeeded in putting their lives in even more danger. After all, if the stone-throwers whom Karl and other ISM people were stalling for happened to show up not just with stones but also with gasoline bombs and AK-47s, well, it’s certainly wouldn't have been the ISM activists who would have been behaving violently. Why, they’re nonviolent, and all they’ve done is help facilitate violence.
The ISM offers such doting claims of peacefulness and nonviolence to show that they can talk the talk of such noble principles, but when it comes to actually walking the walk, well, they’re busy vandalizing property, living with families of or shacking up in the homes of “martyrs,” attending rallies that feature terrorist groups, distracting soldiers until people can hurl rocks and other projectiles at them, and so on. Such nonviolence! And small wonder that Adam Shapiro, who has written that Palestinian "resistance" must take on violent characteristics, has been a speaker at the last two PSM conferences.
That the ISM in particular claim to adhere to such principles even while dispatching members like OSU CJP’s Karl to live in the homes of so-called militants (like Amer Ayesh) who died while trying to murder innocent people, is further astounding. But such are the convenient subtleties of “nonviolence” and other such terms, as defined and practiced by this international “solidarity” movement. That such groups might offer up a young Jewish woman to speak for or about them affords them no lesser a lack of credibility.
Indeed, as Alan Dershowitz has noted
It is a fundamental fallacy to conclude that one side of a dispute must be right if some people who are ethnically identified with that side support the other side. For example, the fact that there is a handful of Jewish Holocaust deniers… does not mean that the Holocaust did not occur. Nor does the fact that some Italian Jews supported Mussolini in the early 1930s prove that fascism was right. Yet a staple of pro-Palestinian propaganda is the argument that is structured as follows: “See, even a Jew like [fill in the name] believes that Israel is wrong and the Palestinians are right about [fill in the issue]." This “argument by ethnic admission” is both logically and empirically fallacious.
That the “young, female, articulate, Jewish, and very beautiful” daughter of a rabbi helps dessiminate misinformation and distortions about Israel, and offers information in her talks about people who do, makes such projects no less execrable.
But from what I could tell last Friday, she seemed like a nice enough person, and I hope she’s not being taken advantage of or exploited by a movement that could benefit from having someone like her—the daughter of a rabbi, no less—publicize their cause and their activities. It’s worrisome, though. Wise was one of the featured speakers of last winter’s ISM-sponsored Palestine “Truth” Tour, the organizers of which were more than happy to identify her as “the daughter of a rabbi” ™ but couldn’t be bothered to correctly identify her university. Some “truth.” Some "solidarity." Fortunately for her, it sounds like her family is very supportive of her (even if her folks don’t agree with her about Israel and Zionism); so if she ever does have a heart-wrenching, existential crisis of “The horror! The horror!” at what she’s done, she won’t have to weather it alone. We should all have families who are so supportive and understanding, right?