Monday, February 06, 2012

PennBDS Bans Yet Another Journalist

After banning Martin Himel, whose removal might have been justified due to alleged misrepresentation, PennBDS also revoked Philadelphia's Jewish Exponent's press pass. The crime? Writing stuff they didn't like, such as this article here.

Not surprising. After all, at least in part, BDS is about revoking the rights of Israelis and Zionists, including freedom of speech. If you don't support all Palestinian demands, you will not have a right to be heard anywhere (academic and cultural boycott) or to make a living (economic boycott).

PennBDS organizers claimed they welcome dissenting voices to their conference. Yeah, just don't dissent too much or you'll be kicked out.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

PennBDS Bans Journalist

According to Mondoweiss, journalist and documentary filmmaker Martin Himel has been banned from interviewing participants at the Pro-BDS conference at the University of Pennsylvania. They used a technicality, saying he did not register as a journalist and was interviewing participants under false pretenses. Really? I think the problem is the fact that he's pro-Israel.

I've never heard of Martin Himel before, but from what I've read, it seems the PennBDS organizers are afraid he'll interview people who don't know who he is, will then edit his footage to pick the worst things people say and then portray the BDS conference-goers as anti-Semites. Indeed, despicable tactics that I do not endorse. However, these are tactics the pro-Palestinian side has endorsed in the form of faux journalist Max Blumenthal's propaganda pieces against Israel.

Blumenthal's usual MO is to go to all kinds of places, stick a camera and microphone in the faces of people who don't know who he is, ask questions, take only the worst quotes to make Israelis/Jewish Americans/whatever look bad and give no context (for instance, one of his videos was from the right-wing group "Im Tirtzu"'s demonstration, but he didn't mention that fact). When Blumenthal or any other anti-Israel filmmaker does this to make Israelis look bad, then it is okay, but when it is done to your side it isn't?

Jewish State: Who Decides

At a pro-BDS conference at the University of Pennsylvania yesterday, the founder of Electronic Intifiada (a word which most Israelis and many Americans associate with terrorism) Ali Abunimah had a whole lecture about what it means for Israel to be a Jewish State. "Let's ask that question", he said. Well, it isn't his question to ask.

The biggest problem I have with Israeli demands that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state is that it invites the Palestinians into the debate over what a Jewish state, or Jewish and democratic state, means. They have a point when they say that they need to know the definition of the term before agreeing to it. But the thing is that this is an internal Israeli issue, an issue only Israelis - Jews, Arabs and others - can debate. The Jewish State is a very general concept, in constant flux. Some Israelis see it as a state for the Jewish people, others see it as a state based on Jewish law - and those are just two of the various possible definitions. It is a vital discussion for Israeli citizens to have, but it isn't the business of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and the diaspora.

Of course, Abunimah might have discussed the Jewish State concept anyway, even without the wrongheaded Israeli demands. After all, he is a one-stater, right of return activist who would like to see Israel vanish in favor of a State of Palestine with a Jewish minority. He has also defended terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. But then again, Israel's demand to be recognized as Jewish legitimizes his intervention in this domestic issue.

Paul Auster and Turkey

Paul Auster recently decided to cancel a trip to Turkey in protest of the plight of Turkish journalists and writers. This prompted an angry response from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who accused him of a double standard regarding Israel and Turkey. Auster's criticism of Turkey is accurate, as is his response to Erdogan regarding Israeli freedom of the press. However, his decision to boycott the country is not the answer.

Just like I oppose the BDS movement against Israel, I believe that other countries should not be boycotted. Action can be taken against the government and military, but civil society should not be targeted. Paul Auster would have done much more for Turkish writers had he voiced his criticism while in the country. I'm sure he would have gotten a lot more Turks to listen. Right now, they're probably to angry to hear what he says, just as I don't have patience for whatever someone who boycotts me and my country has to say.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Joseph Cedar Returns to the Acaedemy Awards

I'm a bit late with this news, but it's worth noting on my blog anyway: "Footnote", an Israeli film directed by Joseph Cedar, is nominated for a Best Foreign Film Award at the upcoming Oscar ceremony. This is an excellent film, which tells a universal tale of father-son rivalry and workplace politics. It's nice to have an Israeli film about something other than the conflict get recognized for its excellence.

The press tended to focus on the fact that one of the other four films in this category is an Iranian film, "A Separation". They call it the Israeli-Iranian war by proxy, or a cultural battle. Bullshit. Israelis know to separate between politics and culture, between leaders and artists. In fact, "A Separation" is being shown in theaters in Israel. Israeli authorities have no problem with that. Iranian authorities, however, allowed the film to be distributed in Israel only after European countries pressured them into it. You'd never see "Footnote" in an Iranian theater.

I'm rooting for "Footnote", because it is an excellent Israeli film (and the only one in the category that I've seen), not because of some hatred for Iran or any other country in the running. I also hope that the second time's a charm for Cedar, who was nominated in 2008 with "Beaufort".