Let us praise the many good Jewish organizations and activists who came to Duke (or were already at Duke) to infiltrate and protest last week's Palestinian Solidarity Conference.
We must also praise Rabbi Zalman Bluming, the Chabad Rabbi at Duke, who decided to bring the terrorist-destroyed bus #19 to campus for two days. He estimates that at least 4,000 students and community members came to see it. Rabbi Bluming said: "When Jews stand up for Israel with clarity, without apology, the world respects this." Rabbi Bluming also provided kosher food for the Jewish activists who came from both coasts.
Rabbi Avi Weiss came from NYC and had the most heartbreaking and chilling encounter with Duke graduate student Ran Bar-On, the Israeli-South African Jew who invited PSM onto the campus (more about this in a future column). Rabbi Weiss also sent about 30 activists from Amcha who, under the responsible and soft-spoken leadership of Rabbi Etan Mintz, stood moral vigil outside the PSM conference. They sang peace movement melodies. In Rabbi Mintz's words: "We had come to honor the souls of the thousands who were murdered by terrorist attacks... (not only were they slain), it was as if now they were being re-murdered." At the PSM conference, "their murderers were being exonerated, even extolled."
We must also praise four Jewish organizations who also heeded Rabbi Hillel's first question and paid for two full-page ads that appeared in the Duke student newspaper several days before the PSM conference began.
StandWithUS, American Jewish Congress, Hasbara Fellowships and the Zionist Organization of America paid for the ads. The first ad showed nine graphic, color photographs of terrorism against Israeli civilians on buses, at religious events, at universities, at restaurants, at nightclubs, at bus stops, at shopping centers, at synagogues, and at cafes.
According to Roz Rothstein, of StandWithUs, this ad's purpose "was to stop the whitewashing of suicide bombing because it is mass murder." The second ad showed thirteen graphic photographs of the Ku Klux Klan-like masked Palestinian indoctrination of children into hatred and martrydom. Its purpose was "to show that the indoctrination of children to hate and murder Jews and to destroy the state of Israel is a crime against humanity."
These groups, StandWithUs, Camera, and American Jewish Congress, also provided the brave activists who infiltrated and documented what went on at the PSM conference. Lee Kaplan was an independent infiltrator (He will be publishing his own report). Through their dedicated, inspired, and combined efforts, we now know the following:
The PSM/ISM speakers proclaimed that Zionism is a "disease" and that Israel is an "Apartheid" state. They viewed "Palestine" as the "epitome of freedom" and terrorists as freedom-fighters. They called for the abolition of the Jewish state through the use of suicide-homicide terrorism and through the adoption of a "one state" solution in which Jews would be demographically overwhelmed, marginalized, persecuted, and ultimately driven out.
The PSM conference again specifically recruited for the International Solidarity Movement. But they also proposed some startling new strategies.
For the first time, they suggested that PSM's Jewish supporters "hijack" Project Birthright, and use it to get free trips to Israel. Upon arrival, they could slip into "Palestine" to assist Israel's enemies. They taught a session on how to lie to Israeli authorities and to the Birthright people.
The PSM/ISM announced a plan to use left-wing Jews, Christians, and Muslims to infiltrate and "take over" campus Hillels--precisely because they are, commendably, democratic--as a way of further indoctrinating American students with their ideology of hate.
They called for a program whereby they would use American public schools and libraries as ideal places to disseminate their "educational" propaganda.
The PSM/ISM also announced the need for a boycott of Jewish companies such as Estee Lauder, Clinique, and Bobby Brown because they donate money to Israel and do business there as well.
In addition, the PSM conference called for the co-optation of mainstream Christian groups like the Presbyterians and the Episcopalians to further the various divest-in-Israel movements.
Who came to hear this message? An activist from StandWithUs told me that the approximately 400 people who attended the PSM conference "did not seem like students. They were people of all ages, on tight budgets."
An activist from the American Jewish Congress provided some more answers: "The conference was made up of mostly white, middle to lower class racists. Supporters of various left-wing groups such as Answer, Sustain, Code Pink, United for Peace and Justice, Rukus.Org were there. Many seemed like flower children gone wrong. In their passion for the Palestinians and for 'human rights' they seem to have lost their way and become anti-Semitic. They hate President Bush, the American governent, large corporations and Israel. They blame Israel for ALL the world's problems. One middle aged African-American woman, a gray panther, said "If Israel ceased to exist the world's problems would go away."
Another activist described the PSM conference-goers as "lost, uneducated, almost-street people who seem to have found new life by supporting the PSM. Many from the Bay area seem to have missing links. Many were members of Brit T'Zedek, and they came with shaved heads, pierced noses, lips, and tongues. Many were older women. They seemed to have no idea that gay women would be killed in the disputed Palestinian territories but not in Israel. They wore keffiyas, political buttons, and tee-shirts that said "We are all Palestinians."
A third activist remembers this sight: "A small number of Arabs, African-Americans, and good old southern white 'boys,' joining members of Aryan Resistance. Seeing white racists support African- and Arab-Americans in support of Hamas and Fatah was a strange sight."
The Freeman Center for Jewish Life, the Hillel affiliate on campus, consciously chose not to infiltrate the PSM conference or to protest peacefully, but to put on alternative programming throughout the time of the conference. This, too, was important. They were trying to respect the feelings of the local Jewish communities, the Duke administration, and the Arab students with whom they were trying to work. They were also trying to honor the "politically correct" views that have come to dominate our campuses.
The Freeman Center held a concert and anti-terrorism rally which was seen, via webcast, around the country. Four survivors of terrorism from Australia, America, the Sudan, and Lebanon spoke out. They also sponsored speakers such as Israeli leftist Avram Burg, author Mitchell Bard, and Rachel Fish from the David Project.
The Conservative Student Union at Duke chose to protest the PSM conference by inviting Professor Daniel Pipes to speak. His talk was also co-sponsored by The Freeman Center.
Brigitte Gabriel, a Maronite Christian from Lebanon--a righteous Gentile if there ever was one--spoke for the Freeman Center about how she survived Palestinian terrorism in Israel and how she was rescued, quite literally, by Israeli soldiers and physicians. (She prepared a special 45 minute video which I have mounted on my website. You may see it at www.phyllis-chesler.com). Sadly, she angered some people at Duke for naming the terrorists clearly and accurately.
Rabbi Hillel asked three questions. "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?"
At Duke, Jews and our Christian supporters, actually answered and honored all three of Hillel's questions. May we all continue to do so.
The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Roz Rothstein of StandWithUs, Jerome Gordon, and all the organizations and individuals quoted above.
Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D., is the author of twelve books including her latest, The New Anti-Semitism. The Current Crisis and What We Must Do About It. She is working on a new book about the importance of independent thinking among women for Palgrave-Macmillan (St. Martin’s). She may reached through her website www.Phyllis-Chesler.com.