Thursday, April 17, 2008
Plaut Vs. Israeli Justice
I read with fascination Steven Plaut.s account of his battle for
minimal freedom of speech in Israel ("How I Beat Israel's Dual Justice
System," op-ed, April 11).
Israeli universities are indeed swarming with malignant anti-Israel
radical extremists. Ben-Gurion University, named after David Ben-Gurion,
is arguably the worst institution in Israel in terms of hiring and
promoting anti-Israel extremists. From the start, university officials and
spokespeople backed Gordon in his assault on freedom of speech in Israel
and misuse of the courts, repeatedly describing him in terms such as
'serious and distinguished human rights scholar,' which most of us would
find a repugnant claim.
While BGU does contain some serious academic departments and scholars,
notably in the natural sciences, when it comes to the .soft. disciplines
of the social sciences and the humanities the school deserves its nickname
of 'Bir Zeit of the Negev.'
Donors and supporters in the United States should draw conclusions from
the role BGU played in endorsing and justifying Gordon.s anti-democratic
2. The Jews for a Second Holocaust get Organized: Jewish Liberals to
Counterpoint to AIPAC
Political Funds, Lobbying to Promote Arab-Israeli Peace Deal
By Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 15, 2008; Page A13
Some of the country's most prominent Jewish liberals are forming a political
action committee and lobbying group aimed at dislodging what they consider the
excessive hold of neoconservatives and evangelical Christians on U.S. policy
The group is planning to channel political contributions to favored candidates
in perhaps a half-dozen campaigns this fall, the first time an organization
focused on Israel has tried to play such a direct role in the political
process, according to its organizers.
Organizers said they hope those efforts, coupled with a separate lobbying group
that will focus on promoting an Arab-Israeli peace settlement, will fill a void
left by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, and other
Jewish groups that they contend have tilted to the right in recent years.
The lobbying group will be known as J Street and the political action group as
JStreetPAC. The executive director for both will be Jeremy Ben-Ami, a former
domestic policy adviser in the Clinton White House.
"The definition of what it means to be pro-Israel has come to diverge from
pursuing a peace settlement," said Alan Solomont, a prominent Democratic Party
fundraiser involved in the initiative. In recent years, he said, "We have heard
the voices of neocons, and right-of-center Jewish leaders and Christian
evangelicals, and the mainstream views of the American Jewish community have
not been heard."
Solomont is a top fundraiser for the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama
(D-Ill.), but the organizers include supporters and fundraisers for both Obama
and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). Many prominent figures in the
American Jewish left, former lawmakers and U.S. government officials, and
several prominent Israeli figures, as well as activists who have raised money
for the Democracy Alliance and MoveOn.org, are also involved.
A controversial essay in 2006 by two eminent academics, Harvard's Stephen Walt
and the University of Chicago's John Mearsheimer, argued that a powerful
pro-Israel lobby that includes Jewish groups, evangelical Christians and others
has actively served to steer U.S. policy in a pro-Israel direction, often
against the U.S. national interest.
The essay, a precursor to a 2007 book, triggered an angry debate among
supporters of Israel and beyond, and even those who have been critical of
groups such as AIPAC, the most influential pro-Israel lobbying group in
Washington, said the thesis was either wrong or overdrawn.
"The genesis of this is really the frustration on the part of a very
substantial portion of the American Jewish community that despite the fact that
there is broad support for a peace-oriented policy in the Middle East, there
doesn't seem to be the political will to actually carry it out," Ben-Ami said.
"We have not been effective at transmitting the message that there is political
support for these positions in the American Jewish community and their allies."
Officials with AIPAC declined to comment on the formation of the new
competitor. But the organizers' behind-the-scenes efforts in the past two years
have been generating buzz, and some consternation, in some quarters of the
politically active Jewish community. Malcolm I. Hoenlein, executive vice
chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish
Organizations, raised questions about the viability of the new group. "I
believe that AIPAC has very broad support and will continue to enjoy it," he
Even supporters said the new groups will be hard-pressed to match AIPAC's
influence in Washington. AIPAC has more than 100,000 members, 18 offices around
the country and an endowment of more than $100 million--dwarfing what
organizers say will be a first-year budget for J Street of about $1.5 million.
AIPAC has cultivated alliances across the political aisle, especially in recent
years with President Bush, who has worked hard to build good relations with
leading Jewish groups. But AIPAC also works closely with congressional
Democrats and the leading Democratic presidential candidates, and it sees
itself as representing a broad cross section of Jews with an interest in
fostering strong ties between Israel and the United States.
Some veteran Middle East experts said the new group faces the political reality
that many American Jews have become disillusioned over the years with the peace
process and what they consider to be the intransigence, hostility and--in some
cases--terrorism of would-be Palestinian partners. While Bush early on in his
administration grew skeptical of the peacemaking efforts of President Clinton,
he received very little push-back from organized American Jewry.
Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel and the director of the Saban
Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, said the group "has
a very steep hill to climb because peacemaking has acquired a bad reputation
over the years in the Jewish community, and there is a widespread fear that
U.S. intervention on behalf of peace will lead to pressure on Israel."
Perhaps the biggest difference between the new effort and the operations of
existing Jewish or pro-Israel groups is the formation of a political action
committee that endorses candidates and channels donations into political races
-- something AIPAC does not do.
The initial efforts will be relatively modest: Ben-Ami said the group aims to
try to raise at least $50,000 or more for a handful of campaigns this fall as a
"test case." But the group intends to raise its profile in future campaign
cycles, and some major liberal fundraisers have already committed to the
venture, including Solomont, high-tech entrepreneur Davidi Gilo and former New
York City corporation counsel Victor Kovner, a supporter of Clinton's
Research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.
3. French Lunacy Part I:
Brigitte Bardot on trial for Muslim slur
Tue Apr 15, 2008 12:41pm EDT
PARIS (Reuters) - French former film star Brigitte Bardot went on trial on
Tuesday for insulting Muslims, the fifth time she has faced the charge of
"inciting racial hatred" over her controversial remarks about Islam and its
Prosecutors asked that the Paris court hand the 73-year-old former sex
symbol a two-month suspended prison sentence and fine her 15,000 euros
($23,760) for saying the Muslim community was "destroying our country and
imposing its acts".
Since retiring from the film industry in the 1970s, Bardot has become a
prominent animal rights activist but she has also courted controversy by
denouncing Muslim traditions and immigration from predominantly Muslim
She has been fined four times for inciting racial hatred since 1997, at
first 1,500 euros and most recently 5,000.
Prosecutor Anne de Fontette told the court she was seeking a tougher
sentence than usual, adding: "I am a little tired of prosecuting Mrs
Bardot did not attend the trial because she said she was physically unable
to. The verdict is expected in several weeks.
French anti-racist groups complained last year about comments Bardot made
about the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha in a letter to President Nicolas
Sarkozy that was later published by her foundation.
Muslims traditionally mark Eid al-Adha by slaughtering a sheep or another
animal to commemorate the prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son
on God's orders.
France is home to 5 million Muslims, Europe's largest Muslim community,
making up 8 percent of France's population.
"I am fed up with being under the thumb of this population which is
destroying us, destroying our country and imposing its acts," the star of
'And God created woman' and 'Contempt' said.
Bardot has previously said France is being invaded by sheep-slaughtering
Muslims and published a book attacking gays, immigrants and the unemployed,
in which she also lamented the "Islamisation of France".
(Reporting by Thierry Leveque; writing by Francois Murphy, editing by Mary
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and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the
Reuters group of companies around the world.
4. French Lunacy Part II
April 16, 2008
French Lawmakers Target
Promotion of Extreme Thinness
By CHRISTINA PASSARIELLO and STACY MEICHTRY
April 16, 2008; Page A10
PARIS -- French lawmakers have passed a bill that makes incitement of
"excessive thinness" a crime.
Does this mean prison pinstripes could be the next big trend in a French
fashion industry known for celebrating waif-thin models?
Lawmakers who passed the bill in France's lower house of Parliament Tuesday are
touting the toughness of the proposed law. If passed in the Senate as well, it
would allow judges to punish offenders with a fine of as much as .45,000, or
more than $70,000, and three years of imprisonment.
In a speech before the vote, French Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot called on
lawmakers to uphold "the prestige of French fashion" by passing the measure.
The fashion industry is hardly quivering in its stilettos, however.
The bill mainly targets Internet sites that explicitly encourage anorexia,
offering tips on food deprivation. The bill also doesn't explain how it will
determine who is responsible for pushing anorexia.
Since the high-profile death of a Brazilian model two years ago, the fashion
industry has been under pressure to tackle anorexia. The National Chamber of
Italian Fashion in Milan now requires models to obtain notes from physicians
attesting they are healthy. Spain has also taken measures to crack down on
ultrathin models on the catwalk.
Yet much of the fashion industry's discourse on the issue can be characterized
as finger-pointing. Modeling agencies, fashion brands and magazines have
refused to take the lead in cleaning up the catwalks. Many of the same
waif-thin models continue to stalk the runways.
Top designers also question whether a link between fashion and eating disorders
"Fashion has never been thought of as inciting anorexia," said Didier Grumbach,
president of France's Fashion Federation, which organizes Paris fashion week.
Mr. Grumbach said he supports a law that targets Web sites that promote
anorexia. However, he added, "If the law is to regulate fashion, to make
everyone fit the same standard of beauty, then we're against it."
Critics of the bill cast it as the latest attempt by the French state to
micromanage the affairs of its citizens at the expense of time-honored French
French smokers' hackles have been raised over a smoking ban that took effect in
cafs and restaurants this year, barring indoor smoke in a land that coined the
Being thin, though not excessively so, is also part of being French.
"A law is for when people don't respect self-discipline," said Herv Brossard,
president of France's Association des Agences Conseils en Communication, an
communications-industry group, and vice chairman of advertising agency DDB
Worldwide, a unit of Omnicom Group Inc.
In France, between 30,000 and 40,000 people suffer from anorexia.