Thursday, March 1, 2012 | return to: views, editorial


Freedom of speech, with respect

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It’s been a bad week for civil discourse locally. In recent days, multiple incidents took place, each a testament to the dismal power of hate.

As our story on page 8 explains, on Feb. 27 at U.C. Davis, two Israeli speakers — one an Israeli Druze woman — faced relentless heckling during their presentation, with tensions so high, campus police had to be called.

The Israelis got through their presentation, but it was a task made nearly impossible by those who arrogate free speech to themselves while denying it to others.

While j. has applauded efforts to promote civil discourse in the Bay Area, those initiatives usually involve Jews talking to other Jews about Israel.

When that debate extends beyond the Jewish community, all bets are off.

Free speech lies at the heart of this dispute.

The behavior of groups that demonize Israel mimics the Khartoum Resolution of 1967, in which the Arab League issued the infamous “Three No’s:” No peace with Israel, no recognition with Israel, no negotiations with Israel.

Modern-day rejectionists might add one more: No free speech for Israel or its supporters.

We have no sympathy for university administrators who prevent campus security from intervening when anti-Israel heckling occurs. We would say to them and the hecklers: Your First Amendment rights end when you infringe on mine.

There are lessons here for those on the pro-Israel side. At a Feb. 25 pro-Palestinian rally in Berkeley, two apparent pro-Israel protesters pepper sprayed three people. We don’t know what prompted the incident, but once protesters graduate from shouted slogans to pepper spray, a dangerous line has been crossed.

And then there is the strange case of Israeli-born Gilad Atzmon, now a virulent anti-Israel activist. He spoke to a sparsely attended gathering in Oakland the same day as the Berkeley street rally. In his remarks, he spewed venom about Israel, Israelis, Jews and Judaism, with nary a pro-Israel heckler to be heard.

A transcript of the remarks recorded by StandWithUs quotes Atzmon as saying, “When the Jew criticizes Israel he becomes an anti-Semite, a self-hater. I decided to be a proud self-hater. My book is my attempt to fight every ounce of Jew in me.”

Disgusting hate speech? Unquestionably. But Atzmon had every right to express it. No Israel supporter inside or outside the hall shouted him down.

This is not Damascus. This is not Tahrir Square. This is the United States, and here true free speech reigns. We would all do well to remember that.


Posted by jweeklyreader
03/01/2012  at  11:27 PM
regarding Atzmon, he lies, quite

regarding Atzmon, he lies, quite simply. He writes that the “Jewish declaration of war against Nazi Germany in 1933.
Not many people are aware that in March 1933, long before Hitler became the undisputed leader of Germany and began restricting the rights of German Jews, the American Jewish Congress announced a massive protest at Madison Square Gardens and called for an American boycott of German goods”

this is simply false. Hitler came to power in January 1933, almost a decade after he wrote Mein Kampf, and these calls for a boycott were a reaction to that. This wasn’t “long before” he became the leader of Germany but two months after. Atzmon is lying to defend Hitler since he thinks the Jews should be blamed for the Holocaust, as he has written elsewhere. Maybe blaming them for the Holocaust is still somehow free speech, but spreading outright lies is beyond free speech. If someone suggested Atzmon is a convicted child molester they could get sued.

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Posted by jweeklyreader
03/01/2012  at  11:53 PM
"" the endless trail of

“” the endless trail of Jewish collective tragedies is there to teach us that Jews always pay eventually ( and heavily ) for Jewish power exercises. Yet, surprisingly ( and tragically ) enough, Jews somehow consistently fail to internalise and learn from that very lesson.”

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Posted by David L. Mandel
03/04/2012  at  09:48 PM

Clearly there was no J reporter present at the Feb. 27 UC Davis event where, according to the editorial, “Freedom of speech, with respect,” two Israelis “faced relentless heckling during their presentation, with tensions so high, campus police had to be called.”
I actually was present, and the facts are quite different from those reported by a publication that purports to speak for me ... and other American Jews.
A responsible journalist would have checked further before utterly swallowing such a misrepresentation by event organizers.
The two propagandists on tour were brought to UCD by Stand With Us (SWU), an outside group that supports the most hard-line of Israeli viewpoints. In fact, SWU tried to prevent any challenge to its speakers. It changed the venue at the last moment and sent a student to the announced room, where he lied to the assembled crowd, saying the event had been canceled. The actual site was discovered nevertheless, and a large number of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and supporters did manage to get in, despite SWU’s best efforts to exclude them.
As the speakers began, one person, who self-identified as Indian, indeed disrupted them, shouting offensive insults. But aside from some spontaneous minor heckling at several of the speakers’ more outrageous statements, he was the only one to behave in such a way. Moreover, a number of Palestinians approached him and asked him to stop. Curiously, the organizers allowed him to go on for half an hour and failed to ask campus police to escort him out, which would certainly have been appropriate.
It set me wondering: Who was this disrupter? Did someone put him up to it?
Afterward, a number of the SJPers and their allies asked tough but polite and respectful questions of the Israelis. The exchanges were educational for anyone who truly wanted to listen and learn.
The next day I went to the state Capitol, where I heard SWU had scheduled a talk by the same two. Again, in what one can only assume was an attempt to exclude critics, the talk was moved up an hour and the venue changed. This time, the maneuver was successful. The Israelis recited their script to an echo chamber of cheerleaders and a few legislative staffers. I was demonstratively the only audience member whose raised hand was ignored – and shouted down when I politely objected as the session closed. Free speech indeed.
Most revealing of all, the Capitol event was opened with a stern finger wagging about how the speakers had been continually harassed and disrupted the night before in Davis – the same false version conveyed in the J editorial.
The Orwellian, upside-down spin stands in stark contrast to reality: The “pro-Israel” juggernaut has established campus institutions like Hillel, with Jewish federation backing for speakers and other events designed to counter criticism of Israeli policies. Lately, they have pursued an absurd legal campaign to portray Jewish students as victims of anti-Semitism – summarily dismissed so far in recent cases at UC Berkeley and Santa Cruz.
What SWU doesn’t seem to have is very many students; at Davis last week, SJP and its supporters constituted the vast majority of people who showed up to hear “Israeli soldiers speak.”
With little honest success, SWU has adopted a strategy of trying to falsely smear its critics as the enemies of free speech when if anything, the opposite is true. Next time, J should look behind the spin and avoid being used as a tool for this purpose.

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Posted by aunursa
03/08/2012  at  05:22 PM

A David L Mandel wrote in the Sacramento News & Review: “AIPAC’s message is indeed sinister, and we actively oppose it.”

Mandel also wrote, “AIPAC supports the denial of these basic rights [of freedom and democracy] to Palestinians under the guise of security for Israel, which disingenuously claims to be ‘the only democracy’ in the region”, which was posted on a virulently anti-Israel website.

Mandel is also the lead signature on a statement that expressed solidarity with professors Mearsheimer and Walt and accused the ADL and other critics of defaming them.

Assuming that you are the same person (likely based on the slur identifying the Israeli speakers as “propagandists,”) readers can better judge your comments, views, and motives.

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Posted by David L. Mandel
03/10/2012  at  09:06 PM
So "aunursa," unwilling to divulge

So “aunursa,” unwilling to divulge his or her real name, was able to Google me, who doesn’t believe in hiding behind pseudonyms.
Yet he or she not only hides but also reaches far beyond credulity in an effort to impute evil to a few of my public statements.
The links are all real, and I encourage readers to follow them. It’s “aunursa’s” mischaracterization of the content that is so wacky.
• is a wide-ranging news organization that covers the Palestine-Israel conflict – among thousands of other issues.  To call it “virulently anti-Israel,” ironically, demonstrates the narrow vision of those who view world affairs solely through a blue and white lens, and for whom any critical reporting is “virulent.”
•  The fact that my signature appears first on a long list beneath a political statement can only be random. I was hardly the initiator or anywhere near the most famous of its signers. Whatever. More important is that it did not identify with any particular views but defended the right of critics of U.S. policy vis a vis Israel-Palestine, Walt and Mearsheimer among many others, to express legitimate views (and I disagree with many of theirs, in fact) without being smeared as anti-Semites.
•  The quote from my News & Review letter is badly out of context. Read the entire letter – and even better, the report on the 2006 AIPAC protest to which it responded – to appreciate the nuanced approach of U.S. Jews like me who care deeply about the fate of Israel … and therefore protest vehemently against its policies and enablers.
I’m proud of my efforts on behalf of justice for Palestinians and Israelis, and of my activism with Jewish Voice for Peace. As its mission states, we are “inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, equality, human rights, respect for international law and a U.S. foreign policy based on these ideals.” To learn more, visit

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Posted by Martial
03/18/2012  at  09:50 PM
Mr. Atzmon most wants censorship

Mr. Atzmon posts primarily on online entities that censor opposition to his ideas.  I have had a comment against The Wandering Who? removed without any reason being given, apart from a “jury decision” by Democratic Underground. The desire to squelch debate characterizes these fools.

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