Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Billet Unchained: An Open Letter to Alexander Billet and the Electronic Intifada (press)

In response to THIS POST

African-American History Month draws to a close in just a few days and, it seems, that Alexander Billet has already forgotten the lessons he was supposed to learn. The black community in America and around the world is beautiful, dynamic, nuanced and multi-faceted. It is not, as Alexander's above referenced post asserts, some sort of simplistic caricature of a people defined only by slavery and bass-heavy music.

Alexander Billet's post is patronizing, paternalistic, insulting and viciously racist.

He envisions himself some sort of Dr. King Schultz riding in his white hood on his white horse to rescue what he considers this poor, ignorant people. If you listen closely, you can almost hear Alexander breakdancing while cutting doubles of a record while spray painting while MCing while holding up pictures of Stokely Carmichael, while practicing his Louis Farrakhan pose, while reading Nat Turner. The man is the absolute embodiment of hip-hop - no - the black world in its entirety! He is also the insulting edge of stereotype and caricature. His is not support - it is belittling buffoonery.

The very assertion that hip-hop is the essence of the African-American experience is pig-headed and indicative of Mr. Billet's disgustingly myopic view of the black community.

According to Alexander, hip-hop is "a music and style that gestated in reaction to the willful neglect and apartheid treatment of African-Americans and people of color." If we ignore the fact (no easy task) that this sentence indicates America as an apartheid state (there are not a lot of African-Americans in South Africa - just Africans), what we can not ignore is that hip-hop was not born from that racist form of government. By doing so, Alexander is conflating the entirety of African-American existence into two events - one theme. To do so is to dehumanize a race that is so much more. While it is true that a portion of hip-hop is dedicated to raising the masses, speaking truth to power and being the "CNN of the Ghetto", most of it is not. For every Chuck D reporting live from the Terrordome, you have a Fat Boy singing about cheesecake, a Li'l Wayne waving his red flag, a DJ Khaled yelling non-sequiturs, an Action Bronson talking about hookers in Poughkeepsi, new dances being danced, new slang being invented, a Queen Latifah rhyming about women's rights regardless of skin color or a Tim Dog (bringing it back) reppin' New York City for no good reason.

The beauty of hip-hop is that it is so varied and, so often, meaningless. By assigning it only one role or insinuating meaning where there is none is to act as if judge of what that role should be or arbiter of that meaning. Telling a people what they should or should not be, limiting their expression and experience and speaking on their behalf is paternalistic and culturally colonizing. Alexander Billet, by having the chutzpah to believe he knows what is and what is not hip-hop, is no better than Rudyard Kipling.

Worse yet, he then attempts to ghettoize the African-American community. In his mind, hip-hop is only for black people and, specifically, only for the downtrodden among them. By asserting a racial dependance on this art form, he invalidates the entire movement. Hip-hop is not a song or a pose. Hip-hop is a movement that has grown into one of, if not the, largest, most powerful artistic voices in the world. To relegate it simply to the poor, blacks of Alexander's provincial imagination is to discredit its transcendent power and universal message. More outrageous is his seeming belief that only blacks should practice hip-hop. Are there now race specific job descriptions? Should only Jews be accountants? Only Irishmen be cops? Alexander Billet needs to leave his racism behind and realize that he can not strip boundaries by the creation of more.

Consider Gaza. After Israel gifted Gaza to the "Palestinians", the Gazans second move was to close the border to all Israelis and most Jews. (Their first move was to rain rocket fire down upon innocent Israelis. Their third was to elect a terrorist organization as their leadership. Fourth was to outlaw homosexuality). This is a direct and indisputable form of racism and apartheid. I pray that Alexander speak out against this actual practice of apartheid and not simply wield the word as a weapon used to cut away at the proud history of African-Americans nor to pervert their artistic vision into his own personal slave fantasy.

I also pray that Alexander put down his calls for boycott. When coming from a place of support for the apartheid, terrorist regime of Gaza, such calls ring hollow and can be seen for what they truly are - censorship. Hip-hop has a long and sad history of oppression. It has been misappropriated by marketers, co-opted by virulently self-serving intellectual colonists such as Mr. Billet and kicked and shunted out of mainstream society for so long. Mr. Billet seeks to limit it growth even further, to squash it under the guise of self-preservation. You can not hear one's true voice if you make them shut their mouth. Unless, of course, in Alex's case when you attempt to become that voice.

I must wonder if Mr. Billet's naming of some awful "Palestinian" rappers is not just a marketing attempt. In hip-hop, all that matters is skill. And, the acts for which Alex shills have none. Unless, of course, he was to get this article of his published somewhere, create a fictional racial conflict and cash in. Hmmmm...

Hip-hop never grew from apartheid conditions. And, fortunately, today, hip-hop is not merely a passive aggressive stance against racism. That war is long over. As Jay-Z said many years ago: "this ain't black and white, my nigger, we off that...tell Rush Limbaugh to get off my balls." As Game said "Fuck Jesse Jackson because it ain't about race now." Alex is no Jesse Jackson - he never attempted to truly lead his people. He is no Rush Limbaugh - he never had one ounce of that man's political acumen. Yet, somehow, Alex manages to squeeze the evil, hateful racism out of both and find a way to insult all people, especially those seeking harmony through creation, music and non-violent means.

Even Lupe Fiasco, Alex's poster boy (and 9/11 Truther with a trilogy of songs called "American Terrorist") has declared, in the very same song quoted by Mr. Billet: "Murdering is not Islam." I strongly suggest that Mr. Bellit take Lupe's message to the Gaza for which he stands and tell them that the murder of their own people, the slaughter of Israelis, the use of their own children as human shields is not acceptable.

The black community is rich and varied. It is indeed stained by slavery and forever traumatized by bigotry but it is also proud, full of great success - lawyers, doctors, world leaders, one current American President. Greater than all that, it is human. The black world is about the everyday man, the father who wakes up every morning to go to work to put food on his family's table, the young lady who struggles with calculus, the rapper, the octogenarian, all of us. None of this is because of or even despite of racism. It is regardless of it - the black community transcends its past, rises above towards it future and can not be summarized by one angry man with a anti-Semitic ax to grind. Maybe Alexander Billet is, after all, the Dr. King Schultz of his own bloody imagination - a mercenary out for his own good, stoking hatred and attempting to use the black man for his own evil ends.

Harlem Shake: The Enemies of Israel are the Enemies of Stupid Dance

I guess it was inevitable that we would have to do a Harlem Shake related post. SEE THIS ARTICLE. Egypt a declared enemy of Israel has arrested 4 kids for doing the Harlem Shake. Israel, on the other hand, had the biggest Harlem Shake so far.

Actually, not sure whose side I am on on this one!

PRESS: Electronic Intifadah Promotes Us

say what you want to say just spell our name right. See HERE. Response to follow whenever we time after we stop having to report on things like how the enemies of Israel are also the enemies of dance (see here).

Monday, February 25, 2013

An Open Letter to Alicia Keys

Dear Alicia,

My job here at Artists 4 Israel to refute the lies of the BDS. I am supposed to do so in a professional way. We know what they say to be so inaccurate, wrong, fraudulent, racist and insulting that we need not use tricks or impassioned pleas to discredit it. They claim apartheid, we can simply explain what is apartheid. End of story.

But, for you, I must be impassioned. I must be "set on fire". Alicia, we grew up in the same time period, in the same type of community, in the same mindset. We both continue to battle racism and hate. We are both proud of our heritage, however unusual it may appear to some. You are a strong, proud woman. My father died early and I was raised by a similarly strong and proud woman.

The BDS is going to try and tempt you to cancel your concert in Israel by abusing the word apartheid. It is a definition so far removed from the reality of apartheid that it is insulting to all those who truly suffered under that brutal regime. They are going to hide the fact that those they support are a woman-hating and woman-oppressing set of nations. They are going to ignore the history of racism, not only against Jews but against African-Americans.

They are going to attempt to make you censor yourself. They are going to ask you to oppress yourself and take the music and femininity and strength which brought you to where you are today and throw it away.

Then, when you choose to continue forward, to continue to share your music with the world, they will turn nasty. They will seek to vilify you for choosing freedom of expression over repression. They will call your act too sexy as they did with Rihanna. They will attempt to blackmail and extort you.

Luckily, like myself, you grew up around thugs and criminals. You will not be afraid.

Alicia, "Falling" came out at a time in life when I was DJing at clubs in NY. You would remember them - NV, Cheetah, Life - and you were our biggest star. We would play song after song of aggressive rap. People would be dancing on tables, screaming out the curses and ignorance of these songs. New York was still cold back then. There was still hate we didn't understand. Everyone would be posturing, acting tough, posing for the inevitable pictures, believing themselves to be bigger than the poverty, crime and dirt of New York.

And, then, I would drop "Falling" and we were healed. Grown men would stop their tough act and sing along. There was an acapella version and all I needed to do was let that first line hit the air. All of a sudden, eyes were opened. As you sung the very word, love would fill the room. You helped us transcend.

Alicia, don't take my words about Israel as gospel. It is a beautiful place with freedoms for all, especially for the most vulnerable members of our society. See that for yourself. Don't take the BDS words for gospel. Go to Israel with the same open eyes you provided us those cold, angry nights at the club. Fill the world with more love - help us to transcend once again.

An Open Letter to Gilad Atzmon (On Intellect)

In response to THIS CONFUSION.

Dear Gilad,

I believe that you best summed up a point Israel supporters have been trying to make for some time: "For the BDS leadership, intellect is a threat". Indeed! For once, we agree.

I think you should also add: For BDS sympathizers, intellect is an elusive beast. It is a beast with a racist's head atop a criminal's body.

Now, I normally reserve my criticism for your movement to the undeniable fact that one of its three tenants (and a third of its name) is based on trying to confuse, trick, extort and blackmail artists into self-censorship. But, today. Well, today you crossed a line of logic that is just too silly to let slide. And, worse yet, you are trying to deprive me of my art. Tsk, tsk.

My art is writing. My art is advocacy. My art is fighting you and your organization, the oppressors of women, creativity and freedom. My art is showing the hypocrisy of the BDS campaign. My art is picking apart your fallacious arguments and showing how ridiculous they are at core. My art is avoiding the divisive accusations of racism and seeking to destroy your message with the very message itself.

But, today you have made all that moot. Today, you have put the first stake in the heart of your vampiric organization. Today, you have lifted the woman oppressing veil for which your organization stands and showing the world the hatred upon which your organization is based. Today, you have begun to kill your own movement.

If you are the Godot of an artless world, so be it. But, today, you prove that for BDS sympathizers, intellect is a hated lie, an apology for bigotry and racism.

You begin by defending George Galloway. George Galloway is known to be involved with: removing homosexual rights from his party's platform, asserting that there are circumstances where rape is not rape, stealing money from needy Iraqi citizens in the Oil for Food program and openly supporting Hamas. He is a man so revolting that he was refused even entrance to Canada. Canada, the nicest country in the world.

This time, Galloway is under attack for walking out of a debate (that he was losing) because he did not want to debate the Israeli that he knew but pretended to be surprised to be debating. The BDS then distanced themselves from him, aware that his comments at the debate appeared to be anti-Semitic and, as Rachel Shabi, a spokesperson for the BDS indicated, by showing his anti-Semitism, it might drive away some of the Jewish support that has been tricked into helping the BDS.

You, Gilad Atzmon are angry at this Jew for trying to get more Jews to help you who hates Jews. Whoa, once.

You deny anti-Semitism by making the following points:
"BDS Committee in Ramallah has, once again, had to bow to its [Jewish] paymasters."
"Do you really want to turn Palestine (sic) into a synagogue and the solidarity movement into a yeshiva?"
and consistently referring to the "Jews in the movement" as some sort of scourge that needs to be eliminated.

Doesn't all this smack of anti-Semitism? Doesn't it just shout it from the Dome of the Rock? What is more indicative of Judaism than references to temples and religious schools? What is more old school racism than the hint of Jews as money-lenders and bank controllers? Not only is your anti-Semitism anti-Semitism, it is one of the oldest, most boring forms. At least come up with something new.

Wait, this is new: You confirm that Omar Barghouti is a racist. Well, we agree again. Barghouti is a racist and the leadership of the BDS - like Barghouti and yourself - are threatened by intellectualism.

To summarize your article. You are not racist because you are racist. The BDS isn't racist enough. You hate Jews so much you don't even want them tricking other Jews into supporting your racism. Whoa again.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Israel College Lobby Has It All Wrong: A Brief Manifesto

As the Executive Director of an Israeli advocacy organization with the budget closer to that of a squirrel than, lets say, the Jewish Federation of Peoria, Illinois, I have tried to keep my mouth shut for fear of biting the hand that once in a while feeds. As well, there is a sense of "professional courtesy", "not rocking the boat", not presenting "shanda for the goyim" and other quotation mark worthy platitudes that keep me from speaking ill about my "partners" even if, sometimes, they act more like "competitors". Case in point, one organization that shall not be named has decided to steal one of our ideas and begin hosting a program directly like ours. How do I know this for certain? They reached out to our artists and tried to bribe them away from us! I know, right? I will deal with them later in this post.

The true impetus for writing is not anger at this direct thievery of our work. Instead, I am motivated by righteous indignation at the amount of energy, time, money and other resources that these organizations are wasting, causing us far more long-term damage than our enemies. This week alone, I read two articles in major Jewish publications explaining the "best practices" for invigorating Israel sentiment on campus. I will not name the papers nor the organizations - yet.

What follows is a five point list of "do nots" that all Israel advocacy organizations with a college program should abide by. This could be followed by a list of five affirmative items however, they would basically be the converse of the original five and I have too much else to do actually helping the image of Israel on campus to sit here and do all the work for these other guys. All of the below flies in the face of current wisdom. And, while these ideas may or may not be right - all of the previous ideas are wrong - proven wrong, terribly wrong. Israel might be the greatest product in the history of the world with no hyperbole. They are just in the face of injustice, strong in the face of strength, peaceful in the face of war and loving in the face of hate. Yet, these organizations with histories far longer and budgets far greater than ours still have the need to create best practices and stick around since they have failed miserably in the last 40 years. Were Artists 4 Israel given the keys to the kingdom of advocacy - we would be in and out in under 10. Job done.

List below the picture.

1. Do not "empower student leaders" nor "train advocates". Colleges maintain its own ecosystem of leadership. There are natural student leaders, taste-makers, trend-setters and, generally, "cool kids". Whether these students lead by purpose or accident, they all share certain similarities at direct odds with the current Israel advocacy on-campus model. Natural student leaders are untrained. They lead by inherent, natural instinct. Natural student leaders are unannounced and unsanctioned. The second an outside group anoints one a leader, they immediately lose their credibility and, thus, power to lead or influence. This is true not only for the eternally discredited current crop of on-campus advocacy organizations but of any group. In college, sanction equates to stasis. On-campus groups would be best advised to forego any student leader building exercise (my sincere apologies to all you kids who were hoping for a free trip to some warm climate for a leadership "conference" which we all know is code for drinking and sexing). Instead, they should seek to determine the student leaders, particularly those in other fields: the quarterback, the DJ, the funny fat kid, the sexy cheerleader and offer them some brief knowledge of Israel that they can generally incorporate into their repertoire. No, there will be no immediate measureables but considering how everyone is doing on campus, that might be in your best interests. A longer dissertation on this topic is available on request.

2. Do not "keep an on-campus presence". Do fashions stay static? Does the basketball star stay more than 5 years (3 only if he is very good)? In all seriousness, college campuses although maintaining some level of iconic similarity (the druggies will always be around), undergo complete metamorphosis every few years. Consider the example of "21 Jump Street" - the movie, not the tv show. Two undercover cops go back to high school only to discover that the ideas of cool and un-cool have changed drastically since they were last there. Not only is this movie funny (I was shocked too), it is instructive of changing social dynamics and unpredictable trends. The movie was a commentary on the very tv show from which it was derived and the faulty premise that any external group could ever create a lasting and permanent youthfulness. Not to spoil it but, at the end, two of the characters from the original series get murdered - a sure metaphor. Conversely, get in, get out. Like the Talmud demands anyone do when growing things, rotate crops and leave the land fallow for at least a year. Step back. Allow natural growth, re-consider your seeds and, if you have the proper product, begin anew.

3. Do not partner with other organizations towards status quo. We have been approached by various groups to bring our program to many campuses (usually this desire to partner is inspired by students demanding to the other orgs that they want us). These groups always seek to partner not only with us but with others as well. The resulting program by committee gets messy, competitive and, eventually, ineffective. While partnership might be a kind way to lessen the responsibility if things fail or to grab shine if they succeed or to share costs - it lessens the creative landscape for new ideas to be born. Instead, consider a moratorium on united programs. Think of your own, unique talents in advocacy and create programming toward that. You will learn that when the idea is right, it will find a way.

4. Do not steal. Related to the above. Yes, we know. We came out of nowhere, with no funding and routinely bring 100s more students to our events than you do to yours. Yes, we know. The students who attend our events transcend all racial, religious, social barriers. Yes, we know, we are sort after to the point where students pay us to come while most orgs must pay to play as it were, pumping money into the school economy to get followers. But, it just isn't right. I mean, this rule is one of the top 10 in the Bible. It is also bad for advocacy. We are experts in our type of advocacy, you are not. If you were to try and do our program you would fail, ruin the program and eliminate a worthwhile idea. At the same time, you would not be focusing on your own new initiatives. I think the converse of this is simple enough.

5. Do not do what I just did. Do not tell the world your strategies. Do not publicize your reports on best ways to manipulate the student body. Do not even admit that there are tactics much less announcing them. When I was a money-laundering prevention officer at Morgan Stanley I got in a lot of trouble when I offered to tell John Mack that a company (and a government) that describes its money-laundering prevention strategies is a company that has just told those looking to violate these same laws how to do it. Were other organizations promoting these agenda in closed door Protocols type meetings, that would be one thing. But, those don't exist or I have not been invited. It would even be acceptable if these ideas were effective and thus worth the cost of tipping your hand to the other side. They are neither. Keep it quiet, guys. Close in the huddle.

Let's see how many people this offends.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

An Open Letter to David Sheen and Mondoweiss: Skateboarding Trips Are Not a Crime

Philip Weiss' Mondoweiss (oh, wow, I just got that - clever), via David Sheen (probably no relation) has once again decided to report on Artists 4 Israel (see here). This time, they are taking shots at our Skate The World trip, an official Birthright Israel tour co-sponsored by Young Judea. The article is, basically, an extended version of a previous post by +972 Magazine (see here). Of course, we rudely responded to +972 (see here), probably giving them more credibility than they ever deserved but...hey...we were bored that day.

In the past, Mondoweiss has written about our BOMB SHELTER MUSEUM and about our ARTISTIC MISSION TO ISRAEL (for my take on the "washing" label - see bottom of this post). We wrote about his CHEST HAIR. It is interesting that this time they failed to mention us by name and that Philip hid behind his faceless co-defendant (see pic above for Sheen's greatest photoshop job so far) and aspiring graphic designer to take kitten-paw swipes at us is interesting. Maybe he thought David Sheen with his thesaurus of skateboard jargon and grandfather like knowledge of "hip" would be an equal match for our wit. Well, better luck next time. See below.

Davey and I do have one thing in common: we both enjoy a good mocking of the other side to show just how ridiculous they are. Except, this time, it is not very funny. The posts by +972 and Mr. Sheen are furthering a trend already far too prevalent amongst all the enemies of Israel: a separatist hatred for those with differing tastes, lifestyles, sexual orientations, races and cultures.

Making fun of people planking is worthy of a chuckle (well, would have been 2.5 years ago when it was topical). I will even go so far as to say that Steam Punk fans deserve a good ribbing (well, 1.5 years ago). But, then we get to Jugaloos. Jugaloos is a community that certainly dresses and acts outside the norm but it is a subculture based on total acceptance and community support. Of course, these are just fictional trips, fantastical creations of David's feeble attempts at proving himself "cool" and showing off his Microsoft Paint circa 1996 graphics skills. When it comes to the real trips, Mr. Sheen is viciously un-funny.

Skateboarding is an international subculture that accepts all people, regardless of race, creed or sexuality. It is a society of individuals who are active, explorative, environmentally concerned, dedicated, supportive of each other and global in scale. Why would David have a problem with such a kind, loving group of people? Riders should be very concerned by Mr. Sheen's intolerance of them.

The trend of David and +972's disgust loses all humor when we get to the four actual trips these posts condemn: food-related, technology-related, handicap accessible and LGBT focused. While both +972 and Mondoweiss seemingly support a "Palestinian" state, it is not surprising, in particular, that they have some problem with homosexuality. "Palestine" as well as many other declared enemies of Israel have horrific histories of torturing and murdering LGBT citizens.

Israel has one of, if not the most, positive records on protecting homosexual rights. It is that very same inclusiveness and tolerance which makes it a nation that all should support and that every young Jew should be proud to visit. These young Jews, like all other young people, have multiple hobbies and passions. By Birthright Israel providing them with trips specifically focused on their personal and unique interests, they have an opportunity to increase their enjoyment and to discover an incredibly new and life-changing experience while maintaining a safety net of something they already know and feel comfortable within. I applaud Birthright, Young Judea and Artists 4 Israel for being so aware, considerate and giving towards the passions and beliefs of others. It is only the myopic, provincial haters like Mr. Sheen who are so focused on their burning hatred for Israel and all the people it protects who would seek to limit this experience.

I only wish that, contrary to Mr. Sheen's nearly reporting-less reporting (he admits to not having seen the very itinerary he is railing against), Birthright did offer political trips. There is a thriving skateboard community in Judea and Samaria, two areas that Birthright will not allow tours to visit. Not only should Jewish youth go there but so should all people so they could see for themselves that while outsiders like Philip Weiss and David Sheen throw hatred at homosexuals, handicapped individuals and the communities of the Yesha, the settlements of Judea and Samaria are peaceful and home to a diverse citizenry.

Then, I would welcome the opportunity for David, Philip and anyone else to take one of their Earthright trips. They should start in Iran and then visit Syria, Jordan and Gaza to see where their intolerance and focus on fighting and hate lead. They should go to the Sudan, Mali, Egypt and throughout North Africa to see what the Arab zealots whose ideology they share and promote think of them.

I will buy the tickets.

Thanks, guys. This was fun. See below for some commentary on Philip's overuse of the word "washing"/

Discuss Israel's record on homosexual rights and it is "pinkwashing". Discuss Israel's record on environmental rights and it is "greenwashing". Go to Israel and paint bomb shelters and it is "artwashing". My goal is to write a post on some Israeli super scientific soap invention (c'mon, you know that there is something like that out there considering all else their technology gurus can do) so that they can call it "washingwashing". Hehe. What is the difference between an Israeli advocate and an Israeli maid? The maid doesn't do window washing! Ha! I got a million of these.

Friday, February 15, 2013

An Open Letter to the Jewish Forward and Abe Foxman of the ADL. The BDS is Hate Action.

In response to THIS

The editorial by the Jewish Daily Forward is well-written, intelligent and makes some incredibly insightful and cogent points although it posits a misleading and problematic question.

Abe Foxman's decision to place a large ad in the print edition of the New York Times (at a cost that is a large percentage of Artists 4 Israel's entire annual budget) is misguided, poorly considered and a disservice to the Israeli advocacy community.

Both the decision by Mr. Foxman and the editorial question "Is BDS Hate Speech?" are incorrect at face and miss the greater issue. The BDS is far more than hate speech. The BDS is hate ACTION against artists (artists who are Jewish or not, Israeli or not). Consider their goal - to prevent the spread of cultural and academic items. We can argue whether or not it is hate speech, however, there is no argument that is repression. Worse, it is an insidious and self-replicating form of artistic oppression, self-censorship. Keyser Soze once said: "The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." The truth is, the greatest trick he ever pulled was convincing others to be their own devils.

The enemies of Israel continue to prove themselves the enemies of free expression, creation and art. At some point today, if the New York Times does its job of reporting the news effectively (stop laughing), we will read about artists who have been banned from performing in an Arab nation, those who have been killed for expressing viewpoints that go against an Arab despot or any number of musicians, actors, writers, thinkers and creatives who are exiled, living in fear, imprisoned or worse. We will then compare this list of nations to those who attack Israel - militarily, politically or culturally - and we will see many similarities.

To turn the attention of the issue of attacks on the arts towards hate speech against Jews as Mr. Foxman does is a waste of money and energy. At best, it is a failed enterprise that serves no end. At worst, it benefits those it attempts to thwart. As we have editorialized about the failed attempts by Alan Dershowitz in this regard
HERE and HERE, all these actions serve to do are promote the BDS and its agenda. The Forward's editorial says it best: "turning it into a cause celebre for outside individuals and groups just feeds the media beasts and heightens [BDS'] exposure."

As such, the only proper response would be the creation of more art, the promotion of free expression and, as Artists 4 Israel does so well, the empowerment of creative individuals to support the proud nation of Israel through their unique talents. We agree with the editorial where it writes: "A better model is the reaction to a BDS conference held at the University of Pennsylvania last year - with quiet, affirmative programming by the campus Hillel..."

It is no surprise that the University of Pennsylvania was responsible for bringing Artists 4 Israel to its campus last year for one of our college programs. It was there that a number of New York's infamous graffiti artists painted a mural that read "I Support Israel." Students were given the opportunity to help us paint and sign their name to the same mural. When given the choice between hate speech and positive art, art wins every time.

We encourage Abe Foxman and Alan Dershowitz to consult with us before worsening these situations and we ask that Mr. Foxman re-invest the money with which his many donors entrusted him into positive programming like Artists 4 Israel.

PRESS and an Open Letter to +972Mag and Mairav Zonszein

In response to whatever THIS IS

Is this a negative story? Does the writer (whoa, that is being generous. Lets just say "blogger") attempt to use the device of rhetorical questions to insinuate something nefarious about our program but fail miserably because there is nothing bad here to report on? +972 resulted from "a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs..." - does this really mean that they were failed blogs which, unable to survive on their own, banded together in the hope that pooling their resources would keep them afloat?" Is it raining? Why do you park on a driveway and drive on a parkway? When does the term "blogger" stop you from having any journalistic standards like, oh, I don't know, contacting the two main subjects of your story for information on the story? How many more rhetorical questions do I need to ask until it becomes obvious that I am making fun of the story's lack of story.

It seems that the only actual reporting the blogger did was to research and expose that Birthright also has niche trips catering to the "LGBT community, food enthusiasts and wheelchair-bound Jews". Still not quite sure the blogger's intention of mentioning this in the story (if only she had used a random facetious question here to help clarify) so, I will offer an interpretation of its relevance. Birthright is awesome! It is so awesome that it concerns itself with all types of people, regardless of their lifestyle, sexuality, hobbies, interests, physical conditions or differing capabilities. Could one imagine an LGBT trip to Hamas controlled Gaza?

Other blogger posed questions insinuate that there is a shortage of Birthright Israel trip participants (there is not), that there is no demand for skater trips (obviously, there is) and questions why these trips are being offered (um...for fun). This blogger asks that blogger: You know what fun is, right? It is that thing you are allowed to have in Israel even if you are LGBT, a foodie or wheel-chair bound.

When not asking questions, the blogger forgets a closing quotation mark and misrepresents our mission statement.

All the above would be forgivable if not for the following. Near the end of her blog post, the blogger offers her own much-needed insight: "If you ask me (we hadn't), there flyers are committing some cultural crime". The blogger's profile lists that she has volunteers for "Palestinian" communities. You would imagine that while volunteering for this group, she would have become aware of that community's penchant for launching rockets into Israel, using their own people as human shields, encouraging or blackmailing women and kids into blowing themselves up while attempting to kill innocent Israeli children, bad reporting, oppressing artists and homosexuals and needless blogging - way worse crimes than creating flyers about skateboarding.

Blogger - I hope this answered your questions. Now, pick up a board and join us.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

An Invitation to DJ Khaled from Craig Dershowitz

Dear DJ Khaled,

My name is Craig Dershowitz and I am the Executive Director of Artists 4 Israel. Among our many programs, we seek to educate artists about the freedoms that Israel protects, allowing them to create their work undisturbed, without censorship or oppression. Unfortunately, that is not the same around the world. In fact, right next door to Israel stands the residents of Gaza who have a long history of repressing their citizens and, as an extension of that, the creatives within their community. When women, blacks, latinos, non-Muslims, homosexuals and political opponents are not allowed to live freely, fearful of being arrested, tortured or murdered, artists are equally in danger.

As such, it is distressing that recently you, a well respected artist with a large following, have been expressing political sentiments that seem to support Gaza. Hamas, the terrorist rulers of this area, are no fans of your label mates, friends or fellow artists. I believe that your support for Gaza is misguided and ask that you might consider joining Artists 4 Israel on a tour of this geographic location.

We will leave political discussions behind and, simply, allow you to tour Israel and Gaza (mind you, no Israelis are allowed into Gaza under the threat of death by Hamas, but we will arrange for your safety) and learn for yourself the reality of life in this area. We will respect whatever opinions you form and welcome the opportunity to help you share them with the world. We believe that once you have toured the area, seen with your own eyes that the lies said about Israel are indeed lies, met the beautiful people there, seen the mansions in which the corrupt, treacherous Hamas rulers live and the way they oppress their own people alongside artists and Israelis, you will join us in our support of Israel and struggle to protect the rights of creatives who are in danger in Gaza.

Please let me know how I may make this happen.

Craig Dershowitz
Executive Director
Artists 4 Israel

Chill, Brooklyn College, we got this

Dear Brooklyn College Hillel and Nadya Drukker,

As per THIS, you have asked that "well-meaning pro-Israel advocates (from outside the school) refrain from coming to our campus that day [of the BDS Conference]. We have the utmost faith in our students and our capacity to appropriately respond to the event." In shorthand, you claim to have it under control. Well...um...no, you don't.

Included among your appropriate responses are: "op-eds in the student paper" or a "thoughtful handout". I wonder if the former will include a 15% off coupon for frozen yogurt and if the latter will also be released as a limited edition Hallmark card - when you care enough to do the very least. If you had it under control, the BDS conference wouldn't be happening. You are a small campus nestled deep in between a religious, Jewish community and a socio-economically downtrodden area as in the middle of nowhere as anything in Brooklyn can be. You have a campus with a large, educated Jewish population. You have smart, worldly students. So, by the very nature of the event happening there of all places is the first evidence enough that no, you do not have it under control. The second evidence that no, you do not have it under control is your described methods of response. The third and definitive proof that no, you do not have it under control is that the one "well-meaning pro-Israel advocate" who has passed your verbal ban is someone who has already done a better job of helping promote the BDS than of dismissing it. So, I repeat: no, you do not have this under control.

Don't worry, Hillel, I went to Midwood High School. I know the lay of the land. I am part of an arts group, I know what boycott really means (it means self-censorship). I know your hands are tied. Mine are not. Artists 4 Israel is contemplating our response now. You can thank us after.

This is no small nor easy decision on our part. We have worked closely with Hillel in the past and I fear that us refusing to abide by your request might hurt that relationship. But, it is because of that relationship that we are motivated to act. Hillel and the Jewish Community are being beat by the lies and hate of the BDS and our own ineffective leadership. Our way might not be right but your way has been proven wrong. So, don't worry, Brooklyn College Hillel, we got this.

Dershowitz vs. Dershowitz

On behalf of Craig Dershowitz

Alan Dershowitz is quickly becoming a liability in the Israeli advocacy community.

I first noticed this trend HERE, during the Goldstone Report debacle. Then, Alan had begun his habit of entering into debates with an increasingly imbecilic group of individuals, ideas and, in the worst case, inanimate objects (Note: I am not certain to which which category Noam Chomky belongs). Each time, he provided legitimacy to and increased press attention for the very things he was hoping to discredit.

It is wished that were a competing set of thoughts made public, discussed fairly and equally considered, the right opinion would be dominant and the wrong one would fade into obscurity. Perhaps that is true in the halls of premiere academia where Alan spends much of his time. Perhaps that is true in the courtrooms and lavish dinner parties where he spends the rest of his time. But, it is not true in almost any other context or setting.

It is even less the case in regards to the BDS and its appearance at Brooklyn College. Like discussed HERE, in the case of the revolving doors, the BDS and its scissor sister PACBI are much more small than we exaggerate them to be. How woefully unworthy are they of the attention of Professor Dershowitz. How grandiose they appear when our greatest thinkers consider them worthy of opposition. How incredibly well-known they become when our greatest thinkers, political figures and "leaders" (who more and more frequently do not lead anyone) place their silly little meetings on the cover of the newspapers. Seriously, we are up in arms over the BDS "national conference"? Sounds prestigious, no? No. What sort of "national" anything consists of one or two speeches by repetitive hacks like Judy and Omar B? Only when placed beside the efforts of such formerly heroic Israeli advocates does such a worthless event amount to anything at all.

Artists 4 Israel knows the mindset of New York, of the BDS and of the college student. It would be best were we allowed to lead in this regard and not the upper echelon of thinkers who are no longer capable as doers.

Time and again I am asked asked if Alan and I are related. The answer, I believe, is yes although I also believe it to be of little consequence. Alan is a far more distinguished, accomplished and educated man than am I. But, perhaps for those reasons, a far less skilled advocate. He is a proud, unwavering hero who has stood before death threats, intimidation and hatred without bowing. Now, though, he should consider bowing out. Alan Dershowitz has reached the pinnacle of intellect and righteous understanding of Israel. Let him stay there and leave the work to those who have not yet peaked.