Sunday, September 28, 2014

"Civil disobedience" is increasingly misused

This was originally posted to the JFR: The Jewish Faculty Roundtable discussion list by Paul Burstein of the University of Washington. It is posted here with the permission of the author.

I think we need to be very careful here. "Civil disobedience" is a term that is increasingly misused, and it would be a good idea to highlight its original meaning. The basic idea, I believe, was that one would engage in peaceful (i.e., "civil") activities that were in fact illegal, but then agree to pay the legal penalty for committing illegal acts as a way of drawing attention to problems in laws or the administration--e.g., disobeying a law against equal accommodation in public facilities to show how outrageous such laws were. Many people disapprove of civil disobedience, but it has a good pedigree--Thoreau, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc.

What many of the anti-Israel (or worse) campus groups often propose or carry out are actions that are not civil disobedience in the traditional sense. The actions are not peaceful, and the perpetrators expect to avoid punishment.  We have to highlight this over and over again, with examples.

In addition, we have to figure out some good way of highlighting the way the term "academic freedom" is being misued. Those hostile to Israel, etc., proclaim the right to do anything they want because what they're doing is protected under the rubric of "academic freedom" (e.g., teach blatantly one-sided classes about the Middle East), while denying others the right to participate in activities that would normally be seen as manifestations of academic freedom, such as "no to study programs in Israel," not to mention denying others the right to engage in activities that virtually every American has the right to engage in (e.g., go on a trip to Israel).

I should add that it would sure be nice of some university administrators took meaningful stands on these issues. The silence from those at the top of universities is astonishing.  And even when someone takes action, such as Phyllis Wise, there's an awfully strong tendency to retreat, when attacked, into discussions of the precise details of whether procedures were followed, without taking any moral stand at all.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Boston Globe Correction Saga Part IV

Received from the new editorial page editor, Ellen Clegg, September 26:

Dear Alan,

Brian McGrory forwarded your email to me. We do not believe the editorial was in error. If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please send it along to me and I'll forward it. After Peter Canellos left the paper, I was assigned to be editor of the editorial page. 


Ellen Clegg
Boston Globe
office: 617-929-3339

Response sent to Ellen Clegg September 27:

Dear Ms. Clegg:

Congratulations on your new position as editor of the editorial page and thank you for responding to my request for a correction.

I did receive a response, on September 24, from Matthew Bernstein, to my second request for a correction. As I pointed out to Mr. Bernstein, every definition I've seen for the term "seize" involves a taking of ownership from another, previous owner. Since the Israeli announcement that its investigation had shown the property in question was not privately owned, there was no "seizure" of land unless there is another, obviously obscure, definition of "seize" which has eluded me.

In other words, unless there is such an obscure definition of "seize," your editorial, as well as all three letters, contained the same factual error. If you are able to cite such a definition, I will withdraw my request for a correction; if not, I again request a correction.

Alan Stein

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Rosh Hashana Plea and Suggestion From Rabbi Ervin Birnbaum

Ervin Birnbaum is rabbi emeritus at the Masorti congregation Bet Israel in Netanya and the founder and director of the Russian outreach program Shearim.

Dear Friend:

A brief plea and suggestion:

If you have the opportunity on Rosh Hashana when most of your family members are together, or possibly soon thereafter, before you begin a meal, you may perhaps wish to express the following thought (with slight changes in the Diaspora):

We are thankful to be here in our own Jewish Land where we can celebrate the advent of a New Year, especially now, when the climate of antagonism in the world resembles in so many details the fatal year 1939. We can be here and we can celebrate thanks to young people like those who laid their lives on the line in the recent war in Gaza, to whom we owe an expression of eternal gratitude. We can be here and we can celebrate because we are in our one and only independent sovereign Jewish State from which all the hatred of the world will not move us.

We know well how false were the blood libels pinned on our People during the ages, despite their widespred acceptance among the nations.

We equally know how false are their accusations of our cruelties in the recent war, despite their widespred acceptance among the nations.

We know that we pretty much stand alone, dependent on our inner unity and on the One Almighty Power in whose saving grace we place our trust.

May we be granted, together wth our sisters and brothers everywhere, a year of much-yearned -for peace, and a year of security -- in addition to the many individual prayers for our wellbeing and those of our loved ones.

Have a wonderful, truly uplifting Holiday. May you emerge into the New Year with renewed self-confidence, aware of your tremendous potential, confident of our splendid People's ability to withstand all pressures of our foes, and forge ahead into an ever more creative future.


Ervin Birnbaum

The Continuing Saga with The Boston Globe

A response was received from The Boston Globe on September 24, at which point the request for a correction was renewed. The following is that exchange. As appropriate, additional correspondence will be posted.

Dear Mr. Stein, 

Thank you for your query, and for your continued interest in our pages. I regret that your original note find its way to me. I just searched our e-mail queue,, and found no sign of it there. It's possible that it might have been snagged on an e-mail filter. 

As for your request for a correction, none is warranted. The usage of the term "seize" in both the editorial and subsequent letters is open to interpretation, both politically and by definition. And, in fact, the third of the three letters actually makes the point that the land in question is technically under Israeli control, and had been seized by Jordan in the late 1940s. 

I would consider a letter to the editor offering your viewpoint on Israel's official position on ownership of the land, but I can't guarantee I would publish it at this point, as it has been more than two weeks since the original editorial. 

I do encourage you to write again in the future. 


Matthew Bernstein
Letters editor

The following response was sent to Mr. Bernstein on September 24:

Dear Mr. Bernstein, 

Thank you for your response. However, I find your response unsatisfactory. 

While there are slight variations in definitions given for the term "seize," they all involve the taking of property that had been owned by another party. This was manifestly not the case in the Israeli announcement, which essentially simply clarified the fact that its investigation had determined the land was not privately owned. 

It is true that many other newspapers, even some in Israel, have also incorrectly used the term "seize," as did the writer of that third letter. This makes the error in The Boston Globe understandable, but does not make it permissible. 

If you are able to show me a legitimate definition of "seize" from a reputable reference which applies to your usage, I will withdraw my request; otherwise, I repeat my request that an appropriate correction be issued. 

Alan Stein

Monday, September 22, 2014

Followup to "Correction Requested From The Boston Globe"

After receiving no response from The Boston Globe to the September 15 request for a correction and seeing no correction in the newspaper itself, the following, along with the text of the original request, was sent to the editor of The Boston Globe on September 22. If a response is received and it is appropriate to do so, the response will be posted here.

Dear Mr. McGrory:

It's possible that The Boston Globe has issued a correction about the factual error I pointed out in an email a week ago and I somehow missed noticing it, but I suspect this issue simply fell through the cracks during the changes relating to the resignation of Peter Canellos from his position as Editor of the Editorial Page.

Under that assumption, I am including the original email I sent to you and again request an appropriate correction be issued, both in accordance with the ethical standards of professional journalism and your responsibility to your readers.


Alan Stein

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Correction Requested From The Boston Globe

The following letter was sent by email to the editor of The Boston Globe on September 15, 2014. Copies were sent to Peter Canellos, editor of the editorial page; Dante Ramos, deputy managing editor of the editorial page; Matthew Bernstein, letters editor; and Lawrence Harmon, editorial writer. If there is a response, it will be noted and, if appropriate, posted here.

Dear Mr. McGrory: 

The September 6 editorial, "Israeli seizure of 1,000 acres is wrong move at wrong time," and three letters published today, September 15, all included the same, basic factual error: they all falsely stated that Israel had seized land in the disputed territories. 

Israel did not seize any land. Rather, after appropriate investigation, Israel concluded the land in question was not privately owned. In keeping with its open and democratic nature, Israel did not keep that conclusion secret and is even providing the opportunity for anyone who believes its conclusion was incorrect to come forth with evidence. 

The Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists stipulates journalists should "acknowledge mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently. Explain corrections and clarifications carefully and clearly." 

I request that you act in accordance with that code and issue an appropriate correction. 


Alan Stein, Ph.D. 

Founder, PRIMER-Massachusetts
President Emeritus, PRIMER-Connecticut
Promoting Responsibility In Middle East Reporting

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Oded Revivi, Mayor of Efrat, Writes to The New York Times

P.O.B. 1022

PHONE: 972-2-9939310
MOBILE: 972528443663

Letters to the Editor
New York Times

In response to your article "Israel Claims Nearly 1000 Acres of West Bank Land Near Bethlehem," Aug. 31, 2014, and the allegation that the land is privately owned by Arabs, I would like to clarify the matter with the following factual information:

In 1967, Israel became the sovereign authority in Judea and Samaria. Preceding Israel was Jordan, who replaced the British in 1947.  Before the British, the Turks ruled over the land of Israel and controlled the land that over time had passed from one nation to the next.

Today Judea and Samaria is being held by the Israeli government which has inherited all the legal property rights. (Jordan occupied Judea and Samaria between 1948 till 1967, but their occupation was only recognized by Britain and Pakistan).

According to the Turkish land registration, there are essentially two types of land =96 private land and State-owned land. The government of Israel is very careful not to make any use of private land, and as for State land, there is a long and complex public procedure that the government undertakes before making use of State lands, and this is to make sure not to harm any private person by depriving him of his rights.

The declaration publicized in the New York Times is proof of this very public procedure and allows for anyone who feels himself harmed to come forth and prove his rights to the land.

I would like to use this opportunity to make an additional comment. In English it is customary to term the areas of Judea and Samaria as "occupied territories". To those using this term, I would like to ask, occupied from whom?

If we go back to the registration of rights from the time that the Turks ruled, it is clear that there are private lands that were registered as such and which the State of Israel does not dispute and does not touch. On the other hand, to who do the State lands belong to? The Turkish government does not claim their ownership and neither do the British. The Jordanians, in their peace treaty with Israel, declared that they are relinquishing any claim of ownership to the lands of Judea and Samaria.

If we examine the declarations and decisions of the United Nations and other bodies that preceded the UN, it can be proven that these lands were designated for the State of Israel and as such, the State of Israel is permitted to make use of these lands.

As pointed out above, the State of Israel exercises extreme caution before making use of these lands (even though these lands have been part of the historical Jewish State from Biblical times), and it would be proper if those that attack and criticize her would have knowledge of the legal foundations of the issue before voicing condemnations.


Oded Revivi, Esq.
Mayor of Efrat

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Boston Globe Has a Sense of Humor

The Boston Globe showed it has a sense of humor. It published a letter from me today (Sunday, September 7, 2014) in its magazine section. Actually, it published half of a letter I sent.

This is what it published:
Debating Debates 
I couldn't help but be puzzled by H.D.S. Greenway's August 17 Perspective, "How We Talk About Israel," that suggested free-flowing exchanges about the Arab-Israeli conflict were "off-limits" in the United States and implying that criticism of Israel was essentially being squelched. My observation has been almost the opposite, with disproportionate opportunities given to anti-Israel (a more accurate description than "pro-Palestinian") vitriol. For example, I've actually tried to keep track of the "dialogue" in The Boston Globe, and since the beginning of May, I've counted 17 pro-Israel opinion items being outnumbered by 20 anti-Israel opinion items. 
Alan Stein
Founder, PRIMER-Massachusetts
Promoting Responsibility In Middle East Reporting

This is what it cut from what I submitted:

Given that public opinion polls generally show three to four times as many people sympathize with Israel than with the Palestinian Arabs, if anything this seems to indicate that the media, or at least The Boston Globe, stifles the pro-Israel voices. 
Also curious are his assertions regarding anti-Semitism. The reality is that supporters of Israel are extremely reluctant to charge anti-Semitism, but the current outburst of shameless attacks on synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses and the blatant anti-Semitism in online postings by "pro-Palestinians" make undeniable what was shown by studies years ago: there is a high correlation between anti-Semitism and attitudes towards Israel.
It reminds me of Archie Bunker in All in the Family, saying “stifle it, Edith.”
The Boston Globe simply stifled the part where I pointed out it stifled pro-Israel voices, and for good measure also stifled the part where I brought up the connection between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, the latter being the modern, socially acceptable way to express one's anti-Semitism.

You just have to laugh!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Letter to United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon

This is a copy of a letter sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon by Gila and Doron Tregerman, the parents of the late Daniel Tregerman, who was killed in a Hamas mortar attack on his kibbutz (Nahal Oz).

For UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon

Dear Sir,

My name is Gila, I am an Israeli citizen, and I am a resident of Kibbutz Nahal Oz, near the border with Gaza.

A week ago, we lost our elder son, Daniel 4.5 yrs old, which was killed by a mortar shell, fired from Gaza into Israel deliberately.

I address you after your announcement to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to establish an international investigation Committee to investigate "Israel's crime" in the recent fighting in Gaza.

About us: Doron and I were married five years ago and we have three amazing kids: Daniel 4.5 yrs, Yoval 3.5 yrs and Uri 4 months old. We were a happy family. We lived in Kibbutz Nahal Oz near Gaza, and found ourselves constantly debating whether not to abandon Nahal Oz and move to another location, quieter, safer, far from rocket fire from Gaza, and far away from the alarms.

Then came the threat of terrorist tunnels, which Hamas members dug from Gaza to Israel under our home to hurt us. At night we heard noises and voices digging beneath us. Thus, in the last six months our children slept with the window closed and locked. We were afraid that they will be kidnapped from us.

Can you imagine our life, Mr. Secretary-General? How do you live in constant fear of mortar shell and terrorists emerging from tunnels?

Then, last Friday [August 22], Daniel was killed. All the precautions that we have taken have failed. Daniel, 4.5 yrs old, was killed in our House, while playing with Yoval in a tent built indoors and not outside, because it's dangerous. He was killed from a mortar shell that was shot by terrorists from Gaza, he died in our hands. Daniel died in front of his little sister and his best friend Yoval, 3.5 years old; he died in front of Uri, only four months old and right before our eyes, his mother and father.

We failed. We couldn't protect our beautiful and talented baby. Daniel was killed from a mortar shell that was fired by Hamas members from an elementary school for boys in Gaza City. It wasn't a stray shell. It wasn't accidental death. From that school terrorists fired deliberately to the kibbutz to murder civilians — children, women, old people. This time they also achieved the goal. Daniel was killed almost immediately. Daniel's father, Doron, covered him with a blanket while crying bitterly and we escaped from home with two small children, leaving our precious son behind, in order to protect them from bombings who continued to explode around the house. Yoval, Daniel's sister saw the terrifying sight and understood that something terrible happened. It is unbearable to watch that little child staring at the wall, in overwhelming silence with teardrops from her eyes.

This week, while the "shiv'ah"(Jewish ritual of mourning) at Doron's parents home, we heard of your decision to appoint an international investigation Committee to investigate "Israel's crime" in the recent fighting in Gaza. You informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu half an hour after our Daniel was killed, perhaps while he was lying dead in our living room, covered in a blanket.

The investigation Committee will examine the "crimes of Israel" during the fighting. The investigation Committeeis not asked to investigate how terrorists shoot out of U.N buildings and schools.

The Committee is not asked to investigate how inside buildings of the United Nations and in hospitals in Gaza terrorist infrastructure flourish and maintain over time, or how from these places terrorist left for activity aimed against innocent people.

It wouldn't investigate how Hamas is abusing the Palestinian people, and how its members impose on residents of Gaza, even on children, digging tunnels aimed only for terrorism against Israel.

It wouldn't investigate how after these excavations carried out under duress and in slave-like conditions, the Hamas murdered the diggers, even the children, just to be sure they won't be able to pass information to Israel.

Why are you silent? Does your silence indicate consent with the abuse of the Palestinian people and the Israeli people?

The answers to these questions will remain unknown.

And I want to ask you, Sir:

Are you and the U.N does not see the links that make up the global terrorism picture?

The terrorists units, fully equipped and full of hatred that attacked us in our homes, are the same units that kidnapped 43 UN observers in Syria; They are the same units that decapitated innocent people in Syria and Iraq; those unites crashed aircrafts into crowded buildings in 2001 in New York; those unites threaten the essence of democratic life, and life itself, in Europe, in the United States and anywhere on the plant.

Let me tell you some more about the history of our lives here, on the border with Gaza. My husband's parents, Doron, also live near the border fence and three and a half years ago a Qassam rocket exploded and destroyed their home.

Up until a few years ago they had good relations with the residents of Gaza. They hired workers from Gaza to work in their fields and Paulina, Daniel's grandmother, drove them home – to Rafah, every evening after work. They use to invite each other for weddings and other celebrations and often traveled to Rafah or Gaza to enjoy life at cafes there.

All that ended when Hamas rise to power and ordered the civilians who worked in Israel, to kill their Israeli employers; otherwise, Hamas would hurt their families. Daniel's grandparents used to tell us this, longing and hoping that the good proximity will resume. They even found ways to maintain contact with their friends from Gaza during the mortar shell. Like the parents of Doron and their friends from Gaza, we want to live in good proximity, in peace and security. It is our hope that our neighbors, the people of Gaza will be able to live peacefully in their homes and build and develop their beautiful country. We believe that the vast majority of the people on this plant do not want to see the sights of blood, tears and fire of the radical Islam movement, but to live peacefully, enjoy kid's laughter, wait for a better tomorrow.

We do not seek the people responsible for our Daniel's death.

We only wish your response and your voice against this crime and the crime Hamas committed against their own people.

Gila and Doron Tregerman
Parents of Daniel (RIP), Yoval and Ori
Nahal Oz, Israel