“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Shovrim Shtika, Breaking the Silence. Truth or Propoganda?

Breaking ranks with U.S. Jewish 'establishment' on the occupation

By Paul Katz

A few weeks ago, I learned that I am anti-Israel, which certainly came as a surprise to me. The cause of the accusation was an exhibit exploring the effect of military service in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on ordinary Israelis.

I have always considered myself strongly Zionist and have devoted much of my time at Harvard to advocating for policies to bring the only Jewish, democratic state in the world closer to its most inspiring ideals. Yet, in the wake of the decision by the Harvard College Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA) to host to an exhibit by Israel's own "Shovrim Shtika" ("Breaking the Silence"), I found PJA - and by implication, myself - the target of denunciation.

To quote a recent open letter by the president of the Zionist Organization of America, Morton Klein, by facilitating the exhibition, we are guilty of "inciting hatred of Israel" and "playing into the hands of Israel's enemies."

The strangest aspect of much of the criticism PJA has received has been its source - individuals outside of the campus community who have not seen the exhibit themselves.

Of course, Shovrim Shtika's exhibit, which includes some 60 photos and several videos, was explained and contextualized by two former Israel Defense Forces soldiers with combat experience in the West Bank, was not uncontroversial on campus.

Although it was not sponsored by Harvard Hillel, the exhibit was housed in Hillel's building, a decision which made some members of the campus Jewish community uncomfortable.

Many students disagreed with what they saw as the exhibit's negative characterization of the occupation. Others expressed their concern at the exhibit's lack of context, which they felt would leave students uninformed about the conflict with an unduly negative view of Israel's commitment to human rights.

Nonetheless, at Harvard these reasonable criticisms were expressed respectfully and intelligently, and PJA's desire to promote a more just Jewish state was never questioned. Only in the broader national and international press did we morph into self-hating Jews seeking to undermine Israel.

The most virulent criticism of the exhibit came from Klein himself, who was quoted in Jewish Week as saying that, "Harvard Hillel should be ashamed of itself and should immediately rescind giving legitimacy to a program that only promotes hatred against Israel and Jews."

His criticism was echoed in a recent column by Isi Leibler in The Jerusalem Post, in which Leibler argued that Hillel's "post-modern" commitment to pluralism and free expression led it to allow "a ferociously anti-Israeli exhibition on Hillel premises."

Leibler went on to express his outrage that Klein was the only major voice within the American Jewish community to publicly condemn the exhibit. This silence, he claims, is evidence of "the extent to which post-modernism has penetrated the Jewish agenda and blurred distinctions between good and bad."

This criticism stems from the belief - one which PJA strongly contests - that the only appropriate role for American Jews to play in their support of Israel is neatly bounded by one word: Hasbara, or, the promotion of Israel's image abroad.

We believe that a real commitment to Israel should be characterized not only by educating others about the strength of Israel's ideals, but advocating for change when those ideals are being obscured by destructive policy decisions as well.

Now is a time when an end to the occupation of Judea and Samaria is widely seen as a distant prospect. The failure of unilateral withdrawal from Gaza has bred a frustration in the American Jewish community that translates into a pessimistic refusal to look beyond the status quo: continued occupation and the strategic expansion of settlement blocks in the West Bank.

Yet American Jews must understand that the status quo is not a costless alternative to the difficult and risky prospect of negotiated withdrawal. Shovrim Shtika's exhibit is about measuring its cost in real, human terms.

A constructive approach to the current conflict demands an honest Jewish dialogue about the nature of occupation and its costs, instead of the image-centered marketing campaigns that have become the bread and butter of the Israel programming of many of America's major Jewish organizations, including the ZOA.

This sort of dynamic conversation is just what Shovrim Shtikva has been promoting at Harvard and in the Boston community at large.

More than most places, Harvard is a forum for open debate and intellectual engagement. Far from alienating Jewish students from supporting Israel - as Klein fears Shovrim Shtika has already done - the exhibit has proven to the Harvard community that it is possible to both support a just and secure Jewish state and criticize policies plainly destructive to that end.

Such a position not only expresses our faith in Israel's capacity to fulfill its democratic vision, but also reflects the fact that we at Harvard understand our community. Our willingness to criticize Israeli policy in the name of the state's Jewish and democratic ideals represents a much more effective response to those at Harvard who attack Israel's legitimacy than Klein's blunt and anti-intellectual attempts to stifle dissent in the name of hasbara.

In fact, the potential of Shovrim Shtika to positively influence "our enemy's" thinking was poignantly illustrated to me by a Muslim friend's reaction to the exhibit.

"When I lived in the West Bank, I despised the Israeli soldiers," she explained on the Harvard International Review's online blog. But her tour of the photographs and videos, and her conversation with her guide, a former soldier, changed her perspective.

"They helped me understand so much why the IDF does what they do in the territories," she wrote. The exhibit, her blog entry explains, helped her to see Israeli soldiers not as impersonal objects of hatred but as human beings pushed into a pattern of behavior by the tactical demands of a dehumanizing policy.

This sort of "re-humanization," possible only when we acknowledge rather than ignore the true nature of occupation, is the first step toward understanding and coexistence.

Paul Katz, an undergraduate student at Harvard, is Co-Chair of the Harvard College Progressive Jewish Alliance.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Why do we always have such a tough time getting responsibility to remain pasted on the perps?

    Somehow it always gets passed on to those that have no choice but to react.

  3. My 1st post was a knee jerk reaction, but then i listened to him a 2nd time...

    he is right...


    Israel MUST not rule over the palios fucktards.

    Israel MUST withdraw to defensible lines and go further..

    Israel MUST cut out the majority of arab towns INSIDE israel and GIVE them back to the arabs for self rule...

    This will actually cut into the green line further, but then make allowances for major jewish populations on the west bnak.

    Israel must WITHOUT BEING LIKE ARABS AND ETHNIC CLEANSING, change the border for those arab towns that are inside israel and make them non-israeli...

    that means CUT off all water, sewage, electricity and build a wall separating those towns from israel and allowing the arabs to do whatever they choose to do...

    this is not ethnic cleansing since the towns will still be intact as well as the populations...

    it is a land swap...

    thus, israel will maintain it's jewish character and will not force 20% of it's non jewish arab israel hating arabs to not be controlled by the jewish state...


    let the arab world deal with all arabs...

  4. This business of labeling Israel as an "Occupier" is a construct of the Arabs in the UN whose aim is to totally turn world opinion against the Joooos and keep economic aid pouring into the "refugee camps."

    I suspect that the growing anti-zionist sentiment is due in large part to the secular progressive antipathy towards the relationship of Christianity and Judaism.

    The left starting in Europe, particularly the UK and more recently in the US has been fostering the growing anti-Zionist movement. That this perverted thinking has infected the liberal Mainline churches is an indicator of a world turned upside down.

    Communism may have been defeated but the mentality wasn't.

  5. WiO: Israel must WITHOUT BEING LIKE ARABS AND ETHNIC CLEANSING, change the border for those arab towns that are inside israel and make them non-israeli...

    That's unbelievably stupid, WiO. There's about 200,000 Christian citizens of Israel, and 80% of those are Arabs. You propose disenfranchising them, and literally deporting them to a country they never lived in by routing the Green Line around them to maintain the "Jewish character" of the State of Israel without resorting to apartheid. First of all, if Olmert does that, the moral authority of Pope Benedict XVI will come down on Kadima like a hammer. Second, the Arab members of the Knesset will unite with Labor, and former members of Labor in Knesset will bolt, causing the government to collapse. Third, American evangelicals like John Hagee will no longer support Israel, because you're supposed to at least be showing progress in Accepting Jesus Christ As Your Personal Lord And Savior before the rapture, not setting the timetable back. Third, the shaky support Israel currently gets from American (i.e. Hollywood) Jews (Democrats all of them) will be turned off like a light. The Little Satan will be left outside on the back porch of the Great Satan's house, and all the neighbor dogs will start barking.

  6. Someone pointed out recently that after the defeat of their armies, the Arabs have been using the Palestinians as proxies in their war against Israel.

    The war against Israel has never ended and will never end until the Jews have either been killed, driven out of the middle east or made dhimmis in a former Israel.

    Western military efforts against Jihad may be winding down but Islam is not. That more and more Islamic women are being forced or "choose" to cover themselves is a leading Islamic indicator and an omen of times to come.

  7. Whit: The war against Israel has never ended and will never end until the Jews have either been killed, driven out of the middle east or made dhimmis in a former Israel.

    It is written by the prophet Joel:

    Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence against the children of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land. But Judah shall dwell for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation.

  8. Argh, to me, sometimes you just gotta choose sides. There are people in my church--they piss me off, making it hard to go to church, which I might like to do, in my own way, there are people there that turn it into a politcal party--who seem to spend their time, marking down all Israeli errors, as they see them.

    Israel belongs to the Jews. They are the better people. They are up against a wall. Sometimes you just gotta choose sides. Choose the better one, the civilized one, the one where you would feel more comfortable on a vacation, say.

    Vacation in Gaza? Nah.

  9. Nationalism is first. Democracy religion law morality, everything else, come behind. Islamers proved themselves incompatible with Israeli nationalism. I would put an end to the free lunch Islamers have been enjoying at Israel's expense.

  10. Doug in a previous thread makes note of the CIA's open war on Bush. I'd like to submit that it is not just the CIA involved in this war against the executive but the DOS as well. Lewis Paul Bremer III was deliberately inserted (in opposition and contrary to the original military plan) to indefinitely set back the schedule on Iran and Syria.

    4/19/2008 05:04:00 AM

    I have never been so proud to carry a diplomatic passport. It now has for me a kind of emotional value-added. Thanks, mat.

  11. Dear host, that World of My Fathers thread has been removed.

    T, Wretchard has commented before on the near impossibility of babysitting threads. It's simply too time intensive.

    Hopefully the switch will work out for him because, yes, even Belmonters deserve better.

  12. Trish,

    Is that remark supposed to mean something?

  13. Assalamu Alilkum Wa Rahmatulah Wa Barakatuh

    Mr 2164,

    I see many of the same people come to your fine place. This is good, right?

    Blessed are those who honour God in all they do, who believe in the revelations of their Lord, and who worship only their Lord. Blessed are those who, when they give to the poor, do so with hearts filled with awe, knowing that they will soon return to their Lord. Blessed are those who vie with one another for God's blessings; they will be foremost in receiving them.

    - Qur'an, Al-Mu'minun, Surah 23:57-61

    It is important for your children to know the peace of Islam.

    'Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatu Allah

  14. Yes, mat. You made me realize how additionally proud I ought to be as an associate of that relatively small , fledgling organization that "indefinitely set back the schedule on Iran and Syria." Tis a historically noteworthy and soul-satisfying achievement. Indeed.

  15. Be careful what you wish for, bob.

  16. Blessed are those that can get a raiding party up, blessed are those who have buried the hatchet among themselves, so they can get a raiding party up. Blessed are those that pull the fabric over the eyes of the ladies. Blessed are those that have found a way to exalt the worst in us, and praise it. Blessed are those who cannot think. Blessed are those who retrograde. Blessed are the worst among us, o our lord.

  17. When even Israelis see the injustice done to the Palistinians, well, it must be there, the injustice.

    Now some argue that it is not injustice, but justice that is being meted out.

    That storyline does not sell well, to the unbiased observer

  18. As to the Chinese arms shipment on its' way to Zimbabwae ...

    Just another small sale of arms and ammo. Hardly a blip on the screen, from a world wide vantage point.

    Could have some impact, in Zimbabwae, but is that not what arms sales are for, to extend the suppliers interests?

    There are none so blind, as those that will not see. So it goes with China and the US.

    We refuse to see, blinded by hope.
    And Obama is not charting the course.

  19. "You made me realize how additionally proud I ought to be as an associate of that relatively small , fledgling organization that "indefinitely set back the schedule on Iran and Syria."

    Yes, any organization that manages to pay for your toilet expenses should count it as an historically noteworthy and soul-satisfying achievement. Oh,.. yeah,..Fsck off.

  20. A satisfaction that you passed along to the American people to pay with 4000 dead and hundreds of billions of dollars. Bravo!

  21. I left off the last sentence of your post, mat.

    "That this might not occur, is a testament to the skill of Gen General David Petraeus and his junior commanders in Iraq."

    Let us turn to the good Dr. Krauthammer:


    There are four ways to deal with rogue states going nuclear: pre-emption, deterrence, missile defense and regime change.

    Pre-emption works but, as a remedy, it is spent. Iraq was defanged by the 1981 Israeli airstrike, by the 1991 Gulf War (which uncovered Saddam's clandestine nuclear programs) and finally by the 2003 invasion, which ended the Saddam dynasty.

    A collateral effect of the Iraq War was Libya's nuclear disarmament. Seeing Saddam's fate, Moammar Gaddafi declared and dismantled his nuclear program. And if November's National Intelligence Estimate is to be believed, the Iraq invasion even induced Iran to temporarily suspend weaponization and enrichment.

    But the cost of pre-emption is simply too high. No one is going to renew the Korean War with an attack on Pyongyang. And the prospects of an attack on Iran's facilities are now vanishingly small.


    Eventually, it will dawn on most everyone. As another President Bush would have put it, "Not. Gonna. Happen."

  22. OT

    Wife is reading a long book about the building of the Panama Canal. Man, that was a hard, gruesome business. The number of dead unknown, they weren't keeping records. LOTS. Malaria, yellow fever. The project would not pass OSHA inspection, these days.

  23. Regardless of whom one wants to believe, about Iraq, it is obvious that the defeat of the tries and the militias was never in the cards.

    Even if the Iraqi Army had been retained, the militias would have continued to exist, both Shia and Sunni.

    There never was a program to defeat the Iraqi people, quite the contrary. The strategy, Mr Bush's strategy, was flawed from the beginning. Some of us knew it while it was taking shape on the ground and protested, others would not believe their own lyin' eyes.

    But there ain't goin' be another ME war on the Bush watch, that's for certain, unless the Iranians start it with a missile attack on US troops in Fallujah or Baghdad.

    That Mr Bush fell so far short of expectations, well, that's on him, not his underlings or answerable agencies. Never, not once, did a head publicly roll for the poor job that was done.

  24. The credit for the success of the Canals' construction, that goes to Dr Gorgas.

    The engineering, while monumental in scope, was not all that extreme.
    Malaria deaths, now those were extreme

  25. And never, not once, did the Veto Pen get excercised, whatever the cost, for what, 6 out of 8 years?

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  27. We need an update on Mr. Pearce and the Education Bill, thing, 'Rat:
    Think Tucson schools were initial targets:
    Mencha, Raza Studies and such.

  28. It's goin' to the Supremes, doug.

    Last I read Mr Ken Starr was goin' to represent the State of AZ

  29. The anti-Mexican provisions to SB1108 were approved yesterday and the bill is now scheduled for a vote by the full House. The provisions would withhold funding to schools whose courses "denigrate American values and the teachings of European based civilization." One section of SB1108 would bar public schools, community colleges and universities from allowing organizations to operate on campus if it is "based in whole or in part on race-based criteria," a provision Rep. Russell Pearce said is aimed at MEChA. Pearce is a Republican and the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee out of Mesa, Arizona.

    According to Chairman Pearce, SB1108 would also bar teaching practices that "overtly encourage dissent from American values" such as Raza Studies at the Tucson Unified School District. In addition, SB1108 mandates the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to confiscate books and teaching materials that are deemed anti-American. Chairman Pearce said some of the teaching materials amount to "sedition" by suggesting that the current border between the United States and Mexico disappear with La Raza taking over the American Southwest. One book that would be confiscated mentioned by Pearce is "Occupied America - A History of Chicanos" by Professor Rodolfo Acuna.

  30. Yes, Trish, that is the one. He's a good writer.

  31. Slightly different, doug, but in the same vein

  32. I don't think anyone here at the EB thinks that the Bush administration has any intention of war with Iran. I think Ash may have at one time but I don't know if he still does.

    Even Pelosi says Bush is doing nothing but dropping the tar baby in the next administration's lap.

    Over at the BC, they seem to wish or hope the world would or will intervene in Zimbabwe.

    Given the world criticism and scorn heaped on the US in the last five years, see Trish's last paragraph at 5:57.

  33. The world did intervene in Zimbabwae, Mugumbe was the result.

    What should the "world" do for an encore?

  34. Bring back Sedition Enforcement!
    Los Angeles, Alta California
    April 17, 2008

    Arizona legislation will outlaw MEChA and Mexican-American studies
    The Appropriations Committee of the Arizona House of Representatives has approved provisions to a "Homeland Security" measure that would essentially destroy the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) and Mexican-American study programs in the state's public schools, colleges and universities.

  35. My brother loved it, bob. Read it while he was stationed down there.

    I read his book on the Brooklyn Bridge.

  36. "I don't think anyone here at the EB thinks that the Bush administration has any intention of war with Iran."

    Oh, I think mat's bravely hangin' in there, whit.

  37. Never, not once, did a head publicly roll for the poor job that was done.

    Sat Apr 19, 06:26:00 PM EDT

    Well, it was hardly the guillotine at sunrise, but I can think of three off the top of my head: Sanchez, Goss, and Rumsfeld.

  38. The world did intervene in Zimbabwae, Mugabe was the result.

    That is an insightful and true statement.

    My hat is off to you this day, Mr. Desert Rat.

  39. Desert Rat: What should the "world" do for an encore?

    Send Jimmy Carter to Pakistan to shore up strong man Musharraf, since they are dangerously close to getting their democracy back without him.

  40. Bobal, about the Panama Canal, I read a book about Generals Grant and Sherman, and before the Panama Canal existed ships would put in there and passengers would go overland 50 miles to the other side of that skinny little country. Fifty miles today is an hour by car, but the world was bigger back then. Grant went that route in 1852 to get back to Washington from San Francisco, and many in his traveling party were stuck down with malaria. Twenty years later as President he did the first surveys to see if a canal was possible.

  41. Trish,
    Please give us a link to the speedreading course you took.
    That's amazing!

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  43. dRat,
    Mr Katz is not the first leftist idiot and he won't be the last. Israel did well to export him back to America. :)

  44. Not bravery, just realism, Trish. Iran will be not be allowed atomic weapons.