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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Anti-Israel activist Anna Baltzer exposed as a fraud (updated x2)

See UPDATES below.

From Lee Kaplan at Gatestone Institute:
Anna Baltzer, a pretty lady who heads the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation (USCEIO) in Washington, DC., has developed a platform for herself going about the world lecturing as a Jew who once supported the State of Israel, but who had an epiphany and discovered that Israel and "Zionists" were exploiting and abusing the Palestinian people. The USCEIO is, in fact, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) renamed for the purpose of lobbying Congress in Washington. It was created by Huwaida Arraf, one of the co-founders of the ISM who also serves on the group's steering committee.

Placing Anna Baltzer as the titular head of the Campaign was intended to convince both Jews and non-Jews that opposition to Israel's existence is fine because even Jews such as her believe in the necessity of destroying the Jewish state, especially through boycotts and divestment. Anna Baltzer is a modern day Tokyo Rose for the ISM against Israel: she speaks at anti-Israel events and promotes boycott and divestment campaigns against Israel, in support of terrorist groups such as Hamas in its plans to destroy Israel any way it can. She has participated or helped at demonstations staged by Code Pink, Global Exchange, the Gaza Flotilla, Viva Palestina and other anti-Israel groups that make up the ISM.

USCEIO has been frantically sending out fundraising email blasts and announcing on its website that Ms. Baltzer will appear in a debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be presented by the distinguished Oxford Union in England on January 31st. According to the Oxford Union's website, "The Union is the world's most prestigious debating society, with an unparalleled reputation for bringing international guests and speakers to Oxford. It has been established for 189 years, aiming to promote debate and discussion not just in Oxford University, but across the globe."
...
In her Wikipedia entry and various speeches she has presented, mostly to Christian churches, Ms. Baltzer has claimed she comes from a Jewish family in which her grandparents were Holocaust survivors; that she was a Fulbright Scholar from Columbia University, and that at first she was pro-Israel. After touring with Fulbright in 2003 in Turkey, she alleges she visited "Palestine," Syria and Iran and met "friends" who "educated" her on the suffering of the Palestinians at Israeli hands, so that today she is a dedicated anti-Zionist. She included a cry at the end of an interview recorded in Ireland in 2010 on an anti-Israel radio station that it is her hope "Inshallah, to one day bring down Zionism" -- meaning to end the Jewish state.

More recently, Anna Baltzer, back in the United States, lent her name and prestige to an attempt by the Students for Justice in Palestine at UC San Diego to prompt the entire student body association there to boycott and divest from Israel. The appearance, presumably intended to be a springboard to spread the boycott and divestment to other campuses, failed. While the event was being debated at UC SAN Diego, Anna Baltzer made a video, which appeared on YouTube, in support of boycotts and divestments from Israel, and directed to the anti-Israel campaign at the UC Campus. In this video, she claimed that she went on a Birthright tour -- a program that provides free trips to Israel for Jewish college students and recent graduates -- in the year 2000 as an enthusiastic pro-Zionist Jewish girl. She claims that after finishing the tour, she researched the suffering of the Palestinians and became a supporter of the anti-Israel movement.

There is just one problem with this scenario: According to my research, Anna Baltzer never went on a Birthright tour of Israel in the year 2000 or any other time. Inquiries to the New York and Israel offices to ascertain if she went with Birthright, revealed absolutely no record of any Anna Baltzer attending the program ever, let alone in year 2000. In short, it seems that Anna Baltzer lied about her participation in Birthright to convey the false impression that she was once a loyal Jew who supported the Jewish homeland but had discovered the justification for Palestinians' goals to overthrow Israel.

Further, after researching Ms. Baltzer's claims of being a Fulbright Scholar from Columbia in 2003, it has been determined from both Columbia's and the Fulbright websites, as well as Fulbright officials, that Anna Baltzer was never a Fulbright scholar either. A list of Fulbright Scholars at the Fulbright website contains the names of all Fulbright scholars from the United States and abroad from the late 90's to the present. Ms. Baltzer's name is nowhere to be found.

...Baltzer claims she is the descendant of Holocaust survivors who instilled in her a need to support Palestinian aims against Israeli persecution. After researching her grandparents through the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Israel, as well as the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, to see if her family were actually in concentration camps, nothing could be found. This, too, appears to be a fabrication by Baltzer, or at best an embellishment...

The Oxford Union's President was distressed to learn these facts about Ms. Baltzer's academic fraud and said she would share such information with the faculty advisers with the possible outcome of her being removed from the debate.

An educational debate, especially at a university as august as Oxford, should feature academics or speakers who are genuine, not imposters or fakes planted to distort facts and slander and demonize a fellow democracy. Anna Baltzer seems to be neither a Fulbright scholar, not a descendant of Holocaust survivors nor an alumna of the Birthright program. She appears to be just a fraud and a fabulist. So why is Oxford having her speak?
You mean that people who are dedicated to destroying the Jewish state and who condone terrorism lie about their background?

I'm shocked. Shocked!

(h/t Ian)

UPDATE A&B: I am told that Baltzer changed her name; she did apparently receive the Fulbright grant under the name Anna J. Piller. See this article that says her real name is Baltzer and that a 2006 lecture of hers was under the name Piller.

However there is still no evidence she was a Fulbright scholar; only that she received a Fulbright grant, which is different.

One of my readers emailed me with this cogent point:
It is also true that inventing Fulbright scholarships and perhaps even survivor grandparents can have more legs as a news story and be more discrediting to her than the mere fact that she likes to invent IDF atrocities.

UPDATE 2: She also did go on a Birthright trip - here are the photos. This page ties the two together.

Apparently, Piller is her real name she uses in her personal life.

She is also virtually a 9/11 "truther."

The article is no longer at Gatestone; a modified version can be seen here.

UPDATE 3: Lee Kaplan responds in the comments.

Just to emphasize, I am in no way defending Baltzer/Piller, who at the very least is a proven liar about Israel and beneath contempt.

UPDATE 4: Lee discovered this:
In an interview afterward, she said that she had grandparents who “narrowly escaped” the Holocaust — though in response to an email she was not willing to say whether they were on her father’s or mother’s side.

She said these grandparents were born in Poland but grew up in Antwerp. When the German Nazis invaded Belgium, her grandparents fled and went “running from country to country” until they reached Portugal, from which they came to the United States, she said.