Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Guest post by American Zionism

On November 14, Hen Mazzig gave a speech at Vassar College. He was interrupted by members of the local chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine with chants of "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free". They were intimidating and disrespectful to the people who went to hear him speak.

I know that Hen is open to dialogue with anyone and welcomes all questions, no matter how hard they may be. But the group was not there to hear him or engage with him, they were there to silence and humiliate him. They went to deny him his inalienable right to express his views regardless of what they may be. It also happens to be that his message was one of inclusiveness and reconciliation, and the protesters' message was one of bigotry and division. In following Hen for a number of years on Twitter and having seen him speak in person, I can tell you that he advocates for the national aspirations for the Palestinians. He has never once said that he denies them their rights. On the other hand, the chant "from the river to the sea" is a call to remove all the Jews from the Holy Land, dismantle the State of Israel, and replace it with a Palestinian state that will span from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean Sea. Make no mistake, this is a casus belli to push the Jews into the sea. They are no advocates of peace. They aren't even advocates of justice. And, they are certainly no advocates of a two-state solution. This is nationalism at its most extreme.

While Hen was being interrupted, he videotaped the disturbance and posted it on Twitter. Hen can be seen sitting silently waiting for it to end, and Jewish students in the audience can be seen sitting uncomfortably not knowing what to do, all the while SJP continued their harassment and their racist chant. As you can imagine, many Jews who were watching this unfold on Twitter were shaken and upset, myself included. Here Jews are once again are being denied the right to speak, and this denial is supported by many people who should know better. Where was the security? Where was the administration? This is not a free expression of speech. This is denying others their free expression of speech. Everyone, whether you agree with Hen or not and whether you like Hen or not, should have supported his right to share his story with those that had invited him to speak and who attended the event. But that is not what happened. In fact, the opposite happened. Having already faced abuse at the event, people chose this opportunity to attack him even further. That is where the Tweet by Abe Silberstein enters, which you can read below.

Mr. Silberstein does not attack Hen's arguments, but rather he attacks Hen himself, going so far as calling him a "low quality of speaker" and a "provocateur", all to justify SJP's harassment and attempt to silence him. If this isn't mean spirited and bullying - name calling and insulting to silence someone - then I don't know what is.

Mr. Silberstein is a journalist, who has written for many well-known publications. A journalist's defense of the first amendment is like a religious conviction. Otherwise, it is not journalism - it's propaganda. Journalists have been killed in defense of the free speech. Justifying the silencing of a speaker because someone perceives them as being lower quality is not only a violation of the First Amendment, but a sure slide towards fascism. At no point in his tweet did Silberstein refute anything that Hen talked about. He did not mention the content of his speeches. He stated that he is of "low quality", a "provocateur", and even asserted that Hen was pleased with getting interrupted, that it is part of some hidden agenda. He wrote, "Hen plays dirty". I challenge anyone to show me one thing in his tweet that was a "thoughtful and critical assessment of Hen at @Vassar." You can't, because this was a classic argumentum ad hominem, an attack on the person, rather than the stance. It is mean spirited, and it is bullying.

When I wrote my response to Silberstein, I did the opposite of what he did. Not once did I attack him personally, but rather his argument.


Whereas Silberstein stated Hen was of low quality, worthy of censure and ridicule, I responded to Silberstein's comments only. His comment was disgusting. His assessment was wrong and mean spirited. What he wrote was bullying. I did not call him disgusting, or mean spirited. I wrote it of his comment only. I stand by what I wrote and I challenge anyone to show me where I am wrong.

Besides the ad hominem attack on Hen, there is another point that is very troubling. Abe Silberstein notes in his bio that he is a writer for the Israel Policy Forum. If you look on their website, you will find his bio there listing him as a contributor.  The Statement of Principles of the Israel Policy Forum on their website reads:

They present themselves as "staunch supporters of the security and well-being of the State of Israel, the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people", with "the goal of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, consistent with Israel's security needs." How can they support a safe Israel and push a two-state solution when they have someone writing for them who justifies chants of "from the river to the sea" which signals the destruction of Israel, and who bullies a person online that has consistently advocated for the two-state solution? I posted that question to them in my reply.

After my reply to Silberstein, he blocked me and I forgot about it, until a fellow Twitter user informed me that a director for the New Israel Fund (NIF) was slandering me.

Harry Reis is listed as the Director for Policy and Strategy on the NIF website. The NIF is a left wing organization, who's stated objective is:

"We work to shape the discourse and mobilize support among American Jewish leaders and U.S. policymakers for the realization of a viable two-state solution.  We do this by educating political and communal leaders on pragmatic policy ideas – developed by credible security experts. "

In his libelous tweet, he labels me as "pro-occupation right". This is a lie. He does not name me in the tweet but attaches an image of my tweet to Silberstein as reference. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not on the right, nor do I identify myself as right. I have conceptually and consistently maintained a position not dissimilar to the Israel Policy Forum of Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace as long as the security of Israel is maintained. To label me as a "pro-occupation", is an attack on my Twitter persona and what I try to accomplish.

He then says I "falsely + disingenuously" called Silberstein a bully. As, I have shown above, it was neither false nor disingenuous. He was bullying Hen, and my defense of him was genuine.

Reis then claimed that Silberstein's tweet about Hen was "a thoughtful and critical assessment". Insulting someone as "low quality", a "provocateur" and claiming that he secretly craves the protest to promote himself is not exactly a thoughtful assessment. It is garbage. Whether Silberstein is an "honest person of good character" I do not know and I never said otherwise. Before reading that tweet, I had never heard of him. But then Reis goes on to issue his own attack on Hen, claiming somehow what I wrote is proof that he "plays dirty". Great, now I’m part of a conspiracy - not only is Hen responsible for what other people write, but probably directs them to write it, according to Reis. Needless to say, there is nothing thoughtful or even truthful about his accusations.

His entire tweet was an attack on my character. It was filled with lies. It was damaging to my reputation. That he used a screenshot of my tweet but didn't have the decency to tag me in it so that I may defend myself speaks volumes of his character, not mine. Attached to his tweet was a string of replies attacking me with even more lies. I was even harassed directly because of his libelous tweet, called a "joke", a "troll", a "coward", and "garbage".

Another user, Rabbi Andy Kahn, parroted Reis words of "pro-occupation right", plus said I was a "shande (sic)" and a "bad faith actor".             

 Last I checked, before he blocked me, Reis' tweet has nearly 100 likes and several dozen comments, all bad mouthing me, an individual who dedicates his time to defending the very country Reis claims to care about. I may be anonymous right now, but that does not mean I plan on remaining anonymous forever. I chose to be anonymous at the moment for many reasons, including having received death threats. I have spent five years building a following on Twitter the right way. I do not spread hate. I do not discriminate. I spend hours doing historic research. The information I tweet is carefully checked and my reputation is important to me. The fact that he defamed me based on false information, and that has now spread through Twitter, is an attack on me personally, even if I am currently anonymous, and of my ability to one day accomplish the things I hope to.

The New Israel Fund is a large organization with dozens if not hundreds of employees, revenue and expenses in the millions, and very generous funding by some powerful people. It is Goliath. It is the proverbial 1%. I am sure Reis is well paid for his work at NIF. I on the other hand have a regular job completely unrelated to my advocacy. I defend Israel and do research on my own time. It is a labor of love. I have never made one penny doing it. In fact, in the times I have been published writing about Israel, I did not accept compensation and instead directed the editor to make a charitable contribution in my name. I am the David. I am the 99%. Here you have a powerful organization with millions of dollars at their disposal defaming with a libelous tweet the little guy, an individual whose Israel advocacy is balanced, thoughtful, and charitable. This is David versus Goliath. Many of the people that replied to Reis also blocked me, even as they continued to speak ill of me. It is not acceptable. I ask that the New Israel Fund and Mr. Reis issue an apology and retraction.

My tweet was in defense of Hen Mazzig. It was genuine. The tweets by Silberstein and Reis were mean spirited and filled with lies, which attacked people and not ideas. They were meant to silence us to advance only their point of view, one that is rejected by the vast majority of mainstream Jews. They were meant to humiliate. They were wrong, and yes, they were bullying.

UPDATE: Abe Silberstein sent me an apology for his tweet that he asked me to add to this article:

This past weekend, I published a tweet saying that pro-Israel groups should consider the quality of invited speakers amidst various campus controversies. I linked to a statement from Vassar College about a recent speech by Hen Mazzig that was interrupted by members of Students for Justice in Palestine with chants of "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free." I also suggested Hen may have welcomed such a reaction.

I deeply regret sending this tweet, which I have since deleted. Hen was grossly mistreated at Vassar and most certainly did not take pleasure in what happened. I let my strong personal disagreements with Hen get in the way of my better judgment, and I apologize to him for that.

I am sorry that Hen endured anti-Semitism during his talk and did not mean to justify it, though I understand why some may have seen it that way. I wish him nothing but the best for the future. 

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