Author: Burrows, Leah
Date published: October 21, 2010
Hundreds of people from around the world converged on Boston University last week to defend Israel against a war not being waged with bombs and terror, but with words and lies.
The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America organized a two-day conference featuring more than a dozen speakers and attended by 800 people each day, according to CAMERA president Andrea Levin.
Called "War by Other Means: The Global Campaign to DeIegitimize Israel," the conference focused on what many panelists called "anti-Semitic" misrepresentations of Israel in politics, the media and academia.
"Israel has been able to fend off attacks on the field of battle. Now it has to defend itself against a war of propaganda and demonization," said Levin.
CAMERA is a nationwide research and activist organization that monitors coverage of Israel in American media, and challenges reports it views as biased or false. It was founded in 1982 as a response to coverage by The Washington Post of the Lebanon War.
The Oct. 10-11 conference featured about 10 panel discussions, with topics such as antiSemitism in the United Nations, the growing wave of anti-Israel sentiment in Europe and Jewish "defamers" of Israel.
The speakers included Harvard law-school professor Alan Dershowitz, author Mark Steyn and Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens.
On both days, about a dozen protesters - mostly Boston University students representing Students for Justice in Palestine - stood outside the conference holding signs that read "End Israel Apartheid" and chanting "Free Palestine now!"
The audience attending the conference - the largest ever gathered by CAMERA, according to organizers - was mostly supportive, although one heated exchange erupted between Dershowitz and British conservative columnist Melanie Phillips.
Phillips, who writes for The Daily Mail of London, spoke on the first afternoon about "The British Hijacking of Reason." She asserted that the "mass derangement" and "complete departure of reason over the issue of Israel" are part of a wider pattern of unreasonable thought, espoused particularly by members of the "progressive intelligentsia."
She said that this loss of reason extends not only to liberal views of Israel, but also to global warming and the war in Iraq.
In a question-and-answer session that followed, Dershowitz criticized Phillips for making Israel a right-wing issue and alienating more liberal students.
"Don't you think that the worst way to get young people to support Israel is to give them a litmus test on global warming?" he posed. "You're turning Israel into an extreme, right-wing issue - and that's not Israel."
Audience members applauded both Phillips and Dershowitz as they made their points.
CALIFORNIA A PROBLEM
On the second day, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a Hebrew professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz, gave a presentation about what she saw as growing anti-Semitism on California campuses.
Jewish students who support the State of Israel are being verbally attacked and physically intimidated, Rossman-Benjamin said, with no intervention by university leadership.
Anti-Israel and anti-Semitic speakers have been invited to speak on campus "under the cloak of academic acceptability," she said. "It's institutionalized anti-Semitism. If speakers spoke out against African-American students or Arab students, there would be an uproar. But there is no protection for Jewish students."
Dershowitz urged the audience to go on the offensive - a theme repeated throughout the conference.
In the workshop sessions on the opening day, speakers discussed how to write effective letters to editors and politicians, and how to use social media on behalf of Israel.
"We have to stop employing defense lawyers and starting employing the prosecution," said Bret Stephens, the conference's closing speaker.
Stephens, a self-proclaimed "right-of-center" foreign-affairs columnist for The Wall Street Journal, said the media needs to employ "full-spectrum journalism" when covering the Mideast.
Journalists do not hold Israel and the rest of the Middle East to the same standards, he said.
"Where everything is expected, nothing is forgiven," continued Stephens. "Where nothing is expected, everything is forgiven. Israel cannot always be the country where everything is expected."
The Jewish Advocate