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Sunday, December 12, 2010

OISE: Social Science Captured by the New Dogmatists


Here are more details about the extent of ultra-left dominance at the Sociology Department at OISE.

Captive social science is not new, of course, nor is it restricted to OISE. Here is a course description for an offering at Wheaton College in Illinois, an Evangelical Christian institution:

ANTH 355. Human Origins. This course surveys the biological and cultural evidence for fossil humans and seeks to understand that evidence within a Christian framework that is true to the integrity of the data, philosophy of science, biblical hermeneutics, and theology.

Before modern times, teachings about society were widely constrained by the dogmatic prescriptions of religious institutions. And of course the Nazi and Soviet dictatorships admitted no viewpoint except their own.

Now at the Department of Sociology and Equity Studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (University of Toronto), we have a fairly modern and fashionable version: social science held captive by ultra-left dogmatists. There are two interesting features of this new dogmatism: 1) it is not freely agreed to by its constituency, as is the case with the Evangelical Christians, nor 2) is it enforced by state power. Instead it has come about and is enforced by stealth: the new dogmatists have been able to seize control of a publicly-financed institution, and they seem to perpetuate their control through their power over recruitment procedures. The closest analogue are the Communist-controlled trade unions that existed in North America for a number of decades in the last century.

My previous posts have focused on how the SESE dogmatics have affected the writing of graduate theses. Here I am concerned over how SESE faculty members describe their professional interests. One of the SESE web pages lists 16 Teaching Faculty, 5 Sessional lecturers, and 11 Cross-Appointed Associated Faculty, for a total of thirty-two SESE professors and instructors. Next to each person's name is a listing of "Teaching Emphasis." In twenty-one of these thirty-two, these descriptions indicate adherence to left-wing dogma.

Sometimes this adherence seems mild and almost inoffensive, as when it quietly lists "gender" or "gender studies" (more on that later). But in many other cases these listing are very much in-your-face: "Anti-racism and domination studies,… anti-colonial thought", "Gender, colonialism … black feminism, anti-racist education."

And perhaps even more interesting is what is not in these listings. I found nobody prepared to teach research methods, nobody interested in statistics. So here is a sociology entirely devoid of quantitative methods. How can that possibly wash ? Haven't any of the U of T powers-that-be noticed that ?

Faculty attitudes toward Jews and Israel are not shown in the listings of "teaching emphasis." But seven out of the thirty-two are publicly on record as condemning Israel, as shown by their signatures on petitions dated Jan. 12, Feb. 27, and Feb. 28 of 2009. At about the same time other academics signed petitions favoring Israel, but I was not able find SESE names on that kind of statement. Now obviously, a faculty member can have a private life, and in that private life can express political views of any and all sorts. But as we have seen in the current discussion on the Peto and Epstein theses -- the only recent SESE theses dealing with Jews -- all of the SESE scholarship on that topic suggests, not to put too fine a point on it, that the vast majority of Jews are Fascist pigs. Surely more can be said on the subject ? Apparently not, apparently not at SESE.

The most often mentioned "teaching emphasis" in these listings is "gender." (In addition, there are numerous mentions of "feminism.") On the surface, "gender" appears to be neutral; it could mean an entirely scholarly interest in sex differences in learning, or whatnot. But in the current context I found that an interest in "gender" is short-hand for a desire to engage in advocacy on behalf of a grievance-based political action. In every case that I have been able to check in this SESE context, "gender" means that there is perceived disadvantage to women, and thus a grievance that requires redress by way of writing and teaching at SESE.

To appreciate just how deleterious this stance is to scholarship, let us recall the well-established and often replicated data concerning sex differences in mathematical abilities. On average, the two populations, male and female, seem very close or perhaps identical on this trait. But when you look at the relatively small number of people who are in the very highest level of mathematical ability, there is a very marked, stark difference. At this very highest level, men outperform women dramatically. These findings are robust and remain after the application of control values.

The findings are a challenge to scholars. How do we explain them ? There is no simple answer, and certainly not one that insists on environmental variables alone. But while we have no simple answers, we do know that the feminist "gender" approach, which is dogmatic and a-priori and always apologist, cannot possibly be at all satisfactory.

These two examples -- the study of Jews, the problem of sex differences -- may seem extreme or isolated, but I think that they point to a very general problem, viz. the systematic anti-scientific, anti-intellectual subversion of academic life by the new dogmatists. And unfortunately, it is most unlikely that OISE is the only institution so affected.

My related postings on this topic:

The Frauds of OISE

The World is Flat !

My correspondence with U of T officials

For OISE, the Peto Thesis Was no Aberration

Eighteen OISE Theses

Prolegomena to the Study of Jews Who Hate Israel

OISE: Social Science Captured by the New Dogmatists

Also: Read Robyn Urback's analysis of the Peto thesis

Friday, December 10, 2010

Eighteen OISE Theses

Eighteen OISE Theses

A Report Submitted to President David Naylor,

University of Toronto


Werner Cohn, Dec. 10, 2010

Introduction: The public attention that has been paid to the Peto thesis (and to a lesser extent the equally objectionable Epstein work) has raised the following question: can the principle of academic freedom override the need for objectivity in scholarship ? U. of T. pronouncements so far have used this principle – freedom – to dismiss criticisms of faulty scholarship in these theses. Obviously, political partisanship and scholarly integrity do not always and necessarily exclude one another. Nobody has ever claimed that scholarship can be neutral in any sort of absolute way. It is a matter of degree. We, the critics of OISE in this matter, have said that the political agitation that dominates Peto’s work, her complete neglect of the empirical work by others, and the imprimatur granted to all this by the University of Toronto – all these factors hurt the scholarly reputation of one of the world’s great universities.

In this Report, I suggest that the unfortunate results of the Peto thesis are related to a larger systemic problem at OISE.

The following is an analysis of all of the 36 currently internet-available theses completed at the SESE department of OISE, University of Toronto.

In half the cases, these theses appear to be so marred by political jargon and political preconceptions that they should never have been accepted into the corpus in which they are in fact found, viz. a collection of putative contributions to knowledge -- theses officially certified by the University of Toronto.

The University of Toronto’s website shows thirty-five recent theses that were accepted in the Department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education (SESE) of U of T’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). To this I have added one additional thesis (thus making a total of thirty-six SESE theses), by Griffin Epstein, which was completed in a different department of OISE but which was supervised by a SESE faculty member, Sheryl Nestel.

The U of T website gives direct access to the abstract of each thesis, and also provides a facility for the downloading of each of the theses in pdf format. As a result, any reader can check for himself whether he agrees with the opinions I express here concerning these theses.

I have read the abstracts of all eighteen theses and have determined, on a prima facie basis, that eighteen of these works are so politicized that – again on a prima facie basis – I would not accept them as scholarly contributions. Obviously, had I done a more complete study of the theses themselves, it is conceivable, but not probable, that I would have reached a somewhat different conclusion.

Not only do these eighteen theses propound political agendas rather than detached scholarship, but the politics of all eighteen are of one sort and one sort only: radical leftism. I found no thesis that, for instance, urged a conservative viewpoint, or a Christian one, or, Heaven forbid, Zionism. This political uniformity of the theses contradicts the recent statements by U of T officials to the effect that OISE promotes freedom of speech and diversity of opinion. OISE, or at least SESE, does not seem to be a place where deviation from the left-wing orthodoxy is at all tolerated.

I did read the complete theses in two cases, the one by Jennifer Peto and the one by Griffin Epstein. As I explained elsewhere : a) I found neither of these to have any scholarly merit whatever, and b) I found them both to consist of hate propaganda, possibly in violation of the Criminal Code of Canada, Sections 318 – 20.

Here are extracts from the abstracts of the 18 politicized theses:


This qualitative study examines the social, spiritual and political role the Black Oneness Churches play in Black communities. It also provides an anti-colonial examination of the Afro-Caribbean Oneness ..... But 40 years later, the insidious nature of colonization has weaved through the church and “prosperity theology” as an impetus of colonialism has reshaped the social justice role of Black Churches.


....In this thesis I will explore this ruling using a methodological approach that engages practices of: self-reflexivity; tracing historical and political genealogies; and case study analysis.... Through an engagement with transnational and black feminist theorizing, anticolonial studies, and disability studies, I will suggest that “medical inadmissibility” is one of many regulatory mechanisms that work to fashion the Canadian nation-state as white, healthy, fit, and productive.


Curricula in classrooms facilitate a national amnesia of colonialism that renders inconceivable the possibility of Aboriginal heritage or mixed-blood presence in national subjects. .... I argue that this facilitates ongoing Canadian colonialism that continues to circumvent the possibility of particular mixed-blood Aboriginal identities within the confines of national belonging...


In recent years, there has been a significant amount of new attention to white dominance and privilege (or whiteness) as the often unmarked inverse of racial oppression. This interest has spawned the academic domain called Critical Whiteness Studies (CWS). While the critical investigation of whiteness is not new, and has been pioneered by Black scholars beginning at least since the early 1900s in the work of W. E. B. Du Bois, what is notable about this new interest in whiteness is its advancement almost exclusively by white scholars ... It outlines the importance of Black embodied knowledge to racial equity work ...


.... By using African centered paradigms, Afrocentricity and juxtaposing robust anti-colonial and Black feminist thoughts, the thesis investigates and recreates systematic narratives


Framed within an Anishnaabe method and an anti-colonial discursive framework, this thesis explores how Aboriginal students confront narratives of colonial violence in the postsecondary .... I trace how education for Aboriginal peoples has always been and continues to be part of the colonial regime—one that is marked by violence, abuse and a regime that has had devastating consequences for Aboriginal peoples....


This body of work endeavours to interrogate mainstream media and popular culture [mis]representations of racialized persons, in addition to the negative impact such imageries have on identity formation processes....The ultimate goal of this project is to propel racialized students to move away from the [mis]educative effects of the media, toward beginning to define themselves on their own terms.


This thesis presents a case study of Canada’s first Black owned radio station, FLOW 93.5 FM, to demonstrate how official multiculturalism, in its formulation and implementation, negates Canada’s history of slavery and racial inequality.... As a result, multiculturalism poses serious consequences for imagining and engaging with Blackness as a politics that may address the needs of Black communities in Canada.


.... Analyses of these topics are taken up from an anti-racist and critical mixed race studies perspective.


... First, I examine how the media socially constructed the Somali identity through a colonial gaze in a Toronto Life article. ....Finally, I stress the importance of and the need for Somali youth to engage in de-colonizing/ de-racialization processes that encompasses their re-discovery of their indigenous Somaliness.


...This thesis builds on the work of critical researchers who locate the Chilean authoritarian regime in the transnational politics of the Cold War and their effect in implementing neo-liberalism in Chile. This literature demonstrates that terror was a constitutive, rather than an incidental, element of neo-liberal governmentality: governmentality that inscribed itself on Chilean bodies through terror practices and that remains unscathed through the transition to democracy .... I propose that human rights constitute a biopolitical governmental regime that in a manner comparable to the authoritarian terror captures human life within the realm of state power. As a regime, human rights submit experiences of terror to specific power-knowledge technologies that render terror intelligible, manageable and governable. Rather than promoting essential values of truth and justice, the human rights regime produces specific discourses of truth and justice as well as specific discourses of subjectivity and nation. In concrete terms, this thesis explores how the post-authoritarian nation and it subjects use the human rights regime to discursively construct a national truth in order to promote and protect specific governmental arrangements.


... Working from an anti-racist framework, this research interviews two teachers who have used the novel in their classrooms, and considers the value and limitations of the book as an anti-racist teaching tool. ... I also examine the ways that Bifocal – and young adult literature in general – can be read in order to encourage more critical discussions about systems of racism and privilege.


.... My background in feminism, queer studies, anti-racism, critical theory and social justice, as well as my interest in consciousness and psychedelics, led me to conduct a literature review and analyze it with a critical framework. The literature showed an overwhelming gap in the field in regards to inclusion and analysis of issues pertaining to race, gender and class. This gap needs to be addressed ....


This paper focuses on issues of Jewish identity, whiteness and victimhood within hegemonic Holocaust education. I argue that today, Jewish people of European descent enjoy white privilege and are among the most socio-economically advantaged groups in the West...


In A White Wedding? The Racial Politics of Same-Sex Marriage, I examine the inter-locking relations of power that constitute the lesbian/gay subject recognized by the Canadian nation-state as deserving of access to civil marriage. ... By centring a critical race/queer conceptual framework, this research project follows the discursive practices of respectability, freedom and civility that circulate both widely and deeply in this legal struggle. I contend that in order to successfully shed its historical markers of degeneracy, the lesbian/gay subject must be constituted not as a sexed citizen but rather as a neoliberal citizen, one who is intimately tied to notions of privacy, property, autonomy and freedom of choice, and hence one who is racialized as white. .... The conclusion of this thesis provides reflections for developing an ethics of activism that dislodges and resists the (re)production of racialized relations of power in lesbian and gay equality rights activism. In so doing, I seek to provoke, question and re-draw the landscape of our thinking, not only about same-sex marriage but also about the terms with which we conceive, articulate and practice racial and sexual justice.


...Using an anti-colonial and post-colonial theoretical framework, the study situates the education system of Bangladesh within its histories of colonial domination and argues that the discourses present in these textbooks reflect colonial forms of racism and oppression, and reproduce class and ethnic hierarchies characteristic of the larger Bangladeshi society. ...


... My research problem emerges from earlier feminist research addressing the low numbers of women in university Computer Science programs, particularly at the graduate level. After over twenty years of active feminist representation of this problem, mostly through large survey-based studies, there has been little change. ..., I demonstrate how they variously endorse, subvert and exploit the contradictory subject positions produced for them. I illustrate how a North American-based institutional feminist representation of ‘women in computing’ ignores the everyday experiences of ethnoculturally diverse female student participants in graduate Computer Science studies. I argue that rather than accepting the organization of universal characteristics which reproduce conditions of exclusion, North American feminist scholars need to consider the specificity of social relations and forms of knowledge transnationally..


note: this thesis, under the supervision of SESE faculty member Sheryl Nestel, was completed in OISE’s Department of Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning

Can we be accountable to privilege? Can we find a space for coherent anti-racist secular Ashkenazi Jewish identity in North America, where Jews have been deeply implicated in structural violence? Can we be agents of both complicity and change?

My related postings on this topic:

The Frauds of OISE

The World is Flat !

My correspondence with U of T officials

For OISE, the Peto Thesis Was no Aberration

Eighteen OISE Theses

Prolegomena to the Study of Jews Who Hate Israel

OISE: Social Science Captured by the New Dogmatists

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

For OISE, the Peto thesis was no aberration

Ms. Peto of SESE, doing what SESE
Adapted from Toronto Star

The University of Toronto has now backed down on the subject of the anti-Jewish Peto thesis, if only just a little and if only disingenuously. When the story first broke, U of T officials insisted on the following mantra: the thesis is fully protected by principles of freedom of speech. Period. Criticisms from outside scholars stating that the thesis has no scholarly merit, regardless of its point of view, were simply ignored. Instead, U of T officials kept suggesting that the critics were motivated by a desire to suppress freedom, that they are, more or less, Fascists. Offense was the U of T's defense.

(The thesis was completed at U of T's Ontario Institute for Studies in Education [OISE}, more particularly in OISE's Department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education [SESE].)

Now the tone has changed, a little:
U of T provost Cheryl Misak said she has been “a little alarmed at the kinds of things being said about a piece of student work.”

“It would be a good idea for us all to remember that it’s a student paper,” she said Tuesday. “I don’t know this student, but I certainly wouldn’t want to see this kind of scrutiny and unhappy attention on students in general.” (According to a report in the Toronto Star)

"So," Ms. Misak seems to say, "well, yes, maybe this thesis isn't so perfect after all, but come on, it's a student paper, you know, and students will be students." Wrong, Ms. Misak. Surely, being a provost, you know the difference between a "student paper" and an officially imprimatured M.A. thesis ?

The Star now tells us that Ms. Peto's work has received unfavorable attention in the Ontario legislature, and not a minute too soon. But the Peto thesis is no aberration at OISE, and the public's attention should not be confined to it. On the contrary, the thesis is unfortunately rather typical of what is done at OISE, at least in OISE's Department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education. As we shall see, OISE, or at least SESE, often resembles a political cult more than an institution of higher learning.

1) Peto's thesis supervisor, Sheryl Nestel, supervised at least one other recent anti-Jewish MA thesis, by a student called Griffin Epstein (2009). I find this work a totally incoherent anti-Jewish rant, a piece of free association without any pretense of academic argument. While it has less structure and less neo-Marxist rhetoric than Peto's thesis, the basic ideas are strikingly similar: the Jews are a racist bunch, responsible for the death of innumerable Palestinian children.

2) I have looked at the abstracts of the thirty-six SESE theses available online (including one supervised by Nestel in a different OISE department). I found eighteen of these to be so full of leftist position-taking that it would appear, prima facie, that there is no attempt at scholarly detachment in these works. I did not find anyone who professed a conservative, or Christian, or, G-d forbid, a Zionist point of view.

3) The website of SESE maintains that the Department is, in fact, a "constitutional democracy:"

The department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education (SESE) is organized as a constitutional democracy with a General Assembly and Standing Committees which provide policy and decision-making in departmental programs, selection of incoming students, etc. .... Our constitution is based on one person/one vote, and everyone in the Department (staff, faculty, and registered students) has voting rights and is welcome to participate in the General Assembly.....

Does that mean that the students vote on academic matters, on equal footing with faculty ? That would be a bit curious, to say the least. And more in line with a political movement than with a university department.

4) The cult-like terminology that I found in the MA abstracts is also used by faculty, including the Department Chair, Professor Rinaldo Walcott. Professor Walcott's specialty is "Black queer theory." And at least six of the SESE teaching staff, including the Chair, can be seen together as a cozy bunch when signing anti-Israel pronouncements and petitions (the statements I have checked are dated 1/27/09 and 2/27/09; obviously there are many more that I could have consulted).

So here are my conclusions:

A) SESE, and perhaps even OISE as a whole, is a nice warm place for those who agree on a radical left-wing worldview. There is a lot of "freedom of speech," as they would put it, for these co-thinkers. There does not seem to be much of that freedom for others.

B) SESE, and perhaps even OISE, is more of a cult than an institution of higher learning.

C) Obviously, these nice folk have every right in the world to believe and to proclaim that Israel is evil, or that the moon is made of green cheese. But do they have a right to i) call themselves scholars ? or to ii) conspire to have the Ontario taxpayer finance their nice little cult ?

D) Perhaps it's time for the U of T to cut itself free from its OISE encumbrance.

My related postings on this topic:

The Frauds of OISE

The World is Flat !

My correspondence with U of T officials

For OISE, the Peto Thesis Was no Aberration

Eighteen OISE Theses

Prolegomena to the Study of Jews Who Hate Israel

OISE: Social Science Captured by the New Dogmatists

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The world is flat ! The moon is made of green cheese !

Do you have a sincere belief that the world is flat ? The University of Toronto will give you an M.A. for saying so. Do you think the moon is made of green cheese ? Ditto. Do you think that Jews, though they may look like humans, are actually pigs and/or monkeys ? An M.A. -- perhaps a Ph.D. -- is yours, again, of course, compliments of the U. of T. And, it goes without saying, compliments of the Ontario taxpayer.

Or so it would seem, judging by how the U. of T. has replied to critics of the MA that it awarded to Jennifer Peto. That MA, it will be recalled, held that the Jews of the world, mainly through Holocaust education, oppress the "people of colour" throughout the world.

Those who criticized this MA made three points, in order of importance:

1) The thesis was devoid of scholarship

2) It was untruthful

3) It was hateful

The U. of T. has now answered all three of these criticisms in a statement that may be condensed as follows: We believe in freedom of speech; to us freedom of speech is absolute. You, the critics of the thesis, are out to suppress academic freedom. Neither integrity of scholarship, nor indeed scholarship of any sort seems to enter the U. of T.'s thinking. Here is the statement, as reported by the Canadian Jewish News:
Responding to a request for an interview, the University of Toronto issued a written statement by vice-president and provost Cheryl Misak: “Due to our privacy obligations to students, I cannot discuss an individual student’s academic work or his or her performance. What I can, say, however, is that freedom of expression issues are ever-present in our society, especially on a university campus. The University of Toronto’s Statement on Freedom of Speech makes it clear that freedom of inquiry lies at the very heart of our institution: ‘all members of the University must have as a prerequisite freedom of speech and expression, which means the right to examine, question, investigate, speculate and comment on any issue without reference to prescribed doctrine, as well as the right to criticize the University and society at large.’

“Of the thousands of MA theses written at the University of Toronto in partial fulfilment of degree requirements, it is inevitable that some will have elements that offend various individuals and groups. In such cases, the university is committed to allowing and encouraging a full range of debate. The best way for controversy to unfold is for members of our community to engage with the perspectives and arguments they dispute. It is intelligent argument, not censorship, that lies at the heart of our democratic society and its institutions.”

I have received similar statements from the President of the U. of T. and the Dean of OISE (see below for the link to this correspondence). In each instance, these University officials made the insulting suggestion that the critics of Ms. Peto's thesis are motivated by a desire to restrict freedom of speech. Neither President nor Dean took notice of the fact that the criticism of the thesis concerned its scholarship, not its point of view.

I cannot believe that this can be the final word from one of the world's great universities. The many great scholars there, and the friends of the University around the world, simply cannot allow this to happen.

See my correspondence with U. of T.'s President Naylor and OISE's Dean O'Sullivan.

See story in Toronto Star of Dec. 7

My related postings on this topic:

The Frauds of OISE

The World is Flat !

My correspondence with U of T officials

For OISE, the Peto Thesis Was no Aberration

Eighteen OISE Theses

Prolegomena to the Study of Jews Who Hate Israel

OISE: Social Science Captured by the New Dogmatists

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Frauds of OISE

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education

OISE, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, is associated with the University of Toronto, one of the world's foremost institutions of learning. And now this year OISE has given its imprimatur to a hateful and fraudulent piece of anti-Semitic propaganda. And it all started with a misguided but apparently sincere student who was allowed to vent her hateful emotions ...

There is a striking scene in the classic documentary about the Wannsee Conference -- the 1942 meeting of Nazi leaders to plan the Holocaust. One of the attending Nazi officials urges quick action against any remaining Jews in German cities. "Can you tolerate," he says, or words to that effect, "that Mrs. Israel and Mr. Cohen should live in comfort in our cities while our brave soldiers suffer on the front ?" The man was so sincere in his outrage; no wonder he quickly obtained the approval of his assembled accomplices.

And so is Ms. Jennifer Peto sincere. I can summarize her thesis at OISE, "The Victimhood of the Powerful; White Jews, Zionism, and the Racism of Hegemonic Holocaust Education" as follows:
The Ashkenazi Jews of the world, in particular those in North America, constitute an over-privileged White group which is ever trying to extend its hegemony over others, especially people of color. To that end, these Jews have organized various forms of Holocaust remembrances. Such observances serve to oppress Palestinians and people of color everywhere. Decent people, for example the author of this thesis, have therefore been forced to become anti-Zionist Jews and Palestine solidarity activists, as well as, apparently not incidentally, activists for LGBT rights.
Does this point of view make sense ? As a point of view, as an emotion, yes it does. Ms. Peto thinks she is right, and she declaims her beliefs with disarming verve and obvious sincerity. It is the sincerity of someone with a strong and consuming idée fixe. And she is an autodidact who knows how to quote from others, whenever that seems to serve the cause, and thus to give her thesis the sheen of formal scholarship.The only problem is that the footnotes and references to the literature in no way support her contentions, and that she does not muster facts or data of any kind to give her thesis the weight of an academic argument.

As it happens, the sociological literature is exceptionally rich in empirical studies of Canadian and US Jews (to which I have made modest contributions in the past), their demography, political alignments, and ideological commitments. But Ms. Peto's bibliography is strictly bereft of empirical work. To take one example, the problem of political alignments of North American Jews. If US Jews were indeed committed, as Ms. Peto contends, "tirelessly" so, to "align [themselves] with oppressive forces in their own country" (p. 6), "especially [against] people of color" (p. 78), how would they have voted in 2008, two years before Ms. Peto completed her opus ? For Obama or for McCain ? Well, the empirical data show an overwhelming Jewish support for Obama, exactly what Ms. Peto's thesis holds could not have happened. She does not deign to discuss these widely-available data. She does not discuss any data. She cannot, apparently, be distracted from her holy rage by mere facts.

From the point of view of scholarship, there is a most telling item on the very first page of Ms. Peto's thesis. She recalls that when she was in 9th grade, in 1995, she attended a Jewish school (unnamed) in Toronto at the time that the Jewish extremist Baruch Goldstein killed some 49 Arabs in a rampage in Israel. Ms. Peto tells us that her teacher supported Goldstein, and that she, the fifteen-year-old, had difficulties with both the teacher and principal about the matter. She tells this story as a pivotal point in her awakening to the evils of "the oppressive beliefs of my parents, teachers, and religious leaders" (p.2).

I can see how to a 15-year old, or even to the now-thirty-year-old ideologue that she is today, this unexamined putative incident can loom large. But it is purely subjective. The value of our scholarly tradition is that it can take such subjective events and test them against objectively-available social data. The obvious question, from a scholarly point of view, is whether what Ms. Peto remembers as having taken place in her (unnamed) Toronto school is in any way typical of the reactions of Canadian or North American Jews. The record happens to be very clear. All sections of world Jewry, with only tiny exceptions in very restricted ultra-religious circles, reacted with shame and horror at the deeds of Baruch Goldstein. Why didn't it occur to Ms. Peto to examine (or, as she would put it, "interrogate") the record of world Jewry's reaction to Goldstein ? Because she is in no way a scholar, obviously; because empirical data mean nothing to her, as indeed they mean nothing to the ideologues of any sort. I do not blame her for this. She is entitled to believe as she wishes, to be in the throes of any delusion that she was unfortunate enough to contract.

But it is a different matter with OISE, a taxpayer-financed institution affiliated with the world-famous University of Toronto. OISE has accepted this thesis, it is being made available to the world under the OISE imprimatur, and it is OISE that, in effect, promotes a fraud by sponsoring wild accusations and hatreds as if they had a scholarly basis.

In her introduction, Ms. Peto pays tribute to her OISE thesis supervisor, Professor Sheryl Nestel. Now why didn't Professor Nestel press her student to take a scholarly approach to evidence ? One answer may be that Prof. Nestel herself is identified, on the internet, as an anti-Israel activist. But the true fault obviously lies in OISE itself, since it does not seem to have institutional safeguards against passing off subjective feelings as verified facts.

The Baruch Goldstein story in this thesis -- suggesting that the Jews of the world supported Goldstein when in fact they overwhelmingly rejected him -- is part of the anti-Semitic fraud that is perpetrated by OISE here. But only part of it. The thesis as a whole -- no matter how forgivable when presented by an untutored naif -- is an act of both fraud and hatred when it comes from the halls of academe. And let's not forget that the perpetrators receive their salaries from the taxpayers of Ontario.

Read my my correspondence with U. of T. President David Naylor and OISE's Dean Sullivan

For more information on this thesis, and on yet another thesis at OISE under the tutelage of the same thesis adviser, see the article and blog by Richard Klagsbrun.

Klagsbrun suggests that if you are unhappy about the goings on at OISE, you may wish to write to John Milloy, the Ontario Minister of Colleges and Universities,

Also, see story in Toronto Star of Dec. 7

And the column by Geoffrey Alderman in London's Jewish Chronicle

My related postings on this topic:

The Frauds of OISE

The World is Flat !

My correspondence with U of T officials

For OISE, the Peto Thesis Was no Aberration

Eighteen OISE Theses

Prolegomena to the Study of Jews Who Hate Israel

OISE: Social Science Captured by the New Dogmatists

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The "Rabbis" of the "Jewish" Voice for "Peace"

4/1/1933. Nazis inaugurate the Holocaust by putting on a Day of Boycott: "Don't Buy from the Jews"

OK, you hate Israel. You want to punish Israel, to boycott Israel, even as the Nazis began their war against the Jews by a "boycott" of Jewish enterprise back in 1932. Boycott, divestment, sanction. Punish the Jews !

But how can you contribute to this cause in a novel way ? As a beginning, call your campaign one of "peace." The word "hate" has a bad reputation, so look, call it "peace."

Second, hey, here is a new concept. Call your group "Jewish." Why not ? Is there a law against calling yourself Jewish ? Besides, so many of your friends are Jewish. And come to think of it, there was this old aunt ….

Now we're on to something. Just one more thing: can we get a Rabbinical Council of some sort to make it all legit ? Great. The Jewish Voice for Peace is born, Rabbinical Council and all, to demand the dismantlement of Israel, pronto.

I know, all this sounds like a joke, but in fact it's dead serious. So serious that the Anti-Defamation League has just named this "Jewish Voice for Peace" as one of the top ten anti-Israel groups in America. Click here for the ADL report on the group. And click here for Adam Holland's earlier report.

This JVP, how many members does it have ? Holland thinks there may be about a thousand, but there is no way of telling for sure. And of these, how many are Jewish by some reasonable definition ? I do not know, but the group itself, on its website, says that it includes "many non-Jewish Americans." Ah, "many,' that great flexible adjective so beloved by the evasive. "Many" can mean anything from 'quite a few,' to 'the majority,' to 'almost all.' Which is it, JVP ?
I will not guess. But there is no need to guess about the "rabbis" who are listed by JVP as members of its "New Rabbinical Council." As we shall see, sixteen out of these twenty-seven Rabbinical Council members, or sixty percent, cannot, by any reasonable definition, be called Jewish rabbis.

Here are some excerpts from the website of one of these, whom I shall call X., which, broadly speaking, illustrates the problem:

Rabbi X. received סמיכה (Smichah, Ordination) in 1977. In keeping with the ancient Talmudic and early Hassidic traditions, he did not attend Yeshivah (Seminary); rather, in 1970, he attached himself as a student to Rabbi Y. of New York and studied under the direction of Rabbi Z. and Rabbis A. ז”ל and B. for some seven years. Finally, in 1977, when his teachers determined that he was ready, they ordained him a rabbi.

In the early 1980s, Rabbi X. served for two years as the spiritual leader of Temple C., a Reform congregation in D.. He has also led less formal fellowship groups (havurot) in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Georgia, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He served for eight years as a hospital and hospice chaplain, with a specialty in Mental Health Chaplaincy.

Rabbi X. has taught classes and led workshops and seminars at churches, synagogues, and other spiritual centers throughout the United States and Canada. His subjects have included Kabbalah (the Jewish metaphysical tradition and the foundation of all Western mysticism), Self-Esteem, Prosperity, Forgiveness, the Metaphysical Interpretation of Scripture, Spiritual Tales of Many Traditions, the Divine Commandment of Non-Violence, the Unity of Religious Traditions, and many related areas. His audiences have included synagogue groups, Silva Mind Control Centers, Vedanta Centers, and Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran, Unity, Religious Science, Science of Mind, and Divine Science churches in twenty-seven states, the District of Columbia, and three Canadian provinces.

When asked about his approach to Kabbalah, Rabbi X. asserts that, while Kabbalah is clearly and unmistakably the Jewish mystical tradition, it is also much more than that. Unlike many other religious traditions, whose mystical elements are hidden or consigned to the status of an additional or peripheral aspect, Judaism's mystical aspect is its heart and soul, its essence, its very life-force. Furthermore, Kabbalah, in addition to being the heart of Judaism, is also, as Rabbi X. puts it, "a body of ancient and universal mystical wisdom which, while preserved in a Jewish form, is applicable to every religious tradition."

In describing his own theological orientation, Rabbi X. declares, "I am a Jewish practitioner of generic religion. As a G*d-worshipper, I believe, I ought to be at home any place G*d is worshipped. At home, not just a visitor." Religion — all religion — is intended to be a force to bring people together — together with each other and together with G*d — and not to drive them apart. All our many Names for G*d do not divide G*d and should not be permitted to divide us. Separations and divisions are inherently irreligious acts.
So much for "Rabbi" X. Of the twenty-seven of JVP's Rabbinical Council, eight are identified as rabbinical students, and another Council member is said to be a cantor. That leaves eighteen who are said to be rabbis. Of these eighteen there are three who appear to have had a standard Reform Jewish ordination, but one of these three, now aged 89, is long retired. In addition to these three with apparently traditional rabbinical training, there are eight who seem to have received training and ordination at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. These eleven -- three Reform and eight Reconstructionist -- would all seem to have some claim to be considered Jewish rabbis.

The distribution of these JVP rabbis along denominational lines, then, is as follows: Reform: 36%; Reconstruction: 73%; Conservative: 0%; Orthodox: 0%. We can compare this distribution to that of synagogue-affiliated American Jews, who, according to the 2002 American Jewish Population Study, are 33% Reform, 3% Reconstruction, 21% Orthodox, 33% Conservative, and 4% other.

Seven of the members of the JVP Rabbinical Council, or 39% of those for whom there is a claim of rabbininal ordination, were privately ordained -- essentially self-ordained, like Mr. X above.

Self-ordination is of course a general feature of the less savory aspects of American public life. Politicians and others sometimes refer to themselves as the Rev. This or the Rev. That, often with little more justification than that of Mr. X., pardon me, Rabbi X. There seems to be no law to prevent this silly self-aggrandizement, and often little harm is done; few are seriously misled. But here, in the case of the "Jewish Voice for Peace," something much more sinister is involved: an audacious, very energetic, very well financed initiative by enemies of the Jews to create an appearance of substantial Jewish support to them. I do not believe that there is such a substantial support. If there were, the JVP would have had no need to fabricate one.

Finally, there are other indications that the JVP leadership is highly unrepresentative of Jewish life. The group's IRS Form 990, showing its board members and other interesting information, lists five women among its trustees. Of these, two are also identified on the Internet as involved with Lesbian causes. But none, as far I can see, are concerned with such humanitarian issues as hunger, oppression, or disease in Africa or other parts of the Third World. I cannot tell all the possible areas of private compassion of these JVP leaders, but as far as the public record is concerned, none of their compassion is expended for Jewish targets of Islamic terror, for example, or indeed for anyone at all except Palestinians.

Read CAMERA's report on JVP

Read Frontpagemag's report on JVP

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ms. L. and Mrs. R.: Drama at the Park Slope Food Coop

As I have shown in a previous posting, the PSFC is a territory that is free from the First Amendment: speech that is "racist, sexist, homophobic or nasty" is punishable by banishment from the Coop. (Did you think that the PSFC is about food rather than righteous thinking ? You were wrong.)

Now here is a hypothetical little drama played out on one of the long waiting lines of the Coop.

Dramatis personae: 1) Ms. L. Proud member of all progressive caucuses in all neighborhood groups; spokesperson for LGBT committees; pro-choice; generally anti-Establishment. 2) Mrs. R. High-church Episcopalian; pro-life; life-long Republican.

Both are members of PSFC, but have, shall we say, little disagreements with one another on non-food matters. On this hypothetical day they found themselves together as "linewaiters" at the Coop and fell into conversation. Their discussion was spirited, others joined in, and there was a bit of a hubub. In the aftermath it was the consensus of the bystanders that one of the two ladies would have to be expelled from the organization. The group, it was generally agreed, is just not big enough to contain both L. and R.

The charges leveled against Ms. L were the following: sacrilege, blasphemy, profanity, and irreverence. The charges against Mrs. R were racism, sexism, homophobia, and nastiness.
So, applying PSFC rules, who will be out ? Who can remain in ? A Hearing Officer (who is also a proud member of the National Lawyers Guild) will be assigned and will no doubt apply the rules with neither fear nor favor.

Hamas gets around IRS rules to tap taxpayer money

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Park Slope Food Coop recruits to its KGB to fight Thievery and Homophobic Language

It's all held in "strict confidentiality." That's what "secret" means, as in Secret Police. For the scope of this KGB, scroll to the end of this posting. There are ordinary crimes like stealing and letting non-members shop (horrors !), but also more sophisticated ones, like using "homophobic language". First Amendment values do not seem to enter PSFC thinking -- but hey, the First Amendment is not what the KGB was all about in Moscow, either.

Hearing Officer Committee
Seeks New Members

The Hearing Office Committee is seeking two new
members. The committee conducts and presides
over disciplinary hearings, ensures that hearings
proceed in an efficient and unbiased manner and,
after a randomly selected Deciding Group has decided
whether an accused member violated a Coop rule,
determines what disciplinary action should be taken
against the member. Applicants should be Coop
members in good standing for at least two years,
have good attendance records and preferably have
judicial, arbitration, mediation or legal backgrounds.
Members of the committee meet and earn workslot
credit on an as-needed basis only, that is, when
hearings are required. Therefore these members
must maintain regular Coop workslots in good
standing or be FTOP members in good standing.
The nature of the committee’s work requires that all
members maintain strict confidentiality with respect
to all matters on which they work.
The committee seeks an applicant pool that reflects
the diversity of the Coop membership at large.
Those interested, please telephone Marian Hertz of
the Hearing Officer Committee at 212-440-2743 or
email at
From Linewaiters' Gazette, Official Newsletter of the Point Slope Food Coop, 3/10/2010

On page 3 of this very same Gazette, there is a description of what this little KGB "investigates":

Some of our work includes:
• Investigating allegations of misbehavior by members.
(i.e. failing to report for or to complete shifts, bringing in
non-members to shop, shopping while suspended, stealing,
using racist, sexist, homophobic or nasty language
against other Coop members and staff )

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad an Israeli Agent ?

To begin: No, I do not think that the Israeli government, or American Jews, or the American government, or the neo-conservatives, or anyone like that is paying Mr. M. Ahmadinejad to behave as he does. On the other hand ...
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is known for brash rhetoric in addressing the West, but in a speech Sunday he went a step further using a deeply offensive insult in response to U.S. statements that the military option against Iran is still on the table. "May the undertaker bury you, your table and your body, which has soiled the world," he said using language in Iran reserved for hated enemies. Washington Post, 10/3/10
Denying the Holocaust, threatening to wipe out Israel, threatening the lives of the US leadership, habitually using extremely foul language, etc.,etc., Mr. A has accomplished what AIPAC, Mosad, and ZOA combined can only dream of: he has made the enmity of Israel look repugnant. Now, the logic of conspiracy theorists and Truthers is cui bono ?, or the doctrine that whoever benefits from an action is ipso facto the originator of that action. Ergo: Mr. A. is paid by the Zionists.

Too much Latin in this posting ? Check your handy Directory of Latin Quotes and Latin Phrases.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Park Slope Food Coop: The Ninotchkas of Union Street

“We work every four weeks, not every month. Does everyone understand the difference?” the woman with the projector said in a baby voice, enunciating every word. Not everyone did. Shifts were 2.75 hours, she continued, and every single adult member of the household had to do them. No buying out of it, no family plans. I realized I would be required to work my husband’s shift, too, as he worked full time at an office job and I worked from home.

I asked if I could have a nonphysical task because of back pain. She interrupted, “If you have a medical problem, your physician can give us a note.” I signed up to work two shifts in the office.

Two weeks later, I arrived at the Coop’s check-in desk with my new ID card for what I thought was my first scheduled work shift. One of the scanner people told me, “You’re on alert for work, and Tom is on alert for orientation.” I was flabbergasted. I knew my husband had shirked the new-member orientation, but I thought I was following all the rules.

“But I’m here to work my first shift,” I said.

“No, you missed your first shift,” the guy told me. “This is your second shift.” Now, I was told, I would have to work two shifts for the one I missed as punishment. Former PSFC Member

One recent morning, I went to the co-op office to check my status. A fellow member-worker pulled my file: a collection of index cards that highlighted every job and misstep since my initiation into the club. Next to me, an elderly woman was being grilled: “Did you tell your squad leader that you had a medical emergency?”

Another time, I watched a woman hold her forehead, her children clinging to her skirt, while a worker at the register called out over the intercom, “Does anyone know how to process food stamps?” Former PSFC Member

To the Hollywood of 1939 and 1940, Stalin and Hitler were still a bit of a joke. Charlie Chaplin did "The Great Dictator" about Hitler in 1940, and in 1939 Ernst Lubitsch did "Ninotchka," a comedy about the Bolsheviks that starred Greta Garbo. And today in Brooklyn, there is a bit of comedy playing on Union Street in Park Slope, starring scores of mock-serious Bolsheviks acting out a little Soviet: the Park Slope Food Coop.

Every member at PSFC must work at this coop. Want to pay someone else to do the work for you ? No no no. That would go against our spirit, our ideology. No work to do ? You must show up regardless -- there's lots of make-work we can dream up. And, oh yes, for those whose thinking is not right, there are a number of penalties: suspension, public ridicule, and the threat of expulsion. There are two committees that deal with politically-incorrect deviationists: a) the Diversity and Equality Committee, and b), for the most serious offenders, the dreaded Disciplinary Committee whose powers include expulsion. (Do you belong to any other organization that has such a committee ?) It seems that almost all members have had some brush with the FSFC discipline apparatus, at least for missing work assignments.

As is the case of all cults and political sects, the accounts of former members (such as the ones I have cited above) give insights into the working of the PSFC. But the frankest and most detailed information by far comes from PSFC's own Membership Manual. Frank, because it spells out, in almost so many words, the irrational and vindictive nature of the group's disciplinary procedures.

The most striking feature is the insistence that when a work assignment has not been fulfilled the offender must work two assignments for the one he has missed. Why two instead of one ? Surely one make-up session, and perhaps a modest fee to compensate the group for expenses, would make the Coop whole for any missed assignment. But making the group whole is obviously not the purpose of the exercise. Something else is clearly going on: the offender needs to be taught a lesson, he needs to be punished. And, the PSFC apologists will insist, if you don't like it, don't join. You knew what you're getting into at the beginning, you contracted to live by these rules. Reasonable ?

No, not reasonable. We are not free to enter into contracts that punish because punitive action is reserved to the government. In the legal literature, this discussion is concerned with the difference between "liquidated damages" (allowed) and "penalties" (not allowed). No contract that calls for penalties is enforceable. Among other problems, such would-be contracts are considered unconscionable.

I think that the unconscionable double-make-up rule of the PSFC is a potential legal Achilles' Heel for the group. An aggrieved member could, and actually should, sue the organization whenever it insists on double work as a condition for his continued membership. PSFC has been a feature of left-wing Brooklyn for quite a while now. No doubt it has been of some benefit to at least some of its members, mostly by providing leisure time sociability and an arena for self-righteousness. If it could shed itself of at least some of its vindictive disciplinary customs it could actually become a modest asset to the community. Here is my advice to any member who is suspended because of double-make-up: litigate through the courts and help to make PSFC a more positive force in Brooklyn.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Two Faces of Tariq Ramadan

Paul Berman: The Flight of the Intellectuals

Tariq Ramadan, Arab but Swiss-born, Francophone but professor at Cambridge, has two faces. The first is that of the liberal, thoroughly European and Westernized liberal, charming and a good conversationist at cocktail parties at the Guardian and New York Review of Books. The other face is that of an insistently loyal grandson to Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood and exponent of Hitler and the Mufti al-Husseini. It is the first face that has so much impressed the writers Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash, but it is with his second face that Ramadan has written an article so anti-Jewish that the leftist press in France could not print it, and it is also with his second face that Ramadan has endorsed suicide attacks against the Israeli public.

Berman, to his great credit, has waded his way through this morass of two faces, and he has written his report with tremendous intellectual verve. It is a cautionary tale. Berman rightfully points to the deadly danger we face from the terrorist Islamists, but also, and perhaps even more deadly, from their sophisticated, leftist, voguish fellow-travelers. He gives due credit to some European writers who have preceded him in this -- Pascal Bruckner and Caroline Fourest in France and Ulrike Ackermann in Germany -- but it is Berman's book that is immediately accessible to the American reader. Berman has been rewarded by an appreciative reception from thoughtful people. And he has also been rewarded, as were the pioneers of anti-Stalinism some sixty years ago, by sneers and hostility from fellow-travelers and their apologists.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Anthony Julius: "Trials of the Diaspora"

Anthony Julius

When I was a boy in Berlin in the early years of the Nazi regime, some five or ten years before the Holocaust, a young rabbi broke the conventions of rabbinical discourse and managed to bring solace and spiritual strength to the Jews of the city. He created a sensation. Jews who would never enter a synagogue otherwise made their way to hear him. This rabbi's name was Joachim Prinz (in due course he became a leader of American Jewry). In the early 1930's he held the rapt attention of his people in Berlin, speaking approximately as follows from the pulpit of several Berlin synagogues:

"Everywhere you read and hear that you are ugly and hateful. Right now, look at the person next to you: is he hateful ? Is he ugly ? "

Joachim Prinz (1902-1988)

And suddenly Rabbi Prinz's listeners, cowed as they had been by the incessant propaganda of the haters, could see the truth: no, the Nazis were not right. They could see the irrationality of all that hatred. They could see, and they knew that they should have seen all the time, that it was not they who were the ugly and the hateful.

This book by Anthony Julius performs something of the same function for us today that Rabbi Prinz performed for the Jews in the 1930's. All around us "enlightened" people tell us of the perfidy of the Jews (nowadays called Zionists). If only Israel (read, the Jews) behaved better, all would be well. In the meantime, it is important to punish the "Zionists." Boycott them ! Divest from Israeli investments ! Sanction them !

On the notion of boycott, as on many other issues, Julius is particularly revealing, showing the ancient, irrational hatreds that move people to call for boycotts of Israel, the only country so singled out.

There are scores and maybe hundreds of books on the modern anti-Semitism. I am familiar with many of them. But Julius has historical material (mostly from England) and thoughtful analyses that break absolutely new ground. The book will not and cannot change the mind of anyone who is infected with anti-Semitism, but it will greatly inform the rest of us. And yes, it will confirm that which in theory needs no confirmation: there is no reason, no excuse, nothing whatever acceptable in the anti-Semitic hatreds of our day.

There are several features of this book that set it apart from other treatments of the subject. First, and most obviously, is the close reading of anti-Semitic "tropes" in high-culture British literature: Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens, T.S. Eliot, and others. (That word "trope" is found throughout the book; it is a fitting term for the handed-down formulas and assumptions in the anti-Jewish tradition of the British isles.) I find this literary discussion revealing, but of course it is the literary scholars who will need to debate its strengths and possible weaknesses as an approach to English literature.

Then there is the detailed and close examination of the anti-Semitic component of contemporary anti-Israelism, including that of certain well-known Jews. Tony Judt, for instance, is quoted here as he relies on the ancient anti-Semitic trope of a Jewish conspiracy when he delivers his attack on his fellow Jews.

With regard to these Jewish opponents of Israel, Julius is quite right in rejecting the notion that they are "self-hating." On the contrary, these men and women think very highly of themselves. What they hate is other Jews, not themselves.

Julius is also good on the details of British anti-Israel parties and institutions, including those of the left wing, and including, most particularly, the working alliances between Muslim and Trotskyist formations.

There is not, to my mind, sufficient attention given to an analysis of the extent to which anti-Semitic tropes are accepted by the larger public. We do learn, in connection with the Jewish contingent of anti-Semitism, that roughly 80% of Britain's Jews identify with Israel, so we can deduce that the anti-Israel Zeitgeist, as the author calls it, has made little headway among the Jews. But in the English public as a whole ? To be sure, the anti-Semitic and partially anti-Semitic ("fellow-traveling") voices are conspicuous in some of the media -- the Independent, the Guardian, the BBC, etc. -- but to me it seems that there is reason to remain hopeful that good sense still prevails in the public opinion as a whole.

Despite its truly abhorrent subject matter, this book is a pleasure to read. The pleasure is intellectual. It arises from the wealth of new knowledge and new insights that, I dare say, is in store for even the best informed of readers.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The American Communists, 2010

Apparently THEY think that they're still alive

Things to watch for in this revealing little video:

1) Watch them sing "We Shall not Be Moved." I heard them -- the comrades of the CPUSA -- sing the very same song in 1940, but the words were "Browder is our leader, we shall not be moved..." Today, Browder is no longer mentioned by these folks. He has been air-brushed out of their history.
2) Watch the demeanor of the comrades when they sing the Internationale. Those are still the holy words to them.
3) And finally, where are all those starry-eyed, good looking young people of yore ? Not in this crowd.

Do you have it in your heart to spare them a little pity ? (I don't, actually)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Humanitarians of the Mavi Marmara

Voice of the Humanitarians I: "Shut up, go back to Auschwitz .... don't forget 9/11"

Voice of the Humanitarians II: "Kill the Jews"

The name Khaibar mentioned in battle cry was the last Jewish village defeated by Muhammad's army in 628. The battle marked the end of Jewish presence in Arabia.
There are Muslims who see that as a precursor for future wars against Jews. At gatherings and rallies of extremists, this chant is often heard as a threat to Jews to expect to be defeated and killed again by Muslims. --

click here for Memri's page on the "flotilla"

The Mind of Ms. Helen Thomas of the White House Press Corps

Friday, April 9, 2010

Of What Use is the New Israel Fund ?

Ms. Naomi Chazan
President, New Israel Fund

It is almost thirty years ago that the French scholar Georges Lavau published his memorable study A quoi sert le parti communiste français ?, "Of What Use is the French Communist Party ?", with the question mark on its cover five times as large as the rest of the title. (Click here for a French-language review). No, Lavau found, the CP does not in any way live up to its declared aims of proletarian revolution, human brotherhood, or social betterment. But nevertheless, he says, the Party has its functions -- mainly one of providing a venting place for the dissatisfied in the larger society; in this way, according to Lavau, the CP promotes social stability.

The idea of piercing behind professed aims to examine the reality of a social institution did not originate with Lavau. Nor did it originate with the American sociologist Robert K. Merton (1910-2003, born Meyer Schkolnick), who introduced the terminology of "manifest" versus "latent" functions. But Merton's terminology is useful as a handle. I am using it here to ask: what is manifest, and what is latent in the New Israel Fund ?

The manifest content of NIF is its self description, for instance this passage from its website:

The New Israel Fund (NIF) is the leading organization committed to democratic change within Israel. Since 1979, NIF has fought for social justice and equality for all Israelis. We believe that Israel can live up to its founders' vision of a state that ensures complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants, without regard to religion, race or gender.

Widely credited with building Israel's progressive civil society from scratch, we have provided more than $200 million to more than 800 cutting-edge organizations since our inception. What's more, through our action arm, SHATIL, we mentor, train and lead Israeli civil society in an ongoing struggle to empower the underprivileged.

Democratic social change. Social justice. Equality. Sound familiar ? And ah yes, "progressive civil society" -- we've looked at that one in the previous posting. As for the "cutting-edge" organizations that NIF has financed, these are better known for their accusations of Israeli "war crimes" and, in effect, their work to demolish Israel (see my postings of 2/11/10 and 4/8/10). Are any of these eight hundred groups, over and above the demonstrated anti-Israel agitation of at least some of them, involved in any discernible efforts for "complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants, without regard to religion, race or gender" ? I would not rule that out, but I am skeptical. The politics of NIF-supported groups are clear, their humanitarian impact, if any, is not clear to me.

In the meantime, there are many groups in Israel that do indeed work "to empower the underprivileged" and who do so without the political baggage of NIF. Two of these come to mind immediately: the Tel Aviv Foundation and the Jerusalem Foundation. Both are well established and have long records of work among the poor, both Arabs and Jews, work that they have done without fanfare and without public grandstanding. I would urge the reader to consult the websites of each. Moreover, the UJA-Federation of New York supports numerous groups in Israel devoted to the needy there, some of which are specifically organized for Arabs and other minorities.

About a year ago my wife Rita and I visited the Bialik - Rogozin School in Yaffo, which is supported by the Tel Aviv - Yaffo municipality. We found young children of many backgrounds studying in this very modern, well equipped Israeli institution. I was particularly struck by the many black faces from Africa -- six and seven-year olds -- all speaking Hebrew like sabras. They were children of African refugees, some of whom were in the country as undocumented immigrants. "This is the only place on earth where refugees from Darfur and other African countries are treated like human beings," a woman there remarked. While I was at the school and witnessed the colorful array of faces, I kept thinking of Jimmy Carter, who had just written his strange assessment of Israel as practicing "apartheid." I kept asking myself, is Carter just ignorant or is he malicious ?

So, well, no, we do not need the NIF to "empower the underprivileged" in Israel.

The NIF may or may not be helpful to underprivileged people in Israel, but it is well documented that it is definitely helpful to another group -- the extremely privileged. According to the group's 2008 IRS Form 990, it paid top salaries to at least two of its US-based officials: $228,331 to Larry Garber, then its CEO, and another $235,408 to Aaron Back, listed as "independent contractor." These payments are not much when compared to incomes of bank executives or even to those of executives at certain other Jewish groups. But these NIF salaries are more than twice as high as those of full professors of major universities. It places the recipients in the upper two percent of American households, assuming that they are sole wage earners. These are 2008 figures, the last that the group has provided to the IRS. Mr. Daniel Sokatch, the current CEO of NIF, has not responded to my request for the current salary structure at his organization.

So we know that NIF money goes to support Arab campaigns against Israel; it goes to pay for upper-middle class lifestyles of its officials. What else does it buy ? Nothing that can be definitely documented, but I would not dismiss feelings of satisfaction to donors whose political proclivities coincide with those of the NIF leadership. Whatever else may be said about the NIF, it is obviously far more political than eleemosynary. For prospective donors whose motivations are charitable, NIF is a good group from which to stay away.

Read the important Im Tirtzu report on the NIF

Read the NGO Monitor report on the NIF

Read the NGO Monitor's Ethical Guidelines for the NIF

UPDATE, May 14, 2010: NGO Monitor ad re. NIF

UPDATE, Sept. 22, 2010: NIF makes contradictory claims; continues to send about $10 million a year to anti-Israel groups