Censorship Vaad

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From 2007-2009, I had the privilege of representing the State of Israel on behalf of the Jewish Agency for Israel as a shaliach (Israeli emissary) at one of the most notoriously anti-Israel campuses in the nation — University of California at Irvine.

One of the “premier” methods of the anti-Israeli movements is to boycott Israel, prevent people from buying Israeli goods, using Israeli technology, and listening to Israeli speakers and artists.

At Irvine, the anti-Israel movement protested and tried to disrupt many of the events we organized. Sometimes they would attend and ask anti-Israel questions. Sometimes they would protest loudly to drown out the speaker’s voice.

In one notable instance, they were so disruptive, Michael Oren (who was the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. at the time) could not finish his remarks. As the adviser to the pro-Israeli activists, the pro-Israel students and I decided to take the high road.

We, the pro-Israel voice, never disrupted a speaker from the “other side.” We protested, we showed up with signs, but we never drowned out their speakers’ voices. Especially on a college campus, where a philosophy of critical thinking permeates the landscape, we believed we would be able to sway opinions and become a more inclusive and stronger pro-Israel network if we stood for freedom of speech and not against it.

Fast-forward to today, the boycott movement has arrived in the Jewish community of Metro Detroit. The Israeli artist Achinoam Nini (Noa) was invited to perform at my synagogue, Adat Shalom. But some local Detroit Jews, many of whom are themselves Israeli, decided that Achinoam Nini should not be allowed to perform at Adat Shalom because of her left-wing views and participation in coexistence and dialogue programs with Palestinians. After reviewing their efforts and tactics (racist Facebook postings, spamming Adat Shalom’s website and rankings, threats to Noa personally and calls to disrupt the concert), it is clear what it is — they are using tactics of the anti-Israel movement.

In Jewish communities, there is a Vaad Hakashrut, a community group whose mission is the maintenance of a kosher quality supervision. The anti-Noa movement created a Censorship Vaad. This Censorship Vaad has chosen not to join Adat Shalom, nor did they approach Adat Shalom in the spirit of dialogue. Rather, the Censorship Vaad decided they have the right to tell the rest of the Jewish community who is allowed to play and perform, and who is not.

Adat Shalom was forced to cancel the event after conversations with local police and security experts. The Censorship Vaad created an atmosphere so toxic that Adat Shalom could not guarantee the safety of the performer or audience. No matter that Adat Shalom has had a long history of supporting Israel. No matter that Adat Shalom just wanted to offer a fun evening of Israeli music and culture open to everyone.

Achinoam Nini is an artist and private citizen. Noa lives in Israel, is a veteran of the IDF, will be the parent of an IDF soldier in a few years. Noa has represented Israel in the Eurovision contests, and has performed internationally for decades, spreading joy, Israeli music and Israeli culture to thousands. She is a private citizen; she represents Israeli culture, not the Israeli government.

Now that the Censorship Vaad took the liberty to decide who is allowed to perform and who is not, I wonder what will be the process in the future to get an artist or speaker approved by the Censorship Vaad?

Let’s say Israeli author David Grossman will be invited to speak in the West Bloomfield JCC at the Book Fair. Mr. Grossman is a vocal critic of the Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria. Will the Vaad approve his event? Will the fact that he lost his son in the second Lebanon war give him the right to speak with a local audience? What if Ariel Sharon were still alive? He orchestrated the removal of settlements in the Gaza Strip (Gush Katif). Could he speak from a synagogue bimah?

Yes, we have the right to protest against different ideas, but the idea of a Censorship Vaad is nonsense. In America (like Israel), no one group has the right to decide for another American what he will read, listen to or say.

Tzvi Raviv lives in Farmington Hills.

Dorit
Dorit 05.25.2017

so many word and he didn't say anything.
Next time him and his family needs to fund a concert with a singer that doesn't make so many problems.
So easy to blame others on his family mistake. Instead of blaming the 'vaad', they need to apologize for making such a mess in the community. Shame on them

Moran
Moran 05.25.2017

Noa is a board member at the new Israeli fund. An organization that support Betzelem and Braking the silence. Do you really thing the artists should preform in a synagogue?!?
So happy that Adat Shalom cancel the concert. I'm a member and will leave if the wouldn't cancel. And I'm not the only member that think like this.

Itamar Ilsar
Itamar Ilsar 05.25.2017

Dear Tzvi,

I carefully read your letter, and it makes me very sorry to see that you have chosen the route of name-calling and defamation, in addition to neglecting to discuss all the relevant and important facts, which to my knowledge, are well known to everyone by now.

I Copied the parts of your post that need to be addressed and added my comments right below them.

I would be happy to engage in an open dialogue that includes facts and evidence.

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“We, the pro-Israel voice, never disrupted a speaker from the “other side”. We protested, we showed up with signs, but we never drowned out their speakers voices. Especially on a college campus, where a philosophy of critical thinking permeates the landscape, we believed we would be able to sway opinions and become a more inclusive and stronger pro-Israel network if we stood for freedom of speech and not against it.”

Very good point, and yes, I agree- the right and respectful way to speak up your mind.
And just like you, this was exactly what the “Censorship Vaad” wanted to do. Respectfully speak up its mind and let others know their opinion about the concert and the performer. All based on facts. And unlike you, there wasn’t even any plan to demonstrate or hold signs.
Needless to say- if I wanted to stand outside Adat Shalom with a flag or a sign, that would have been legal after obtaining a permit from the FHPD.
Why is it not OK for me to speak up my mind in a polite and respectful manner?

“Fastforward to today, the boycott movement has arrived in the Jewish community of Metro Detroit. The Israeli artist Achinoam Nini (Noa) was invited to perform at my synagogue, Adat Shalom. But some local Detroit Jews, many of whom are themselves Israeli, decided that Achinoam Nini should not be allowed to perform at Adat Shalom because of her left-wing views and participation in coexistence and dialogue programs with Palestinians. After reviewing their efforts and tactics (racist facebook postings, spamming Adat Shalom's website and rankings, threats to Noa personally, and calls to disrupt the concert), it is clear what it is, they are using tactics of the anti-Israel movement.”

Name-calling. Bad idea for someone who defines himself as pro-discussion and free speech. No one that I know meets the criteria of a “boycott movement”.
No one “decided” that Noa should not be allowed at Adat Shalom. It was only an opinion that we tried to share with others. Trying to marginalize and delegitimize those who hold this opinion is ridicules, as no Zionist organization agreed to sponsor the concert, as per Mr. Yost, Executive Director of Adat Shalom. I wasn’t aware of this until recently, when it was published in the Jewish News, but once I read it, I felt much better knowing that others think like me.
Saying that Noa’s “left-wing views and participation in coexistence and dialogue programs with Palestinians” are the reason we thought her place was not in Adat Shalom is incorrect. Why don’t you discuss her name-calling of Trump and Bibi, as well as other shameful actions of hers?
It’s a horrible disservice to your readers and followers not to discuss those facts, as the vast majority of Israelis support coexistence and peace talks with Palestinians.
It is unfortunate that you refer to the large number of people who think different than you as “spamming a website and ranking”. The overwhelming majority in Israel does not support the NGOs that Noa openly endorses, and even the IDF itself is now considering legal actions against one of them. Help your audience who can’t read Hebrew and tell them what they need to know.
Last, but not least- freedom of speech. Why were respectful and polite comments on Adat Shalom’s wall deleted? Why is voicing different opinions labeled as violence? Why wasn’t my clear call for a dialogue answered?

“In Jewish communities there is a Vaad Hakashrut, a community group whose mission is the maintenance of a Kosher quality supervision. The anti-Noa movement created a Censorship Vaad. This Censorship Vaad has chosen not to join Adat Shalom, nor did they approach Adat Shalom in the spirit of dialogue. Rather, the Censorship Vaad decided they have the right to tell the rest of the Jewish community who is allowed to play and perform, and who is not. Adat Shalom was forced to cancel the event after conversations with local police and security experts. The Censorship Vaad created an atmosphere so toxic, that Adat Shalom could not guarantee the safety of the performer or audience. No matter that Adat Shalom has had a long history of supporting Israel. No matter that Adat Shalom just wanted to offer a fun evening of Israeli music and culture open to everyone. “

Wrong again. Some of Adat Shalom members did agree with me that inviting Noa was a mistake. And speaking of threats, I did hear some. From members who said that they will cancel their memberships is she performs there.
The Vaad did not say who is allowed to perform and who isn’t. The Vaad just wanted to bring this matter, along with some other important facts and concerns to the awareness of the community. Why does it make you so upset?? Don’t others have the right to say what they think?
Fact- the Vaad did try to approach Adat Shalom in the spirit of dialogue, but those attempts were deleted repeatedly.
Fact- anyone has the right to send an open letter to Jewish leaders and share their concerns with them. Why is it presented as something wrong, offensive and aggressive?
Defamation. The Vaad used a very polite and respectful language in all its conversations- both written and verbal. What toxic atmosphere are you talking about? I will tell you about toxic atmosphere I encountered. A member of our Jewish community who publicly used offensive and dirty language towards one of my friends, calling her in names of the least hygienic of body orifices, and ordering her and her friends to “go back to where they came from”.
Adat Shalom was forced to cancel after conversations with local police? Really? Quoting Mr. Yost- there was nothing on the level of a bomb threat and no use of the word “violent”. So, is there something you know that Mr. Yost doesn’t? Did you get a recent update from Chief Nebus who previously indicated that the Department did not tell or advise Adat Shalom to cancel? To your knowledge, how many arrests were made due to violent threats? How many conversations did the FHPD have with individuals about those threats?
And yes, even Noa commented in a very clever manner about this: “I am certain the Jewish community has multiple mechanisms for dealing with security threats, both tangible and imaginary”
Adat Shalom was not forced to cancel. They chose to cancel, and did the right thing. In my opinion, of course!

“Achinoam Nini (aka Noa), is an artist and private citizen. Noa lives in Israel, is a veteran of the IDF, will soon be the parent of an IDF soldier. Noa has represented Israel in the eurovision contents, and has performed internationally for decades, spreading joy, Israeli music, and Israeli culture to a thousands. She is a private citizen, she represents Israeli culture, not the Israeli government. “

Horrible disservice to your readers. In Israel, there is no such thing as “veterans”. Everyone serves, as it is mandatory. By calling her a veteran, and indicating that her son will soon join the IDF, you make people think that this is something unique and admirable that she should get special credit for. But no, it is mandatory, just like paying taxes and obeying traffic rules. But since you mentioned this- let me remind you who else served in the IDF and pay taxes. All the Israeli citizens who live in Judea and Samaria. They are being boycotted by Noa because of their mailing address. Those are BDS-like actions. Having a different opinion and sending letters to community leaders are not.

“Now that the Censorship Vaad took the liberty to decide who is allowed to perform and who is not I wonder what will be the process in the future to get an artist or speaker approved by the Censorship Vaad. Let’s say Israeli author David Grossman will be invited to speak in the West Bloomfield JCC at their bookfair. Mr Grossman is a vocal critic of the Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria. Will the Vaad approve his event? WIll the fact the he lost his son in the second Lebanon war will give him the right to speak with a local audience? What if Ariel Sharon was still alive, he orchestrated the removal of settlements in the gaza strip (Gush Katif) - could he speak from a synagogue bima?”

Very good point. As chairman of the Vaad, I think it is a good idea to have Mr. Grossman here, and I will tell you what is the difference between him and Noa. When Mr. Grossman, or any other lecturer appears in front of an audience, it is a discussion, a dialogue, an exchange of opinions. After the talk, there is always a part of Q&A where other views can be presented, and the lecturer can address. But in the case of a performer in a concert, it is a one-way street with no option for other opinions to be heard. When a polarizing and controversial artist performs, it is impossible to separate between them and they opinions, which they are entitled to have. This applies to controversial artists such as Ariel Zilber and Yoav Eliasi as well. Would you consider one of them as appropriate to perform at Adat Shalom?
Politicians represent those who voted for them, as well as the State of Israel. Who does Noa represent? Whose mandate does she have?

Shoving Noa's extremist opinions down the throats of innocent members of Adat Shalom and the rest of the community while presenting them as an Israeli consensus is wrong.
Adat Shalom realized it, all the Zionist organizations who refused to have their names next to hers as sponsors prior to the cancellation realized it, all other Jewish institutions who refused to host her concert after the cancellation realized it, and yes, even I and a couple of my good friends realized it.

Clarification: I am not a chairman of any censorship committee, nor am I a member of such a group.

Elaine
Elaine 05.26.2017

It looks to me that you or the Synagogue decide to share the info about this artist as you want to, and dropping the bed thing that Noa said/did.
So you actually decided that she is good for the community???
To my opinion you tought you are the 'Vaad', but apparently there are other people in the community that thinks different, and you should respect them and don't decide that this artist is 'kosher' to preform here.

CDM
CDM 05.31.2017

The author is not pro-Israel at all. He is a liar. What a waste of a column.