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ZOA response to my ‘irresponsible’ op-ed: I am ‘young and inexperienced,’ my writing ‘amateurish’

Crossposted to New Voices and Jewschool

Not to get too overwrought, but here’s my blog post in response to a Zionist Organization of America press release in response to my JTA op-ed in response to their JTA op-ed. Throughout the press release, notice how many of my points are avoided by going on an ad hominem rampage against me.

NEW YORK, May 1 – David Wilensky’s op-ed on “the correct use of Title VI” (Apr. 27, 2012) was an amateurish attempt to condemn an important new legal tool for Jewish students who are now protected from anti-Semitic harassment, intimidation and discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.  He claims that the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) – which spearheaded the effort to achieve this civil rights protection – is misusing Title VI “to stifle legitimate discourse” and as a “bludgeon” to advance “far-right political viewpoints.”  These ridiculous charges are baseless.  Wilensky cites no evidence for his claims, merely engaging in silly name-calling.

I don’t know where they got “‘the correct use of Title VI’” from, but it doesn’t appear anywhere on the version of it on the JTA website. Given that they got the date wrong by about week (it was published on 4/18, not 4/27), I’m gonna guess that the mystery phrasing and the incorrect date were taken from the publication date and headline that accompanied my op-ed in one of the local Jewish papers that runs JTA material on about a one-week delay. (I could take a cheap shot at the ZOA for being so web incompetent that they don’t have a Google alert set up for the name of their own organization, but that would be “silly name-calling.”)

Speaking of which, can anyone point me to the part of my op-ed where I engage in “name-calling” of any sort — “silly” or otherwise? (Rest assured, when I do engage in name-calling I take it quite seriously.)

As for my writing being “amateurish,” I guess the “-ish” suffix lends that some validity as an opinion. As it turns out, I make my living doing this writing thing so I’m technically the opposite of an amateur. I hasten to point out that Klein and Tuchman are the amateurs here. I don’t know much about Tuchman, but she’s lawyer. Klein on the other hand is a well-known pillar of the professional reactionary community. I don’t think much of this screed, but since I’m no professional paranoia-peddler, I’ll refrain from passing judgement on its level of amateurishness.

The ZOA has never used Title VI to stifle free speech or to advance a particular political viewpoint. We have called on university leaders to exercise their own First Amendment rights and publicly condemn speakers and programs that demonize Jews, compare Jews to Nazis, and call for the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel – all of which is anti-Semitism according to U.S. government standards.

The claim that the ZOA is capable of taking any action that is not designed to advance their political viewpoint is suspect. That’s not a criticism, but a recognition of the ZOA’s purpose. Advancing a particular viewpoint is just what they do.

The ZOA has also called on university leaders to enforce their own rules. Thus, when a Jewish student is physically threatened or assaulted, the wrongdoers must be held accountable and punished. Contrary to Wilensky’s nonsensical accusations, Title VI is all about protecting Jews and ensuring them a campus environment that’s physically and emotionally safe and conducive to learning.

Things are not so simple. There are dissenting opinions in all of the cases I’ve read about. Notice how Klein and Tuchman are unable to address the fact that all of the Title VI complaints filed on behalf of Jews at the college level have been unsuccessful so far. They’ll get no disagreement from me about punishing people who threaten and assault Jews; where we differ is which attacks on Jews qualify as anti-Semitic.

Notice how Klein and Tuchman went for a salt shaker of fun adjectives to spice up their writing. Too bad they didn’t give much thought to their meanings. There are so many negative adjectives that would have done swell job here, but their choice of “nonsensical” is just… (I hate to do this) nonsensical.

A dozen national Jewish organizations across the political and religious spectrums have supported the ZOA’s Title VI efforts, so that Jewish students would be afforded the same legal protections that other minority groups have had for almost 50 years. They joined the ZOA in a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Education, urging that Title VI be enforced to protect Jewish students.

Forty Members of Congress, including 31 liberal Democrats, also sent a letter to the Education Secretary, expressing concern about campus anti-Semitism and urging that Title VI be enforced to protect Jewish students.

Notice how they ignore the parts of the op-ed where I agree with them that this is not only a positive development, but point out ways in which it has already been used admirably and successfully.

Wilensky is young and inexperienced.

Despite all of the “silly name-calling” Klein engages in here, despite the personal nature of his attacks on me in this press release, marvel at my restraint in not pointing out that he is the old and out of touch yin to my “young and inexperienced” yang.

Hopefully he will learn that fighting anti-Semitic bigotry on campus is not a “right wing” or “left wing” issue.

I always try to be full of hope when I learn things. By the same token, I hope that Klein and Tuchman will learn to understand the arguments of those they disagree with a little better. A close (and by close I mean ordinary) reading of my op-ed will reveal that I don’t think fighting anti-Semitism is a right-wing or left-wing issue, but that the ZOA’s misuse of that fight is a tactic designed to advance their political cause.

The ZOA is proudly doing the same kind of work that other civil rights groups do, such as the ACLU and the NAACP.

Don’t flatter yourselves.

We filed a Title VI action against the University of California, Irvine, where Jewish students were physically threatened and assaulted. Recently, we filed a Title VI action against Rutgers University, where a Jewish student was physically threatened by other students and even by a university official!

Again, the facts in some of these cases are not as settled as Klein and Tuchman make them out to be. In some cases they are, but it’s still not clear that doing anything to anyone because of their stance in Israel is covered under Title VI; so far there is nothing to indicate that the Office of Civil Rights sees it as such.

There’s little doubt that Wilensky would support legal efforts by the ACLU or the NAACP to address the Irvine and Rutgers situations if African Americans were the victims.

Not that they’re putting words in my mouth or anything.

Here’s the issue: If an African American on campus is attacked because they’re an African American, that is racism and that is covered under Title VI. If a Jew is attacked because they are a Jew, that is anti-Semitism and that is now covered under Title VI as well. But if the same attackers would welcome a non-Zionist Jew into their fold (a member of the Jewish Voice for Peace, for example), that’s different. An attack on an Israel-related campus event is anti-Israel, while an attack on religious service is anti-Semitic. There’s a big difference.

It’s sad, shameful and embarrassing that Wilensky is so critical of these efforts on behalf of his own people.

Morton A. Klein
National President
Susan B. Tuchman, Esq.
Director, Center for Law and Justice
Zionist Organization of America
4 East 34th Street
New York, NY 10016

Cry me a river.

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Weird press releases: Commemorate the golden calf with a gift from Heifer International

I received this press release at my work email address. You know, the address from which I send and receive emails pertaining to my job editing a Jewish publication.

Easter Giving Means Heifer International

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (April 4, 2012) – Tucked in with the sweets in your Easter basket this year you may find a gift that won’t bust your diet. A Heifer International gift, presented with an adorable, easy-to-print card, will bring prosperity to a family elsewhere in the world for years to come.

Heifer International this year is urging shoppers to consider a different kind of Easter gift – one that will provide new life for people in genuine need.

And so forth.

But really, Heifer International is a lovely organization. Maybe next year they should campaign to get Jews to celebrate the golden calf of our liberation with a Heifer International gift.

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Weird press releases: How ‘Hunger Games’ is about the opposite of what it’s about

Weird press releases: When you have the word editor in your title, the laws of physics somehow provide for an automatic onslaught of email press releases. Of course the law of always getting the Special Treatment,  means that the majority of them have nothing to do with your job.

Today’s haul brought in this curiosity, with the subject line “Interview Opp: The Hunger Games – Too Violent for Children.” Let’s fisk!

The Hunger Games – Too Violent for Children

Guest Opportunity: Lyss Stern, Parenting Expert, Founder and CEO of Divalysscious Moms, New York’s Premier Network that influences over 380,000 Women

No, you don’t want to know what “Divalysscious Moms” is. I didn’t know that I didn’t want to know what it was when I googled it:

I’m gonna have to disinfect my brain’s aesthetic cortex when I get home.

“You here to finish me off, sweetheart?” This is just one of many lines that demonstrate the violence in the movie, The Hunger Games.

I’ll be honest: I haven’t read “The Hunger Games,” nor have I seen the movie — although I’d like to do both eventually. But from what I’ve heard, this particular line of dialogue is a weak way to make this particular point. Why not go with a description of an unnecessarily violent visual from the film? Or maybe the twitchy loons behind this press release are like me: Maybe they’ve only seen the trailer.

Based on the extremely popular series of books, this movie naturally appeals to girls 12 and older, but what message is it sending young children? For parents who are concerned about what their children watch, Lyss Stern can tell them what they need to know about this violent blockbuster flick.

I’ve read a few articles about “The Hunger Games” recently that have given me the distinct impression that the entire thinly veiled point of the story is that our exploitative media culture is brutal and morally bankrupt. The allegory relies on a comparison with the forced participation of teenage citizens of a dystopian future America in a televised battle to the death. So the violence is intended to disgust the audience. Everyone seems to agree that the violence in the book wasn’t gussied up and glamorized for film, but kept barbaric and unpleasant.

But sure, I guess that’s a terrible message to impart on kids these days.

“As a parent to young children and an aunt to Tween nephews, despite all the positive “hype” around this movie, I find the message in this movie downright scary. Someone needs to tell Hollywood that these movies are not for tweens and teenagers.” – Lyss Stern

“Tween” doesn’t need to be capitalized, and “hype” certainly doesn’t need to be in quotation marks, given that it’s neither a quotation nor a novel use of the word. And even if it did need quotation marks, nested as it within a larger quotation, they’d need to be ‘single quotes.’

All I’m saying is copyedit your press releases people. The press is full of assholes like me and we are not interested in your typo-ridden drivel.

Lyss Stern is ready to address The Hunger Games by answering the following questions:

« What types of messages is this movie sending?

I’m not sure what this question is asking. Is this a suggestion that interested parties might ask about how to categorize the assorted varieties of messages this films is sending? Or is it a poorly worded attempt to convey that the messages themselves are worth asking about, rather than the message types, as the wording implies?

« How can this movie impact young and impressionable children?

If this press release never says anything, preferring instead to stick with paranoid rhetorical questions, what could Lyss Stern’s real intent be?

« What can parents do to protect their children from the impact of violence portrayed in the movie?

Well, you could just forbid them from seeing it. Or you could act like an intelligent, considerate parent and discuss the violence with them to make sure that the film’s attempt to portray violence in a bad light gets through to them.

« Can there be long-term effects if children are allowed to view this type of violence?

Again with the types! I guess one long-term effect of being allowed to view this particular type of violence might be that they’ll have an aversion to violence.

The jury is definitely still out on this type of question, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Stern’s answer is an emphatic and panicky, “Yes!”

« Given the violence portrayed in the movie, are the books any safer?

They’re probably more dangerous! We all know that ready edgy fiction leads naïve children down the path of nonconformity!

Meet Lyss Stern

Gosh, I’d rather not.

« Oversees 380,000 well-heeled New Yorkers through her blog, making Lyss the “go-to trendsetter” for brands like Juicy Couture, FAO Schwarz, Today Show, and CNBC.

I demand to know who called her the “go-to trendsetter” and whether that person was actually referring to all of the following: “Juicy Couture, FAO Schwarz, Today Show, and CNBC.”

« Founder and President of the influential DIVALYSSCIOUS MOMS – New York’s Premier Social Network for Women.

Lies. I’ve looked at this website — never mind that I wish I hadn’t — and it’s not a social network. Nor did the site’s designer accidentally have CAPSLOCK on when they created the site’s logo, as the author of this press release apparently did.

« Author of “If You Give a Mom a Martini: 100 Ways to Find 10 Blissful Minutes for Yourself.”

Jesus Christ.

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