Last week, CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) held a two-day conference at Boston University that brought together international experts to articulate the enormous challenges which Israel is finding itself dealing with in the world arena and to formulate constructive action. More than 1,000 people from the United States, Australia, England, Canada, Argentina, Israel, and France took part in the conference. Attendees included over 200 college students from the U.S., Argentina and Canada.
The first day opened with keynote speaker Professor Alan Dershowitz, who spoke on the topic of ‘Israel and the Case for Moral Clarity.’ Focusing on the crisis on college campuses, Dershowitz said that J Street (a self-proclaimed Israel lobby which supports negotiations with Hamas terrorists and has ties to Arab-American organizations, and which has in fact lost support by American Jews) is a potent threat that “serves as a platform for anti-Israel zealots who claim allegiance to Israel.”
Dershowitz pointed out the irony that Israel, which has one of the best human rights records in the world, is criticized more than any other country and held to a standard of perfection. “Moral clarity emerges from unvarnished truth,” he said. “Pursue truth without fear or compromise. Challenge constantly those on the other side in every context and forum and we will prevail.”
Also speaking on the first day were Dr. Daniel Pipes (Director of the Middle East Forum) and Yigal Carmon (founder of MEMRI—Middle East Media Research Institute), who addressed perceptions of Israel in the Arab-Muslim World. Pipes said that Muslim anti-Semitism is mainly a Christian import, and that this augurs well for the future through alliances with like-minded moderate Muslim scholars and activists and hard work. Carmon presented a grim picture of simultaneous Holocaust denial and morbid glorification of the Nazi killing of Jews in mainstream Arab media, but also showed footage of reformers from within the Muslim and Arab communities who refute anti-Semitic slanders.
Among the many other speakers during the first day were founder of NGO-Monitor Professor Gerald Steinberg, who described the NGO challenge and how it strives to reverse the deleterious effects of its 'research.' Political commentator Mark Steyn also spoke, describing a current tendency in the Muslim world to believe versions of reality that contain internal contradictions and have no basis in rationality (such as the fact that only 17% of Arab Muslims believe there was any Arab involvement in 9/11, yet huge crowds and national celebrations laud the 'magnificent 19' Arabs who carried out the heinous acts). Steyn added that western liberal thinkers cannot react against this mindset, as 'there are no enemies, only potential friends with unrelieved grievances.'
The second day included a talk by Professor Irwin Cotler (Canadian Member of Parliament and former Justice Minister of Canada), who discussed the delegitimization of Israel under the disguise of law. Cotler said that as long as Israel's enemies denied its existence, they had no case; once they portrayed Israel not only as a state but as the cause of the conflict, they had a platform for falsifications and the mainstreaming of Israel as a human rights violator.
In light of this, Cotler urged taking back the narrative and putting radical Islam and Iranian President Ahmadinejad in the docket. The way to do this, he said, is to put the case of Jewish refugees from Arab lands on the agenda, and talk about the corruption of the UN and of the concept of human rights and the struggle against racism.
Additional speakers during the second day included Tammi Rossman-Benjamin (Lecturer in Jewish Studies, UC Santa Cruz), Dr. Alex Safian (Associate Director of CAMERA), psychiatrist and historian Kenneth Levin (author of The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Seige ), Alvin Rosenfeld (Professor of English and Jewish Studies at Indiana University) and Yaakov Kirschen (creator of the Dry Bones political cartoon).
In addition to the speeches, attendees took part in sessions for advocacy and activism, which focused on using blogs and social media (such as Facebook and Twitter) in defense of Israel, getting published in the mainstream media and making an impact on-line, effective activism within the Spanish-language media, and how to respond to anti-Israel bias in mainstream Protestant churches. The conference also included practical workshops and discussions geared especially for students dedicated to letter-writing, student leadership and activism.
CAMERA is a national research, educational and activist organization that monitors media coverage of Israel and the Middle East and works to promote accurate, balanced and complete reporting.