ASA Israel Boycott Widely Condemned


Related Article: Is Your Alma Mater Complicit in ASA’s Israel Boycott? Includes universities’ contact information so that you can make your views known.

— by Steve Sheffey

The American Studies Association’s boycott of Israeli academic institutions has been condemned by organizations, politicians and public figures from all across the political spectrum.

The American Association of University Professors said in an official letter that it opposes academic boycotts, including the ASA boycott, as violations of academic freedom.

The Anti-Defamation League wrote in a press release, “This shameful, morally bankrupt and intellectually dishonest attack on academic freedom by the [ASA] should be soundly condemned by all who are committed to the ideal that open exchange of ideas is the most effective way to achieve change.”

Targeting Israeli institutions solely because they are in Israel — the only democratic country in the Middle East where scholarship and debate are encouraged and flourish — is based on a myopic and fundamentally distorted perspective of Israel and the conflict and is manifestly unjust.

Comments from Ambassador Oren, Rep. Schneider, JStreet, Peter Beinart and Jeff Goldberg follow the jump.
The former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, wrote in his official Facebook page that the boycott “singles out the world’s only Jewish state, the Middle East’s only democracy, undermines academic freedom, and defies Abu Mazen’s opposition to such boycotts.”

More needs to be said about fighting back. The United States has long imposed strict penalties on companies complying with the Arab boycott of Israel. Similar measures should be enacted denying state and Federal funding for any activities associated with the promoters of this racist anti-democratic measure.

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) tweeted that the “decision by ASA to boycott Israeli academic institutions is misdirected and wrong.”

In its official blog, JStreet wrote that it “strongly opposes the American Studies Association’s decision today to boycott Israeli colleges and universities.”

Unilaterally placing blame on one party, as the ASA boycott does, is an overly simplistic and unhelpful approach to an incredibly complicated and dynamic political situation. And it is one that is not befitting of an academic community.

The Daily Beast columnist, Peter Beinart, wrote that the boycott is “dead wrong,” because it denies “the legitimacy of a democratic Jewish state, even alongside a Palestinian one.”

The Bloomberg columnist, Jeff Goldberg, wrote, “Is it a coincidence that these academics are singling out the world’s only Jewish-majority country for boycott? Only to those who know nothing of the history of anti-Semitic scapegoating.”

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Waving a Red Flag Against Chemical Weapons

— by Steve Sheffey

We should be very skeptical about the use of military force in Syria, but we should not let our legitimate concerns blind us to what is actually being proposed, or to the consequences of inaction.

We are all tired of war. We are all concerned about the unforeseen consequences of military action. Our government lied to us about Vietnam. Our government lied to us about Iraq. Those who forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it. But is Syria Vietnam? Is Syria Iraq? Are we being lied to?

More after the jump.
We cannot afford to be gullible, but neither can we afford to assume that Syria is just like Vietnam or Iraq. We cannot necessarily accept at face value everything our government tells us, but neither should we assume that Obama, Kerry, Hagel, and Power, all known to be very skeptical about the use of force (didn’t our Republican friends oppose Hagel in part because of that?), are the same as Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, who were looking for any justification to invade Iraq, and didn’t let the absence of any justification stop them.

This is not about taking sides in Syria’s civil war — if it were, we would have used military force long ago. Many of the rebel groups are worse than Assad. This is about responding to the use of chemical weapons. The goal is not to topple Assad. The goal is to deter the use of weapons of mass destruction by anyone.

Why do we suddenly care about deaths in Syria, after so many have already been killed? Because chemical weapons cross an unacceptable threshold. As Steve Call explains:

Gas weapons cannot be aimed in order to spare children or other noncombatants. They cause fear and prolonged suffering in victims, and cripple some survivors. They can contaminate the environment with poisons that last beyond a war’s end.

The world failed to act when Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons. We cannot fail again. Our ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, said on Friday:

In arguing for limited military action in the wake of this mass casualty chemical weapons atrocity, we are not arguing that Syrian lives are worth protecting only when they are threatened with poison gas. Rather, we are reaffirming what the world has already made plain in laying down its collective judgment on chemical weapons: There is something different about chemical warfare that raises the stakes for the United States and raises the stakes for the world.

There are many reasons that governments representing 98% of the world’s population — including all 15 members of the U.N. Security Council — agreed to ban chemical weapons.

These weapons kill in the most gruesome possible way. They kill indiscriminately — they are incapable of distinguishing between a child and a rebel. And they have the potential to kill massively.


The world failed to act when Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons. We cannot fail again. Poison gas attack in Halabja, 1988.

Power also explained on Friday that “For more than a year, we have pursued countless policy tools short of military force to try to dissuade Assad from using chemical weapons. We have engaged the Syrians directly and, at our request, the Russians, the U.N., and the Iranians sent similar messages.”

We have bent over backward to find a non-military solution. We have made every effort to engage the U.N. and other international forums. Power detailed all we have done and concluded:

It is only after the United States pursued these non-military options without achieving the desired result of deterring chemical weapons use, that the President concluded that a limited military strike is the only way to prevent Assad from employing chemical weapons as if they are a conventional weapon of war.

If you have any doubts at all about the wisdom of military intervention in Syria, please read what Power said on Friday. She directly addresses many concerns we’ve heard from both the left and the right. This is not a pleasant decision, but the choice is clear. As Power said, “There is no risk-free door #2 that we can choose in this case.” But the risk of inaction far outweighs the risk of action.

Concern for Israel’s safety is not a reason to oppose intervention in Syria. In fact, Israel supports President Obama’s position. Outgoing Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren said, “I’ve heard it suggested that a reason why the U.S. should not act in Syria is fear of retribution against Israel. In response, I say unequivocally that Israel can defend itself and will respond forcefully to any aggression by Syria.”

On Tuesday, Oren released an official statement, in which he said:

Israel agrees with President Obama that the use of chemical weapons is a ‘heinous act’ for which the Assad regime must be held accountable and for which there must be ‘international consequences.’ Israel further agrees with the President that the use of chemical weapons promotes the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and encourages ‘governments who would choose to build nuclear arms.’

Major pro-Israel organizations across the political spectrum also support the President’s position. (See separate article.)

Progressives especially should support Obama on this matter. Bob Creamer, who opposed the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, writes that “History will judge us harshly, if we stand by idly, and legitimate the use of chemical weapons — and weapons of mass destruction in general — by allowing their use in the view of the full world to go unpunished.”

Creamer continues:

Condemnation and “moral outrage” against the use of chemical weapons do not constitute a sanction. They are, in fact, no sanction at all. We would never allow the perpetrator of a rape or murder in the United States to be subjected to “moral outrage” and sent home to contemplate his deed. How much less can we allow that to the be case when a government has murdered 1,400 of its own people using weapons that have been universally condemned by the entire international community for almost 100 years. That defies common sense.

I would argue that the control — and ultimate elimination of weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological and nuclear — is one of the most critical priorities for Progressives like myself, and for our entire society. To secure the future of our species, we must eliminate them, not only from the hands of tyrants like Assad, or unreliable nation states, or non-state actors but from all of the world’s arsenals, including our own.

The more we learn, the more clear it is that we should support military action against Syria for its use of chemical weapons. Please contact your elected representatives and urge them to support military intervention in Syria — it will take you less than two minutes.

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Ron Dermer to Replace Oren as Israeli Ambassador to the U.S.‏


Dermer on the U.S.-Israel relationship

Ron Dermer, a U.S. born advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been confirmed to replace Michael Oren as Israel’s Ambassador to the United States. “Ron Dermer has all the qualities necessary to successfully fill this important post,” Netanyahu said.

I have known him for many years and I know that Ron will faithfully represent the State of Israel in the capital of our greatest ally — the U.S. On behalf of the citizens of Israel, I wish him great success.

Bipartisan praise for Dermer after the jump.
National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) Chair Marc R. Stanley:

On behalf of the National Jewish Democratic Council, I extend my warmest thanks to Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren for his exemplary service on behalf of the State of Israel. The U.S.-Israel relationship has grown even stronger throughout Ambassador Oren’s tenure, and we salute him and his wife Sally for their dedication to the unique partnership between our two countries.

NJDC also congratulates Ron Dermer on his appointment as the next Israeli Ambassador to the United States. We very much look forward to working with Mr. Dermer in his new role as he builds upon Ambassador Oren’s legacy. Together, we will continue promoting a secure, democratic Jewish State of Israel. We wish Mr. Dermer and his family a hearty mazal tov on this historic accomplishment.

Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) Executive Director Matt Brooks:

The RJC extends warm congratulations to our friend Ron Dermer on this well-deserved honor. Ron is known for being a trusted and effective aide to Prime Minister Netanyahu. Responsibility for maintaining the Jewish state’s most vital international alliance is heavy one, but knowing Ron as we do, we are confident that he is up to the job.

A visit with Ron has been a highlight on the itinerary of recent RJC delegations to Israel. We look forward to reciprocating his hospitality during his posting in Washington, DC. Mazel tov, Ron.

This is also a moment to thank Ambassador Michael Oren for four years of exemplary service during which he advanced the cause of U.S.-Israeli friendship in countless ways. We wish Ambassador Oren well in his future endeavors.

Israel Celebrates July 4th

In Israel, U.S. Ambassador Daniel Shapiro hosted 2,000 guests at his residence to celebrate the Fourth of July. The State Department posted video of the party and concert here. Israel’s political leaders attended, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres. Prime Minister Netanyahu said that “July 4 is more than an American holiday — it is cherished by all those who cherish freedom around the world” while also describing Israel as an island of democracy in a sea of instability. President Peres delivered remarks and said that the United States is a “beacon of hope for the values of freedom, peace and justice around the globe.”

A congratulatory statement by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren follows the jump.

We are proud to join with the United   States of America in celebrating its 237th birthday. The democracy and freedom upon which this great nation was founded are the same values that help form the foundation of the unbreakable U.S.-Israel bond. This alliance found its most outstanding expression earlier this year during President Obama’s visit to Israel, where he was greeted by crowds exuberantly waving the flags of both of our countries. Since the State of Israel’s establishment 65 years ago, the U.S.-Israel alliance has become more robust and multi-faceted. We look forward to continuing to strengthen this friendship.

From the people of Israel to our friends across America, Happy Independence Day!

Oren: “The Iron Dome Military Revolution”

In The Wall Street Journal, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren lauded the effectiveness of the Obama Administration-supported Iron Dome missile defense system. Oren wrote:

From drawing board to deployment in 2011, Israel completed the Iron Dome in a mere three years. The first two batteries-developed and financed entirely by Israel-took down dozens of Hamas rockets, making Iron Dome the first antimissile system ever to succeed in combat. The generous support of President Obama and the U.S. Congress enabled the construction of four additional batteries. Ultimately, 10 to 13 batteries and a full complement of interceptors will be needed to defend the entire country.

More after the jump.

Intercepting supersonic projectiles in midflight is literally rocket science. Israeli engineers pulled off the feat by combining cutting-edge tracking radar with electro-optic sensors and mounting them on highly mobile, all-weather air-defense systems. Iron Dome can hit multiple types of rockets and missiles at ranges of up to 75 kilometers. It can also be relocated swiftly to new sites and radically different terrain. (As part of our vast alliance with the United States, we have offered to share this pioneering technology.)

Most ingeniously, the Iron Dome determines within split seconds whether an incoming rocket is headed for an open space or a populated area-and saves its fire for the latter case. Millions of Israelis live within the terrorists’ range, with as little as 15 seconds to reach a bomb shelter.

By neutralizing most rockets headed for populated areas, the Iron Dome gives decision makers invaluable time to find diplomatic solutions. If salvos of rockets were pummeling Israeli homes, hospitals and schools, Israeli leaders would be under immense pressure to order ground operations that could yield significant casualties. By denying the terrorists a decisive offensive advantage, Iron Dome will save lives and prevent wars.

Before Israel’s recent Operation Pillar of Defense, Gaza terrorists fired some 700 rockets and mortars at southern Israel, many of which were taken out by Iron Dome. Still Israel was forced to take action, mounting precise sorties against terrorists and launch sites. In turn the terrorists fired 1,500 rockets, some aimed at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. These might have inflicted severe human and material loss, but Iron Dome downed nearly 85% of those headed toward populated areas.

Combined with Israel’s world-class civil-defense system, Iron Dome thwarted the terrorists’ aim to wreak intolerable damage. Consequently, Israeli leaders had the time and space needed to join with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton  and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in working out a cease-fire….

Iron Dome is thus a game-changer, but it isn’t a game-ender. Terrorists on our borders have more than 70,000 rockets, and 15 of every 100 fired can still get through the Iron Dome. The danger even of conventional warheads is unacceptable, but nuclear warheads would pose an existential threat. That is why, together with the U.S., Israel has developed the Arrow to intercept orbital and suborbital ballistic missiles, and we have successfully tested David’s Sling, a long-range rocket-defense system.

These innovations will not only protect Israel but enhance security for America and its allies world-wide.

Michael Oren on the Palestinian Authority’s Status at the UN

Transcript provided courtesy of NPR’s All Things Considered

Audio available here.

Guy Raz (Host of NPR News’ All Things Considered): Before the break, we heard from Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on what an upgraded status at the U.N. means for the Palestinian Authority. Israel and the U.S. strongly opposed that resolution. We asked Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, why his government sees it as a threat.

Michael Oren (Israeli Ambassador to the US): Because it represents an end run to the peace process. You know, the Palestinian Authority signed on agreements with Israel that said that there’d be no alternative to direct negotiations. The only way to reach a two-state solution for two people was for Israelis and Palestinians to sit and to work out the very complex issues between us. If you just run to the U.N. and declare that you’re a state, you get the territory without giving the peace, you really haven’t advanced the peace process. You’ve set it back.

Those are also violations of the Palestinians commitments to the United States. The United States is cosignatory to these agreements that say that there’s no alternative to direct negotiations, and that’s why President Obama also opposed the Palestinian move in the United Nations.

More after the jump.

RAZ: How, though, will nonmember observer status substantively change the political equation?

OREN: Well, they really won’t. And the only way it could be changed is if the Palestinians try to use this nonmember status in the General Assembly as a means of going to international bodies like the International Criminal Court and try to accuse Israel of war crimes; in which case, that will force us to take countermeasures that we don’t want to take. Actually, what we want to do…

RAZ: Countermeasures, what do you mean?

OREN: Well, the Palestinian Authority – President Abbas has now claimed he is the president of a state that includes the Gaza Strip. And the Gaza Strip is an organization called Hamas that has fired thousands of rockets against millions of Israeli citizens. Now, that is a war crime by any definition. And we could take him to an international court and accuse him of war crimes too.

We don’t want to do that. We want to negotiate with him. And if he declares his state and it’s a symbolic measure, if he keeps it as a symbolic measure and sits down and negotiate with us, he’ll find us to be a ready and eager partner and very anxious to reach this two-state solution.

RAZ: You say this just as news has come out this week of several thousand more housing units to be developed in the West Bank territory that the Palestinians see as their future state. So I mean, put yourself in their shoes for a moment. They have seen these settlements expand and expand and expand throughout this peace process, or so-called peace process, for the past 20 years, and it hasn’t really changed. I mean, they don’t have what they have sought. What other options do they have at this point? I mean, what else can a Palestinian leader do?

OREN: The settlements altogether take up something less than 2 percent of the entire West Bank. But settlements are part of the border issue, the part of the territorial issues. Those are one of what we call the core issues that have to be discussed at the negotiating table. But…

RAZ: And if they keep on expanding during these non-discussions, doesn’t it make it harder to dismantle them?

OREN: We understand that the Palestinians don’t like settlement expansion. We get it. But there are many things the Palestinians do that we don’t like. They name town squares after suicide bombers. They instruct their kids…

RAZ: But that’s easier to change than a settlement.

OREN: But they haven’t changed it. And it’s educating a young generation that Israel has no legitimacy, that terror is the way to approach Israel, rather than peace negotiations. It’s a serious problem. We don’t make it a precondition. We say, come, all right, let’s talk about it. Let’s sit at the table. We don’t like some of the things you do. We understand that you don’t like some of the things we do.

That’s the nature of negotiations. We are willing to discuss everything. Everything’s on the table, and just join us. The last four years, they’ve been refusing to join us. You ask what the Palestinians can do – they can negotiate.

RAZ: But what incentive do they have, Ambassador, I mean, if the settlement expansion is so problematic to them and many countries in the international community would argue it’s a violation of international law, why would they negotiate under those circumstances?

OREN: We froze settlement negotiations, settlement expansions, for 10 months in an attempt to induce the Palestinians to come to the negotiating table. They did not avail themselves at that time. So even when we freeze settlements, they’re not negotiating. They may not be negotiating for many reasons, perhaps related to some of the changes going on in the Middle East.

But we strongly believe that the only way for the Palestinians to change the reality on the ground, to actually have a real Palestinian state, not a virtual Palestinian state, the great way to respond to Hamas, to terror, which cannot give the Palestinians any future other than continued strife, which is not investing in education, which is not investing in infrastructure, the only way to do that is through genuine peace. And the only way to reach genuine peace is through direct and candid negotiations.

RAZ: That’s Michael Oren. He’s Israel’s ambassador to the United States. He joined me here in the studio. Ambassador, thank you.

OREN: Thank you, Guy. Good to be with you.

Jewish American Heritage Month Reception at White House

President Barack Obama hosted the annual Jewish American Heritage Month celebration at the White House to honor and celebrate the Jewish community’s contributions to America. Obama welcomed everyone to the celebration by remarking upon the Jewish community’s long and important history of civic involvement. 400 Jewish leaders from across the nation attended. A partial guest list follows the jump below.

Remarks by President Barack Obama
White House, East Room, May 30, 2012

This year, we celebrate Jewish Heritage Month — Jewish American Heritage Month, and we’re also commemorating an important anniversary.  One hundred-fifty years ago, General Ulysses Grant issued an order — known as General Orders Number 11 — that would have expelled Jews, “as a class,” from what was then known as the military department of the Tennessee.  It was wrong.  Even if it was 1862, even if official acts of anti-Semitism were all too common around the world, it was wrong and indicative of an ugly strain of thought.

But what happened next could have only taken place in America. Groups of American Jews protested General Grant’s decision.  A Jewish merchant from Kentucky traveled here, to the White House, and met with President Lincoln in person.  After their meeting, President Lincoln revoked the order — one more reason why we like President Lincoln.  (Laughter and applause.)

And to General Grant’s credit, he recognized that he had made a serious mistake.  So later in his life, he apologized for this order, and as President, he went out of his way to appoint Jews to public office and to condemn the persecution of Jews in Eastern Europe.

Today, we have a few documents on display — maybe some of you saw them when you walked in.  There are two letters of protest from Jewish organizations to President Lincoln.  There is President Lincoln’s handwritten reply, saying that he had taken action.  And there is a receipt for the donation that President Grant made to the Adas Israel Synagogue here in Washington, when he attended a service there in 1876.

So together, these papers tell a story, a fundamentally American story.  Like so many groups, Jews have had to fight for their piece of the American dream.  But this country holds a special promise:  that if we stand up for the traditions we believe in and in the values we share, then our wrongs can be made right; our union can be made more perfect and our world can be repaired.

Today, it’s our turn, our generation’s turn.  And you guys, your generation’s turn.  You’re younger than us.  (Laughter.)  We got some later generations here in the front.  We’re the ones who have to stand up for our shared values.   Here at home, we have to rebuild an America where everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody is doing their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same rules.

Beyond our borders, we have to stand alongside our friends who share our commitment to freedom and democracy and universal rights; and that includes, of course, our unwavering commitment to the State of Israel and its security and the pursuit of a just and lasting peace.  (Applause.)

It’s no secret that we’ve got a lot of work to do.  But as your traditions teach us, while we are not obligated to finish the work, neither are we free to desist from that work.

So today, we don’t just celebrate all that American Jews have done for our country; we also look toward the future.  And as we do, I know that those of you in this room, but folks all across this country will continue to help perfect our union; and for that, I am extraordinarily grateful.

God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

Guest list follows the jump.
More after the jump.
Partial Guest List

  • Rabbi Andrea Merow of Beth Sholom Congregation in Elkins Park
  • Rabbi Eric Yanoff of Adath Israel in Merion Station
  • Rabbi David Ackerman of Beth Am Israel in Penn Valley
  • Representative Allyson Schwartz (D-PA)
  • NJDC Chair Marc R. Stanley
  • NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris
  • Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren
  • Democratic National Committee Chair Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)
  • Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD)
  • Representative Shelley Berkley (D-NV)
  • Representative Howard Berman (D-CA)
  • Representative David Cicilline (D-RI)
  • Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN)
  • Representative Susan Davis (D-CA)
  • Representative Ted Deutch (D-FL)
  • Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY)
  • Representative Sander Levin (D-MI)
  • Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY)
  • Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
  • Representative Jarrod Polis (D-CO)
  • Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
  • Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA)
  • Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA)

Israel Featured Nation at Equality Forum


Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren

Israel was the featured nation at the Equality Forum, a worldwide LGBT rights conference based in Philadelphia, in May 3-6, 2012.

The forum began with a VIP kickoff reception held at the Gershman Y, Broad and Pine streets. In the lobby of the Gershman, the works of Israeli photographer David Adika were displayed, as part of the 13th Annual Gay and Lesbian Art Exhibit. Titled Equator, Adika’s photographs were displayed on the north, east south, and west sides of the lobby, representing similar regions in Israel.

More after the jump.


Left to right: Equality Forum Executive Director Malcolm Lazin, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, and Houston Mayor Annise Parker

Of his photography, Adika said, “It’s about the place I come from, and I wanted to give a record from Israel.” Asked whether his sexuality affects his work, Adika says, “Yes, but it’s not my agenda. My sexuality is not my agenda, it’s part of my identity. Of course it reflects (in his works), but it’s not very particular, it’s in it, but it’s not talking about it.”    

Explaining the exhibit on the walls of the lobby, Adika said, “Here there are four walls, the south wall, the north wall, the east wall, and the west wall. Each wall are related to their (equivalents) in Israel.” The south wall, he said, shows the Dead Sea, which is in the south of Israel; “I want to show in this work,” he added, “two (opposing) forces, the one that sinks, like this, it’s a sinkhole, and the one that floats, when you’re in the Dead Sea, you float.” The opposite forces at work, added Adika, were “sinking and floating, with all the metaphor you can think of.”

Debra Blair, Chair of the Board of the Equality Forum, said of Israel as a featured nation, “We’ve had several key countries from around the world, that are in stages of Gay liberation. I think to look at Israel, amongst the number of countries we’ve looked at, it’s just timely. There’s quite a bit of controversy around  having Israel, and that’s all the better for us, because that means we’re pushing the envelope for folks to be seen in terms of what they’re trying to do to get in a better place for equality for LGBT citizens.”

Elaborating on the controversy around Israel, Blair added, “With any particular country that has extenuating issues, that may or may not even deal with the LGBT movement, there will always be folks that, when you decide to honor or feature a particular country, they look for things to say, ‘Oh, they’re doing this, they’re doing that wrong.’ We’re simply focusing on the issues of LGBT civil rights around the world. When you have folks coming in to talk about what Israel may or may not be doing in terms of their political positions, or things of that nature, that’s where we put the stops on.” The focus, said Blair is “what (Israel is) doing to move the LGBT citizen to a different place of visibility.”

What has Israel done towards LGBT equality? “They have a number of initiatives,” replied Blair, who is an Assistant Professor in the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management of Temple University. “One of things we look at are those countries that are looking at (the LGBT) market as a potential tourism market. They, like many other countries around the world, are looking at the LGBT market and saying, ‘Come to Israel, we are a great destination.'” Israel, said Blair, has “challenges like every other place around the world around freedoms, but (Israel is) trying to be pro-active, to be welcoming.”

At the start of the kickoff, Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director of Equality Forum, spoke of the history of the Forum, stating that the organizers called it “a civil rights summit,” adding, “People in our own community really didn’t believe us, they thought we were engaging in hyperbola. Back when we said (the Forum) has an international focus, there was a moment in time when people were not focusing internationally, in terms of our national organizations…

“We’re (of Equality Forum) proud of our history,” added Lazin, “As you know, we co-produced (the documentary) Gay Pioneers, at a moment in time when very few in this community knew who Barbara Gittings was.” Gittings, along with Frank Kameny, were, as Lazin put it, “the father and mother of our organized (LGBT) civil-rights movement. We make the film Gay Pioneers with PBS and went out across PBS (stations) and schools across the country.”

Daniel Kuttner, Counsel-General of Israel to Philadelphia, said, “Israel resides in a rough neighborhood…but in spite of the hardship we sometimes bear, Israel is a state (with a) thriving cultural life-music, dance, theater, literature, I could go on,” as Kuttner commended David Adika, “whose photographic art is critically acclaimed throughout the world.” Kuttner gave his thanks to the University of the Arts, the Gershman Y, and Equality Forum for their work in putting together the events of the Forum.

Malcolm Lazin presented the Forum’s Distinguished Service Award to local philanthropist Mel Heifetz. “Many of you know Mel,” added Lazin, “because of his really remarkable philanthropy, there is certainly in the Philadelphia region who has been more philanthropic across the board to the LGBT community.” Heifets, said Lazin, helped to pay off the mortgage for the William Way LGBT Center, located at 13th and Spruce streets, and has donated generously to the AIDS community and to gay-friendly political candidates.  

Equality Forum 2012 Philadelphia with Israel as Featured Nation

— by Chip Alfred

The twentieth annual Equality Forum is being held in Philadelphia. This year this global LGBT summit is highlighting the achievements of the State of Israel in giving equal opportunities to all sexual orientations.

According to the Equality Forum‘s Executive Director Malcolm Lazin:  

Our 20th anniversary celebrates the transformation from a groundbreaking conference that focused on an emerging civil rights movement into the annual Equality Forum recognized as the premier annual national and international LGBT summit.

Israel as the featured nation will be represented by the Ambassador to the U.S., major Israeli LGBT leaders, and Tel Aviv DJs and entertainers.”

The annual Equality Forum includes 25 panels, International Equality Dinner, SundayOUT! at The Piazza, six parties, 13th Annual Gay and Lesbian Art Exhibit, theater, and special events. There is no registration fee and all panels are free.

Details of the Featured Nation Israel Programs follow the jump.
Michael Oren
Equality Forum Featured Nation Israel Programs

  • Ambassador of Israel to the U.S. Dr. Michael B. Oren as Keynote Speaker at International Equality Dinner
  • David AdikaIsraeli photographer David Adika featured at 13th annual Gay and Lesbian Art Exhibit
  • Israeli delegation including elected officials, leaders, drag queen, and entertainers
  • Tel Aviv Drag Queen Osher Sabag performs at Drag Party
  • Israeli Pop Star Shorty performs at SundayOUT! at The Piazza
  • Tel Aviv DJs spin at Equality Forum parties

International Equality Dinner
At the National Museum of American Jewish History – Saturday, May 5th, 7 to 10 p.m.

  • Houston Mayor Annise Parker  – Recipient of the 17th annual International Role Model Award
  • NBCUniversal  – Recipient of the 10th annual International Business Leadership Award
  • Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren – Keynote Speaker
  • MSNBC Anchor Thomas Roberts  – Master of Ceremonies


25 Major Panels including:

  • Featured Nation: Israel – Moderated by Israel native Nurit Shein, Executive Director, Mazzoni LGBT Health Center, with four leading Israeli panelists, including openly gay Tel Aviv City Council Member Yaniv Weizman,  Thursday, May 3rd at 8:30 p.m.
  • National Military Panel – Members of OutServe, a network of out service members, on obstacles LGBT military personnel face after “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Saturday, May 5th at 1:00 p.m.
  • National Sports Panel – A panel of sports experts discusses the challenges facing openly LGBT amateur, college and professional athletes, Saturday, May 5th at 1:00 p.m.
  • National Religious Colloquy – Moderated by Rabbi Rebecca Alpert, Professor of Religion, Temple University, a panel of Catholics discusses LGBT inclusion in the Roman Catholic Church, Thursday, May 3rd at 7:00 p.m.  
  • National Youth Panel – Facilitated by Katherine Miller, discharged West Point cadet under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” is a discussion with gay former University of Michigan Student Body President Chris Armstrong, and Iowa activist and son of lesbian parents Zach Wahls, Saturday, May 5th at 2:30 p.m.
  • National  Same-Sex Marriage Panel – Moderated by Rebecca Isaacs, Executive Director, Equality Federation, the panel surveys the status of marriage equality, Saturday, May 5th at 2:30 p.m.


SundayOUT!
At The Piazza – Sunday, May 6th, Noon to 7 p.m.

Over 150 vendors, artisans, galleries, bars, boutiques, cafés and restaurants in an Italian inspired open-air plaza. SundayOUT! includes music, recording artists, drag queens, and Israeli DJs and performers.

Special Theatre Performance

The Twentieth-Century Way – Set in L.A. in 1914, two actors are hired by police to entrap homosexuals in public restrooms for social vagrancy, at Play and Players, Thursday, May 3rd to Saturday, May 5th

Six Parties including:

  • NBCUniversal Welcome Party at Vedge – Thursday, May 3rd
  • Drag Show & Party at Tabu – Friday, May 4th
  • Stimulus Party – Friday, May 4th
  • Girl Fever at Sisters – Saturday, May 5th
  • Men’s Party at Voyeur – Saturday, May 5th
  • SundayOUT! Tea Dance at Tendenza – Sunday, May 6th

For a complete schedule of events, visit The Equality Forum Website.

Equality Forum is a national and international LGBT civil rights organization with an educational focus. Equality Forum coordinates LGBT History Month, produces documentary films, undertakes high-impact initiatives and presents the premier annual national and international LGBT civil rights summit.