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Tel Aviv University
TAU Anat Biletzki speaker at a church committed to boycott Israel initiatives at the 'Tree of Life' Conference

 Anat Biletzki anatbi@post.tau.ac.il

Editorial Note
The First Congregational Church of Old Lyme is part of the United Church of Christ (UCC), a highly liberal American denomination that supports redistribution of wealth and gay marriages.  In 2007 UCC came close to passing a resolution on boycotting Israel and individual churches have been involved in local pro-Palestinian/Israel boycott initiatives. 
Yet, its concern for the human rights of Palestinian has apparently never extended to others in the Middle East.   Neither the UCC movement or the First Congregational Church has spoken out against the killing of Christians in Egypt and other countries in the region.  The Church has not spoken out on the fate of a pastor whom the regime in Iran condemned to death because he had converted to Christianity as a young man.   The Church has not protested the fate of homosexuals who are hunted and killed, sometimes in gruesome public executions and does not acknowledge that those in Gaza have been forced to seek protection in Israel. 
As a philosopher, Dr. Anat Biletzki, a featured speaker at the Church, should be aware that double standards and hypocrisy are at the root of stereotyping and hatred in the world.  As for the First Congregational Church, it should be aware that judging Jews by different standards is a staple of classic anti-Semitism.    
Biletzki is also a member of the Advisory Board of Israeli Ocupation Archive- Israel’s War Against Palestine: Documenting the Military Occupation of Palestinian and Arab Lands

Here is an account by Jon, of a Biletzki lecture in April 2011




I had an iphone “moment of truth” last week while attending one of the many “Ignore the Fact that the Arab World is in Flames and Instead Listen to Us Rehash Accusations Against Israel for the Umpteenth Time” events that take place at Boston College every Spring. 

This one featured Tel Aviv University professor Anat Biletzki (file her origin in your mind for now, as it will be relevant soon) talking about The Goldstone Report. More specifically, she was talking about how since Righteous Jew Richard Goldstone published his landmark report, Israel has become even more repressive, more McCarthyite, more (dare she use the word) fascist than ever before in order to prevent its truth from becoming global policy.

Now I haven’t heard Professor Biletzki talk before but others I know have and, more importantly, she is just one of a class of speakers that have been providing similar background noise in the area for decades. This class consists of relative lightweights with impressive sounding titles who, despairing of getting their countrymen to vote the way they want, instead travel the globe to denounce their nation and fellow citizens to the cheers of a ready market of Israel-dislikers hungry for content (preferably delivered with an Jewish or Israeli accent).

Such talks are usually peppered with un-provable accusations (is Israeli military intelligence really tapping the phones of BC students?), and easily exposable fabrications. Which is why talks like this must be engineered to avoid any actual exchanges with the audience during which lies can be exposed.

My iphone moment came when Ms. Biletzki claimed that Alan Dershowitz, during a lecture at Tel Aviv University, called for the firing of two professors (by name) for their political views and activity.

Now I have been exposed to Alan Dershowitz since he first yelled at my mother in the 1970s (a story for another time), so even though I understand him to be one of the best assets supporters of Israel have against legions of accusers like Biletzki, I also know that (especially during heated exchanges with hostile audiences) he tends to say controversial things.

But given that everything I’ve ever heard Dershowitz say on the subject of academic freedom involves countering bad academic speech with good speech (not punishing professors for their beliefs), I couldn’t imagine him calling for the firing of professors as part of a planned public address. And so I pulled out my phone, fired up Safari and Googled his address.

Interestingly, the full text of the speech was linked from another site which denounced his talk in terms similar to those used by the BC speaker. But nowhere in the speech itself could I find a single reference to what Biletzki had just said. In fact, Dershowitz seems to go out of the way to re-enforce the point he makes regularly: that the best way to deal with professors telling lies is for other professors to tell the truth.

And far from being an example of McCarthyism, his speech is actually an accusation of McCarthyism directed against Biletzki and several other Tel Aviv academics who he claims have been routinely using their influence and authority within the university to undercut those with whom they politically disagree, as well as using the classroom as a platform for political indoctrination, rather than educational enlightenment.

Now I have no idea if Dershowitz’s accusations against Biletzki and like-minded academics at her institution are true or not, but I can confirm that at least one player in this heated exchange (Biletzki) was easily exposed as using lies to smear a political adversary, something that certainly smacks of McCarthyism more than any Israeli or pro-Israeli activity she denounced from the stage that evening.

Since the highly controlled Q&A session did not allow for the type of give and take that would let this lie be fully exposed, I instead questioned her about it after the event, during which time she assured me that she had the whole talk on tape and would provide me support for her accusation by e-mail (I’m still waiting).

After thinking the whole event over, I can only think of a few alternative explanations for why Ms. Biletzki said what she said:

* She spoke the truth and does have the evidence she claimed, but has not yet found the time to provide it. (Given that others I know who have challenged her in other forums were also promised supporting data that was never delivered, I think this explanation the least likely.)

* She made the whole thing up in hope that her audience (mostly BC undergraduates) would simply accept what she said at face value, given her role as a professor (i.e., an argument from authority)

* Her self-regard is so huge that any accusation that she or people who believe as she does can represent anything other than the pure distillation of virtue can only be understood as the attack of a McCarthyite fascist

This last option is re-enforced by the nature of the audiences speakers like Biletzki choose to speak before: like-minded Palestinian hasbarah ditto-heads who willingly lap up any accusations against Israel and lash out at anyone who uses their free speech rights to criticize such anti-Israel propaganda masquerading as peace activism.

It should be noted that Ms. Biletzky is a professor of philosophy, which may explain why she made reference to rhetoric on more than one occasion. Which brings me to the title of this piece which is one of the three modes of persuasion identified by Aristotle which include logos (an appeal to reason), pathos (an appeal to the emotions) and ethos (an ethical appeal to the audience based on the integrity and character of the speaker, usually demonstrated through the strength of the presentation itself – i.e., not as an appeal to authority because of the speaker’s title or broader reputation).

If I were to subject Biletzky’s talk to an analysis based on these three categories, she seems to be feigning logos by presenting accusations (many untrue) as unquestionable facts (usually backed up by nothing more than appeals to authority, either by individuals like Goldstone or organizations like the United Nations). The heart of her talk was actually pathos which is the cornerstone of all BDS-style arguments, counting on they do of the emotional impact of gut-wrenching stories and picture of suffering Palestinians, absent any context (or logos) to ensure their effectiveness.

Which leaves us with ethos, i.e., the integrity of a speaker who engages in this type of behavior in order to please one audience at the expense of, among other things, the truth. And as far as I can tell, Ms. Biletzky, like those that invited her, indeed like everyone making up the BDS “movement,” has none.

Anat Biletzki

Anat Biletzki

Anat Biletzki

Born in Jerusalem, Professor Anat Biletzki spent much of her childhood and schooling (elementary and high school) in the United States and Canada. Her university degrees were acquired at Tel Aviv University in Israel, in Political Science and Philosophy. Biletzki has been teaching at the philosophy department in Tel Aviv University since 1979. She has also traveled widely, as a visiting scholar and fellow at, among others, Cambridge University, Harvard University, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, Bergen University, Boston University, and MIT.

Anat Biletzki has been active in the peace movement and in several human rights projects in Israel for over 25 years. In addition to founding the peace movement “The Twenty-First Year”, the organiztion “Open Doors”, andworking with the Beta Committee, Professor Biletzki has been active as one of the leaders of Hacampus Lo Shotek – The Campus Is Not Silent – at Tel Aviv University, which runs campus events dedicated to ending the occupation and ensuring a just peace. She is on the board of FFIPPI-Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace and was chairperson of the board of B’Tselem – the Israeli Information center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories – during the second intifada (2001-2006). In 2005 she was chosen as one of “50 most influential women in Israel” by Globes, the Israeli business monthly, and was nominated among the “1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005”.

Currently, Anat Biletzki is the Albert Schweitzer Professor of Philosophy at Quinnipiac University and Professor of Philosophy at Tel Aviv University.    

Seventh Annual Tree of Life Conference on Israel and Palestine to be held in Old Lyme November 5 and 6

Old Lyme, CT –The seventh annual Tree of Life Conference on Israel and Palestine will take place on Saturday and Sunday, November 5 and 6, in Old Lyme, CT, at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme (FCCOL). Open to the public, the interfaith forum is organized by the Tree of Life Educational Foundation (TOLEF) and supported by organizations and individuals committed to peace and justice. Consistent with the six previous conferences, the event will amplify the voices of peacemakers as  it illuminates issues inherent in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict routinely overlooked or under-reported by mainstream media. Special emphasis this year will be on journalism: how well it reports – or avoids – the truth.
October 19, 2011 By admin

In announcing this year’s Conference, the Rev. David W. Good, senior minister of the FCCOL, commented, “The protests of Arab Spring and the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN bring into sharp relief many of the troubling aspects of the conflict we explore in Tree of Life initiatives. The American public is becoming more sensitive to the complicity of the U.S. in the ongoing tension in the Middle East. So this year, while we’ll again take a look at “facts on the ground,” our special focus on journalism, on the new media landscape, will help concerned citizens fill alarming gaps in news coverage of these – and many other — critical issues.”

Opening concert  -  Saturday, November 5 – 5:30 pm

The first of two conference events will take place on Saturday, November 5, at 5:30 pm, when young musicians from Beit Sahour in the West Bank join The Silver Hammer, a rock band from the CT shoreline, in a program of lively music celebrating cross-cultural friendship. Following the concert, attendees will be welcomed at a Middle Eastern dinner provided by The Islamic Center of New London and the Connecticut Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Speaker program: Voices of Conscience and Hope  – Sunday, November 6, 1:30-6:30pm

On Sunday, November 6, from 1:30 to 6:30pm, first-person accounts of peace advocacy under Israeli occupation will be offered by speakers from Israel and Palestine, and working journalists will tell  their “back-stories” of  communicating the truth in a challenging media environment.

Albert Schweitzer Professor of Philosophy at Quinnipiac University and Professor of Philosophy at Tel Aviv University, Anat Biletzki, will speak about her activism in many human rights projects in Israel, including B’Tselem – the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. Author Mark Braverman will talk about his efforts to project prophetic truths across religious boundaries. Allison McCracken, who has traveled extensively and worked in the West Bank, will share those experiences and report on her current work in Washington, DC with CodePink, a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement. Daoud Nassar, from the Tent of Nations near Bethlehem, will give an account of his efforts to build bridges of reconciliation while trying to save his family farm from appropriation for Israeli settlements. Sahar Vardi,representing the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, will describe the organization’s non-violent tactics in preventing Israeli destruction of Palestinian homes in the occupied territories. Ashley Bates, assistant editor of Tikkun magazine, will relate her experiences as a journalist in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, as well as her work with Palestinian and Israeli youth. Palestinian journalist and author of Gaza MomLaila El-Haddad,will tell what it’s like to both cover the story of Gaza and live it. Adam Horowitz, of Mondoweiss, a news website devoted to covering American foreign policy in the Middle East, will bring a progressive Jewish perspective to the discussion. American journalist and blogger Jared Malsin, detained and deported by Israeli authorities in 2010 while working for Ma’an, a Palestinian news agency, will consider the implications of that experience for working journalists. And Alison Weir, president of the Council for the National Interest. and executive director of If Americans Knew, a non-profit, independent research institute, will describe her work to augment mainstream reporting of the conflict.

Following the program, refreshments will be served at an arts, crafts, and information    bazaar at which all conference attendees will be welcomed.

Admission, reservations, information

Both the Saturday concert and the speaker program on Sunday are open to the public. Admission: $20 per event, or $35 for admission to both. Students and persons under age 21 will be admitted free of charge. Advance registration and sponsorship commitments may be made online at www.tolef.org, or through the FCCOL office at 860-434-8686 and fccol@snet.net.

The First Congregational Church of Old Lyme is located at the intersection of Ferry Road and Lyme Street, Old Lyme, CT.

About the Tree of Life Educational Fund

The Tree of Life Educational Fund is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established by the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme to provide cross-cultural and transnational travel experienceseducational opportunities, and interfaith events at a variety of venues, helping participants to

engage in making this a more just and peaceful world. In addition to their appearances in Old Lyme, this year’s Tree of Life Conference speakers and performers will also make presentations in West Hartford CT, New York City, Cape Cod, Cambridge MA (Harvard University), and Springfield MA. Information on these programs may be found at www.tolef.org.

Websites of featured speakers, organizations:

Ashley Bates www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/contributors/bio-ashleybates

Anat Biletzki http://www.quinnipiac.edu/x1498.xml?School=LA&Dept=PO&Person=44007

Mark Braverman markbraverman.org

Laila El-Haddad www.gazamom.org

Adam Horowitz  mondoweiss.net

Jared Malsin jaredmalsin.wordpress.com

Allison McCracken www.codepink.orgwww.tolef.org

Daoud Nassar  fotonna.org

Sahar Vardi www.icahd.org

Alison Weir councilforthenationalinterest.org,ifamericansknew.org

The Silver Hammer silver-hammer.webs.com

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