An incident at Ben Gurion Airport put under the spotlight two Israeli scholars who teach in the Israel Studies Department at the University of Maryland.
A couple of weeks ago, a woman has mocked a Chabad rabbi at the Ben Gurion Airport as he helped a traveling businessman to put on tefillin. The incident was captured on a cellphone video and was posted on Facebook. In the clip which Gad Kaufman, the man who was donning the tefillin, posted online, the woman was seen lambasting and mocking the men, then laughing hysterically. She told them in Hebrew to “move because you are bothering me” and asked rhetorically, “Why are you doing this here? There are people here.” When asked to tone down, instead, she became even more aggressive to the point of appearing utterly bizarre. Kaufman, wrote on his post: “An amazing incident took place this morning at the airport, when I was politely asked by a Chabad man if I wanted to put on tefillin... I said yes, and then a woman with a crazy look jumped up and started cursing, harassing and disturbing! It is really shameful that being a Jew in this country means being persecuted by leftist Bohemians. If I were a Muslim or a Christian, would it be more legitimate for her?”
As it turns out, the woman who was screeching and flailing her arms is Pnina Peri who holds a doctorate in Education. She is a visiting Assistant Professor of Israel Studies and formerly taught at Israel’s Sapir Academic College. Peri describes herself as an expert in multicultural theories. In 2007 she published a book in Hebrew Education in Multi-Cultured Society: Pluralism and Congruence Among Cultural Divisions. One would expect an educator and an expert in multiculturalism to show more decorum, not to mention more understanding, for the orthodox group in the multicultural Israeli society.
But there is more to the story that meets the eye. Pnina Peri is the wife of Yoram Peri, the head of the Israel Studies Program and a former Israeli left-wing activist. Peri started his career as the editor of Davar, the now defunct paper of the Labor Party. He was also the vice chair and then president of the New Israel Fund (NIF), which has been accused by the Israeli government of espousing an extremely hostile anti-Israel line. Some critics note that the NIF adopted the position that “Jews cannot do any right and the Palestinians cannot do any wrong.”
Yoram Peri’s work echoes some of the NIF bias.
For instance, Peri has blamed the IDF for militarizing the Israeli society and sculpting the peace process. So much so that Ambassador Samuel W. Lewis, a persistent critic of Israel, adopted Peri’s critic. He noted that while Israeli military intelligence assessments first encouraged and reinforced peace process they "then gradually shifted to a highly skeptical view of the possibility of making peace with Yasser Arafat." Lewis postulated that Israel refused peace with the Palestinians because of the former military leaders were pushing for war. "For American readers, a subtext of Peri’s account of Israel’s travails is the broader lesson about what can happen to a democratic political system over decades of constant warfare of greater or lesser intensity. Perhaps inevitably, military leaders, active or retired, acquire great public prominence, while civilian politicians, nominally their superiors, shrink in perceived stature. In Israel it has become more and more difficult for either major political party to achieve political success without having a bevy of retired generals in its top posts. The United States has not fallen victim to this tendency, and the American military remains firmly subordinate to civilian leadership. Nonetheless, it is worth pondering the long-term implications of a worldwide “war against terror” without any definite horizon or foreseeable duration. Such an endless state of war against its various enemies has now weakened the fabric of Israeli parliamentary democracy and provides a strong argument for making every possible effort to reach a comprehensive peace soon."
In 2004 Yoram Peri told the Guardian that the Sharon plan to disengage from Gaza reflected the deep divide within the Israeli public. Peri provided a racist description of one camp while embracing the other. "The majority are western, secular, modern, future-orientated, while the settlers are fundamentalists who look back 2,000 years. They are xenophobic and anti-democratic."
In 2006 Yoram Peri was interviewed in the Forward during the trial of former Minister Haim Ramon, lamenting on the prosecution and police actions. Peri's explanation was outrageous. “When a country is dealing with a continued war against the Palestinians, it gets accustomed to doing things in a way that bypasses the law, bends democracy and generally does things that are unacceptable."
In a similar vein, also in 2006, in an article about the Israeli elections Peri provided a racist interpretation. "Like Le Pen, Haider and other right-wing leaders in Europe who preach hatred for foreigners and call for their expulsion, here, too, we have a radical right-wing Israeli leader who is prepared to forego land in the West Bank, and also of sections of the Land of Israel itself, on condition we "clean" the remain territory of unwanted foreign, non-Jewish blood.”
Pnina Peri seems to be ideologically compatible with her husband. For instance, she was among the signatories of a petition published on the 10th of July 2014, protesting "the conduct of the Israeli media and their coverage of events since the kidnapping of three Jewish boys in the Occupied Territories. The Israeli media has largely adopted the official position that conceals the reality of occupation as the main determinant of Palestinian behavior... While the Israeli pain received extensive coverage and was portrayed in human terms, the main headlines and news pieces ignored the names and the human dimension of the Palestinians injured in the same period. Furthermore, most of the media coverage of the riots involving right-wing Israelis described them as “legitimate demonstrations”, even though the rioters shouted racist slogans and incited and encouraged violence. In contrast, Palestinian protests were presented mainly as disturbances that endangered the safety of Jewish residents. Media institutions that have chosen to adopt the official line on the three boys’ abduction by immediately holding Hamas and the Palestinian Authority responsible... The coverage of Arab protest activity and the statements by Arab MKs has been hostile and dehumanizing, with no attention given to the reality of living under occupation for more than 47 years.”
Obviously such an ideology has landed her a position in her husband’s department where she is teaching a class on "Investigating Topics in Israel Studies; Israeli Society through History, Sociology and Art.” Her course deals with "The prolonged conflict with the Palestinians and Arab and states and Israeli occupation of the west bank for almost 50 years, had an impact on militarism, political life, centrality of religious-secular relations, gender relations and the Israeli culture as a whole. We will examine the way art and cinema has dealt, with certain cultural issues and what sociology can contribute to our knowledge.”
Her class performance, however, seems to be quite poor. A questionnaire about her teaching skills was published on the popular website Rate My Professors. While some students praised her pleasant demeanor, virtually all of them questioned her competence as a teacher. “She’s a really nice lady, but she finds it hard to comprehend that not all things can be categorized as either black or white — this caused a lot of tension between her and some students,” as one commentator stated.
But the airport incident raises a more important issue which Kaufman alluded to. What would have happened if Peri harassed and mocked a “person of color” instead of a Chabad rabbi? The Union of Orthodox Rabbi in America sent a letter of protest to the President of the University of Maryland, but there was no reply so far. It can be assumed that the University would waste no time in disciplining Peri. Ironically, not long ago, Melissa Landa, a Jewish lecturer in another department at the University was let go, allegedly because she was too pro-Israel.
If Peri is not fired, it would prove once again that there is a double standard in higher education in the United States. Academic authorities are quick to act to protect “persons of color" and other politically correct causes. But they drag their feet when it comes to punishing those who abuse Jews.
Israel Studies Professor Decries ‘Nasty Personal Shaming’ Campaign After Video of Verbal Attack on Chabad Rabbi Goes Viral
MAY 30, 2018
by Algemeiner Staff
An Israeli academic teaching at a prestigious Israel studies institute in the US protested on Wednesday that she was being “subjected to the most nasty kind of personal shaming,” after she was captured on cellphone video this week berating and mocking a Chabad rabbi at Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv.
Pnina Peri yells at Chabad Rabbi Meir Herzl during an altercation at Ben-Gurion International Airport, caught on video.
Photo: Gad Kaufman / YouTube screenshot.
Pnina Peri — a visiting assistant professor at the University of Maryland’s Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies — told a Hebrew news outlet that she lost her temper after she was called “Hitler” during an altercation on Monday with Rabbi Meir Herzl and Gad Kaufman, an Israeli traveler who was putting on tefillin with Rabbi Herzl’s assistance.
Kaufman later posted video of the verbal clash on social media, accompanied by an explanation that read, “An amazing incident took place this morning at the airport, when I was politely asked by a Chabad man if I wanted to put on tefillin? I said yes, and then a woman with a crazy look jumped up and started cursing, harassing and disturbing!”
Kaufman continued: “It is really shameful that being a Jew in this country means being persecuted by the leftist Bohemian. If I were a Muslim or a Christian, would it be more legitimate for her…?”
Peri told Hebrew news site Ynet on Wednesday that “she was not against the values of religion and believes that every person should live in accordance with their faith.”
“I apologize for losing control, but I also look forward to an apology for the terrible things that hurt me and caused me to be angry,” she added.
Peri alleged that after she “politely” asked the two men to move to another part of the airport, so as not to disturb her, they responded by calling her “Hitler” and commented that it was “a pity that they did not kill me and my family during the Holocaust.”
Those words “made me react harshly,” she said.
Rabbi Herzl disputed Peri’s account, telling Ynet that “the respected professor” had presented an “incorrect version of the facts of the case.” He pointed out that he and Kaufman had been separated from Peri by a passageway, saying the video showed that she objected to their presence “in a nearby radius.”
“Neither before her outburst, nor during her horror show that lasted for many minutes, did I or the Jewish worshiper do anything except request the right to pray in silence,” Rabbi Herzl said.
In the amateur video posted on social media — which caught only part of the exchange — Peri was seen in a highly-agitated state, repeatedly ordering the men “to go over there” and laughing sarcastically as Kaufman wrapped the tefillin around his arm. As Herzl and Kaufman attempted to quietly recite a blessing, Peri’s laugh became louder and more aggressive.
Peri has continued to receive harsh criticism since landing back in the US, with dozens of internet trolls posting negative reviews of her teaching on the popular college student website ratemyprofessors.com since the video of her outburst went viral.
The last genuine reviews of Peri’s classroom performances were posted in 2011, with some Israel studies students praising her pleasant demeanor, but virtually all of them questioning her competence as a teacher.
“She’s a really nice lady, but she finds it hard to comprehend that not all things can be categorized as either black or white — this caused a lot of tension between her and some students,” one review posted in 2010 remarked.
Peri is married to the head of the Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies, Prof. Yoram Peri. A former adviser to late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Yoram Peri headed the left-wing New Israel Fund from 1999-2001. He was also an editor of the now-defunct Israeli Labor Party newspaper Davar.
We, the undersigned, being journalists, writers, civil society activists and public figures, wish to express our protest over the conduct of the Israeli media and their coverage of events since the kidnapping of three Jewish boys in the Occupied Territories.
The Israeli media has largely adopted the official position that conceals the reality of occupation as the main determinant of Palestinian behavior; it has also suppressed the fact that the kidnapping was carried out in an area under Israeli security control, blamed the Palestinian leadership and ignored the immense human suffering resulting from the searches carried out by the IDF in Palestinian cities and towns. Most of the media has given a platform to incitement and to those advocating revenge. This stance was also reflected in advertising, media commentaries and opinion pieces that encouraged direct or indirect acts of revenge. In addition to wide coverage of the calls “Death to the Arabs”, there has been a clear lack of coverage of the physical harm suffered by Palestinians, whether as part of the military operations in the Occupied Territories or as a result of racist attacks.
While the Israeli pain received extensive coverage and was portrayed in human terms, the main headlines and news pieces ignored the names and the human dimension of the Palestinians injured in the same period. Furthermore, most of the media coverage of the riots involving right-wing Israelis described them as “legitimate demonstrations”, even though the rioters shouted racist slogans and incited and encouraged violence. In contrast, Palestinian protests were presented mainly as disturbances that endangered the safety of Jewish residents.
Media institutions that have chosen to adopt the official line on the three boys’ abduction by immediately holding Hamas and the Palestinian Authority responsible, also chose to adopt the discourse of the Israeli police when it came to the kidnapping and murder of the Palestinian boy near Jerusalem, claiming that “all possibilities are being investigated”. Simultaneously, the media has acted unprofessionally by repeating rumors and gossip about the possible criminal background of the Palestinian boy’s murder, which have proven to be wrong. The coverage of Arab protest activity and the statements by Arab MKs has been hostile and dehumanizing, with no attention given to the reality of living under occupation for more than 47 years.
Unfortunately it seems that most of the media in Israel have forgotten what the role of the media is. Therefore, it is important to state: an inflammatory, biased and unfair media that does not provide the complex wider context of the conflict situations in the region is unprofessional and can also be held responsible for the escalation of violence in the Occupied Territories and inside Israel. Such behavior is harmful and prevents the media acting as a moral voice.
Therefore, we call on the Israeli media to show responsibility and decency, to exercise restraint, to defend human rights and universal values, and to promote the rights to life, freedom and equality.
Yes to Palestine, no to Palestinians
Just like European rightists, leader of Israel's radical right preaches hatred for foreigners
Published: 03.29.06 , 14:33
It is just one day after the elections, official results have yet to be released and voting patterns have yet to be studied, but there are four conclusions we can make about the elections for the 17th Knesset.
The Likud's disintegration and the blow the right-wing took has created a new situation here: There is a clear majority for conceding land. But the political picture created is far different than it was when Yitzhak Rabin was elected prime minister in 1992.
Then, the peace camp believed that in exchange for dividing the Land of Israel, it would be possible to make peace with the Palestinians. Today, a majority of Israelis feel the occupation has become a liability rather than an asset, and that we must get out of the West Bank.
But because there won't be peace here, we must also disengage from the Palestinians. If we don’t push them away, at least we can draw away from them.
Some foreign commentators pointed out during the campaign that no party spoke about peace. Not even Meretz.
Sharon was the first politician to speak about "quiet," while others made due with "a halt to violence." But the word "peace" was completely out.
After 39 years of occupation, the average Israeli differentiates between the question of Palestine and the question of the Palestinians. He is ready to withdraw from most of the territories, but the dream of living side-by-side with the Palestinians is dead.
But isn't it deceitful to suggest a pullout will bring about disengagement? Can we bring the war on terror to a close by "converging," as Prime Minister-designate Olmert suggests? Not one international observer believes it would be possible.
We are too bound up with the Palestinians, we have too much control over their wellbeing, they are too stuck into us. It is fantasy to believe that by placing a physical arrow between, even in the form of a concrete wall, we will be able to live here with any modicum of security.
But this election was won by the naive belief that we can create a situation in which "we are here and they are there." It won such a strong victory that many people want to enforce it not only on West Bank Palestinians, but on Palestinian-Israelis as well.
Which brings us to Avigdor Lieberman.
Lieberman's success stems not only from the fact that he managed to bring together the Russian vote looking for a replacement for Sharon, and not from the fact that he portrayed himself as a "law-and-order" kind of guy who would fight corruption.
Most of his supporters voted for him because he represents the new face of the radical right, something Alberto Spektorowski of Tel Aviv University calls "post-territorial nationalism."
It's a simple principle: In the past, nationalism included a belief that there was intrinsic value to a lot of living space, even to territorial expansion. Today, leaders of the radical right are prepared to forego land, on condition that we conduct ethnic cleansing in our smaller territory.
Just like Le Pen, Haider and other right-wing leaders in Europe who preach hatred for foreigners and call for their expulsion, here, too, we have a radical right-wing Israeli leader who is prepared to forego land in the West Bank, and also of sections of the Land of Israel itself, on condition we "clean" the remain territory of unwanted foreign, non-Jewish blood.
For those hoping Israel would somewhat resemble Europe, the dream is coming close to reality. But if we are trying to be "more European" here, why try to emulate the continent's ugly side?
It's all Bibi's fault
The real story of these elections is the tragic tale of Benjamin Netanyahu. It would be little exaggeration to say that everything is Bibi's fault.
Had he not chosen to fight Sharon, had he stayed in government, supported its policies and cooperated, he would have retained his popularity and slid easily into the Likud chairmanship. Sharon wouldn't have bolted, Kadima wouldn't have been established, the Likud wouldn't have broken apart, Lieberman's star wouldn't have risen, Israel's political map would have remained bi-polar, and the Likud – led by Bibi Netanyahu – would have continued to lead the country.
Instead, he cooperated with the rebels, quit the government, helped push an extreme platform for the Likud, lost votes and support because of his political wishy-washiness. He started the snowball rolling that led to his, and his party's, demise Tuesday night.
Those who don’t like Netanyahu – and people love to hate him – say it was all because he was in a hurry to become prime minister. That it was all because of his character. That his small mistakes stemmed from is inability to control his temperament and his character.
They are sure that even though Netanyahu managed, for a short while, to reign in Bibi, eventually Bibi re-surfaced and asserted his control over Netanyahu.
Those with more respect for this able man say it all stems from the pure ideology he learned from his father, history Prof. Ben Zion Netanyahu. That he really believes we should not have pulled out of the Gaza Strip, that we mustn't make any concessions to the Palestinians, that Israel faces an existential threat, and that we must stand our ground to protect every last grain of sand. That Bibi has always been, and remains, Netanyahu.
Which explanation is more correct? Now, as he sits at the head of a marginal opposition party with 11 Knesset seats, far from the media spotlights, he will have a lot of time to gain some perspective and to come to some far-reaching conclusions.
It is fitting that the man who more than anyone caused the revolution of 2006 should do some real soul searching.
Prof. Yoram Peri is the head of the Herzog Institute for Media, Society and Politics at Tel Aviv University