• What is behind rising anti-Semitism around the world? (UpFront/Al Jazeera)

    “…what are the best ways to identify and combat anti-Semitism?

    And how do we separate anti-Jewish rhetoric from criticism of the state of Israel and its policies? In this week’s UpFront Special, Marc Lamont Hill puts these questions to Rabbi Brant Rosen, reconstructionist rabbi and founding member of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council, and Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace.”

  • The ADL’s Antisemitism Findings, Explained (Jewish Currents)

    “Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP), said she was struck that the report devoted more space to explaining how anti-Zionist groups operate than to analyzing white supremacist activity, despite the comparatively small number of incidents related to anti-Zionism. ‘Even if you accept the ADL’s conflation of anti-Zionism and antisemitism, their own numbers demonstrate that [leftist anti-Zionism] is not the largest problem. The fact that they give more space to this than to white supremacy or actual assaults on Jews really does disclose the political agenda that is underlining the ADL’s approach on this issue,’ she said. …Some of the ADL’s policy recommendations reference Israel advocacy explicitly. The audit calls on its readers to ‘mobilize’ against the BDS movement, and also recommends support for the Abraham Accords, a series of peace deals between Israel and Arab states, in order to ‘promote tolerance and fight antisemitism in the region.’ Many progressives have criticized the accords for failing to hold Israel accountable for the occupation. ‘This has become red meat for the Jewish community to say, ‘If you don’t support normalization of Israel’s relationships with the Arab world, that proves you’re anti-peace and antisemitic,’ Friedman of FMEP said. ‘If you won’t marginalize or erase Palestinians from the public narrative, then that’s antisemitism.’”

  • The Other Movement to Divest from Israel (Jewish Currents)

    “Lawyers and advocates for Palestinian rights, however, say that anti-BDS laws don’t actually differentiate between types of boycotts and divestment, and that companies divesting from Israel over the judicial overhaul could still be affected by the laws. Many states’ anti-BDS laws define a ‘boycott’ as an action ‘intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or otherwise limit commercial relations’ with Israel. ‘If you’re an Israeli company that is divesting from Israel and terminating business there, I don’t see how you’re not technically in violation of that law, which means you need to be put on a blacklist,’ said Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace. ‘There’s very little wiggle room.’…

    “Palestinians and their allies see Israel advocates’ reaction to the companies pulling out of Israel as a measure of their hypocrisy. ‘It is perfectly reasonable, it seems, to shun Israeli officials, cut off financial ties, and disrupt public spaces when mainstream Jews call for it,’ Amjad Iraqi wrote in +972 Magazine. ‘But when Palestinians living under Israeli oppression demand the same, their calls are to be scrutinized, rejected, even punished.’ Friedman added in an interview with Jewish Currents that the discrepancy clarifies the purpose of anti-BDS laws. ‘The intent here is to quash free speech on Palestine. This is not about protecting Israel from boycott. It’s about crushing activism on Palestine,’ she said.”

  • As companies raise alarm about judicial plan, a question: When is it OK to boycott Israel? (The Forward)

    “Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, which works on Palestinian human rights issues, who has tracked anti-boycott laws since 2014, said that many Israel advocacy groups only seem concerned about actions that companies take over Palestinian human rights concerns. Friedman said that state laws that bar companies that boycott Israel from receiving state contracts were clearly written with Palestinian advocacy in mind, but that the language in them would apply to any company — even Israeli firms — that decide to move money out of Israel if the court overhaul is approved. To take a representative example, in Illinois the state pension board is barred from investing in companies that engage ‘in actions that are politically motivated and are intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or otherwise limit commercial relations with the State of Israel.’ ‘I could imagine there are people who would say, ‘Fine, technically these companies might come into conflict with the laws, but that’s clearly not the intent and it’s ridiculous to have this conversation,’’ Friedman said. ‘That’s quite clarifying.’”

  • ADL Staffers Dissented After CEO Compared Palestinian Rights Groups to Right-Wing Extremists, Leaked Audio Reveals (Jewish Currents)

    “Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, said that even if Greenblatt is drawing some distinction between anti-Zionists and violent white nationalists, he is affirming that ‘because you don’t support the establishment of a Jewish ethno-religious state at the expense of Palestinians, you are ipso facto responsible for what actual antisemites do and say.’ Friedman said this is ‘intellectually dishonest,’ as it’s ‘predicated on the premise that there exist no legitimate reasons for rejection of Zionism that are unrelated to hatred of Jews, and morally indefensible logic because it cheapens and politicizes the very concept of antisemitism, equating legitimate viewpoints and non-violent protest with groups who are motivated by unabashed hatred of Jewish people.’”

  • Can American Jewish Support for Israel Survive This New Government? (The New Republic)

    “Lara Friedman, president for the Foundation for Middle East Peace, agreed that the extremism of the current government has its seeds in the occupation and, more generally, Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. ‘You cannot build a nation on the idea that not all human beings have rights…. You can’t do that for decades and not inculcate a political culture that is what you see today,’ she said. For years, she added, people working on Palestinian rights have tried to make the case that the occupation doesn’t stop at the Green Line (the demarcation of territory captured in the Six Day War). Friedman noted that many American Jews—including ostensibly liberal American Jews—have been more comfortable advocating for the rights of Jews in Israel than for Palestinian rights. ‘American Jews,’ she said, got ‘riled up over women’s access to the Western Wall plaza. They’ll go to the mat for that.’ But where illiberalism affected Palestinians, there was less interest. And now that the equities of Jews are hanging in the balance, ‘there’s a certain amount of, ‘well, if you’d been paying attention for the last 50 years.’”

  • Christian Aid claims it was subject to act of ‘lawfare’ by pro-Israel group (The Guardian)

    “Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP), said she believed the aim of TZAC’s lawsuits was to send a ‘chilling effect’ through the international NGO sector. ‘It’s letting organisations know that: if you stick a toe in this Palestine work, it could take down everything you’re doing worldwide,’ she said. ‘It could end up being a reputational weapon against you. It could end up taking time and money away from everything else. And potentially if one of these cases comes up and somehow you’ve screwed up under US law because US law’s pretty complicated … it could shut you down. So all the good work you do in the world: are you willing to risk it by doing a project in Gaza? And I think what they’re gambling [the answer] is no, you’re not.’ …Friedman has compared aspects of Abrams’ lawsuits to Slapps – strategic lawsuits against public participation – usually deployed by the rich and powerful to harass, silence or intimidate. While Slapp suits were usually brought by billionaire oligarchs or companies and TZAC was very small, she added, the complaints appeared ‘a form of legal intimidation’. ‘Even people that win end up getting dragged through the mud with them,’ added Friedman.”

  • Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to Arkansas state law prohibiting contractors from boycotting Israel (JTA)

    “Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, criticized Jewish groups that celebrated the court’s decision not to take the case. She tweeted that AJC and others like it ‘are celebrating a court ruling that undermines Americans’ right to boycott ANYTHING as a matter of protest/conscience.’ Friedman recently authored a memo arguing that anti-BDS laws were being used as templates for other state laws dealing with different kinds of boycotts, including against the firearms and fossil fuel industries, as well as in state-level efforts to reduce the growing trend of environmental, social and corporate governance investing.”