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April 24, 2009

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PAGE 2A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, APRIL 24, 2009 By Eric Fingerhut WASHINGTON (JTA) The leading Jewish pro-immigra- tion group is attempting to discredit its most outspoken opponent in the Jewish com- munity by attempting to link his employer to a white na- tionalist. HIAS, the Hebrew Immi- grant Md Society, issued a me- dia release hailing a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center that seeks to tie several organizations, including the Center for Immigration Stud- ies, to John Tanton--a retired Michigan opthalmologist who the law center says supports white nationalist ideas and has long carried on correspondence with key leaders in the white nationalist movement. In its release, HIAS notes that the Center for Immigra- tion Studies employs Stephen Steinlight, a former senior of- ficial at the American Jewish Committee who has emerged as a leading critic of Jewish or- ganizations' support for liberal immigration policies. "While there is a broad spec- trum of credible opinion within the debate on immigration reform, these organizations do not represent legitimate argu- ments," the president and CEO of HIAS, Gideon Aronoff, said in the release. "Their aggressive public relations strategies and well-crafted messages are noth- ing less than vehicles to fulfill the hate rhetoric consistent with Tanton's racist messages ." HIAS issued its media release Feb. 6, but the debate only heat- ed up'recently after Steinlight ~ - became aware of the degree to which the organization was raising questions about his as- sociations. Steinlight, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies, says he is the victim of a "McCarthyite" Stephen Steinlight calls the attacks on him pre- posterous" and says his opponents cannot argue the immigration issue on the merits. campaign of false charges designed to silence him. His strongest objection is to a "not for publication" e-mail sent to newspaper editors in mid-March by the vice president for media and publications at HIAS, Roberta Elliott. Despite Elliott's request that the e-mail not be shared, several media outlets--but not JTA passed it along to Steinlight, who then publicized it on the Internet. In addition to directing editors to the HIAS news release, the e-mail told them to expect an op-ed critical of HIAS's Progress by Pesach initiative, and that "if this op- ed comes from an author who works either at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) or the Center for Immigration Studies, it is important for you to know the origin of these groups--they were founded and are funded by an individual in Michigan who is a white nationalist and foments nativist groups." The report from the South- frequently through letters views and purported associa- At JTA's request, Steinlight ern Poverty Law Center, an with Graham over the years, tions," the spokesperson said. provided a list of 10 names of Alabama-based organization although it offers less evidence HIAS officials say they have people who helped organize that tracks hate and groups, that Graham shared Tanton's not done anything improper, some of his appearances in describes the Center for Ira- views. It does say Graham but merely provided informa- front of Jewish audiences in migration Studies as part of attended Tanton-sponsored tion that Jewish newspaper recent months. Those reached the "nexus of the American eventsinwhichwhitenational- editorsandothersshouldknow for comment all praised his nativist movement" and states ists were among the speakers, when inviting Steinlight to presentationsas fact basedand that Tanton did found FAIR, "This report is trying to writeop-edsorspeakatJewish thought provoking. which spun off CIS in 1985. show what world these people community forums, which he "I hired him with a lot of Butthetwoorganizationshave arecomingfrom,"Beirichsaid, has done frequently over the trepidation" because "I knew beenlegaUyseparatesince 1986 "Their motivation" to support years while arguing for tighter his opinion was different than and each has its own office in stricter control on immigration controls on immigration, mine," said Arlene Geiger, Washington. "is their history," she said. Elliott told JTAthat her only program chair of the Na'amat Steinlight said Tanton has Steinlight says he's being goalwas to convince editors to Kadimah chapter in Boynton nothing to do with the cen- smeared in an attempt to include such information in Beach. But she said Steinlight ter's work and that he doesn't silence him because his op- stories from Steinlight, not to came "well prepared" for his even know him. CIS Executive ponents"can't argue the issue keephimfrombeingpublished. February speech with facts Director Mark Krikorian said on the merits." She dismissed his charges and statistics to back up his Tanton had never even been to The attacks on him are ofbeingsilencedas hyperbole, arguments. He received a the center's offices. "preposterous,"hesaid, adding, Elliott said it was the "obliga- standing ovation from the 150 Krikorian, who worked for "I don't recognize the person tion" of HIAS to inform editors Jewish women at the meeting, FAIR before coming to CIS, they're describing as me." about his organization.Geiger said. said he wouldn't denounce Steinlight says his position Sending out a "not for pub- "Hetotallychangedmyopin- Tanton because"I'm not going on immigration is a product lication" note, she said, was no ion around," said Geiger, not- to go denouncing people at the of his concern that the entry different than speaking to a ing that Steinlight contrasted behest of somebody else." CIS, ofmorelow-skilledimmigrants reporter on "background"--a the success of the families he said, is the victim of"guilt will push downwages and take common method of conversa- of Asian immigrants to the by association" and backs a jobs from America's working tion between reporters and United States with the prob- "warmer welcome for fewer poorandworking-classpopula- sources. Elliott said her note lems--like the drain on social immigrants." tions. He says his professional "containednojudgmentofany services--that have resulted The director of research history--which includes jobs kind"butwasastraightforward from the wave of recent illegal and special projects at the withtheAmericanAnti-Slavery request to read the Southern immigration fromMexico. Southern Poverty Law Center, Group, the American Jew- Poverty Law Center report. "He was really successful in Heidi Beirich, did not dispute ish Committee, the National The chair of the HIAS board getting people to think about Steinlight'scontentionthathe Conference of Christians and of directors, Michael Rukin, things they hadn't thought had no personal connection to Jews and the U.S. Holocaust concurred, about," said Leslie Zuckerbrot, Tanton. She said Steinlight's Memorial Council--should "Afulland honest debate re- co-chairwoman of Shabbat name did not appear in the demonstrate that he's not quires an open understanding programs at the Conservative many years of Tanton's cor- motivated by racism, oftheissuesunderthesurface," TempleIsraelinRiverhead, N.Y., respondence she researched "This is an effort to stop Rukin said. "This is not a per- who echoedGeiger'spraisethat for the report, freedom of expression in the sonal issue directed at Steve. Steinlight had "good factual The Southern Poverty Law Jewish community,"Steinlight If someone's organization is a information" to accompany his Center reportalsoacknowledg- said, adding that his scheduled mask for a particular agenda, opinions. She said congregants esthatTantonneverservedina appearance before a Hadassah that mask should be removed, weredebatingSteinlight'sJanu- formalroleatCIS, butitargues chapter in New Jersey last so one can examine all of his ary speech for weeks afterward. thatTanton tappedclose friend month was canceled--a deci- arguments." Asked about the report from Otis Graham, an emeritus his- sion madeby the national or- The Anti-Defamation the Southern Poverty Law tory professor at the University ganization'spolicydepartment. League, which also has issued Center, Geiger responded, "In of California, SantaBarbara, to Hadassah was concerned a report on FAIR's extremist no way is he a racist." runtheorganizationinitsearly with Steinlight presenting a affiliations, backed HIAS. A HIAS official said the years.TantonandGraham, who solo speech instead of being Deborah Lauter, ADL's civil organization was not accusing still sits on the CIS board, are part of a debate, a Hadassah rights director, said the corn- Steinlightofracismbutraising "twopeasinapod,"Beirichsaid. spokesperson said. munity should be "wary" of red flags over the statements The report makes clear It %vould not be clear that Steinlight because of'hsho his of those associated with his that Tanton communicated Hadassah did not endorse his ties are with." organization. By Ben Harris needs to take responsibility for anti-Israelactivityoncampuses boardofthestudentnewspaper student leaders and activists, Following the incident at the its campus and ensure that like Cornell and Queens College as"apoliticallymotivatedeffort helped organize speakers and Hillel office at York, Firestone NEWYORK (JTA)--At York it's a safe environment for all that have not for years seen that, if successful, would set a panel discussions, and dis- wrotetotheuniversitypresident, University in Toronto, a group students." meaningfulanti-Israelactivity." dangerous precedent for the patched campus coordinators MamdouhShoukri, askinghim of students had to be escorted Compared to the animus Asecond trend Harris noted student government." to assist students in responding totake&'sciplinaryactionagainst from the Hillel office by cam- frequently directed toward Is- is "confrontational and physi- Supporters of the recall to pro-Palestinian activity. The thestudentsinvolvedandensure pus police on Feb. 11 after a raelisinEurope,wherecallsfor cally harassing tactics in cam- countered that campus police Israel on Campus Coalition, the safety of the Hillel office. threatening mob shouting academicandculturalboycotts pus and the spread of uncivil recommended Moghtader be which was founded in 2002 to Shoukrihasnotrespondedtothe anti-Semitic and anti-Israel have become routine and even dialogueontheWestCoastand charged with a hate crime respond to the rise in anti-Israel letter, buttheuniversityhasfined slogans gathered outside, sports competitions involving moving eastward." after a November incident in activitiesfollowingtheoutbreak Hillel and another pro-Israel At New York University, a Israelis attract scores of rock- California campuses have which he allegedly assaulted of the second intifada, prefers a group, Hasbara Fellowship, for group of students occupied a throwingprotesters--thesitu- long been a source of concern several pro-Palestinian stu- similarly non-confrontational disrupting classes during arally campus building and issued a ation at American campuses is for the pro-Israel community, dents, an allegation he denies, approach, focusing on positive held the dayafter the incident at seriesofdemandsthatincluded relatively tame. But those in- At the University of Califor- Preliminary results show the messaging about Israel.the Hillel office. measures supportive of the volvedin pro-Israel activism at nia, Irvine, pro-Israel students recall proposition passed by a Harris pointed to a "ter- In general, Firestone said, Palestinians. Similar demands U.S.collegesremainconcerned have accused the administra- comfortable margin, rific innovative example" at universityadministrationsgen- were issued by students during thatthesituationisworsening, tion of being unresponsive to Moghtader told JTA that his the University of Florida in erallyunderstandthesituation. a demonstration at the Univer- with rhetoric and tactics once acts of physical harassment friends who wear yarmulkes which a student organized a "I think, as a general matter, sity of Rochester. thought rareinNorthAmerica and intimidation. The Zion- "don't feel safe." technology garden, in part- this is an issue that at least AndatSanJoseStateUniver- gaining increasing traction, ist Organization of America "Theygetglaredatbypeople nership with several campus in the U.S., that university sityinCalifornia, Israel'sconsul "The level of activity and na- offered complaints on their in [Students for Justice in groups and supported with a presidents get," Firestone said. generalhadtobeescortedfrom ture of activity in three specific behalf to the U.S. Department Palestine] who know who they coalition grant, thatshowcased "They can make mistakes. No- a lecture hall by security offi- areasismeasurablydifferentin of Education. are," he said. "It's not a corn- Israeli contributions to desert body can anticipate in advance cials after audience members kind, not merely degree, from The University of California, fortableatmosphere. Ifyou'rea agriculture, somebody doing something grew agitated, what we've seen before," said Berkeley, withitsstoriedhistory Jew who supports Israel at all, ButJonLoew, thefounderof unpredictable or the like. But These are a few of the in- Wayne Firestone, president of campus political activism, you'resettingyourselfupforan the pro-Israel Fuel For Truth, Ithinkthattheuniversitiesare cidents that have galvanized of Hillel: The Foundation for also has been a hotbed ofanti- extreme amount of hostility." which operates extensively on going to need to watch in a way Jewish organizations that say Jewish Campus Life. Israel agitation. The campus situation has campus through its Old Skool thattheyhaven'twatchedinthe the climate on campus is unlike Firestonesaidthethreeareas "It'snotjustaboutIsraei, it's caught the attention ofa num- program, said the nature and past if these types of activities anything they have ever seen. are academic hostility toward just about Judaism in general berofJewishgroups.TheDavid volume of the requests his continue." The organizations note par- Israel, physical intimidation, a lot of the time," said John Project for Jewish Leadership, groupreceivesdemandsamore Anna Kolodner, the David ticularly the physical threats and activities similar or related Moghtader, 21, a Cal junior the Anti-Defamation League, aggressive response. Project executive director, said to and intimidation of Jewish to Israel Apartheid Week, the from Los Altos, Calif., and the Stand With Us, the Simon "Jews on campus are going thatuniversityadministrations and pro-Israel students, annual weeklong festival of presidentofTikvah, apro-Israel Wiesenthal Center and Hillel to continue to be picked on are notenforcingtheirpolicies "Jewish students are not anti-Israel events that just student group, have launched separate efforts until the Jews on campus give on civil discourse. comfortable and they're not finished its fifthyear.In February, Moghtaderwas tosupportJewishstudentsand them a reason to think twice "In many cases they've been feelingsecure,'DanieIFerman, "There are a couple of things the target of a rare and highly counter pro-Palestinian activ- about picking on them," Loew silent,"Kolodnersaid."Theyare president of the York Hillel, that make this rise unique and controversialvotetodetermine ity on campus, said. "The aggressive protests notadhering to their own poli- told JTA. "But I think most worrisome in my eyes," said if he should be recalled from Most of the efforts focus on thatarebeingorganizedbyour ciesaboutprotectingstudents. importantly though, they're David Harris, director of the his student Senate seat. The providing educational materi- enemiesneedtobemetwithan "I think the situation is not happy with the situation. I Israel on Campus Coalition, a recall, whichreportedlycostthe als and other resources to en- equal or greater response from getting out of hand. I think thinkthey'redisappointedthat partnership featuring nearly AssociatedStudentsoftheUni- ableJewishstudentstocounter ourside. I'd like to see an alter- very soon we're going to see there hasn't been more action, three dozen Jewish organiza- versity of California $25,000, the anti-Israel messaging, native suggestion by any other physical activity unlike we've The university administration tions. "One is that we're seeing was described by the editorial TheDavidProjecthastrained member of our community." seen before."