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    Ithaca Tag

    On Friday morning, September 18, 2015, the third grade classes at the Beverly J. Martin School in Ithaca, NY, heard a presentation on "human rights" by Palestinian activist Bassem Tamimi and local anti-Israel activists, including Ariel Gold of the local chapter of the anti-Israel Jewish Voice for Peace. On Sunday night, September 20, Legal Insurrection broke the story, Anti-Israel activism hits elementary school in Ithaca, NY. Because of Tamimi's notoriety for exploiting children in videotaped confrontations with Israeli soldiers, Tamimi's mere appearance in a third grade class raised suspicions about the event. After our report, a firestorm of controversy erupted, with the Superintendent of the Ithaca City School District (ICSD), Dr. Luvelle Brown, conducting an investigation, after which he issued a statement that the event was "politically skewed, inflammatory, and not endorsed by the Ithaca City School District.” The Superintendent's statement, though, contained few details of his investigation. But now Legal Insurrection exclusively has obtained documents pursuant to a Freedom Of Information Law (FOIL) request that show the event was even worse than we thought.

    A storm of controversy erupted when the Ithaca, NY, chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace brought Palestinian activist Bassem Tamimi to a third grade class. Tamimi is best known for the viral videos and photos he creates by sending children, including his own, to confront Israeli soldiers. Tamimi, who argues that it is the “duty” of children to engage in acts of resistance, was on a now-concluded U.S. national tour co-sponsored by JVP and the Chicago branch of Amnesty International. [caption id="attachment_146972" align="alignnone" width="600"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1qrE-MRBPs [Image capture Ithaca Week video][/caption]The Superintendent of the Ithaca school district, after an investigation, denounced the visit,finding that Tamimi was not invited by the school and the event was “not developmentally appropriate for third graders, nor aligned with the New York State standards. The statements were politically skewed, inflammatory, and not endorsed by the Ithaca City School District.”

    A firestorm of controversy erupted in Ithaca, NY, hometown of Cornell University and Ithaca College, when it was learned that local anti-Israel activists brought highly controversial Palestinian activist Bassem Tamimi to third grade class. Tamimi is best known for using children, including his own, to confront Israeli soldiers to create viral video and photo opportunities. He also is an advocate of children taking part in resistance activities, including stone throwing. To pro-Palestinian activists, however, he is a symbol of Israeli repression. The third-grade presentation was skewed and biased against Israel, according to a statement issued by the Ithaca City School District Superintendent, after an investigation. Among other things, after seeing videos and hearings stories of how Palestinian children suffer at the hands of Israelis, the third graders were urged to become "freedom fighters for Palestine."

    The misnamed "Jewish Voice for Peace" (JVP) has launched a national campaign along with other anti-Israel groups to claim that "pro-Palestinian" speech is stifled around the country. In fact, The accusation of speech stifling is a passive-aggressive move to preclude legitimate criticism. As we demonstrated, what JVP and other such groups really want is Freedom from Criticism. Two events in Ithaca and Rochester, New York, are being used by JVP to claim a "wave of censorship and bullying is sweeping upstate New York." As we demonstrate below, JVP has seriously misstated what happened, and those events show the contrary to what JVP is claiming.

    JVP's Anti-Israel Event to Third Graders in Ithaca

    One of, it not the first, actions JVP took in furtherance of the "stifling" campaign is unfolding in upstate New York. In ‘Jewish Voice for Peace’ defends anti-Israel Third Grade event, we explained that the local Ithaca JVP branch, run by anti-Zionist (and now Code Pink) activist Ariel Gold, is defending bringing the highly controversial Bassem Tamimi to a third grade class as part of a one-sided presentation demonizing Israel.

    In a stunning development, Luvelle Brown, Superintendent of Schools, Ithaca (NY) City School District, has acknowledged that serious anti-Israel agitation took place when controversial Palestinian activist Bassem Tamimi appeared with local anti-Israel activists before third graders, ending in a call to activism:
    "In a closing statement of how students could help, a speaker spoke of solidarity and being freedom fighters for Palestine; to bring peace and protect the future of their children."
    Brown stated, among other thing, that such statements and others were inappropriate:
    "The Ithaca City School District’s position is that such statements are not developmentally appropriate for third graders, nor aligned with the New York State standards. The statements were politically skewed, inflammatory, and not endorsed by the Ithaca City School District."
    The full letter is later in this post. But first, the background of how we reached this point.

    Bassem Tamimi and Ariel Gold

    On Sunday night, September 20, 2015, Legal Insurrection broke the story how Anti-Israel activism hits elementary school in Ithaca, NY:
    An uproar is brewing in Ithaca, New York, after anti-Israel activists bragged on Facebook how they managed to bring Palestinian activist Bassem Tamimi to a third-grade class as part of a presentation on the suffering of Palestinian children at the hands of Israel.
    That third grade event took place on Friday, September 18.

    See this important update: Superintendent: Third Grade event “politically skewed, inflammatory” against Israel An uproar is brewing in Ithaca, New York, after anti-Israel activists bragged on Facebook how they managed to bring Palestinian activist Bassem Tamimi to a third-grade class as part of a presentation on the suffering of Palestinian children at the hands of Israel. According to the activists, the event took place on Friday morning, September 18, 2015 at the Beverly J. Martin Elementary School. Tamimi is best known for his use of children, including his own, for media purposes. The game goes like this: Tamimi's children and other children from the village of Nabi Saleh are encouraged to confront Israeli soldiers in the hope of provoking a reaction. The children are surrounded by a phalanx of photographers and videographers waiting for the viral moment when the Israeli soldier reacts, which then is fed to the media through the Tamimi media operation and international activists who often participate. Tamimi's daughter Ahed (the blond girl in this 2012 video) is world famous for such staged confrontations, having been given a heroism award by the anti-Israel Prime Minister of Turkey for this performance:

    Ithaca Jewish Voice for Peace is sponsoring two events in Ithaca and Cortland, NY, honoring and celebrating Bassem Tamimi. The first event, in Ithaca, is at 5:30 p.m. today, September 17, 2015. http://bassemtamimi2015speakingtour.weebly.com/ The "host" of the event is Ithaca Committee for Justice in Palestine, run by the same people who run Ithaca JVP. They use various group names for various purposes to create the appearance they are a larger movement than they are. They recently also formed a group called Vegans Against The Occupation (seriously), using as their featured image in the left sidebar Ariel Gold, the leader of Ithaca JVP.  The anti-Israel movement in Ithaca is very interconnected, and run by a handful of activists. Why is Ithaca JVP celebrating and glorifying Bassem Tamimi? Tamimi, you may recall, has perfected the art of using children (including his own) to confront Israeli soldiers to create viral photos and video.  We set forth the evidence in great detail in two prior posts: Tamimi's daughter, Ahed was featured in a video in 2012 which has many millions of views, in which she screamed at Israeli soldiers and shook her fist at them, as other children gathered around trying to provoke a reaction. It all was a set up for the cameras, as the video below exposes.

    The last two Democratic congressional nominees in my home district NY-23, which stretches along the "Southern Tier," have been Ithaca-area liberals. Nate Shinagawa ran a credible campaign in 2012, and lost by almost exactly the party difference in the district, which is R+3. Democrats had high hopes for Martha Robertson in 2014, but she collapsed under the weight of her past progressive policies and Legal Insurrection's investigations, and lost by 25 points. It appears that national Democrats are giving up on running another Ithaca liberal, and are bringing in an unknown retired military officer from out of state to challenge incumbent Republican Tom Reed, as reported in the Buffalo News, Former White House military aide Plumb to challenge Rep. Tom Reed:
    A former top military aide in the Obama White House has returned home to the Jamestown area to prepare to challenge Rep. Tom Reed in the 2016 election. John F. Plumb, who served as director of defense policy and strategy at the National Security Council, told The Buffalo News that family and friends persuaded him to move back to the Southern Tier, thinking he could be a strong Democratic challenger to Reed, the Republican from Corning...

    Due to the alarming outbreak of measles across the country, so-called “anti-vaxxers” are coming under extreme criticism. As well they should be. I won’t delve into the particulars of the measles outbreak--Legal Insurrection’s Leslie Eastman offers more analysis and some solutions. I’m more interested in the narrative surrounding “VaccineGate.” Of course, the mainstream media has been fervently trying to frame the anti-vaccination crowd as a collection of screw-balled libertarian Tea Partiers. It’s a slam-dunk narrative, so they think, because conservatives and libertarians are naturally opposed to big government and, for the most part, are skeptical of government actions, programs, and mandates in general. As the mainstream media tries to make out anti-vaxxers as Ted Kaczynski disciples who so-happen to vote Republican, it is gradually coming to light that the anti-vaccination crowd is actually quite bipartisan, and that the whole movement was started by liberal-progressives in southern California. Comedian, actress, and Playboy model Jenny McCarthy is perhaps the most notable anti-vaxxer. In Ithaca, New York, a bastion of liberalism which some call “ten square miles surrounded by reality,” vaccination rates at elementary schools are well below state averages. Some local schools, both public and private, have measles vaccination rates below 90%, whereas the state average is 95%.
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