Lee Kaplan, Dafka Exposed
Santa Cruz Community Television is offering up more than the usual community dish. Recently, Club Cruz, a locally produced television show, has been used as a platform for virtual infomercials for an extremist group with a record of harassing peace advocates. |
The show, produced by Santa Cruz resident Becky Johnson, has featured on several occasions a man named Lee Kaplan, self-proclaimed founder and director of the extreme Zionist group, Dafka.
Lee Kaplan, Dafka Exposed
By Will Wallace
Santa Cruz Community Television is offering up more than the usual community dish. Recently, Club Cruz, a locally produced television show, has been used as a platform for virtual infomercials for an extremist group with a record of harassing peace advocates.
The show, produced by Santa Cruz resident Becky Johnson, has featured on several occasions a man named Lee Kaplan, self-proclaimed founder and director of the extreme Zionist group, Dafka. During the episodes, Kaplan dominated the half-hour shows with inaccuracies about the Palestinian peace movement, negative stereotypes about Arabs and Islam, and potentially slanderous statements about widely respected groups such as Santa Cruz's Resource Center for Nonviolence and Berkely's MidEast Children's Alliance and individuals involved with them. Intermittently throughout the show, addresses of Kaplan's websites appeared across the screen and Kaplan invited viewers to visit the websites; he also promoted a book that was for sale on one of the websites. Each episode also featured a disgruntled Arab guest who shared negative opinions about Palestinians and Arabs from a presumed "insider's" perspective. (One questions the authenticity of such guests, however, since Kaplan brags on his website about disguising himself and passing himself off as an Arab at various peaceful gatherings.)
Ron Holman, Programming Director at Community Television, said that even though some people may disagree with statements Kaplan makes, he is able to appear on their channels via their rules which set up the community stations as resource centers for the public as opposed to a television network model. Holman noted that an individual's speech could be limited if he was inciting violence.
Though Kaplan didn't directly call for violence in the episodes, a little fact checking showed that groups he is associated with have been busy hijacking and illegally intruding on peaceful meetings, harassing peace activists and making at least one death threat.
- October 5, 2003. After participating in a debate at UC Berkeley on Middle East relations, activist Allison Weir received a death threat from an individual identifying himself with Dafka.In his website, www.dafka.org, Kaplan describes himself as chief editor, "investigative journalist, news bureau head, businessman and political activist." In other media, however, he is listed with other titles, including "Contributing Editor" for David Horowitz's www.frontpagemag.com website and West Coast Coordinator" of Students for Academic Freedom. A post by someone identifying himself as Lee Kaplan on santacruzindymedia.org stated "I do make a living doing research about the Middle East and am a professional journalist. People do drop a dime to read me....I have appeared internationally on radio as a commentator." However, an extensive and exhaustive search yielded no information that could confirm Kaplan's location, background, education, research and type of business. In addition, there no evidence was found that he had been published in print, as he insinuated.
-December 3, 2003. DAFKA follows and harasses traveling peace exhibition, Wheels of Justice; coordinates harassment campaign via internet site.
-June 5, 2004. Progressive Jewish Bay Area Peace Demonstration Harassed by Anti-Palestinian Groups.
-November 19, 2004. Code Pink Hayward meeting at local church hijacked by hate groups Dafka and Protest Warrior; verbal abuse and physical intimidation used against female peace activists.
Kaplan appears to be involved in a network of pro-militancy, pro-Israeli international public relations agents who advocate, among other things, for Israel to seize all lands held 2000 years ago and mandatory military or civil service for all residents of Israel . He's also busy generating propaganda for a consortium of conservative websites with the aim of discrediting peace groups, activists, librarians and academics; recruiting college students in the Bay Area and Santa Cruz for his anti-Palestinian Peace Movement and academic censorship groups; and shaping U.S. policy on education through SAF and its associated groups.
What Does All of This Mean?
On a website found in Dafka's Links section, Bernard Shapiro, head of the "Freeman Center for Strategic Studies," describes a scheme for a worldwide public relations campaign with the ultimate aim of protecting the over six billion dollars Israel annually receives from the United States.
"I think it is time to take a second look at my concept but expand it to include radio, magazines, cable television (cable will accept this type of commercial) and newspapers. The ads should range from the very soft evocative travel type to some hard hitting but subtle political messages. Pretend that Israel is a corporation with a vast market in the United States. Receipts from that market top $6 Billion Dollars ( including US economic and military aid, UJA, Israel Bonds, JNF, plus all the other campaigns from Yeshivas to the Technion). What would you spend to protect a market of that magnitude? One half of one percent would equal $30 million. You can run for president with thirty million dollars. In a wild fantasy, lets say we have that much money. And let's say we hire a talented creative ad man to develop a multi-faceted, multi-media, and multi-year campaign to win the hearts and minds of the American people."Kaplan is a regular contributor to the Freeman website.
Like the "frontpagemag" operation, Students for Academic Freedom is one of several organizations under the leadership umbrella of David Horowitz . SAF doesn't actually promote "freedom" as much as encouraging students to turn in their teachers for saying things they don't like or giving them grades they don't want. If this seems eerily similar to approaches used by fascist campaigns throughout the world, that's because it is. This website includes organizing tools, blank complaint forms for students to pass out and an "Academic Bill of Rights," which amounts to a plan for academic censorship. It also has a "National and State Legislation" section (on the left scroll-down menu) and files on teachers nationwide they deem to be "too liberal." The homepage even includes an insult aimed the target audience --- a graphic of the "hear-no-evil, see-no-evil, speak-no-evil" monkeys, traditionally a representation of people who want to ignore reality.
Kaplan has not been content to simply recruit for members in our community; he has also used his platform to attack local politicians and activists who advocate for peace. Scott Kennedy, outgoing Santa Cruz mayor who signed the trailblazing City of Santa Cruz's proclamation against the Iraq War, is one person Kaplan targeted for attacks on his website. Referring to the Resource Center for Nonviolence and Kennedy, Kaplan writes,
"..the ultimate in gall is that Scott likes to invoke the teachings of non-violence and tolerance of Martin Luther King. Would that Dr. King was still alive, he'd probably abandon non-violence for a moment and chuck ol' Scott upside the head. ....It is high time the Santa Cruz community recognize the hypocrisy of a center that is really a mouthpiece for Arab anti-Semitism and violence against Jews in the Middle East. Scott is an elected City Councilman there. When his term is up, I'm sure the majority of people who reside in Santa Cruz will turn him out. Perhaps this commentary can inform enough of them to do so."With this veiled threat by Kaplan, one is left to wonder whether or not his remarks about Kennedy had any influence on his recent defeat in the City Council race.
The Dafka website, which roughly translated means, "In your face!" in Hebrew, has an editorial voice much like Kaplan's and Horowitz's other projects. They vociferously attack any organization or individual that dares question the United States' and Israel's policies. Kaplan and Horowitz prefer to use semantic attacks against those they seek to silence with meaningless phrases meant to squelch all forms of discussion. An example of such a phrase is "stand with Israel." Although the phrase conjures up a strong images of loyalty, what does it really mean? It insinuates, much like the phrase "support our troops," that if someone doesn't go along with what the author is advocating, then he somehow does not "stand with Israel," or does not "support our troops." Whenever someone challenges something Kaplan or Horowitz says, their stock reply is "Anti-Semitism!" This couldn't be more ridiculous since they save their most vicious attacks for other Jews involved in the peace process and for Arabs, who are also by definition a Semitic people.
Lee Kaplan, like anyone else, has his right to free speech. What seems to be less clear, especially in the way Community Television is run, is how people are accountable for what they broadcast. As it stands now, only a producer can allow people access to past episodes of Club Cruz. One has to question if that makes an entity responsible for the content of their broadcasts, especially when, in the case of former mayor Scott Kennedy, Club Cruz broadcasts occur during City Council meetings.
Clearly, Lee Kaplan and his associates have an agenda: attack and discredit any entity that might lead to a slowing of money flowing into Israel. Judging by their slick websites and the many public relations experts employed, it is also a well-funded one. When community budgets are being slashed and local resources are drying up, how fair is it to allow a non-Santa Cruz County resident to broadcast his infomercials for free at the community's expense? Under the current structure of Community T.V., Becky Johnson, producer of Club Cruz, is the only person accountable to the public for the content of the show. She is listed under Dafka's website as a member and UCSC coordinator for Dafka; her email is listed as firstname.lastname@example.org. An alternative email address she listed on the Santa Cruz Indymedia site is email@example.com.
In many of the websites associated with Kaplan, supporters are urged to inundate public officials, regulatory agencies and the media with their messages. Perhaps all those people Kaplan has been attacking really do have something to learn from him.
For Further Reading:
Distorting U.S. Foreign Policy: The Israel Lobby and American Power
The Men From JINSA and CSP
The Pro-Israel Lobby
The Israel Lobby and The Left: Uneasy Questions
A Selection of Chomsky Posts
Pro-Israel Lobby Has Strong Voice
Subpeonas issued for officials of pro-Israeli lobby group
Mainline Protestants Challenge Israel Lobby
A Strange Freedom: Jewish and Christian Fundamentalism
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