What Ella Baker Taught Us About Ferguson And Gaza by Dorothy Zellner

September 4, 2014

Tikkun August 26, 2014

 

Ella Baker

In late June I traveled to Jackson, Mississippi, for the fiftieth anniversary of the 1964 Freedom Summer, where some 1,000 of us met after decades and celebrated the heroism of young volunteers and local African Americans who struggled and died for the right to vote. We talked about the way forward to eradicate still-existing racism in the country and we called the names of all our dead, a list of men, women and children whom the nation has never mourned.

As a recruiter for Freedom Summer and staff member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) fifty years ago, I had the honor of being approached by several volunteers whom I had helped select and who told me that going to Mississippi that faraway summer had forever changed their lives.

What propelled me into the civil rights movement in the first place as a young woman was the exhortation I had received from my secular Jewish progressive parents: that it is unethical to stand idly by while people are oppressed and suffering. What SNCC taught me was that I needed to act in my own community. It took me some time to put all of this together but finally, eleven years ago, I went to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza for the first time. Based on what I saw with my own eyes and the anguish I felt in my own heart I became a Jewish activist against Israeli governmental policies of injustice and inequality.

It was only a few days after I got home from Mississippi this past June that a new assault on Gaza began, the third in seven years. I had already seen in my two visits to Gaza what the siege was like for Palestinians living in Gaza.

At the time of this writing, the death toll is horrifying: a staggering total of 2,114 Palestinians, of whom 506 are children, and 10,529 wounded. Four Israeli civilians and sixty-four soldiers have died. Can we even begin to imagine the horror all these families are experiencing? Despite several short ceasefires, “Operation Project Edge” continues and rockets continue to be fired.

And now in the midst of an already terrible summer, Ferguson happens. Another incident of violent racism in our country.

For me, the events in Ferguson and the events halfway around the world are linked. I am not saying they are the same. I am not even saying there are many parallels, but there are some similar lessons.

In 1969, Ella Baker, SNCC’s great mentor, pointed us in the direction of meaningful action when she said, “In order for us as poor and oppressed people to become a part of a society that is meaningful, the system under which we now exist has to be radically changed.” This means that we are going to have to learn to think in radical terms. I use the term radical in its original meaning – getting down to and understanding the root cause. Baker continued, “It means facing a system that does not lend itself to your needs and devising means by which you change that system.”

This is the crux.

We have not yet managed to understand the “root cause” of deaths like Michael Brown’s in our country. This is the work still ahead of us. I understand Ferguson to be one more example of the basic inequality that still exists in the U.S., where communities of color are still unrepresented in their police departments or their city governments and live amidst poverty and neglect.

Yes, certain aspects have changed in the South; these days you don’t take your life in your hands if you travel in an automobile in an interracial group, and you are unlikely to be arrested if, as an African American, you try to eat in a restaurant, and you did, up until recently when voter ID laws and other impediments were invented, have the right to register to vote. But by all other measures, specifically education, housing, jobs, poverty, and an unequal criminal justice system that retains more than two million people, mostly Black and Brown, in prison, we are a racist society. South and North, East and West. We have not attacked the “root cause”: a basically flawed economic and social system that sanctions exploitation and needs racism and division to survive.

And what, in my opinion, is the “root cause” of all the death and destruction in the Middle East? It isn’t Hamas, it isn’t who sent the rockets first, who killed which teenager first, and it isn’t who broke which ceasefire first. The underlying cause flows from the injustice of one group controlling the lives and future of another group. As long as Israel occupies Palestine, and as long as Palestinians resist (which, according to International human rights law, they have the right to do), confrontations and death will result. The root cause is the occupation, which itself flows from the previous dispossession of Palestinians from the land they inhabited for generations.

Though the situations are thousands of miles away from each other in different languages and different cultures, somehow or other we will all have to follow Miss Baker’s teaching: to look deeply, beyond the horror of the moment and our particular loyalties.

Because once we understand that there are root causes, we will be able to make effective efforts to change them.

Dorothy Zellner is one of the founders of Jews Say No!, serves on the board of the Friends of the Jenin Freedom Theater and is a member and volunteer with Jewish Voice for Peace. She was a staff member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC staff) from 1962 to 1967.

 

“But Hamas…” Donna Nevel in Tikkun

September 4, 2014

“But Hamas…” by: Donna Nevel on August 14th, 2014 |

In conversations about Gaza, I have heard many thoughtful people in the Jewish community lament the loss of Palestinian lives in Gaza but then say, “But Hamas…,” as if that were the heart of the problem. I’d like to suggest that, when we have these conversations about Hamas and Israel’s current bombing campaign, we begin with the necessary context and historical perspective.

Re: The Nakba

1. To create the Jewish state, the Zionist movement destroyed more than 400 Palestinians villages and expelled 700,000 Palestinians from their homes and land. Palestinians who remained in what became Israel were relegated to second-class citizenship, had much of their property confiscated, and, to this day, have fewer rights than Jewish Israeli citizens.

Re: The 1967 Occupation

2. In 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem and still occupies them until this day.

Re: Settlement expansion; the apartheid wall; and the siege of Gaza

3. Over the past 47 years of occupation, Israel has illegally confiscated more and more Palestinian land; built an apartheid wall; systematically denied Palestinians basic human and civil rights and engaged in state-sponsored violence; and forced the Palestinians in Gaza to live in appalling conditions that make it increasingly impossible to survive. Israel’s latest bombing campaign, Operation Protective Edge, has killed over 1,900 Palestinians, at least 450 of whom are children, and has displaced hundreds of thousands more.

If those of us in the Jewish community who are committed to justice begin from these facts, I think it would become clearer – regardless of who the Palestinian leadership is – that the underlying problem really is the denial of freedom and basic human rights to millions of people, for decades. And, as a community, it should also become clearer where priorities need to be in order to have any integrity on this issue: addressing the Nakba of 1948 and the responsibility for the Nakba head-on – including the right of return for refugees; ending the occupation; ending the siege on Gaza; and recognizing the right to full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Donna Nevel, a community psychologist, educator, is a long-time organizer for peace and justice in Palestine/Israel. More recently, she is a founding member of Jews Say No!, on the board of Jewish Voice for Peace, and on the coordinating committee of the Nakba Education Project-US.

Silent Vigil Commemorating the Palestinians of Gaza Murdered by the IDF

August 13, 2014

 

photo 1

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 Over 150 New Yorkers stood in front of the Jewish Community Center (JCC) at 6 PM yesterday, on the Upper Westside of Manhattan, with signs that said “End the Siege of Gaza,” “Jews Say No to the Occupation of Palestine,” and “Don’t let Israel Get Away with Murder.” As protestors stood with the signs, several people read the names of the Palestinians who were murdered by the Israel Defense Forces, which a number of people continued to do even after the protest officially ended.

Silent Vigil Commemorating the Palestinians of Gaza Murdered by the IDF Wednesday, August 13, 2014  Over 150 New Yorkers stood in front of the Jewish Community Center (JCC) at 6 PM yesterday,  on the upper west side of Manhattan, with signs that said "End the Siege of Gaza," "Jews Say No to the Occupation of Palestine," and "Don't let Israel Get Away with Murder." As protestors stood with the signs, several people read the names of the Palestinians who were murdered by the Israel Defense Forces, which a number of people continued to do even after the protest officially ended.   The protest was called as a response to an event being held at the JCC, co-sponsored by Jewish organizations, to "commemorate Israeli soldiers and civilians who lost their lives during 'Operation Protective Edge,"' the bombing campaign of Gaza, without one mention of Palestinian lives lost.   The protestors were appalled at the blatant valuing of Jewish Israeli lives over the nearly 2,000 Palestinians, including hundreds of children, who have been massacred by the Israeli army and were standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people of Gaza. See attached photos. Videos and additional photos available. The protest was co-sponsored by Brooklyn For Peace, Jewish Voice for Peace-NY, Jewish Voice for Peace-Westchester, Jews Say No!, Women in Black, NY, and WE WILL NOT BE SILENT.
The protest was called as a response to an event being held at the JCC, co-sponsored by Jewish organizations, to “commemorate Israeli soldiers and civilians who lost their lives during ‘Operation Protective Edge,”‘ the bombing campaign of Gaza, without one mention of Palestinian lives lost.
The protestors were appalled at the blatant valuing of Jewish Israeli lives over the nearly 2,000 Palestinians, including hundreds of children, who have been massacred by the Israeli army and were standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people of Gaza.

photo 2

The protest was co-sponsored by Brooklyn For Peace, Jewish Voice for Peace-NY, Jewish Voice for Peace-Westchester, Jews Say No!, Women in Black, NY, and WE WILL NOT BE SILENT.

Jewish Activists Arrested in Sit-in at Friends of Israel Defense Forces NYC Office

July 23, 2014

Transcript of report on Democracy Now

Not In Our Name: Jewish Activists Arrested in Sit-in at Friends of Israel Defense Forces NYC Office

Protests in response to Israel’s assault on Gaza have drawn hundreds — and in some cases thousands — around the world. On Tuesday, members of Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews Say No! occupied the New York City office of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, a nonprofit group that raises money in the United States to send to the Israeli military. For about an hour, activists read the names of the more than 600 Palestinians killed and demanded the organization stop its fundraising for the military attacking Gaza. Nine were arrested when they refused to leave the premises. We get a video report from the protest.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Protests in response to Israel’s assault on Gaza have drawn hundreds—and in some cases thousands—around the world. Here in New York City on Tuesday, members of Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews Say No! occupied the office of the Friends of the IDF. The nonprofit group raises money in the United States to send to the Israeli military.

AMY GOODMAN: For about an hour, activists read the names of the more than 600 Palestinians killed and demanded the group stop fundraising for the Israeli military. Nine people were arrested when they refused to leave the premises. Others protested outside the office. Democracy Now! was there and brings you some of their voices.

PROTESTER: Find out why Jews are protesting Israel’s war on Gaza. Take a leaflet.

REBECCA VILKOMERSON: My name’s Rebecca Vilkomerson. I’m the executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace. And we’re here today in Golda Meir Plaza at the office of the Friends of the IDF, the Israeli Defense Force, and we’re planning to do an action, the groups Jews Say No! and Jewish Voice for Peace, Jewish activists who are protesting against the war on Gaza, against this incredibly terrible assault on civilians, and protesting the fact that this organization right here is actually raising money for the Israeli Defense Forces, helping them, supporting the assault that they’re making on Gazan women, children and families. So we feel like it’s really important, especially as Jews, to make the statement that this is not in our name and that the Jewish community is not behind this assault in the United States and that they need to stop doing this immediately.

PROTESTERS: No more money for Israel’s crimes! Not another nickel, not another dime!

DOROTHY ZELLNER: My name is Dorothy Zellner. I’m a former civil rights worker. I worked with SNCC for five years in the black liberation movement in the United States. Most of us have been to Israel and the West Bank and Gaza, if not once, many times, and we have seen for ourselves what the conditions are there. And it is totally unbearable to know that this country dares to even say they represent us and they speak for us. There is a sit-in going on right now up in the offices of the Friends of the IDF.

FRIEND OF THE IDF 1: No, no, no. Wait, wait.
FRIEND OF THE IDF 2: Sorry, no one can come in.

PROTESTER: We’re a group of American Jews. We’re here—

FRIEND OF THE IDF 2: I can’t have you stay here. You’re not here with an appointment. I ask that you wait outside.

PROTESTER: We are here peacefully.

FRIEND OF THE IDF 2: I know you are.

ALANA KRIVO-KAUFMAN: We are here to demand, as American Jews, that Friends of the IDF stop funding Israel’s massacre of Palestinians living in Gaza. Over the past two weeks, 621 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed. We are here nonviolently to do a civil disobedience. We mourn all who are lost, and we are reading the names of those who the Friends of the IDF have helped funded the IDF to kill.

BRANDON DAVIS: Thursday, July 10th, the following people were killed: Asmaa Mahmoud al-Hajj, age 22.
PROTESTERS: Asmaa Mahmoud al-Hajj, age 22.
BRANDON DAVIS: Was killed in a bombing in Khan Younis that killed eight members of the same family and wounded 16 other people. Mahmoud Lutfi al-Hajj, age 58.
PROTESTERS: Mahmoud Lutfi al-Hajj, age 58.
BRANDON DAVIS: Khader al-Bashiliki, age 45.

FRIEND OF THE IDF 2: We’re calling the police right now. Excuse me. Excuse me. The police are on their way. You have to wait outside.
FRIEND OF THE IDF 1: This is private property.

PROTESTER: We are here—we are here nonviolently.

FRIEND OF THE IDF 2: No, no cameras!

MAIA ETTINGER: My name is Maia Ettinger. I was raised by two Holocaust survivors: my mother and my grandmother. And in their name, I’m here today to oppose the dehumanization of Palestinians, to oppose collective punishment. These were the things that they suffered and that they taught me to fight on behalf of everyone, not just on behalf of Jews.

BRANDON DAVIS: Suha Hamad, age 25.
PROTESTERS: Suha Hamad, age 25.
PROTESTER: On Wednesday, July 9th, these many Gazans were killed. Abdel Hadi Jumaa al-Sufi, age 24.
PROTESTERS: Abdel Hadi Jumaa al-Sufi, age 24.
PROTESTER: He was killed in a bombing near the Rafah crossing.

POLICE OFFICER: Hey, you’re going to wind up—if you don’t leave, you’re going to wind up getting charged with criminal trespass. So, I would advise you, if you don’t want to get arrested, to leave now.

REBECCA VILKOMERSON: We’re here doing civil disobedience peacefully.

POLICE OFFICER: OK, good. Do whatever you want to do.

PROTESTERS: Hatem Abu Salem, age 28.

PRISCILLA READ: Priscilla Read. I’m here appalled by the crimes against humanity being committed by Israel that profess to the world that it’s capable of hitting targets in a very precise way. If this is precision bombing, the world has never seen anything like it. We are repeating the names of the people who’ve been killed in Gaza. The proportion of very young children is appalling.

BRANDON DAVIS: Nagham Mahmoud al-Zouaydi, age two.
PROTESTERS: Nagham Mahmoud al-Zouaydi, age two.
BRANDON DAVIS: Was killed in Beit Lahia. Basem Mohammed Mahmoud Madhi, age 22.
PROTESTERS: Basem Mohammed Mahmoud Madhi, age 22.

REBECCA VILKOMERSON: Looks like they’re preparing to arrest us. They have a bullhorn. When the police come in, we’re going to tell them that we’re here peacefully doing civil disobedience and that we’re here peacefully. We’re mourning all lives that are lost, but we’re holding the Friends of the IDF accountable for helping to support the IDF to kill all these people in Gaza—whose names we’ve been reciting for almost an hour, and we’re still not through the list—and tell them that we’re here peacefully. We will not resist arrest, but that we’re not leaving.

INSPECTOR ED WINSKI: Good afternoon, folks. I’m Inspector Winski from the NYPD You are trespassing on private property. I’m going to give you an opportunity to leave. And if you choose to leave, you can leave now; if not, you’re going to be arrested. So anyone that wants to leave can leave now.

PROTESTERS: [singing] We are a peaceful Jewish people. We are singing for Gazan lives.

AMY GOODMAN: Nine members of the Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews Say No! organizations were arrested Tuesday occupying the offices of the Friends of the IDF in New York. Special thanks to Democracy Now! producers Hany Massoud and Sam Alcoff and to our fellows, Anna Özbek and Daniel Begun, for that report.

The Heart of the Problem With Israel: The Mass Expulsion of the Palestinian People

July 20, 2014

The Heart of the Problem With Israel: The Mass Expulsion of the Palestinian People

By Donna Nevel

July 18, 2014

As Israeli government violence against the Palestinians in Gaza intensifies (the latest news being an aggressive ground invasion), I saw a discussion on-line about whether Israel has become more brutal or the brutality has simply become more visible to the public.

I remembered listening to Benjamin Netanyahu when he was at MIT in the 1970’s. He called himself Bibi Nitai and said he was in self-exile until the Labor Party, which he despised, was out of power. He spoke contemptuously about Arabs, and predicted he would be the leader of Israel someday and would protect the Jewish state in the way it deserved. The immediate response many of us had was: “Heaven help us all if he ever gets into power in Israel.”

I also remember the many Israeli leaders I met in the 1970’s from Labor and Mapam and from smaller parties on the “Zionist left” who seemed kind and caring and markedly different from Benjamin Netanyahu—and in many ways they were, not just in their political rhetoric (they all said they were socialists) but as human beings, or so it seemed. But when I finally dug a little deeper and read my history, I learned how they, too, were participants—in fact, often leaders—in the plan to drive the Palestinians out of their homes and off their land. Nothing very kind or caring about that, to say the least.

The bottom line: Israel was created based on the expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinians from their land and from their homes (what Palestinians call the Nakba, the catastrophe). This is the heart of the problem.

man_see_school_nakba

In some circles, particularly among “progressive” Zionists, the terrible injustice done to the Palestinians is acknowledged, but as awful as the Nakba was, they say, it was what had to be done to create and ensure the security of the Jewish state. (The most recent proponent of this position is Israeli writer Avi Shavit.) It was a terrible price that had to be paid, he and others concede. To be clear, the price was paid by the Palestinians—that is, the killing and expulsion of Palestinians for the sake of Jewish safety. And quite simply, the only way you can think that – that you can excuse the Nakba– is to believe that Jewish lives matter more than Palestinian lives.

And isn’t that what we are seeing today? If Jewish lives matter more than Palestinian lives—if, as the argument goes, the Nakba had to happen so that Jews could be “safe”—doesn’t the brutal violence we see so casually inflicted on the people of Gaza by the Israeli government follow from, in fact, isn’t it embedded in, that history? (And it’s ironic to note that large numbers of the Palestinians in Gaza are from families that fled there during the Nakba in 1948 as refugees from cities and villages in what became Israel.)

That is why I believe those of us working in our own communities—in my case, the Jewish community—need to make sure everyone not only knows about the Nakba but understands that this is the heart of the issue. And that central to the achievement of the “Zionist dream” has been that Jewish lives matter more than Arab lives. That so much attention was paid in Israel to the three kidnapped Israeli boys, in contrast to the total contempt and disregard for the large numbers of Palestinian youth killed and languishing in Israeli prisons for the crime of being Palestinian, brings this point home.

Finally, our understanding of the Nakba cannot end there. We cannot use the acknowledgement of injustice to excuse ourselves from doing anything to end it. We have to take the next step—to think about solutions; to work to hold Israel accountable to basic principles of human rights and self-determination; to recognize the rights of those who have been expelled from their homes. Sometimes the problem is understood as beginning with “the occupation” of 1967, but the root cause goes back to the Nakba and the refusal to allow the return of the refugees in contradiction of UN general assembly resolution 194. In the Palestinian-led call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), which has reverberated across the globe, the principles are laid out clearly: 1. Ending the Israeli occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
 2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
 3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194. That is what is needed to address the problem at its core.

http://www.alternet.org/world/heart-problem-israel-mass-expulsion-palestinian-people

Proudly presenting, JSN’s Dorothy Zellner, interviewed by Philip Weiss

June 25, 2014

Image

This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Summer, the legendary effort by the civil rights movement to open up the vote in Mississippi to black people. That struggle is the subject of Freedom Summer, a documentary that will air on PBS’s American Experience, tonight. One subject of the film is Dorothy Zellner, a former staff member for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, who is today active in the Palestinian solidarity movement as a member of the board of the Friends of Jenin Freedom Theatre, a founding member of Jews Say No, and a volunteer for Jewish Voice for Peace.

A few weeks ago during a commemoration of our visits to Gaza five years ago, Zellner told me “We are winning.” I asked her for an interview. She agreed, and the Q-and-A below reflects two conversations, with some edits. 

Question: You’ve said on a couple of occasions, We’re winning, we’re turning the corner. What is happening, why do you say that?

Dorothy Zellner: Well this is not an original thought. When I express this idea in meetings with other activists, people nod and agree. I’m very well known as a pessimist. That’s why when I said it people actually paid some attention.

OK but why do you believe that?

There are a few reasons. First of all, BDS [Boycott Divestment Sanctions] is turning out to be very very strong, and obviously successful, more successful than we even thought. A couple of years ago Donna Nevel and I wrote a piece in Jewish Currents, responding to an Australian Zionist. He was very dismissive. He said BDS has changed nothing, it hasn’t altered the Israeli economy, no one cares. Now a year and a half later it is so obvious that BDS is growing by leaps and bounds especially on the economic level, the divestment level.  Yesterday you know the Gates Foundation announced that it was divesting from G4S. That’s only the latest development.

It’s not only in dollars and cents, but in the consciousness. The consciousness about BDS is totally different from two years ago. It’s now considered to be a serious way for people to register their feelings about the occupation. No one is dismissing it.

Number two, what’s going on in the campuses is truly amazing to me. I think I realized that we were going to win when the first Open Hillel was created on campus [at Swarthmore last December]. Because this is a sea change: the Israeli government policy is built on relying on the Jews in the Diaspora to be either completely convinced of the efficacy of the Jewish state or else bludgeoned into supporting the Jewish state as it exists now. The Open Hillel means they can’t count on the Diaspora any more.

This seems like a small thing– oh, it’s just three campuses. But I can tell you that having done this work for years now, trying to change the conversation inside the Jewish community, that what these students did this was earthshaking because it means that they want to think. They don’t want anyone else to think for them anymore, and they know about the abuse they will get, and they are willing to take the abuse, it’s not going to come as a shock to them. They were immediately excoriated by the head of the Hillel, but it doesn’t seem to have fazed them. They are not saying they are necessarily becoming anti-Zionist, but that they want to be able to think in a Jewish environment. And I know by now, from being at this for 12 years– by the way a small amount of time, others have been involved much longer—that this is very telling. And if these students want to think and they want to be open to what is really happening there, we have the facts. They will see the facts, they will believe them, they will understand them.

You know, I have yet to meet one single human being who has been to Israel and Palestine, who has not had their entire life changed, and they can call you all kinds of names, anti-Semite and self-hating Jews. But we have actually seen the Israeli policies and in some cases we have been the victims of them. We have seen Palestinians herded like cattle through these institutionalized checkpoints, that are like mini prisons.

I am totally confident that people understanding the facts will change their behavior.

A third factor I think is extremely important: there has been interest on the part of black intellectuals. I know that several trips to the West Bank (you can’t go to Gaza) have taken place with leading black intellectuals who have decided to make common cause with this issue. People like Vincent Harding [a prominent black leader who died recently]. They have seen what is going on there, and they speak with a kind of moral authority that is  unimpeachable. It’s like Archbishop Tutu– when he goes to the West Bank and he looks around at what’s happening and says, This is worse than apartheid, well he speaks with the kind of moral leadership that no one can dispute.

I know in the Zionist circles, they speak of Tutu as an anti-Semite. But it’s getting harder and harder to get away with that. They can call a nebbish like me an anti-Semite. But even trying to call Vincent Harding an anti-Semite– this is not going anywhere, people are not going to accept it.

The fourth factor is the collapse of the negotiations, and the US uttering a word of criticism of the Israelis for their role.

Things are happening that we couldn’t possibly have predicted. And we are now in a phase where the momentum is on our side. And it all makes me feel that we have turned the corner.

When you say we are winning, define those words.

By we, I mean the movement to end the occupation, although sometimes I mean the Jewish community. Winning means that we will get the occupation ended, but what form or shape that’s going to take I don’t know.

So will things go more easily now?

No. The caveat is that turning the corner doesn’t meant this is going to be easy. The next few years are going to be harder for us, because we are winning. The attacks on us are going to be worse. This is like a cornered animal: its fangs are out now. You can see this happening already. I am told that big institutions in Israel are now bringing African Americans over there by the busload. I’m assuming that’s because of the important African-American intellectuals, they want to counter it.

Or did you hear about the New York city council having a secret panel discussion about strengthening economic ties with Israel ? I take that to mean BDS is hurting the Israeli powers that be, and they are looking for new and other ways to overcome the economic loss.

Does this mean you thought we weren’t going to win a few years back?

No. But I was thinking of it in terms of decades. And when you have a win that’s so far in the future, you don’t dwell on that because it will just make you depressed. Now something qualitatively different has happened. And if I as a lowly person on the ground can feel it, the right wing can feel it too. I don’t know what forms of backlash it will take. I expect public abuse in the Jewish community. Though it’s already at a hysterical high. I have rarely seen people who are supposedly normal go from 0 to 60 in a second and become hysterical maniacs. That’s what happens with this issue and it’s going to increase.

Have you experienced that abuse in other political activism?

I’ve been in two big struggles in my life. The civil rights movement, and this. The women’s movement, the antiwar movement, of course I was involved. But these have been my big engagements. When I was in the south in the 60s, the white people didn’t really curse you out, they just tried to kill you. And this abuse is nothing compared to that.

On the other hand, I have not seen this level of hysteria before. I haven’t. Ever since I got involved 12 years ago, it has been increasing. And it hasn’t leveled off. Even some of the attack dogs are being attacked. Did you see them going after Dershowitz? It’s very unusual for him, to get some of his medicine back. He was bitten and he was kind of shocked.

Who will the backlash target?

I’m guessing there may be more social pressure put on people who are vulnerable. You’re not vulnerable, I’m not. But there are people who are wending their way through the Jewish institutional community who are vulnerable to pressure.

I want to tell you about exceptions to this. Howard Horowitz—he’s organizing in synagogues in Westchester, he’s bringing amazing Palestinian people to speak. That’s something we haven’t achieved here in the city. Or Kathleen Peratis, she was on the board of J Street, she wrote an article reconsidering BDS. This goes to my theory that we’re turning the corner. These things were not happening a couple of years ago. I think they are going to happen at the same time as the counterattack. And it’s good to know about the backlash, because if you’re prepared for it, you can get through it.

Remember, it’s not because of our failure that we’re being attacked, but because of our success. And we can work through this period. We are going to keep going because we understand what the ultimate goal will be.

You know that I have often said, Let’s write off the Jewish community, they’re reactionary. Have you had that response, emotionally—let’s wash our hands of the Jewish community?

I can’t say I haven’t had my moments of being discouraged. But no, I haven’t written them off. If I had written them off, why would I be standing out there on 96th St. with Jews Say No?

So why did you hang in there?

I think this goes back to my history. I was a past staff member of SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] for five years, 1962 to 1967, and I was in Mississippi for the Freedom Summer of 1964.

And you’re in a film that’s going to be aired on American Experience, June 24?

Yes. “Freedom Summer,” by Stanley Nelson. We were in SNCC, we were in a black-led organization, a black-led movement. But this is my point: What SNCC needed– what they wanted– was for the whites to go and work in the white community. And the reason for this was, one, of course they would get allies. Even though people were very realistic about this; these allies weren’t apples hanging off the tree, ready to be plucked. It was hard work in the south. But the second reason was to neutralize the white community, if we failed to get allies. And there were many hardy souls who attempted to do this with little or no success. The reason for this was the extreme danger in the white community and the extreme hostility. White people who opposed segregation publicly were shut down or arrested or threatened and so forth.

And since then, in the back of my mind, I have always felt that this was something we needed to do that we didn’t do…. White students in the Southern Student Organizing Committee worked alongside SNCC, trying to establish a beachhead in the white community and build these kinds of coalitions. Because a lot of us felt that were it not for racism, there would have been natural coalitions between black and white working class people. But most of these efforts in U.S. history have failed– from populism on. That doesn’t mean they will always fail, but racism has been used very effectively. That’s a shibboleth of American political science.

But politically speaking, we couldn’t do what a lot of black people thought was a mandate: to go work where people really needed to be talked to.

Well along comes 2002, and for various reasons I got involved with this movement, and I realized, This is my moment. This is what SNCC told me to do 50 years ago. And now I have the chance.

Wow. That’s a great story.

But to answer your question: I’ve never given up on the Jewish community. Even though I don’t like being abused. Some people, actually the really great people—Donna Nevel, she’s not fazed. But I don’t like it.

What do you say when you’re trying to explain the situation to people? Is there an anecdote, a particular incident, or an observation you relate?

The incident that to me typifies my emotional reaction occurred on my first trip in the winter of 2002-2003 several months after the horrible Israeli invasion in the second intifada. I was in the Deheisheh refugee camp in front of the Ibda’a House and I was talking to people and right across the way I could see the wall, the barbed wire on the wall, and the guard tower on top of the wall, and all these images flooded back to me from World War II, and I thought of my father, how relieved I was that he was dead and didn’t have to see this because flying over the guard tower was the flag with the Jewish star on it, and I completely broke down. I just sobbed, and during that trip I cried every day. My traveling companions were so annoyed with me, I was over the top. But I don’t have to explain to you the significance of those images.

You were on the left. How come you didn’t know about the occupation?

First of all the wall was just being built when I was there. Second of all I had spent many years in denial, avoiding this issue, but there I was and I was seeing it for myself. That was one of those life moments.

How many times have you been there?

Ten times since 2002.

Oh my god.

What can I say? One year I went three times. The last time was a year and a half ago, in March 2013. So I do feel like I speak with some experience. I have been all over Israel as well as the West Bank, and Gaza twice.

Tell me about the abuse.

Standing there on 96th St with Jews Say No is a really interesting experience. We stand there with signs, and this is a neighborhood that is heavily Jewish, and we give out leaflets, but we usually try not to engage with opponents, because there’s no point in the screaming matches. What happens– and here I’m trying not to cater to my native pessimism– is that for every person who has a thumbs up going by there are two thumbs down. The thumbs up are interesting. This is what they say. ‘How great that you’re out here, how brave you are.’ This gets on my nerves. I say, ‘We’re not so brave, we’re standing here on the street, come and join us.’ ‘Oh no, I can’t, but it’s really great that you’re doing this.’ And other people say,  ‘You’re absolutely right. You’re right.’ These are people who wouldn’t have said that five years ago. We get a surprising amount of support.

But the abuse is really ugly. Most of the time it’s not reasoned. ‘I’m horrified you’re here, you ugly bitch.’ Or it’s that two-word sentence that substitutes for a political conversation: fuck you, fuck you, and fuck you. Or, ‘you’re an anti-Semite. So it has now boiled down to personal epithets or “You’re an anti-semite.” Pure hysteria, people who are screaming and turning red.

Do you keep your cool or do you get into fights?

Well actually personally speaking, I don’t think I am very effective. I am there all the time. But do I like being there? As I told you, I don’t think I like being there. I tend to get very snappy and lose my temper. I don’t know how effective I am. That’s why I’ve learned it’s better for me not to respond at all. I will stand there and be stoic as people scream and froth at the mouth.

Well you know that about yourself, that’s good.

I’m 76, after all! I am a more effective speaker in a regular format, because I am relating everything to what I experienced in the civil rights movement. To me when people ask about the future, to me, it’s a no brainer. I can tell them that ethnic superiority doesn’t work.

I don’t know how long I could stand out there.

I have not given up, and I actually want to do more things we haven’t been able to do. There are 24 hour Jewish cable networks. Well, I want to get on there. I want to challenge them: if you’re so convinced you’re right, why don’t you have us on, and we’ll talk. Jews Say No has worked to have panel discussions in various places. We have had people from the liberal Jewish community engage us. Because that’s our self appointed mandate: we want to work in the Jewish community.

And it’s changing?

Yes, I think so. I say it’s worth it to get the abuse, because somewhere in Pennsylvania some kid on campus is saying, ‘I want to read this book. What is Zionism? What is going on in Israel? I don’t want to say I love Israel, I want to know what’s going on.’ And as far as the established Jewish organizations are concerned, this is the beginning of the end of the hand on our throats preventing us from talking or thinking.

You’ve seen the change personally?

Years ago, I was on a panel in a synagogue, and the attacks were so severe that I thought they were going to have to call the police. Today, there would be incredible hysteria and screaming, but you’d also have more people listening.

Why did you think they should bring the police?

A woman in the audience came up after it was over and she said in the synagogue—look, I am 100 percent atheist, but I respect a religious building—well this woman said to my debate partner, a young Israeli, “You’re a piece of shit.” Inside a synagogue!  I’m not proud of myself, but I lost it. I instantly became a 12 year old. And she started screaming, and the security people were hovering there. I thought she was going to attack my Israeli partner.

Do you say in the synagogue, I’m an anti-Zionist?

I didn’t define myself then and I often don’t now as an anti-Zionist or a non-Zionist. I define myself as a person who has spent her life working with civil rights and human rights, and I was being told by the government of Israel that they spoke for me, and I had actually seen with my own eyes the oppression of the Palestinians. And relying on Jewish tradition, I felt that I could not stand idly by. From that day to this, I have acted in that way.

I must tell you, I was seven years old when World War II ended. My father followed the war with a map, and pushpins in it. And you won’t know this name, but hearing Gabriel Heatter, a broadcaster, talking about where was the US army and more important, where was the Red Army.

What was the lesson?

The lesson was horrible things happen when people stand around watching and no one does anything. That is what impelled me into the civil rights movement. And later I realized it came out of a very important part of a Jewish social justice tradition, which I had obviously imbibed in my leftwing family,  even though they were not religious. I didn’t understand this for years, but for me, it all comes down to that saying about Hillel, who was asked to summarize Jewish teaching when standing on one leg?. “Do unto others as you would have them do to you. All the rest is commentary.”  That’s it to me. Thou shall not stand idly by.

I spent years in the South. I was shot at once, I was arrested. And now it was much closer to home. Israel claims it is speaking and acting for me. I say, Oh no no no, this is not tolerable.

What do you mean, you didn’t know for years this was your tradition?

I didn’t understand for many years, that this was part of my motivation. I grew up in a nonobservant home. Then later on as I did some reading about this– it is to me an inescapable fact that this is part of Jewish culture. It’s in the Jewish religion too. But in the Jewish culture, there was– whether it’s there today I really can’t say– but up until I was in high school and as an adult, that tradition was there. There is really no way of accounting for the overrepresented numbers of Jews in some of these fights. I understand it not to mean that we’re better, but because it is our tradition: we were slaves in Egypt, we were victims, we learned the hard way what happens when you stand around doing nothing. At least half of the lawyers who went south during the civil rights movement were Jewish. At least half of the Americans who went to Spain to fight were Jewish. That comes out of a deeply held social justice movement.

What do you say to those who would say, Ok, that was one Jewish tradition, but it’s been replaced by another, Zionism and American neoliberalism?

I would explain what has happened as nationalism. And that nationalism is killing us. When you have a national state that is really an ethnic state, it’s not really surprising that you have a Jewish community that is so retrogressive on the question. But I can turn that around: Look at the large number of Jews in the anti occupation movement. These are people who have been told since babyhood, that Israel is everything. I’ve seen synagogues where five-year old children just learning to write make signs saying “I love Israel” and these signs are all over on the walls.

To me, speaking as an atheist Jew, they have hijacked our Jewishness, and they have made it into a place, a country—so our Jewishness became a place. And the miracle of this is that so many people who were brought up like that, began to see with their own eyes. Who would have thought that Jewish Voice for Peace would have 140,000 people on their list. That’s a fifth factor in terms of turning the corner. I remember in the 1980s after Lebanon there was a group called the New Jewish Agenda. I wasn’t really involved with that. But I know they could be critical of Israel.

Well then the first gulf war started and SCUDS were fired at Tel Aviv, that’s when the New Jewish Agenda organization collapsed. That’s my version; that’s how I remember it.

But what it tells me is there are 140,000 people on the JVP list who are not going to be taken by surprise. They have gone there and seen this. They are willing to fight it. They will take the bumps and bruises that go along with that.

But I could say from your story that if there was violent Palestinian resistance to occupation, the JVP list would collapse.

No. I think a lot of people are on board now who understand the situation much better than they did then. They would not go under. They would not go under. Thousands of us have been there. You walk away saying what if I lived here and I would have to go thru that? Is it such a big reach to say, I would want to kill someone? Of course not. We oppose that but it’s not a reach. We are much more sophisticated now.

What if I said to you that your attitude about Jewish cultural tradition of social justice, one I agree with — that we’re romantics about Jewish life?

In one of the books I was interviewed in, that question came up. I said, maybe I was a romantic, but what’s wrong with that?

What was the book?

Going South:  Jewish Women in the Civil Rights Movement by Debra Schultz.  When I grew up, the great heroes of my teenage life were the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, and I used to– as a young teenager, I imagined what would happen if the Nazis were marching up Second Avenue? Would I go on the roof and be a sniper? Well that’s romantic. But I thought, What’s wrong with that?

But if you’re challenging me on this social justice tradition, and saying that’s just romanticism, you’re exaggerating it, I say no, I’m not exaggerating it. It was real. I don’t feel that’s romantic.

Isn’t it a form of Jewish exceptionalism?

No. I’m not saying we’re so special. Other people are too. If the Irish told me about their tradition, I’d be interested. I’m saying this was part of us. And this country that claims to be speaking for all of us in the world– they have abandoned that part of the tradition. I know you have felt funny about this; I don’t know how to convince you. But that tradition in Jewish life is there, and it is being violated. And this is why people are so hysterical. Because they know on some level, this is a big No No! You’re not supposed to oppress people, you’re not supposed to remove them from where they live. That happened to us.

But again, what if I say that Jewish life has been captured by Zionism?

That’s not the Jewishness I know. The Jewish establishment of course was captured decades ago. But there is this struggle on the ground. If you said, JVP has 2000 people, then maybe it would be hopeless, and you could say the community is totally corrupted. But there are 140,000. We’re winning, and I’m a pessimist!

I want to tell you something. I went to a social justice conference at the University of Illinois this spring. I told the story about SNCC, sitting up there with other SNCC people. We (white people) couldn’t do it, I said. We couldn’t organize in the white community. But now 40 years later it’s all coming together for me, I’m a Jewish activist organizing against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Much to my surprise the whole audience burst into applause. It was a very nice moment. I can’t tell you how much support I got from old SNCC people.

That’s a beautiful story. When you said that you don’t identify as anti-Zionist or non Zionist, does that mean you try to honor the meaning that Zionism had in the Jewish community once?

I am an anti-Zionist. But I don’t define myself that way because I think it makes people unable to think. And if I was trying to have a real conversation with some of these passersby, sooner or later I would say that. But only when I was sure that they could hear what I say. But I am a critic of Zionism. The more I read about it the more critical I am of it.

Should Israel exist—does it have a right to exist as Jewish state?

My answer is I do not think that states that privilege one group over another are viable states. And this comes from my intensive schooling as a civil rights activist. I could not– 50 years ago, I could not work to make sure that black people in Mississippi had the right to vote and then turn around and be supportive of a state where every citizen does not have equal rights before the law.

Can you imagine a situation in which you are cheering a 2 state solution?

These are not positions taken by any organization I’m in but personally I don’t think the two state solution is possible any longer. But I want to follow what the people who live there want to do. That’s why I think it’s pointless to end up in these conversations, because many solutions have been floated and we can’t sort them all out. But our job is to get the US government to promote a decent policy and, believe me, that’s going to take everything we’ve got.

Is that a lesson from the civil rights movement?   

Well one big thing I learned is, you can’t predict what will happen. The week before the sit-ins started on February 1, 1960, if you had asked people whether in a week, a huge movement was about to start, people would have looked at you like you were nuts. These things had been brewing a long time, but nobody predicted it, and even when it happened, no one predicted it would spread like wildfire. Within weeks there were 100s and 100s of students in every southern state sitting in and demonstrating, and thousands and thousands of local people participating. All over the south.

White people too?

In the south there were very few white people. But in the north, yes. This is what boosted SDS. And when I speak about the civil rights movement, I say, you can’t replicate these things, but if it happened once it can happen again. In the US we have had big big mass movements, and what’s going to happen in the future one cannot predict. We have to keep plugging along, and realize that it’s the struggle that counts. You have to be willing to struggle.

In the anti-occupation movement I think we have turned a corner, despite the kidnappings and what’s happening in Iraq. The opposition will get much worse but we are going to win. And we have to have the kind of understanding that there will be no instant gratification but whatever you do now will have an effect on the future. That’s the lesson of the civil rights movement. All the earlier struggles, the Montgomery bus movement, the Brown v Board of Education decision led up to it. And what we see in the history books is a pallid imitation of what it was really like.

Palestinians are demonized as terrorists. Mandela was deemed a terrorist for a while. Was there similar demonization of black people in the south?

You can see in the movie on Tuesday, Freedom Summer, when three of our guys were kidnapped and killed in Mississippi, they interviewed white people in the community, who said it’s a fraud, it’s a fake, they’ve done this for sympathy, I don’t believe it.  It was total demonization. Total. And in those days, and right up to the present, white people are never called terrorists. Never. So black people were totally demonized.

Do you have an elevator speech, 15-30 seconds, on the conflict?

I always identify myself as a Jewish person and I say I’ve been there and I’ve seen it. I try to get through the hysteria, that this is nothing that someone told me, I’ve actually seen it. It often doesn’t work. As I said, in a longer scenario, I’m much better. Few of us is able to say anything coherent in these onslaughts people put us through. You’re standing there and someone is screaming in your face.

Make it concrete for me.

We had a sign up saying, End the occupation, and someone came up and said, “I don’t respect you, I don’t respect you.’ I said, ‘Let’s have a conversation, stop screaming and we’ll talk.’ She said, ‘You should be out there talking about our boys.’ All you have to say is “our boys,” and that’s the end of any argument. My response was “bye bye.” That infuriated her.

But I believe people go home and no matter what we say or what they say, they have a picture in their minds of some Jews who don’t agree with Israel. Somewhere along the line, someone will remember, we were out there, and we refused to go along.  Maybe we will have planted a seed and someone will realize we are right.  That gives me intense satisfaction. I look in the mirror and say you did a mitzvah today.

You were good Jews in this horrible moment in history?

We acted like mensches. We were human beings, and we refused to be stampeded by so-called group loyalty or blindness to Israel. We acted the way people should have acted toward us.

But is this about congratulating ourselves or about changing the conflict?

It is politically effective. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think it was. But I feel that we’re acting the way Jews are supposed to act.

How does your family feel about your work?

I’m from a non-Zionist family. I haven’t had to go through what a lot of people have had to go through. Nobody in my family is out there with me, but there’s some sympathy for what I’m doing, there’s no hostility.

So it’s not like you don’t talk to someone in your family over this issue?

I talk to everyone in my family. We have different points of view about it. I was lucky when I went to the civil rights movement, my family didn’t hold me back. My father supported me emotionally. There were many people whose parents were completely frantic and opposed to what we did, and tried to interfere physically with their own children’s work—and a lot of times for understandable reasons, the parents were afraid their kids were going to be killed. I’m fortunate, I didn’t have that problem. And now I hear all kinds of terrible stories, about people not talking to each other at seders; I don’t have that problem.

http://mondoweiss.net/2014/06/mississippi-reflects-struggle.html to read the wonderful comments. Get Mondoweiss delivered directly to your inbox every morning and stay up to date with independent coverage of events in the Middle East!

Palestinian civil society salutes Presbyterians on divestment resolution

June 25, 2014

 

The Palestinheader4ian BDS National Committee, the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society that is leading the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, warmly welcomes the brave decision of the Presbyterian Church (USA) general assembly in Detroit to divest its holdings from three US corporations – Hewlett Packard (HP), Motorola Solutions and Caterpillar – on the basis of their well-documented record of complicity in the oppression and denial of human rights of Palestinians.

This is a historic decision that shows, with concrete measures, the deep commitment of the Presbyterian Church to truth and justice. With this move, the Presbyterian church concludes a decade-old process of engagement with these three corporations, where evidence was presented of their role in Israel’s commission of crimes against Palestinians with no sway in their egregious behavior, leaving the Presbyterians with no choice but to divest.

Bisan Mitri of the Palestinian BDS National Committee said: “The Presbyterian Church (USA) divestment decision is inspiring and morally courageous. It is a victory for all peace with justice loving people around the world. It shows that commitment to justice comes with a moral obligation to act: the time has come for other church denominations to follow suit.”

The move comes on the day when the Israeli army killed 15-year old Mohammed Dudeen as it conducts collective punishment sweeps across the West Bank and steps up its incessant and indiscriminate bombings in Gaza. The participation of HP[1], Motorola[2] and Caterpillar[3] in these violations is undeniable and well documented. HP technology is used daily to enforce israel’s navy blockade of Gaza, which has devastated Gaza’s economy and destroyed its once-thriving fishing industry. Motorola Solutions technology is used in Israel’s apartheid wall and Israeli settlements. Caterpillar bulldozers enable Israel’s routine demolition of Palestinian homes. These are just a few examples of how these corporations have knowingly provided material support to Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid against Palestinians. As this decision demonstrates, divestment has become a moral imperative, in addition to a legal requirement, as governments, in particular the US government, have failed to hold Israel accountable for its crimes.

“This groundbreaking decision by the Presbyterian Church (USA) is a warning to HP, Motorola, Cat and other corporations complicit with Israel’s occupation that pressure on them is building and they must withdraw from these damaging contracts in Israel and be held accountable,” said Mitri

The Presbyterian resolution passed by a count of 310 to 303, triggering the Church to instruct divestment of its $21 million holdings in these companies. Earlier this month the US Methodist Church announced a decision to divest from G4S, a corporation complicit in the abuse of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and other violations.

Rifat Kassis, general coordinator of Kairos Palestine, said ”the Presbyterian Church (USA) divestment decision gives hope to Palestinians and sends them a message that they are not alone.” 

 


- See more at: http://www.bdsmovement.net/2014/palestinian-civil-society-salutes-presbyterians-on-divestment-resolution-12177#sthash.8waA1ZEJ.dpuf

 

 

Jerusalem Post Op-Ed: Stop falsely accusing activists of anti-Semitism

April 30, 2014

On Holocaust Remembrance Day:  A call to stop falsely accusing activists of anti-Semitism

By DONNA NEVEL  4/27/2014

Since I was a child, my family marked Holocaust Remembrance Day with reverence for the memory of the victims, vivid awareness of anti-Semitism and bigotry, and celebration of resistance and the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. I also had etched into my consciousness from an early age that in remembering the Holocaust and the history of anti-Semitism, we are obliged to re-affirm our commitment to fighting injustice in any form.

With this in mind, as Holocaust Remembrance Day approaches, I can’t help but be appalled by the reckless charge of anti-Semitism directed at those who seek justice and who call out Israel for its human rights violations.

When people criticize Israel (or any nation-state, for that matter), it is fair to challenge them – on the merits of the argument. However, Israeli government apologists instead shamelessly exploit the charge of anti-Semitism as a means of discrediting and obstructing those opposing its practices and behavior.

These attacks, sometimes drawing upon classic anti-Semitic images as in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s recent speech to AIPAC, have most recently focused on trying to thwart political organizing on college campuses, by both students and professors, in support of policies and time-honored strategies – like Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) – intended to hold Israel accountable to international law and basic principles of human rights.

Although this is certainly not a new phenomenon, these charges of anti-Semitism have become epidemic.

There is a pattern: Israeli government behavior has gotten worse and worse, the movement to hold Israel accountable is getting stronger and stronger, and it appears the only way the Israeli government and its supporters think they can stop the momentum is to destroy the messengers, particularly since the facts of Israeli violations of human rights and the extent of its ongoing oppressive behavior against the Palestinian people are well-documented and pervasive.

And these pro-Israeli government advocates know that there is no better way to shut people down and discredit them than by accusing them of anti-Semitism.

These false calls of anti-Jewish hatred are an attempt to derail the movement for justice in Palestine/Israel and to destroy those supporting that movement. And, further, these trumped-up charges of anti-Semitism are particularly pernicious when directed at Palestinians or Muslims or others who already face extreme discrimination and racism.

Calling criticism of the Israeli state anti-Semitic also makes a mockery of the term anti-Semitism and trivializes the memory of the Holocaust. Conflating anti-Semitism against the Jewish people with critiques of Israel as a state diminishes the seriousness of anti-Semitism when it occurs.

As Holocaust Remembrance Day approaches, let us do justice to the memory of the Holocaust by recommitting ourselves to challenging injustice and to honoring, rather than demonizing and defaming, those who speak out and take action for peace and for justice in Palestine and Israel and anywhere across the globe.

The author a community psychologist and educator, is a long-time organizer for peace and justice in Palestine/Israel.

She was a co-coordinator of the 1989 landmark Road to Peace Conference that brought PLO officials and Knesset members together to the US for the first time. More recently, she was a founding member of Jews Say No!, is a member of the board of Jewish Voice for Peace, and is on the coordinating committee of the Nakba Education Project, US.

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-Ed-Contributors/On-Holocaust-Remembrance-Day-A-call-to-stop-falsely-accusing-activists-of-anti-Semitism-350588

SodaStream action at Zabar’s

April 24, 2014

New York, NY, April 22, 2014—On Earth Day, 70 human rights activists gathered on New York City’s Upper West Side outside the iconic Zabar’s store, demanding that SodaStream home carbonation devices be removed from the shelves because they are made in an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank (photosvideo). The demonstration was coordinated by the NYC Coalition Against SodaStream, which is made up of Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, Jewish Voice for Peace—NYC Chapter (JVP), Jews Say No!, and Park Slope Food Coop Members for BDS.

- See more at: http://adalahny.org/event/1143/call-zabar-stop-selling-sodastream#sthash.ELPUpyEF.dpuf

Tikkun: A Challenge to the Jewish Mainstream: Will You Stand Against Islamophobia?

April 24, 2014

Alex Kane   April 17th, 2014 

What’s the ideology undergirding opposition to the construction of mosques in the United States? How are anti-Muslim groups funded? How have Jewish groups reacted when confronted with issues like the proposed construction of thePark51 Islamic center near Ground Zero in New York City?

bookElly Bulkin and Donna Nevel answer these questions and more in their new book Islamophobia and Israel, a sobering analysis of the Jewish establishment’s dalliance with anti-Muslim bigotry.

Based on a series of articles that I had the pleasure of editing before their initial publication on AlterNet, Bulkin and Nevel’s book takes a close look back at the summer of 2010, when the flames of anti-Muslim bigotry were fanned with vigor. It had been nine years after the September 11, 2001, attacks by a group of Islamic fundamentalists. But Islamophobia – collective animus targeting all Muslims – was still ingrained into swathes of the American body politic. And the Park51 Islamic center was exploited to bring that bigotry to the surface.

When anti-Muslim bloggers like Pamela Geller first started railing against Park51, the name of the planned mosque and community center a few blocks away from Ground Zero, not many people noticed. But in a matter of months, concern over what was dubbed the “Ground Zero mosque” migrated from the fever swamps of Islamophobic blogs to Fox News. Then the rest of the mainstream press started paying attention. Ugly protests broke out. Heated debate captured the airwaves. The majority of Americans said they opposed the mosque.

The Jewish community was split on the issue. But the voice that captured the most attention was the Anti-Defamation League, a thoroughly mainstream group that calls itself the “nation’s premier civil rights” group. On July 28, 2010, the group issued a statement calling for the planned mosque to be moved away from the World Trade Center site, a rationale that only makes sense if you blame all Muslims for 9/11. With that statement, the ADL joined the likes of theSimon Wiesenthal Center’s Marvin Hier, who said that Park51 was insensitively being built at the “wrong location.”

Here were two Jewish groups, ostensibly dedicated to tolerance and civil rights for all, opposing the right of Muslims to have a mosque near the former World Trade Center site. Given the history of anti-Semitism in the U.S., it was a curious stance on its face. But read Bulkin’s and Nevel’s analysis of the role the Jewish establishment and the Israel lobby have played in fueling Islamophobia, and it makes a lot more sense.

In one chapter of the book, Bulkin and Nevel argue that the ADL’s opposition to Park51 is only the latest manifestation of the group’s Islamophobia. The group quietly opposed the building of a Boston mosque and joined in the smear campaign against Debbie Almontaser, who was forced to resign her position as founding principal of New York City’s first dual-language Arabic school after a months-long effort. The claim that Almontaser’s school would establish an Islamist beachhead would be laughable if it were not so effective.

More recently, ADL head Abe Foxman justified the New York Police Department’s blanket spy program targeting Muslims, and the ADL honored former NYPD chief Ray Kelly, who implemented the discriminatory program, in March 2014.

Fueling these positions, Bulkin and Nevel argue, is the ADL’s “staunchly pro-Israel mindset … [which] enabled it to easily incorporate an anti-Muslim worldview that has become increasingly pervasive after 9/11.”

In addition to writing on mainstream Jewish groups’ complicity in fomenting Islamophobia, Bulkin and Nevel comprehensively document the funding stream connecting some Jewish philanthropic organizations – like the Fairbrook Foundation, the Becker Foundation, and the Rosenwald Fund – to anti-Muslim groups. Some of the same Jewish philanthropists, like former AIPAC board member Nina Rosenwald (of the Rosenwald Fund) and former Washington Institute for Near East Policy trustee Aubrey Chernick (of the Fairbrook Foundation), are key funders of illegal Israeli settlements.

Given what they invest their money in, these funders seem to see support for Israel and Islamophobia as part of the same project. One aspect of that project is a tendency to view the Israel/Palestine conflict as the front line in a “clash of civilizations” between the West and Islam. Another key part of the project is attempting to demean a key political bloc – Arabs and Muslims – who are more critical of Israel than other ethnic groups in order to shore up American support for the project of Greater Israel, which funding settlements fortifies.

It’s not often that these funders explicitly make that connection. But in December 2011, one did. Speaking to a group of young Jews on a Birthright Israel trip, billionaire philanthropist Sheldon Adelson, who helped fund an anti-Muslim film titled The Third Jihadsaid: “When you return to your countries of origin, speak in support of Israel – don’t let Muslim student organizations take over the campuses.”

As Bulkin’s and Nevel’s book shows, Muslim groups and allies opposed to Islamophobia are battling a well-funded machine dedicated to right-wing Zionism and anti-Muslim bigotry. But those opposed to Islamophobia in the Jewish establishment have begun to fight back.

Bulkin and Nevel are a core part of their effort. They are both founding members of the Jews Against Islamophobiacoalition, a group composed of a few Jewish organizations that saw the need to unite. The coalition is the Jewish part of a multi-denominational effort against anti-Muslim bigotry.

Their book will be a key resource for those looking to join this struggle. By offering detailed documentation and analysis of how and why powerful members of the Jewish establishment have stoked Islamophobia, the book lights the way for activists organizing against anti-Muslim bigotry.

Alex Kane is an assistant editor at Mondoweiss.net and the World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Salon, The Daily Beast’s “Open Zion” blog, Vice, +972 magazine, and the Electronic Intifada. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.


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