To New York City Council Members Intending to Participate in a Trip to Israel

January 11, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE      

Contact:  Donna Nevel   denevel@gmail.com

January 12, 2015

 To New York City Council Members Who Are Intending to Participate in a Trip to Israel Sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC)

 Dear Council Members,

Because we know many of you have spoken out strongly against Islamophobia, we are writing at this time to call your attention to some of the ways in which the JCRC of New York, which is sponsoring your upcoming trip to Israel, has supported practices and policies that foster Islamophobia. It is clear that the JCRC has helped undermine the basic civil rights and liberties of our city’s Muslim residents, and we hope you agree with us that it is a most inappropriate organization to lead such a trip. (Others have been in touch with you about JCRC’s egregious support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people. We agree with those views.)

Best regards,

Elly Bulkin, Marjorie Dove Kent, Alan Levine, Donna Nevel, Rebecca Vilkomerson

Members, Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition

 

THE JCRC AND NEW YORK CITY’S MUSLIM RESIDENTS

 JCRC Support for NYPD Surveillance of the NYC Muslim Community

The JCRC fully supported former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s anti-Muslim policies. In February 2012, when a dozen of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press (AP) articles on the NYPD surveillance of the Muslim community had already been published, the JCRC’s president, executive vice president and CEO, and associate executive director published an article in The Jewish Week making “The Case for Ray Kelly.” As a published response to this opinion piece pointed out: (1) the JCRC leadership’s expressed concern for the safety of New Yorkers did not extend to the Muslim community; (2) JCRC leaders “trivialized the impact of constant surveillance upon the Muslim community”; and (3) the JCRC statement did “not acknowledge that Ray Kelly was a featured interviewee in ‘The Third Jihad,’ a rabidly Islamophobic film — a fact he conveniently ‘forgot.’ Under Kelly’s watch, according to files uncovered by NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice, the NYPD showed nearly 1,500 police officers during their training this anti-Islam propaganda film whose main narrative is that Muslims are trying to violently ‘infiltrate and dominate America.’ Though the JCRC claims part of its mission is to “build bridges to, and work with, many leaders in New York’s Muslim communities,” during this massive assault on the city’s Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities, the JCRC wasn’t just silent, which would have been bad enough—but its top leadership spoke in strong support of the person in charge of this Islamophobic campaign.

Long-time Member of the JCRC Board of Directors Who Has Worked with Pamela Geller and Other Leading Islamophobes Additionally, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a member of the JCRC’s Board of Directors, was a leading figure in the 2007 attacks on Debbie Almontaser, founding principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA), planned as the country’s first English-Arabic dual language public school. Wiesenfeld was New York chair of Stop the Madrassa, a self-described “community coalition” that formed in June 2007 to prevent KGIA from opening. Another key player in Stop the Madrassa was Pamela Geller, who subsequently spearheaded the opposition to Park51 and spewed anti-Muslim hate across the country’s transit systems; Geller got her start as an activist, not just a blogger, when she joined Stop the Madrassa. Three other central figures in Stop the Madrassa—Frank Gaffney, Daniel Pipes, and David Yerushalmi—are discussed at length in the Center for American Progress’ Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America. When Wiesenfeld attacked Almontaser and claimed that KGIA was trying to carry out a “soft jihad,” she asked that the JCRC respond to these attacks.  But they did nothing and, as Almontaser reports, refused her requests to meet with them. Almontaser was forced to resign in 2007 after public officials, as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission later determined, “succumbed to the very bias that creation of the school was intended to dispel….” Wiesenfeld remains on the JCRC board.

(You Won’t Find This in the NY Times)

December 10, 2014

Israel, Ferguson and the Militarization of US Police

From TimesWarp – What The New York Times doesn’t tell you about Palestine and Israel

Ever since police killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., last August, it seems that every facet of the issue has come under scrutiny in The New York Times: police equipment, police militarization, grand juries, racial disparities, training, trust, local politics and profiling. But one element is missing from nearly all the column inches devoted to this topic—the Ferguson-Israel connection.

Others are talking about this, however, including protesters who took to the streets after the shooting and again when a grand jury refused to indict the officer who killed the teen. In Ferguson some taunted police saying, “You gonna shoot us? You gonna shoot us? Is this the Gaza Strip?” Protesters on the Manhattan Bridge chanted, “From Ferguson to Palestine, occupation has got to go,” and at least one of them held a sign that read “We are FERGUSON We are GAZA, because We are Human.”

The staunchly pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League has reported this development with alarm, listing nearly 20 separate U.S. groups that have emphasized the link between Israeli and American police abuse. Commentators in Israeli newspapers (here and here) have taken up the issue, as well as media outlets in the United States.

But the Times has avoided the topic, with one exception: Blogger Robert Mackey reported that Palestinians tweeted advice to protesters on how to deal with tear gas; he also published the taunts to police in Ferguson. However, his blog, “Open Source,” does not appear in print nor does it receive prominent play online, and his post failed to pursue another, deeper connection between Israeli security forces and U.S. law enforcement—“counter-terrorism” police training under Israeli instruction.

The newspaper has reported charges that U.S. police have become overly militarized andran at least one story (in 2005) about Israeli training of American police, but in the recent discussion about militarized police, it has made no mention of the pervasive Israeli influence on local departments.

Since 2004, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, has sent9,500 “law enforcement executives” to study with Israeli police, army and intelligence services. The Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange also sponsor these trips. In addition, Israeli security officers come to the States to give training sessions, Israeli police maintain an office in New York City and the NYPD has an office in Tel Aviv.

The curriculum includes dealing with terrorist operations, transit security, intelligence sharing, surveillance and crowd control during protests. Suppressing protests is a large part of the training, and U.S. police tactics have become a “near replica” of their Israeli counterparts, according to community leader Shakeel Syed of Southern California.

“Whether it is in Ferguson or L.A., we see a similar response all the time in the form of a disproportionate number of combat-ready police with military gear who are ready to use tear gas at short notice,” he said. “Whenever you find 50 people at a demonstration, there is always a SWAT team in sight or right around the corner.”

An Amnesty International report, “Trigger Happy: Israel’s Excessive Use of Force in the West Bank,” has charged Israeli forces with lethal actions in the face of demonstrators who pose no threat to soldiers. The report cited “willful killings” of some protesters, which amount to war crimes, and “virtual impunity” for those responsible.

Nevertheless, American police speak with admiration of Israeli practices. A Maryland officer trained in Israel told former Israeli soldier Eran Efrati(now a dissident and outspoken critic of the army), “Oh, man, you guys are badasses. You guys are the best!” Former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer has said that “Israel is the Harvard of antiterrorism.”

A recent Center for Investigative Reporting story underscores the effect of this training on U.S. police. It states, “The most tangible evidence that the training is having an impact on American policing is that both countries are using identical equipment against demonstrators, according to a 2013 report by the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem and photographs of such equipment taken at demonstrations in Ferguson and Oakland and Anaheim, California.”

During 2011 Occupy protests in Oakland, U.S. army veteran Scott Olsen was shot in the head with a bean bag round and left with a permanent brain injury. His experience echoes that of protesters in occupied Palestine who have been killed or injured after being hit by “non-lethal” tear gas canisters. Two victims permanently disabled by these projectiles are Americans—Tristan Anderson and Emily Henochowicz, both wounded in the West Bank.

Oakland has a strong connection with Israeli police and army methods.Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern trained in Israel and instituted the annual Urban Shield weekend, in which police forces compete in mock “terrorist attack” exercises. Israel joins local departments in this event and has often taken first place in the competition.

In 2011 journalist Max Blumenthal called the pervasive Israeli influence on U.S. police tactics the “Israelification of America’s security apparatus.” This year others are also making the connection in light of Ferguson.

Ali Winston of the Center for Investigative Reporting wrote about the effect of Israeli training in a piece titled “U.S. police get antiterror training in Israel on privately funded trips,” and journalist Rania Khalek of The Electronic Intifada took up the issue in “Israel-trained police ‘occupy’ Missouri after killing of black youth.” Kristian Davis Bailey published a story in Ebony titled “The Ferguson/Palestine Connection”and noted that “Israel has played a role in the militarization of American police.”

All this is worth mention in the Times, but it prefers to look elsewhere in the discussions of police brutality and militarization within the United States. Its 2005 story on Israeli training was apparently never repeated. Now that the effects of this training could be cause for scandal, it has opted for silence.

Barbara Erickson     

Jews Say No! Stands with the Black Community

December 5, 2014

Black lives matter

Jews Say No! stands with the Black community and with all communities of color across this country that fear for the safety of their sons and daughters at the hands of law enforcement officials and that are leading protests across the country against a U.S. “justice” system that repeatedly (and predictably) fails to hold white people accountable for the killing of Black people.

At a New York City demonstration this week following the refusal of grand juries to indict the police officers who killed Mike Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner on Staten Island, someone held a sign with the words of the African American civil rights leader Ella Baker written on it: “Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother’s son, we who believe in freedom cannot rest until this happens.”

Jews Say No! joins in protest with the Black community and with all those struggling for justice and dignity from NYC to Palestine.

Jews Say No!
December 5, 2014
NYC

Islamophobia and Palestine Panel

December 5, 2014

Islamophobia and Palestine: A Panel Discussion

Hosted by Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition

Novemeber 11th, 2014 at the Asian American Writers Workshop in New York City

Support for Israel in the U.S. Jewish Community Continues to Erode

November 19, 2014

by Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark and Donna Nevel

jvp_on_stairs

Since the inception of the Zionist movement at the end of the 19th century right on up to today, there have always been Jews who took issue with particular aspects of –or even the very idea of– a Jewish nation-state in historic Palestine. The recent Israeli bombardment of and incursion into Gaza – what Israel called “Operation Protective Edge” – saw a new surge in Jewish-American opposition to Israeli practices and policies. While this activism stands on a many-layered foundation of more than half-a-century of organizing in the US – especially from 1967 forward –it reveals some new and heartening trends.

These developments can be seen in stepped-up on-the-ground activism, the widening scope of the discourse around what is at issue, and even in the increasing cracks in the once-solid attitudes of liberal Zionists. All of these factors emerge, of course, within a wider U.S. (and indeed, international) movement and context.  Read more 

Islamophobia and Palestine Tuesday November 11

October 22, 2014

Islamaphobia flier

October 14, 2014

Jews Against Islamophobia announces a new national network we hope will provide support and resources for organizing against anti-Muslim and anti-Arab racism, and in making the connections between Islamophobia and Israel politics.

The Jvp NETWORK AGAINST ISLAMOPHOBIA page is: JVP.org/JNAI

We hope those watching our video will become inspired to take action together with the many individuals and groups inside and outside the Muslim community organizing against Islamophobia and standing for peace, for justice, and for dignity for all peoples.

Tell Our Senators: STAND UP FOR PALESTINE

October 7, 2014
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Jews Say No!  getting ready to deliver letters to Senators Schumer and Gillibrand

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We Tell Our Senators: STAND UP FOR PALESTINE

October 7, 2014

October 6, 2014

Press Release

CONSTITUENTS OPPOSE NEW YORK SENATORS’ SUPPORT FOR

ISRAEL’S ONGOING HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

Protest in Front of Their Offices to Last Eight Hours

 New York City  Today, a coalition of more than twenty community groups will stand from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in front of the New York City offices of Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (780 Third Avenue) to protest their ongoing support for the Israeli government’s systematic violations of the Palestinian people’s basic human rights and their refusal to meet with constituents who do not support these policies. (See letter being delivered to the Senators this morning http://mondoweiss.net/2014/10/ny-senators-letter)

“Senator Schumer has repeatedly supported Israeli government aggression against the Palestinian people, including the latest assault on the Palestinians of Gaza,” said Candace Graff from Jewish Voice for Peace-NY, one of the co-sponsors of the day’s protest. “And both senators have failed to seek enforcement of laws requiring U.S. funding to be cut off to units of a country’s armed forces that have committed a ‘gross violation of human rights.’”  This law, known as the “Leahy Law,” applies to the Department of Defense and the State Department.

During Israel’s most recent assault on Gaza this summer, the Israeli military killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, at least 1,400 of them civilians, according to the UN, including 500 children. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented numerous instances in which Israeli forces violated the laws of war, employing disproportionate, reckless, and indiscriminate violence against the occupied and besieged population of Gaza, including attacks on hospitals, schools, and mosques, and the destruction of thousands of homes and civilian infrastructure. The coalition demands that both of New York’s senators hold Israel accountable to the letter and spirit of the Leahy Law, and support the holding of hearings to apply these laws to Israel, as to other human rights violators.

This protest is part of a broader movement gaining momentum worldwide. It is bringing together people from multiple communities who share a common commitment to justice and human rights. As articulated by Mohammad Hamad from The New School’s Students for Justice in Palestine, one of the day’s endorsing groups: “From Ferguson to Palestine, communities are joining one another to challenge oppressive structures and re-commit ourselves to stand for justice and against all manifestations of racism and bigotry.”

Today is a day to make these voices heard.

The day’s demonstration and events are co-sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace/NY and Jews Say No! and endorsed by Adalah NYBrooklyn ForPeaceCenter for Constitutional RightsCODEPINK NYC; CUNY4Palestine; Defense for Children InternationalPalestine; ; Direct Action Front for Palestine (DAFP); Granny Peace Brigade; JVP-Westchester; Middle East Crisis ResponsePalestinian Rights Committee of Upper Hudson PeaceActionPalestine sub-committee, NationalLawyers Guild; Northern Manhattan Neighbors for Peace and Justice; Queers Against Israeli Apartheid; Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Brooklyn CollegeSJP College of Staten Island; SJP SUNY New Paltz; SJP The New School; Veterans for Peace, Woodstock, NY chapter 058; World Can’t Wait; WESPAC FoundationWE WILL NOT BE SILENTWomen in Black Union Square.

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.

 


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