Reflections on a National Gathering of Jewish Peace and Justice Activists

March 20, 2015
by Donna Nevel          Huffington Post March 20, 2015

One of the things that I kept hearing this past weekend at the Jewish Voice for Peace National Membership Meeting (JVP NMM) was how people felt pushed in their thinking. Guided by the weekend’s theme — We’re not waiting — more than 600 people from across the country gathered both to envision the future and think concretely about how to be as meaningfully engaged as possible with the movement for justice in Palestine.

The weekend was intergenerational, inspirational, challenging, and, most significantly for me, had us all struggling with issues — from Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) and Assaults on Academic Freedom to Islamophobia and Challenging Militarization and Police Violence — in new ways and more intentionally recognizing and building upon the intersections among the various parts of our work and organizing.

Plenary sessions, which included JVP leaders along with deep thinkers and activists Sa’ed Adel Atshan, Reverend Dr. Heber M. Brown III, Amer Shurrab, Andrea Smith and others — helped lay the groundwork for the weekend. Amer Shurrab stated in the opening plenary, which was echoed by others throughout the weekend, that peace and justice required, quite simply and directly, equal rights for all. Reverend Brown, who had recently been to Palestine and Israel, spoke with tremendous passion about how to engage in our inter-connected work for justice: “It is important that struggles engage in deep listening and allow themselves to be transformed by each other.” Back and forth between theoretical analyses and concrete strategies for action, their words clearly resonated with an audience of energetic and committed people.

The Nakba and right of return were also centered throughout the weekend, with presentations by Basem Sbaih from Badil and Liat Rosenberg from Zochrot, which reflected a commitment to insuring that these foundational issues would not simply be an “add-on” to other discussions. Rosenberg stated with clarity: “The Nakba was not a one-time event in 1948; it is ongoing,” with further emphasis by Sbaih. “We have to be honest, this work is really hard. The displacement of Palestinians is ongoing today.”

People seemed anxious to learn more, to connect with others engaged in this work, and to deepen their own analysis that would help shape and inform their organizing.

I thought Andrea Smith’s thinking and analysis were transformative and helped lift us to a new level. She spoke of the struggles and challenges of Native peoples in this country — one that is ongoing — and about the importance of understanding colonization in all its manifestations. She also spoke about the importance of envisioning what is possible in new and expansive ways.

Well over 100 college students attended the meeting. I spent time with lovely, committed students from Guilford College and Pitzer College, all of whom are involved with SJP on their campuses. They are facing formidable challenges from those on their campuses who want to shut down their organizing and silence the position that supports justice for Palestine, but they will not be deterred. Responding to attacks from members of the local Jewish community and from Hillel that her college isn’t safe for Jewish students because they bring in pro-Palestine speakers like Steven Salaita, Guilford College student Sara Minsky recently wrote a letter explaining why she feels safe as a Jewish student at Guilford precisely because of its stated commitment to fostering critical, open discussion about Palestine/Israel.

JVP’s role in the broader movement was also interwoven into numbers of discussions. People spoke about how to be an effective and responsible and responsive partner in a Palestinian-led movement; to continue to grow and deepen its work in Jewish communities across the country; to be intentional and bold. At the final plenary, Angela Davis spoke about the importance of JVP’s leadership and the pivotal role of JVP in conjunction with movements against racism in the U.S., while also stressing the importance of leadership coming from communities of color.

The weekend was not without its tensions or differences. From quite different perspectives on the nature and reality of anti-Semitism today and whether it should be integrated into JVP’s work to those struggling with the specifics and actual meaning of the right of return and the articulated concept of dezionizing Israel, probing discussion and debate on these and other issues continued well after the sessions had ended.

The most powerful part of the meeting for me was what felt like a wide-spread recognition that all that was generated throughout the weekend would become part of the thinking, the strategizing, and the organizing after it ended. And that JVP is doing its work in concert with, and as part of a global movement for racial justice that truly spans from Ferguson to Palestine.

*I am a member of JVP’s board of directors.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/donna-nevel/reflections-on-a-national_1_b_6907006.html

Landmark New York Synagogue attempts to shut down Nakba discussion

March 19, 2015

  Annie Robbins on Mondoweiss     March 19, 2015

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

http://mondoweiss.net/2015/03/landmark-synagogue-discussion

Netanyahu, Hamas, the Murders in France, and the Stoking of Islamophobia

February 22, 2015

Elly Bulkin

images-3

 

News coverage of Israel’s response to the murders in France of four hostages at a kosher supermarket and 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo offices highlighted two ways in which Prime Minister Netanyahu tried to exploit the violence for Israel’s (and his own) political purposes. At the huge march against terrorism in Paris (which the French president had asked Netanyahu not to attend), video showed him pushing to the front row of the march and waving to the crowd as if he were at a pro-Israel rally. At a Paris synagogue, he encouraged French Jews to respond to the country’s anti-Semitism by emigrating to Israel, as the only “safe place” for them—a theme he reiterated at the funeral in Israel for the four murdered Jews, as well as after the most recent killing of two people outside a Copenhagen synagogue and a free-speech event.

Another aspect of Netanyahu’s response to the Paris murders, which received less media attention, relates specifically to an Islamophobic narrative that pro-Israel advocates have turned to again and again. Almost as soon as the news broke, Netanyahu combined his condemnation of such acts of terror with his insistence that those responsible are indistinguishable from Hamas. As Netanyahu said in response to the French attacks, “They might have different names — ISIS, Boko Haram, Hamas, Al Shabab, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah — but all of them are driven by the same hatred and blood-thirsty fanaticism. . . . . And all of them seek to destroy our freedoms and to impose on all of us a violent, medieval tyranny.”

These comments echoed those Netanyahu had made during Israel’s brutal 2014 assault on Gaza, when he tweeted “Hamas is ISIS, ISIS is Hamas. They’re the enemies of Peace. They’re the enemies of all civilized countries.” Israeli officials and other militantly pro-Israel supporters have made the ISIS-Hamas meme a prominent part of their hasbara (propaganda) campaign. In the United States, the meme has been picked up by adamantly pro-Israel elected and former officials, neoconservatives, the right-wing blogosphere, parts of the mainstream media, and Islamophobes like Pamela Geller, who has incorporated the statement that “Hamas = ISIS” into her latest New York City subway and bus ad.

Numerous people have already commented on the inaccuracy of this linkage, the Islamophobia inherent in the conflation of ISIS and Hamas, and the larger political context. Their analysis of the differences between Hamas and ISIS, including a dissimilar “ideological agenda” and political focus, continue to be relevant in the light of Israel’s latest linkage of Hamas with the murderers in France. (For commentary on these issues, see “Hamas = ISIS? What People Are Saying about This Meme, Islamophobia, and Israel,” in the December 2014 newsletter of the Network Against Islamophobia, a new project of JVP.)

The pro-Israel conflation of Hamas with ISIS and other such groups is part of the classic Islamophobic framework of the “clash of civilizations,” which attributes “unavoidable” conflict to fundamental cultural differences between Islamic and Western civilizations. In this context, where the issues are viewed as cultural, not political, “The core, but always evolving, message that Zionists keep sending out,” Rami G. Khouri writes, “is that Palestinians who challenge Israel are part and parcel of a larger universe of frightening figures that espouse criminal values, and represent a direct, mortal threat to Israel and also to all Western civilization. The latest version of this fear-mongering campaign of lies and fantasy seeks to paint Hamas and other militant Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza as integral elements in the world of vicious actors and terrorists who fight in the name of Islam . . . .” Once again, as Jonathan Cook has written about the Hamas = ISIS meme, “Netanyahu has tarred all Palestinians as bloodthirsty Islamic extremists.”

More recently, Netanyahu has used the Paris attacks to ratchet up support for Israeli policies: placing Israel on the side of “France on this difficult day,” and maintaining that “The terror of Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIL and Al-Qaeda will not stop unless the West fights it physically, rather than fighting its false arguments. Islamic terror is not mainly targeting Israel, but is even targeting the West and its civilization.” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman issued a statement that “stressed that the world has to help Israel in its war against the Palestinian factions that adopt principles common with those who carried out the attack.”

We can expect that, when Netanyahu addresses Congress in March, he will once again draw on the Islamophobic narratives that are integral to Israel’s attempts to gain international support for its policies.

 

Elly Bulkin is a member of Jews Say No! (NYC); a co-convener of the Network Against Islamophobia (NAI), a project of Jewish Voice for Peace; and co-author, with Donna Nevel, of Israel & Islamophobia (2014).

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.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: