Archive for July, 2014

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.

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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


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