Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category

In Jerusalem we have the latest chapter in colonialism

June 18, 2018

 Originally posted at The Guardian December 12, 2017

By Karma Nabulsi 

Donald Trump’s intervention is not a mere aberration. It’s part of the continuing story of injustice in Palestine

One hundred years ago, on 11 December 1917, the British army occupied Jerusalem. As General Allenby’s troops marched through Bab al-Khalil, launching a century of settler colonialism across Palestine, prime minister David Lloyd George heralded the city’s capture as “a Christmas present for the British people.”

In a few months’ time, we mark another such anniversary: 70 years since the Palestinian Nakba of 1948, the catastrophic destruction of the Palestinian polity; the violent dispossession of most of its people with their forced conversion into disenfranchised refugees; the colonial occupation, annexation and control of their land; and the imposition of martial law over those who managed to remain.

The current US president’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel bookends a century of such events: from the Balfour declaration in November 1917 to the partition plan of 1947; from the Nakba of 1948 to the Naksa of 1967— with its annexation of Jerusalem, the occupation of the rest of Palestine, further mass expulsions of Palestinians including from East and West Jerusalem, and the invaders’ razing of entire ancient neighborhoods in the city.

Donald Trump’s declaration could easily be read as one more outrage in his growing collection of chaotic and destructive policies, this one perhaps designed to distract from his more prosaic, personal problems with the law. It is viewed as the act of a volatile superpower haplessly endorsing illegal military conquest and consolidating the “acquisition of territory by force” (a practice prohibited and rejected by the UN and the basic tenets of international law). And it is seen alongside a long list of domestic and international blunders.

However, this analysis obscures what happens each day in occupied Palestine, and hides what will surely happen next—unless governments, parliaments, institutions, unions and, most of all, citizens take measures to actively resist it.

Leaders across the world appear incapable of naming what is taking place in Palestine, so their received wisdom on the cause and nature of the conflict, along with the “consensus solutions” they offer, prove futile. This century of events instead should be understood as a continuum, forming part of an active process that hasn’t yet stopped or achieved its ends. Palestinians understand it: we feel it in a thousand ways every day. How does this structure appear to those who endure it day in, day out?

Patrick Wolfe, the late scholar, traced the history of settler colonial projects across continents, showing us that events in Palestine over the last 100 years are an intensification of (rather than a departure from) settler colonialism. He also established its two-sided nature, defining the phenomenon— from the Incas and Mayans to the native peoples of Africa, America, and the Middle East—as holding negative and positive dimensions. Negatively, settler colonialism strives for the dissolution of native societies; positively, it erects a new colonial society on the expropriated land: “Colonizers come to stay: invasion is a structure, not an event.”

After the British marched into Jerusalem in 1917 and declared martial law, they turned Palestine into an Occupied Enemy Territory Administration (OETA). Declaring martial law over the city, Allenby promised: “Every sacred building, monument, holy spot, shrine, traditional site, endowment, pious bequest, or customary place of prayer of whatsoever form of the three religions will be maintained and protected.” But what did he say of its people? Allenby divided the country into four districts: Jerusalem, Jaffa, Majdal and Beersheba, each under a military governor, and the accelerated process of settler colonialism began.

At the time of the military takeover, Palestine was 90% Christian and Muslim, with 7-10% Palestinian Arab Jews and recent European settlers. By the time the British army left Palestine on 14 May 1948, the expulsion and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people was already under way. During their 30-years rule, the British army and police engineered a radical change to the population through the mass introduction of European settlers, against the express wishes of the indigenous population. They also suppressed Palestine’s Great Revolt of 1936-39, destroying any possibility of resistance to what lay ahead.

Once any individual episode is understood as part of a continuing structure of settler colonialism, the hitherto invisible daily evictions of Palestinians from their homes assume their devastating significance.

Invisible too has been the force driving the expansion of illegal settlements on Palestinian land. Without a framing of settler colonialism, the notion of the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, of “spiriting away” the native Arabs “gradually and circumspectly,” makes little sense. In Jerusalem this is how gradual ethnic cleansing is being practiced today.

The new US policy on Jerusalem is not about occupation and annexation; the supremacy of one religion over another so “balance” must be restored; the two-state solution or the failures of the Oslo agreement; or the location of an embassy, or division of Jerusalem.

Nor is it even about the soap opera-level conspiracy the Palestinian people have been abandoned to: where the son-in-law of the US president, who has actively funded the rightwing settlement movement in Israel, has been granted absolute power to fabricate a “peace process” with a crown prince who has just locked up his relatives.

In this dystopic vision, the village of Abu Dis outside Jerusalem is proposed as the capital of a future fragmented Palestinian “state”—one never created, given that (along with all US-led peace processes) its eventual appearance is entirely dependent on Israel’s permission. This is named, in “peace process” language, as any solution to be agreed upon “by the parties themselves,” via “a negotiated settlement by the two sides.”

With colonialism always comes anti-colonial resistance. Against the active project to disappear the indigenous people, take their land, dispossess and disperse them so they cannot reunite to resist, the goals of the Palestinian people are those of all colonized peoples throughout history. Very simply, they are to unify for the struggle to liberate their land and return to it, and to restore their inalienable human rights taken by force—principles enshrined in centuries of international treaties, charters, and resolutions, and in natural justice.

The US has been blocking Palestinian attempts to achieve this national unity for years, vetoing Palestinian parties in taking their legitimate role in sharing representation. Palestinians’ democratic right to determine their path ahead would allow our young generation—scattered far and wide, from refugee camps to the prisons inside Palestine—to take up their place in the national struggle for freedom. The US assists the colonizer and ties our hands.

Former European colonial powers, including Britain, now claim they are aware of their colonial legacy, and condemn centuries of enslavement and the savage exploitation of Africa and Asia. So European leaders should first name the relentless process they installed in our country, and stand with us so that we can unite to defeat it.

Originally published in The Guardian

Karma Nabulsi is a fellow in politics at St Edmund Hall and teaches at Oxford University.

In each of the next seven months we will post  an article from http://ongoingnakba.com/  (previously fowardd.com/)

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The Dangers of Conflating Anti-Zionism With Anti-Semitism

June 13, 2018

Jews Say No! vigil, Upper West Side, NYC

The article has serious conceptual flaws as well as factual inaccuracies that mischaracterize and do a disservice to movements for justice, and, as a result, make accusations of marginalizing Jews that are not rooted in reality.

To say, as the author does in her article, that “As a paradigm, intersectionality has failed Jews” makes little sense. As a lens through which to understand multiple dimensions of power — where and how they do or don’t intersect or connect — intersectionality does not “fail” any group.

Further, the author writes, “Intersectionality would dictate that the oppression of Palestinians is much worse than the oppression of Jews, and thus a much higher priority…. It is at the end of the day a hierarchical structure, one that creates a hierarchy of oppression and determines levels of threat.”

Intersectionality, a term coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, is precisely not about promoting hierarchies of oppression (thereby leaving out the Jews), but is a framework — an analytic tool — that focuses on the multiple effects and overlap of structural oppressions among communities that have been impacted by injustice.

In “What is Intersectionality and Why Do You Keep Insisting that Movements Must Be Intersectional?” by Evonnia Woods, the author makes clear that:

Much of the confusion regarding what intersectionality is stems from the way we have been trained to think, which happens to be the very way of thinking the concept aims to overcome. We are trained to think in binaries/dualisms and hierarchies….

This is why the versatility of how intersectionality can be employed is lost in many people’s understandings of the concept. Intersectionality is a paradigm, a methodology, and a tool for liberation….

We can use intersectionality as a means to garner and evaluate information. We can also use it in social movements to attain liberationequity and justice. Therefore, intersectionality is a concept employed to guide us in how we think (and thus behave), study the social world and fight for fairer life experiences. It is this fight for fairer life experiences from which the notion that movements must be intersectional is derived.In “Under Western Eyes” Revisited: Feminist Solidarity through Anticapitalist Struggles, Chandra Talpade Mohanty meaningfully frames a conceptualization of intersectional principles and realities that is not about leaving someone behind but, rather, about building meaningful solidarities:

In knowing differences and particularities, we can better see the connections and commonalities because no border or boundary is ever completely or rigidly determining. The challenge is to see how differences allow us to explain the connections and border crossings better and more accurately, how specifying difference allows us to theorize universal concerns more fully. It is this intellectual move that allows for my concern for women of different communities and identities to build coalitions and solidarities across borders.

Rather than recognizing and building from this analysis as articulated by Mohanty and others, Ungar-Sargon, through a misframing of intersectionality as the source of the problem, instead focuses on what she believes is an insensitivity to Jews, and her piece continues in that vein. For example, she takes specific feminists and “the left” to task for not wanting the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to co-facilitate an anti-racist training. While she does acknowledge some problems with the ADL, she largely defends the organization and its new director.

I find it unimaginable that the author is not aware of the abundance of evidence (see here and here, for example) pointing to the ADL’s role, historically as well as presently, in promoting anti-Palestinian policies and Islamophobia, and in targeting activists for justice. The author does mention that the current CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, proudly attended the embassy move in Jerusalem, but doesn’t seem to consider that to be a major problem that speaks to who Greenblatt and the ADL are. (As if this wasn’t enough, Greenblatt’s joyous moment took place as Israel was killing Palestinians in Gaza for protesting for their basic rights.) That fact alone — and there are many others — should make it clear why the ADL wasn’t a fit partner for an anti-racism training.

It’s one thing to suggest that we all need to open our hearts to working with new people and groups; it’s quite another to suggest that it’s “anti-Jewish” to not agree to work with an organization like the ADL that, while promoting itself as an anti-defamation organization, targets communities with long histories facing structural racism and injustice in the US, as well as those who support Palestinian rights. Minimizing that fact is incredibly disrespectful to the many communities that have been at the receiving end of ADL’s discriminatory positions and whose lives have been harmed as a result.

The faulty logic is not only with the author’s mischaracterization of opposition to ADL as being anti-Jewish; one of the most egregious accusations she makes is asserting that, since most Jews support Zionism, if you leave out Zionism from social justice struggles, then you are saying Jews aren’t welcome. She doesn’t show evidence pointing to her pronouncement that most Jews support Zionism, and there is actually evidence to the contrary. But, even if it were true, the fact that opposing Zionism — which is responsible for the Nakba, the dispossession of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and land — is conflated with excluding Jews, again, shows a distortion of facts to make her point about Jews being excluded. Zionism is an ideology, and even if Jews adhere to it, it is not “anti-Jewish” to oppose it. It is about challenging structures of oppression.

She continuously reinforces the false and dangerous notion that to oppose Zionism is to be against Jews: “On the other hand, Jews feel that when they do show up, there’s always something wrong with them. They are expected to check their Zionism at the door, for example, or to support a Black Lives Matter platform that accuses Israel of genocide (one can be very critical of Israel’s blatant civil and human rights violations and still feel that such an absurd overstatement would be impossible to endorse).” She does make herself clear that she has no respect for the accusation of genocide made against Israel, though I wonder how much she has challenged herself and engaged with the fact that there has been much written pointing to the ways Israel’s treatment of Palestinians has aptly been called genocide. However, regardless of one’s position on the use of genocide to describe Israel, this is a charge about Israel’s behavior as a nation-state, and not about Jews.

Finally, the author lumps together all of the left, seemingly revealing an underlying animosity, and what she writes about its views on Jews reveals yet again her consistent conflation of Jews with criticisms of Zionism or Israel. She writes (without any evidence): “It is indicative of a fundamental flaw on the left — its eagerness to find fault with Jews while being unwilling to acknowledge anti-Semitism.” This assertion contradicts the articulated deep commitment among so many social justice groups to oppose all forms of oppression, including anti-Semitism. But — and this is what really seems to irk the author — this cThis kind of misrepresentation and mischaracterization is not a way toward building meaningful relationships or to be genuine partners in the struggle for justice. Finding fault with Zionism is not the same as finding fault with Jews. It’s an insulting and harmful framing. In fact, challenging anti-Semitism and challenging Zionism are both necessary in intersectional struggles to achieve justice.

Donna Nevel, a community psychologist and educator, is co-director of PARCEO, a participatory research center. She is a coordinating team member of Facing the Nakba and a co-convener of Jews Against Anti-Muslim Racism, and was a co-founder of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. Most recently, she is a co-editor of “Moving Forward,” a special issue on the Nakba and the Jewish National Fund, published by Jews Say No!.ommitment also includes opposing Zionism. Further, nobody is suggesting there isn’t anti-Semitism among anyone on the left — that would be a foolish claim — but this is significantly different from making a sweeping generalization that those on “THE LEFT” have an “eagerness to find fault with Jews.”

Over 300 New Yorkers came together in mourning and rage at offices of Senators Schumer and Gillibrand

May 17, 2018

May 16, 2018

Over 300 New Yorkers came together in mourning and rage at offices of Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, demanding action against Israel’s killing of Palestinian protesters

New York City, May 16, 2018 – On Wednesday evening, over 300 New Yorkers with Jewish Voice for Peace – NYC (JVP) and Jews Say No! demonstrated at the NYC district offices of Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, mourning Palestinian protesters killed by the Israeli military in Gaza since March 30 and the more than 60 killed over the last two days alone, and calling upon the senators to break their shameful silence in the face of Israel’s use of deadly force against the Palestinian people, and to support Palestinians’ rights to live in dignity and return home.

Dressed in black, New Yorkers carried the names of the 111 Palestinians killed by the Israeli military while protesting in the Great March of Return in Gaza. Red poppies, the Palestinian national flower, were laid beneath a banner reading “Palestinians have the right to freedom and dignity, and the right to return home” in front of the senators’ offices. Demonstrators recited Palestinian testimonies of dispossession and expulsion from their homes in 1948, and described the last day of famed artist Mohammed Abu Amr, killed by Israeli forces while protesting.

“The catastrophe of Palestinian dispossession and expulsion by the Israeli government has gone on for 70 years,” said Rosalind Petchesky, a member of JVP-NYC. “Israel is doing now what it has always done: trying to suffocate Palestinian demands for freedom and equal rights through brutal and deadly force.”
Since March 30, thousands of Palestinians have formed a tent city along the militarized fence that separates Israel from Gaza, under the banner of the Great March of Return. Demonstrators are calling for an end to Israel’s brutal 11-year military siege of Gaza and for the right to return home for refugees. The March culminated this week, with the Israeli military killing at least 60 Palestinian protesters, including at least six children. May 15 marked the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” when 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their homes for the creation of the state of Israel. This came one day after the Trump administration moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem in a shattering blow to future prospects for peace.

Nic Abramson, a founding member of Jews Say No!, stated: “We are here to mourn for those killed, but also to draw inspiration from this historic, grassroots mobilization across Gaza. We stand with the Palestinian people in their calls to return home.”

Israel’s violence has prompted condemnations from over twenty U.S. members of Congress, including Senators Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as well as Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Betty McCollum (D-MN). New York’s senators and representatives have remained deafeningly silent.

“We desperately need real leadership to put pressure on Israel,” said Asaf Calderon, a member of JVP – NYC. “We are fed up with Senator Schumer’s hawkish support of Israel’s human rights violations. Now is the time for Senator Gillibrand to take courageous leadership. She cannot claim to be a champion of human rights if she sits in silence as the Trump administration unilaterally moves the embassy to Jerusalem and the Israeli military massacres peaceful protesters, journalists, and children.”

MOVING FORWARD: Unearthing Truths: Israel, the Nakba, and the Jewish National Fund  

May 7, 2018

Israel, the Nakba, and the Jewish National Fund

We present this special issue of Moving Forward to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, the Arabic word for ‘catastrophe.’ The Nakba refers to the expulsion and dispossession of 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland during Israel’s creation (1947-1949).In this issue, we lay out the historical record of those years to show that the Nakba was the result of a deliberate policy of mass expulsion, dispossession, and ethnic cleansing—a strategy designed to ensure that the Palestinians who had lived on the land for generations would be barred from ever returning. We also zero in on the fundamental role played by the 117-year-old international organization, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), in facilitating that dispossession.

Our goal is that there be a serious moral reckoning with this history, and it begins with that icon of innocence, the JNF’s small blue metal box that many of our readers will remember from their childhood, boxes that beckoned us to drop in coins that would help “make the desert bloom” and build the land of Israel. It was a mission that was legitimized by the governing principle of the Zionist cause: “A land without a people for a people without a land.” As seductive as that slogan was, it was willfully false, as amply documented in personal testimonies of Palestinians and Israelis, historical records, and scholarly research. How, after all, could 750,000 Palestinians flee “a land without a people”?

From its founding, the JNF was encouraged by the Zionist movement to acquire land in Palestine for the purpose of settling Jews on that land. After 1948, aided and abetted by Israeli land law, the JNF continued to acquire land and also contributed to Israel’s dispossession of Palestinians from their land. This was accomplished by buying swathes of land from absentee landlords and then leasing it exclusively to Jews, by confiscating refugees’ land, and by forcibly—often violently—removing Palestinians from their land, a practice which persists today. By continuing to plant forests that conceal the ruins of Palestinian villages, the JNF seeks to erase history and memory, while hoping to whitewash its political motives and enhance its recent branding as an environmental organization. Ironically, however, it has earned widespread international condemnation for the degradation it has inflicted on the natural ecosystem.

While this year marks the 70th anniversary of the catastrophic events of 1948, we also know that the policies that informed Israel’s and the JNF’s actions back then continue to the present. With this issue we hope to expose the relationship between the Nakba and the Jewish National Fund; to encourage deeper conversation about the experiences and realities of Palestinians before, during and since Israel’s creation; and to facilitate among US Jewish communities—and more broadly—honest reflection, analysis, and action toward truth-telling and justice.

The Editors

NYC Protestors Drink Salt Water In Solidarity With Palestinian Hunger Strikers

May 25, 2017

Donna Nevel

Donna NevelCOMMUNITY CONTRIBUTOR

Donna Nevel is a community psychologist, educator, and founding member of the Facing the Nakba project, Jews Say No!, and the Network Against Islamophobia, and was a co-founder of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.

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Jews Say No!, an NYC group I am a part of, and the Grannies Peace Brigade recently participated in the salt water challenge in solidarity with more than 1500 Palestinian hunger strikers, who have entered the 38th day of their strike. The Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails began the hunger strike on April 17th, and the salt water challenge, a social media campaign to show solidarity with the strikers, began with a call by the son of imprisoned Palestinian leader, Marwan Barghouti.

Thousands of individuals and groups have taken the salt water challenge across the globe in support of the Palestinian prisoners. Numbers of the mothers of the prisoners have also courageously joined the strike in solidarity with their sons. Palestinians have held rallies and called a general strike across the West Bank in support; South African anti-apartheid leaders went on a solidarity strike; and students in the U.S. called for a one day fast in solidarity with the prisoners. Support for the prisoners is widespread. The Israeli government has not only failed to respond adequately, but prisoners have been subjected to harsh treatment and retaliatory measures. As a result, the strike has continued and numbers of prisoners have been taken to medical facilities because of seriously deteriorating health.

The demands put forth by the prisoners are clear, fundamental rights. They include access to medical care; allowing regular family visits; and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention (imprisonment without charge), flagrant violations of human rights. As Barghouti stated in a recent NY Times op-ed, “Palestinian prisoners and detainees have suffered from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment and medical negligence.” He also wrote that “hunger striking is the most peaceful form of resistance available. It inflicts pain solely on those who participate and on their loved ones, in the hopes that their empty stomachs and their sacrifice will help the message resonate beyond the confines of their dark cells.”

Where is American Jewish community support for the Palestinian prisoners? Where is the call from American Jewish organizations to Israel’s leaders demanding they honor the call from the prisoners for their basic needs and rights. The Israeli government’s appalling treatment of Palestinian prisoners is well-documented. There is simply no rationale for not supporting the rights of the Palestinian prisoners.

The demands of the hunger strikers will hopefully be met soon, but we know that international pressure and support can be critical at moments like this. This is a challenge to the American Jewish community to make our voices heard loud and clear in support of the Palestinian hunger strikers, whose demands are simply a call for dignity and humane treatment.

Read more: http://forward.com/scribe/372922/nyc-protestors-drink-salt-water-in-solidarity-with-palestinian-hunger-strik/

Here’s the paper!!!

February 4, 2016

http://itsnotthetimes.com/

http://www.scribd.com/doc/297836018/NYT-Parody

 

 

Faux New York Times highlights biased coverage on Israel/Palestine

February 3, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Contact:
Beth Miller | miller.bethavedon@gmail.com 

Donna Nevel | denevel@gmail.com | 917-570-4371

(February 3, 2016)–Ten thousand copies of a special supplement of The New York Times focused on Israel and Palestine were distributed across NYC yesterday, while thousands of on-line versions made their way across the internet. The special supplement, which was a parody, includes such articles as “Congress to Debate US Aid to Israel” and “In the Footsteps of Mandela and King: A Non-Violent Movement Gains Ground Ten Years On,” as well as an editorial, “Our New Editorial Policy: Rethinking Israel-Palestine.” 

Created by members of Jewish Voice for Peace New York (JVP NY) and Jews Say No!, (JSN), two NYC organizations devoted to justice in Palestine and Israel, the paper was created to “point out how biased current reporting is on Israel and Palestine and to show what a paper that was fair and accurate could look like,” according to JSN member Alan Levine, one of the paper’s writers.

“As a leading source for news in the United States and in the world, The New York Times has a responsibility to its readers to provide fair, balanced, and fact-based coverage. Our paper reflects the news that we wish The Times and other papers would report,” says Candace Graff, one of the organizers of the action from JVP NY. “It includes the context and facts too often missing from The New York Times and other U.S. media outlets.”

The articles highlight Israel’s ongoing policies of military occupation, displacement, and oppression, and “facts on the ground,” such as settlement expansion, the rise in settler violence, discriminatory anti-democratic laws targeting Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the increase of right-wing voices in the Knesset.  “These are all subjects that deserve to be covered and reported on,” Graff added. In a nod towards how U.S. policy on Israel might change if the mainstream media reported fairly on the continuing human rights abuses against Palestinians, the paper includes an editorial that calls on Congress to condition further Israeli military aid on compliance with the Leahy Law, which forbids U.S. military aid to foreign units that have committed human rights abuses. 

The two groups will release a brief video about the action tomorrow (2/4) that includes footage of the group distributing the paper on the streets of NYC. Jane Hirschmann, a member of Jews Say No!, and Ben Norton, a writer at Salon who first revealed the creators of the paper, discussed media bias around Israel/Palestine on Democracy Now this morning (2/3). The faux paper’s domain and twitter account were suspended, but can be viewed here and here

Credits:

Editors: Elly Bulkin, Nina Felshin, Donna Nevel, Rosalind Petchesky

Designer, print edition: Sarah Sills

Designer, online edition: Asa Diebolt

Production, Online edition: Talia Baurer

Writers: Gordon Beeferman, Brandon Davis, Naomi Dann, Candace Graff, Alan Levine, Aurora Levins, Morales, Donna Nevel, Rosalind Petchesky, Ellen Ross, Lynn Lopez Salzedo, Carl Schieren, Irene Siegel, Pamela Sporn

Copyeditor: Dorothy Zellner

Videographers: Rona Merrill, Pam Sporn

Media team: Naomi Dann, Beth Miller, Donna Nevel

Distribution coordinators: Candace Graff, Jane Hirschmann

A large group of volunteers distributed the papers across the city.

The New York City chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace is part of a national, grassroots organization inspired by Jewish tradition to work for a just and lasting peace according to principles of human rights, equality, and international law for all the people of Israel and Palestine. Jewish Voice for Peace has over 200,000 online supporters, over 60 chapter, a youth wing, a Rabbinic Council, an Artist Council, and Academic Advisory Council, and an Advisory Board made up of leading U.S. intellectuals and artists. Jews Say No!, based in NYC, engages in community education, street theatre, and organizing, and makes their voices heard within the Jewish community and as partners in the broader movement for justice in Palestine/Israel. 

An open letter to Mayor de Blasio on the occasion of his trip to Israel

October 14, 2015
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October 14, 2015

Dear Mayor de Blasio:

We understand from a recent report in The New York Times that you will be departing tomorrow on a journey to the State of Israel. According to the article, your purpose is to speak at a gathering of mayors in Jerusalem on the topic of “combating anti-Semitism.” While combating anti-Semitism, along with all forms of racism and discrimination, is a valid goal, we write to register our concern that you,as Mayor of New York City, are choosing to follow the ritual of New York politicians who travel to Israel—and do so with political blinders on. That you are being fully subsidized by an individual investor and entrepreneur who resides in Brooklyn, Baruck Eliezer Gross, only underscores the potential for one-sidedness in this trip. For us, as New York City residents and voters engaged in critiquing Israeli policies and supporting those who are charged with “anti-Semitism” for doing so, this news raises some troubling issues.

1. We hope you recognize that your constituents include many Jews, Muslims, Christians, atheists, and others who strongly oppose Israeli policies of occupation, exclusion, apartheid, and relentless suppression of both Palestinian citizens of Israel and those residing in the Occupied Territory.  Your travel to Israel under the circumstances detailed in the news report validates the “With-us or Against-us” ideological perspective of Israel partisans and marginalizes the perspectives of those who suffer from Israeli government policies—including Palestinians in exile in your own city.

2. You should be aware that, since the brutal siege on Gaza of summer 2014 when over 2,500 Palestinian civilians were killed and many more injured and displaced, the military violence against Palestinians (murders of youth, house demolitions, punitive reprisals, incarceration, restrictions of mobility, lockdowns of Palestinian neighborhoods) has escalated massively.  We are concerned that the intent and effect of the visit by the mayor of the largest city in America during this time might be read as legitimating the actions of the Israel Defense Forces and border police in their campaign of violence and repression against Palestinians. We urge you to consider the risk that your office is being exploited.

3. As you address your audience about “combating anti-Semitism,” it is vital that you understand the ways in which the term is used to undermine criticism of Israeli government practices.  The false charges of “anti-Semitism” have been repeatedly used by Israel advocacy groups to smear and silence peaceful, lawful organizations, scholars, and students in the US for speaking out against Israel’s policies—policies that many Israeli Jews also oppose.  As an advocate of social justice and the First Amendment, you should recognize the ways in which criticisms of Israeli government policies are no different in kind than criticisms of US policy. We expect you would be sensitive to this reactionary tactic—and resist it.  Ultimately, the tactic is used to justify or evade Israel’s widely condemned violations of international human rights and to vilify groups that support Palestinian demands for justice.

4. We must ask whether you have considered questions that would be natural for a mayor who asserts a commitment to voices of marginalized communities:  Will your audience in Jerusalem include any Palestinian mayors from the West Bank? Will your talk address Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian attacks as well as anti-Semitism? Would you consider modifying the itinerary of your three days in Israel to include a visit to Palestinian areas in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, to Hebron, to border checkpoints, so you might witness the brutal conditions that Palestinians in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory are subjected to on a daily basis?

Along with this letter, we are including the links to two urgent new reports—one issued by Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights (The Palestine Exception to Free Speech: A Movement Under Attack in the US ); the other byJewish Voice for Peace (Stifling Dissent: How Israel’s Defenders Use False Charges of Anti-Semitism to Limit the Debate on Campus). Both reports document many recent examples of how groups supporting Israel have used erroneous accusations of anti-Semitism and terrorism against professors, students, and public intellectuals throughout the US in order to stifle or suppress views about Israel/Palestine with which they disagree. The targets of these attacks include faculty and students right here in New York City at CUNY, Columbia, and New York University, especially members of Students for Justice in Palestine.

As you review these documents, we would urge you to incorporate some of the realities they describe into your Jerusalem speech, to inject some fairness into the conversation.  We hope they inspire you to visit areas and people (including Jewish and Palestinian human rights groups) most affected by Israel’s security regime. The stature of your office, we believe, compels you to hear the voices of the dispossessed and evaluate the realities on the ground.

We would ask for an opportunity to meet with you after your return to discuss our organizations’ goals of peace and justice with regard to Israel/Palestine and the implications of these reports regarding the suppression of speech on this critical issue, including here in New York City.

Sincerely,

Center for Constitutional Rights

Jewish Voice for Peace – New York City chapter

Jews Say No!

 

From SJP to JVP to Open Hillel, the joint struggle is transforming the campus debate

April 16, 2015
PItzer_College_apartheid_wallPitzer College mock apartheid wall

by Donna Nevel on April 15, 2015

As someone who has participated in programs on a number of campuses and has a child in college, I have been inspired by the organizing taking place for justice in Palestine. My own organizing has been strengthened by what I have seen. Through Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Muslim Student Associations (MSA), and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), organizing for justice in Palestine on campuses across the US has been thoughtful, principled and bold. Further, the movement to open Hillels to those voices supporting justice in Palestine has also been a positive development.

Despite seemingly insurmountable challenges, the organizing has creatively highlighted and challenged Israel’s ongoing apartheid. It has opened up spaces for discussion and dialogue that college administrators and defenders of Israeli government policy have tried to shut down. Perhaps most importantly, student organizers have made important links and connections among different movements for justice. Just this past fall, SJP’s national conference, held at Tufts University, had as its theme, “Beyond Solidarity: Resisting Racism and Colonialism from the US to Palestine.”

I spoke at two Boston campuses recently on Islamophobia and Israel, co-sponsored by the SJP and the MSA at Suffolk University and Tufts University. Yasmeen Hamdoun, one of the organizers of the event at Suffolk, told me why she organized such an event: “I believe the Islamophobic narrative is so pervasive, and people often don’t reflect about who is benefiting from this narrative and its repercussions. As a Muslim in America, I face the consequences of the misrepresentation of Muslims in the media through discrimination on a daily basis, but the Muslims overseas, such as the Palestinians, face it even harder. The Islamophobic propaganda campaign driven by the imperialist powers, such as the U.S. and Israel, dehumanizes Muslims overseas and thereby justifies violence against them.”

I most appreciated the discussions that followed the presentation. Students asked questions and made comments that reflected not just a commitment to the issues but genuine depth and critical analysis, and for many of them who were engaging with others on their campuses, clear thinking about how the information and discussion could support their organizing and build critical connections.

Tufts SJP member Leila N. spoke about these connections: “Within the SJP movement and the Palestine movement more generally, we’re seeing an increasing focus on joint struggle— the notion that all forms of oppression are interconnected and interdependent and therefore our resistance and struggle against them must also be connected. Encompassed within this commitment to joint struggle is the urgency to understand and engage issues of Islamophobia. As a group we are interested in exposing the impacts of state violence on Arabs and Muslims in the US, the Palestine movement, and around the world, as well as addressing our own complicity in this violence.”

At Pitzer College in California, students recently erected a mock apartheid wall. Before it was erected, the dean of students told them that the wall could be considered “discriminatory” and directed SJP to seek approval from the Campus Aesthetics Committee, which turned them down. SJP students made their voices heard and demanded their rights. They worked with lawyers from Palestine Solidarity Legal Support (PSLS), who wrote a letter to the administration: “There was no basis for that advice, given that the Aesthetics Committee has no jurisdiction to consider the propriety of students exercising their right to political expression.”

After the administration informed them the wall would be in violation of campus policy, SJP, in a written statement, pointed out that the administration’s warnings went against the campus demonstration’s policy statement that Pitzer “respects the rights of free speech and peaceful assembly and supports their exercise.” In response to SJP being told a student had sent a complaint that the wall was anti-Semitic and would make Jewish students on campus uncomfortable, PSLS’s letter also made clear: “This is straightforward political speech focused on a critical examination of Israeli state policy. It is not criticism of Jews, Jewish students, or Israel as a “Jewish state,” but criticism of Israeli state policies towards Palestinians, which are the focus of international debate.”

The wall remained for four days without interference by the administration.

In addition to this organizing, the Open Hillel movement is gaining momentum across the country. As described by Naomi Dann, a staff member of JVP who participated in opening Hillel on her campus when she was a student at Vassar College, “Open Hillel is a campaign to pressure Hillel International to drop its ‘Standards of Partnership,’ which currently prohibit campus affiliates from partnering with or hosting individuals and groups who support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.”

Recently students at Guilford College in North Carolina began a process at their campus to become an Open Hillel. This will make them the fourth Open Hillel so far. Guilford students wrote in a public statement: “As an open Hillel, we believe that Jewish students should be supported in expressing their Jewish identity and values in the way that is most meaningful to them. … To be an open Hillel is to welcome all perspectives on Israel-Palestine.”

Guilford SJP student leader Walid Mosarsaa also pointed out that “Opening Guilford’s Hillel is necessary because there seemed to be a lot of conflation among Hillel members in specific, and on campus in general, that Jews have to support Israel and that Palestinians hate Jews, which we know is not the case. With an Open Hillel Palestinians and Jews who do not support Zionism will not feel discriminated against.”

While these student groups and activists are generating new ideas, they are also bringing in a host of older speakers who have been part of movements for justice in communities that have resisted oppression. Students are meeting with leaders and organizers from Palestine, indigenous leaders in the US, black civil rights activists, transnational feminists, and prison abolition activists, among others. In the Jewish community, Open Hillel has also highlighted and brought to their campuses Jewish civil rights workers from the ’60s who worked with SNCC and other groups in the South and are active on Palestine issues today. One of these activists, Dorothy Zellner, said that the Open Hillel movement is “a sign of things changing, and it’s because of these students. Students were at the forefront of the Civil Rights movement and these students are going to change [things] too.”

The power of the organizing among young people makes it no coincidence that campuses have been and are sites of repression. As they work to effect change, the students are fully aware the they are up against a typically well-funded opposition that focuses more on vitriol, name-calling and intimidation than on substantive debate. As a result of their activism on behalf of the Palestinian movement for justice and their efforts to hold Israel accountable to basic principles of human rights, many students are facing accusations of being anti-Semitic and creating “unsafe spaces” for Jewish students. This has also been true at a number of University of California campuses, where student organizing has resulted in successful efforts to pass resolutions that call upon their universities to divest from corporations profiting from the Israeli occupation.

As in the case of Pitzer and elsewhere, one of the challenges student activists face is to demand that college administrations do not capitulate to those seeking to silence criticism of Israel, but rather resist such pressure by citing their colleges’ commitment to open inquiry and critical thinking. Right-wing Zionists can apply pressure, but it is the job of the institutions not to give credence to those who try to prevent voices for justice from being heard. It is hard to imagine any more fundamental obligation of a college administration than to stand up for their students’ rights in this regard against those who would like nothing more than to intimidate, silence or punish them. Academics on college campuses face many of these same challenges as well as others, and both students and academics—together with legal and other activists—have joined forces in their organizing.

From cultural resistance, campaigns to pressure their campuses to oppose apartheid, sit-ins and community programs and actions rooted in intersecting struggles, students across the country have joined one another and the broader movement for justice and dignity in transformative ways. The challenges are formidable, but so is their determination.

– See more at: http://mondoweiss.net

The Jewish establishment has banned these four valiant Jews. Why?

April 1, 2015

 Philip Weiss on Mondoweiss March 31, 2015 

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This is the story of a tragedy inside the Jewish community.

The four American Jews above are on a national campus tour. All in their 70s, they are veterans of the civil rights movement; they went south 50 years ago to help free our country from Jim Crow, risking their lives for equal rights.

But they have been banned from speaking at Hillel, the Jewish campus organization, because they have come out in favor of Palestinian human rights.

Last Wednesday they were to speak at Swarthmore Hillel, but the gangster who runs Hillel, former congressman Eric Fingerhut, hinted at legal action if the students dared to let them speak– so the students had to start a new Jewish group called Kehilah just to hear them.

Eric Fingerhut, the head of Hillel International. (Photo: Shahar Azran for Hillel)

The next night they spoke to an overflow crowd at Muhlenberg College, introduced by former Hillel president Caroline Dorn. Dorn had to quit Hillel in order to host them—and she also had to meet with the college provost even to get permission for the four to come on campus because the college administration was afraid of alienating Jewish students. “It was devastating,” she says. And last night they spoke to more than 100 at the University of Michigan. Again: barred from Hillel.

So these four travelers are freedom riders twice. First in their 20s in the civil rights movement, now in their 70s, sponsored by the Open Hillel movement.

“Why are they so afraid about what a bunch of old folks are going to say to you?” Mark Levy asked at Swarthmore.

Why? Because when I saw them at Swarthmore, three of them started to weep as they told their stories, even 50 years later. Why? Because they witnessed an American social revolution in which many people suffered, and they are extending that experience to Palestine.

Levy is the man on the left. A retired teacher in New York, he went south because he thought the best way to fight anti-semitism was to fight discrimination against all people.

Next to him is Larry Rubin. Rubin went south “automatically” from the Sholom Aleichem Club in Philadelphia 50 years ago because “I wanted to make my country better.” But in Belzoni Mississippi, a sheriff said to him, “We haven’t hanged us a Hebe in a long time” and the white people said he was trying to “destroy” the country. The same charge was hurled at him when he went to Palestine and witnessed the apartheid conditions there.

Next in line, Dorothy Zellner. Like Rubin, she worked for SNCC, the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee. She went south because she believed Jews fought injustice in the garment industry, in the Spanish Civil war, in the Warsaw Ghetto, because the Talmud told them to:

“Who is honored? The one who honors all human beings.”

On Zellner’s left is the baby of the group, Ira Grupper. He grew up Orthodox in Brooklyn, and twice he broke down last week as he spoke. First when he said that he had named his daughter after his friend Vernon Dahmer, who was murdered in Mississippi for helping black people to vote. The second time when he told of his arrest with hundreds of other men at the Mississippi Fairgrounds, and every night as a form of humiliation and control the cops served the white prisoners their bologna sandwich and cup of milk first but every prisoner set the cup on the floor with the sandwich on top of it till the last black prisoner was served.

“Then all of us prisoners, black and white together, picked up our sandwiches as one, and that is what the civil rights movement means to me, and as a Jew I have to fight for the rights of all people and that includes Palestinians.”

You’d think that these four Jews would be hallowed by the Jewish community, that Grupper would be telling his stories at the 92d Street Y and the DC JCC and the Center for Jewish History in New York. No: they are pariahs, because they speak out for Palestine, and cross Hillel International’s red lines for accepted speech.

The night I saw them was tense. Joshua Wolfsun of Kehilah warned the crowd, you may disagree vehemently with what you are about to hear, but please try and listen resiliently and if you have to blow off steam, take a walk outside. A rabbi who sat near the back asked what was the difference between blind loyalty to Israel that the group was opposing and support for the Jewish people. An older man said equal rights and civil rights and peace are all great, but what do you owe the Jewish community?

Levy said the demand is something out of the Spanish Inquisition. “There’s a single definition of being Jewish: I have to be a Zionist, 110 percent uncritical of Israel, otherwise I can’t call myself a Jew. And I think there’s something wrong with that.”

Rubin said the thought control reminds him of Communist days, when friends said he should never criticize the Soviet Union because Russia was the savior of the working class, and criticism would hurt the movement.

“Now Israel is the savior of the Jewish community so don’t say anything. Israel is supposed to be a Jewish country–and they don’t want Jews to argue? This is not the way that Jews do business.”

Zellner said Israel is not a Jewish country, any more than the U.S. was a white country when 12 percent of the country was black. But she said the demands of Jewish nationalism have made Jews sick.

“What’s happening now in the Jewish community, the enforced loyalty to the state of Israel, has made us sick. We are a sick population, we are under such extreme tension. We have people storming out of seder meals, and we in Jews Say No, when we’re out on the street. I have seen normal people who you would not look at twice go from zero to 60 in a second and become raving maniacs. Calling us everything that you can possibly say. We are in a situation where people can’t ask the questions and they can’t talk. “

She said the young Jews in the room were the “prize” that the older Jews are fighting over, and the Fingerhuts will lose.

“You signal the end of the occupation. I am the oldest one here. I will tell you my age, I’m 77, and I am going to be live to the end of this occupation. You all have done the final blow. When hundred of J Street student went outside of Fingerhut’s office [to protest restrictions], this is the end, the ship is going down and it’s because of you guys..”

Others on this site are not as thrilled as I am by this movement. They say it’s fine for Jews to save the Jewish soul, but that’s not going to bring justice to Palestine. I say we need to change the Jewish community, because we hold the keys to changing U.S. policy. One thing we agree about, the Jewish community is reactionary when it comes to Palestinian rights; and these four Jews in their 70s are working with Jews in their teens and 20s to try and change that culture.

Dorothy Zellner said the Jewish establishment miscalculated, promising its loyalty to Israel, saying, “We are all in lockstep. But we’re not.” The young people are breaking those chains and the Fingerhuts and Foxmans are terrified of the change. And when the change happens American public opinion will break.

The young Jews issued a statement of their own yesterday. After the threats to Swarthmore and the resignation of Caroline Dorn, the Open Hillel movement issued a calm challenge to their elders:

Hillel is facing a choice – it can continue to spend valuable resources devoted to fighting its own students in an attempt to dictate what students can and cannot say about Israel/Palestine, or it can return to its mission of engaging Jewish students.

The vets will be at the University of Chicago on April 1st. We’ll announce additional stops on the midwest tour when we learn about them. And then they hit the South, April 15-18.

http://mondoweiss.net/2015/03/establishment-banned-valiant


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