Posts Tagged ‘Alan Levine’

SURVEILLANCE OF MUSLIM COMMUNITY CONTINUES DESPITE PROMISES FROM DE BLASIO

November 2, 2015

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 Nov. 2, 2015   Jews Against Islamophobia (JAI) and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) are outraged to learn that the NYPD has continued to spy on the Muslim community and calls on the Mayor and City to put a halt to this discriminatory practice immediately. Despite Mayor De Blasio’s statement when he took office that it is unfair for law enforcement to single out people on the basis of their religion, the Gothamist reported that an undercover NYPD officer had been spying on a group of Muslim students at Brooklyn College as late as December 2014, eight months after he took office.

Pretending to have converted to Islam, the undercover NYPD officer spied for four years on women from the Brooklyn College Islamic Society solely because they are Muslim. Such surveillance undermines civil liberties and injures the people and community being targeted.

In 2011/2012, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press series documented that the NYPD had engaged in a far-reaching surveillance program that burrowed deep into the lives and institutions of New York-area Muslim communities. Informants were placed in mosques, Muslim student organizations, and Muslim-owned bookstores, businesses, and cafes. Some infiltrated Muslim student groups on college campuses at six branches of the City University of New York, as well as at colleges outside the City.

“That Muslim students at Brooklyn College were spied on like this makes a farce of anything De Blasio said about protecting people on the basis of their religion,” stated Candace Graff, member of JAI. “We need to speak out far and wide against this spying and intimidation.”

 According to JAI member and CUNY emerita professor, Rosalind Petchesky, “The Muslim community continues to face discrimination on a daily basis—in employment, through acts of violence and hate crimes against them, and through continued state-sponsored Islamophobia. It is shameful that students at Brooklyn College—or anywhere—have to endure this kind of discriminatory treatment. It is not only the City that is responsible. Chancellor Milliken’s office and the administrations of Brooklyn College and all CUNY campuses need to be adamant about protecting our students against bias, spying, and harassment.”

 As Alan Levine, civil rights lawyer and member of JAI, wrote in a 2012 piece in the National Law Journal on NYPD’s Unconstitutional Surveillance, “The Muslim community should not have to wait a day longer for city officials to abandon a practice that so flagrantly affronts principles of equal justice and religious freedom.” This remains equally true in 2015 and must stop immediately.

 Jews Against Islamophobia is a coalition of Jewish Voice for Peace—New York (jvp-nyc-coordinating@googlegroups.com) and Jews Say No! in NYC (jewssayno@gmail.com).  Jews for Racial and Economic Justice can be reached at info@jfrej.org
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Free Speech/Hate Speech Conversation in White Plains NY Nov. 5

October 15, 2015

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Alan Levine: Is boycott a bad word?

July 30, 2015

http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/civil-rights/249670-is-boycott-a-bad-word

Hillary Clinton recently wrote a letter to Haim Saban, billionaire owner of Univision and uncompromising supporter of Israel, seeking his advice about the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions  (BDS) movement. The movement, she says, seeks to “isolate” and “punish” Israel, and we “need to make countering BDS a priority.” However, her letter does not say what it is that BDS supporters want or believe; not a word about Israel’s human rights violations, an unlawful occupation, collective punishment or any of the other conditions of oppression that prompted Palestinians to initiate the BDS movement for Palestinian freedom and equality.

The inference is that the reasons for BDS do not matter. Boycotts themselves, she implies, are not a legitimate tool in the struggle to achieve human rights. Clinton of course, knows better.

So, too, should the oversight and Government reform Committee’s Subcommittee on National Security. On July 28 the Subcommittee held a lopsided anti-BDS hearing on the “Impact of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement.” Explanatory material for the hearing said nothing about BDS being a movement striving for freedom and equal rights.  No Palestinian or Palestinian-American leaders of the movement were there to testify. It was, in fact, very much like holding a hearing on Jim Crow and excluding African-American leaders.Boycott movements have an important and honorable place in our country’s – and the world’s – history of peaceful protest. In my lifetime, three great boycott movements have exposed and successfully alleviated conditions of injustice and oppression.

In the mid-1950s, the requirement in Montgomery, Alabama that black bus passengers surrender their seats to whites led to a year-long boycott of the city’s public buses. Desegregation of the buses followed. When I went to the south as a civil rights lawyer some 10 years later, those I worked with understood, as have historians since, that the movement for equality and justice in which they were then engaged had begun with the Montgomery bus boycott.

In the mid-60s, farmworkers organized a strike to protest the appalling working conditions in California’s grape-growing fields. Strike leaders appealed for support of a nationwide boycott of California table grapes.  Those who enlisted in what was known as “la causa” spoke not only of conditions in the fields, but hunger and poverty, discrimination against Mexican-Americans and Latinos, and the failure of labor laws to protect our most exploited workers.

At about the same time, opponents of the South African system of black oppression called apartheid began a campaign to persuade their supporters around the world to stop doing business with South Africa. Over the next 20-plus years, anti-apartheid activists organized an economic, cultural, and sports boycott of South Africa that the world came to understand as one of the 20th century’s signature battles for democratic rights.

What unites these great boycott movements is that each spoke with moral clarity on fundamental issues of equality and justice, and each grew out of an understanding that recourse to the ordinary mechanisms of government was unavailable. In my view, BDS is properly understood as a successor to those boycott movements.

The moral clarity of the BDS movement is hardly contestable. The enormous economic, physical, and emotional toll on the Palestinians exacted by the occupation has been repeatedly documented by every international agency that speaks to the issue. Within Israel – that is within the Green Line – Israeli civil rights agencies themselves describe a dual system of government services and benefits that is uniformly inferior for Palestinians compared to Jewish Israelis. In neither respect is there any serious argument that Palestinians are not gravely mistreated.

Notably, Clinton makes no such argument in her letter to Saban, saying only that the comparison to South Africa is unfair. But she knows, among other things, that Palestinians are forcibly removed from land on which Israel says they may not live and that there are roads in occupied territory on which West Bank Palestinians may not drive. Many, including anti-apartheid activist Desmond Tutu and former President Jimmy Carter, recognize it as apartheid.

She also says that the vindication of Palestinian rights, including the creation of a Palestinian state, should be left to direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. But if there ever was any doubt about the current Israeli government’s willingness to negotiate the terms of a Palestinian state, it was laid to rest by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s pre-election vow never to accept a Palestinian state.

Clinton knows that. But in her run for the presidency, it does not seem to matter. Her letter boasts of her record in beating back reports and resolutions that criticize Israel’s human rights violations. Yet there may be a price to pay. Within the Democratic Party, a November 2014 poll shows that the idea of unconditional support for Israel is eroding, particularly among young and African-American and Latino voters. And in recent days, another poll, this one of the Democratic Party’s “opinion elite,” shows growing criticism of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians.

Even if there is no hope for Clinton, the growing grassroots opposition to Israel’s policies reflected in these polls is an encouraging sign. As we have learned from the boycott movements that preceded BDS, it is grassroots support that ultimately drives the success of every movement for freedom and equal rights.

Levine is a New York City civil rights lawyer who has represented social justice activists throughout his career.

Alan Levine Letter to the Editor – NY Times – published May 8

May 8, 2015

To the Editor:

Pamela Geller is an Islamophobe whose public remarks about Muslims have rightly been condemned by the Southern Poverty Law Center as hate speech. But she has the last word in your article (“Organizer of Cartoon Contest Trumpets the Results,” news article, May 5), wrapping herself in the mantle of the First Amendment as if she had made a useful contribution to a public dialogue about Islam.

She has not. While hate speech is protected by the Constitution, the sole purpose of such speech is to inflame bigotry and to inflict injury. Your reference to the case of Debbie Almontaser is a case in point.

Ms. Almontaser, a respected educator and community leader, was selected by the New York City Department of Education to head the Khalil Gibran International Academy, the city’s first Arabic dual-language school. In the months after the announcement of the school’s creation, Ms. Geller and her allies unleashed a hate-filled barrage of false and Islamophobic accusations about Ms. Almontaser and the school.

Capitulating to the campaign, city officials forced her to resign. She then filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In ruling that Ms. Almontaser had been the victim of anti-Muslim prejudice, the commission said that the Department of Education had “succumbed to the very bias that creation of the school was intended to dispel and a small segment of the public succeeded in imposing its prejudices on D.O.E. as an employer.”

Ms. Almontaser’s reputation and career survived Ms. Geller’s onslaught. However, her ordeal should be a reminder that those who propagate hate speech are not proponents of First Amendment rights, but destroyers of lives.

ALAN LEVINE

New York

The writer is a civil rights lawyer who represented Ms. Almontaser in her suit against the Department of Education.


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