Posts Tagged ‘Islamophobia’

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.

Jewish Groups Stand in Opposition to Hate Speech and All Forms of Islamophobia

April 28, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:  

Naomi Dann 845-377-5745      

Donna Nevel denevel@gmail.com

4/28/15        Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition stands strongly in opposition to Islamophobia in all its manifestations. Most recently, the courts ruled that Pamela Geller has the right to put up her virulently anti-Muslim ads on public buses. As a community, we will make our voices heard as forcefully as we can in protest of Islamophobic hate speech.

“The minute I read Geller’s language for the ads,*  I was reminded of the history of accusations of blood libel against the Jewish community that provoked, and fed into, anti-Semitism,” said Marjorie Dove Kent, executive director, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.

According to Rosalind Petchesky from Jewish Voice for Peace-New York, “These ads are bad enough in and of themselves. But, this hate speech also operates within the context of continued discriminatory surveillance of the Muslim community. And I have seen the pernicious effects this had had on Muslim and Arab students at CUNY, where I have been a professor for many years. That is why we pledge to continue our work with Muslim groups and others concerned with state-sponsored discrimination against the Muslim community.”

Geller is the lead instigator and public face of a nationwide anti-Muslim ad campaign. She co-founded, with Robert Spencer, three groups designated as anti-Muslim hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), one of these groups, is the sponsor of the ads.

Geller’s ad campaigns most often explicitly link Israel with Islamophobia through images and words that smear Muslims and Palestinians. These campaigns have engendered bold and creative opposition by a wide range of communities—and this time will be no different.

JAIC calls upon the Jewish community—together with all communities– to speak out loud and clear against these bus ads and to demand the full civil and human rights of the Muslim community. *

*The ad reads: Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah.

Jews Against Islamophobia can be reached at jewsagainstislamophobia@gmail.com.

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

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).

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

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.

Jews Speak Out Against Racist Violence

September 26, 2013

JAI Condemns New York City’s Latest Incidents of Racist Violence & Religious Bigotry

 September 26, 2013  Members of the Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition were angered and saddened to learn of the vicious bias-related attacks on Saturday, September 21, in New York City, and join with all those who are fighting to ensure that we live in a city that is safe for all residents.

Dr. Prabhjot Singh,  a professor at Columbia University, and a companion, a fellow Sikh, were assaulted in upper Manhattan by about a dozen individuals who called them “Osama” and “terrorist”  and broke Dr. Singh’s jaw.  As part of his Sikh faith, Dr. Singh was wearing a turban.  According to a new report, Turban Myths, put out by SALDEF (Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund) and Stanford University, 48% of Americans mis-identify urban wearers as Muslim, and over 20% of Sikh schoolchildren suffer violence as a “price for maintaining their Sikh identity.” As Dr. Singh commented two days after the attack,  “Our turban and beard are a trigger for fear in the minds of many Americans” (NY Times, September 23, 2013).]  Additionally, an individual assaulted a New Jersey woman wearing a hijab and called her a “f**king terrorist,” as she attended a pro-democracy rally in Times Square.

Even as we deplore these vicious attacks on individuals, we view them not as isolated incidents but as part of a systemic assault on the rights and liberties of Muslim, South Asian, and other targeted communities in NYC.  While the police are investigating the attack on the two Sikh men as a possible hate crime and have arrested the alleged perpetrator of the assault on the Muslim woman at the rally, the NYPD and public officials, along with right-wing media and a network of anti-Muslim ideologues, must share responsibility for fostering an anti-Muslim atmosphere that encourages people to view both Muslims and those mistaken for Muslims as terrorists. A police department that has guidelines associating those who wear a beard and other signifiers of religious observance with “terrorism,” and implicitly labels all Muslims as terrorist suspects by its surveillance of New York City’s entire Muslim community, sends a message of suspicion and bigotry that fuels such attacks.

We urge members of the Jewish community and all New Yorkers to speak out strongly in our schools, workplaces, community organizations and houses of worship against bigotry, wherever it may occur; and to demand strong responses and action from government leaders and representatives that must include, first and foremost, requiring that the NYPD abandon its anti-Muslim policies.  We also encourage as many of us as possible to join community actions and responses that are called by our allies during this time. (Our website will list actions as we learn about them.)  Attacks on individuals because they are “walking while Sikh” or “standing on the street while Muslim” are simply unacceptable in our city.

The Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition (JAIC) consists of three groups: Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and Jews Say No! (JSN!). http://www.jewsagainstislamophobia.org/


%d bloggers like this: