Posts Tagged ‘Jewish Voice for peace’

Organizing Against Islamophobia: Reflection And Analysis To Strengthen Our Work

February 1, 2017

Donna Nevel community psychologist and educator

MIAMI PROTEST

Muslim communities and those being targeted by the relentless, ongoing Islamophobic, racist, and xenophobic assaults coming from so many directions are organizing with great integrity, strength, and intention. We know these assaults are not new, but the moment calls for all sorts of resistance. Community-based groups and coalitions like DC Justice for Muslims, housed at the Washington Peace Center, in Washington, DC and Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM) in NYC (and many more) are engaging in powerful organizing rooted in years of deep work within their communities.

Those of us who are partners in this work and committed to not remaining silent or complicit are joining efforts that require both immediate responses and long-term planning. Social justice groups, faith communities, and other community members are attending community meetings, joining protests, and participating in actions led by Muslim and other impacted groups.

In addition to participating in day-to-day actions, we know that our own reflection, analysis, and deeper understanding can help strengthen our work. Many of us who are not being targeted can too easily carry Islamophobic assumptions propagated by the media, by our own communities, and in the public sphere. There are several issues that are integral to our discussions, analysis, and organizing: for example, the connections among Islamophobia within the U.S., the “war on terror” and U.S. imperialism, and the ways in which Islamophobia and Israel politics intersect.

Those of us working with the Network Against Islamophobia (NAI), a project of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) have spent the past few years creating curricula and resources on Challenging Islamophobia and Racism. These materials are designed to help strengthen our work within our communities and to enable us to be effective, principled, creative, and thoughtful partners in the broader movement for justice.

The curricula and work result from deep relationships, organizing, and learning with many different communities and individuals. NAI is deeply appreciative of the work and inspiration of our partners from Muslim and other communities targeted by Islamophobia and racism, and we honor their leadership and vision.

JVP CHAPTER, SEATTLE

Visit the Network Against Islamophobia to download the curricula and resources.

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In 25 Cities, Communities Say NO To Islamophobia

December 24, 2016

Donna Nevel

 

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Photo from JVP Western Mass, Springfield, MA

On Wednesday evening, Dec. 21st, in 25 cities across the United States, Jews, Muslims, and other communities joined together to say with clarity and strength: No to Islamophobia; No to Racism: Yes to Justice; Yes to Dignity for All Communities. Organized to coincide with the holiday of Chanukah, which begins Saturday evening, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and its Network Against Islamophobia (NAI), together with JVP chapters and partners, initiated the actions to reignite their commitment to challenging all forms of Islamophobia and racism.

Written on eight candles in the shape of a Chanukah menorah, the commitments were read aloud for all to hear and take in. Among the commitments:
• We condemn state surveillance of the Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities.
• We fight anti-Muslim profiling and racial profiling in all their forms.
• We protest the use of Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism to justify and perpetuate Israel’s repressive policies against Palestinians;
• We challenge, through our words and actions, institutionalized racism and state-sanctioned anti-Black violence.

In Kingston, New York, participants braved the cold to join the action called for by the newly created Hudson Valley JVP chapter. In Sacramento, hundreds of people stood together for a creative program ending with a question from the organizers, “How will you follow through on your commitments?”—and suggestions of opportunities, educational events and actions.

In Austin and New Haven, in Ithaca, Portland, and Raleigh—and in cities large and small— community members held their candles, visibly and with conviction.

In Chicago, the local JVP chapter partnered with American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other groups to call upon Governor Bruce Rauner to reverse his position of pausing the relocation of Syrian refugees and, instead, to welcome and support their resettlement with all the resources at his disposal.

A vibrant march co-organized by JVP Boston made its way through the streets of downtown Boston. Hundreds of people participated, and the large group of social justice groups* that cosponsored the event expressed a commitment to addressing a wide range of issues.

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Photo from CAIR FL, Lincoln Road, Miami Beach

 

And in Miami Beach, where I live, CAIR FL and JVP joined to create an event that brought many communities together. In addition to music and readings, a number of children read signs they had made with words of “compassion,” “justice,” “respect,” “equality,” and “a world without Trump,” in response to being asked what words came to mind when they thought of the world they wanted to live in.

The Chanukah actions are part of a broader commitment to engage in this work thoughtfully and consistently and to stand against all forms of Islamophobia—whether it is a hate crime in the street or violence resulting from US domestic or foreign policies. JVP’s Network Against Islamophobia has as its foundational principles being accountable partners in the larger movement led by Muslims and those who have been directly impacted by Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism, and, at the same time, doing the work within Jewish communities to bring these issues to the forefront. That also means engaging within our communities in learning together through workshops and discussions about the multiple ways in which Islamophobia is manifested and how we can do this work most meaningfully and effectively.

Muslim communities and other impacted groups have been organizing for a very long time. The very positive recent decision by President Obama to dismantle the regulations that enable the NSEERS (Special Registrations) program to exist grows out of years and years of organizing by groups like DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving) in NYC and by other groups that have been directly targeted by these government policies and programs. As that organizing continues to grow, JVP and NAI hope to be genuine partners in this work.

Community-building was also a key part of Wednesday’s actions, something that is much needed at this time. Participants made their commitments, not just for the evening, but as part of long-term, sustained, collaborative work for justice.

*The cosponsors of Boston’s actions included American Friends Service Committee, Northeast Palestine Advocacy Project, Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights, 1for3.org, Common Street Spiritual Center, Muslim Justice League, Arlington Street Church/Boston – Social Action Committee, UU’s for Justice in the Middle East – MA Chapter, Cambridge Bethlehem People to People Project, Black Lives Matter Cambridge and JETPAC Inc.

New York City Council hearing on BDS

September 10, 2016

imgresThe two sides of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement squared off in New York’s City Hall on Thursday, with BDS activists disrupting a hearing where city council members discussed a resolution condemning BDS. The resolution doesn’t add penalties, but displays a hostility to a non-violent act of free speech, BDS supporters say.

Click to read Resolution 1058-2016 or see the wording after Donna’s testimony below.

Testimony  of Jane Hirschmann and Donna Nevel before the New York City council on 9/8/16

My name is Jane Hirschmann and I am representing a group called Jews Say No! We are a NYC based group of Jews who stand up for human rights and justice in Palestine. We believe that it is in the best tradition of the Jewish people to criticize, argue, think and think some more about issues of justice and fairness and to protest human rights abuses where they exist. Indeed for many of us that is one of the main lessons of the Holocaust. Also as Jews we have a particular obligation to speak out concerning Israel, which purports to speak for Jews everywhere.

As the daughter of Holocaust survivors anti-Semitism concerns me deeply. But to suggest as this resolution does, that the BDS movement is anti-Semitic or an attempt to delegitimize Israel is unfounded rhetoric and defamatory. This resolution and similar ones nationwide have been promoted by the Israeli lobby and segments of this community to distract people from the real issues at hand—Israel’s human rights abuses and blatant disregard for the law. This resolution is based on the premise that if you protest the inhumane behavior and policies of a nation state, you are delegitimizing that state, and in the case of Israel, you are anti-Semitic.

The United Nations and several International courts have made it very clear that Israel is in violation of international law. These violations include the 60 year illegal occupation of the West Bank; the illegal settlement expansion which contravenes long standing U.S. policy and hinders any serious peace effort; the theft of Palestinian lands; the blockade of Gaza and the horrific slaughter of thousands of Gaza civilians, to name just a few. Protesting and boycotting Israel for its lawlessness and violence against the Palestinians is not anti-Semitic. It is pro human rights. Can one criticize a country and their abuses without saying that those engaged in this criticism are either delegitimizing the country or, as in this case, are anti-Semitic? In fact, the notion that our protest of Israel’s abuses delegitimizes Israel is preposterous. Israel by persistently acting in an illegitimate way is delegitimizing itself. Every time it violates human rights standards, it delegitimizes itself; by occupying the West Bank it delegitimizes itself; by building a wall it delegitimizes itself, by stealing Palestinian homes and water it delegitimizes itself; by destroying Gaza it delegitimizes itself. And I could go on and on.

On the issue of boycotts I ask you to remember the bus boycotts in Montgomery. Did the boycotts delegitimize Alabama or did the racist policies delegitimize the State? Or take the boycott of South Africa for its apartheid policies. Did the boycott delegitimize the country or was it the conduct of that country? What about the most recent boycott initiated by Governor Cuomo against North Carolina over their anti-LGBT law. Was this an attempt on the Governor’s part to delegitimize that State or just a peaceful non-violent method to protest and force change by using economic and social pressure?

We in the BDS movement are also using this same time-honored, non-violent method to protest the activities of a nation state—Israel. We are not protesting the Jewish people per se because Israel does not represent nor speak for Jews all over the world. Opposing a country’s policy, is not opposing all of its residents nor is it delegitimizing the country. In the case of Israel we are simply joining a growing portion of the International community to Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel until it ceases its inhumane treatment of the Palestinians; until the occupation has ended; until the right of return is recognized; and until Palestinians can live in dignity with all the same rights as Israelis.

This Israeli campaign to stifle first amendment activity, including the BDS movement is an attempt to delegitimize our constitution and the city council should not be a party to this.

Jane Hirschmann, one of the co-founders of Jews Say No!

Testimony before the New York City council

 Donna Nevel, Board Member, Jewish Voice for Peace

As part of my commitment to speaking out and supporting the movement for justice in Palestine and Israel, I would like to speak about why I consider it my responsibility to stand in support of the movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) and why I strongly oppose the resolution being put forth today. As a board member of Jewish Voice for Peace, a national organization dedicated to a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis, I am speaking here to represent the growing numbers of progressive Jews who support this global movement for justice.

The BDS movement is motivated by a call for solidarity from the international community. In 2005, a broad coalition of Palestinian civil society called for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law and ends its violations of Palestinian rights.

The resolution under discussion shamelessly and shamefully distorts the BDS movement’s goals. BDS is about leveraging pressure to compel a state to change its behavior and respect human rights. The BDS movement is not permanent; this pressure is needed only UNTIL Israel complies with basic principles of equality.

BDS has garnered such strong international support among concerned people, including Jews, across the globe because people of conscience oppose decades of denial of a people’s basic human and national rights.

One of the false and destructive accusations being made is that it is anti-Semitic to support BDS. This is not only a highly irresponsible accusation, and harmful to those fighting for justice, but it also does an injustice to the reality of actual anti-Semitism when it occurs.

It is not discriminatory in any way to hold a nation-state accountable for its human rights abuses and for violations of international law. There is nothing anti-Semitic about that in any rational definition of anti-Semitism.

There has been a call from Palestinian civil society, whose community is suffering on a daily basis, to join an international effort to hold Israel accountable to changing its behavior. That is ethical; that is a call I embrace.

 On a final and personal note, I support the ethical and yes, dignified call for BDS–as a Jew and as a human being committed to justice and to peace. I have always felt—and continue to feel—deeply connected to my community’s history of struggle and resistance; of the anti-Semitism and oppression we’ve endured. In no way is my support for BDS and my deep commitment to justice for Palestinians at odds with that deep connection to my people. In fact, it grows out of my history and life as a Jewish person who grew up learning from my deeply ethical parents to be proud of who I was but to never think I was better than anyone else or any other people, and to fight against injustice whenever and wherever I saw it.

Therefore, I will continue to support BDS with thousands and thousands of others across the globe UNTIL there is a just solution rooted in ending state policies that are discriminatory and anti-democratic and in insuring equal rights and respect and safety for all.

I hope you will reject this very wrong-headed resolution that attempts to trivialize and distort a critical human rights issue.

Thank you.

 

Resolution condemning all efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the global movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction the people of Israel.

By Council Member Cohen, Deutsch, Garodnick, Greenfield, Grodenchik, Kallos, Koslowitz, Lancman, Levine, Maisel, Treyger, Rosenthal, Cabrera, Palma, King, Gibson, Gentile, Espinal, Richards, Koo, Vacca, Van Bramer, Vallone, Johnson, Dickens, Borelli, Matteo and Ulrich

Whereas, The Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS Movement) is a campaign seeking to exclude the Israeli people from the economic, cultural, and academic life of humanity; and

Whereas, This movement targets not just the Israeli government but Israeli academic, cultural, and civil society institutions, as well as individual Israeli citizens of all political persuasions, and in some cases even Jews of other nationalities who support Israel; and

Whereas, The Global BDS Movement targets Israel and only Israel, while ignoring the world’s myriad despotic regimes; and

Whereas, Israel is far and away the most democratic and open society in the Middle East, with well-established rights for religious minorities, women, and LGBT citizens that far exceeds those of any other nation in the region; and

Whereas, The Global BDS Movement does not recognize the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination; and

Whereas, Some of the BDS Movement’s supporters and leaders have trafficked in unacceptable anti-Semitic rhetoric, including comparison of Israeli policy to that of Nazi Germany; and

Whereas, University-based BDS efforts violate the core goals of the university and global cultural development, which thrive on a free and open exchange and debate; and

Whereas, Both Israelis and Palestinians have the right to live in safe and secure states, free from fear and violence, with mutual recognition; and

Whereas, The Global BDS Movement does not support the two-state solution, a goal which can only be reached through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians; and

Whereas, Israel is an ally of the United States and has a long-standing relationship with the City of New York; and

Whereas, The City of New York has the largest population of Jewish residents in the nation and is home to the largest Jewish community outside of Israel; now, therefore be it

Resolved, That the Council of the City of New York condemns all efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the global movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction its government and people.

 

We will boycott Israel until it ends human rights abuses against Palestinians

June 10, 2016

Protesters told Cuomo: We will boycott Israel until it ends human rights abuses against Palestinians

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New Yorkers demonstrated outside the Governor’s office after he signed an unconstitutional executive order against using boycotts to advocate for an end to Israel’s human rights abuses.

Thursday June 9, 2016–Hundreds of New Yorkers demonstrated outside Governor Cuomo’s Midtown offices, outraged by the Governor’s unconstitutional executive order requiring the state to create a blacklist and divest from corporations and institutions that support the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel. Protesters carried signs that read “We will continue to stand for justice and boycott Israel until the Palestinian people achieve freedom, justice, and equality,” in defiance of the attempt to repress the growing movement for Palestinian rights.

Demonstrators called on Governor Cuomo to rescind his executive order.

NYCCuomoProtest-8

“We act in solidarity with the Palestinian call for international grassroots pressure on Israel until it complies with international law and ends its ongoing repression of Palestinian rights. We will continue to boycott Israel until Palestinian children can live without fear of imprisonment and torture, until there are no longer separate roadways for Israeli Jews and Palestinians, until Israel stops bombing and killing Palestinians, and until the checkpoints and apartheid wall are dismantled,” said Gabrielle Spears, Jewish Voice for Peace.

Riham Barghouti from Adalah-NY commented, “Like other politicians, Governor Cuomo is finding that blind support of the Israeli apartheid state requires repressive, undemocratic measures. He is attempting to silence the growing number of morally conscientious individuals and organizations that support freedom, justice and equality for Palestinians. We, along with our allies, demand that Governor Cuomo rescind this order punishing supporters of Palestinian rights and BDS.”

“Governor Cuomo’s McCarthyite order calls for a publicly available blacklist of all companies and institutions that support using boycotts to bring about justice for Palestinians,” said Nic Abramson, Jews Say No! “This is a new low for the state-sanctioned backlash against the movement for Palestinian human rights–a movement that is growing and strengthening daily,” he added.

This executive order comes at a time of growing recognition that external pressure will be needed to end Israel’s occupation and repression of Palestinian rights and establish the conditions of equality that are necessary for a just and lasting peace.

BDS is under attack by politicians in Israel, France, the US, and other European countries attempting to impose laws to repress and even outlaw the growing movement for justice. The Israeli government has threatened Palestinian organizers of the BDS movement with “elimination” and effectively imposed a travel ban on one of the movement’s founders, Omar Barghouti.

In the US, bills to limit BDS activities have been introduced in over 20 states, and have been passed in 9 states. Prior to Cuomo’s executive order, two bills to punish BDS supporters had stalled in the New York legislature due to questions about their constitutionality and opposition from New Yorkers who support BDS and are concerned about the threat of the legislation to their civil liberties.

The Palestinian-led civil society BDS movement is modeled on the global campaign that helped bring an end to apartheid in South Africa. Through boycott and divestment from companies profiting from Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people, boycott of complicit cultural and academic institutions, and sanctions targeting Israel, the movement aims to pressure Israel to respect the basic rights of the Palestinian people, whether living under Israeli military occupation, as unequal citizens within Israel, or as refugees denied their right of return.

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Here’s the paper!!!

February 4, 2016

http://itsnotthetimes.com/

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

 

 

Video: All the News We Didn’t Print: New York Times Parody Edition

February 4, 2016
Published on Feb 4, 2016

Ten thousand copies of a special supplement of The New York Times focused on Israel and Palestine were distributed across NYC February 2, 2016. The special parody supplement, created and distributed by Jewish Voice for Peace–New York chapter and Jews Say No!, included 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.” The paper was intended 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.

More information at: jvp.org/itsnotthetimes and view the paper at: http://bit.ly/1VR2PhZ

 

 

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. 

Democracy Now

February 3, 2016

Progressive Jewish groups make New York Times parody issue

February 3, 2016

Satirical publication, handed out on the street and emailed, condemns the Times’ pro-Israel slant

Progressive Jewish groups make New York Times parody issue to protest newspaper's "biased Israel-Palestine coverage"

“Congress to Debate U.S. Aid to Israel,” reads the front page of the latest edition of The New York Times — or, rather, the latest fake edition of the Times.

Activists from progressive Jewish human rights groups created a very convincing-looking fake edition of The New York Times to protest the leading newspaper’s coverage of Israel.

The parody publication is written from a left-wing, anti-racist, anti-Islamophobic perspective that criticizes Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian human rights, along with what the groups say is the Times’ failure to adequately address these crimes.

Early Tuesday morning, the activists, under the name The New York Times, sent an email out to reporters across the country titled “NYT Announces New Editorial Policy: Rethinking Our Coverage of Israel-Palestine.” The email included a link to an entire website modeled on the Times’ own site, http://www.NewYorkTimes-IP.com, which the activists created.

Less than 24 hours after the site was made public, on Tuesday evening, it was taken down. It is archived here.

On the “NYT-IP” Twitter account the groups made, activists shared photos of them handing out more than 10,000 copies of a print edition of the paper for free in downtown New York City on Tuesday morning. This Twitter account was also suspended later that evening, but is archived here.

nyt-ip received copy

No group immediately took credit for the action on Tuesday, while reports filled the media.

Jewish Voice for Peace — New York and Jews Say No! informed Salon that they had organized the protest. The former is the local branch of Jewish Voice for Peace, or JVP, an American human rights and social justice organization that challenges the Israeli government’s continued violence against and oppression of the indigenous Palestinian people. Jews Say No! is a New York City-based peace group that, like JVP, protests Israel’s illegal 48-year occupation of the Palestinian territories and periodic heavy bombing of Gaza.

In December, during Hanukkah, both groups organized another campaign — a series of protests across the country condemning Islamophobia, racism, anti-refugee xenophobia and police brutality.

Throughout the past few months, JVP and Jews Say No! meticulously designed the fake four-page New York Times newspaper and website. They assembled more than 20 people and created an editorial team dedicated to creating top-quality, wittily written, fact-checked coverage.

The fake “special edition” issue carries the slogan “All the news we didn’t print,” and blasts the Times for what the activists see as its biased, pro-Israel coverage.

Read more

Conversation – Phil Weiss and Dorothy Zellner

January 6, 2016

Palestinian citizens of Israel hold the key — Zellner

by Philip Weiss  Phil Weiss

Dorothy Zellner is a wise friend; I check in on her every once in a while to ask how she thinks the movement for Palestinian freedom is going in the United States. A founding member of Jews Say No! and a volunteer with Jewish Voice for Peace, Zellner has a substantial track record as an activist. She is a former civil rights worker who went south first in 1960, then spent 10 years working for civil rights organizations. I called her right at new year’s to ask her some questions.

PW: Dorothy, you were in the civil rights movement, and in the women’s movement. You’ve seen social change move from the margins to the mainstream. Do you see that happening now with the Israel/Palestine question?

DZ: I say mostly yes. If you think about the situation in Israel/Palestine even 5, or 6, or 8 years ago, we were really a little tiny tree in the big forest. Now I think we’re closer to the mainstream. I don’t have any documentary evidence for that. I just feel it. You don’t have to explain so many things so many times to people. They know some of the words, they know some of the language. I think we’re closer. I’m finding that if I say that I’m working on Israel/Palestine issues, and the occupation, people don’t look at me like I’m speaking Urdu. They actually understand the words. Now whether they agree is another story.

But being in the mainstream doesn’t mean you’re victorious, it just means that more people know about the situation. And I think more people do. That’s probably due to the incredible growth of organizations like JVP. So we’re closer. But are we there? No. I think we have been overtaken unfortunately by this terrorism craze. That’s probably going to be the case for the next while.

As long as there are these big terrorism episodes, it’s to everyone’s advantage to go with that and forget everything else. It happened not only with Israel/Palestine, but you can even see how the Times played very little attention to the French climate change conference. It was all about Paris. Then it was California day and night.

Probably Netanyahu is going to do his best to try to fold the Palestinians into the general terrorism concern, and I think it’s very important for us to be on our toes about what terrorism is and what terrorism isn’t. Terrorism as I understand it means that extreme violence is perpetrated against civilian populations for a political purpose. By that definition, I don’t believe that the Palestinian movement is a terrorist movement. I don’t care how many 12-year-olds pull knives, that doesn’t make it terrorism. Terrorism is not just the technique; it’s the purpose, it’s the reason. So we have to be very straight in our heads about what’s a terrorist. If we’re not, then everybody becomes a terrorist. And if everybody becomes a terrorist, then nobody is a terrorist.

I think the term “terrorism” still is useful, and our own history as a left movement in this country is that we are staunchly opposed to terrorism. We are trying to unite people and move them forward, not trying to frighten people into the arms of anyone (most likely, the far right). I don’t know how many white people were scalped by Native Americans, you could portray Native Americans as terrorists, but they were fighting for their liberation. And Palestinians are fighting for their liberation.

But Dylann Roof is a terrorist. When he kills 9 black people, he has a political purpose. He thinks he’s organizing white people to oppose the advances of black people by scaring black people. We have to get this straight in our minds. Otherwise we become vulnerable when people say that Palestinians are terrorists– and they’re not. Even when they’re firing the rockets. Politically I don’t think this is a feasible tactic, but I don’t think that’s a case of terrorism. Because they are fighting for their liberation. And that’s different from trying to scare people into doing what you want.

Do changes in the conversation remind you of shifts during civil rights days? Is there a year in the 60s this recalls? The other day Israel’s ministry of education banned a book that portrays a Palestinian man and a Jewish woman having a romance, because it threatens Jewish identity. Can you say what this reminds you of in American history?

I don’t go back to the 60’s for a plan. This is such a deeply racist country that those in power have tried to keep the condition of black people off the stage, in the wings. What happened in the civil rights movement is that SNCC and others invented ways of cutting through media and getting themselves right under your eyeballs. That was the great success of the movement. The tactics and the people who were involved immediately broke through the ordinary conversation. We haven’t been able to do that in the Israel/Palestine movement. Yet.

So I’m not looking at this so much from a civil rights strategy. Rather, the analogy with the civil rights movement might be: what is going to happen in Israel proper, to the 20 percent of the population who are Palestinian citizens of Israel. No matter what happens to the occupation, there is still the question of what happens to those 20 percent.

The Zionists call this the Jewish state, but by any measure, it’s not a Jewish state even now. If you add the foreign nationals who live and work there, whose children were born there, and you add in the long-time Christians who live there also, who operate the churches there, and you add in the many thousands of non-Jewish spouses and relatives of Russians who emigrated to Israel, some people have estimated that it’s almost 30 percent of the population that is non-Jewish.

If you have a so-called Jewish state, and 20 percent are Palestinian citizens of Israel– everyone agrees, the left and the right, everyone agrees on that number– so Palestinian citizens of Israel hold the key and this is going to be interesting to watch what happens there. That’s where the analogy is to the U.S. Because black people in the U.S. from year one were never more than 12 percent.

A state that has 20 percent of its population being second class citizens is not a stable state. And sooner or later something will touch off that population, and it’s going to be extremely interesting to see how the government responds, regardless of what happens to the West Bank. That is one of the contradictions they’re dealing with.

There are other contradictions in Israel too that make it unstable. And that is the contradiction between the religious and the secular. That’s been going on since the state was founded. It’s already made a significant demographic shift inside the country. Jerusalem is now largely religious and Tel Aviv is largely secular.

The third is they’re having difficulty integrating, I use the word advisedly, integrating the Jews of color, like the Ethiopians. There are actually organizations in Israel dedicated to protecting the rights of Ethiopian Jews. So if everything was so hunky dory, how come this group has to have organizations protecting their rights?

In addition to the internal contradictions and the international isolation, what is emerging as a key factor is BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions). Nobody is scoffing at it anymore. When I was in France recently, I was shocked to learn that it is now illegal to promote BDS there. The issue has gone all the way up through the French courts, and the French courts have said it’s illegal to promote BDS, on grounds that it’s “incitement to hatred.” So the BDS forces are going to the European courts for a ruling, and they don’t know what will happen there, but in the meantime it’s a serious organizational issue, because if you stand in front of a store handing out leaflets you can get arrested and serve time and also be liable to fines. While I was there several groups were discussing this and one of them was the Jewish Union for Peace, which is similar to JVP, and a Jewish part of the anti-occupation movement. They had a long discussion about it, and they are going ahead regardless. This is important. This means that even the legal situation is not going to stop people. I’m sure the other organizations will not be stopped either. A state that is supposed to be for liberte, egalite and fraternite is going to arrest people giving out BDS literature! And those efforts are also being made in the United States. That doesn’t happen when you have a trivial technique. BDS is very important, and it’s growing.

We watch this closely because we’re anti-Zionist Jews. Isn’t it possible Israel is merely approaching a crisis, like the Civil War (!) that will “save the union,” in its case preserve a Jewish state? By contrast, the civil rights movement was nonviolent, largely. What chance do you see of a nonviolent resolution in I/P?

I am still of the belief, that what we are seeing is like the slow motion demolition of a building, it comes down very slowly. The Israel we know and have come to love [chuckle] is coming down.

Now they could have had a Jewish state if they had agreed to a two-state solution maybe 25 years ago. I don’t see that it’s possible now. I just don’t see any way that it’s possible.

The issue is going to be, and has been already– that it’s one state, and what kind of a state it’s going to be. That’s where the struggle is going to go. What kind of state will this be? I am very much in favor of people being safe. I want Jews to be safe in Israel/Palestine, whatever you call it. I want Palestinians to be safe. I want everyone to be safe. But it’s going to be hard to be a nonviolent change.

The Palestinians have been using nonviolent techniques at least since the 80s. The first intifada was largely nonviolent. Because it failed, the second intifada was much more violent. But we can see over the years the protesters—in Budrus, in Bil’in– how they are treated when they are nonviolent. I have seen that with my own eyes.

The world generally has not generated the support for this Palestinian nonviolent movement. And if the world doesn’t support nonviolence, I don’t see what their recourse is. If people here are really serious about nonviolence, they better start supporting people there who are nonviolent, who are out there every week being perfectly nonviolent and getting shot at and tear-gassed by the IDF. That would make a difference. Like J Street, if they want a Jewish state and they want to minimize the possibility of violence, then they had better hurry up and start supporting these Palestinians who are nonviolent.

A bright spot in the future may be the Palestinian citizens of Israel who may be able to constitute a very important force in the country electorally. The fact that there’s a Palestinian list was very very important. If they stay together and if they keep pressure on the Supreme Court, which is a totally weak-kneed jellyfish court, they will be able to use their influence inside the country in a nonviolent way. And again, if you’re really serious about nonviolence, you have to support them.

Israel is sitting on a hotbox. And Adalah in Israel, which is like our NAACP, is not kidding when they say they can show discriminatory 50 laws on the books. In addition, an explosion is building up about housing. Since 1948, Israel has built not one new Palestinian town. Meanwhile they have built hundreds of towns for Jews. Now where do Palestinians live in a state where nothing has been built for them, and when they try to build on their own houses, they are denied permits and their houses are destroyed? So what will happen? You don’t have to be a wizard to figure out that this is an extremely dangerous situation.

So I see Israel sitting on a hotbox of their own making even if there were no West Bank or Gaza.

I am deeply dismayed that the Jewish conversation about these issues is so backward. It’s the most reactionary community around. Am I being too pessimistic or hard on that community? What are the signs of the change among Jews?

You say you’re deeply dismayed by the Jewish conversation. I know that– this comes through in your postings. Sometimes I feel that you’re being a bit too pessimistic. I think you are hard on them, hard on us maybe I should say, but many times I have to say it’s merited. In this country we have a Jewish establishment that’s getting older and older, it’s completely ossified in its thinking, it does not understand what’s happen on the ground. To think seriously that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic?! That’s totally self deluding. If they think that, they are setting up this firewall against anybody that has criticisms. And they will be the last to know that these changes are happening. Because they can’t see it, they’re in the bubble; and to protect themselves, they are becoming more vicious.

And the Jewish young people, we often don’t hear much from them in the Jewish press, because they’re leaving the established Jewish world. They’re slamming the door. I think that’s a big factor in the changes in the Jewish community. The old part is still very strong, ridiculously strong. But how long they will hold on, I don’t know.

You and three or four other wonderful civil-rights veteran Jews went on that Open Hillel tour of campuses last spring. These are people who should have been welcomed into every goddamn synagogue in the country to celebrate what they represent. They were shunned because of what they were saying about Israel. Who can save Israel if not these people? No one. It’s too late. That is my reflection. Can you reflect on the tour months later?

When we went on the Open Hillel tour, it wasn’t the synagogues that didn’t welcome us. What was worse–the campus Hillels didn’t welcome us. That’s worse. For these young people supposedly being taught in the United States of America that they should listen to various issues in order to make up their minds– 12 out of 13 Hillel’s wouldn’t welcome us.

But—we spoke at those 13 campuses. The Hillel’s didn’t welcome us but the other student groups rushed in to welcome us. And very many of those people were Jews. So this illustrates what I’m saying. The establishment leadership still thinks they still have things under control. And they intimidate the Hillel’s from inviting people like us. But they don’t realize that 20 to 30 percent of the membership of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is Jewish. All over the country, the Hillel establishment is losing the kids, and those are the most vital, the most energetic, and the most thoughtful and critical kids. So the old-time Jewish establishment is hanging on to this institutional structure, like hanging on to a fish’s spine after you eat the fish.

If the established Jewish leadership has more rebellions like Open Hillel and they have more desertions, I suspect that what will happen is that the Jewish community leadership institutionally will get more and more vicious until they begin to see that the house of cards is falling down.

That’s what I’ve been feeling about the occupation: I don’t see that we’re going to lose this, how we can lose this? The Palestinians are going to win just by staying there. They practice “sumud,” the Arabic word for being “steadfast.” They’re going to win, because this is not a society that’s going to adapt to them under these conditions. The only way that Israel can adapt– the government of Israel can adapt– is by making this a multi-lingual multi-ethnic state, that’s the only way the pressure can be taken off.

But in order to prevent that from happening, since the Israeli government has the guns, the tanks, the airplanes– it looks to me like they could become more and more vicious and could use them.

On the street, I’m seeing more people with thumbs up, and more people who have always been opposed but who are more hateful in their responses. That seems to me to be a situation that’s going to go on for some time until there’s a tipping point, til people realize especially in Europe that they’re betting on the wrong horse.

What’s possibly analogous is the jockeying behind the scenes that occurred among the white rulers of South Africa when they realized that the end was near. There evidently were some white people who were smart enough to know that if they wanted to keep power, they had to give up some of their power. You could call them enlightened capitalists, whatever you want to call them. I think that’s starting to happen in Israel. We’re seeing the security apparatus openly criticizing Netanyahu, and who knows what else is going on that we don’t know anything about. They may be saying to themselves, this is the situation, it’s better to cope with reality. Better to do a, b, and c so that we keep a lot of what we have.

I do not see this state of affairs going on another 50 years, like it has in the past. This is not stable, this is not sustainable. The tide is definitely turning against the Israeli government.

Now it’s hard to see that on the ground; it’s hard when you go to these pro-Israel meetings and you see the same old hysteria. But if you look around, a lot of people at those meetings, in ten years are going to be dead. They’re in their 70’s and 80’s, and they’re clinging to some vision they had in 1948; and some of that vision was a good vision. I don’t want to take that away from them: the vision they had of being you know a phoenix coming out of the ashes and being a non-materialist society–which it actually was in the beginning. But they’re clinging on to that vision. And we know from what’s recently come out, a lot of people who fought for the Haganah, they were fighting because people told them it was kill or be killed. Many of them later came to realize: why did 700,000 Palestinians have to be removed, never to be permitted to come back, and all their goods stolen? Some people have had a crisis of conscience. And that’s why studying the Nakba is very important. And all the movies being made about that are very important. My favorite one is “The Great Book Robbery,” about all the books that were taken. Let’s not even talk about the houses, let’s talk about what’s was in the houses. Tom Segev says there was a warehouse in Tel Aviv with 50,000 rugs in it. And people just came and took whatever they wanted. Who did they think they were taking them from? This has to be dealt with.

And though it all looks permanent from the outside, it’s not. It’s totally impermanent. When the Palestinian citizens of Israel get organized, wow, we’re really going to be seeing something else.


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