Posts Tagged ‘Jewish Voice for peace’

Free Speech/Hate Speech Conversation in White Plains NY Nov. 5

October 15, 2015

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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!

 

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

Reflections on a National Gathering of Jewish Peace and Justice Activists

March 20, 2015
by Donna Nevel          Huffington Post March 20, 2015

One of the things that I kept hearing this past weekend at the Jewish Voice for Peace National Membership Meeting (JVP NMM) was how people felt pushed in their thinking. Guided by the weekend’s theme — We’re not waiting — more than 600 people from across the country gathered both to envision the future and think concretely about how to be as meaningfully engaged as possible with the movement for justice in Palestine.

The weekend was intergenerational, inspirational, challenging, and, most significantly for me, had us all struggling with issues — from Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) and Assaults on Academic Freedom to Islamophobia and Challenging Militarization and Police Violence — in new ways and more intentionally recognizing and building upon the intersections among the various parts of our work and organizing.

Plenary sessions, which included JVP leaders along with deep thinkers and activists Sa’ed Adel Atshan, Reverend Dr. Heber M. Brown III, Amer Shurrab, Andrea Smith and others — helped lay the groundwork for the weekend. Amer Shurrab stated in the opening plenary, which was echoed by others throughout the weekend, that peace and justice required, quite simply and directly, equal rights for all. Reverend Brown, who had recently been to Palestine and Israel, spoke with tremendous passion about how to engage in our inter-connected work for justice: “It is important that struggles engage in deep listening and allow themselves to be transformed by each other.” Back and forth between theoretical analyses and concrete strategies for action, their words clearly resonated with an audience of energetic and committed people.

The Nakba and right of return were also centered throughout the weekend, with presentations by Basem Sbaih from Badil and Liat Rosenberg from Zochrot, which reflected a commitment to insuring that these foundational issues would not simply be an “add-on” to other discussions. Rosenberg stated with clarity: “The Nakba was not a one-time event in 1948; it is ongoing,” with further emphasis by Sbaih. “We have to be honest, this work is really hard. The displacement of Palestinians is ongoing today.”

People seemed anxious to learn more, to connect with others engaged in this work, and to deepen their own analysis that would help shape and inform their organizing.

I thought Andrea Smith’s thinking and analysis were transformative and helped lift us to a new level. She spoke of the struggles and challenges of Native peoples in this country — one that is ongoing — and about the importance of understanding colonization in all its manifestations. She also spoke about the importance of envisioning what is possible in new and expansive ways.

Well over 100 college students attended the meeting. I spent time with lovely, committed students from Guilford College and Pitzer College, all of whom are involved with SJP on their campuses. They are facing formidable challenges from those on their campuses who want to shut down their organizing and silence the position that supports justice for Palestine, but they will not be deterred. Responding to attacks from members of the local Jewish community and from Hillel that her college isn’t safe for Jewish students because they bring in pro-Palestine speakers like Steven Salaita, Guilford College student Sara Minsky recently wrote a letter explaining why she feels safe as a Jewish student at Guilford precisely because of its stated commitment to fostering critical, open discussion about Palestine/Israel.

JVP’s role in the broader movement was also interwoven into numbers of discussions. People spoke about how to be an effective and responsible and responsive partner in a Palestinian-led movement; to continue to grow and deepen its work in Jewish communities across the country; to be intentional and bold. At the final plenary, Angela Davis spoke about the importance of JVP’s leadership and the pivotal role of JVP in conjunction with movements against racism in the U.S., while also stressing the importance of leadership coming from communities of color.

The weekend was not without its tensions or differences. From quite different perspectives on the nature and reality of anti-Semitism today and whether it should be integrated into JVP’s work to those struggling with the specifics and actual meaning of the right of return and the articulated concept of dezionizing Israel, probing discussion and debate on these and other issues continued well after the sessions had ended.

The most powerful part of the meeting for me was what felt like a wide-spread recognition that all that was generated throughout the weekend would become part of the thinking, the strategizing, and the organizing after it ended. And that JVP is doing its work in concert with, and as part of a global movement for racial justice that truly spans from Ferguson to Palestine.

*I am a member of JVP’s board of directors.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/donna-nevel/reflections-on-a-national_1_b_6907006.html

Landmark New York Synagogue attempts to shut down Nakba discussion

March 19, 2015

  Annie Robbins on Mondoweiss     March 19, 2015

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

http://mondoweiss.net/2015/03/landmark-synagogue-discussion

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.

Tell Our Senators: STAND UP FOR PALESTINE

October 7, 2014
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Jews Say No!  getting ready to deliver letters to Senators Schumer and Gillibrand

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We Tell Our Senators: STAND UP FOR PALESTINE

October 7, 2014

October 6, 2014

Press Release

CONSTITUENTS OPPOSE NEW YORK SENATORS’ SUPPORT FOR

ISRAEL’S ONGOING HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

Protest in Front of Their Offices to Last Eight Hours

 New York City  Today, a coalition of more than twenty community groups will stand from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in front of the New York City offices of Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (780 Third Avenue) to protest their ongoing support for the Israeli government’s systematic violations of the Palestinian people’s basic human rights and their refusal to meet with constituents who do not support these policies. (See letter being delivered to the Senators this morning http://mondoweiss.net/2014/10/ny-senators-letter)

“Senator Schumer has repeatedly supported Israeli government aggression against the Palestinian people, including the latest assault on the Palestinians of Gaza,” said Candace Graff from Jewish Voice for Peace-NY, one of the co-sponsors of the day’s protest. “And both senators have failed to seek enforcement of laws requiring U.S. funding to be cut off to units of a country’s armed forces that have committed a ‘gross violation of human rights.’”  This law, known as the “Leahy Law,” applies to the Department of Defense and the State Department.

During Israel’s most recent assault on Gaza this summer, the Israeli military killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, at least 1,400 of them civilians, according to the UN, including 500 children. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented numerous instances in which Israeli forces violated the laws of war, employing disproportionate, reckless, and indiscriminate violence against the occupied and besieged population of Gaza, including attacks on hospitals, schools, and mosques, and the destruction of thousands of homes and civilian infrastructure. The coalition demands that both of New York’s senators hold Israel accountable to the letter and spirit of the Leahy Law, and support the holding of hearings to apply these laws to Israel, as to other human rights violators.

This protest is part of a broader movement gaining momentum worldwide. It is bringing together people from multiple communities who share a common commitment to justice and human rights. As articulated by Mohammad Hamad from The New School’s Students for Justice in Palestine, one of the day’s endorsing groups: “From Ferguson to Palestine, communities are joining one another to challenge oppressive structures and re-commit ourselves to stand for justice and against all manifestations of racism and bigotry.”

Today is a day to make these voices heard.

The day’s demonstration and events are co-sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace/NY and Jews Say No! and endorsed by Adalah NYBrooklyn ForPeaceCenter for Constitutional RightsCODEPINK NYC; CUNY4Palestine; Defense for Children InternationalPalestine; ; Direct Action Front for Palestine (DAFP); Granny Peace Brigade; JVP-Westchester; Middle East Crisis ResponsePalestinian Rights Committee of Upper Hudson PeaceActionPalestine sub-committee, NationalLawyers Guild; Northern Manhattan Neighbors for Peace and Justice; Queers Against Israeli Apartheid; Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Brooklyn CollegeSJP College of Staten Island; SJP SUNY New Paltz; SJP The New School; Veterans for Peace, Woodstock, NY chapter 058; World Can’t Wait; WESPAC FoundationWE WILL NOT BE SILENTWomen in Black Union Square.


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