Amtrak Hosts Synagogue Vigil Summit
In the early hours of December 3, a meeting of the leaders of the only two known synagogue protests in the world was held at the Amtrak terminal in Denver, Colorado. The California Zephyr stopped for fuel and supplies while plans to continue protests in Ann Arbor and Boulder on Saturday mornings were shared. Since that time, Michael Rabb, of the Colorado University Divestment organization (cu-divest) has coordinated another protest at the Bonai Shalom Congregation on December 15. He writes:
We did it again!
Four courageous partisans for Free Palestine stood vigil in front of Congregation Bonai Shalom this morning, the last day of Hanukka. We were “greeted” by way more thumbs up and horn-honks than by people giving us the finger.
Read more about their successful protest here.
Déjà vu All Over Again
Michael is faced with Jewish peace activists quite upset with his efforts to ask American Jews to stop supporting Israel. Michael’s critics employ the same types of false premises and specious arguments directed against Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends. We used to get “well reasoned” letters explaining how our message was sound, but the location left room for improvement. Here’s a comment from a concerned Jewish friend of Michael’s:
Wouldn’t it be far better to focus your attention, now, in areas where you can be effective?
In other words, “Go away.” We Jewish activists (JWPF recalls the DEW* signals from Phillis Engelbert and Laurie White of Ann Arbor’s then-largest bit now-defunct “peace” group) will tell you what is effective and what isn’t, and brother, standing in front of a synagogue with protest signs sure as heck isn’t.
Michael’s critic continues:
Furthermore, my suggestions were not to Pause, but rather to consider carefully where you apply your current strategy, and it comes from my own experience as a Jew undergone significant and life altering transformation.
We see that Michael, afflicted with goyische limited intelligence, needs supervision and parental care to see that his efforts deliver the most bang for the buck. And who better to perform this task than peace activist Jews whose only goal appears to be preventing Jews from being held in any way responsible for the travesty that is the Jewish state. By the way, did you catch the “creds” delivered by this concerned friend of Michael’s?
Fortunately, Michael is not swayed by such argumentation. Nor is he swayed by the old “progressive” plea. Again, from Michael’s critic:
I just called into question your selection a house of worship and of a very progressive Jewish congregation – that next week will begin a series of Jewish-Palestinian dialogues with congregants, and one whose Rabbi is very sympathetic to the cause of Palestinian justice – he just doesn’t want to meet with you (he heard you are argumentative and unresponsive).
According to this critic – and to many an Ann Arbor Jew who will not hold their own community accountable – if we just go away, they will be able to bring their message of peace and understanding to the Jewish community in the only way that community will understand. Only then will there be peace in Palestine.
Except … that prior to these “ineffective” synagogue vigils, when Jewish intellectuals ruled the debate, little or nothing positive for Palestinians had been achieved; in fact, the wanton aggression and disregard for human rights by the Jewish state has only increased. So when upstart groups like CU-Divest and JWPF challenge Jewish supremacism in Palestine and in our own local communities, these advance sayanim [Hebrew: assistant] rush to the defense of the guilty, and in so doing, throw Palestine once again under the wheels of the train.
Ann Arbor Chronicle Covers City Council Address
Dave Askins details our presentation to Ann Arbor City Council of December 17. His report can be read here, and is reprinted after signature
Israel: No Right to Exist
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends
* – Distant Early Warning Line to detect incoming Soviet bombers in the 1950’s
Ann Arbor Chronicle
Comm/Comm: Palestinian Rights
Henry Herskovitz reported that he’d read in December’s Washtenaw Jewish News an article with the headline: “Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice condemns synagogue protests.” [.pdf of WJN article] [Herskovitz participates in the weekly demonstrations near the Beth Israel Congregation. Ward 5 councilmember Chuck Warpehoski is the executive director of the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice.]
In a previous issue of the Jewish News, Henry Brysk had criticized Warpehoski, who was then a candidate for city council, calling him a “‘nuanced anti-Zionist’ as if that’s a bad thing,” Herskovitz said. Herskovitz quoted from the piece by Brysk: “The ICPJ has refused to condemn the Herskovite harassment of Beth Israel Congregation …” Herskovitz indicated that he felt there’s a cause-and-effect relationship between the Brysk’s criticism of Warpehoski and the ICPJ’s condemnation of the demonstrations. [.pdf of Brysk’s letter in WJN, published in the summer 2012 issue]
Herskovitz stated that it was unfortunate that the Jewish community in Ann Arbor wielded more power than its relative percentage of the population. Herskovitz drew a comparison of cause-and-effect from eight years ago, when the council and the mayor received a letter from Barry Gross complaining about the council’s lack of action about the weekly demonstrations. Herskovitz quoted from the letter: “The time when your silence was acceptable is long past. The 470 family units in our congregation virtually all live in Ann Arbor. We are avid voters. We are watching closely for your response.” A short time later, the council passed a resolution condemning the weekly demonstrations, Herskovitz said.
Herskovitz noted that the previous month new councilmembers had been sworn into office. That oath includes a promise to uphold the U.S. Constitution, which includes the right of free speech. He indicated that he thought the council was abdicating its responsibility to uphold the Constitution, based on “bullying tactics of a small but powerful group.” He asked the council to remember its oath to uphold the Constitution.