The Deir Yassin Remembered Blog

Report on Beth Israel vigil 03-22-14

Posted on April 5th, 2014 at 7:05 am by

Probably My Fault

Much was made this week of the large meeting of the University of Michigan’s Central Student Government, which drew over 600 supporters and opponents of a resolution calling for “CSG to petition the Board of Regents to create an ad hoc committee to investigate University investments in companies accused of violating human rights, including General Electric, Heidelberg Cement, Caterpillar Inc. and United Technologies.” The CSG first stonewalled the resolution offered by Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE), but relented to conduct a vote after a week of sit-ins at the CSG offices organized by SAFE. The resolution was defeated 25 to 9 with 5 council members abstaining.

Now, I thought this to be an opportunity to (a) support SAFE and its resolution; (b) challenge the Jewish dominance that exists in the movement; and (c) to make clear to all that there were larger issues, e.g. Israel’s claimed “right” to exist as a Jewish state. I did this by wearing my “End Israel” hat and carrying a sign saying “Boycott Israel”. I received a surprising reaction.

Several Arab women approached and asked me to remove my hat, because that wasn’t the message they were trying to deliver that night. A former officer of SAFE – and a signatory to the statement disavowing the alleged racism and anti-Semitism of Gilad Atzmon – echoed the women’s request. A Jewish man begged me “from the bottom of my heart” to put away the sign.

You see, they were trying to convince CSG to pass a resolution so focused and narrow that all they were asking for was the creation of a committee to look into and perhaps find some tiny little infraction of human rights violations, and then take this to the Regents of the University of Michigan. And they just knew that by questioning the legitimacy of the Jewish supremacist state that is destroying the land and culture Palestine would ruin their chances of getting this tepid resolution passed. In the end, the resolution was defeated soundly, not even garnering one-quarter of the votes cast.

The Fix was In

Campus Jewish Zionists brought in Jewish Professor Victor Lieberman to lead the fight opposing the resolution; it appears he created his usual mixture of falsehoods sprinkled with a dash of truth now and then in an attempt to appear balanced. SAFE’s response was to bring in the Jewish peace activist and author Max Blumenthal. Now what’s wrong with this picture? Jews on the left, Jews on the right, the Jewish state committing genocide against the Palestinian people, but Jews aren’t being held responsible. And Palestinians have to turn to the ranks of the oppressor group for support.

Jewish Students Offended

After these dialogues with Arab students I put down the “Boycott Israel” sign in favor of the expanded call from Arab leaders in the movement “Israel: No Right to Exist”. That brought the Jews out of the woodwork just as surely as Polish Catholics will appear for free paczkis on Fat Tuesday. For over 30 minutes I was pelted with questions and attempts to block the sign from view. Here’s a sampling of what was said:

Jewish woman: “My grandmother’s friends died in the Holocaust”
Me: “That’s terrible, but I’ve found nobody really wants to talk about the Holocaust”
Jewish man: “What do you mean by that?”
Me: “Well, in the first place, the Zionists were so organized that they were able to hold their first World Zionist Organization meeting in 1897. Adolf Hitler was then eight years old. And secondly, no one can produce a single photo of a homicidal gas chamber”
Jewish man: “The Nazis destroyed everything”
Me: “Not very convincing – did they force all privately taken photos to be burned as well?”
Jewish man (pointing and looking around for support): “He’s denying the Holocaust!”
Another Jewish man: “Are you denying the Holocaust?”
Me: “Define ‘Holocaust'”
He: “Where Jews were rounded up and were murdered in concentration camps”
Me: “Then no, I’m not denying the Holocaust. But I’m not sure that mass murder in camps deserves the name Holocaust”

Some Lessons

1. Never pay blackmail. Some JWPF members remember when a UM professor attempted to get a divestment resolution – similar to SAFE’s this week – introduced at a Regents meeting, circa 2005. This man distributed petitions to students, faculty, and the public for signing. I placed my signature on his petition, but after cajoling from Jewish faculty that they would not sign a document to which I had attached my signature, he removed my name without my approval. The result: the Jewish profs didn’t sign onto the resolution anyway.

2. Don’t play defense. Don’t respond to the opponent’s games of intimidation or playing to Jewish sensibilities. Challenge their assumptions. Ask why Jews were persecuted in Europe (not only Germany), and don’t accept mindless hatred or religion as reasons. Read Alison Weir’s Against our Better Judgment; How the US was used to create Israel to find some surprising reasons challenging mindless hatred.

3. Go for the Gusto. If you’re going to be called names (just read some comments against the SAFE students) for raising tepid issues, then allow yourself to fight for justice and the complete liberation of Palestine. Deny Israel’s claimed “right” to exist. Shed false leaders. Tell Jewish friends that to save themselves, they first have to liberate themselves from their own shackles.

4. Remember Frederick Douglass: “If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation…want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters…. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”


Nine vigilers
Time to End the Jewish State
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends

April 1-14: Global Commemoration of the Deir Yassin Massacre

Posted on March 29th, 2014 at 11:16 pm by



Deir Yassin Remembered –
Gill Kaffash – – +44 7919 871845
Paul Eisen – – +44 7831 627560

Pictured below is Ehab Hassan Shalabi, the nephew of Omar Shalabi, Fatah Secretary-General (Jerusalem) and Deir Yassin Remembered board member. The elder Shalabi will be visiting the UK for Deir Yassin Day 2014, accompanied by Madam Shalabi.

Secretary-General and Madam Shalabi will be joined by Madam Rasmieh Nimr Mustafa (Family Eid) a Deir Yassin survivor and by Thair Anis, Deir Yassin Remembered Director (Ramallah)

We’re delighted to say that this brave young man. Ehab, has just been released from an Israeli prison and we share in the joy of his family, friends, and fellow strugglers. However, our joy is tempered by our concern for Omar’s son Iyad who remains behind bars.

Ehab Hassan Shalabi

Report on Beth Israel vigil 03-15-14

Posted on March 22nd, 2014 at 8:17 am by

Abunimah: Absolutely No Reconciliation with Atzmon

(How far our former heroes have fallen)

Ali Abunimah introduced his new book, The Battle for Justice in Palestine, to about thirty people at a presentation at UM Dearborn (University of Michigan, Dearborn campus) last Tuesday. I asked him whether, in response to Blake Alcott’s request to “bury the hatchet” he would be willing to sit down with Gilad Atzmon and publicly hash out their differences.

“Absolutely not” was his reply, and it actually received a smattering of applause from the audience. I then followed up with a request that, for the benefit of this audience, he briefly describe his differences with Atzmon.

“It’s all in the letter” was all he said, and Shaheen (not her real name), the student organizer for the event, supported Abunimah, saying that she had read Alcott’s piece and Granting No Quarter: A Call for the Disavowal of the Racism and Anti-semitism of Gilad Atzmon.

Shaheen subsequently refused an email request to continue the conversation, writing, “In addition, as a person who is not Jewish, I do not feel that my perspective belongs in conversations about Jewish identity politics and whether or not Gilad has expressed anti-Semitic views.”

I responded “It appears … that your ‘not Jewish’ admission speaks exactly to the power that Gilad writes about. Your perspective belongs in these conversations, absolutely! Why wouldn’t it? Ali’s homeland (might be yours, too … I don’t know) has been under siege by the Jewish state for almost as long as I’ve been alive. And this state gets support from almost all mainstream Jewish organizations worldwide. So it appears to me perfectly normal to question all aspects of the behavior of this Jewish state, including Jewish identity politics. It’s my belief that Gilad’s book is an attempt to do just that, and, from my perspective, not at all in a mean-spirited way.”

Ali also extolled the work of Jewish Voice for Peace and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, which causes me to wonder why a displaced Palestinian would collaborate with Jewish peace organizations who also consider Jewish identity politics, and Israel’s legitimacy, to be verboten topics. When, in The Wandering Who, Gilad defines Zionism as a Jewish tribal preservation project, it becomes clear that Ali Abunimah has sided with those who promote Jewish interests above Palestinian interests and the cause of justice and peace. It is with regret that Ali has become a tacit ally of the Jewish intellectuals who dominate the movement.

Ali said that Israel cannot teach the US about racism because the US promotes its own brand of racism (against Blacks, Latinos, Natives). Hello, Mr. Abunimah, it is not American racism that has ravaged your country, and continues to do so. It is Israeli and American Jewish racism – supported clearly by Jews worldwide – that is doing so, and for you to “spread the blame” is, in my opinion, protecting the very ones you should be holding accountable.

He pointed out the chapter in his book, which asks “Does Israel have a right to exist as a Jewish state?”, but did not answer the question at the presentation. Hopefully, he will answer the question in the book. Finally, and for the record, Gilad Atzmon was contacted prior to writing this report and shared his willingness to sit down with Ali anytime.

Vigils Defended at City Council

Last fall, Rev. James Rhodenhiser spoke at an Ann Arbor City council meeting to denounce our vigils, covered in the local press. Peacemonger had responded in the blog post, The Mediocrity of James Rhodenhiser at the time, and we felt it incumbent to address the issue at the venue in which it was raised. Our talk was televised, and by clicking here and fast-forwarding to 00:29:00, you can view the presentation. Text of speech follows signature.


Mar. 8: 9 vigilers
Mar. 15: 8 vigilers
“It’s the Jews, Stupid!” … Michael Rabb, Boulder
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends

Speech to Ann Arbor City Council
March 17, 2014 [402 words]
Topic: Synagogue vigils at Beth Israel Congregation

Good Evening,

The peaceful vigils we have held in front of Beth Israel Congregation for over ten years has borne the brunt of many a critic’s voice, as recently as last fall when the Rev. James Rhodenhiser of the St. Clare Episcopal Church addressed this body.

I would like to respond to some of the Reverend’s assertions about our group, Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends. According to the Ann Arbor dot com article by Ryan Stanton, the Reverend said that we have

“a right to free speech but it’s wrong to target Beth Israel for the actions of a foreign government”

This is an incorrect statement. We have never held the synagogue responsible for the crimes of the Jewish state; we have held them accountable for their own self-expressed SUPPORT for the existence of and the crimes committed by this state.

Reverend Rhodenhiser also joined others in claiming that our vigil group “at the very least should ‘spread the blame around’ and target different congregations — and give Beth Israel a break.”

This reveals another incorrect assumption: that we are unfairly singling out Beth Israel Congregation for a crime that is also committed by other religious denominations. But I doubt that the services at Rhodenhiser’s Saint Clare’s Episcopal Church include prayers for the state of Israel; nor do they of their own volition fly the flag of a foreign country within their sanctuary; nor does he take parishioners’ children to Israel and – as part of their indoctrination – pose them with armed Israeli soldiers perched on military vehicles. And St. Clare’s website is not full of admiration for armed violence when, for example, Israel invades Gaza or Lebanon.

No, these moral shortcomings are unique to the Jewish community. After all, Israel is not an Episcopalian state; it’s a Jewish state and enjoys almost total support from organized Jewish religious and political organizations. And that is precisely why we choose as a venue a Zionist synagogue whose entire membership – according to Rabbi Rob Dobrusin – supports Israel’s claimed right to exist as a Jewish state.

Malcolm X recognized clearly that the racism inherent in the Black struggle for equality in the US existed entirely within the white community. And so it is that the racism which prevents Palestinians from achieving their equal rights exists entirely within the Jewish community.

To Pastor Rhodenhiser, Malcolm X and I ask, which side are you on?

Thank you

April 1-14: Global Commemoration of the Deir Yassin Massacre

Posted on March 21st, 2014 at 1:07 am by



Deir Yassin Remembered –
Gill Kaffash – – +44 7919 871845
Paul Eisen – – +44 7831 627560

Early in the morning of April 9th 1948, commandos of the Irgun (headed by Menachem Begin) and the Stern Gang attacked Deir Yassin, a beautiful Arab village with cut stone houses located on the west side of Jerusalem. It was several weeks before the end of the British Mandate and the declaration of the State of Israel. The village lay outside the area to be assigned by the United Nations to the Jewish state; it had a peaceful reputation; it was even said by a Jewish newspaper to have driven out some Arab militants. But it was located on high ground in the corridor between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and with the knowledge of the mainstream Jewish defence force, the Haganah, it was to be conquered and held.

In spite of being better armed, the two Jewish gangs were at first unable to conquer the village. But after they elicited the help of a small band of Palmach troops (the elite fighters of the Haganah), Deir Yassin soon fell. The Palmach soldiers left; it was then that the massacre began. That evening over tea and cookies, in the neighbouring Jewish settlement of Givat Shaul, gang members told foreign correspondents that over 200 Arabs were killed and forty taken prisoner. This was reported in the New York Times the very next day (4/10/48, p. 6). The terrorists claimed to have lost four of their own forces. They boasted of the “battle” but made no mention of the male Palestinians whom they had loaded onto trucks, paraded through some Jewish sections of Jerusalem, and then taken back to a stone quarry between Givat Shaul and Deir Yassin and shot to death. On April 13th the New York Times reported that 254 Arab men, women, and children had been killed at Deir Yassin; there was no mention of prisoners.

The official Zionist leaders of the Haganah denounced the dissidents of the Irgun and the Stern Gang accusing them of massacre, robbery, looting and barbarism. Ben Gurion even sent an apology to King Abdullah. But this horrific act served the future state of Israel well. As Begin said, “Arabs throughout the country, induced to believe wild tales of ‘Irgun butchery’ were seized with limitless panic and started to flee for their lives. This mass flight soon developed into a maddened, uncontrollable stampede. The political and economic significance of this development can hardly be over estimated.” (The Revolt, p. 164)

While modern historians argue that Begin’s claims were exaggerated and that the actual number of Arabs killed was closer to 100, they all agree that the massacre at Deir Yassin marked the beginning of the depopulation of over 400 Arab villages and the exile of over 700,000 Palestinians.

In spite of protests by Martin Buber and other noted scholars, within a year the village was repopulated with orthodox Jewish immigrants from Poland, Rumania and Slovakia. Its cemetery was bulldozed and its name was wiped off the map.

Deir Yassin Today

Although virtually all Palestinians in the world know of Deir Yassin, few have ever been there. The site is not identified on post-1948 maps of Israel. But it is not difficult to find. The central part of Deir Yassin is a cluster of buildings now used as a mental hospital. To the east lies the industrial area of Givat Shaul; to the north lies Har Hamenuchot (the Jewish cemetery), to the west, built into the side of the mountain on which Deir Yassin is located is Har Nof, a new settlement of orthodox Jews. To the south is a steep valley terraced and containing part of the Jerusalem Forest. On the other side of that valley, roughly a mile and a half from Deir Yassin  and in clear view of it, are Mount Herzl and Yad Vashem.

While not difficult to find, Deir Yassin today is not easy to visit. There are few places to park. Admittance to the mental hospital grounds is understandably restricted. There are no signs, no plaques, no memorials of any kind. The cemetery is largely gone; the ruins of the deir (monastery) are unmarked; and the quarry from which the residents made a living and in which the bodies of those who were massacred were piled up and burned is likely buried under a fuel storage depot on the south side of the mountain. The orthodox Jews living in the area are not friendly to outsiders and either do not know or refuse to acknowledge any history of Deir Yassin. Not surprisingly, picture taking invites suspicion and criticism. There are no markers, no plaques, no memorials – to all intents and purposes Deir Yassin is no more.

My mother was ill, she was pregnant. They threw something into our house. My sister ran to it and threw it out again and she sent me to tell our father who was still in Kastel. -Deir Yassin survivor Abu Ashraf,  aged 7 at the time of the massacre, at London commemoration, Deir Yassin Day 2012

They Said from Leon Rosselson on Myspace.

Report on Beth Israel vigil 03-01-14

Posted on March 10th, 2014 at 1:37 pm by

Now Hear This!

If you are READING this report and have EVER stood with Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends at ANY TIME during the past 10 years, whether it be at the Zionist Beth Israel Congregation or ANY OTHER venue, or whether you’ve STATED your support of the efforts of our group, then YOU are invited to our ten-year anniversary celebration party which will be held on

March 15, 2014
7:00 – 10:00 PM
Ypsilanti, Michigan

Please CONTACT this writer for address and directions to this soiree.

Who’s Not Coming to Dinner

From JWPF’s “D’oh!!”* department comes this flash: The University (of Michigan) Musical Society (UMS) will be violating the Palestinian Call for BDS/PACBI by hosting the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra. Coincidentally, this Israeli funded ensemble is performing at the SAME TIME as our celebration party (March 15). JWPF will thus not be able to organize the street protest necessary to challenge “Israel’s musical ambassador throughout the country and the world.” In the words of Vigiler S, this group applies the “lipstick on the pig” to make palatable the violent destruction of Palestinian culture, land and property.

Please note: If you know anyone who has inadvertently and mistakenly purchased tickets to this event, please contact this writer, who will raise the funds to have these tickets purchased. In that way the Palestinian call for boycotting Israel will be honored.

* – We should have checked the UMS calendar before proceeding with our plans for our party …  :>(

Aw, Shucks!

Vigiler L wanted to have a small gathering of the “core” group of vigilers, i.e. those who were present at Beth Israel at least twenty times in 2013. And so, with the generosity of Deir Yassin Remembered Executive Director Dan McGowan, we treated ourselves to a congratulatory feast in January.

Paul Eisen picked up on this, and wrote the following words:

The Core

These are the most effective, perhaps the only Palestine solidarity activists on the planet.

They’re the core Beth Israel vigilers of Ann Arbor, Michigan

They don’t look much do they? That’s their secret.

Core vigilers 2014

Aw, shucks, Paul, ’tweren’t nothing!


January 25: 7 viglers
February 1: 7 vigilers
Feb. 8: 9 vigilers
Feb. 15: 7 vigilers
Feb. 22: 3 vigilers
Mar. 1: 5 vigilers

Boycott Israel; End the Jewish State.
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends

Report on Beth Israel vigil 01-18-14

Posted on January 26th, 2014 at 12:18 pm by

Embrace the Ides of March

From JWPF’s “Better Late than Never” department, it is with great joy that we announce a party celebrating our ten years standing for a just peace in Palestine. The date of this soiree will be March 15, 2014 at a private location in neighboring Ypsilanti, Michigan. This invitation is open to all those folks who have EVER held a sign, and stood with us even once during this past decade, personal differences notwithstanding. You stood, you’re invited. It’s that simple. No formal dinner, some snacks provided. Bring your own finger food and/or liquid libation. An evening to relax, rehash, and imagine. Please plan on attending, more details as they pan out.

Who Wants to be an Editor?

Your opinion is desired. Feel free to reply personally or leave a comment below. Remembering last week’s report and the image of my “End ‘Israel'” hat, we felt it helpful to the cause to have a ready and simple printed handout for folks who express curiosity at the phrase “End ‘Israel'”. So far, this is the best we got. Can it be improved? Written more succinctly? A different tack, perhaps? Let us know.

Why We Say, “End ‘Israel'”

In 1948 the world witnessed the formation of two states based on a system of racial discrimination we call Apartheid. One of these states was South Africa and featured what we called White Supremacism, and the other is Israel, featuring Jewish supremacism. In the 1980’s world opinion focused on South Africa, and justice prevailed: the system of Apartheid was dismantled. As the world focuses on the injustices and atrocities committed by Israel to maintain Jewish rule, that Apartheid system, too, will be dismantled. The difference being that when the entire population achieves equal rights, the people will choose to adopt the land’s original “Palestine” and reject “Israel” as the name imposed upon them by 20th century Zionists.


Six vigilers
End “Israel”
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends

Report on Beth Israel vigil 01-11-14

Posted on January 20th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by

Hate and Hate Speech

My partner gets pulled off the dance floor this week by a close friend of hers who opines that my t-shirt and hat are examples of the hate that she’s certain lies within me and is the sole driver of my activism. This close friend is a social worker and recognizes hate. Did I mention that she’s also Jewish?

Hate Speech

A neighbor begs for help from Ann Arbor City Council members from the hate speech she encounters walking past my house and looking at the small imprint in the sidewalk which says, “Stop US Aid to Israel 2008″. This person is not Jewish, but most likely has been instructed since birth that Jews are eternal victims and need her support.

A Diversion

Typing in “hate speech” into Google can get one mired for weeks trying to nail this glob of jelly to the wall in an attempt to tease out the definition of this term. Is there a legal definition? Why do people throw it around other than to tarnish a message they don’t like? If nothing else, Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends’ ten-year-old vigil stakes the claim that our actions certainly do not fall into the legal category of hate speech. Otherwise the clever lawyers inside the brick walls of Beth Israel Congregation would long ago have had us prosecuted for violating this chimera called hate speech.

One observes that Israel has committed atrocities against the Palestinian people for over 65 years; he observes that this Jewish state, using its emissaries in the US government, synagogues, media and think tanks, works feverishly to maintain the fiction of coinciding national interests when none exist; he observes outright murder of US citizens by this Jewish state and the US government is bribed or bullied into embarrassing silence by the Jewish Lobby from prosecuting these murders; he observes that Zionism – the invasion of European Jews into the Middle East to create a Jewish supremacist state – is primarily responsible for these atrocities and is convinced that the general public, armed with similar information, will no longer support a Jewish state.

And after considering these observations and convictions he initiates actions, holds political protests at powerful Zionist synagogues and churches, and wears clothing with phrases designed to provoke thought and conversation. But he doesn’t learn that pointing these things out and acting on them are examples of hate speech, according to some gate keepers on the political left.

Is it 1984 yet?

Michigan Weather

A steady 38-degree rain fell on a foot of already-fallen snow, producing hazardous conditions for standing still and holding signs at our last vigil. This writer called a few of our senior citizens and leaders and encouraged them to stay home and sit this one out. Three veteran vigilers and one rookie showed up.

Four vigilers
No Hate
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends
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