The Deir Yassin Remembered Blog

Report on Beth Israel vigil 01-04-14

Posted on January 14th, 2014 at 4:57 pm by

Barghouti Clarifies: All of Palestine is NOT Occupied

Speaking to a crowd of about 100 people on the University of Michigan campus, BDS organizer Omar Barghouti gave a masterful presentation of the crimes of Israel and focused on the 1967 invasion of the West Bank and Gaza because “it’s more easily understood in America”. He detailed the destruction of tens of thousands of Palestinian books during the Nakba as a deliberate attempt to destroy Palestinian culture as well as ethnically cleansing the population from its lands. To his credit he used the J-word as well as the Z-word in describing the situation. He even went as far as to show the audience a picture of a “Ghetto Gate” in the illegal wall Israel is building on Palestinian land. So, good for him, he’s an incredibly gifted speaker, organizer and intellectual. And this writer, respecting Omar’s position, did not put the boilerplate question to him.

Remembering the Call

I did ask for clarification, however, on what appears to be a change in position of the BDS movement. Of the three demands contained in the boycott, he showed the audience No. 1:

End the 1967 occupation and colonization

And we note that the original call (2005) found on their website had as its first demand:

Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall

Omar was clear in his answer. There has been NO change in the stand of the demands of the BDS campaign: The first demand always focused on Palestinians in the Occupied Territories (1967), the second referred to Palestinian citizens of Israel (1948) and the third referred to the Palestinian refugee population world-wide.

Puzzling Responses

Since Omar had just responded to a similar question about the “occupation”, I added: Would you agree that ALL of Palestine is occupied?

And here’s where the hand leaves the arm: Barghouti and the BDS movement have restricted themselves – as have other intellectuals like Chomsky and Finkelstein – to “supporting International Law”, and since International Law does not consider all of Palestine to be occupied, neither does the BDS movement, according to Barghouti.

This is the same “International Law” that didn’t even recognize the voice of Palestinians when it “created” a Jewish state on their own land. The same International Law that gave equal voting rights to countries half a world away (e.g. Australia), while neighboring countries – those who would bear the brunt of the invasion by European Jews – were not given a neighbor’s preference.

On the question of the power of Christian Zionists vs. Jewish Zionists, Omar referred to them as “peanuts” compared to the military-industrial lobby as the lead group supporting the Jewish state. He’d better not let AIPAC Chair Lee Rosenberg hear him say that! Or debate Jeff Blankfort on the power of the Jewish Lobby.

In the opinion of this writer, Omar’s “highly principled” stand was long on rhetoric but short on substance when the topic turned to anti-Semitism. One of the Israelis in the audience wanted to know where Omar stood on the subject in the Palestine solidarity movement, and Omar appeared to be waiting for the question: He proudly announced that the BDS movement “stands against anti-Semites who try to speak on our behalf.” And we infer from that response his satisfaction in attempting to stifle the voice of Gilad Atzmon when he put his signature to the document “Granting No Quarter: A Call for the Disavowal of the Racism and Anti-Semitism of Gilad Atzmon.”

Yes, BDS takes many a principled stand against a formidable opponent, but it harms his movement when he not only fails to tackle the question of Jewish identity politics and the role it plays in the violent behavior of the Jewish state, but goes out of his way to censor the voices of those who do. We wonder what his response would be to group that has held peaceful vigils in front of a powerful Zionist synagogue for over ten years. Would he proclaim it to be “patently anti-Semitic?”

Omar answered a question on why the BDS movement fails to consider the crimes of Syria, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries. His answer was straightforward: Israel is the oppressor of the Palestinian people and that is why we focus on the crimes of Israel. But in his talk he asserted that Judaism and Jewishness had “nothing to do” with Israel’s crimes, and we felt he was whistling past the graveyard on this one. Mr. Barghouti: Israel defines itself as a Jewish state, uses Jewish soldiers and pilots with Jewish religious symbols on their weapons of destruction, and enjoys the support of Jewish organizations world-wide. How can you eliminate Judaism and Jewishness from the equation merely by denying its existence and influence?

And while we’re on the subject, why does he partner with the Left Zionists of Jewish Voice for Peace? Ever since JVP’s introduction into the Detroit area, we – Jewish WITNESSES for Peace and Friends – have been trying to put JVP’s position on the legitimacy of a Jewish state in Palestine on the table. Frustratingly, we have been denied this opportunity. We notice the depth of the influence of this left Zionist group — they have their own mission statement on the BDS website.

More to Omar’s credit, however, he gave excellent, thorough and totally debilitating responses to questions posed by Israeli students and their supporters. Comedian Amer Zahr told these infiltrators that he knew what it felt like to be a minority in a crowd, but did not envy their positions requiring them to fabricate facts to make it appear like they were actually asking questions.


There was no Vigil Report for 12-28-13 (8 vigilers)
6 vigilers for 01-04-14
Pushing the envelope
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends

Why such discord between Arab and Jew?

Posted on January 9th, 2014 at 1:57 am by

Below is the first stanza of “Semitic Blood Feud” by Gregory M. DeSylva. You can read the entire poem on the DYR main website.

“Come, let us go down and confuse their language,
that they may not understand one another’s speech.”

– Genesis 11:7

Why such discord between Arab and Jew?
Descended from Semites of Chaldea
via Noah’s son Shem –
both “Shem-ites” through and through;
Abraham, of Shem’s line, their patriarch
Arabs – scions of Ishmael, his first son
Jews – scions of Isaac, his second;

Report on Beth Israel vigil 12-21-13

Posted on December 29th, 2013 at 1:32 pm by

Chomsky Catfight?

OK, I might have reacted too quickly to a message on an email list by someone who offered a YouTube video of a speech by Noam Chomsky on the 14th amendment. I asked why, since the list description “rejects all anti-Semitism” and is “also opposed to all other forms of racism”, the writer is promoting the voice of Chomsky, given that he

- lived on an early settlement (euphamism: kibbutz)
– carried weapons to impose Jewish racism upon Palestinians
– has never renounced his contribution to Zionism (found to be racism by the UNGA in 1975)
– opposes the BDS movement
[he also diminishes the effect of the Jewish Lobby in the US …hh]

Even PeaceMonger didn’t take my side on this one, and that pushed me to reflect that my criticism was hasty. Yes, I admitted later, we can learn from even those who hold political positions different than ours, and hoped that my comment did not indicate any move to censor.


What about the words of Nahida Izzat, which also crossed my desk this week:

Bottom line is: Almost all the so called “anti-zionist” Jewish groups who “support” the Palestinians, have exactly the same aims and objectives as their zionist “enemy” ; i.e. enabling, supporting, and securing the Jewish-zionist project and their permanent illegal, and immoral colonization of Palestine, be it as it may under a different name and altered regime…This troubling conclusion urges to scrutinize how these facts have been translated as strategy on the ground. It appears that the strategy is manifested in three main aspects: diversion, holding back and steering:


What about a response to Paul Eisen’s observation:

The crime against the Palestinian people is being committed by a Jewish state with Jewish soldiers using weapons displaying Jewish religious symbols, and with the full support and complicity of the overwhelming mass of organised Jews worldwide. But to name Jews as responsible for this crime seems impossible to do.

We ask the question: Is Noam Chomsky part of the solution or part of the problem? He is Jewish. He is an iconic leader in the peace movement. But he diverts our attention from issues like Israel’s legitimacy, holds back his opinion on Israel’s claimed right to exist as a Jewish state, and steers us away from possibly effective strategies like BDS. And his behavior lends confirmation to the observation that holding Jews responsible for the crimes in Palestine seems impossible to do.

Activists need to hold their leaders’ feet to the fire, especially Jewish activists in the Palestine Liberation Movement. Our answer is that Chomsky is without doubt part of the problem. What do you think?


Eight vigilers
Saying “No” to Jewish Supremacism
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends

Report on Beth Israel vigil 12-14-13

Posted on December 22nd, 2013 at 12:37 pm by

A Story of Chris

A few weeks back my friend Chris spoke excitedly to me about a New Yorker article he’d just read and he wanted my opinion. So I read “Lydda, 1948″ and though we’ve spoken since, I feel an opportunity was missed during our brief follow-up discussion last night. Chris “gets it”, that is, he no longer thinks the destruction of Lydda was just a military necessity. He thinks that the choice the Jewish Zionists had: a Jewish state, or a standing village, was reprehensible, given the violent actions which followed.

Sensing this slight change in Chris’ attitude, from understanding to revulsion, I let the conversation pass. But, as I play back last night’s conversation a question keeps recurring, and with it, the obvious answer. Chris did NOT say: “Those effing Jews, someone has to put a stop to their egregious behavior.” He remained puzzled as to what the proper conclusion is, what his next course of action should be.

And here I think is the reason: Author Ari Shavit weaves such a Judeo-centric story that it becomes impossible to indict Jews for the massacre of Lydda, or the earlier massacre of Deir Yassin for that matter. I believe this is the reason he wrote the article in the first place.

He begins by tugging at his readers’ heartstrings, introducing Siegfried Lehmann, who moves his school for Jewish orphans to Palestine. How can you blame this good doctor for Lydda’s destruction? He mentions Martin Buber and Albert Einstein in a positive light. How can the reader blame them? He sprinkles in just enough of a whiff about “anti-Semitic pogroms” – without any attempt at deconstructing them – to produce this paralysis in his readers: How can you hold a people who have suffered so much culpable for the crimes they committed (and commit)?

Palestinians hardly exist as real characters in his story of Lydda. Shavit names a dozen Jews, but only one Palestinian gets a mention. In relaying a story about discussions held just prior to Lydda’s massacre, he names one speaker as military governor Shmarya Gutman, but the other speaker is merely one of the village “dignitaries”. No need to humanize the other, when you’re propping up the goodness of Jews.

Shavit must also lie to his readers to get his point across. He claims that for Jews in 1925 Europe there was “no place to go but Palestine”, ignoring for instance the United States, Canada, Britain, etc. He writes that Zionism “must plant the Jews in their ancient homeland”, but must know the fact that no adherent to Judaism ever lived in the ancient Levant. He plays the five armies “determined to crush the young Jewish state” card, when he must know that the Jewish militias possessed superior arms, training, dedication and unity of purpose compared to these “armies”. He plays the Benny Morris card as well — after describing the massacre he “stands by the damned, because I know that if not for them the State of Israel would not have been born. If not for them I would not have been born”. What rot! He writes “Israel has a right to live”, but offers nothing to support this “right”.

Shavit’s article has created a mini-storm in the Jewish community, with Thomas Friedman and Phil Weiss putting in their two cents, but our opinion is that the damage has been done. Shavit is successful at creating a literary piece that forbids Chris, and the many others like him, from holding Jews accountable for the crimes of the Jewish state.


Nine vigilers
The World is Catching On
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends

Report on Beth Israel vigil 12-07-13

Posted on December 16th, 2013 at 9:02 am by

Five Broken Cameras – a Look Inside

About eight JWPF members and supporters attended a showing of “Five Broken Cameras” at the Ann Arbor District Library this week. The film, which has won a couple of awards and was nominated for an Oscar, depicts the non-violent protests originating in the West Bank village of Bi’lin. It had a special resonance for two of us, because we attended one of these protests in April of 2005, and we remembered our friend Basem abu Rahme (Phil) prior to his 2009 assassination by Zionist agents of the Jewish state.



The question this writer had going into the film was how could Jewish-dominated Hollywood support an Oscar nomination for a film depicting the illegal and violent Zionist takeover of Palestine, and the ethnic cleansing of its non-Jewish population? The answer was found in the lies of omission: neither the “J” word, nor even the “Z” word was mentioned, neither in the film itself, nor in the 4,400-word review published by PBS. Check it out for yourself.

Maybe that’s just picking nits on our part, but take a minute and wonder if the film presented the viewer with an explanation for these Israeli soldiers to shoot at and kill Palestinian civilians. Good documentaries, as with good news stories, should always include the “Why?” in the Five “W’s” of reporting. We assume that the “Why” was omitted because it would have pointed to the Jewish Zionist conquest and colonization of a land, by Jewish soldiers, with Jewish religious symbols on their weapons, and with the support of almost all major Jewish organizations world-wide, but, as Paul Eisen says: “…to name Jews as responsible for this crime seems impossible to do.”

Why does the PBS reviewer refer to the Apartheid Wall as a “security barrier”? What, in the view of Vigil Supporter M, is “settling” about “settlements”? Why does the world tolerate the use of such pabulum as “…a conflict that adults can barely comprehend.” Hello, what’s not to comprehend? Zionist Jews decided to inhabit a land that wasn’t ever theirs, and forcibly displace the native population to achieve their ethnic-supremacist goals.

Also, if your goal is to get your documentary the Hollywood stamp of approval, make sure you get a Jewish Israeli co-director, mention all the Jewish Israelis who take part in your protests, and include sophisticated Jews explaining Israeli court decisions in your movie. Easy, peasy.


Six vigilers
Holding the Jewish community accountable for ten years
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends

Report on Beth Israel vigil 11-30-13

Posted on December 9th, 2013 at 7:59 am by

Bending the Rules at City Council

Slightly frustrated by being sidelined by Ann Arbor City Council rules, this writer used a tenuous connection to play by the rules, yet get a point across. Readers remember the vigil report of Nov. 16 when my talk exposing the blacklisting of companies by MasterCard was delayed. This week’s talk presented Council members with a short stroll down memory lane, capped by a request to allow more speech during Public Commentary. For a video of the talk, click here and advance to 00:19:40. Comments to Council appear after signature.

Kevin Barrett – Truth Jihad Radio

A tip of the hat to Vigiler L, whose contact with Dr. Kevin Barrett – editor of Veterans Today – produced a one-hour phone interview about our weekly vigils and other related topics. Kevin shares our exchange he calls: “Zionism & Jewishness: Henry Herskovitz asks the hard questions _ on Kevin Barrett’s Truth Jihad Radio” with us.

Password: zionism


Nine vigilers
Tell us why Israel has a “right” to exist
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends

Ann Arbor City Council meeting, Public Commentary
December 2, 2013 [399 words]

Good Evening,

I’m here tonight to speak to Council about an actual agenda item, number DC-1, “Resolution to Establish 2014 Council Calendar”. And I would hope that Council, as it adopts its calendar for next year, will consider reversing a decision it made approximately ten years ago.

That decision was to not only reduce public commentary time from four to three minutes in length, but to preference speakers addressing agenda items, and “bump” speakers who wished to address Council on a matter of public concern, but not on the agenda.

This change in rules came about due to pressure exerted by then 2nd Ward Representative Joan Lowenstein, around 2004. It was very clear that Ms. Lowenstein, a member of Beth Israel Congregation –also located in the 2nd Ward – did not like topics relating to Israel being discussed. She frequently turned her back on speakers, and once left the room entirely while I was addressing Council.

So it’s not too much of a stretch to assume that Council passed this rule in reaction to pressure from Lowenstein, and that perhaps she even worked to make sure topics involving Israel never appeared on the agenda.

Last month I wanted to address Council on a matter of public concern: the blacklisting of companies by MasterCard, and though I was placed on the speakers’ list at 8 AM, by noon I was bumped to the eleventh spot, and was not called to speak. This is not the first time this has happened.

So I appeal to this body … paid members serving the public, to allow all topics equal footing during Public Commentary time. You are all sworn to uphold the Constitution, and with it, citizens’ rights to address their governing body on issues of concern. Trying to legislate which topic items are allowable and which are not flies in the face of a free society.

Council is considering a resolution which will ask the Rules Committee to draft appropriate professional standards of conduct for Council members. And I hope that this draft will align itself closely to our most precious Constitutional right, that of free speech.

Now, I can manipulate the existing guidelines to say what I want, but I would rather take the front door to address Council on items of public concern. Respect is a two-way street; allowing citizens to address this body on any topic is a reflection of that respect.

Thank you

Report on Beth Israel vigil 11-23-13

Posted on December 1st, 2013 at 1:04 pm by

Dodging the Question

A handful of JWPF members joined about 150 others at the University of Michigan’s Dearborn campus last Monday to listen to speakers Josh Ruebner, Ben White, and Susan Abulhawa avoid the topics we listed in last week’s report:

1. The legitimacy of the Jewish state
2. Jewish Identity Politics
3. Influence of Jewish Power on US policy
4. Whether or not each speaker recognizes Israel’s “right” to exist as a Jewish state

To report that we were disappointed would be an understatement. Our disappointment began when the student leader of the conference started passing out note cards upon which members of the audience could write their questions – a clear indicator that the ensuing Q&A was rigged. This prompted me to blurt out “I have a question for Mr. Ruebner” and received an unexpected nod from the student leader.

“Does Israel have a right to exist as a Jewish state, and if so, by what right?”

And rather than answering the question directly, Josh took the same dodge other Jewish activists have used in addressing this meddlesome question: He expounded upon state’s “rights” to exist at all, which he suggested is merely a matter of recognition by other states. Perhaps it exists as a collective “right” such as the mutual recognition in overarching bodies like the United Nations. In short, Ruebner refused to address the most fundamental of questions, one that Benjamin Netanyahu continuously demands of Palestinians and isn’t himself afraid of addressing.

PeaceMonger wonders whether Ruebner’s response to the following would be the same as his answer to me:

Josh, the group calling itself the Aryan Nation – Knights of the Ku Klux Klan wish to establish an all-White state in Idaho. Would the KKK have a right to exist as a White state and, if so, by what right?

We don’t think the answer from this Jewish leader in the peace movement would be the same. We dare say that his answer, in the case of confronting White Supremacy, would be unequivocal: Hell no, the KKK doesn’t have the right to establish a White state in Idaho, or anywhere else. Ditto the “right” of the former apartheid regime in South Africa to constitute the state as a White supremacist state.

So what’s keeping Josh from saying hell no, Israel doesn’t have a right to exist as a Jewish state? Well, we think that Gilad Atzmon’s study of Jewish identity politics has a lot to say that answers that question, but Ben White doesn’t want us to go there.

Five Minutes with Ben White

Encouraged by Vigil Supporter D, I asked Ben White why he signed the document attempting to silence Gilad Atzmon. Ben answered that Mr. Atzmon engages in anti-Semitic writing, and when we pressed for an example, he stated that the arguments for such are contained in the document itself. When asked whether he read The Wandering Who; A study of Jewish Identity Politics, he said no, he hadn’t. This prompted D – a professor in philosophy at UMD – to comment on the lack of professionalism by an author and academic such as Mr. White, that he would condemn a fellow activist and intellectual without even reading what the man wrote.

At that point Mr. White said that he’d now already spent five minutes discussing Mr. Atzmon, and that that was five minutes more than he had planned, nor wished for. Vigil Supporter L then approached Ben and suggested to him the possibility of growth that Gilad promotes: a self examination of the group, i.e. that Jews need to look in the mirror to examine their collective behavior, that this process will allow other groups to do the same and “as you grow, we grow”. Perhaps Mr. White listened to her. Time will tell, but we’re not holding our breath.

Vigiler M. wonders if White’s reticence to confront Jewish identity politics is related to his inversion of the title of Uri Davis’ classic study, Israel: An Apartheid State (1987) and his more recent Apartheid Israel (2004). She says one shouldn’t judge a book by its title, but where Davis designates the Jewish state enterprise en toto as an apartheid project, Ben White’s book title, Israeli Apartheid suggests a more limited scope of apartheid as practiced by Israelis or Israel, i.e. a non-essential feature of Israel.


Eight vigilers
Exposing Left Zionists in the Peace Movement
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends
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