The Deir Yassin Remembered Blog

Report on Beth Israel vigil 02-27-10

Posted on March 6th, 2010 at 1:26 pm by

Jews Control the News

For the third straight month, front-page articles have appeared in the Washtenaw Jewish News (WJN), and if they publish any more, Victor Lieberman will have to shame-facedly pack his bags and leave town. His own denigrations of our peaceful, silent vigils as a “trivial nuisance” and “largely invisible presence”, must haunt him every time he picks up yet another issue of the WJN. Once again, in the March edition two authors search in vain for the false witness their titles purport. And they widen their net of ad hominem attacks. For instance, former U.S. Congresswoman Lynn Rivers exhibited “lamentable unprofessional cluelessness”, for agreeing to host this writer on her radio show (the radio station rescinded the offer). And former Ann Arbor News Opinion Page Editor Mary Morgan (and her husband Dave Askins of the Ann Arbor Chronicle) are equally castigated as “sympathizers of Herskovitz’s group”. The biggest whopper is handed to us by author Henry Brysk’s own words. He writes: The Beth Israel leadership believes that the synagogue harassers [sic] should be ignored in order to deny them the publicity they craved. This argument would be valid if the media had cooperated.” And what do Brysk and the Jewish News do? They ignore the wishes of Beth Israel’s leadership as well, satisfying our alleged “craving” for publicity. The WJN has now spent over 12,000 words bashing the vigils, a bashing that studiously ignores our success in drawing attention to Israel’s atrocities.

And control? Remember in our vigil report of Jan. 30, we reported that former vigiller Laurel Federbush wrote a lengthy piece describing her journey from dedicated activist to synagogue dweller. This article prompted her mother, Vigiller M, to place things in perspective, and she composed her own article for submission to the WJN. A subsequent phone call to the WJN to ask when the article would be printed elicited this response from Editor and Publisher Susy Ayer: “No, I have no plans to publish [your article]”. Vigiller M then pressed “But surely you have some readers who expect that the other side will respond, and this is a response”. Ayer: “I’m busy”. Click.

Unlike the controlled press of the WJN, we reprint Vigiller M’s remarks below signature, and regret that Ann Arbor readers were unilaterally denied the often humorous, and always on-point discussions raised. Vigiller M wanted Art Aisner – first of the verbal assassins – to cite her principled mantra: “I am a Jew who is horrified by Israel’s barbaric treatment of the Palestinians” (often her first words during conversation). She also wondered why Aisner never asked a rather obvious question: “Why do these people come to vigil at Beth Israel in minus six-degree weather and thunderstorms?”. She speaks of Al-Nakba and current efforts by Zionists to rid the international lexicon of such a word, and promotes Ali Abunimah’s book, One Country: a Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Enjoy the article below.

Well Received Blowback

A member of the local Quaker Meeting questioned the source of the following excerpt from “False Witnesses II” by Stephen Pastner:

The ISM, like the pro-Palestinian American Friends Service Committee, has strong connections to the local Friends Meeting House (the Quaker congregation) and in an earlier screed to his followers, Herskovitz indeed notes that “Jewish Witnesses for Peace” might be more accurately called the “Quaker Witnesses.”

This author availed himself this week of the opportunity to address the Palestine Israel Action Group, a subset of a larger peace organization in the local Quaker Meeting based on this member query. It was explained that Pastner most likely misquoted this author, who wrote in the January 13, 2007 Report:

New Vigiller

Is there a Quaker takeover of JWPF in the works? New Vigiller C comes to the sidewalks at Beth Israel with years of experience in political activism, and with her own new sign. She raised our attendance to 13, and for the second straight week, we were confronted by a hired photographer who snapped photographs of each person standing with us. The man would not identify himself when asked, nor identify the agency he was working for. Vigiller C found his presence very disturbing, as did this writer.

Many other facets of JWPF vigils were discussed at this regular meeting of PIAG, and members seemed satisfied as to the explanations given. We – one member of PIAG is also a member of JWPF – offered to answer questions at the larger Friends Meeting on any Sunday, and also invited Meeting members to attend our vigils, not necessarily to participate, but to familiarize themselves with the people and positions of Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends.

BBC’s Alan Hart to Stand Vigil

British journalist, researcher and author, Alan Hart is working with Dearborn (Mich) activist Susan Giffin to plan a speaking tour in May, 2010. He has released two volumes of Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, with the third due out in June. When asked about including JWPF’s vigils as part of his tour, both he and Susan accepted our invitation, and plan to stand with us on May 15. Vigiller S has offered her organizing skills to find an Ann Arbor venue for Alan, and to promote his speaking engagements. We are all very excited to have this knowledgeable and talented man share the sidewalks with us.

Eight Vigillers
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends
Challenging Jewish Power since 2003

A Response to All the Attention the Jewish News Has Been Giving the JWPF Lately

by Vigiller M

Since my sometimes-unpredictable daughter Laurel got her three-page novel into the February Washtenaw Jewish News, I think I ought to have a chance to get my reaction in, too. After all, I was also featured, without being interviewed by Art Aisner – along with three of my Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends (JWPF) mates – in the December Jewish News. Art was almost flattering to me in that issue (and the picture was pretty good, too), by telling you that I am in the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame and add some “status” to the group, despite my short stature (thanks Art). Incidentally, in our Saturday vigils, on February 6th, January 30th, January 16th, and January 9th, we had 10 participants, not the four that Art focused on (on January 9th, there were two Shirleys among the 10, one of them a dog), thus adding a lot of money to your Magen David Adom charity that gives emergency ambulance service to desperate people in Israel and some other countries, like Haiti (but I couldn’t find that they normally come to the rescue of ailing Palestinians – or else they would be busy all the time).

We, the relatively small number of JWPFers, are not a cult; it is the huge group of American Zionists who refuse to recognize or believe, despite volumes of evidence, that Israel is still treating the Palestinians at least as inhumanly as it did seven years ago when we first assembled, and that the Jewish gangs (the Stern Gang and Irgun) were the initiators of the 1948 violence by massacring Palestinian villagers, as in Deir Yassin, causing some 800,000 Palestinians to flee in panic. No, they did not leave their treasured homes voluntarily, being told by their leaders to go for a little while until some fighting was over in their villages. (You’ve got to read Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine for the names of the many villages and the descriptions of the massacres in all of them.) That’s what Al Nakba (Arabic for “the Catastrophe” surrounding Israel’s founding) is about. Yet, last year a number of well-known Zionists pleaded with U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, to rid the U.N.’s “lexicon” of all references to “Nakba,” which is almost a sacred concept, as is the Right of Return, to present-day Palestinians, that is memorialized at the same time Israel’s birthdate is celebrated. I begged him not to listen to them.

We JWPFers just celebrated our seventh [sixth, actually …ed.] anniversary on Saturday, January 30. To research his three-or-so-page article, Art Aisner went to the archives to check on the four people’s criminal backgrounds, marital history, and other worthy information, but basically, he just wanted to make fun of us, which may be an apt measure of his literary expertise. He never asked, “Why do these people come to vigil at Beth Israel in minus six-degree weather and thunderstorms?” If he had interviewed me, I would have told him, and asked him to write, “I am a Jew who is horrified by Israel’s barbaric treatment of the Palestinians,” which statement qualifies me as a “Self-Hating Jew” on the Internet.

From the beginning, I have wanted to change somebody’s mind on the Palestine/Israel issue, and indeed I did – my own dear daughter Laurel, I’m afraid. She not only joined the Synagogue, but she also became a dedicated Republican, which you may not know. She seems to have a particular penchant for Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck. She says she can’t bear being thought of as a hater, an attribute she now assigns to JWPFers, but she doesn’t hear hatred in the words of Limbaugh/Hannity/Beck – even in Rush’s telling people, “We’ve got to get rid of Obama.” Now, I find vigiling silently (mostly), with nicely made signs saying how cruelly the Israelis are treating the Palestinians, the most noble thing I do during the week. We want Ann Arborites driving by and Synagogue members to think at least once a week about Israel’s horrendous treatment of the Palestinians, which is not what I was taught as a kid that Jewishness was about. In my Newark, New Jersey, upbringing and training, being Jewish meant empathizing with and going to the aid of the underdog. Above all, Jews were “ethical.” I am proud to be that kind of Jew. But that’s not the way the Israeli government, members of the IDF, settlers, and too many just plain citizens have been behaving. One of the latest examples to come to light, of utterly dehumanizing actions of some Israelis, sometimes accompanied by Ministry of Defense members, was the illicit, unethical harvesting of organs of dead, and soon-to-be-dead, young Palestinians for the benefit of Israeli Jews – and in order to make money. I can’t begin to imagine Jews doing that – or shooting randomly into crowds of demonstrators, often, thank goodness, with ISM (International Solidarity Movement) people present to try to prevent deaths of innocents and destruction of houses. ISM, incidentally, was co-founded by one of our vigilers, Thom Saffold (cutely, spelled “Scafold” in the February paper). I was so encouraged to hear that in two Tu B’Shvat services, which celebrate trees, a celebrant in each brought up that Israelis have been chopping down the olive and citric orchards of Palestinian farmers that had been in their families for centuries.

Laurel has always been a fine writer, and the article in the News, as well as the half-hour one she read on Ann Arbor Channel 17, are fairly good examples. But in the past she always used to back up all her claims with careful documentation. What struck me in some of her allegations is that certain items are not quite true. For instance, she claims that JWPF members are so tightly bound together, that they all think exactly alike on all topics relating to Israel/Palestine. She says that JWPF has spawned many subgroups. In one of these supposed subgroups, in which she went to at least one meeting, the group agreed that the Unibomber should be considered a hero, and that someday he will be. “Violence in the name of resistance is always justified,” she quotes us as believing. The wife of one of our regular vigilers quipped, “Since when can JWPF organize anything, much less subgroups?” In truth, she attended a Green Party meeting, and some JWPF members were there. I’ve also never thought of the group as being a “secret organization” as Laurel does; we warmly invite people to vigil with us, but we, as most groups, including the Ann Arbor School Board, try to keep personal discussions about individuals and some plans for action within the group.

Laurel now feels, as many Ann Arborites do, that our actions on Saturday mornings are “bizarre and repulsive,” and that we are “purposely harassing” Congregation members (as we stand quietly with signs, waving at honking and hand-signaling cars passing by). It’s likely that you agree with her. This is a very American and even an Ann Arbor predisposition, because we are speaking truthfully. Most of our vigilers have been to Palestine one or more times (I haven’t), we have listened to innumerable speakers and others who have returned from spending time there, and we have read loads of books, articles, and letters about what is going on and what has gone on, often written by extraordinary, knowledgeable, capable writers and researchers. There are respectable people and groups worldwide who undoubtedly would applaud us for our daring behavior. Anne Remley (who, with her husband Fred, has brought you those incredible map cards showing four maps of Palestine, from pre-1947 to the present, where Palestinians in the West Bank now live in dozens of small splotches of land, separated by Jewish-only roads and settlements, 25-foot-high walls, and check points on Palestinian land) has carried out an amazing, continuing undertaking. She has put together over 40 pages of countries (e.g., Norway); branches of government (Brazil Parliamentary Committee); cities (Cambridge, Massachusetts, City Council); businesses (Heineken Breweries), Religious Organizations (South African Council of Churches); University Organizations; (Irish Academics); and so on, who are abiding by Palestinian peace organizations’ request to the world that people and groups implement BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sanction) regarding Israel for its occupation of and barbarity toward Palestinians. These international humanists, we expect, would vigil with us and praise our sincere actions if they were here.

Speaking of those little “bantustans” that make up most of Palestine today, how can all those peace organizations talking about solving the Palestine/Israel “apartheid” problem (I know most Israel supporters don’t like that word, but what else can you call it?) with a “two-state solution, when one of the states would be a collection of spots on a map, occupying an Arafat-approved 22% of the land?

Please read and discuss the easy-to-read book, One Country: a Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse, by the kind, remarkable thinker, speaker, and writer Ali Abunimah. Abunimah spent his early years in Palestine, loving playing with his Jewish, Christian, Arab, and other friends. His parents enjoyably entertained people of all sorts of backgrounds in their apartment, and rented offices in their building to Jewish, Christian, and other professionals. He feels that this cordiality could happen again. In the first half of the book he tells, without rancor or moralism, how Israel has been treating the Palestinians, and then, he starts the second half basically with the constructive question, “What shall we do about it?” He has a marvelous chapter, “Learning from South Africa,” without making the mistakes that South Africa made. Using two propositions – 1) that a country belongs to the people living in it, and 2) that both Israelis and Palestinians believe that they deserve access to the entire area – he designs an almost day-by-day way of attaining a “one-state solution,” in which everyone can live in any place they choose, with equality, human rights, and friendship.

I wish you all would look up and read a mind-numbing article on the Internet – “U.S. Officers Planned the Massacre of Beit Hanoun” in Gaza in 2006, and make copies of its frightful pictures in color, to show the horrors done to innocent Palestinian people of all ages, whose bodies were more or less disintegrated by IDF soldiers using sophisticated, unconventional weapons, bought with the three billion dollars a year the U.S. gives Israel for military use. But this is not rare; extreme violence against civilian Palestinians on the part of Israelis goes on all the time. Pilotless drones bomb houses from the sky, suspected of harboring “terrorists,” only to hit the house next door, killing 14 members of a totally innocent family. Think of the unforseen Gaza massacre a little over a year ago, with its slaughter, largely by drones and white phosphorus, of some 1400 innocent Gazans. Especially because the United States is criticized for carrying out large-scale drone warfare in Pakistan, killing countless blameless civilians (and causing angry anti-Americanism), this killing of “collateral damage” is no more morally acceptable than the much reviled suicide bombings in the Middle East. Law professor Alan Dershowitz labeled as a “benign punishment” the utter devastation of homes, by planes and bulldozers, in the Jenin refugee camp in 2006. At all hours of day and night, one can see Caterpillar-built bulldozers leveling homes in Palestine, estimated, by the Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, the Information Minister of the 2007, short-lived Palestinian Coalition Government, at over 60,000 complete or partial destructions so far. If knocking down a house, containing one’s lifetime of work, is so “benign,” some playful Harvard students mights enjoy tearing down Dr. Dershowitz’s home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. My daughter is furious that JWPF can see only one side of the Palestine/Israel issue (naturally we would answer, “Were there two sides to the Holocaust?”). I cannot convince her any more that Israel is the occupier and the Palestinians, this time, the victims, to which she will tell me that there is no Occupation – someone she trusts must have written that.

Let me assure you that Laurel is a splendid harpist, and, to paraphrase the new Republican Senator from Massachusetts, (as a harpist) she is available.

One Response to “Report on Beth Israel vigil 02-27-10”

  1. The Deir Yassin Remembered Blog » Blog Archive » Report on Beth Israel vigil 06-11-11

    […] Jewish News would have any intention of printing it anyway (their one-sided editorial history is well-established). Example: Lieberman writes “Plan D arose in response to the impending collapse of key Jewish […]
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