The Deir Yassin Remembered Blog

Report on Beth Israel vigil 05-01-10

Posted on May 11th, 2010 at 8:27 am by

Local Jews to Quakers: Censure Vigilers!

Cassie Cammann, Clerk of the local Friends Meeting, penned an unauthorized letter to the editor of the Washtenaw Jewish News in response to Steven Pastner’s charge that the Quakers are “pro-Palestinian”. The Friends usually require consensus before such a letter would be sent, but a little investigation found that Ms. Cammann sought no consensus before writing, and acted on her own. Notwithstanding that internal violation, a few Jewish respondents saw fit to attack her exculpatory plea with typical twisted-victim logic.

Steven Pastner responds that he stands by his charge that the Quakers are indeed pro-Palestinian, as if that were a bad thing. Henry Brysk cries “I look in vain for recognition of Israel’s right to exist or for condemnation of the murder of Israeli civilians by Hamas”. And WJN Editor Susy Ayer – you remember, she’s the one who has refused to print any rebuttal from Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends – demands that the Quakers censure their members who participate in our peaceful, silent vigils at Beth Israel. She writes, “I know that an active member of the Ann Arbor Friends Meeting has been picketing us on Shabbat now for seven years without his being censured by Quakers locally for his reprehensible behavior”

And if it weren’t enough that these local Jews hold the Quakers to their chauvinistic demands, they even find fault with Zionist groups like Jewish Voice for Peace. Ayer writes: ” … JVP’s moral outrage is decidedly one-sided, directed overwhelmingly at Israel.” Oh, Poor Israel! They can’t even commit massacres against the people of Gaza without some misguided Jews or Quakers making comment.

Full letter to editor and comments follow signature.

Six Vigilers Protest Obama

At least six members of JWPF were on hand to remind visitors to the University of Michigan’s commencement exercises that our President has fully sided with the Bully of the Mideast, aka “Israel”, as it completes its 100-year-old attempt to ethnically cleanse Palestine so that Jews may enjoy a supremacist state. Thousands of people witnessed our signs; some took pictures, others made some ill-advised attempts to defend the terrorist state. These folks apparently did not read page 31 of their Hasbara Handbook, which advises them to “Just Walk Away: When Not to Engage”, typically when “they are likely to get out of their depth”.

Readers should note that our regular vigil at Beth Israel was suspended for May 1st, so that we could greet our President.

Congregant Sam Calls it Quits

A few weeks back a very pleasant congregant asked some members of JWPF if they would be willing to arrive a half hour early to engage in some pre-prayer dialogue. According to Sam, congregants of Beth Israel were unable to converse with us, since the vigils coincided with services: we were outside; interested congregants were inside. Fair enough, says we, and agreed to meet Sam prior to our vigils. This resulted in one pleasant enough conversation, but on Friday Sam wrote “Actually, with my few remaining Saturdays left in Ann Arbor, I’ve sort of lost interest in pursuing this issue any further. I do certainly appreciate your willingness to meet though.”

We are glad that Sam has taken notice of our willingness to hold reasonable conversations with congregants, and hope that another willing member of Beth Israel will step forward in the near future.

Ann Arbor Quiet While Seattle Rocks

While it appears that the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor was able to “celebrate Israel” without protest, former Vigiller M reports that a similar celebration at the Jewish Community Center near Seattle, Washington was indeed protested. Here’s the report, and link:

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Protesting Tzuza–Recent BDS Action in Seattle

On Sunday, May 2, 2010, eight people of conscience took a nonviolent stand for justice and peace in front of the Stroum Jewish Community Center on Mercer Island, near Seattle, Washington. The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) action was hastily organized during a regional BDS workshop at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral to protest the performance of the Tzuza Dancers, an Israeli troupe hailing from Kiryat Malachi, Israel, a town built on the remnants of Qastina, an Arab village. On July 9, 1948, Qastina was violently ethnically cleansed of its Palestinian inhabitants by Jewish troops of the Giv’ati Brigade.

The protesters included members of St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, Voices of Palestine, and Greater Seattle Veterans for Peace. While there were a few middle-finger salutes, the action was generally well-received by members of the Mercer Island community with decidedly more passersby by honking, waving, smiling, and gesturing in support. Such a good and productive time was had that the protest was extended fifteen minutes longer than scheduled. The shows of support coming even from people entering the SJCC more than made up for the one angry, young man who repeatedly screamed at us from a distance, “No one cares about your message.” He seemed to care a lot.

Henry Herskovitz
Palestine is Occupied because Jews wanted the land
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends

The following letters can be viewed on page 2 at

Click to access WJN_May-09-web.pdf

AFSC committed to human rights

Dear Editor,

We write in response to a statement by Steven Pastner in the February issue of the Washtenaw Jewish News. Mr. Pastner, on page 9, stated that the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and local Quakers are “pro-Palestinian,” implying that those who are pro-Palestinian are anti-Israeli. We hope that most readers of WJN are aware that the focus of Quakers and of the AFSC as well, is human dignity, human rights for all persons, the alleviation of suffering, and the peaceful resolution of conflict. To that end, the AFSC has a long tradition of working in Israel and with Israelis, as well as in the West Bank and Gaza and in countries around the world and here at home. We can assure readers of WJN that Quakers locally and nationally do indeed seek the well-being, peace quality, and human rights of Israelis, as well as Palestinians.

The AFSC and Quaker individuals have worked in Israel and in the Palestinian territories for over 60 years. Their cause has been peace. The renowned Friends Schools in Ramallah were started in the 1800s, while Friends International Centre in Ramallah is a newcomer to the work. Starting in 1948 and continuing through this past difficult year, the AFSC has carried out intensive relief work among refugees in Gaza. The organization won a Nobel Peace Price in 1947.

The commitment of AFSC and of Quakers locally and nationally is to human rights for all people.

The Ann Arbor Friends Meeting, Cassie Cammann, Clerk

Stephen Paster responds: I stand by what I said. More than one member of the small synagogue-stalking group is affiliated with the Friends… and to paraphrase some wise advice from the alcoholic beverage world: “Friends don’t (or shouldn’t) let Friends harass other faiths.”

Henry Brysk responds: On behalf of the Ann Arbor Friends Meeting, Cassie Cammann takes umbrage at Steve Pastner’s characterization of their political bias. Unfortunately, her letter only confirms this bias, particularly in its omissions. To be explicit, we consider it unFriendly (pun intended) that they have taken into their midst several of the False Witnesses that harass the synagogue and that advocate the complete destruction of Israel, and that they have participated in political actions furthering a similar ideology. There is no mention of any of that, and I look in vain for recognition of Israel’s right to exist or for condemnation of the murder of Israeli civilians by Hamas. How do they square Quaker pacifism with giving aid and comfort to terrorists? The praiseworthy humanitarian projects of the American Friends Service Committee are irrelevant to this discussion, which concerns the political activism of the local group. I do find it instructive
that the letter stresses AFSC activities in Hamastan (Gaza), apart from a school in Ramallah, and none in Israel. If they find it distasteful to help Jews, how about the needy Darfuri refugees that have fled to Israel? Or are they incapable of sympathy for any victims of Arab bombing?

WJN Editor Susan Ayer responds: In searching out AFSC’s position on the conflict in Israel, an often listed source is a group called Jewish Voices for Peace. According to a 2008 posting on CAMERA’s website, Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) bills itself as an organization of “activists inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, and human rights” who “support the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians for security and self-determination.” However, JVP’s moral outrage is decidedly one-sided, directed overwhelmingly at Israel. ( outlet=108&x_article=1498). Checking on other links from the AFSC website reveals a similar bias. In 1947, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and British Friends Service Council were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of Quakers worldwide. The prize recognized 300 years of Quaker efforts to heal rifts and oppose war. In particular, it named the work done by the two recipient Quaker organizations during and after the two World Wars to feed starving children and help Europe rebuild itself. The Prize was not given for any work AFSC did in the Middle East. We are told, “The commitment of AFSC and of Quakers locally and nationally is to human rights for all people.” Speaking as a member of Beth Israel Congregation, I know that an active member of the Ann Arbor Friends Meeting has been picketing us on Shabbat now for seven years without his being censured by Quakers locally for his reprehensible behavior. I am only referring to the picketers’ actions, not their beliefs. I see nothing in Cammann’s letter that indicates the Friends board feels such a censure is warranted. I wonder why the commitment to “human rights for all” excludes the right of Beth Israel members to worship without harassment.

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