The Deir Yassin Remembered Blog

Report on Beth Israel vigil 02-16-13

Posted on February 26th, 2013 at 11:36 am by

JWPF in the News

The Ann Arbor Chronicle continued its comprehensive coverage of Ann Arbor City Council meetings, and reports on this writer’s comments as I challenged some assertions by a seated Councilperson made on January 22 during the “Communications from Council” portion of the agenda. Full text of talk follows signature, and a video of the presentation is available. Click here to view the presentation (advance to 00:28:38). From the Chronicle:

Comm/Comm: Israel/Palestine
Henry Herskovitz responded to some remarks that Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) made at the council’s Jan. 22, 2013 meeting. Warpehoski had indicated he wouldn’t be contemplating a resolution on Palestinian rights as long as demonstrations continue outside Beth Israel on Saturdays during worship services. Herskovitz asked whether Warpehoski’s remarks contained elements of a “friendly offer” or a possible quid pro quo from Herskovitz’s group – Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends – to cease their demonstrations at Beth Israel. He contended that Warpehoski’s comment contains an “odd element” – because it recognizes that a problem exists in Palestine, which Warpehoski could, or would, act on as an elected official. So Herskovitz concluded that Warpehoski was not saying that the city shouldn’t divest from Israel, or that there are no grounds for divestment – only that Warpehoski is conditioning his action on the actions of Herskovitz’s group.

Herskovitz drew an analogy to the abolitionist movement in the 1800s, as John Brown conducted violent raids against pro-slavery interests. Some in the abolitionist movement decried Brown’s tactics, but they did not allow Brown’s actions to distract them from their goal of abolishing slavery, Herskovitz said. The situation in Palestine cries out for moral intervention, he said. But based on Warpehoski’s remarks, it appears that intervention will not take place until Herskovitz’s group stops expressing its point of view – in a manner that is protected by the First Amendment. Herskovitz allowed that it’s difficult for Warpehoski to accept his group’s tactics. But allowing the actions of another to determine one’s own actions, Herskovitz said, raises doubts about that person’s reasoning and commitment to resolving the issue.

Two Simple Questions – Update

Last week we reported on a presentation at a local church, where the “elephant in the room”, i.e. the question of Israel’s legitimacy, was raised. The stir caused by this question resulted in a friendly email exchange between program moderator Mark Wenzel and myself.

Summarizing his initial offering, Mark wrote:

Your question has legal and moral dimensions to it that don’t fit into last night’s agenda – you wanted those dimensions responded to in ways that would have turned the event into something entirely different which, on its own, has intrinsic merit but was completely outside the scope of both the letter and the spirit of last night’s purpose.

I replied that any discussion about Israeli Apartheid requires a full discussion of its legitimacy, given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that Palestinians accept Israel’s right to exist “as a Jewish state”. I also asserted that the PM is pointing out to the peace community what is most essential and where Israel is most vulnerable.
Mark replied to my comments that they were thoughtful, and that he would reply in greater detail soon. He also indicated he will begin to organize a forum for such reflections as government’s responsibility, international law, and the preponderance of Israeli military force and power. We await Mark’s full response to the issues raised.

“Israel” Out of U.S. Government
Seven vigilers
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends
#February 19, 2013 [392 words]

Good Evening,

At Council’s meeting of January 22nd, Councilman Warpehoski “essentially indicated” – according to the Ann Arbor Chroncle – that he would not be contemplating a resolution on the topic of Palestinian rights “as long as demonstrations continue outside Beth Israel on Saturdays during worship service”. I would again like to respond to this comment and ask whether it contained elements of a friendly offer or possible quid pro quo for our group – Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends – to cease our vigils at Beth Israel.

But first it must be noted that his comment contains an odd element: He is recognizing there’s a problem that exists in Palestine, that he could or would act upon as an elected official. He is NOT saying that the City shouldn’t divest from Israel, or that there are no grounds for divestment; only that he is conditioning his actions on the basis of what WE do or don’t do. To me – and to our group – that seems odd.

In the 1800’s many people were opposed to slavery, and one abolitionist – a Mr. John Brown – believed armed insurrection was the only way to overthrow the system of slavery in the United States. He and his followers conducted violent raids which led to the death of some pro-slavery supporters. There were many in the abolitionist movement who decried such tactics, but they did not let the actions of one group turn them away from their goal of abolishing slavery. Indeed, we would doubt the sincerity of their actions were they to have refused to take a stand or act for abolition simply because they didn’t like the tactics of John Brown.

And here we have what appears to be a similar refusal to act on an issue that cries out for moral intervention, but won’t be acted upon until a group that merely exercises its First Amendment rights in a peaceful …. Non-violent way … stops that expression of free speech.

I accept that Mr. Warpehoski finds it difficult to accept our tactics; he has a right to his opinion and no one is saying that conducting such protests as ours is the be-all end-all of tactics. But allowing the actions of another to determine one’s own actions raises sincere doubts about that person’s reasoning and commitment to resolving the issue.

Thank you

2 Responses to “Report on Beth Israel vigil 02-16-13”

  1. Mark Richey

    I think you’re being much too polite, even given the venue where they are looking for reasons to silence you, which I understand.
    Warpehoski is only concerend with protecting the local zionists from criticism. 
    There will  be mo meaningful action from him if you stop the vigils; if he really was concerned about Palestine, he wouldn’t be concerned about your group’s tactics. He’d be concerned about ongoing apartheid in Palestine.

  2. Mark Richey

    Henry’s ongoing vigils are published and discussed on the discussion list, and I think, no where else to any extent.
    Please consider joining our list!
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