The Deir Yassin Remembered Blog

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

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