The Deir Yassin Remembered Blog

Report on Beth Israel vigil 03-22-14

Posted on April 5th, 2014 at 7:05 am by

Probably My Fault

Much was made this week of the large meeting of the University of Michigan’s Central Student Government, which drew over 600 supporters and opponents of a resolution calling for “CSG to petition the Board of Regents to create an ad hoc committee to investigate University investments in companies accused of violating human rights, including General Electric, Heidelberg Cement, Caterpillar Inc. and United Technologies.” The CSG first stonewalled the resolution offered by Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE), but relented to conduct a vote after a week of sit-ins at the CSG offices organized by SAFE. The resolution was defeated 25 to 9 with 5 council members abstaining.

Now, I thought this to be an opportunity to (a) support SAFE and its resolution; (b) challenge the Jewish dominance that exists in the movement; and (c) to make clear to all that there were larger issues, e.g. Israel’s claimed “right” to exist as a Jewish state. I did this by wearing my “End Israel” hat and carrying a sign saying “Boycott Israel”. I received a surprising reaction.

Several Arab women approached and asked me to remove my hat, because that wasn’t the message they were trying to deliver that night. A former officer of SAFE – and a signatory to the statement disavowing the alleged racism and anti-Semitism of Gilad Atzmon – echoed the women’s request. A Jewish man begged me “from the bottom of my heart” to put away the sign.

You see, they were trying to convince CSG to pass a resolution so focused and narrow that all they were asking for was the creation of a committee to look into and perhaps find some tiny little infraction of human rights violations, and then take this to the Regents of the University of Michigan. And they just knew that by questioning the legitimacy of the Jewish supremacist state that is destroying the land and culture Palestine would ruin their chances of getting this tepid resolution passed. In the end, the resolution was defeated soundly, not even garnering one-quarter of the votes cast.

The Fix was In

Campus Jewish Zionists brought in Jewish Professor Victor Lieberman to lead the fight opposing the resolution; it appears he created his usual mixture of falsehoods sprinkled with a dash of truth now and then in an attempt to appear balanced. SAFE’s response was to bring in the Jewish peace activist and author Max Blumenthal. Now what’s wrong with this picture? Jews on the left, Jews on the right, the Jewish state committing genocide against the Palestinian people, but Jews aren’t being held responsible. And Palestinians have to turn to the ranks of the oppressor group for support.

Jewish Students Offended

After these dialogues with Arab students I put down the “Boycott Israel” sign in favor of the expanded call from Arab leaders in the movement “Israel: No Right to Exist”. That brought the Jews out of the woodwork just as surely as Polish Catholics will appear for free paczkis on Fat Tuesday. For over 30 minutes I was pelted with questions and attempts to block the sign from view. Here’s a sampling of what was said:

Jewish woman: “My grandmother’s friends died in the Holocaust”
Me: “That’s terrible, but I’ve found nobody really wants to talk about the Holocaust”
Jewish man: “What do you mean by that?”
Me: “Well, in the first place, the Zionists were so organized that they were able to hold their first World Zionist Organization meeting in 1897. Adolf Hitler was then eight years old. And secondly, no one can produce a single photo of a homicidal gas chamber”
Jewish man: “The Nazis destroyed everything”
Me: “Not very convincing – did they force all privately taken photos to be burned as well?”
Jewish man (pointing and looking around for support): “He’s denying the Holocaust!”
Another Jewish man: “Are you denying the Holocaust?”
Me: “Define ‘Holocaust'”
He: “Where Jews were rounded up and were murdered in concentration camps”
Me: “Then no, I’m not denying the Holocaust. But I’m not sure that mass murder in camps deserves the name Holocaust”

Some Lessons

1. Never pay blackmail. Some JWPF members remember when a UM professor attempted to get a divestment resolution – similar to SAFE’s this week – introduced at a Regents meeting, circa 2005. This man distributed petitions to students, faculty, and the public for signing. I placed my signature on his petition, but after cajoling from Jewish faculty that they would not sign a document to which I had attached my signature, he removed my name without my approval. The result: the Jewish profs didn’t sign onto the resolution anyway.

2. Don’t play defense. Don’t respond to the opponent’s games of intimidation or playing to Jewish sensibilities. Challenge their assumptions. Ask why Jews were persecuted in Europe (not only Germany), and don’t accept mindless hatred or religion as reasons. Read Alison Weir’s Against our Better Judgment; How the US was used to create Israel to find some surprising reasons challenging mindless hatred.

3. Go for the Gusto. If you’re going to be called names (just read some comments against the SAFE students) for raising tepid issues, then allow yourself to fight for justice and the complete liberation of Palestine. Deny Israel’s claimed “right” to exist. Shed false leaders. Tell Jewish friends that to save themselves, they first have to liberate themselves from their own shackles.

4. Remember Frederick Douglass: “If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation…want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters…. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”


Nine vigilers
Time to End the Jewish State
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends

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