The Deir Yassin Remembered Blog

Report on Beth Israel vigil 09-13-14

Posted on September 18th, 2014 at 11:10 am by

JWPF Endorses Full Page Ad in NYTimes

A full-page advertisement was run in the New York Times on Tuesday, September 16, 2014, appealing to Barack Obama to suspend aid to Israel. JWPF lent its name as an endorser to this ad, and we find ourselves in good company: Deir Yassin Remembered, If Americans Knew, Council for the National Interest, Americans for a Just Peace in the Middle East,, and the prestigious Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

Part of the text reads: “It would mean aligning with progressive Israeli organizations like Rabbis For Human Rights, Gush Shalom, Peace Now, B’Tselem, and The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, as well as US Jewish organizations like Jewish Voice For Peace and Tikkun.” We note that none of these groups signed on as endorsers of this project, and have determined that all were invited to sign, but refused to do so. We leave it up to readers to consider the reasons for their [in]actions.

Readers can view the ad here, and a tip of the hat goes to Michael Hoffmann for providing the scanned copy, saving folks $2.50 for the cost of a print copy of the New York Times (all the news that fits, we print*). The text copy of this ad can be accessed here. JWPF recognizes that the ad is an imperfect document which supports Obama’s claim to stand by Israel. JWPF does not accept claims to the legitimacy of this racist state. But the final two paragraphs are worth repeating here:

The choice is yours alone. Are you really the one we were waiting for? Will this time really be different? Is there really no problem we cannot solve? Are we going to say yes to justice and equality, or are we going to turn away, slump-shouldered? Can we really face down impossible odds and repair this world, or were those just empty words?

We believe they came from the heart, and we have the audacity to hope that you will take these courageous steps, and more, to make them a reality.

Correcting the Corrections at Ann Arbor City Council

From our vigil report of August 9 we noted a young Palestinian man addressing City Council with an impassioned speech about the suffering his family was witnessing in Gaza. He said

“Israel is committing a Holocaust against the Palestinian people and you guys supported the Jews when the Holocaust was on them in Germany. Why won’t you stand up now against this new Holocaust?”

Councilwoman Sabra Briere, during comments from Council, took it upon herself to remind this young man that Jewish suffering trumps all others, saying

“And I just wanted to add a tiny little bit of history. One of the speakers mentioned that the US had supported the Jews during the Holocaust and took the Jewish side. I’m not certain whether he said the Jews or the Israelis but what I heard was the Jews, and that’s not the case. The US government refused to allow people asylum in this country. Boatloads of people were sent back to Europe. No country opened their doors to allow refugees, and when rumors of what was going on in Poland and Russia and Germany made their way to the US those were not considered reasons for the US government to try any means possible to end the war. They were just considered unreasonable rumors because no one believed that such behavior was possible. This is not to suggest that the violence that is going on in any country is acceptable or that violence between Israel and Palestine is justified on any level; only to correct this error of understanding of history.”

This kneejerk reaction from an elected official brought another reaction from this writer, and with the research assistance from PeaceMonger, delivered additional historical information to Council on Monday, September 15, 2014. My address to Council is found below signature.

* Quiz: For 10 points determine the source of this faux-motto for the NYT

8 vigilers
Liberate Palestine; End the Jewish State
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends

September 15, 2014 [398 words]
Agenda Item CC – Comments from Council; reaction to remarks made by Councilperson Briere August 7, 2014

Good evening,

I am here to respond to an historical correction offered by Councilwoman Briere to a comment made by a young Palestinian man on August 7. Mustafa Aggour said:

“Israel is committing a Holocaust against the Palestinian people and you guys supported the Jews when the Holocaust was on them in Germany. Why won’t you stand up now against this new Holocaust?”

During comments from Council, Ms. Briere said that “the US government refused to allow people asylum in this country. Boatloads of people were sent back to Europe.”

The US government is not a monolithic body, and I’m certain Ms. Briere would agree. It reacts to constituent demands, and from pressure exerted by powerful lobbies. One need only look at this summer’s unanimous decision by our Senate to support Israel in its relentless attack on Gaza for an example of the power of the Jewish Lobby.

Historical recollection of World War Two refugees is perhaps better illuminated by examining the infighting between Jewish groups on the topic of restricting immigration during the end of the war. A Palestinian Jew named Peter Bergson created a group called the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe. He was opposed – not by anti-Jewish bigots – but by Zionist leaders like Rabbi Stephen Wise, who argued and fought the initiatives to save Jews here, because it was contrary to the interests of Zionists, who wanted refugees to go only to Palestine.

Not only did the US admit tens of thousands of Jews from Germany and Austria, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, but they go on to say:

“Public opinion in the United States, although ostensibly sympathetic to the plight of refugees and critical of Hitler’s policies, continued to favor immigration restrictions. The Great Depression had left millions of people in the United States unemployed and fearful of competition for the scarce few jobs available”

If Ms. Briere was implying that the decisions made by the US were based on anti-Jewish attitudes, quotes like the above do a lot to discourage such conclusions.

And when Mr. Aggour claims that Jews receive positive press, certainly when compared to the press that Palestinians receive, he is absolutely correct. Kathleen Christison writes that during the time of the Partition Plan, “Virtually all reporting was from the Jewish perspective”.

I believe that Mr. Aggour’s question to council was spot-on, politically, emotionally and historically.

Thank you

2 Responses to “Report on Beth Israel vigil 09-13-14”

  1. Betsy Mayfield

    Thanks for the information, Henry. I’ve felt that silence about this topic has once again descended upon the American landscapes of press, discussion, religious messages, etc. I hope that the failure to support the New York Times ad by JVP, etc. is because they’re going to run another ad, which would keep the sounds of dissent aloud for a little longer. I’ll ask.

    Thanks for standing up to the City Council. Sounds as if you’ve got a new compatriot. Betsy

  2. Clif Brown

    three cheers for the NYT ad!
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