The Deir Yassin Remembered Blog

Report on Beth Israel vigil 07-09-16

Posted on July 11th, 2016 at 3:56 pm by

Request Denied

Why do Jewish community newspapers, like the local Washtenaw Jewish News, exist? Well, one reason is to promote activities and events of Ann Arbor’s Jewish community; certainly no harm in that. But another reason is to promote Israel. Take the October 2015 issue of the WJN for example. Ten of the 34 articles contained in this issue promote the Jewish state. They are political in nature and encourage travel to Israel, especially for young people on “Birthright Israel” trips.

The Washtenaw Jewish News appears to be self-funding, i.e. sustained by the financial support of its 39 advertisers (Oct. 2015). This conclusion was based on the fact that Guidestar’s basic report on The Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor (WJN’s parent org) does not list WJN in its main programs or operations. Readers should feel free to correct us with additional information.

Based on this funding narrative, JWPF selected one of these advertisers – The Ark (“a nationally known acoustic and folk music venue”) – and appealed to them to refrain from financially contributing to an organization which supports Israel. As we wrote in our letter:

Many performers at The Ark promote peace through their music and lyrics: Jay Stielstra, Chris Buhalis, Cheryl Wheeler, and Gideon Luke are but a few. The Ark hosted a fund raiser for Veterans for Peace Chapter 93 in October. It is in this spirit of peace, spoken and sung by many performers, that I ask The Ark to reconsider its policy of promoting a state which – throughout its history – has been antithetical towards peace.

Here is the answer we received from The Ark’s attorney:

Dear Mr. Herskovitz,

Thank you for your recent letter to The Ark’s Board of Directors requesting that The Ark discontinue advertising in the Washtenaw Jewish News. Your letter was shared with The Ark’s Board at their last meeting. The Ark uses a variety of media to encourage support of the venue and the music. The Ark also has a diverse membership which shares a love of the folk, roots and ethnic music that The Ark presents. The Ark’s membership and audiences include a wide spectrum of political affiliations which are not part of The Ark’s mission. It is The Ark’s policy not to take a position on any issue that doesn’t related directly to its mission or business operations. As such, The Ark will continue to reach out widely in order to share the benefits of music.

Ian James Reach

A Fight Worth Fighting?

In our view, the Ark chose not to respond to any of the seven points raised in the request letter, and merely stated that they were going to continue to conduct their business as usual. We suspect that since they don’t receive many requests of this nature, that it was easy for them to swat away this fly. Perhaps it is business as usual for them; on the other hand, perhaps they wouldn’t dare raise the ire of such formidable a power as that of the local Jewish community were they to take a principled stand and terminate their support for a newspaper openly promoting a racist state.

We can only speculate. However, we are reminded that the original 2005 Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS exhorts “…people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts …similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era.”

Do “broad boycotts” include asking advertisers in newspapers dedicated in part to maintaining an apartheid state to reconsider their financial investments? This report indicates that one lone voice doesn’t win the day. If other concerned individuals and groups dedicated to justice for Palestinians, however, could step up and formally request all the advertisers in the Washtenaw Jewish News to reconsider their financial support, might we not expect a more successful outcome?


5 vigilers
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends
America First Not Israel

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