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June 24, 2015 0

It is Time to End Confederate Flag License Plates

Flickr photo credit:  J. Stephen Conn

Flickr photo credit: J. Stephen Conn

At least eight states have spe­cialty license plates bear­ing the Con­fed­er­ate flag.  In the wake of the sav­age hate crime against mem­bers of Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church, how­ever, Gov­er­nors from four of these states (MD, NC, TN and VA) have pub­licly stated they want to dis­con­tinue these plates or remove images of the flag from them.  End­ing Con­fed­er­ate flag plates is not only the right thing to do, but in light of a June 18th U.S. Supreme Court deci­sion — Walker v. Texas Divi­sion, Sons of Con­fed­er­ate Vet­er­ans – it poses no legal issues.

The Con­fed­er­ate flag  is a potent sym­bol of slav­ery and white supremacy, which has caused it to be very pop­u­lar among white suprema­cists in the 20th and 21st cen­turies.  State license plates bear­ing the flag only serve to endorse it and implic­itly con­vey accep­tance of racism and hatred. In the 21st Cen­tury, no gov­ern­ment entity should dis­play or be asso­ci­ated with any sym­bol of hate.  And they have no First Amend­ment oblig­a­tion to dis­play such symbols.

In the Walker deci­sion, the Supreme Court ruled that spe­cialty license plates are solely gov­ern­ment speech.  As a result, the State of Texas was not required to accept a spe­cialty plate bear­ing the Con­fed­er­ate flag.

In reach­ing this con­clu­sion, the Court wisely stated:

[A] per­son who dis­plays a mes­sage on a Texas license plate likely intends to con­vey to the pub­lic that the State has endorsed that mes­sage.  If not, the indi­vid­ual could sim­ply dis­play the mes­sage in ques­tion in larger let­ters on a bumper sticker right next to the plate.

 Every Amer­i­can cer­tainly has the First Amend­ment right to dis­play vir­tu­ally any sym­bol on his or her car – even hate­ful ones.  But hate sym­bols, such as the Con­fed­er­ate flag, have no place on any offi­cial iden­ti­fi­ca­tion or doc­u­ment no mat­ter how seem­ingly innocu­ous.   The Gov­er­nors and leg­is­la­tors of all states with Con­fed­er­ate flag license plates should expe­di­tiously work to dis­con­tinue them.

 

 

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June 23, 2015 0

Egyptian TV Series “Jewish Quarter” Defines A Good Jew

The first episodes of “Haret El Yahood” [The Jew­ish Quar­ter], a new Egypt­ian TV series that started air­ing last week on many satel­lite chan­nels in the Arab world, rein­force com­mon anti-Semitic nar­ra­tives despite some expec­ta­tions that it would depart from the usual anti-Semitic canards typ­i­cally found in Arab media.haret-el-yahood

The show, which presents the Jew­ish com­mu­nity in Egypt in the 40s through a love story between a Jew­ish girl and a Mus­lim Egypt­ian army offi­cer, attempts to present the dif­fer­ence between “good” Jews and “bad” Jews; the good Jews are the ones who are loyal to Egypt and sup­port its war against Israel while Zion­ist Jews, who are loyal to Israel, are depicted as wicked, liars, evil and try­ing to betray Egypt. Mid­hat Al-adl, who wrote the script for the show, told Al Jazeera that the show “con­demns Israeli Zion­ism and racism.”

The first scene of the first episode fea­tures an Egypt­ian fam­ily run­ning to seek shel­ter inside the Jew­ish syn­a­gogue in Cairo dur­ing an Israeli air strike. A con­ver­sa­tion between the father of the fam­ily and a young neigh­bor­hood girl sets the tone for the rest of the show. The Jew­ish man by the name of Aaron says, “More airstrikes and more of turn off the lights, we were relieved Hitler was gone and his days were over.” The girl then responds, “The prob­lem is, uncle Aaron, the same ones whom Hitler killed and expelled are the ones killing and uproot­ing the Palestinians.”

The show’s main char­ac­ter, a Jew­ish girl by the name of Layla, falls in love with a Mus­lim Egypt­ian army offi­cer who is fight­ing in the war against Israel. Layla is fea­tured as an exam­ple of a good Jew who stands against Israel unlike her brother, Moses, who is depicted as an ardent Zion­ist con­spir­ing against his coun­try and family.

The show also appears to prop­a­gate the con­spir­acy the­ory that Zion­ist Jews were allied with the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood Move­ment in Egypt since 1948. A scene in the first episode shows a Jew­ish man instruct­ing a Mus­lim Broth­er­hood leader at one of their camps. Sub­se­quent episodes sug­gest that events lead­ing to the mas­sive immi­gra­tion of Jews from Egypt to Israel were part of a Zionist-Muslim Broth­er­hood con­spir­acy. For exam­ple, an explo­sion planned by the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood at the Jew­ish quar­ter is por­trayed as ben­e­fit­ing Zion­ist Jews because it trig­gered fear among Egypt­ian Jews and com­pelled them to con­sider immi­grat­ing to Israel.

Haret El Yahood, which received huge pub­lic­ity across the Arab world, is cur­rently aired on sev­eral satel­lite TV sta­tions across the Arab World includ­ing CBC, Dubai TV, Dream and MBC. Ramadan with Google, a page ded­i­cated by Google for the holy Mus­lim month of Ramadan, fea­tured the show on its land­ing page.

In the past, ADL exposed attempts to exploit the Muslim’s holy month of Ramadan, a prime time TV sea­son in the Arab world, to air anti-Semitic TV shows.

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June 22, 2015 1

What Should We Tell Our Children About Charleston?

Credit: Stephen Melkisethian / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Credit: Stephen Melkisethian / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

As we grieve, protest and fur­ther inves­ti­gate the hor­rific mur­der of nine African Amer­i­can parish­ioners at the his­toric Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, many peo­ple are ask­ing: What should we tell the children?

Par­ents, fam­ily mem­bers and oth­ers are some­times uneasy about dis­cussing issues of vio­lence and injus­tice with chil­dren because they want to pro­tect them from ter­ri­ble and scary top­ics. How­ever, it is impor­tant that chil­dren have a lan­guage for dis­cussing the unfair­ness and injus­tice they see in the world and that as adults, we model that these con­ver­sa­tions are ones we are will­ing to engage in as we assure them that we are work­ing to coun­ter­act injustice.

Except for very young chil­dren, it is impor­tant to raise the issue with chil­dren. It is likely that with online access and the 24/7 hour news cycle, many young peo­ple have already heard about it and may be look­ing for an oppor­tu­nity to learn more. In talk­ing with chil­dren about emo­tion­ally chal­leng­ing top­ics, remem­ber to:

  • Give them the time and space to express their feel­ings (what­ever those feel­ings are) and actively lis­ten with empa­thy and compassion.
  • Find out what they already know, clar­ify any mis­in­for­ma­tion they have and answer their ques­tions. If you don’t know the answer, be hon­est about that and find out the answer together.
  • In an age-appropriate way and using lan­guage they can under­stand, share your own thoughts, feel­ings and spe­cific val­ues about the topic.
  • Give youth infor­ma­tion about what is being done to make things safe and what actions are tak­ing place to coun­ter­act the injustice.

Here are spe­cific talk­ing points you may want to cover with young people:

Words and sym­bols matter

We have heard that the alleged shooter, Dylann Storm Roof, told racist jokes and spewed biased ide­ol­ogy. A con­tem­po­rary of Roof’s said “He made a lot of racist jokes, but you don’t really take them seri­ously like that.” Hate has the poten­tial to esca­late and the Pyra­mid of Hate illus­trates how biased behav­iors and attitudes—when left unchallenged—can lead to more seri­ous acts of dis­crim­i­na­tion and bias-motivated vio­lence such as the one per­pe­trated in Charleston. If those atti­tudes, beliefs and behav­iors were ques­tioned and addressed, per­haps there would have been dif­fer­ent out­comes and those nine lives would not have been taken.

Sym­bols are forms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion that con­vey impor­tant mes­sages to chil­dren about what we value, what is impor­tant and what kind of soci­ety we want to cre­ate. Hate sym­bols, espe­cially when dis­sem­i­nated and per­va­sive, com­mu­ni­cate that hate and bias are accept­able. Roof had patches on his jacket of flags of regimes in South African and Rhode­sia that enforced the vio­lent white minor­ity rule. He was also seen in sev­eral pho­tos with a Con­fed­er­ate flag, which has come to sym­bol­ize racial hatred and big­otry. Iron­i­cally, the flag is still dis­played in South Carolina’s state­house grounds in Colum­bia and activists and elected offi­cials have been press­ing for its removal for years.

Racism is sys­temic and can be overcome

While Roof was not a for­mal mem­ber of a white suprema­cist orga­ni­za­tion, he espoused white supremacy ide­ol­ogy that is preva­lent, online and world­wide. In address­ing this topic with young peo­ple, we need to give them hope and inspi­ra­tion by show­ing them that we have come a long way on issues of race and other social jus­tice issues by push­ing for leg­is­la­tion, edu­cat­ing peo­ple and tak­ing action. At the same time, it is also impor­tant that we con­nect the dots so that young peo­ple under­stand that issues such as school seg­re­ga­tion, racial dis­par­i­ties in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem and vot­ing rights are not indi­vid­ual acts but are part of a larger sys­tem and that if soci­etal change is going to take place, the solu­tions also need to be systemic.

Activism makes a difference

Since the mur­ders last week, there have been protests across the coun­try and in Charleston and Colum­bia, SC specif­i­cally call­ing pub­lic offi­cials to take down the Con­fed­er­ate flag as a first step. On Sun­day, in a mov­ing demon­stra­tion of empa­thy and con­nec­tion, church bells across Charleston tolled for nine min­utes to sym­bol­ize the nine vic­tims. We know that our nation has a long his­tory of activism that has brought about sig­nif­i­cant social change–from mar­riage equal­ity to immi­gra­tion reform and the recent “Black Lives Mat­ter” move­ment. One of the most impor­tant prin­ci­ples we can con­vey to our chil­dren is that their voices and actions make a dif­fer­ence and will help to build a bet­ter world.

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