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July 16, 2013

Jewish Group To Hold Anti-Israel Protests On Tisha B’Av

As many Jews around the world today observe Tisha B’Av – a fast day that marks the anniversary of the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem and the Jewish people’s exile from the land of Israel – one Jewish group is spending the day protesting Israel.jvp-tisha b’av-we-divest-day-action

Jewish Voice for Peace, a driving force behind the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel in the U.S., is helping organize a “Day of Action” outside the offices of TIAA-CREF, a major financial services institution, across the country. The protests are being held under the auspices of “We Divest,” a coalition founded and led by JVP. TIAA-CREF is being targeted because it has investments in several multinational companies that work with Israel.

The financial giant is holding its national shareholders meeting today in Charlotte, North Carolina. Protests will be held there and outside TIAA-CREF offices in Ann Arbor, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Ithaca, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle.

Though today’s protest was not timed to coincide with Tisha B’Av, JVP’s activists have noted and appreciated the significance of the connection elsewhere. Yesterday, “The Palestinian Talmud,” a blog run by JVP’s Rabbinical Council, featured an entry about Tisha B’Av that promoted the “Day of Action” against Israel.

While the mainstream Jewish community views Tisha B’Av as an opportunity to rededicate its commitment to political sovereignty and support for the Jewish state, the blog post challenged the notion that the Jewish people need a land of their own, saying: “More times than I can count I’ve heard that Jews will not be safe in the world without Israel to protect us. My family and teachers and friends point to time after time of Jews being knocked down, kicked out, killed and say: it will happen again, no matter what. I look at that history and say: it can be different, it has to be.”

The author, a Reconstructionist rabbinical student named Jessica Rosenberg, acknowledges that many Jews spend the day reciting prayers (known as Kinot) that mourn the destruction of the Temples, but notes that she will observe the fast by reading stories and poems about “Palestinians who’ve been dispossessed and expelled from their land.” Rosenberg acknowledges the difficulty of connecting mourning about Jewish trauma with criticism of Israel (in her words, the “Palestinian history and trauma that my community has to reckon with our part in causing”), but commits to starting this “new ritual.”

This exploitation of Jewish tradition to promote an anti-Israel agenda is classic JVP. The group has even previously published a Passover Haggadah that rededicates the 3rd cup of wine to BDS and adds an olive to the Seder Plate to mark the Palestinian struggle.

In advance of today’s meeting, TIAA-CREF was presented with a BDS resolution supported by some of its investors. The company, however, chose not to put the resolution on the ballot of resolutions that will be considered because, as they expressed, the occupation isn’t a “significant social policy issue.”

The “We Divest” campaign was initiated in 2010 by JVP, which began circulating a petition at the time calling on TIAA-CREF to divest. At present, the petition has close to 21,000 signatories. In 2012, JVP announced that the “We Divest” campaign was being transformed into a coalition comprised of JVP, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Adalah-NY, the US Palestinian Community Network, Grassroots International, and the American Friends Service Committee. As part of its efforts to pressure TIAA-CREF to divest from the companies that work with Israel, the “We Divest” coalition holds regular protests and teach-ins and other events promoting TIAA-CREF divestment.

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June 19, 2013

Anti-Israel Groups Organize Youth Summer Camps

As summer nears for millions of students across the country, anti-Israel organizations are recruiting them to spend some of their free time being indoctrinated in anti-Israel advocacy and a one-sided narrative of Palestinian history and culture.boycott_divestment_sanctions

The American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization that has long engaged in efforts to delegitimize Israel, has teamed up with the notoriously anti-Israel group Jewish Voice for Peace to hold a four-day-long “Summer BDS Institute” in late July for college-age students who are already involved in pro-BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaigning on their college campuses or are interested in launching a BDS campaign on campus next year.

Proponents of BDS, an almost decade-old movement, seek to demonize Israel, delegitimize Israeli policy and, in its most extreme forms, promote the destruction of the Jewish character of Israel in an effort to turn public opinion against the Jewish state.

The program will train students about organizing and implementing a campaign, dealing with media requests, “direct action” planning and more. The program, which will take place in New York, is cynically being promoted as “fun in a summer camp-like environment!” on AFSC’s website. It is the latest effort by off-campus anti-Israel groups to provide students with the tools to better organize and initiate programs attacking Israel on campus.

JVP is one of the leading pro-BDS organizations in the United States and is the primary group behind, thus far unsuccessful, efforts to pressure TIAA-CREF, a major financial institution, to disinvest from multinational companies that work with Israel. AFSC has also, to a lesser extent, played a part in promoting BDS in the U.S. and sponsors dozens of anti-Israel events and programs across the country.

In September 2008, AFSC members met with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he was visiting New York for the UN General Assembly. AFSC was one of five religious groups to sponsor a dinner and conversation – billed as an “international dialogue between religious leaders and political figures” – with the Iranian leader, one of the world’s most prominent anti-Semites. ADL forcefully condemned the meeting as a “perversion of the search for peace.”

Separately, American Muslims for Palestine, the leading organization providing anti-Zionist training and education to students and Muslim community organizations in the country, plans to hold a summer camp for youth aged 8-12 in Chicago on Saturdays throughout the summer.

AMP, which had previously been in the business of training high school and college students and adults to engage in anti-Israel campaigns, has a highly political agenda and regularly demonizes Israel. At times, the group has also provided a platform for anti-Semitism under the guise of educating Americans about “the just cause of Palestine and the rights of self-determination.”

A description for the camp notes that the children will be taught about “Palestine and its history,” which will likely be a much distorted version of the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The description also notes that the children will learn about Palestinian arts, culture and history and “participate in fun activities.”

ADL described the summer camp programs as venues to “indoctrinate the next generation of activists with biased messages intended to single out Israel” and criticized AMP’s “cynical calculation that there is no such thing as being too young to start learning how to hate Israel.”

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May 3, 2013

Alison Weir Laments On “Jewish Power” To Anti-Semitic Newspaper

Alison Weir, the director of two organizations that try to steer public support away from Israel and traffic in conspiracy theories about the Jewish state, gave an interview earlier this week lamenting the allegedly all-powerful “Israel lobby.”alison-weir-american-free-press-podcast

Weir’s interview was with the American Free Press (AFP), a Wash­ing­ton, DC-based conspiracy-oriented anti-Semitic news­pa­per pub­lished by long-time anti-Semite Willis Carto.

During the podcast interview, titled “AIPAC Slaps America in the Face, Again,” Weir claimed that the “Israel lobby” is pressuring Congress not to reduce foreign aid to Israel despite sequestration and seemingly is unconcerned with the fact that the money could otherwise be spent on domestic projects that would benefit Americans. She alleged that the lobby suppresses any opposition to Israel, Zionism or “Jewish power.”

Her interviewer, Dave Gahary, readily agreed with her, calling her analysis “terrific” and reiterating that there is strong evidence of “Jewish power.” He pointed to Jews’ “control” of Hollywood and Weir agreed, saying that it’s an “inside joke” in LA that Jews control Hollywood. She also defended Helen Thomas’s anti-Semitic remarks and claimed that Jewish-Americans are “very powerful in politics.” Weir even reflected that she was uncomfortable herself talking about the subject in a public broadcast because it is “taboo.”

At one point during the interview, Gahary rhetorically asked “why should we have to hide discussions about Jews or Jewish power? We shouldn’t. We should be able to say whatever we want.” Weir agreed, asserting that even when people apologize for making anti-Semitic comments, their apologies are sometimes deemed insufficient and they have to “grovel and grovel and grovel.”

It is not the first time that anti-Israel ideologues have appeared on American Free Press. In August 2012, Rebecca Vilkomerson, the Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace, was interviewed by AFP to promote JVP and the group’s boycott campaign against Israel. The parents of Rachel Corrie, a young activist who was killed while protesting Israeli policy in Gaza, and Yisroel Dovid Weiss, the spokesperson for the ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionist group Neturei Karta, have also been interviewed by AFP in recent years.

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