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September 22, 2014

Ferguson = Gaza: The Continued Invocation Of A False Comparison

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Vigil for Gaza at the College of Staten Island

While Gaza and Ferguson no longer dominate the headlines, these unrelated events continue to be connected by a num­ber of groups and indi­vid­u­als in an attempt to bring atten­tion to their activism.

In addition to previously reported examples, more recent anti-Israel events continue to link the conflict in Gaza to the Ferguson, Missouri shooting and its aftermath, couching hostility towards Israel in social justice terms in an attempt to appeal to a broader base of support.

Recent examples of anti-Israel events that draw parallels between Ferguson and Gaza include:

  • Existence is Resistance and the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home are advertising an event scheduled for October 11 at the Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz Center in northern Manhattan to address “the global systems that oppress us, from Ferguson to Gaza.” The event will feature speakers such as Remi Kanazi, an organizing committee member of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI).
  • A panel discussion titled “From Ferguson to Palestine: Connecting Struggles” is scheduled to take place at the University of Texas-Austin on September 24 according to the event’s Facebook page. The event, sponsored by the Palestine Solidarity Committee, will feature at least two UT-Austin professors.
  • The City University of New York (CUNY) Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter is hosting a panel discussion at the CUNY Graduate Center titled “CUNY Stands for Justice: From Ferguson to Palestine” on September 22 featuring “an evening of poetry, speakers, and discussion around repression and resistance from Ferguson, Missouri to Gaza, Palestine,” according to event flyers.

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    SJP “die-in” at Brooklyn College

  • The College of Staten Island SJP chapter hosted a vigil for Gaza on September 17 at which the group advertised on Facebook that it would “read the names of the lives lost, give speeches, and stand in solidarity from Ferguson to Palestine…” The group also stated that it shares the anger of those in Ferguson because “Palestinians know what it means to be shot while unarmed because of your ethnicity.”
  • According to a post on an anti-Israel Facebook page, members of the Direct Action Front for Palestine attended protests in Ferguson and spoke to people there about Gaza. On September 8, it held a meeting in Brooklyn, New York to share what they “learned in Ferguson…to become more effective in our resistance…”
  • Members of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) protested outside ADL’s San Francisco office on September 3 with a banner that read “From Oakland to Ferguson to Palestine, The US and Israel, A Deadly combination” and “Stop police brutality…Stop the ADL.” IJAN is a coalition formed in 2008 that seeks to facilitate global anti-Israel activity on the part of anti-Zionist Jews.
  • On Facebook, Brooklyn College SJP advertised a September 2 “die-in” on the Brooklyn College campus to “raise awareness about israel’s [sic] latest massacre” and to remember “all the victims of white supremacy and institutionalized racism in the U.S., the latest being #MikeBrown and #EricGarner.”

Events linking Ferguson and Gaza have also been organized by some university departments. At UCLA, the Law School’s Critical Race Studies Department sponsored a September 18 event called “From Gaza to Ferguson,” which according to publicity materials, explored “the relationship between race, the rise of militarized policing and the response to dissent in the United States and consider its implications in a global context.” The panel included Hedy Epstein, a Holocaust survivor who has compared the Israeli treatment of Palestinians to the Nazi treatment of Jews.

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August 28, 2014

Ferguson = Gaza: Manufacturing A False Comparison

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Protesters on the Manhattan Bridge

See also: Ferguson = Gaza: The Continued Invocation Of A False Comparison

As events in Gaza and high profile police brutality cases have continued to dominate recent headlines, a number of groups and individuals have tried to find a connection between these unrelated events in an attempt to bring attention to their activism.

Several anti-Israel groups have couched their hostility towards Israel in social justice terms by linking the conflict in Gaza to the events in Ferguson in an attempt to appeal to a broader base of support. For example:

  • Brooklyn College Students for Justice in Palestine advertised a September 2 event on Facebook: “From Ferguson to Palestine, racism, injustice and human rights violations are being committed against people of color.”
  • The Ohio Palestine Solidarity Group sponsored an August 25 demonstration at Ohio State University’s African American and African Studies Community Extension Center, “to show our love and support for members of our Columbus community who have lost innocent loved ones in Gaza in recent Israeli attacks, to stand in solidarity with Michael Brown, John Crawford, and victims of racism and police brutality all over the US…”
  • At protests in Oakland on August 23, anti-Israel protesters reportedly shouted, “Hands up, don’t shoot,” co-opting the chant used at Ferguson protests
  • An advertisement for an August 22 Indiana Palestine Solidarity event on Facebook read: “The disregard and disrespect for black bodies and black life is endemic to the white supremacist system that rules the land. Your struggles through the ages have been an inspiration to us as we fight daily for the most basic human dignities in our own homeland against the racist Zionist regime that considers us less human.”
  • On August 20, the Palestinian BDS National Committee issued a statement saying, “We recognize those tactics being used in Ferguson and the mentality behind them…the methods of unbri dled violence and control being used by security forces are all too familiar to Palestinians living under Israel’s decade-old occupation.”
  • On August 20, protesters on the Manhattan Bridge chanted, “From Ferguson to Palestine, occupation has got to go.” At least one protester held a sign that read “We are FERGUSON We are GAZA, because We are Human.”
  • In an August 20 press release, Jewish Voice for Peace stated, “We recognize that the devaluing of African-American lives built into the fabric of US government and society is mirrored in Israel’s unequal treatment of Palestinians…It’s also not surprising to see the similarity in the tactics and technologies of repression against those who are rising up nonviolently in both places.”
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Protest in Staten Island

While some are simply trying to rouse support for an anti-Israel agenda by attracting like-minded activists, others have gone so far as to imply that Israel is to blame for the violence in Ferguson.

This allegation surfaced in a tweet by Trita Parsi, head of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). On August 14, Parsi tweeted, “Wondering why the excessive police violence? Here’s a guess: #Ferguson police chief got training in Israel…#Gaza.” An August 15 article from San Francisco Bay View titled “Israel-trained police ‘occupy’ Missouri after killing of Black youth” echoed this sentiment.

Similar comparisons have appeared at protests regarding other high profile police brutality cases, such as at an August 23 rally calling for justice in the death of Eric Garner, who was unarmed when killed by an NYPD officer earlier this summer. Among the posters seen at the protest were “Google It!!! Israel trains the NYPD.”

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August 21, 2014

Anti-Zionist Group Targets Jewish Institutions

Over the past two weeks, demonstrators from Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), the largest Jewish anti-Zionist group in the United States, have entered Jewish institution buildings to directly confront the leaders of major American Jewish organizations over their support for Operation Protective Edge.

On four separate occasions, members of JVP made their way into buildings belonging to Jewish institutions and began to protest inside. Their goal in getting inside the buildings was to hand deliver an open letter calling the institutional Jewish community’s support for Operation Protective Edge “painful” and “a betrayal of our [Jewish] history and values.”

1. New York City (August 20) – Members of JVP’s New York City chapter entered the UJA-Federation offices in Manhattan. One of the protesters, who live-tweeted from the demonstration, wrote “Occupying UJA federation office in NYC now.” The protesters eventually moved their demonstration to the sidewalk outside of the building.

2. Denver (August 19) – The Front Range JVP chapter led a group of protesters into the JEWISHcolorado building in Denver. Inside the building, protesters attempted to deliver their petition to JEWISHcolorado’s President and CEO Doug Seserman. After their request was denied, they moved the demonstration to the building’s lobby and then eventually outside of the building after 911 was reportedly called.

3. Durham (August 12) – A small group of protesters from JVP’s North Carolina chapter interrupted the “Community Gathering in Support of Israel and Peace,” which was sponsored by the Jewish Federations of Raleigh-Cary and Durham-Chapel Hill. While a speaker was delivering a presentation, members of the group interrupted his speech, unfolded a large banner and began to make demands from institutional Jewish leadership about their stance on Operation Protective Edge.

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JVP members at the Philadelphia Jewish Federation building

4. Philadelphia (August 8) – Protesters from JVP’s Philadelphia chapter made their way into the Jewish Federation offices in Philadelphia. After gaining entrance, they demanded to meet with the Federation’s CEO Naomi Adler. After being told that they would not receive an appointment, a small portion of the group refused to leave the building and continued to protest inside, reportedly leading to their arrest.

Six other protests have also taken place outside of Jewish institutions over the past month, although various groups such as Al-Awda and the newly-founded If Not Now, When?, have organized those. No attempts were made to enter the Jewish institutions in those cases, but like JVP, the protesters called on the Jewish community to condemn Operation Protective Edge.

At least 25 other protests have taken place outside of buildings affiliated with Israel or Israeli companies. At one of those demonstrations, members of JVP and Jews Say No! made their way into the offices of Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces (FIDF). Once inside, the demonstrators began to protest and conducted a “die-in.” Nine protestors were reportedly arrested.

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