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December 2, 2014

Marginal Anti-Israel Group Alters Holocaust Photo to Condemn Israel

A Facebook group called “I Acknowledge Apartheid Exists,” with over 91,000 fans, recently posted a photoshopped picture of Holocaust survivors holding signs that read “Stop the Holocaust in Gaza,” “Gaza, the world’s biggest concentration camp,” “Stop U.S. aid to Israel,” and “Break the silence on Gaza!!” Below the picture was text that stated, “Whatever happened to ‘Never again?’” [sic].i-acknowledge-apartheid-exists

The “I Acknowledge Apartheid Exists” group was founded on March 30, 2013 and its administrators frequently post images that delegitimize Israel and describe it as a “terrorist nation.” Recent posts include an image that described the State of Israel as “Nazi Israel” and another that stated “End genocide in Gaza.” Other posts ended with hashtags such as “#StopTheNazis” and “#StopIsrael.”

The group’s Communications Director, Derek Hummel, told TheRealNews.com in an April 2013 interview that the page was briefly shut down by Facebook because of complaints that were submitted by users who were offended by content that the group was posting. He added that Facebook reversed the decision shortly thereafter and that a fan of the page had written to tell them that, “an army of Jews were out to disband our Facebook page.” Hummel claimed, “the very next day, we were shut down.”

Over the years, Holocaust imagery has been used by many anti-Israel groups and individuals that look to make false comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany in an effort to cast Israel as a demonic state that is bent on exterminating the Palestinian people. Many examples of this appeared during Operation Protective Edge when participants at anti-Israel rallies and demonstrations held signs with slogans like “From Auschwitz to Palestine, My Ancestors are Crying…” and “Doesn’t the Holocaust teach us that it must never happen to anyone ever again?” In addition, participants at some of those rallies held signs showing the design of the Israeli flag with a swastika replacing the Star of David or the picture of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wearing a swastika armband.

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Comparing Israelis to Nazis during a protest in front of the Holocaust Museum in Houston, January 16, 2009. Source: Jewish Herald-Voice, Houston

Protesters at anti-Israel rallies that took place during Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012 also used similar rhetoric, calling for an end to “the Nazi occupation of Gaza,” describing Gaza as today’s “Warsaw Ghetto” and accusing Israel of committing a genocide and massacre of the Palestinian people. That sort of rhetoric was also used during rallies and demonstrations that followed Operation Cast Lead.

One of those examples took place in Houston where the Houston Coalition for Justice and Peace staged anti-Israel protests and demonstrations around the city. At one of those rallies, which took place outside of the Holocaust Museum in Houston, participants wore mock concentration camp prisoner uniforms and looked to charge Israel with the crime of “genocide” against the Palestinians.

Student groups have also used Holocaust imagery to condemn Israel and its supporters on many occasions. An example of this took place less than a month ago when the University of Central Florida’s Students for Justice in Palestine (UCF SJP) chapter posted a graphic on their Facebook page that showed a face with a swastika talking to what appears to be a face with an Israeli flag. The face with the swastika said, “You aren’t a real human race! DIE!” and below it was a similar picture that showed a face with an Israeli flag talking to a face with a Palestinian flag, stating, “You aren’t a real human race! DIE!” Above the image, UCF SJP wrote, “History, unfortunately, has repeated itself.”

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November 20, 2014

Anti-Israel Activity Prevalent On Massachusetts Campuses This Year

With recent anti-Israel activity at multiple universities in Massachusetts,the state has become a hotspot for campus events promoting Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns and the use of confrontational tactics to protest pro-Israel events.students-for-justice-in-palestine-2014-national-conference

Nine anti-Israel events have been held in Massachusetts so far this academic year, more than double the four events that took place last year during the same timeframe. This academic year’s events follow the nine anti-Israel demonstrations that were held in Massachusettsover the summer during Operation Protective Edge, some of which featured signs with slogans like “Not even the Holocaust gives you the right to do this!” and “Do you think that Israel is a victim? Zionism = Nazism.”

In October, the fourth annual National Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Conference took place at Tufts University.SJP, a student organization with over 110 chapters at American universities, held the conference so that students from around the country could unify for a weekend to learn about SJP’s stance on the conflict. The conference was titled “Beyond Solidarity: Resisting Racism and Colonialism from the U.S. to Palestine,” a reference to SJP activists’ efforts to connect varying struggles and movements to the Palestinian cause, and it featured workshops such as “Nothing Normal about It: Countering Normalization of Israeli Oppression on Campus,” and “Israeli Apartheid: Reality on the Ground after the Protective Edge Massacre and Ending Genocide in Gaza.”

Open Hillel, a student-run campaign calling on Hillel International to alter its “Standards for Partnership,” held its first conference at Harvard University, calling on Hillel International to allow “free discourse” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Organizers claimed that the conference would allow certain viewpoints to be voiced that would be excluded from a Hillel building because of Hillel International’s “Standards for Partnership,” which do not allow for speakers that delegitimize Israel or deny its right to exist. The Open Hillel conference featured discussions such as “Unpacking Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions,” and “Anti Normalization Workshop: Open Discourse in the Context of Power Differentials.”
Both the SJP and Open Hillel conferences focused on topics such as BDS campaigns and the tactic of anti-normalization, which advises students against dialogue and rejects any attempt to engage in a debate of the conflict with pro-Israel students.

Speakers at the conferences represented a network of groups that have worked to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish State. Those speakers included Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) who spoke at the Open Hillel conference; Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University and an Advisory Board member of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation who also spoke at the Open Hillel conference; and Sara Kershnar, a cofounder of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network who has made false allegations including that Israel uses “Nazi tactics” against Palestinians, spoke at the SJP conference.

Other recent anti-Israel events in Massachusetts organized by students include:

  • A panel discussion about the BDS movement took place during the Harvard Arab Weekend, which is sponsored by the Harvard Arab Alumni Association and several corporate sponsors, including Bank Audi, Shell, and the Boston Consulting Group. The BDS discussion, which took place to “highlight recent successes from the BDS movement, discuss approach, and examine its trajectory,” featured Noam Chomsky, an American scholar who has a history of making anti-Israel statements; Andrew Kadi, a member of the US Campaign’s Steering Committee; and Yousef Munayyer, Executive Director of the Jerusalem Fund; as guest speakers.
  • On November 1, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), a group that works to bring about a comprehensive economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel,delivered a presentation about BDS campaigns to students. In past statements, Barghouti has used sensitive Holocaust imagery to condemn Israel and its supporters and has alleged that an “Israel lobby” controls U.S. policy and suppresses debate.
  • In late October, members of various Boston SJP chapters protested a Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces (FIDF) fundraiser outside of the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel where the event was taking place.  Protesters led chants and held signs that read, “The IDF is GENOCIDAL,” “From Ferguson to Palestine racism is a crime,” and “Friends don’t let friends commit war crimes.”
  • At Smith College in Northampton, the “Festival of Resistance” featured an anti-Israel rally outside of Northampton City Hall that led directly into a day-long teach-in about the BDS movement in late September.

In addition to organizing such events, anti-Israel students also oppose pro-Israel programing through confrontational tactics. This past Monday, students from the Tufts University Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter, conducted a die-in to protest a presentation from a pro-Israel speaker. In a more extreme example of protesting against pro-Israel programming on campus,anti-Israel sentiment crossed the line to anti-Semitism when swastikas were drawn on flyers advertising a pro-Israel event at Northeastern University.  Northeastern University’s swift condemnation of the incident was clear, timely, unambiguous, and served as an important reminder of effective university responses to acts of hate and intolerance on campus.

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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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