NYC coalition calls on elected officials to stop fueling Islamophobia and suppressing criticism of Israel

ActivismIsrael/PalestineUS Politics
on 11 Comments

The following press release was issued today:

March 12, 2013

At Press Conference, LGBT, Muslim, Jewish, Arab, Iranian, South Asian and University Groups Deliver Open Letter Condemning NY Politicians Who Fuel Islamophobia and Seek to Suppress Criticism of Israel

New York - A historic coalition of LGBT, Muslim, Jewish, Arab, Iranian, South Asian and university groups today delivered a letter to New York City elected officials, calling on them to stop impeding their constituents’ free speech on Israel’s apartheid policies, the “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions” (BDS) movement and the movement against Israeli government “pinkwashing.” The letter is available online here.

Organizations represented included Adalah-NY, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee New York, theCenter for Constitutional RightsFIERCE!Jewish Voice for Peace-NYCJews Say No!The Muslim Defense Project of the NYC Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy(NYAGRA), NYC Queers Against Israeli ApartheidPark Slope Food Coop Members for BDSQUEEROCRACYRaha Iranian Feminist CollectiveSEVA NY, and Students for Justice in Palestine at Brooklyn CollegeColumbia UniversityHunter College and NYU.

Members of the coalition gathered on City Hall steps in Manhattan at 1 PM ET to protest the role of elected officials in fueling Islamophobia and acts of violence against people perceived as Muslims – including immigrants, Sikhs and others. The groups also called on officials to explain the “full extent to which the Jewish Community Relations Council [a pro-Israel lobby group] and other forces far beyond our communities have guided our elected officials to chill free speech in a local co-op, a public university, and an LGBT community center.”

Over a dozen elected officials in the past year have issued public statements aimed at stifling their constituents’ criticisms of Israel. Some implied a threat to defund Brooklyn College if it hosted a presentation on BDS, drawing a stern rebuke from the Center for Constitutional Rights warning them that such threats might well violate the law. Some claimed to support the return of open discussion to New York’s LGBT Community Center after a two-year ban on all mention of Palestine there, only to qualify their support by “categorically reject[ing] attempts by any organization to use the Center to delegitimize Israel and promote an anti-Israel agenda.” Some worked with multi-million dollar pro-Israel lobby groups to push the Park Slope Food Co-op not to vote on, or to vote against, joining a boycott of Israeli goods. Mayor Bloomberg denounced human rights activists at the Co-op, claiming they “want Israel to be torn apart and everybody to be massacred.”

Phan Nguyen, of Park Slope Food Coop Members for BDS, said:

“Last year, [NYC Council Speaker Christine] Quinn and several elected officials didn’t just tell co-op members to vote ‘no’ on a boycott; they were actively trying to prevent a vote. They were not members of the Co-op — they were operating under the direct coordination of the JCRC [Jewish Community Relations Council of New York]. This is the same JCRC that defends Ray Kelly’s program of spying on Muslims. The same JCRC that organized against free speech at Brooklyn College. The same JCRC that held a ‘routine consultation’ with Chris Quinn just before she issued a statement attacking LGBT activists for Palestine.

“Our electeds claim they are only attacking free speech and human rights activists because they’re concerned about balance. Were Jerry Nadler, Hakeem Jeffries and Yvette Clarke concerned about balance when they attended the AIPAC conference last week? Did former City Comptroller Bill Thompson call for balance when he attended the ‘Iron Dome Tribute Luncheon’ last week? Did Bill de Blasio seek balance when he teamed up with JCRC AstroTurf organization Iran180, which employs homophobic rape imagery to promote divestment and sanctions against Iran?”

Carolyn Klaasen of Jewish Voice for Peace-NYC, said:

“This silencing has often equated criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism and threats to the safety of Jewish residents of New York City. Such statements not only trivialize an ugly history of anti-Semitism, but also ignore the fact that open debate and criticism of states is necessary for our collective security.”

Leslie Cagan, of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, said:

“LGBT communities around the world are organizing to question Israel’s use of LGBT rights as a ‘pinkwash’ of its apartheid policies against Palestinians – but in New York we find ourselves fending off attacks from our own elected officials acting as proxy for Israel lobby groups. As LGBT people, we refuse to be baited by anti-Muslim, anti-Arab rhetoric. Many Palestinian LGBT groups and Israeli LGBT groups are talking about the fact that you can’t argue for LGBT rights under an occupation that doesn’t respect any rights at all. It’s unconscionable that our electeds would seek to stop us from talking about that here.”

Samia Shafi, of Adalah-NY, said:

“Our detractors argue that BDS is divisive–but when Israel isn’t held to the same standards of human rights as every other nation, that is in fact divisive.  Some argue that the BDS is an obstacle to negotiations, but human rights and justice are non-negotiable. The Palestinian people have never and will ever accept anything less. Nor should we.”

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11 Responses

  1. American
    March 12, 2013, 5:39 pm

    Good for them…go gays!
    Their SF chapter should descend on the crazy woman’s latest ads.
    Jihad Awareness Ad Campaign “Rolling Out” on SF Buses
    Posted: 03/12/2013 – 12:24 pm PDT | Last Updated: 03/12/2013 – 12:24 pm PDT · 0 Comments
    Ten new advertisements are rolling out on San Francisco municipal buses today, sparking new controversy over the Jihad awareness ad campaign funded by the American Freedom Defense Initiative.

    CBS San Francisco reported, “‘Killing Jews is worship that draws us closer to Allah,’ reads one of the ads, which has people debating the line between free speech and hate speech.” Another quotes Osama bin Laden, ”The first thing we are calling you to is Islam.”

    Reality of Jihad, Not Hate Speech (Says Geller)

    Pamela Geller of the American Freedom Defense Initiative.
    Photo courtesy of IAW Fair Use.
    Pamela Geller of the American Freedom Defense Initiative told CBS News, “The purpose of our campaign is to show the reality of Jihad, the root causes of terrorism. Using the exact quotes and text that they use.” The American Freedom Defense Institute (AFDI) also paid for pro-Israel ads on the muni buses in 2012, which read, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad.”

    The Times of Israel reported, “The group, headed by anti-Islam commentator Pamela Geller, is defined as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center.”

    Geller told CBS News that the ads are a response to another bus ad campaign earlier this year by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which was encouraging the disassociation of the word “jihad” with Muslim violence and attempting to raise awareness of the word, which means “the struggle,” as a central tenet of Islam.

  2. DICKERSON3870
    March 12, 2013, 7:42 pm

    RE: “LGBT communities around the world are organizing to question Israel’s use of LGBT rights as a ‘pinkwash’ of its apartheid policies against Palestinians . . .” ~ Leslie Cagan, of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid

    MY COMMENT: Not to mention Israel’s treatment of gay Palestinians seeking asylum in Israel! ! !

    SEE: “Israel’s Treatment of Gay Palestinian Asylum Seekers” ~ by Caroline Esser, The Washington Note, 6/06/11

    [EXCERPTS]. . . The newest way to sell Israel to Americans: LGBT rights. Search gay rights on the Anti-Defamation League’s website and what do you find? A ready-to-print and available for order poster that reads, “Which of the Middle East nations protects the legal rights, safety & freedom of the LGBT communities? Only Israel.” . . .
    . . . In their 2008 study, “Nowhere to Run: Gay Palestinian Asylum-Seekers in Israel,” Michael Kagan and Anat Ben-Dor describe in detail Israel’s unsympathetic and unbending policy towards gay Palestinians. . .
    . . .In pursuit of protection and the ability to openly express their sexuality, there have been at least ten cases in which gay Palestinians have sought refuge in Israel. However, despite their desperation, Israel refuses to even review gay Palestinian applications for asylum (those who have successfully received asylum have had to submit their cases directly to the UNHCR headquarters in Geneva). Moreover, gay Palestinians who have illegally entered Israel have been arrested and promptly deported–returned to the very environments in which their lives were at risk and in which they will now face further danger as they are questioned not only for their sexuality but for their choice to spend time in Israel. . .


  3. Citizen
    March 13, 2013, 2:44 am

    Wow, I can feel the tension in NYC metro–NYC’s Zionist matrix fears losing control of speech concerning Israel. Go uppity coalition!

  4. K Renner
    March 13, 2013, 4:59 am

    It’s interesting when people like Geller talk about hate since she’s a ludicrously hateful person herself.

    Also- all this bullshit you hear about “THE MUSLIMS HATE THE [email protected]
    Out of all the Muslims I’ve met, and out of all the jews- the Muslims talk about how they see the jews as people, naturally, who they don’t agree with on many issues, but people none the less.
    Amongst the jews I’ve met- if you mention Palestine or Islam, they turn into racist, spitting caricatures, it’s hilarious.

    • MK_Ultra
      March 13, 2013, 4:56 pm

      My experiences are exactly the same. Also, the Palestinians I know always speak of peace and moving forward while the other side is all for revenge, bloodshed, hatred and, of course, dwelling on the past.

  5. hophmi
    March 13, 2013, 11:49 am

    ” “full extent to which the Jewish Community Relations Council [a pro-Israel lobby group] and other forces far beyond our communities have guided our elected officials to chill free speech in a local co-op, a public university, and an LGBT community center.””

    Oh please. The JCRC is not a pro-Israel lobby group any more than CAIR is a pro-Palestinian lobbying group. Both groups include the middle east in their portfolios, but both focus mostly on other issues.

    The JCRC didn’t organize anything against freedom of speech at BC. I challenge Phan Nguyen to point to a single JCRC statement saying the BDS event should not take place. The few politicians who suggested they would support defunding BC were a tiny minority. As usual, Phan is defining a huge community of mostly liberal people by its most extreme elements.

    Phan is bitter because he lost the Coop vote, after a BDS campaign most of Park Slope detested, by a lot. And he is bitter that he doesn’t have the access JCRC has to local politicians.

    Let him complain. He’s not actually getting anything substantive done.

    • Annie Robbins
      March 13, 2013, 12:44 pm

      hops, have you read How the JCRC inspired New York officials to fight BDS:

      • hophmi
        March 13, 2013, 1:19 pm

        “hops, have you read How the JCRC inspired New York officials to fight BDS:”

        I have, in detail.

        And as usual with Phan, his piece that you link was inaccurate and disingenuous.

        1. The JCRC is fairly moderate on Israel. Hindy Poupko is on record strongly supporting the two-state solution; she’s their direction of Israel and International Affairs. Because it is part of the Conference, it tries to reflect Conference positions, but to take a line from their mission statement and suggest that because of this, the organization is on the right is disingenuous. But it’s moderate, and most of the people at the JCRC are center or center-left.

        2. Phan’s critique of the JCRC’s activism of the boycott seems to be that they had the temerity to organize a campaign against it. The account of the JCRC organizing cited by Phan reads like organizing 101 for grassroots activism. Mobilize local officials and activists, tailor your message to the community. Mobilize elected officials who share your view. But organizing the grassroots is the most important thing, as the article clearly says. Phan laughably describes this as “direct[ing] the campaign while keeping the JCRC’s involvement on the down-low” as if it was some conspiracy.

        He also claims that JCRC (which is a city organization in a city where Brooklyn is the largest borough) uses the term “grassroots” cynically because they organized the coalition of Brooklyn-based rabbis.

        In fact, a good deal of that organized was done by Andy Bachman, the Rabbi at Congregation Beth Elohim, who has been doing similar community organizing for a long time.

        Even if Phan’s assertion were true, the idea that it’s not grassroots when a municipal organization assists local organizations with community organizing is utter nonsense. That’s like saying that the MLK’s work in Birmingham, Alabama was not a grassroots effort because it was organized by the SCLC. It’s like saying Phan’s BDS campaign was not grassroots (which, of course, it wasn’t) because it was organized by the national BDS movement.

        Phan seems to be sore that the JCRC helped organize a panel of progressive anti-BDS voices, another event Andy Bachman had a big hand in putting together. He doesn’t say what was wrong with this; apparently, it’s not ok for anyone to organize a panel on an issue unless it supports his POV. I was at that panel, by the way, and plenty of pro-BDS people attended it as well and were given the opportunity to ask questions.

        And it’s amazing that despite the fact that Hindy Poupko expressly told Phan that they were not involved in the drafting of the letters sent to BC by the politicians, his claim that they “organized against free speech at Brooklyn College” is repeated here. It is a lie, pure and simple.

        Phan is bitter. He is a bitter loser, and all he’s really upset about is that my side is more organized than his is, and that my position is more popular than his is in NY.

      • Phan Nguyen
        March 13, 2013, 11:53 pm

        Hophmi, I don’t know who you are. All I know is that you feel obliged to respond to almost every single Mondoweiss posting by writing, “No, you’re wrong.”

        Sometimes I wonder if you just look forward to the latest Mondoweiss installment so that you have another opportunity to post a “No you’re wrong” comment. I think every Mondoweiss piece should automatically be appended with a Hophmi comment that says, “No you’re wrong.”

        As always, you make several assertions and provide no proof:

        “The JCRC is fairly moderate on Israel. Hindy Poupko is on record strongly supporting the two-state solution; she’s their direction of Israel and International Affairs.”

        1. You imply that the JCRC’s Director of Israel & International Affairs is in charge of deciding the JCRC’s positions on Israel—in contravention to the JCRC’s mission statement, which is declared in its mandatory filings as a registered 501(c)(3). Now prove it.

        2. Explain why it is “moderate” to take US politicians on trips to illegal settlements in the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

        3. If your view of “moderate” is supporting a two-state solution, then you can call me moderate as well, because I would support a two-state solution under the right circumstances.

        “It’s like saying Phan’s BDS campaign was not grassroots (which, of course, it wasn’t) because it was organized by the national BDS movement.”

        1. Explain which BDS campaign and provide proof.

        2. Quite amusingly, by inserting the parenthetical note, you managed to contradict your own analogy.

        “[H]is claim that they “organized against free speech at Brooklyn College” is repeated here. It is a lie, pure and simple.”

        What I am quoted in the press release as having said is a paraphrase of what I actually said at the press conference. My views on the role of the JCRC are explained in the article that you have failed to refute with actual proof.

        “Phan is bitter because he lost the Coop vote…Let him complain. He’s not actually getting anything substantive done…Phan seems to be sore…Phan is bitter. He is a bitter loser…”

        There is no better response to this than to just quote it. And so I have.

    • sardelapasti
      March 14, 2013, 1:16 am

      Hopffme – “Let him complain. He’s not actually getting anything substantive done.”

      Let Hoppme drone on. He’s not saying anything in his rivers of blah except regurgitating some pre-chewed lie. He just screeches and stinks. In fact, not getting anything done for his salary. Once he’s boycotted we wouldn’t hear him; just skip the posts.

  6. MK_Ultra
    March 13, 2013, 4:54 pm

    Noble gesture, deaf ears.

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