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Debbie Almontaser salutes Donna Nevel

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On Sunday night at its fourth annual gala in New York, the Muslim Consultative Network was toasted by leading politicians, Scott Stringer the city comptroller and Letitia James the Public Advocate. And the Network honored three leaders and an organization for civic engagement: New York education activist Robert Jackson, the cartoonist Sana Amanat, the Muslim Ummah of North America, and Donna Nevel.


Nevel is Jewish, and the ceremony for her award (above) was especially moving as a demonstration of an alliance across religious lines. The award was presented by Debbie Almontaser, the head of the Muslim Consultative Network, the woman who speaks at the beginning of my video. Today smart politicians like James and Stringer are trying to win the hearts of the 700,000 New Yorkers who are Muslims; but seven years ago Almontaser was a hunted figure in New York politics when she dared to try and set up the Khalil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn in the face of hatred fanned by politicians.

In the video, she describes the support she got from Donna Nevel throughout that year, as an advocate and a friend– “who wanted to see justice done for me and the American Muslim community.”

At 4:40 on my tape, Nevel speaks. She begins by talking about Yom Ha’Shoah, the Holocaust remembrance day that was observed on Monday.

We must always remember our history. As part of our remembering we must renew our commitment in challenging injustice of any form.

And commitment in Nevel’s view means one thing: taking action against bigotry. Nevel is tireless: she helped found the Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition, she led the My NYC Youth demonstration last summer at City Hall.

She wrote a piece about Holocaust remembrance day for the Jerusalem Post, where she denounces the effort to conflate anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel:

Calling criticism of the Israeli state anti-Semitic also makes a mockery of the term anti-Semitism and trivializes the memory of the Holocaust. Conflating anti-Semitism against the Jewish people with critiques of Israel as a state diminishes the seriousness of anti-Semitism when it occurs.

As Holocaust Remembrance Day approaches, let us do justice to the memory of the Holocaust by recommitting ourselves to challenging injustice and to honoring, rather than demonizing and defaming, those who speak out and take action for peace and for justice in Palestine and Israel and anywhere across the globe.


Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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5 Responses

  1. annie on May 1, 2014, 11:13 am

    wow. i finally had the opportunity to meet Donna at the jvp conference last year as well as attending a breakout session on the Nakba Education Project she helped conduct. she’s tireless and wonderful and beautiful. the world is a better place because of Donna. and.. Debbie Almontaser is a giant. both of them, moral giants.

    thanks phil. for bringing us this special moment.

    and finally, thank you donna!!!! for all your tireless energy and determination making our world a better place!

    • MHughes976 on May 1, 2014, 12:03 pm

      We could do with more Nakba education, certainly. In the British university system, to be parochial, we need (I keep saying this) more Palestinian students, particularly in humanities departments, to get the topic taken seriously. Not taking seriously is close to, indeed a form of, trivialisation and trivialisation is not that far from ‘denial’. Meanwhile, the tide of trivialising, denial-approximating comments seeping over us here at MW is rather sickening.

  2. Citizen on May 1, 2014, 11:14 am

    Thanks, Phil. Nevel is so admirable, as well as her husband. Essentially, they want justice, want “Never Again” to become a universal principle. That’s the only take-away in my opinion. Amazing such people persist in the face of AIPAC et al. And the likes of Rand Paul, the rebel, the synthesizer of contemporary US politics, the appealer to Independents of all kinds, the man who just initiated a bill to cut aid to Palestine until it’s leadership becomes accountable, as if anything could be more hypocritical in light of the financial and diplomatic and press aid currently given criminal Israel by US politicians.

  3. GJB on May 1, 2014, 11:48 am

    When Debbie Almontaser was thrown under the bus in the Khalil Gibran fiasco by our previous Mayor (not to mention the schools chancellor, the NY Post, and countless others), I remember Donna’s eloquent defense in, among other venues, an education listserv we both belonged to. I second Annie’ statement that these are two moral giants! And what a refreshing change, to see two of our top city officials at the event. It does beg the question of where our current Mayor was that night; hopefully not at some AIPAC event!

  4. Henry Norr on May 1, 2014, 12:03 pm

    Among Donna’s many other accomplishments, note that she and Elly Bulkin just produced the important book “Islamophobia & Israel,” described by Alex Kane right here:

    and available, among other places, here:

    (E-book versions apparently coming soon.)

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