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‘Celebration of ethnic cleansing is intolerable’: Baltimore JVP crashes ‘Israeli Independence Day’ party

on 26 Comments

The following press release was sent out by the Baltimore chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace:

Yesterday, members of the Baltimore chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace interrupted a Yom Ha’Atzmaut party held at a downtown bar, denouncing it as a celebration of ethnic cleansing and confettiing it with educational flyers about the Nakba.

The “Israeli Independence Day” party was hosted by IMPACT and Charm City Tribe, organizations which program events for Jewish young adults in service of the agendas of the Associated and the JCC, their respective sponsoring institutions. The members of Baltimore JVP object to aspects of these agendas, especially to what they call the “celebration of Israeli nationalism at the expense of Palestinian human rights,” according to a letter the group sent to IMPACT and Charm City Tribe early last week, demanding the cancelation of Thursday’s party. The letter, signed by over 30 local Jews, stressed both the “displacement and continuing abuse of Palestinians,” as well as the way these kind of events “misrepresent and alienate us [as Jews.]” In addition to the letter from local Jews to the organizers, over 50 Baltimoreans of various faiths and ethnicities sent a separate letter to the Pratt Street Alehouse, the popular Inner Harbor landmark which the party. In response to the letters, Rabbi Jessy Gross, director of Charm City Tribe, sent only a brief and dismissive email asking for “tolerance and cooperation.” Despite this language of communication, and many phone calls from JVP, both IMPACT and Charm City Tribe refused to meet with JVP before the scheduled event.

With their sincere demand that the event be canceled summarily brushed off by Charm City Tribe, and with their insistence on scheduling a meeting likewise evaded, the JVP members decided to intervene directly with the party, which they consider a celebration of “the atrocities done in the name of Judaism,” according to Sam DiDonato, a JVP member who signed the letter and participated in the interruption. Some members were particularly upset by the party hosts’ attempt to reframe their objection in the terms of “tolerance and cooperation.” “Ultimately, ‘tolerance’ isn’t the value we’re demanding here. The Nakba is an ongoing human rights catastrophe. The institutional Jewish community throws parties to celebrate it, and from Baltimore, the least we can do is refuse to tolerate these celebrations,” explained JVP member Annie Sommer Kaufman.

As friendly young adults, most of whom are Jewish, the JVP members who attended the party to interrupt it seemed right at home, and in fact several of them noticed their acquaintances among the attendees. At 9:10 though, in a carefully planned chorus, the group clinked a glass to call attention to their message and surprised the crowd by chanting “stop celebrating ethnic cleansing!” numerous times as they confettied the space with hundreds of flyers. As they left, they admired how drastically the flyers had changed the landscape of the party, both by blanketing the surfaces, and by the content of their text, which explained that while the attendees of this party celebrate the foundation of the State of Israel as Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Palestinians mourn it as the Nakba, or “Catastrophe.” The flyers describe that “Israeli independence” in 1948 meant forced displacement, destruction of Palestinian villages and cities, and massacres: ethnic cleansing. By celebrating one, contend the JVP members, attendees celebrate both.

Here is an example of the flyers that were used:

Baltimore JVP flier

Baltimore JVP flyer

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26 Responses

  1. hophmi on April 24, 2015, 3:00 pm

    I assume these same people will be flyering on July 4 to remind Americans that watching fireworks is the same thing as celebrating the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans.

    • eGuard on April 25, 2015, 7:50 am

      That’s just an assumption then. One thing is certain: hohpmi won’t protest ethnic cleansing ever.

    • Sulphurdunn on April 25, 2015, 9:49 am

      I think the protest had more to do with challenging mythology and denial than with history. Most educated Americans and nearly all minority populations recognize our founding myths as myths and our history as brutal and racist in many ways. They also acknowledge that there are still millions of victims of such treatment who need justice. Israel seems yet to have reached that stage of development.

      • Kathleen on April 25, 2015, 10:57 pm

        I’ll agree with you on your point that most “minorities” get it. Don’t agree that most “educated Americans” get it. Know too many folks who have college degrees who believe the “we’re number one” hooey. Many who could care less that this country was birthed on genocide and slavery.

      • Theo on April 27, 2015, 12:40 pm

        Somehow the US. belief that we are the chosen ones to lead this globe remind me of the sentiments of another nation who believed that they are “über alles”!!
        We are fooling ourselves, our nation is built from immigrants from approx. 150 nations, with many different cultures, religions and races, so how can we say that we are the chosen ones? We reflect the population of the earth, however there are other nations who are just as cosmopolitan as we are, namely Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc., who do not claim to be the top of the humanity.

    • jrochkind on April 26, 2015, 1:48 am

      It is probably safe to assume that some of the same people have indeed done that before, and will again, yes, if not on the 4th of July then on Thanksgiving.

      It’s not quite the same parallel though, although Thanksgiving is maybe a closer one, still, it would be as if the majority of Native Americans were expelled within two years of the original Thanksgiving (or 4th of July), the height of the expelling was right at the original date (and the Revolutionary Army spent a large part of it’s effort on expelling Native Americans, a feat explicitly included in what was being celebrated), it was only 60 years ago, many of those expelled were still stateless and passport-less and not allowed to even visit the U.S. — and on top of this, it was prohibited to teach about the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans nationally in American schools, let alone that it had anything to do with Thanksgiving.

      So not quite an exact parallel, but, yeah, it’s still safe to assume that some of the same people have before and will again protest the ethnic cleansing and current treatment of Native Americans, around American holidays that celebrate it as well as other times.

    • Robert in Israel on April 28, 2015, 5:19 pm

      Not only that, by the logic of the Israel-haters, celebrating birthdays is wrong because you’re ipso facto celebrating all the sins of the birthday celebrant. Also wedding anniversaries are out, because you’re celebrating all the fights and hurt ever experienced.

      Hophmi, I respect what you’re trying to do here, but my advice is don’t waste your time with self-hating Jews. Their arguments have nothing to do with logic, and everything to do with their personal identity struggle. The absurd linking of independence celebrations with the very kind of ethnic cleansing that the enemies of Israel tried to perpetrate against the nascent Jewish state is an absolutely perfect example. Some self-haters eventually heal themselves, but most just go on with their self-satisfying Israel demonization, precisely because it’s self-satisfying, and not because of an earnest ethical stand. It’s sad, but true.

  2. Jackdaw on April 25, 2015, 8:16 am

    It’s worth remembering that 6,600 Jews were killed during Israel’s War of Independence.

    They were killed by Arabs.

    • Sulphurdunn on April 25, 2015, 9:52 am

      Of course they were killed by Arabs. It was a war. Was there some larger point you wished to make?

    • Kris on April 25, 2015, 10:49 am

      @Jackdaw: “It’s worth remembering that 6,600 Jews were killed during Israel’s War of Independence. They were killed by Arabs”

      It’s also worth remembering that the Jews were the ones who attacked the Palestinians, in order to steal more Palestinian land.

      “While it is widely reported that the resulting war ((Israel’s so-called War of Independence)) eventually included five Arab armies, less well known is the fact that throughout this war Zionist forces outnumbered all Arab and Palestinian combatants combined – often by a factor of two to three. Moreover, Arab armies did not invade Israel – virtually all battles were fought on land that was to have been the Palestinian state.

      “Finally, it is significant to note that Arab armies entered the conflict only after Zionist forces had committed 16 massacres, including the grisly massacre of over 100 men, women, and children at Deir Yassin. Future Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, head of one of the Jewish terrorist groups, described this as “splendid,” and stated: “As in Deir Yassin, so everywhere, we will attack and smite the enemy. God, God, Thou has chosen us for conquest.” Zionist forces committed 33 massacres altogether.[4]

      “By the end of the war, Israel had conquered 78 percent of Palestine; three-quarters of a million Palestinians had been made refugees; over 500 towns and villages had been obliterated; and a new map was drawn up, in which every city, river and hillock received a new, Hebrew name, as all vestiges of the Palestinian culture were to be erased. For decades Israel denied the existence of this population, former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir once saying: “There were no such thing as Palestinians.”

      • Kris on April 25, 2015, 10:57 am

        In fact, that is the history of Israel, in a nutshell: Stealing Palestinian land, killing Palestinians, and whining about Jewish casualties when the Palestinians try to defend themselves.

        And then crying “antisemitism” and “Holocaust” when people suspect that Jews are not normal human beings, based on the behavior of the “Jewish” state, whose leaders claim, without contradiction, to speak and act “for all Jews.”

    • a blah chick on April 25, 2015, 7:19 pm

      “It’s worth remembering that 6,600 Jews were killed during Israel’s War of Independence.

      They were killed by Arabs.”

      So now defending yourself in wartime is a crime? Wow.

    • pjdude on April 25, 2015, 10:29 pm

      well yeah thats usualy what happens when invade a country they defend themselves. I’m sorry but Israel’s victims are not responsible for Israel’s crimes Israel and its supporters are.

  3. on April 25, 2015, 8:55 am

    Even the centuries long slaughter of the American Indians is only important as a tool to suppress criticism of Israel’s crimes against humanity for sick apologists like hophmi

  4. Pretext on April 25, 2015, 10:37 am

    Not so long ago, I would never have dared to dream that the status quo would be challenged so brazenly by Jews of Conscience. Thank you JVP, and thanks for bringing this to our attention, MW.

    • Kathleen on April 25, 2015, 10:59 pm

      “not so long ago” indeed. A welcome shift is taking place in the Jewish community and elsewhere.

      • Mooser on April 26, 2015, 11:16 am

        “A welcome shift is taking place in the Jewish community and elsewhere.”

        And I think I know what that “welcome shift” feels like. It feels just like coming home from a vacation, seeing that your house has been robbed while you were away, and then getting a call from the police saying you are the prime suspect.

        It’s a “shift” all right.

      • Pretext on April 26, 2015, 12:39 pm

        And I think I know what that “welcome shift” feels like. It feels just like coming home from a vacation, seeing that your house has been robbed while you were away, and then getting a call from the police saying you are the prime suspect.

        That seems like a strange metaphor for an awakening of conscience in the community. Can you explain?

      • Mooser on April 27, 2015, 12:05 pm

        “Can you explain”

        They were on to the insurance fraud before I got the Samsonites unpacked and back in the closet.

  5. MHughes976 on April 25, 2015, 12:31 pm

    That Jewish Voice is being raised with some brio! That it was possible to carry this protest off shows something about the development in public opinion. I think it would have been regarded as so way-out and crazy that no one would have attempted it a few, only a few, years ago. However, the political class remains unmoved and impervious.

  6. tommy on April 25, 2015, 12:51 pm

    A wonderful way to express opposition to the support of Israel’s crimes.

  7. maiselm on April 25, 2015, 1:34 pm

    Thank you, Baltimore JVP! I hope you will be prominently seen today also in the protests for justice for Freddie Gray!

  8. SQ Debris on April 25, 2015, 3:55 pm

    Warm hugs to all the JVPers who stood up and shouted. Gotta love them. They are proving day by day that Jewish culture survives in spite of the assault that political zionism represents.

  9. Jackdaw on April 26, 2015, 1:26 am

    As if being Jewish, single, and from Baltimore isn’t bad enough, these clowns have to come along and piss in the punchbowl.

    • Mooser on April 27, 2015, 12:13 pm

      Gee, Jackdaw, it’s getting so a bunch of schlubs and grobers can’t get together and celebrate vicarious brutality without interruption any more.

      I do want to remind you, Jackdaw, there is still a refuge in America where they can. A Temple, I am pretty sure, can be construed as a ‘private’ organization, and I’m pretty sure events may be held there by invitation only. They can probably serve alcohol if they like, too. So there’s the solution, hold celebrations of ethnic cleansing at a religious institution, a Temple. Entrance by invitation only, dress code enforced, RSVP.
      Problem solved. Frankly, I’d still assign somebody to watch the punchbowl.

    • Theo on April 27, 2015, 12:50 pm


      Could have been that the punchbowl was almost empty and they just tried to refresh the booze?

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