Four Israeli Jews, including two minors, arrested for attacks on Palestinians


Four Israeli Jews, including two minors, have been arrested on suspicion of hate crime attacks against Palestinians.

One of the two minors was arrested Monday, according to reports, while the other minor and the two adults were arrested last week. Israel Police said the minors are 16 and 17.

Details of their cases are under a gag order.

One of the adult suspects, Dana Shneur, is accused of  burning a Palestinian car, affiliation with criminal activities and involvement in an illegal organization. The detention of the other adult, Pinhas Shandorfi, has been extended for a week in order to investigate suspected “security offenses,” Ynet reported.

Ezra Nawi’s arrest after undercover sting enrages right and left alike


The footage, aired on a respected Israeli news show, appeared damning: a left-wing activist, driving through the West Bank, casually describing how he has turned Palestinian real estate brokers over to Palestinian authorities, subjecting them to a possible death sentence.

Asked what happens to the Palestinians involved in the deals he admitted to setting up, Ezra Nawi says the Palestinian Authority “captures them and kills them.” Selling land to Jews is a capital crime under Palestinian law.

Nawi, a Jewish-Israeli who is well-known for protesting Israeli settlement in the West Bank, was arrested shortly after the Jan. 8 broadcast of the investigative program “Uvda” as he was seeking to board a flight out of the country. Two other activists also were arrested – Guy Butavia, also a Jewish-Israeli, and Nasser Nawajah, a Palestinian field worker for the human rights group B’Tselem. Nawi and Butavia were released to house arrest Sunday, while Nawajah was released the next night.

The “Uvda” footage has caused a stir in Israel and heightened already mounting tensions between activists on the left and right. Left-wing groups, already inflamed by a proposed NGO transparency law they say is aimed at undermining them, have rallied to Nawi’s defense, claiming the video and the undercover operation that produced it are merely the latest installments in a broad effort to silence the government’s liberal critics.

On the right, the footage has been taken as further evidence of leftist hypocrisy – campaigning for Palestinian rights but prepared to sacrifice individual Palestinians.

“This is a classic example of how rigid ideologists become immoral and subvert the ideals that they set out to uphold,” said Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute. “This is the smoking gun for the hard left – not only Nawi’s admission, but the outrageous response of his comrades, the outrageous way his colleagues stood by him and lashed out at the critics.”

The footage was captured in the summer of 2014 by Ad Kan, a pro-settler group that aims to conduct undercover stings of human rights groups. In it, Nawi admits to luring sellers into deals only to turn them over to the Palestinian authorities, where they could potentially face a death sentence.

In one scene, Nawi is seen impersonating a broker in a meeting with a Palestinian interested in selling land to Jews. Nawi is then seen seeking help from two fellow activists – Butavia and Nawajah – as well as a Palestinian intelligence official in alerting Palestinian forces.

“What was exposed deserves all condemnation,” said Amir Fuchs, head of the Defending Democratic Values project at the Israel Democracy Institute. But, he added, “It’s clearly part of the long campaign of delegitimization, trying to portray human rights organizations as moles, foreign agents, enemies.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, writing Jan. 8 on Facebook, said “the investigation demands unequivocal condemnation from all parts of Israeli society.”

To date, no major Israeli human rights group has bowed to the prime minister’s demand. Instead, several have rallied to Nawi’s defense. Outside a Jerusalem police station where Nawi and the others were being held, protesters gathered last week with signs bearing their photos. The California-based Jewish Voice for Peace, a group that supports the anti-Israel Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment movement, sent out two emails in the last week on Nawi’s behalf.

Hagai El-Ad, the executive director of B’Tselem, told JTA that the video of Nawi was produced by a group committed to smearing Israel’s human rights community and showed no evidence of wrongdoing. The land broker Nawi meets with in the video, an Arab-Israeli, is alive and well.

“There’s missing context,” El-Ad said. “They got a crooked view of the reality in the South Hebron Hills, where there are Palestinians fighting against all odds to keep their land. This is promotional work by a group that views leftist activists as if they’re hostile.”

The “Uvda” report comes amid a continuing effort to restrict the activity of left-wing groups. In December, Israel’s government barred Breaking the Silence, an organization of military veterans that draws attention to alleged Israeli military abuses in the West Bank, from appearing at schools or army bases.

In December, the right-wing Im Tirtzu launched a campaign accusing left-wing groups of being foreign moles. And on Monday, the Knesset is expected to advance a bill that would require some Israeli nongovernmental organizations to publicly declare their foreign government funding, despite a groundswell of opposition from American Jewish groups.

Butavia, one of the arrested activists, sees his detainment as part of that effort. Filmed as policemen escorted him in a courthouse, Butavia was unrepentant.

“This is entirely a political arrest,” he said in a video released by ActiveStills, a left-wing photographers’ collective. “Its whole goal is to prevent our activism for human rights in the territories, and against the crimes and criminals of the occupation. They won’t succeed in breaking us.”

Detaining peace


The news that my friend Mohannad was arrested last week hit me hard. We’d worked together over the summer, planning a three-day summer camp for Israeli and Palestinian children in Gush Etzion. He was the perfect choice to be the Palestinian coordinator of the camp: At 26, he was old enough to serve as a role model to both groups of kids and young enough to connect with them. His intelligent voice was a valuable addition to our planning discussions and his obvious leadership skills helped the camp run smoothly.

I don’t know what the circumstances of his arrest were. There is a grainy video of his arrest, shot by a neighbor, which shows Israeli soldiers leading Mohannad down Beit Ummar’s main street, hands bound in front of him, not resisting arrest. His parents and sister say he was taken from their home in the middle of the night and that he hadn’t been involved in any wrongdoing.

I tend to believe them. At camp, I watched Mohannad discipline Palestinian boys with an understanding arm around their shoulder, and navigate the lack of a common language with Israeli kids to be able to play the silly get-to-know-you games used by all summer camps. More importantly, Mohannad’s interactions with Israeli adults displayed a dual sense of strong Palestinian pride and a desire to step over a cultural red line to get to know the settlers. One day, we Israelis had invited the commander of the local Israel Defense Forces brigade (in civilian clothes) to visit the camp, to witness firsthand the possibilities of co-existence. He and Mohannad had a striking conversation as equals. 

But here’s the rub: Mohannad’s also got a past. Like many natives of Beit Ummar, he spent much of his teenage years clashing with Israel. One of the worst aspects (for me) of Mohannad’s arrest is the fact that we hadn’t managed to sit down for the coffee we’d talked repeatedly about, so I still don’t know his whole story. But I do know that as a teenager he took part in violence, and by the time he was in his early 20s, he was serving a two-and-a-half year prison sentence in Israel. I don’t know what his crime was, but Mohannad’s father, Khaled Abu Awwad, a foremost figure in promoting tolerance and peace among Israelis and Palestinians, admitted to me that the jail time was not unfair.

“Obviously, I am worried about my son,” he said, “but not only about his physical safety in jail. Like all Palestinian families, ours has known more than our share of violence and loss — my brother was killed by a settler in 2001, when Mohannad was 10 or 11. But we’ve all come away from that experience with a deep commitment to nonviolence and co-existence, and I’ve worked really hard with Mohannad to put him on that path since he got out of jail. Now, the situation is totally out of my hands, and I’m worried that another stint in jail could cement the anger he still harbors.”

Even before speaking to Khaled, I understood the danger Mohannad now faces, and not only the dangers to his physical wellbeing. Back in August, it was clear that participating in a program with not only Israelis, but also with settlers, required a tremendous leap of faith from Mohannad, an enormous inner effort that flew in the face of much of his life experience and education. His participation at camp seemed to be a part of a journey he had undertaken rather than an expression of a deeper truth he had internalized. Two-and-a-half years after his release from prison, his eyes still burned with anger and resentment. There is a very real danger that a tough, long jail term could push him back away from co-existence and toward violence. 

On the other hand, it is hard to argue against his re-arrest, even as a purely preventative measure — an outrageous statement, to be sure, but a good description of the mood in Israel over the past week. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and with an average of four stabbings a day over the past week (and more stone and Molotov cocktail attacks on the roads than can be listed here), the atmosphere here in Israel certainly feels like an emergency situation at the moment. 

Furthermore, Israeli authorities are officially unaware of his involvement at Judur/Shorashim. They’d have to be: The conditions of Mohannad’s release from prison included his prohibiting of entering spaces not only where Jews and Arabs congregate, such as the Rami Levi supermarket, but also of being around Jews at all. 

Ultimately, there are more questions than answers right now. Mohannad has not been able to contact his family (he has been in contact with a lawyer) since his arrest, but he has a hearing scheduled for later this week. I will attend the session and try to have a word with him. There may not be much I can do, but at least I can let him know that I care.

Andrew Friedman is a resident of Efrat and an activist in Shorashim/Judur, a Palestinian-Israeli initiative for understanding, nonviolence and transformation.

Baltimore begins clean-up after riot over police-custody death


Baltimore residents on Tuesday began to clear the wreckage of rioting and fires that erupted after the funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died in police custody, while the city's mayor defended local law enforcement's light initial response.

Acrid smoke hung over streets where violence broke out just blocks from Freddie Gray's funeral and spread through much of the poor West Baltimore neighborhood. Nineteen buildings and 144 vehicles were set on fire, and 202 people were arrested, according to the mayor's office.

Police said 15 officers were injured, six seriously, in Monday's unrest, which spread throughout the city as police initially looked on but did not interfere as rioters torched vehicles and later businesses.

Looters had ransacked stores, pharmacies and a shopping mall and clashed with police in riot gear in the most violent unrest in the United States since Ferguson, Missouri, was torn by gunshots and arson in late 2014.

Gray's death gave new energy to the public outcry that flared last year after police killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, New York City and elsewhere.

“It's a very delicate balancing act, when we have to make sure that we're managing but not increasing and escalating the problem,” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told reporters on Tuesday.

Police in Ferguson came under intense criticism last year for quickly adopting a militarized posture, using armored vehicles, showing heavy weapons and deploying tear gas in a forceful response that some said escalated tensions in the St. Louis suburb.

New York's police department took a more flexible approach in protests later in the year, monitoring marches that crisscrossed the city but largely averting the kind of violence seen in Ferguson and Baltimore.

For nearly a week after Gray died from a spinal injury on April 19, protests in Baltimore had been peaceful.

'HERE TO HELP OUT, MAN'

On Tuesday, volunteers in Baltimore swept up charred debris in front of a CVS pharmacy as dozens of police officers in riot gear stood by and firefighters worked to damp down the embers.

“I'm just here to help out, man,” said Shaun Boyd, 30, as he swept up broken glass. “It's the city I'm from.”

National Guard troops on Tuesday began to stage around the city, including in front of the police station where officers were bringing Gray at the time he was injured.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, declared a state of emergency on Monday and Rawlings-Blake, a Democrat, imposed a one-week curfew in the largely black city starting Tuesday night, with exceptions for work and medical emergencies.

Baltimore-based fund manager T. Rowe Price Group Inc said it would close its downtown office on Tuesday. Legg Mason, also headquartered downtown, said its office would be open, but it was encouraging employees to work from home.

Schools were closed on Tuesday in the city of 620,000 people, 40 miles (64 km) from the nation's capital.

A day after rioters hit a mall in West Baltimore, the Security Square Mall outside the city closed after reports that protesters could be targeting it.

“When you see the destruction you've also got to realize there's pain, there's pain behind a lot of this,” said U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings, a Democrat who represents the region hit by the rioting.

The mayor, he said, should “assure us that the police department be looked at from top to bottom, everything from parking tickets straight up to indictments for murder.”

CAUGHT OFF-GUARD

Gray was arrested on April 12 while running from officers. He was transported to the police station in a van, with no seat restraint and suffered the spinal injury that led to his death a week later. A lawyer for Gray's family says his spine was 80 percent severed at the neck while in custody.

Six officers have been suspended, and the U.S. Justice Department is investigating possible civil rights violations.

Much of Monday's rioting occurred in a neighborhood where more than a third of families live in poverty. Parts of it had not been rebuilt since the 1968 rioting that swept across the United States after the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Deadly confrontations between mostly white U.S. police and black men, and the subsequent unrest, will be among the challenges facing U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who was sworn in on Monday and condemned the “senseless acts of violence.”

In 1992, more than 50 people in Los Angeles were killed in violence set off by the acquittal of four police officers who beat black motorist Rodney King. Dozens died in 1968 riots.

Rashid Khan, 49, and his neighbors were cleaning up his King's Grocery Mart on Tuesday after looters caused what he estimated at $20,000 to $30,000 in damage.

Khan said he believed people from outside the neighborhood had caused the damage.

“Neighborhood protect me,” Khan said. 

Police arrest four with ties to Paris kosher market terrorist


French authorities arrested four people with connections to the Islamist who seized hostages and killed four people at a kosher supermarket in Paris in January.

The four, among them a French policewoman who converted to Islam two years ago, were friends with the supermarket gunman, Amedy Coulibaly. Among the others arrested was the policewoman’s boyfriend, “Amar,” who is also wanted on drug charges.

The policewoman, identified as “Emmanuelle,” worked in a major intelligence center in Paris and has been accused of searching through police intelligence files soon after the Jan. 9 attack to determine what authorities knew about Amar, The Independent reported. Amar reportedly was with Coulibaly shortly before the attack. UPI reported that Amar was a relative of Coulibaly’s.

Coulibaly, who was in contact with Said and Cherif Kouachi — the brothers who killed 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly in Paris two days before the supermarket attack — was shot dead when Paris police raided the supermarket he was holding hostages.

South Africans arrested over BDS protest at Woolworths


Some 57 protesters calling for a boycott of Woolworths in South Africa because it carries Israeli products were arrested in Johannesburg.

The protesters were arrested on Saturday and charged with public disturbance, the South Africa Press Association reported. They reportedly walked into the store and lay on the ground with signs.

Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment, or BDS, protests also took place in Cape Town.

Members of the Congress of South African Students Western Cape branch placed a pig’s head in the meat department of a local Woolworth’s last week as part of the protests.

“Many of our customers have asked if we source from the occupied territories. We do not,” Woolworth’s said in a statement published in the South Africa Independent. “Our suppliers are expected to adhere to the ethical standards in our code of conduct.”

The company added, “We fully comply with government guidelines on product from Israel. Less than 0.1 percent of our food is sourced from Israel.”

It is not known if the protests have hurt Woolworths sales.

BDS backers reportedly plan to continue to pressure the company, Woolworths Holdings Limited, until its annual general meeting on Nov. 26.

BDS activist Mohammed Desai told the South African daily The Times earlier this month that the movement knows there are other companies in South Africa with ties to Israel but said, “For now, Woolworths is our target. They are making a grave mistake by ignoring us and if we go to all those retailers our campaign will be diluted.”

In South Africa, BDS has received the support of the African National Congress’ Youth League, and the Times reported that the movement has lobbied influential ANC supporters to put pressure on one of Woolworths’ largest shareholders, the Government Employees Pension Fund, which holds 17.2 percent of the shares.

Woolworths, one of the largest companies in South Africa, is not related to the U.S. chain F.W. Woolworth Company.

Child sex arrests spike. Or do they?


Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes claims to have arrested an unprecedented 89 men on child sex-abuse charges in the ultra-Orthodox communities in Brooklyn over the past two years — but declines to provide any details backing up the numbers or to give the status of any of the cases.

Sexual abuse survivors and their advocates have long harried Hynes for allegedly overlooking molesters in the borough’s tight-knit, ultra-Orthodox communities. They charge that Hynes fears political retaliation from the borough’s powerful rabbinic leaders and their bloc-voting Orthodox voters.

Hynes heatedly denies this. And the data he offered the Forward seems to suggest a breakthrough. But his office’s refusal to provide even basic details on any of these cases makes it impossible to evaluate and confirm the true nature and extent of Hynes’ claim.

Initially, when the Forward requested data in mid-October on child sex abuse arrests in the Orthodox community, Jerry Schmetterer, the DA’s spokesman, said his office does not compile statistics based on the “race or religion” of people it arrests.

When the Forward brought to his attention that the DA’s office released a similar statistic in 2009 — of 26 Orthodox men who had been arrested for sexual abuse over the previous two years — Schmetterer said he would consult the DA’s sex crimes bureau.

In late October, Schmetterer said that 89 Orthodox men had been arrested and charged with sex abuse since October 2009.

He repeated the claim twice, in two separate conversations. But when the Forward asked for written confirmation and posed a number of follow-up questions, Schmetterer declined to respond.

“We are not prepared to discuss this at this time,” Schmetterer said in an October 27 e-mail. “Perhaps towards the end of November.”

Just why the DA’s office would be unwilling to respond is unclear, particularly because the staggering figure appears to bolster the DA’s claim that he is getting tough on Orthodox abuse.

In October 2009, the figure of 26 arrests was seen as a landmark following decades during which the DA rarely prosecuted sex abuse cases against Orthodox men despite advocates’ claims that the problem was rampant. The New York Times ran a Page One story trumpeting the change.

But the latest number — much like the 2009 figure — has proved impossible to verify.

The Forward combed through news reports and interviewed people who specialize in sex abuse cases.

Since October 2009, the Forward was able to find nine arrests and three convictions of Orthodox men, including that of Boro Park rabbi Baruch Lebovits, currently out on bail and under house arrest pending an appeal.

Asher Lipner, a clinical psychologist who is also an advocate for survivors of abuse, said he was not aware of anything near 89 arrests during the past two years. “If that’s the case,” Lipner said, “how come there haven’t been too many convictions?”

Ben Hirsch, president of Survivors for Justice, said the DA’s figures raised a “very troubling question.”

“At least some of these 100-plus cases [over the past four years] must have been resolved by now,” Hirsch said.

Hirsch, who said he regularly monitored new registrations of convicted sex abusers for heavily Orthodox Brooklyn neighborhoods asked, “Why haven’t we seen a marked increase in Orthodox perpetrators registered as sex offenders? Without public notice identifying dangerous predators, parents are unable to protect their children.”

He added, “We deserve public notice of the arrest and conviction of Orthodox sex offenders, not culturally sensitive policies that keep these cases from the public, thereby placing children in danger.”

The difficulties the Forward has had verifying the DA’s claims are reminiscent of issues that arose two years ago, when the DA claimed 26 child sexual abuse arrests in the Orthodox community between 2007 and 2009.

In October 2009, the Forward requested those arrest details from the DA’s office. It received a list of 26 cases, including charges, but without names and with a note that said, “There are a few cases which involve adult female victims.”

Last year, the Forward submitted a Freedom of Information Law request to see the names of the 26 men.

The Forward’s request was denied, as was a subsequent appeal. One of the reasons the DA’s office gave, in March 2010, was that the list had been compiled so long ago, without names or indictment numbers, that it would be “impossible to discern” the cases that were listed.

If the latest figure of 89 arrests during the past two years is correct, it would appear to suggest that the ultra-Orthodox community’s wall of silence has been breached once and for all.

Survivors and their advocates cautiously welcomed the figure. But they suggested that an increase in arrests may have as much — if not more — to do with grassroots pressure from within the community than from the DA’s work.

Luzer Twersky, who claims he was abused by a rabbi from the age of 9 until he was 12, said the DA has little influence within the Orthodox world.

“Everything is done in a Hasidic way,” Twersky said, referring to what he described as the community’s preference to handle matters internally and, occasionally, to pay victims for their silence.

In Twersky’s case, he said a threatening telephone call to his father from a prominent rabbi was enough to keep him quiet.

Today, claims abound that communities close ranks and that rabbis stifle abuse allegations.

Agudath Israel of America, the ultra-Orthodox umbrella organization, advised Jews in a recent statement to consult a rabbi before taking their allegations to police.

But in the predominantly Chabad-Lubavitch community of Crown Heights, attitudes appear to be changing.

In July, a Lubavitch religious court issued a ruling that stated unequivocally that families who suspect abuse should inform the police.

“The Beis Din [religious court] has become increasingly aware of severe incidents of child abuse that have occurred recently,” stated the ruling, which was reposted on Crown Heights Watch, an advocacy website.

The Crown Heights religious court said that because many victims had remained silent out of a “fear of stigma” or a fear of violating Jewish law, they had perpetuated “an environment of abuse.” The rabbis insisted that the prohibitions against Jews using secular courts “do not apply in cases where there is evidence of abuse.”

Eli Cohen, executive director of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, said the rabbis issued their ruling after they were “consulted by victims in a small number of incidents.”

Cohen said the rabbis “saw the need to go public with their ruling in case there were other victims that they did not know about who were still unsure about reporting abuse to authorities.”

Lani Santo, executive director of Footsteps, a not-for-profit organization that helps people who leave the ultra-Orthodox world, said her organization had noticed that its clients talk about abuse much more openly these days.

Santo said that last year, one-fifth of new Footsteps clients told of an episode of sexual abuse during their first interview with the group.

“People talk about it as a commonplace practice,” Santo said.

But in many cases, by the time a person reaches Footsteps, his or her abuse claim is too old to be prosecuted, Santo said.

Such was the case for Twersky, who is now 26. The statute of limitations has run out for pressing charges against the man he alleges abused him 14 years ago. But in December 2009 the same rabbi was arrested by the Brooklyn DA on charges of molesting another boy.

“He went on doing what he did for 15 years, with no one getting in his way, because he is the son of a very, very powerful man,” Twersky said.

Iran Arrests Accused Spies for U.S.


Iran has arrested 30 people accused of spying for the United States.

The alleged spies were members of a CIA spy network, Iran’s security ministry said May 21 in a statement read on state-run television, according to reports.

“Due to the massive intelligence and counter-intelligence work by Iranian intelligence agents, a complex espionage and sabotage network linked to America’s spy organization was uncovered and dismantled,” the statement said.

“Elite agents of the intelligence ministry in their confrontation with the CIA elements were able to arrest 30 America-linked spies through numerous intelligence and counter-intelligence operations.”

The statement also said that Iran had identified 42 other U.S. spies on Iran in other Middle East countries, and had fed misinformation to the CIA through double agents.

Spying is punishable by death in Iran.

More arrests in Holyland affair


Two more suspects were arrested in Israel’s Holyland real estate scandal.

Former Bank Hapoalim Chairman Dan Dankner and Yaakov Efrati, the ex-head of the Israel Lands Authority, were arrested Wednesday on charges of bribery. Danker is suspected of bribing Efrati to approve land-use changes for the Holyland residential complex in Jerusalem, which benefited a company owned by Danker’s family, according to reports.

Danker stepped down as head of Israel’s Bank Hapoalim after being accused of offering risky lines of credit. He is under investigation in a different case by the National Fraud Unit for breach of trust and several criminal offenses.

Also Wednesday, prosecutors investigating former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s role in the Holyland affair denied that they are negotiating with Olmert’s former bureau chief Shula Zaken for her testifying against her former boss.

Zaken, who has been overseas since the Holyland affair became public, will return to Israel next week, her attorney said Wednesday. The attorney also denied that Zaken will serve as a witness for the state.

Olmert’s precedessor as Jerusalem mayor, Uri Lupolianski, was arrested last week in connection with the corruption scandal.

Agriprocessors raid fallout continues: Jewish liberals plan rally in Postville


NEW YORK (JTA)—An interfaith coalition is planning to demonstrate next week in Postville, Iowa, in support of justice for workers and comprehensive immigration reform.

Spearheaded by Jewish Community Action, a Minnesota social justice group, the rally comes in response to allegations of worker mistreatment at Agriprocessors, the largest kosher meat producer in the United States.

The rally, scheduled for July 27, will follow by one day a visit to Postville by members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The group, led by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), will meet with the families of plant workers, as well as community organizers and local religious leaders.

“An immigration system that is predicated on fear tactics and piecemeal, deportation-only policies profoundly worsens our immigration crisis by creating broken homes and tearing the fabric of our society,” Gutierrez said. “It is my sincere hope that in bringing the stories of the parents, children and workers of Postville back to Congress, our lawmakers will see the very real consequences of punitive actions in the absence of comprehensive immigration reform.”

Both the congressional visit and the rally promise to keep the spotlight on Agriprocessors, whose Postville facility was the target of a massive immigration raid May 12.

In the wake of the raid, the plant’s workers claimed they were underpaid and made to suffer an atmosphere of rampant sexual harassment, among other allegations. Company officials have denied the charges.

Among the groups supporting the rally are the Chicago-based Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the Jewish Labor Committee and Workmen’s Circle. Funds for transportation were provided by Mazon, a Jewish hunger relief group.

“There are two targets here,” Jane Ramsey, the executive director of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, told JTA. “One is a message to the government for comprehensive immigration reform on the one hand, and secondly to Agriprocessors for the permanent implementation of livable wages, health-care benefits and worker safety.”

The plant’s purchase in 1987 by the Brooklyn butcher Aaron Rubashkin injected a much-needed dose of economic vitality into Postville, which was a struggling farm community. With a workforce of approximately 1,000, Agriprocessors was said to be the largest employer in northern Iowa.

The arrest of nearly half its employees in the raid has significantly cut the plant’s production.

Agriprocessors is hardly alone. According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, an agency of the Department of Homeland Security, 4,940 workplace arrests were made in the 2007 fiscal year, up from 510 in 2002. As of May, the agency has made 3,750 arrests this year.

Critics say such arrests are devastating to workers and their families and can have crippling effects on communities. Jewish Community Action raised $10,000 for Postville familes, according to its executive director, Vic Rosenthal. Jewish Council on Urban Affairs has delivered another $5,000.

“We think that this was a very poorly conceived action by ICE that hurt people and didn’t bring any further safety to you and me,” Ramsey said. “Who did this help? They swept into a little town of 2,500 that has now been devastated, that has a just-opened playground and now there are no children for that playground.”

Steven Steinlight, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Study and a leading critic of the mainstream Jewish position on immigration, says such stories are sad on a human level but are not a basis for making policy.

“I can’t get bleary-eyed about these people,” Steinlight said. “They’re here in violation of federal immigration law. You don’t know if these people are from Mexico or from al-Qaida. They have engaged in identity theft. They have engaged in felonies. These are not minor issues. I don’t consider the violation of America’s sovereignty to be a minor issue.”

While Steinlight defends the raid as a legitimate exercise in law enforcement, he shares the sense of outrage over allegations of worker mistreatment even as he opposes the call for a path to legalization for Postville workers.

“The reason they’re hired is because they are exploitable,” Steinlight said. “And if they were legalized, they wouldn’t be any better off.”

Chaim Abrahams, an Agriprocessors representative, said the company is commited to abiding by all state and federal laws.

“Mr. Steinlight has apparently joined the chorus of those who accept the allegations and several newspaper accounts as fact,” Abrahams said. “Agriprocessors will have no further comment on those allegations, as they are part of an ongoing investigation. It merely urges all fair-minded people to reserve judgment until this investigation process has run its course.”

The demonstration is scheduled to begin with an interfaith service at St. Bridget’s, the Catholic church that has taken the lead in providing relief to immigrant families. It will be followed by a march through town to the plant and then back to the church for a rally. Organizers expect about 1,000 people to attend.

“We think that Jews as consumers of kosher food need to understand the importance of who is producing the food and how they get treated, how they get paid,” Rosenthal said. “We really want to energize the Jewish community to think much more clearly about the role they play as consumers.”

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