November 19, 2018

Nearly 1,000 People Protest Trump’s Visit to Pittsburgh

A woman holds a sign with a picture from preschool television show Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood during a march in memory of the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 30, 2018. Fred Rogers grew up in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood where the shootings occurred and broadcast his popular children’s show from Pittsburgh. REUTERS/Jessica Resnick-Ault

President Trump is visiting Pittsburgh in the aftermath of the Oct. 27 shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill; approximately 1,000 people reportedly protested his visit because of his rhetoric.

The protesters were on a street close to the Tree of Life synagogue, where Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner were visiting. Among the signs at the protests were “Words Matter,” “President Hate is not welcome in our state” and “President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you stop targeting and endangering minorities.”

Protesters also chanted, “No more hate!” and turned their backs on the presidential motorcade.

Prior to the protests, Bend the Arc, a progressive Jewish organization, told Trump in a letter that they don’t’ want him in Pittsburgh unless he denounces white nationalism.

“Our Jewish community is not the only group you have targeted,” the letter stated. “You have also deliberately undermined the safety of people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities. Yesterday’s massacre is not the first act of terror you incited against a minority group in our country.”

However, Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers told CNN, “The president of the United States is always welcome. I am a citizen. He is my president. He is certainly welcome.”

At the Tree of Life synagogue, Trump and his family lit candles for each of the deceased in the shooting and placed stones and roses at Star of David memorials for each of the victims.

“I’m just going to pay my respects,” Trump told Fox News. “I’m also going to the hospital to see the officers and some of the people that were so badly hurt. So — and I really look forward to going — I would have done it even sooner, but I didn’t want to disrupt anymore.”

Students and Groups Protest U-M for Disciplining Professor

Several groups and University of Michigan students are protesting the university’s decision to discipline Professor John Cheney-Lippold for refusing to write a letter of recommendation for a student to study abroad in Israel.

According to Middle East Eye, students marched and chanted pro-Palestinian slogans such as “no justice, no peace” and handed letters to University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel’s and Social Science Dean Elizabeth Cole’s offices decrying the university’s discipline of Cheney-Lippold. The students are threatening to host a sit-in at Schlissel’s floor if he doesn’t respond to their letter in three-to-five days.

Additionally, groups such as the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) called the university’s actions against Cheney-Lippold a violation of academic freedom.

“We regard your decision to arbitrarily impose disciplinary sanctions on Professor Cheney-Lippold, without affording him any opportunity to explain or justify his action in a fair hearing process with faculty participation, as having violated those principles and that right, as well as your university’s ostensible commitment to faculty governance,” MESA President Judith Tucker told the university in a letter.

As the Journal has reported, Cheney-Lippold will not be eligible for a salary increase this year and will be unable to obtain sabbatical credits until 2020.

However, some pro-Israel groups, such as The Lawfare Project, have criticized the university for not going far enough in their handling of recent controversies.

The Lawfare Project noted in a recent memo to Schlissel that the university has yet to discipline teaching assistant Lucy Peterson, who also refused to write a letter of recommendation for a student to study abroad in Israel and wrote an op-ed defending her actions, and was dismissive of a slide in a required lecture that compared Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler.

Additionally, the memo called on the university to investigate their academic personnel to ensure they aren’t engaging in academic boycotts against Israel and to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism.

Student reactions at a recent Board of Regents meeting were mixed, according to the Michigan Daily:

Irving Ginsberg, a Farmington Hills resident, said he felt the letter was an example of anti-Semitism on campus. He said he felt the University had failed to sufficiently punish Cheney-Lippold, and on-campus discrimination continued to occur because of the insufficient response.

“The administration and President Schlissel only acted (weakly) to Professor Lippold’s violation because of widespread national criticism, in contrast to the quick and decisive actions when other minority groups are so treated,” Ginsberg said. “With regard to Lippold’s behavior, only one regent called it what it was, ‘anti-Semitism’ … Not one other regent, nor President Schlissel, nor the administration did the same.”

Another speaker on the issue was West Bloomfield resident Ed Kohl, who said he disapproved of Cheney-Lippold’s actions, but was more appreciative of the stance taken by University President Mark Schlissel and the University. In his speech, he commended past efforts by the University to stamp out anti-Semitism, and said he knew the University would respond adequately on this occasion as well.

“Anti-Jewish bias has a long history in American universities,” Kohl said. “During that history, this University has been a beacon of enlightenment that has well-served Jews and the University itself … The latest outrage is supplied by recommendation-denying graduate instructor Lucy Peterson. Her job is not the pursuit of truth — she proclaims — but is what she called ‘social justice pedagogy.’ Social justice pedagogy is not education. It is blatant propaganda, ideology and indoctrination.”

Schlissel has stated that the university is opposed to all academic boycotts against Israel in an apology to Jewish students.

Letters to the Editor: Gun Violence Debate, Phil Rosenthal and More

Gun Violence Debate

The underlying argument of gun law reform: Public safety will be achieved through legislature (“When Will It End?” Feb. 23). In light of the Florida school shooting, this argument is shaping the modern U.S. political and sociocultural landscape. However, the dialogue on gun control has diverted the public from the underlying cause of shootings: pathology.

In Europe, multiple acts of terror have taken place through the use of cars. By driving through crowds of people, terrorist attacks have killed people in masses. Even in the absence of legal gun purchases, assuming black market sales are somehow nonexistent, pathological individuals can find means to fulfill their destructive motivations.

While empathizing with the victims of this tragedy, this conversation lacks this simple empirical observation: Pathology is a problem of being; it is not a problem of legislature.

Mahmut Alp Yuksel, Los Angeles

Former President Barack Obama and the left are partly responsible for the Parkland, Fla., shooting. Obama’s Promise Program lowered Parkland’s juvenile arrest numbers from 3,000 to 600. Then it lowered the number of children disciplined and expelled; it reduced the treatment of problem children; it lowered the number of children arrested. So when the killer attacked, the police did nothing because they were part of the Promise Program.

Robin Rosenblatt, Sebastopol

What a great column by Danielle Berrin (“In America, Life Should Come Before Total Liberty,” Feb.  23)! Thank you so much for bringing up the essence of the prophetic words of Isaiah Berlin. Having lived for 33 years in a society that believed in the absolute ideal of socialism, I experienced firsthand the truthfulness of his words: Everything is justified by the goal of attaining an ideal society. I would add only this: The more noble the ideal is, the more paranoid and fanatic the society becomes. Total liberty is possible only if a single person lives on an isolated island. If two or more people are to live together as a family, society, etc., then total liberty must be replaced by other values that put life at the center of everything.

Svetlozar Garmidolov, Los Angles

It seems to me that Ben Shapiro is a tad defensive about his hardline interpretation of the Second Amendment (“The Parkland Dilemma,” March 2). He harshly criticizes the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) for becoming strong advocates for gun safety. How dare they criticize Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) for his support of lax gun safety measures? In the very next sentence, he comes to the defense of NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, arguing that she cares “deeply about their (students’) safety.”

These MSD students experienced a horrific massacre. If some of them spoke in hyperbole, it is understandable. What is Loesch’s excuse for her screed at CPAC? She accused those of us who support strong gun safety laws of being ill-informed, ignorant of the Constitution and anti-American. Yet, Shapiro does not chastise her for these comments.

Andrew C. Sigal, Valley Village

In his opposition to gun regulations, Ben Shapiro says he refuses to give up his guns to “browbeating gun control advocates.” We’re not asking him to give up his guns if he feels that they truly give him a sense of security. What we are asking is for improved background checks, introduction of “smart” guns to reduce the likelihood of accidental shootings, and restrictions on assault weapons. If people like Shapiro would listen and consider such reasonable proposals, then we wouldn’t have to shout at one another.

John Beckmann, Sherman Oaks

The “tribalism” David Suissa describes arises from a failure to develop “team skills” (Trapped Inside of Our Tribes,” March 2).

The deepening political divisions and increase in violence, such as the murder of schoolchildren in Florida, have cultural and interpersonal roots. As our culture has become increasingly technological, individuals have become focused on their smartphones and video games at a young age rather than being encouraged to develop relationships with others. Developing and maintaining relationships with others is a skill that is becoming increasingly difficult for some growing children and increasingly difficult for many adults. Violence and primitive tribalism are the consequence of deep personal isolation.

William E. Baumzweiger, Studio City

Phil Rosenthal’s Modesty

Phil Rosenthal significantly understated the level of his and Monica’s generous philanthropy to Jewish and Israel-based causes (“Phil Rosenthal’s 3 Desires,” March 2).

Just a sampling: They supported the production of the award-winning 2008 documentary about the life and death of Hannah Senesh; Monica received the JNF’s Tree of Life Award; and the couple made a significant gift to underwrite the Department of Religious Services, in memory of Phil’s uncle, Rev. A. Asher Hirsch, at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Paul Jeser via email

There is at least a third trait that “Italians and Jews share”: We talk with our hands. Hence the Yiddish joke: “How do you keep a Jew from talking? Tie his hands behind his back.”

Warren Scheinin, Redondo Beach

The Truth of Deir Yassin

The deceitful and perverse Deir Yassin “massacre” fraud was a deliberate, manipulative propaganda effort by Palestinian leadership (“The Truth of Deir Yassin,” March 2).

Perhaps anticipating the sacrosanct status of the Palestinian narrative, Jonathan Swift wrote that “Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it.” This would explain why professor Eliezer Tauber is still looking for an American publisher among those affiliated with the apparently now moribund “marketplace of ideas.”

Julia Lutch via emaill

What Protests Mean

Thank you, David Suissa, for writing “Obama and #IranianWomenToo,” Feb. 16).

Most of us are not brave enough to do what these women (and men) did, openly protesting an evil power —a real one, not from a movie or a novel.

I know this because I used to live in the evil empire, and I knew what an open protest would lead to. We did listen to Voice of America and Free Europe and knew of protests going on in front of the Soviet embassy, United Nations, etc. These people fought for our rights to leave, and for “refusniks” it meant a lot.

In light of this, the pretentious marches, resist movements, demands to remove old statues, and other political demonstrations seem meaningless compared with real issues of liberty (including women’s rights) that some societies face. It is very easy to participate in some march, feel good about it, then go home, knowing that there will be no consequences.

Andy Grinberg via email

A Rabbi’s Spiritual Journey

Thank you, Rabbi Adam Kligfeld, for poetically sharing your experience integrating yogic and Buddhist meditation practices with Judaism (“My Sabbatical Journey: Feeling the Drumbeat of Life,” March 2). In addition to spotlighting the enormous need for tikkun olam, meditation helps me to discern how best to use my God-given gifts to serve our world. None of us is expected to do it all, but each one of us is expected, even commanded, to do what we can. Whatever comes easily and naturally to us is exactly how to help, so go ahead, pick the low hanging fruit! What comes easily for you is difficult for others. Paralyzing guilt has no function in Jewish life.

Cathy Okrent via email

Listen and Learn

I strongly recommend to your readers a recent edition of “Two Nice Jewish Boys,” a Journal-associated podcast. It features Einat Wilf, a former Labor Party MK, who grew up supporting the two-state solution, but has since changed her mind.

It wasn’t just the failure of the Oslo Accords, the atrocities of the Second Intifada, ceaseless terrorism and repeated Palestinian rejection of good-faith offers that prompted her to “get real,” but her conversations with Palestinians themselves. She now believes, sadly, the Palestinian mindset makes a peaceful solution impossible.

Rueben Gordon, Encino

Inclusion at Sundance

Very glad to read about the Shabbat Tent at Sundance (“Sharing Some Light,” Feb. 2). I attended Sundance for 10 years — from 1998 to 2007— first as a programmer for another festival, and then as a filmmaker with a short that played Sundance in 2004. The only year I ever managed to participate in anything remotely Jewish was the year that “Trembling Before God” was an official documentary selection at the festival (in 2001). Very glad to hear that now there’s so much more, and that it is so welcoming and accessible.

Paul Gutrecht via email

The Power of Poetry

Thank you, Hannah Arin, for providing the lovely poetic parameters for wishing upon a star.

Charles Berdiansky, Culver City

New-Look Journal

Your new design format for stories is more conducive to reading all the material than the old design of presenting a starting story and continuing it on the back pages. Thank you for the change.

Ruth Merritt via email

13 Arab-Israeli Lawmakers Thrown Out of Knesset for Protesting Pence Speech

Members of the Joint Arab List hold signs in protest ahead of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s address to the Knesset, Israeli Parliament, in Jerusalem January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Ariel Schalit/Pool

Thirteen Arab-Israeli Knesset Members were tossed from the Knesset on Monday for protesting Vice President Mike Pence’s speech.

The lawmakers were a part of the Arab Joint List faction; they stood up holding signs that stated, “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine” to protest President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and heckled the vice president. The 13 MKs were then removed from the Knesset to applause.

Joint List chairman Ayman Ordeh, who lead the protest, tweeted:

NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell seemed to sympathize with the thrown out lawmakers when she tweeted, “Can you imagine Capitol Police dragging members of the congressional black caucus off the House floor?”

However, Jerusalem Post reporter Lahav Harkov pointed out that Mitchell had numerous factual errors in her tweet, most notably that it’s against Knesset rules to hold signs during a speech:

Harkov also noted that there have been plenty of other instances in which lawmakers have been thrown out of the Knesset for holding up signs:

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman lambasted the thrown out lawmakers on Twitter as being “representatives of terrorist organizations in the Knesset.”

“Their shameful behavior exposed to everyone their disloyalty to the state and its symbols,” Lieberman tweeted. “Only when Israeli Arabs allow other voices to represent them will be a chance for true peace.”

During his speech, Pence reaffirmed America’s commitment as a staunch ally to Israel and praised the Jewish people.

Over 108 People Injured in “Day of Rage” Protests

A Palestinian protester prepares to burn a U.S. flag during clashes with Israeli troops at a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, near the Jewish settlement of Beit El, near the West Bank city of Ramallah December 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

Over 108 people have been injured in what’s known as “Day of Rage” protests in response to President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to start the process of moving the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Palestine Red Crescent Society claimed they had treated over 108 people who were injured in various protests throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Here is a snapshot of what the protests have looked like:

Additionally, a man in Beit Jalal drove his car into several other cars, wounding seven people and damaging 22 cars.

Israeli soldiers deployed rubber bullets and tear gas to clamp down on the protests.

More riots are expected to occur on Friday, as Hamas is calling for the “Intifada of Jerusalem and the West Bank’s Freedom” to occur on that day.

Hamas’ call for an intifada comes after three rockets were launched into Israel on Thursday from the Gaza Strip. Israel responded by bombing six Islamic Jihad and Hamas locations. The al-Qaeda affiliate Tawhid al-Jihad is saying that they’re the ones who fired the rockets into Israel.

Despite the violence and threats of further violence, the Trump administration is confident that the violence will subside and that the Palestinian Authority will realize that the only way they can achieve statehood is through a U.S.-facilitated peace deal.

“We know there will be short term pain, but in the long term, this action will help with those conversations,” a White House official told the Jerusalem Post.

Times of Israel Middle East analyst Avi Issachoroff noted that the Palestinian Authority is behind the protests.

“The Palestinian Authority and Fatah are organizing the rallies in the city centers, but a key question is whether the Palestinian security services will stop demonstrators from reaching the potential flashpoints,” wrote Issachoroff. “In light of the Palestinian-Arab-Muslim consensus against US President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem, PA security may receive orders not to step in to block protesters on their way to the checkpoints, except, perhaps, to prevent the use of firearms.”

The violence and threats of further violence is why some people have been critical of Trump’s decision on Jerusalem. Others argue that the move will eventually cause violence to decline because the Palestinians won’t be able to use violence as a means to extract Jerusalem from the Israelis in future negotiations.

Make L’chaim, Not War

I was startled awake from my Shabbat afternoon nap by the sounds of sirens and shouting coming from the Jerusalem street outside the apartment my wife and I were renting for a few weeks during the summer of 2015. Was it a terror attack? An accident?

Any kind of commotion is a magnet for me. I have spent most of my life walking into potentially volatile situations to see how I can help, both in my countermissionary and Jewish outreach work, and in my work as a police chaplain and a reserve law-enforcement officer.

I rushed down six flights of stairs and up the hill to the nearby intersection. Immediately, I saw that this was no terror situation. On one side of Rechov Neviim, just across the street from the Bikur Cholim Hospital, about 150 bearded men dressed in all manner of black coats and hats swayed, chanting one word in a trancelike state.
“Shabbos! Shabbos! Shabbos!” they screamed.

Across the street, about 70 young secular Israelis, dressed in shorts and tank tops, brandished signs and chanted slogans protesting the infringement on their rights to use public transportation, shop or eat in restaurants on Saturdays.

It turned out, the protestors were regulars, fighting over how Shabbat would be observed in the public spaces of Israel — a battle that ratcheted up again recently when the Supreme Court ruled that Tel Aviv grocery stores could open on Shabbat.

In 1947, David Ben-Gurion came to an agreement with Orthodox rabbis that stipulated that public transportation would be closed on Shabbat, and municipalities could legislate which businesses could open. In Jerusalem, nearly all businesses are closed on Shabbat, and there are frequent and loud demonstrations over the status quo.

Since I founded Jews for Judaism 32 years ago, to counter deceptive proselytizing efforts targeting Jews, I have learned that what pulls people into cults is the warmth, love and community they offer. And what pulls people back to Judaism is the warmth, love and community we can offer. Coercion, manipulation and protests don’t move any minds or spirits.

So that Shabbat afternoon, I approached the Charedi side of the protest.

“Gut Shabbos,” I said to them, speaking in Hebrew and Yiddish. “Instead of chanting, ‘Shabbos,’ why don’t you say ‘Gut Shabbos,’ or ‘Shabbat Shalom?’ Show the chilonim [secular Israelis] what is beautiful about Shabbos.”

As if I didn’t exist, this extremist fringe of the Charedi community continued their mantra.

So I walked over to the secular side.

“Shabbat Shalom!” I screamed above the din. “Anyone who wants to see what Shabbat is really about please follow me to my apartment, a half a block away, for some good food and conversation. We’ll enjoy Shabbat, instead of standing here fighting about it.”

A few minutes later, I began to walk down the hill to my apartment. I turned around, and to my surprise about a dozen young secular Israelis were following me.

“Dvora,” I announced to my wife as we walked in, “we’re going to need a few more chairs, and all the food we have.”

I have spent most of my life walking into potentially volatile situations to see how I can help.

Dvora was unfazed, since we have hosted hundreds of people at our Shabbat table over the years, from Jewish Hari Krishnas to Jews of all ages eager to learn about their heritage. We pulled out pita, hummus, Moroccan fish, salads, drinks, chocolate rugelach — whatever we had. I also brought out a few bottles of good scotch.

The conversation flowed, as did the l’chaims. I shared some of my crazy stories about the people I’ve encountered and helped — religious and nonreligious, Jews and non-Jews. I wanted them to see that Judaism is about loving every Jew, and indeed, every human being.

A few hours later, long after the demonstration on the street had dispersed, we walked our guests out. They thanked us, saying they now had a new impression of Orthodox Jews and of Shabbat.

When I see the violent protests going on in Israel today, most recently related to Charedim being drafted into the military and protests over train construction on Shabbat, I know that anger and force won’t turn hearts and minds. And while these complicated issues won’t be solved over a spontaneous l’chaim, either, I know — given the mission of Judaism to make other lives safe, better and more meaningful — that it’s a step in the right direction.

Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz resides in Los Angeles and is the founder of Jews for Judaism.

Crafting political activism

People take part in an "I am Muslim Too" rally in Times Square on Feb. 19. Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters

“Protest is the new brunch,” says the new slogan. I certainly hope not.

Shortly before the inaugural, a friend posted a question on her Facebook page. She lives in Orange County and has a couple of small children. She asked if she should attend the Women’s March in Los Angeles, or go to a smaller one in the O.C.? It would be quite a hassle to bring her children, but she wanted to see her friends. What should she do?

I responded as follows: “Think about it this way. Resisting this Regime is not an exercise for a day, or a week, or a month, or even a year. It will be a marathon, not a sprint. It seems to me that doing that work means joining an activist community that you will be able to work with on an ongoing basis, developing ideas for what you want to accomplish, and then working together to accomplish them. You aren’t going to schlep up here regularly to do that. Moreover, maybe your kids will meet other kids from Orange County so it will be easier for you to involve them. So as much as I would like to see you, at least if you are trying to effect change, staying there might be better.”

She might have thought her question was about convenience, but it really concerned effectiveness. Did it matter where she protested?

We all have seen and I have participated in many of the now ubiquitous protests, marches, meetings, etc., that constitute the resistance to President Donald Trump. How do we assess them? If activism is supposed to accomplish something, it must be tethered to a clearly enumerated set of objectives — in other words, it needs a coherent theory of change. Put another way, how does activism get us from point A to point B? Answering this question is particularly necessary now, when marches, protests and actions are occurring throughout the country — and will continue for the foreseeable future.

Demand for a theory of change has dictated my own preferred activist course: voter registration. In Southern California alone, there are five congressional districts held by Republicans that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Since I want to block President Donald Trump as much as possible, I would like to flip those districts to the Democrats. So I spend a good bit of my time going to these districts (in Santa Clarita and Orange County), trying to register more Democrats. If enough of these districts flip across the country, then the House will become Democratic. It’s a straightforward theory of change. That doesn’t mean that it will work or that it will be easy. A coherent theory of change doesn’t necessarily mean an effective one. But it cannot be effective unless it’s coherent.

Theories of change span the political spectrum, of course. Anti-abortion activists picket clinics because they hope to shame pregnant women into turning away — making it too emotionally difficult to end their pregnancy. Whatever you think of this tactic, it contains a coherent theory of change. Picketing leads to shame leads to emotional pain leads to turning away leads to preventing the abortion.

“Raising consciousness” or “speaking out” can represent a coherent theory of change — but only if it is married to concrete ends. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. chose to protest in Birmingham, Ala., precisely because he knew that the sheriff there, Eugene “Bull” Connor, would respond violently and brutally. The ensuing gruesome television images would, he hoped, catalyze complacent Northern opinion into seeing the ugliest face of Jim Crow and raise political pressure on Congress to act. It worked.

So I often get frustrated when activists say that they want to be a “voice” for change. What will that voice do? Simply being a voice can work only if the circumstances are right. A friend who organizes protests in Santa Clarita  explained her efforts to me this way: “This town has been Republican for so long that Democrats don’t think they have a chance. Protesting shows them that there are other Democrats here, and that we can win. So they will become more involved and get others involved in politics.” This is a coherent theory of change. 

“Raising consciousness” or “speaking out” can represent a coherent theory of change — but only if it is married to concrete ends.

You might be more of a change agent than you think. A few years ago, I read a master’s thesis that considered, among other things, what organizations can do to get more people to come to their meetings. That’s a very important question for any organizing. The answer? Not slick ad campaigns, nor charismatic leadership, nor lots of money, but rather providing food and child care. That’s common sense when you think of it. So, don’t want to knock on doors or give speeches or drive all over the place? Fine, can you watch the kids during the meetings or cook something? Then you are doing a lot.

I sometimes hear two primary objections to insisting on a theory of change that deserve answers.

Objection one: I’m not a social theorist!

Social change is hard and complicated. “I’m just a doctor/social worker/customer service rep/development officer/accountant/teacher, etc. How can you expect me to develop a whole theory of change?”

First, don’t sell yourself short; you’re a lot smarter than you think. You don’t need a fancy education or experience to figure out how to get from point A to point B. You probably do it in your life all the time.

Second, you don’t have to have a theory of change, but any organization that asks for your energy, your time, your resources or your support should be able to explain to you what its theory of change is. Ask the organization, “In 18 months, if you are successful, what has happened and how do you see it happening?” If it doesn’t make sense to you, it might not make sense to the organization either. Or it might not know. If it doesn’t, then maybe you should look elsewhere. The goal is to help you focus your energy on activism that can lead to real change.

Objection two: One person can’t change the world.

Many people engage in protest and activism not because they think they will change the world, but because they simply want to stand for what is right and lead an ethical life. Critics might call this “virtue-signaling,” but we also can see it as simple humility. I am doing what I think is right even though I don’t expect that I will change the world. Christians sometimes call this “witnessing”: just declaring your beliefs and values publicly without pretending that others will listen, although we can always hope for that.

This posture is attractive precisely because it combines modesty with realism. If you adopt this approach, however, be clear in your own mind that that is what you are doing. “I suppose I have joined the Resistance, but what I am really doing is connecting to God.” Be honest with yourself — and with others who are considering joining you. We always benefit from courageous and moral voices, but we must not allow developing such voices to become an excuse for inaction.

Protest, then, is not the new brunch. It is a particular tactic that (we hope) fits into a broader program of social change. What is that program? How does it work? We can’t answer that question unless we ask it. But now we have. Go and learn.

Jonathan Zasloff is professor of law at UCLA, where he teaches, among other things, property, international law and Pirkei Avot. He is also a rabbinical ordination candidate at the Alliance for Jewish Renewal.

Seven arrested as IfNotNow protests target AIPAC

A protester with IfNotNow is arrested at the Century City office of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on March 17. Photo courtesy of IfNotNow.

Leading up to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual policy conference later this month in Washington, D.C., the progressive protest group IfNotNow set its sights on the Israel lobby with a pair of protests against AIPAC’s conservative, pro-Israel politics that led to seven arrests.

The arrests came on March 17, when seven Jewish protesters were cited for trespassing after blocking off the entrance to the lobby of 1801 Century Park East, the Century City office tower that houses AIPAC’s Los Angeles office.

Two days later, a crowd of about 150 marched through Beverly Hills and Century City, chanting and waving signs, before arriving in front of the AIPAC office, where they danced, prayed and sang in protest.

IfNotNow is a progressive network of millennial Jews that challenges Jewish establishment support for the status quo in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Over the past two weeks, the group has held community meetings across the country, including in Pittsburgh; Tucson, Ariz.; Burlington, Vt.; and Washington, D.C., to prepare for protests that will coincide with the AIPAC conference on March 26- 28.

The morning of March 17 was the first time the group’s members were arrested in
Los Angeles.

“We are here to say that we’ll occupy this building until AIPAC is ready to stop supporting the endless occupation in Israel-Palestine,” IfNotNow organizer Michal David, 26, said as Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers prepared to arrest protesters. According to David, about a dozen protesters arrived at 9 a.m. at the building and blocked off entrances for about 40 minutes, encouraging AIPAC employees to go home “for a day of reflection.” By 10 a.m., those not prepared to be arrested had moved to the sidewalk.

“Shabbat shalom! AIPAC go home!” the seven protesters remaining inside chanted, seated against a marble wall facing the entrance.

The seven, who cooperated with police as they were led away in handcuffs, were Shay Roman, Sam Gast, Alex Leichenger, Alysha Schwartz Ben Koatz, Oak Loeb and Ethan Buckner, according to IfNotNow. More than a dozen uniformed LAPD officers and six police cruisers were on hand for the arrests.

The protesters were taken into police custody after the building’s management called in a private person’s arrest, also known as a citizen’s arrest, by which a private citizen technically is responsible for an arrest when a suspected crime occurs in his or her presence, according to West L.A. area commanding officer Capt. Tina Nieto.

AIPAC officials declined to comment for this story.

By March 19, all seven had been released and several were present for the second protest.

“They have a choice,” Roman, 27, said of AIPAC as she marched down Century Park East. “They can learn and respect and begin to understand. … They could have come down and talked to us, and they didn’t.”

The march began at nearby Roxbury Park in Beverly Hills, with protesters sporting masks, crowns and makeup in the spirit of Purim, which took place the week before. Others wore Jewish ritual objects, like prayer shawls and tefillin.

Protesters march through Beverly Hills March 19 to protest AIPAC. Photo by Eitan Arom.

Protesters march through Beverly Hills March 19 to protest AIPAC. Photo by Eitan Arom.

The protesters marched 1 1/2 miles to the Century City office tower, blocking streets as they went. Many held signs aloft, while several carried a giant mock Torah scroll with the words “We will rise up” on one side and “We will not bow down” on the other.

LAPD officers blocked the short staircase to the office tower with their bicycles as protesters arrived. Standing in front of the officers, protesters gave speeches, led chants and read prayers, including a recitation of the mourner’s Kaddish to commemorate victims of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Not all of the protesters were Jewish. Jean Beek, 91, said she came with her husband, Allan, after he heard about the protest on the internet. She said her son drove the couple from Newport Beach to attend.

Of AIPAC and the Israeli government it supports, she said, “We want to let them know that people don’t like what they’re doing to the Palestinians.”

19 rabbis arrested during protest at Trump hotel

A rabbi being arrested outside the Trump International Hotel in New York City, Feb. 6. Photo by Gili Getz

Nineteen rabbis were arrested at a protest of President Donald Trump’s refugee ban in front of the Trump International Hotel in New York City.

The rabbis, who had gathered as part of a conference hosted by T’ruah, a rabbinical human rights group, were arrested for obstructing traffic in front of the hotel. After marching with a group of about 200 through Manhattan, they sat in front of the hotel and ignored repeated police warnings to disperse.

“Headed to 33rd precinct as one of 18 rabbis arrested tonight to send message that Jewish community stands with refugees & immigrants & refuses to let US close its borders again. #neveragain,” Rabbi Jill Jacobs, T’ruah’s executive director, posted on Facebook just before 9:30 p.m., about an hour after many of the protesters had left.

Protesters, many of them rabbis, came to the demonstration wearing prayer shawls, while others blew shofars to signal their opposition to the ban on refugees and nationals of seven predominantly Muslim countries enacted Jan. 27. One week later, a federal judge issued a temporary stay on the order.

The crowd, barricaded by police, chanted “No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here.” Protesters held signs reading “My People Were Refugees Too” and “Another Rabbi Standing For Justice.”

T’ruah is one of several liberal Jewish groups that has opposed several of the president’s policies both during the campaign and since the election. The group has come out against Trump’s policies on immigration, refugees and civil rights, and also opposed his appointment of Stephen Bannon as a senior adviser. Bannon previously helmed Breitbart News, which he once described as a platform for the “alt-right,” a loose-knit movement whose followers traffic variously in white nationalism, anti-immigration sentiment, anti-Semitism and a disdain for “political correctness.”

Jewish group leads anti-Trump protests nationwide

Hundreds of Jewish activists, led by Bend the Arc Jewish Action, a Jewish social justice organization, gathered in vigils in cities across the nation as part of a national day of action against presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric.

The Vigil Against Violence is taking place on the 52nd anniversary commemorating the death of two white Jewish activists, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner, and Black Christian activist James Chaney, who were killed on June 21, 1964 in Mississippi as they worked to register black voters as part of the Civil Rights movement.

In New York City, dozens rallied outside of Trump Tower, holding up signs that read, “Jews reject Trump #“WeveSeenThisBefore.” The group then marched to the Marriott Marquis, where Trump was meeting with evangelical leaders.

“Donald Trump has put forth a terrifying anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-woman and violent agenda,” said Stosh Cotler, CEO of Bend the Arc Jewish Action. “Jews have seen this before. Many of our relatives fled to the United States to escape violence and discrimination from around the world. Now, we are joining together to fight for a better country in this generation, and to deliver a clear message: Donald Trump will not become president of the United States on our watch.”

Bend the Arc activists and allies also held vigils in Chicago, Raleigh, Washington DC, San Francisco, Palo Alto, the East Bay, and Los Angeles, according to the Jewish group.

The events are part of a national campaign to stop Donald Trump from being elected as president In the fall, first launched at the group’s first national conference earlier this month in Washington, D.C.


Demonstrators arrested outside of Trump rally in California

Some 20 demonstrators were arrested on Thursday outside a Donald Trump campaign rally in southern California, where the Republican presidential front-runner vowed to his supporters to get tough on illegal immigration if elected.

Demonstrators smashed the window of a police squad car, marched in protest and blocked traffic as police in riot gear tried to disperse the crowd outside of the county fair grounds in Costa Mesa, California, according to local media and the Twitter account of the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

The department said on its Twitter account that about 20 arrests were made and that no major injuries were reported.

Trump visited Costa Mesa, a city of more than 100,000 people, a third of whom are Hispanic or Latino, hoping to garner support in California where voters will go to the polls during the state's Republican primary on June 7.

A strong primary win in California for the billionaire could thrust him above the delegate count needed to secure the Republican nomination for president and avoid a contested party convention in July.

During the campaign stop on Thursday, Trump promised to get tough on illegal immigration by building a wall on the border between Mexico and the United States, a popular theme of his presidential campaign, suggesting that a wall would stop drugs from coming into this country.

“The drugs are poisoning our youth and a lot of other people and we are going to get it stopped,” he said, telling the crowd that he would force Mexico to pay for the wall.

After the event, local news showed hundreds of demonstrators surrounding vehicles, waving Mexican flags and holding signs in protest of Trump outside of the Orange County Fair and Event Center. At least one demonstrator was shown jumping on the top of a police car while other demonstrators were seen shaking a police vehicle.

A Los Angeles Times reporter posted a photo on Twitter of a man wearing a Trump T-shirt with a bloodied face.

Trump has come under fire from rivals for fueling unrest with his rhetoric as several of his rallies around the country have been met by protests during the last several months. 

Protesters target Trump speech to California Republicans

Protests erupted on Friday outside the venue where U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump was speaking to a group of California Republicans, a day after a demonstration against the former reality TV star turned ugly.

About 300 people gathered outside the convention in Burlingame, south of San Francisco. Protesters, who held signs and Mexican flags, at one point rushed security gates, and police officers had their batons out.

News cameras caught images of Trump, guarded by security officials, hopping a barrier and walking toward a back entrance of the hotel for his speech to the California Republican convention. Protesters were blocking traffic.

“That was not the easiest entrance I've ever made,” Trump told the gathering. “It felt like I was crossing the border actually.”

Trump has won a following among Republican voters in the United States, along with ardent critics, for his hardline stand on illegal immigration. He has accused Mexico of sending drug dealers and rapists across the U.S. border, and promised to end it by building a wall and making Mexico pay for it.

Chaotic scenes broke out on Thursday outside a Trump rally at the county fair grounds in Costa Mesa, California. Media reported that anti-Trump protesters smashed the window of a police patrol car and blocked traffic. Some 20 people were arrested.

The Republican front-runner was in the state ahead of its June 7 primary, when the most convention delegates of the Republican nominating cycle will be at stake.

Trump's rivals hope to block the real estate mogul from garnering the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the nomination. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz on Friday picked up the backing of Governor Mike Pence of Indiana, the next state to hold a nominating contest.

Trump, who described himself this week as the party's presumptive nominee, would take a huge stride toward knocking his Republican rivals out of the presidential race if he wins the Indiana primary next week.

Protests have become common outside rallies for Trump. His campaign had to cancel a rally in Chicago last month after clashes between his supporters and protesters.

Cheryl McDonald, 71, of Discovery Bay, said she had to pass through protesters to get inside the hotel where his event was being held on Friday. “They were yelling. I think the only words they know in the dictionary are profanity,” said McDonald, who said she is a Trump supporter.

Cruz won backing from Indiana's governor on Friday ahead of the state's primary, where the Texan is fighting a rearguard battle to damage Trump's chances of winning the nomination.

“I'm not against anybody, but I will be voting for Ted Cruz in the upcoming Republican primary,” Pence said on an Indiana radio show.

Cruz, a U.S. Senator from Texas, is trailing the New York billionaire in the Midwestern state after losing to him by a wide margin in all five Northeastern states that held nominating contests on Tuesday.

The endorsement from Pence could boost Cruz's hopes of winning Indiana on Tuesday. A CBS poll out earlier this week found Trump with about 40 percent of support in Indiana, compared to 35 percent for Cruz. The poll had a margin of error of 6.6 points. Other polls have also shown Trump ahead.

Today’s peaceniks live with 60s envy

Not all demonstrations are created equal. Protesting for civil rights in the 1960s, for example, is not the same as protesting to “end the occupation” in 2016. The former was, literally, a black-and-white issue; the latter is anything but.

The thing with demonstrations, though, is that it’s often hard to tell which is which. Rebels protesting injustice all have that same look of righteous indignation. They demand immediate change and leave no room for doubt or complexity. When they hit the streets, they unleash their visceral emotions, not their thoughtfulness or intellect.

This past week, to coincide with the Passover holiday, hundreds of mostly young Jewish activists under the banner of #IfNotNow (INN) unleashed their emotions across the country to protest Israel’s continued presence in the West Bank. They looked very much like those activists arrested in the civil rights marches in Mississippi and Alabama in the 1960s.

They proudly held up slogans such as, “No Liberation With Occupation” and “Dayenu — End the Occupation.” By trespassing on private property, some of them got arrested and made the news. I’m sure they were rock stars at their Passover seders. Martyrs for the cause.

But what cause, exactly?

What noble mission has aroused such certainty and passion in these activists?

Not surprisingly, it’s the most media-friendly cause in the world: Demanding that Israel end its disputed occupation of the West Bank. After all, if Blacks in the 1960s deserved their civil rights, don’t Palestinians today deserve to see Israel leave the West Bank?

Well, yes, except for a few inconvenient wrinkles, such as:

As soon as Israel leaves the West Bank, Hamas can swoop in and start slaughtering Palestinians, just as it did in Gaza after Israel left. ISIS can also move in and start chopping off Palestinian heads. In other words, “ending the occupation” can also mean “ending the protection” of Palestinians against Islamic terror. How’s that for a complication?

Here’s another complication you won’t see captured by INN slogans: Palestinian leaders have had several opportunities to end the occupation over the past 20 years, and they said no to Israeli offers each time.

One reason for their serial rejection has been their reluctance to compromise on their demand that Palestinian refugees and millions of their descendants return to Israel proper, a move that would effectively end the Jewish state.

Another reason for their rejection is money. As long as they can claim victimhood, Palestinians get billions in international aid. For corrupt Palestinian leaders, this makes the occupation a personal ATM that funds their villas and private jets and keeps the global money flowing. Who’d want to end that?

And let’s not forget that while those leaders are getting rich, the occupation enables them to keep bashing the Zionist state they so despise.

Add it all up, and is it any wonder that irresponsible, corrupt and unaccountable Palestinian leaders have never rushed to see the end of the occupation?

I know, these are all messy complications for protesters who need a clean narrative — the narrative that it’s all up to Israel to make things better. These protesters are simply following the popular mantra that discriminates against the Jewish state: When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, everything is on Israel's shoulders. 

The protesters make no demands whatsoever on the Palestinians, such as ending their culture of Jew-hatred, corruption and chronic rejection. As former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren once put it, Palestinians have become “two-dimensional props in a Jewish morality play.”

Indeed, it’s hard to imagine INN activists demonstrating in front of the Palestinian Consulate with this slogan: “Stop Teaching Hatred and Start Teaching Peace,” or this one, “Say Yes NOW to Negotiations,” or this one, “Stop Stealing Aid from Your People.”

The inconvenient reality is that Israel cannot end this conflict on its own. This is an intractable, two-way conflict with no easy solutions and plenty of blame to go around. It’s a far cry from the black-and-white fight for the civil rights of Blacks in America.

Anti-occupation demonstrators need to know that when they scream for a simple solution to a complex problem, they hide the very complexity of the problem and make a solution that much more unattainable.

All eager peaceniks would be wise to listen to the words of Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), who had this to say to the INN protesters arrested in the lobby of the New York City building where the ADL rents space:

“It is unfortunate that INN seems to be more interested in spectacles and ultimatums than in discussion and dialogue grappling with the difficult issues involved in achieving peace. Nevertheless, our doors are open, and our invitation to speak with INN still stands.”

Will they take him up on it? I doubt it.

Greenblatt’s offer can never compete with the drama of getting arrested and making the evening news. There’s no adrenaline rush in engaging in honest dialogue and grappling with complex issues. For wannabe rebels who can't tolerate complications, it is only their smugness and certainty that are black and white.

David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at

The ‘Little Fuehrer’ vs. student furor in Boyle Heights

While commentators denounce and rebut Donald Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, some will remember that 70 years ago, another battle against bigotry, as well as anti-Semitism and what the media called “fascism,” was waged by Jewish and Black teenagers on the streets of Los Angeles.

In November 1945, when anti-Semitic agitator Gerald L.K. Smith, a man the B’nai B’rith Messenger referred to as the “Little Fuehrer,” was given a permit by the Los Angeles School Board to speak at Los Angeles Polytechnic High School, a group of Jewish teenagers — many from Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights — was among the organizers of a school walkout to protest the actions of the school board.

“We were just radical kids,” Leo Frumkin, one of the leaders of the student walkout, recalled in a recent interview. We were “just fresh coming out of the second world war, with the atrocities that we heard about. There was a guy who was a fascist, and that’s what we were objecting to,” said Frumkin, who was 17 in 1945 and a senior at Roosevelt High.

Although Jewish households participated in L.A.’s economic expansion after World War II, according to “History of the Jews of Los Angeles” by Max Vorspan and Lloyd P. Gartner, it was also a time when veterans were returning home to an uncertain labor market in which they now had to compete with minorities for jobs. “By the end of the war, 150,000 veterans had moved to the city, many of whom were black or Jewish,” David J. Leonard, an associate professor at Washington State University at Pullman, wrote in 2004 in the journal American Jewish History.

As a result, at least some white Angelinos were increasingly willing to accept and openly support white supremacist rhetoric.

Smith (1898-1976) was a former Christian clergyman in Louisiana with a long history in right-wing politics in Louisiana and in Michigan, as well as in white supremacism. Smith founded the America First Party in 1944, for which he was a presidential candidate that year — although he garnered only a handful of votes. Known for his fiery oratory, Smith gave a speech in downtown Los Angeles on March 31, 1945, to around 2,000 in the Embassy Auditorium, during which he referred to Jews as “international moneychangers.” In response, an article in a Los Angeles Jewish publication of the time, the B’nai B’rith Messenger, called upon the “individual Jew” to “become a militant warrior in the fight against the thing that seeks to destroy them.”

After Smith spoke in L.A. again on July 20 of that year, this time at the Shrine Auditorium, a counter gathering drew around 12,000 people at the nearby Olympic Auditorium, where Rabbi Edgar Magnin of Wilshire Boulevard Temple was one of the speakers. And then, in planning to return to L.A., the “Little Fuehrer” applied to use L.A. Polytechnic High (then on the corner of Washington Boulevard and Flower Street) to give his next speech.

Although the Jewish community opposed the permit, it was approved, which meant that this time Smith would speak on public property.

His speech at Polytechnic High was met with between 15,000 and 20,000 protestors; nevertheless Smith applied and was approved for a second permit to speak at Polytechnic High, this time on Saturday, Nov. 3, setting the stage for the student protests.

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times on Nov. 1, two days before the scheduled appearance, “500 teenage boys and girls mostly from Roosevelt High School and other East Los Angles Schools marched with crude homemade placards” in front of the Chamber of Commerce building, where the school board had offices. During the demonstration, three student leaders — Jerry Wagner, Irving Losnick and Bernie Adelman — had an informal meeting with L.A. schools Superintendent Vierling Kersey, who urged them to return to Roosevelt and instead stage a mass meeting there.

They returned, had a meeting, and it was then, according to Frumkin, who was not at the protest and was absent from the school rally because of football practice, that he was appointed to be one of the student leaders.

The next day at school, he and others spread word of plans for another walkout, recalled Frumkin, who is now 87 and retired from a successful automotive transmission business. Born in the East L.A. neighborhood of Belvedere into a secular Jewish family, and made politically aware by his older sisters, Frumkin was a member of the Young Socialist League, a Trotskyist organization, he said.

At the time, Boyle Heights residents were also being warned about the dangers of Smith’s fascist rhetoric by the weekly newspaper the Eastside Journal, whose publisher and editor was Al Waxman (his nephew, Henry Waxman, later became the longtime Westside Democratic representative to Congress). The crusading editor had sounded the call against Smith’s first appearance at Polytechnic High in an editorial, in which he called Smith “the living symbol of Adolf Hitler’s dreams and ambitions,” and urged the community to “form the largest picket line this city has ever seen” at the Nov. 3 speech.

Although not the most sizable, the second day of student picketing was the wildest.

On Friday, at a gathering on the Roosevelt High football field, school Principal Francis L. Daugherty urged the students in the bleachers to return to class but was hooted down, and around 300 students surged across the campus and out onto the sidewalk, according to the L.A. Times. The students then marched about four miles to the school board’s offices, along the way making placards saying “Down with Smith.”

Frumkin, looking to swell the size of the group, ran to nearby Hollenbeck Junior High School. There, 15-year-old Sid Kane, also a member of the Young Socialist League, seeing that school administrators had locked his school’s gates to prevent a walkout, climbed the fence and led a group over, Kane said. Kane also recalls tearing his trousers as he climbed the fence. “There were kids whose families had lost people because of the Holocaust,” he said.

But Frumkin was not yet finished recruiting. Recognizing that Black students also had an interest in preventing the racist Smith from speaking, he borrowed his brother-in-law’s car and drove to Jefferson High School to enlist its students’ help.

“I got up on the lunch tables,” Frumkin said. Then he got back in his car and drove to the Chamber of Commerce building, where he met with four other student leaders.

Outside, the students “formed a double picket line, which grew larger by the hour as students of other schools arrived in automobiles and streetcars,” the L.A. Times reported. As Frumkin arrived, he said, he saw some of those streetcars filled with Black students.

Inside the building, Frumkin strategized with Rita Roth and three other student leaders when, he said, “I heard sirens coming down the street and something instinctual told me they were coming to break up the demonstration.” And so, Frumkin said, “I ran downstairs, and that’s when the cops grabbed me.

A photo that appeared in the Evening Herald Express in 1945 after Frumkin was arrested for his role in protesting anti-Semitic agitator Gerald L.K. Smith.

“They put me in a police car, and there were these students yelling, ‘If you’re taking him, you’re taking us,’ ” Frumkin said.

Eventually, 75 police were involved in breaking up the protest, which included some marchers calling to “make a fight,” the L.A. Times reported. Thirteen people were arrested that day, and 42 others were taken into custody, including “many girls,” the paper said.

At the Georgia Street police station where he was taken, Frumkin said, “We were 17-year-old kids singing union songs like ‘Hold the Fort.’ The sergeant yelled at us, ‘Just get your parents or somebody down here,’ ” he said. “I think my sister came down and got me.”

As punishment for his role in the walkout, Frumkin was suspended from school for a day or two, and “balled out” by the principal. With only one game left in the football season, he was nevertheless kicked off the team. Although he later got his team letter, he was not allowed to stand with the rest of the players when they received theirs. “That was a lot worse to me than getting arrested,” Frumkin said.

Although the B’nai B’rith Messenger condemned the student walkout (“there was no necessity for the children to play truant,” the paper opined), Kane said he saw it as a “protest against fascism and what took place in the Holocaust.” Frumkin, who today remains friends with Kane, saw “fighting fascism” as a “normal thing to do.”

With the student walkouts grabbing headlines in the L.A. Times and Evening Herald Express, when it came time for the Saturday night event, it was no surprise that as Smith and his supporters entered the Polytechnic High auditorium, they were met, according to the B’nai B’rith Messenger, by almost 20,000 sign-waving picketers.

Have an idea for a Los Angeles Jewish history story? Contact Edmon J. Rodman at

3,000 in Tel Aviv protest government, call for two-state solution

Thousands of Israelis demonstrated in an anti-government rally in Tel Aviv and called for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

About 3,000 demonstrators gathered Saturday night in Rabin Square and marched to the Israel Defense Department headquarters at a rally sponsored by Peace Now. They chanted slogans such as “Jews and Arabs don’t want to hate each other” and “Israel, Palestine, two states for two peoples,” according to reports.

Among those on hand were Zehava Galon, leader of the left-wing Meretz party, and Stav Shaffir of the center-left Zionist Union alliance.

“Bibi, you’ve failed,” Galon said, referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “You’ve failed in providing personal security for the citizens of Israel, you’ve failed in proposing any kind of vision for changing the reality.”

The demonstration comes amid a wave of terror attacks by Palestinian “lone wolf” assailants against Israelis in recent weeks that has seen 10 Israelis and 49 Palestinians killed. Israel says that at least 20 of the Palestinians killed were attackers.

Latest domestic violence fatality triggers protests in Lebanon

This article originally appeared on The Media Line.

Sara al-Amin became a household name overnight after her husband shot her 17 times with an assault rifle, the latest fatality of domestic violence in Lebanon. Amin had left her husband after an alleged two decades of beatings and was finally pressing charges against him. Her murder prevented her from doing so, but it also galvanised Lebanese civil society groups to continue their fight against abuse in the home.

“Her killing was brutal,” says Maya Ammar a spokesperson for KAFA, a Lebanese non-governmental organisation campaigning to end violence against women. In Lebanon, an estimated 2,600 cases of domestic abuse are reported to KAFA each year. “She was tortured and killed. It was 17 bullets – not one. That’s just brutal,” she told The Media Line.

This time last year, a series of high-profile domestic violence cases pushed Lebanon’s parliament to pass a long-awaited law to protect women. Amin’s murder has stoked this anger again, and protests to demand even greater protection are organised for May 30.

Lebanon has come a long way since the law to protect spouses from domestic violence was first passed, in April 2014. The small, religiously diverse country had no law specifically protecting women against abuse from their husband. Since “personal status” matters, including marriage, divorce, and child custody, are decided by religious courts according to a person’s sect, Lebanon’s parliament had avoided ruling on this issue.

But the new law changed much of that, creating specific protection measures for women and children. Now, for example, an abusive partner is legally required to leave the home and partake in rehabilitation courses.

“The main thing we focused on with the [new] law is protection,” Leila Awada, KAFA co-founder and legal specialist, told The Media Line. “Before it even gets to murder, while it is (still) striking and violence, the woman can now take a decision to protect herself and her kids.”

Awada also highlighted a change in the Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF) in dealing with cases of domestic violence. While an increased awareness of best practise when dealing with abuse is needed from police officers, there is now the threat of jail time for ISF members who try to convince women not to press charges or who turn a blind eye when crimes are being committed.

There are a number of options now available for victims – both from NGO’s and from the government. KAFA runs a hotline for women, offers psychological support and can provide lawyers to help prosecute cases. Meanwhile the Lebanese Social Affairs ministry manages a taskforce of government agencies, NGOs and civil society groups and UN agencies to find ways to better protect women and recommend changes to the law. The Social affairs ministry has designed systems and training for councillors and medical staff who may come into contact with victims of domestic violence on how to provide assistance and what their obligations under the law are.

However, despite this progress there are still major gaps in the legislation and provision for victims. “There are some gaps in the law so the Social Affairs Ministry should provide some services and make recommendations for amendments for the law,” a senior official in the Social Affairs Ministry, told The Media Line. “For prevention we have to enhance the awareness of the issue in local communities. Many of our previous awareness campaigns have been through the media – which is crucial – but now we also have to really focus on rural areas too,” the official, who was not authorised to speak to the press and requested anonymity, said.

The official also highlighted the need for both a national referral system so that there was a standard national practice to dealing with cases and more shelters for victims to seek assistance at.

KAFA, who extensively lobbied for a tougher law, wanted the legislation to explicitly stipulate protection for women victims, while the legislation that was passed covers ‘violence against any member of the family by any other member.’

There is also a great deal of uncertainty if children are involved. If the child is above infancy then the father is likely to gain custody of the child – especially if the mother is not from the same religious sect as her children who take their sect from the father. Family matters, including divorce and custodial disputes are still decided in religious, not civil, courts.

“The text of the law is okay, but the prosecution is taking a long time — sometimes up to seven years. So this means that people are not following the case and people are not finding out what the verdict was. It makes it look like there aren't serious sentences,” said Awada. On top of this, the legal specialist added, “At times the men get charged with lighter offences  like being on drugs — or an excuse is made for them, like she was caught cheating.” This reduces public confidence in the implementation of the legislation.

There are few statistics to show what impact, if any, last year’s law has had on domestic violence in the country. But there has been a marked change in how the Lebanese public reacts to the death of yet another woman at the hands of her partner. With wider media coverage and regular public protests, civil society groups have been able to mobilize Lebanese society around their cause.

The May 30 protest, “is asking for justice for women killed,” Maya Ammar said. “It has stoked the debate again. I think people felt rage last year when three women were killed in one month. So we received a lot of calls for action from the public.”

Although the new law has addressed some major issues in Lebanon for victims of domestic abuse – and women generally – there is still a significant way to go before legislation is up to the challenge of dealing with murders in the home. Public pressure will make a difference, however the process is set to be a long one. 

Ferguson and Eric Garner are symptoms of a deeper problem

I sat down last week to write about what happened in Ferguson. As I began to write, there was no doubt in my mind that there would be a “next time” as soon as we hit the next news cycle, if not sooner.

Then I heard the news that the New York City police officer responsible for the death of Eric Garner would not be charged. I was struck by the fact that I could write this article every day and just leave a blank spot to fill in a new name.

This is not just about Michael Brown or Eric Garner. These cases are not anomalies but symptoms of something much deeper.

We have a system in this country that lets some get ahead while keeping others in the cycle of poverty. We see this play out in the disparities in educational opportunities available to low-income African-American students compared with middle-class white students. We see it in who can buy a home and what kind of mortgage options are available to them. And we see it in the unequal application of drug laws that send huge numbers of black men to jail for drug crimes committed in nearly equal numbers by white individuals. These are just a few examples from a much longer list.

As Jews, we have in recent history benefited greatly from a system that has actively held down our black brothers and sisters. The G.I. Bill and the various programs enacted under the New Deal helped many white Jews move into the middle class while either explicitly or in application excluding many African-Americans.

I say this not to impart guilt upon those of us who benefited, but as a reminder. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel famously said, “There is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty but all are responsible.”

Jewish-Americans are responsible for understanding how the systems that helped us advance also prevented so many others from doing the same. We must understand how these systems played a role in perpetuating racial and economic inequality, to bear witness, and then to act for change.

Many people have told me that they are outraged but simply don’t know what to do. We cannot allow ourselves to be paralyzed by the sheer size of the problem, to simply express our sadness and outrage until it passes through the media cycle. Inevitably there will be another “next time” until we as a society fix the larger system that allows the injustices to occur.

At AVODAH, we have been discussing an idea and recently put a name to it: Tikkun Ma’arechet, repairing the system. This framework is vital because the injustice we are seeing is the result of intersecting systems in our society that are badly in need of repair. A broken system has provided many Jewish-Americans with privilege and power. We have an opportunity to use that same power to fix it.

What is our role in that repair? Here’s a start:

Have hard conversations with the people we care about. Race and economic inequality are emotionally charged issues to discuss. It’s easy to disengage when someone disagrees with your perspective or says something offensive, but those are the moments when we must dig deep and continue the dialogue. Take a deep breath. Acknowledge your feelings of frustration, anger and impatience. Think about how to make these issues connect on a personal level. But above all, keep talking. If we only talk to those who agree with us, we won’t be able to move things forward. And remember that having these conversations is not a natural ability; it’s a vital skill that is honed over time.

Support work to address the systemic issues. There are many in the Jewish community and beyond who are already engaged in Tikkun Ma’arechet, but it isn’t glamorous work. They need to know that others support them and believe in their vision. These organizations need volunteers, they need people to show up and speak up, and they need support to grow their work to be even more impactful.

Learn about being an ally. While we have a role to play, it isn’t always about standing in front, especially as people with privilege. It’s less important to lead on everything than to show up and be supportive. Listen to the stories of people most affected by racial injustice and understand those stories as lived experience, even if what you hear challenges your own perspective.

Pace yourself, but start marching. Ethics of the Fathers teaches us that we are not expected to complete the task, but neither are we free to desist from it. The work of Tikkun Ma’arechet is not something we will complete in our lifetimes. But we must begin, and begin now. Lives are at stake today, tomorrow and the day after. We cannot stand idly by.

Our work must continue until there are no more “next times.”

(Suzanne Feinspan is the acting executive director of AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps.)


Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Randi Weingarten arrested at Garner protest

Several prominent rabbis and the president of a national teachers union were arrested Thursday night while protesting police brutality.

Rabbis Sharon Kleinbaum, Jill Jacobs and Shai Held, along with Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, were taken into custody for blocking traffic to protest a grand jury’s decision not to indict the New York police officer who choked Staten Island resident Eric Garner to death. The protests, held on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, were organized by the group Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.

Kleinbaum is the longtime rabbi at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, the country’s largest LGBT synagogue, and is also Weingarten’s partner. Directly before the protest, she was honored by JFREJ with a Marshall T. Meyer Risk Taker Award at nearby Congregation B’nai Jeshurun.

Attendees at the ceremony read the names of more than 20 black males who had been killed by New York police, followed by the phrase, “I am responsible.” They then marched to the nearby intersection at 96th Street and Broadway — blocking traffic and holding protest signs.

Protesters recited the Mourner’s Kaddish along with chants and songs. (A video of the group saying Kaddish can be seen here.)

Jacobs is the executive director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights and a prominent social activist. Arrestee Held is co-founder and dean of the educational organization Mechon Hadar and teaches at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary.

More than 400 arrested as Ferguson protests spread to other U.S. cities

National Guard troops and police aimed to head off a third night of violence on Wednesday in Ferguson, Missouri, as more than 400 people have been arrested in the St. Louis suburb and around the United States in unrest after a white policeman was cleared in the killing of an unarmed black teenager.

There have been protests in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta and other cities decrying Monday's grand jury decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in a case that has touched off a debate about race relations in the United States.

Ferguson, a predominately black city, has been hit by two nights of rioting, looting and arson with some businesses burned to the ground, but authorities say an increased security presence on Tuesday night helped quell the violence.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has deployed about 2,200 National Guard troops in and around Ferguson. Police made 45 arrests in Ferguson in the Tuesday night protests, down from 61 in aftermath of Monday's grand jury decision.

“The ramped up presence and action of the Missouri National Guard has been helpful,” Nixon said on Wednesday after facing criticism for not deploying enough guardsman in the hours after the grand jury's decision.

Tensions between police and black Americans have simmered for decades, with many blacks feeling the U.S. legal system and law enforcement authorities do not treat them fairly. In Washington, President Barack Obama has tried to keep a lid on anger that has spilled over to other cities and garnered international attention.

Obama remained cautious in his comments in the immediate aftermath of the Ferguson shooting, but has been more expansive in recent days including remarks at the White House after the grand jury's decision. On Monday he said deep distrust exists between police and minorities and that “communities of color aren't just making these problems up.”

Russia on Wednesday pointed to rioting in Ferguson and the other protests across the United States as evidence that Moscow's detractors in Washington were hypocrites and in no position to lecture Russia on human rights.

St. Louis police said three people were arrested at a protest near City Hall on Wednesday in which activists staged a mock trial of Wilson, who told the grand jury he shot Brown because he feared for his life.

Ferguson's mayor, James Knowles, is white, as are most of its city council members. A 2013 state attorney general's report found more than 85 percent of motorists pulled over in the city are black, and the arrest rate among blacks is twice the rate among white residents.


Obama's Justice Department is probing the Ferguson shooting as it considers whether to bring federal civil rights charges against the officer and the police department.

“The sad fact is that it brings up issues that we've been struggling with in this country for a long, long time,” said Matthew Green, an associate professor of politics at the Catholic University of America.

“These are not problems and issues that are going to get resolved by one president in the remainder of his term.”

Wilson said his conscience was clear. He told ABC News that there was nothing he could have done differently that would have prevented Brown's death. But the parents of the slain teenager said they did not accept the officer's version of the events.

“I don't believe a word of it,” Brown's mother Lesley McSpadden told “CBS This Morning” on Wednesday.

The crowds in Ferguson were smaller and more controlled than on Monday, when about a dozen businesses were torched and others were looted amid rock-throwing and sporadic gunfire from protesters and volleys of tear gas fired by police. More than 60 people were arrested then.

“Generally, it was a much better night,” St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told reporters on Wednesday, adding there was little arson or gunfire, and that lawlessness was confined to a relatively small group.

A Conoco gas station and convenience store in Ferguson has escaped looters with armed, black local residents guarding the white-owned store.

Protests over the Ferguson decision in several major cities on Tuesday night shut highways and led to some arrests.

Police in Boston said on Wednesday that 45 people were arrested in protests overnight that drew more than a thousand demonstrators. In Dallas, seven were arrested for blocking traffic on Interstate 35, a major north-south U.S. roadway.

In New York, where police used pepper spray to control the crowd after protesters tried to block the Lincoln Tunnel and Triborough Bridge, 10 demonstrators were arrested, police said.

Protesters in Los Angeles threw water bottles and other objects at officers outside city police headquarters and later obstructed both sides of a downtown freeway with makeshift roadblocks and debris, authorities said.

Gunshots ring out, tear gas fired as violence returns to Ferguson

Gunshots rang out and police lobbed tear gas at an angry crowd that threw bottles outside the Ferguson Police Department in suburban St. Louis after a grand jury decided not to indict a white officer in the shooting death of an unarmed black teen.

Outrage over the decision fueled what had been mostly peaceful protests across the United States on Monday, including in New York City where marchers chanting “Black lives matter” snarled traffic on Broadway through Times Square.

In Chicago, demonstrators walked up Lake Shore Drive carrying banners that read “Justice for Mike Brown” – the 18-year-old who was shot and killed in Ferguson on Aug. 9.

Police in Ferguson used smoke canisters and trucks to force waves of violent protesters down the street away from the police building soon after sporadic gunshots were heard. Flames from a burning car rose into the night sky.

Whistles pierced the air as some of the hundreds of protesters tried to keep the peace, shouting, “Don't run, don't run.”

Police who formed a wall of clear riot shields outside the precinct were pelted with bottles and cans as the crowd surged up and down the street immediately after authorities said the grand jury had voted not to indict Officer Darren Wilson.

“Murderers, you're nothing but murderers,” protesters in the crowd shouted. One woman, speaking through a megaphone said, “Stinking murderers.”

Dozens of police and military vehicles were poised for possible mass arrests not far from the stretch of Ferguson streets that saw the worst of the rioting after Wilson shot Brown in August.

“They need to feel the pain these mothers feel at the (expletive) cemetery,” shouted Paulette Wilkes, 40, a teacher's assistant who was in the crowd at the police department.

A smaller, calmer crowd of about three dozen protesters gathered outside the courthouse where the grand jury had met. In that crowd, a white woman held a sign that read: “Black Lives Matter.” Many of the protesters looked stunned.

“That's just how the justice system works – the rich are up there and the poor are down here,” said Antonio Burns, 25, who is black and lives in the Ferguson area. The police “think they can get away with it,” Burns said.

A handful of Amnesty International volunteers in bright vests tried to maintain the peace. Brown's family quickly urged a non-violent response to the grand jury's decision.

Officials urged tolerance and assured residents that the National Guard would provide security at critical facilities like fire houses, police stations and utility substations.

“I do not want people in this community to think they have to barricade their doors and take up arms,” St. Louis County Executive Director Charlie Dooley said before the grand jury's decision was announced.

Officials make preparations for Ferguson grand jury decision

Prosecutors made preparations to announce the eventual decision by a grand jury on whether to charge a white police officer who shot dead an unarmed black teenager and some local schools said on Friday they would close next week in anticipation of unrest.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urged police to show restraint in handling any protests that flare after the grand jury's decision as tensions simmered in Ferguson, Missouri over a case that has become a flashpoint for U.S. race relations.

The grand jury deciding whether to indict Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, 18, in the St. Louis suburb met behind closed doors. Three protesters staged mock lynchings outside the courthouse, calling for Wilson to be indicted.

The St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney's Office said it was preparing for a news conference – the first time it has disclosed such plans – but added that it had no date or time for the decision announcement. Officials have said a decision is expected before the end of the month.

The nearby Jennings School District said it would close on Monday and Tuesday due to the possibility of unrest in neighboring Ferguson. The district was already scheduled to be closed the rest of the week for the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.

The Ferguson-Florrisant school district is planning to have its schools open on Monday and Tuesday.

Police in riot gear arrested three people in overnight protests that led to scuffles, police said. Police said they doused one demonstrator with pepper spay for resisting arrest.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has already declared a state of emergency and called in National Guard troops to back up local police in anticipation of protests. Groups from across the country have said they would take to the streets again in large numbers if charges are not brought.

Holder said the Justice Department was providing new guidance to law enforcement authorities about how to maintain public safety while still safeguarding the free speech rights of protesters.

“The Justice Department encourages law enforcement officials, in every jurisdiction, to work with the communities they serve to minimize needless confrontation,” Holder said in a video address released by the Justice department.

Holder also sent a message to protesters that “the most successful and enduring movements for change are those that adhere to non-aggression and non-violence.”

Lawyers for Brown's family say he was trying to surrender when the officer shot him. Wilson's supporters say he shot Brown in self-defense.

Beit Shemesh residents protest for more police presence

Approximately fifty Beit Shemesh residents came out early Wednesday morning, the day after the terrorist massacre in the shul in Har Nof, to protest the lack of police presence at the Resido building intersection, where Arabs routinely wait to be picked up for day labor jobs.

The Resido building (a large unoccupied complex, unfinished due to conflicts regarding its opening several years ago) sits across the intersection from the Orot Girls School, where tensions ran high as the new elementary school building opened three years ago.   At that time residents protested near this same intersection, demanding more police protection for the girls attending the school, and rallying against the opposition to the school’s opening from some members of the haredi community.  The incident of a haredi “zealot” spitting on one of the schoolgirls took place here.

Now, the residents are asking the police again to increase their presence in Beit Shemesh.  The Resido intersection was targeted, as this is where Arab and other foreign workers typically wait to be picked up for day labor jobs. 

“Since the Resido building is vacant, Arabs working in construction just moved in a bunch of mattresses, and started sleeping there,” explains Sara, a Beit Shemesh resident attending the demonstration.  “Then the ‘vaad hatsniyut’ (the modesty committee) that was against populating Resido in the first place (since who knows what could go on at a mall) took action and threw out all the mattresses.  Now Arabs are not allowed to sleep there, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some still do.”

“I’m not comfortable seeing them here,” says Chaya, a Beit Shemesh resident who came out to the rally.  “We feel threatened having Arabs on our streets.  Our safety is being compromised.  Listen, if an Arab who worked at a makolet in Jerusalem could butcher the people he saw every day, then how can we feel safe around these workers who are transients, who don’t even have any connection to us?  I’d be happier if they weren’t here at all.  Let them get picked up on Route 10, away from a populated neighborhood.”

A woman from the nearby Kiriyah Ha-charedit neighborhood walked past the demonstration pushing her stroller, but she did not stop to participate.  “We won’t come out to demonstrate,” she said. “But I personally have called the police many times about the Arab workers walking around in our neighborhood.”

One of the organizers of the rally is Barak Schechter, originally from West Orange, New Jersey, now in Ramat Beit Shemesh.  Schachter stated, “We want to have a unified voice to tell the police force that we need more police presence in the streets of Beit Shemesh to act as a deterrent to prevent any violence or burglaries.  We need more protection!  In just the past two weeks we’ve had one apartment that was emptied (by Arabs) and two incidents of door knobs being violently shaken by would-be intruders. 

Yissachar Ruas, co-organizer of the rally, is originally from the Lower East Side, and now resides in the Sheinfeld neighborhood of Beit Shemesh, adjacent to Resido.  He wants to keep up the momentum. “We want to do these demonstrations once a week, to get the police presence up,” Rus stated.  “There are at least a hundred Arabs, on both sides of the street, every morning.  I see them when I drive my kids to school.  And I see lots of school kids walking right past where those Arabs are waiting, and those kids and their parents are petrified.  The Beit Shemesh police station sits outside of Beit Shemesh on the highway, and we need them close by – in case G-d forbid anything would happen. We saw what happened in Jerusalem yesterday.  If something would happen here, chas v’shalom, the victims would be much younger and much more vulnerable.  We don’t like to remember the case of Lipaz Chimi, and eight-year-old girls who was raped and murdered by an Arab construction worker who didn’t have a work permit in 2006.  We don’t want anything like to ever happen again.  We believe that having a strong police presence will really make a difference.” 

‘Klinghoffer’ ticket-holders talk back

By now, the complaints of those protesting the Metropolitan Opera’s staging of “The Death of Klinghoffer” are well known.

The production—depicting the 1985 of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro by Palestinian terrorists and the murder of Leon Klinghoffer, a 69-year-old Jewish-American passenger in a wheelchair — is allegedly anti-Semitic, exploitative, hostile to Israel and sympathetic to terrorists.

But that didn’t stop some New Yorkers from enjoying a night at the opera. Hundreds poured into the Met, braving jeers, and angry chants from protesters, who gathered at ticket entrances to heckle.

One such heckler was Robert Grunstein, who greeted opera goers with the admonition, “Shame on you.”

“I just want to arouse some level of shame, to let people know they are seeing an anti-Semitic opera, in New York, where 9/11 happened,” he told JTA.

Many in the mostly middle-aged crowd appeared undisturbed, ignoring Grunstein and other protesters. A few volleyed shouts back, returning the “shame on you” sentiment, and adding other, more colorful ones.

Others said they felt unfairly judged by people who hadn’t seen the show.

One well-dressed elderly gentleman danced past the group of hecklers, singing a spirited version of “Am Yisrael Chai.” Another elderly man in a retro New York Mets jacket attempted, unsuccessfully, to engage protesters in civil discourse. He threw up his hands in frustration, finally shouting, “I’m Jewish! What you are doing is an embarrassment.”

Like this man — and presumably the dancing one — many more shared that they, too, were Jewish. More than once, protesters accused these people of being “self-hating Jews.”

A middle-aged, Russian-accented Jewish man who identified himself as Boris said he did not consider himself self-hating. He noted that there was a chance, however, that he might find the show distasteful. “I understand the issues, I just want to see it with my own eyes before making a decision,” he explained.

“It’s a work of art intended to open up a dialogue,” said another silver-haired man.

One of the younger men in the crowd countered the claim that the show glorified violence by telling protesters that their own behavior was in fact violent. And a woman who said she works in the show but wasn’t allowed to speak with the media told protesters that the show was “very gentle, beautiful.”

“There is no way you can watch it and think it is pro-PLO,” she added.


Woolworths of South Africa threatens to sue BDS over protests

Woolworths of South Africa said it may take the BDS lobby to court for threatening its staff and customers.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement has held more than 40 protests at Woolworths stores throughout the country in recent weeks.

“Our employees, of all faiths and cultures, are telling us that they are feeling increasingly threatened by the protests,” spokesman Babs Dlamini told the South African daily The Times on Sunday. “What’s more, the families of our employees have reported being abused and sworn at by BDS.

“If this continues we will consider taking further precautions, including legal action against the individuals involved.”

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

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

Dlamini told the Times that Woolworths was not sure why it was being targeted because “more than 95 percent of our food is sourced locally [and] the government continues to authorize trade with Israel.”

BDS activist Mohammed Desai told the Times 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 support from 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.

Cops, race and violence

The recent death of Michael Brown has elicited strong reactions across the political spectrum—from Bill O’Reilly to Louis Farrakhan—everyone seems to have an opinion on how law enforcement interacts with young black males and the likelihood of black males being shot by cops.

In fact, despite all the opining, there simply are no good data to conclude that the use of deadly force by law enforcement unfairly targets Blacks. While Congress authorized the collection of such information decades ago, it doesn’t exist. Most of today’s discussion is based on surmise and anecdotal incidents and is impossible to generalize from.

Nevertheless, for all too many advocates, even the suggestion that Ferguson was not an open and shut case of police abuse and reflects a nationwide problem are anathema and evidence of bias in itself.

There is an assumption, in no small measure a function of America’s fraught history of police-minority relations that cops harbor suspicion and hostility towards young black males and as a result are prone to be trigger happy and more likely to shoot suspects that fit that profile. Given Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and numerous other cases over the years that conclusion has some anecdotal basis.

Yet, the reality is not only that there are no data to support that assumption, there seems to be new evidence for the exact opposite conclusion—that black suspects are LESS likely to be shot at by cops than either white or Hispanic suspects.

In a surprising conclusion to an ingenious experiment, two researchers at Washington State University have found that “there was significant bias favoring blacks where decisions to shoot were involved.”

In the WSU experiment, the participants were asked to shoot a laser gun if he/she thought it appropriate (as opposed to prior experiments where there was a “shoot” button) as they faced a suspect in a realistic simulation of a confrontation. The experiment ran through 60 scenarios from real life encounters projected in life size videos. The experimenters controlled for variables such as suspect clothing, hand positions, threatening stance and race while providing exact data on response times, etc.

The study concluded that “participants were more likely to shoot white and Hispanic suspects than black suspects.” There was a significant bias favoring blacks where decisions to shoot were concerned. When confronted by an armed white person, participants took an average of 1.37 seconds to fire back. Confronted by an armed black person, they took 1.61 seconds to fire and were less likely to fire in error. The 24-millesecond difference may seem small, but it’s enough to be fatal in a shooting.

Clearly, the study is subject to doubters who will question the laboratory setting, the fact that the participants reflected the general population and not just police officers, etc. Nevertheless, the findings of this study are startling—the bias when it comes to shoot or not shoot seems to tilt in favor of black suspects, not against them.

This study and its precursor experiment by the same authors, Lois James and Bryan Vila, should give ardent cop critics some pause.

Also of interest from this study is that the disinclination to shoot at black suspects was among a cohort of participants who “demonstrated significantly greater threat responses against black suspects than white or Hispanic suspects.” This suggested to the authors that even though the participants “held unconscious biases associating blacks and threats” that did not translate into acting out those biases.

In fact, the authors note, that the participants’ greater fear of black suspects “could cause him or her to tend to take more time to make decisions to shoot people whom they subconsciously perceived as more threatening because of race or ethnicity. This behavioral ‘counter-bias’ might be rooted in people’s concerns about the social and legal consequences of shooting a member of a historically oppressed racial or ethnic group.”

This latter finding has profound implications beyond the police setting. The “unconscious bias” and the “implicit bias test” proponents who purport to have insight into the bigotry and stereotyping that animates us at the unconscious level (these are the new touchstones of those who argue that “society hasn’t changed, bigotry has just gone underground”) are now severely challenged. This study reveals that no matter what we may unconsciously assume (e.g. young black males are a larger threat than others) those inchoate thoughts may not promote hostile acts but may, in fact, temper our actions in a positive way.

This study, although only one, reveals, once again, how complex and fraught the field of police-citizen interactions and inter-group relations are. There are no simple answers, no obvious causal links that can be easily drawn; people are complex and their motivations equally so.

Patience, facts and more study should guide us all in this difficult area.

City hall in Sweden to play ‘Schindler’s List’ theme for neo-Nazis meeting

The town hall of a Swedish city will play the theme from the Holocaust film “Schindler’s List” before and after a public meeting of a neo-Nazi party.

The Party of the Swedes was scheduled to hold a public rally in Norrkoping, in central Sweden, on Tuesday.

The local ruling and opposition political parties allowed the town hall to play the music from the Steven Spielberg film on the 80 bells in its tower, website reported Tuesday morning.

Over the weekend, a Party of the Swedes rally in Malmo led to clashes between counterprotesters and police; 10 people were injured. About 1,500 counterprotesters gathered at the site of the rally. Some threw smoke bombs and fire crackers while shouting “No Nazis on our streets,” according to The Local newspaper. The police horses trampled some counterdemonstrators.

Three people were arrested in connection with the violence in a city that annually experiences several dozen anti-Semitic incidents.

On Sunday in Gothenburg, the second largest city in Sweden, some 2,300 counterdemonstrators gathered to protest meetings of the neo-Nazi party, during which some threw fermenting fish at the meeting participants.

Five Palestinians killed in West Bank violence

Five Palestinians were killed in the West Bank on Friday in shootings involving both Israeli forces and a civilian who appeared to be a Jewish settler, medics and witnesses said.

Three Palestinians were killed during clashes between Israeli forces shooting live bullets and protesters throwing stones near the flashpoint city of Hebron.

In a separate incident near another protest against the ongoing conflict in Gaza, witnesses said a person in a car believed to be a settler shot dead one man and wounded three others near the city of Nablus.

The victims were walking along a main street used by both Palestinians and settlers.

Clashes between Israeli border police and Palestinian youths throwing petrol bombs and fireworks escalated. A Reuters photographer witnessed the forces shoot and kill another man.

Israeli forces also shot and wounded two protesters and a local journalist approaching a military checkpoint near a settlement beside the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The Israeli police said it was investigating the violence.

The clashes follow the killing of a Palestinian north of Jerusalem during a thousands-strong protest which was one of the largest since a Palestinian uprising which ended in 2005.

Palestinian fury has mounted after 822 Palestinians – mostly civilians, according to Palestinian medics – have been killed in nearly three weeks of cross-border fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza. The United States and regional powers are urgently seeking a truce.

Germany, France, Italy jointly condemn Gaza-related anti-Semitic acts

In a joint statement the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Italy condemned anti-Semitic acts arising out of the recent wave of anti-Israel demonstrations across Europe.

Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier, France’s Laurent Fabius and Italy’s Federica Mogherini met in Brussels Tuesday to coordinate a response to protests in Berlin, Paris, The Hague, Antwerp and Brussels that have included chants calling for the murder of Jews and that in France have devolved into riots targeting synagogues.

“Anti-Semitic agitation, hate speech against Jews, attacks against people of Jewish belief and against synagogues cannot be tolerated in our societies in Europe,” the ministers’ statement reads. “We strongly condemn the outrageous anti-Semitic statements, demonstrations and attacks in our countries in recent days,” the joint statement said.

Nine synagogues in France have been targeted over the last week, Jewish groups said.

On Wednesday, approximately 10 youths assaulted a disabled Jewish woman in southeastern France, the French Jewish community’s SPCJ security unit reported. The youths hurled stones at the woman and chanted slogans about killing Jews.

Speaking at a Holocaust commemoration in Paris on Sunday, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls described the phenomenon as a “new anti-Semitism.”

“Traditional anti-Semitism, this old disease of Europe, is joined by a new anti-Semitism that cannot be denied or concealed, that we must face,” he said. “It happens on the social networks and in workers’ neighborhoods, among ignorant young men who hide their hatred of Jews behind a facade of anti-Zionism or hatred of the State of Israel.”

Exodus to Egypt? Why African migrants marched on Israel’s border

For two years, Israel’s government has been encouraging its population of African migrants to leave the country.

But when 1,000 Eritreans and Sudanese marched on Israel’s southwestern border on Friday, they couldn’t get through to Egypt. After two days of camping out in protest on the border, the hundreds who remained were arrested Sunday by Israeli authorities and placed in prison.

“We are a state,” Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabin Haddad told JTA. “To just go to the border and cross, you can’t do that. Whoever wants to leave needs to do it according to protocol.”

When it allows migrants to leave, Israel will only permit their return to their home countries — where they would face repressive regimes — or to one of a few third-party countries whose identity Israel has declined to publicize. Israel provides grants of $3,500 to those who leave.

For those who remain in Israel, the government has built a detention facility near the Egyptian border, called Holot, that now houses more than 2,000 people. Detainees receive food, shelter and health care, but their freedom of movement is restricted as they must stand for roll call three times daily. The detainees have no release date. Failure to show for roll call, or refusal to answer the summons to Holot, are punishable with prison time.

“It was horrible to be in Holot and to be in prison,” said Philemon Rezene, 26, an Eritrean chosen to represent the protesters at a Tel Aviv news conference Sunday. “They had a very miserable life. There was a shortage of food, a shortage of sanitation, a shortage of medical care. They were always under strict control. They wanted at least to be free in an open area.”

The migrants’ march on the border is the latest stage in their conflict with the Israeli government. The migrants are seeking asylum from Eritrea and Sudan, which are ruled by repressive regimes.

But Israel says they are economic migrants seeking a higher standard of living, and it fenced off its border with Egypt in 2012 to prevent future migrants from entering. Anyone who crosses Israel’s border illegally now faces a year in prison.

Last year, Israel approved the financial grants for voluntary departure and opened the Holot facility. Approximately 3,000 out of Israel’s African migrant population of 60,000 have chosen to voluntarily depart.

Chafing at their restrictions, the detainees who marched toward the Egyptian border last week aimed to cross into Egypt and wait there for assistance from the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, according to Liat Bolzman, an Israeli who accompanied them.

Blocked by Israeli border guards, the protesters set up camp on the border, sheltering themselves with sheets, and surviving on food and water brought by supporters.

Two days after the initial march, units of Israeli immigration police and border guards forcibly dispersed the camp and sent the remaining protesters to Saharonim Prison, next to Holot. Bolzman said six protesters were injured during the operation.

“They were ready to cross,” she said. “It’s better than sitting in the detention center for they don’t know how much time. They said we can’t live like this anymore, we’re ready to take this risk and cross the border rather than be here.”

But though the migrants say they are fed up with Israel, crossing the border and receiving U.N. help in Egypt may not be realistic.

Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula is known among migrants for harrowing stories of kidnapping and torture. And the representative in Israel of the U.N. high commissioner for refugees said that migrants who cross the border without proper documentation should not expect prompt assistance from the United Nations.

“In order to make this possible, you can’t just start marching for the border,” said the representative, Walpurga Englbrecht, while also urging Israel to improve conditions for migrants. “You cannot just assume everything will be arranged at the end if there are no arrangements made beforehand. If you go to another country, you need a passport. You need an entry visa.”

Anat Ovadia, spokeswoman for Israel’s Hotline for Migrant Workers, an aid organization, suggested that the goal of the march was more to gain Israeli sympathy for the migrants, not for them to cross the border.

“This step was a protest step to get Israel’s attention and get U.N. attention,” Ovadia said. “It’s a testament to how much Israel is despairing them.”

Turkey’s Islamists protest, Gezi Park rioters draw police

A growing divide between secular and religious factions in Turkey was starkly illustrated by two crosstown protests in Istanbul on May 31.

The first, covered minute-to-minute by the international media, was held to mark the first anniversary of Turkey’s historic anti-government uprising.

The protest commemorated riots that drew hundreds of thousands of angry locals to Istanbul’s central Taksim Square, after police took brutal measures to disperse a group that had gathered peacefully to oppose the development of nearby Gezi Park. Under a strict crackdown ordered by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, police ended up killing 12 protesters and injuring thousands more — mostly from wounds caused by tear gas canisters and plastic bullets.

The 2014 anniversary protest was a similar scene: Police tackled protesters to the ground, kicking and beating them with batons, and fired tear gas and plastic bullets at close range. 

The second event, held only a few kilometers away on the opposite shore of the Golden Horn, was an anti-Israel rally marking the four-year anniversary of Israel’s deadly raid of the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship that attempted to deliver aid to Gaza in May 2010.

A largely Muslim crowd marched from the heavily touristed Sultanahmet Square down to the Sarayburnu port, where they crammed onto the decks of the run-down Marmara and the dock below. Ten larger-than-life photos of the Turkish “martyrs” killed by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the raid hung from the side of the ship. Rally-goers waved a sea of Palestinian flags alongside ones from Turkey, Syria and Egypt. Their cheers and slogans — including “Zionists you will see, Palestine will be free” and “God is great” — echoed across the water. 

Media reports put the Gezi Park protest turnout in the hundreds or low thousands, while the march to the Marmara apparently attracted more than 10,000. Yet not a single policeman could be spotted in the immediate vicinity of the latter.

“The mere fact that anti-government protest is deemed illegal and anti-Israel protest is deemed legitimate is a disconcerting image,” Gabriel Mitchell, Israel-Turkey project coordinator for the Israeli foreign-policy think tank Mitvim, wrote on his blog.

In the days leading up to the Gezi protest, Erdoğan had warned protesters of the Taksim Square area: “You will not be able to come to those places like you did last year. Because the police have taken absolute orders, they will do everything [to drive you out].”

He stayed silent, however, on the anti-Israel march and rally across town.

Both crowds appeared to carry a renewed passion for their cause — perhaps having to do with the fact that, in another coincidence, both 51-year-old Uğur Süleyman Söylemez, a Turkish activist aboard the Marmara, and 64-year-old Elif Çermik, a Gezi protester, finally succumbed to their injuries the week before the protests, after suffering long-term comas.

The Marmara rally, also called “Anti-Zionist Day,” has become an annual event thrown by the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), the same Turkish NGO that originally sent the Marmara to Gaza. The IHH is often criticized for its close ties with the Turkish government. A columnist from the Hurriyet Daily News, a left-wing Turkish newspaper, once called it a “ ‘GNGO,’ in other words a ‘governmental-non-governmental-organization.’ ”

Speaking to the Journal on the streets of Istanbul, various Gezi protesters said they saw the Marmara fanfare across town as a government-supported ploy to distract the Turkish citizenry from unrest at Taksim.

Although Erdoğan didn’t publicly condone the anti-Israel rally, members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) reportedly attended and spoke at the event. One woman in attendance wore a full-length cape printed with Erdoğan’s face. And many others wore sweatbands printed with “R4BIA,” or held up four fingers, a symbol of support for Egypt’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, to which Erdoğan also has close ties.

Another red flag for anti-Erdoğan secularists was that the Marmara event overlapped with a Muslim protest outside Istanbul’s most popular tourist attraction: the stunning Hagia Sophia.  Thousands of protesters gathered at the site that same day to demand that the former cathedral — converted into a mosque by a 15th century Sultan, then to a secular museum by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of modern-day Turkey — be reverted back into a place of Muslim prayer.

Mitchell of the Mitvim think tank explained in an interview that the message Erdoğan sent on Saturday was that “when it comes to IHH and its agenda with Israel, that’s OK. And when it comes to the pressure to make Hagia Sophia into a mosque, that’s OK. But if you are rallying against the government, that is definitely not OK.”

Atatürk’s radical early 20th-century modernization of Turkey is revered by the Gezi crowd; Erdoğan, on the other hand, is seen as an increasingly authoritarian ruler imposing his Islamist values on the country.

The prime minister isn’t a big fan of his detractors, either. Today’s Zaman, an English-language newspaper in Turkey, reported that, on the eve of the Gezi anniversary riot, Erdoğan claimed protesters had “killed people with Molotov Cocktails, attacked our head-scarved sisters, mosques [and] burned Turkish flags.”

Nervana Mahmoud, a popular Egyptian blogger and Middle East commentator, tweeted on the morning of the protest: “On Gezi’s anniversary, Erdoğan is more powerful, but also more paranoid, smug and delusional.”

To the outside world, Turkish-Israeli relations, which collapsed after Israel’s Marmara raid and have remained delicate ever since, appeared to be on the verge of a breakthrough this spring. 

However, an IHH lawsuit brought against the four Israeli commanders who ordered the raid may be preventing the final steps of reconciliation. On May 26, Istanbul’s 7th Court of Serious Crimes ordered Interpol to arrest the IDF commanders and force them to appear in court — a highly political move that only added more fuel to the Marmara rally. Bright red posters being waved at the event showed the Israelis’ faces under the heading, “WANTED.”

Erdoğan has distanced himself from the IHH’s ongoing Marmara battle. “The court case opened by families of our martyrs or of our wounded ones is not an initiative of ours,” he said at a recent press conference. “We cannot influence that.”

A scathing piece on the Turkish court’s decision in Foreign Policy Magazine pointed out that while “strategic and economic interests may nevertheless pave the way for a loveless Israeli-Turkish rapprochement … under an Islamist leadership that offers an anti-Israeli narrative for every domestic crisis, Turkey has become a hostile environment for Israel.”

Even if Erdoğan didn’t directly back the anti-Israel rally, he has much to gain from it.

A 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 86 percent of Turkish voters had a negative view of Israel, while only 2 percent viewed Israel in a favorable light. Turkish politicians, Erdoğan included, have been known to piggyback off this popular anti-Israel sentiment in order to win elections — like the one coming up for Erdoğan in August. 

Most recently, when outrage swept the country anew last month after a coal mine caught fire and killed more than 300 miners, Erdoğan was quoted by local media as calling one protester “Israeli spawn.”

Said Mitchell of the Turkish prime minister: “He has made plenty of statements that are closing in on that derogatory, disgusting language. Even in Turkey itself, to refer to someone as Israeli or Jewish, these things are derogatory terms.” 

While the Gezi diehards clashed against Erdoğan’s police barricades up the hill at Taksim Square on May 31, the sounds of an IHH promotional video boomed out over the Golden Horn.

“Since its establishment, the State of Israel has played the role of the world’s spoiled child and has built walls of shame, with the intention to protect its lands and to dissociate itself with the outside world,” read the narrator. Two young Turkish boys in the crowd whooped their support, one of them waving a big sign that read, “DAMN ISRAEL.”