Tag Archives: occupation

Upper West Side Synagogue and Brooklyn Jewish Center to Host Memorial Events for Far-right Extremist Meir Kahane

Three memorial events for the racist, far-right ultra-nationalist Rabbi Meir Kahane are to be held throughout New York City this Sunday in ceremonies marking twenty years since the killing of Kahane.

The events are to be held at the Ocean Avenue Jewish Center in Brooklyn, at the site of Ground Zero in lower Manhattan and at the West Side Institutional Synagogue, which describes itself as a “warm and vibrant modern orthodox synagogue located in the heart of Manhattan’s Upper West Side.”

The Kahane memorial at Ground Zero is taking aim at “political Islam” and at the proposed Islamic community center near Ground Zero.  A blog post promoting the event on the Jewish Defense League’s “Canada blog” states, “It has been 20 years since *Rabbi Meir Kahane* (HY”D) was murdered. He was the first Al Quida [sic] terror victim. And his vision is more important today than ever.  The forces of Political Islam built a Mosque on the holiest site of the Jewish People-The Temple Mount. And today, the forces of Political Islam are determined to build a Mosque at Ground Zero.”

At the Upper West Side event, Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn of the West Side synangogue will be speaking–despite telling someone organizing a protest against the event that the Kahane memorial is “not a west side institutional event” and that “somebody is renting our ballroom.”  Also speaking will be Helen Freedman of Americans for a Safe Israel, a right-wing group that supports “Israel’s right…to the territories won in the 1967 war”; the talk-show host Barry Farber; and Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a right-wing Orthodox Jewish follower of Kahane who has advocated for the racial profiling of Arabs and Muslims in New York City.  Hikind is an advocate for illegal Jewish settlement in occupied Palestine, and his wife runs “Ateret Cohanim, one of the chief Jewish groups forcibly Judaizing East Jerusalem,” as blogger Richard Silverstein put it.

The honoring of Meir Kahane has sparked controversy among the Jewish community in New York City, and there are plans, led by Yeshiva students in the city, to protest the memorial events.

“We were pretty outraged to see that a synagogue in the Upper West Side–from what I understand, a relatively mainstream, Orthodox Upper West Side synagogue–would be holding a memorial to Meir Kahane, who is one of the most extreme, radical, right-wing Israeli leaders in the last few decades,” said Itamar Landau, a full-time fellow at Yeshivat Hadar, in an interview.  Landau is a key organizer behind the planned protests this Sunday.  “That’s not the Jewish community that I believe in, and that’s not the Jewish community I think we have.”

Kahane is a notorious figure.  He founded the Jewish Defense League, a U.S. organization designated a “terrorist” group by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the State Department and U.S. courts. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Jewish Defense League “has a long history of bombing, assaulting and threatening its perceived enemies. Its targets have included the Soviet Union, neo-Nazi activists, Palestinian leaders, prominent black Americans, and even Jewish moderates.”

Perhaps the most infamous act of violence by a follower of Kahane was the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre, when Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli-settler born in Brooklyn, murdered 29 Muslims praying at the Cave of the Patriarchs/Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron.  The Israeli government outlawed the Kach political party, which was founded by Kahane, and an offshoot party, in the 1990’s.

Kahane advocated for the expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank, Gaza and Israel, an idea that still retains currency among Israeli political parties, as Avigdor Lieberman’s recent speech at the United Nations showed.

(Thanks to Jesse Bacon of Jewish Voice for Peace for tipping me off to this).

Settlement Builder Africa-Israel Faces Trouble on Two Fronts

First a boycott campaign, and now a lawsuit.

Africa-Israel, an investment company which is implicated in the construction of illegal settlements on Palestinian land, has announced that it will no longer be “involved in Israeli settlement projects and that it has no plans for future settlement activities,” according to the New York group Adalah, which works on the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.  The announcement follows a three-year boycott campaign against Lev Leviev, the Israeli billionaire and chairman of Africa-Israel, and companies that he is involved in.  Leviev is still involved with “settlement construction through other companies like Leader Management and Development,” as Ethan Heitner, an activist with Adalah-NY, noted in the group’s press release.

And in New York City, the New York Post is reporting that Shaya Boymelgreen, a former business partner of Leviev’s, and Africa-Israel are facing a lawsuit over conditions in a luxurious apartment tower in Manhattan:

The glamorous apartment tower at 15 Broad St., home to celebrities and Wall Street moguls, is also full of dangerous glitches, unfinished work and funny smells, according to a $20 million lawsuit just filed against converter Shaya Boymelgreen and his Africa Israel International Investments.

The 330-unit address, known as “Downtown by Starck” after interior designer Philippe Starck formed it out of two adjoining buildings, including the landmarked former home of JPMorgan, has been one of the city’s most heavily-hyped condo conversions.

Now, the suit — filed by the four members of the 11-person condo board who are not controlled by Boymelgreen and by some apartment owners — claims he reneged on certain promises to buyers, including a movie theater that can’t be used at all because it falls short of Building Dept. code.

Though the two developments may not be necessarily related, it’s certainly been a bad week for Africa-Israel–which means it’s a good week for human rights and Palestinian justice.


Caterpillar Halts (for now) Sale of Bulldozers to Israel

For years, Palestine solidarity activists have been pressuring Caterpillar, a company that manufactures construction equipment, to stop the sale of their bulldozers to Israel, as they are used to violate international law by destroying Palestinian homes.  An Israeli soldier driving a Caterpillar bulldozer in Rafah, Gaza ran over Rachel Corrie, the young American activist with the International Solidarity Movement, and crushed her to death when she was attempting to stop the destruction of a Palestinian home.

Now, activists have won a minor victory:  Israeli press reports indicate that Caterpillar has stopped the sale of equipment to Israel for the duration of an ongoing civil lawsuit against the Israeli government brought by the Corrie family over Rachel’s death.

Here’s the news from Jewish Voice for Peace:

The Israeli press is reporting that Caterpillar is withholding the delivery of tens of D9 bulldozers—valued at $50 million—to the Israeli military. These are weaponized bulldozers that are used to illegally destroy homes and orchards of Palestinian families. And they are the very same bulldozers as the one that killed a 23-year-old American peace activist named Rachel Corrie seven years ago when she tried to protect the home of the Nasrallah family in Gaza.

That’s why the next part of the story is even more amazing. The news reports say that the deliveries have been suspended now because Rachel’s parents, Cindy and Craig Corrie, are bringing a civil suit against the government of Israel in a court in Tel Aviv. The deliveries are to stop during the length of the trial. We take this as an indirect admission by the company that these bulldozers are being used to violate human rights and to violate the law. The Corrie story is sadly just one of thousands of stories of loss and pain.

A suspension of the sale of bulldozers is what we have been asking Caterpillar for over seven years now. This is a great win, but this is no time to let off the pressure.

Caterpillar and the U.S. government have neither confirmed nor denied the news. And news reports describe the company’s move as a temporary decision only. To urge the U.S. government to make this policy permanent, please sign the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation’s petition to President Obama to continue this new policy.


Cut, Cut, Cut the Budget…Just Don’t Touch Israel

If the GOP’s electoral wins next week are enough to take over Congress, one thing they’ve pledged to do is “stop out-of-control spending,” as their “Pledge to America” policy blueprint says.  But don’t even think about touching the over $3 billion in annual aid the United States gives to Israel.

Politico‘s Laura Rozen reports, via the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, that  House Republican whip Eric Cantor “would propose separating U.S. aid to Israel from the foreign operations budget, which the GOP may vote to defund”:

Cantor, of Virginia, said he wants to protect funding for Israel should that situation arise.

“Part of the dilemma is that Israel has been put in the overall foreign aid looping,” he said when asked about the increasing tendency of Republicans in recent years to vote against foreign operations appropriations. “I’m hoping we can see some kind of separation in terms of tax dollars going to Israel.”

Cantor’s statement was a sign that the Republican leadership was ready to defer to the party’s right wing on this matter. Some on the GOP right have suggested including Israel aid in the defense budget, and a number of Tea Party-backed candidates have said they would vote against what is known in Congress as “foreign ops.”

The Republican Party (as well as some Democrats) wants to decrease Social Security benefits, among other austerity measures, in their effort to reduce government spending.  But government funding of an illegal and racist occupation?  Keep the cash flowing.

Why the ADL is so Scared of Jewish Voice for Peace

The Anti-Defamation League has taken to defaming what they call the “top ten anti-Israel groups in America.”  Among them is Jewish Voice for Peace, a left-wing group that is the premier Jewish voice advocating for Palestinian justice and an end to the Israeli occupation. 

Why have they taken to smearing Jewish Voice for Peace as a group that “uses its Jewish identity to shield the anti-Israel movement from allegations of anti-Semitism”?  In a word, fear. 

The ADL is afraid of what groups like Jewish Voice for Peace represent: principled Jewish voices of consciense that take a simple stand for human rights and justice. 

Take this New York Jewish Week piece on the ADL’s list and JVP’s inclusion, and look at what Ethan Felson of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs had to say:

Another reason Jewish leaders are worried about JVP: the group claims an expanding presence on campuses across the country and growing appeal to a young Jewish demographic segment that, almost all Jewish leaders agree, is losing its connection to the Jewish state and the pro-Israel establishment.

Their un-nuanced message and anger focusing on human rights, broadly defined, are especially appealing to that segment, said JCPA’s Felson.

“The pro-Israel community would be wise to keep in mind that we need to provide multiple points of entry for young Jews, including those who are authentically pro-Israel and are not silent to concerns for Palestinians,” he said.

The ADL’s message is exactly the opposite of an “unnuanced message and anger focusing on human rights.”  The ADL’s message is to never criticize Israel, never say a peep about the brutal and racist practices of the Israeli occupation and to never stand up for Palestinian human rights.  And that’s a losing position.

Amnesty International Statement a Reminder of Human Cost of Settlements

Talk of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories is often centered on questions of legality, statehood and the “peace process.”  All of the settlements built on Palestinian land are illegal under international law, and they control about 42% of land in the West Bank–land that has been viewed for decades as part of a Palestinian state.

But just thinking about the settlements in those terms ignores the stark human cost the colonies incur on the human rights of Palestinians.  A statement released by Amnesty International on October 15 in response to the news that the Israeli government has approved the construction of over 200 settlement units in East Jerusalem puts the emphasis on the human cost of illegal settlements:

Israel’s land grab and dissection of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have had a devastating impact on the lives of Palestinians. In East Jerusalem, 35 per cent of the land has been expropriated for settlements in which 195,000 Israelis live.

Meanwhile, more than 250,000 Palestinians are designated only 13 per cent of East Jerusalem, which is already heavily built up.

In the rest of the West Bank, around 40 per cent of the land has now been classified by Israel as “state” land and often used for settlements. A further 21 per cent of the settlements’ built-up areas lie on private Palestinian land.

The confiscations, seizures and appropriations of land for settlements, bypass roads, the fence/wall and related infrastructure have resulted in the forced eviction of Palestinians.

According to the UN, in 2009 alone more than 600 Palestinians were displaced in East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, more than half of them children, after their homes were demolished under order from the Israeli authorities, often to make way for Israeli settlements.

Under Israeli military law, Palestinian families evicted from their homes are not entitled to alternative housing or compensation. The result is that many then face homelessness and destitution.

“Last year, Amnesty International reported on the extent to which Israel’s discriminatory water policies and practices are denying Palestinians their right to water, said Philip Luther.

“We have repeatedly documented the connection between settlements and the destruction of Palestinians’ homes, crops, agricultural lands, and livelihoods.”

Israel’s policy of settling its civilians on occupied land violates the Fourth Geneva Convention and is considered a war crime, according to the statute of the International Criminal Court.

In addition to the violations Amnesty International mentioned, there’s also the daily terror visited upon Palestinians by the residents of those settlements.

The Washington, D.C.-based Palestine Center recently released a report titled, “When Settlers Attack: Understanding Settler Violence against Palestine’s Civilians,” which documented settler attacks on Palestinian civilians between January 2009 to August 2010.

Here’s video of Yousef Munayyer, the executive director of the Palestine Center, presenting the findings of the report on settler violence at a September 15 Palestine Center event:

Ignoring International Law, Ethan Bronner Writes that East Jerusalem, Golan Heights ‘Count as Israeli territory’

Nestled in this all over the place article written by Ethan Bronner in today’s New York Times is this factually challenged nugget:

Both East Jerusalem and the Golan were officially annexed by Israel through parliamentary votes, so by Israeli law they count as Israeli territory. That is not true of the West Bank, which the Palestinians want as their future state and where Israel has settled more than 300,000 Jewish citizens.

That paragraph is in the middle of an article that, in part, is about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s support for a bill that would require a national referendum in Israel on giving up the occupied territories.

Bronner’s reporting gives readers no substantive understanding of why East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are a huge part of the Israel/Palestine conflict.  Those territories, captured by Israel during the 1967 War, were indeed unilaterally annexed by the Israeli government.  So it’s true, as Bronner writes, that they “count as Israeli territory” under Israeli law.

But not under international law, which is really the relevant body of law to look at when discussing Israel/Palestine.  This is how the United Nations’ Goldstone report describes East Jerusalem:

After 1967, the two areas [referring to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip] were administered directly by military commanders until 1981 and since then through a “Civil Administration” established by the Israeli armed forces. “Military orders” were used to rule the civil affairs of the Palestinian population superimposing and often revoking pre-existing Jordanian laws in the West Bank and Egyptian laws in the Gaza Strip. East Jerusalem was annexed to the Israeli municipality of the city and in 1980 the Knesset passed a law which declared that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel”. With Security Council resolution 478 (1980), the United Nations declared this law “null and void”, condemning any attempt to “alter the character and status of Jerusalem”.  No member of the United Nations, apart from Israel, recognizes the annexation of East Jerusalem.

This is how UN Security Council Resolution 497, passed in the aftermath of Israel’s declaration of the Golan Heights in Syria as falling under the laws, jurisdiction and administration of the State of Israel, characterized the Syrian territory:

The Security Council,

Having considered the letter of 14 December 1981 from the Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic contained in document S/14791,

Reaffirming that the acquisition of territory by force is inadmissible, in accordance with the United Nations Charter, the principles of international law, and relevant Security Council resolutions,

  1. Decides that the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect;
  2. Demands that Israel, the occupying Power, should rescind forthwith its decision;
  3. Determines that all the provisions of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949 continue to apply to the Syrian territory occupied by Israel since June 1967;
  4. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council on the implementation of this resolution within two weeks and decides that in the event of non-compliance by Israel, the Security Council would meet urgently, and not later than 5 January 1982, to consider taking appropriate measures in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

The whole focus on whether Israelis will voluntarily give up illegally occupied territory is irrelevant.  International law is crystal clear, and it doesn’t bend to the popular will of Israeli citizens.