Last Sunday night, the group Jewish Voice for Peace held a meeting at a South Berkeley Senior Center. The gathering was disrupted by Israeli nationalists. One woman wrapped herself in a large Israeli flag and attacked JVP members with pepper spray. The same woman, a member of San Francisco Voice for Israel/StandWithUs, and other Israeli nationalists continued to intimidate and harass attendees, preventing the meeting from continuing until the police arrived on scene.
This political violence would be objectionable in and of itself if it were only an isolated incident. Unfortunately, there have been several recent instances of intimidation of Jewish activists by Israeli nationalists in the Bay Area.
Jewish Voice for Peace has been an organization that has been repeatedly targeted by Israeli nationalists. Earlier this year, JVP was involved in a protest in San Francisco after the Israeli attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. The Israeli nationalist counter-protest participants exhibited behavior that ranged from insulting (shouts of “Kapo!” -- a Nazi collaborator -- and “Pigs for Palestine!”) to threatening: “You’re all being identified, every last one of you…we will find out where you live. We’re going to make your lives difficult. We will disrupt your families…” In August, a vandal scrawled “Jewish Voice for Palestine” in permanent marker and left a sticker reading “Viva Baruch Goldstein” at the entrance to JVP’s offices. (Baruch Goldstein was an Israeli emigre from America that killed 29 and injured upwards of 125 in an attack on a Hebron mosque.)
Tikkun Magazine editor and Berkeley Rabbi Michael Lerner has also been the subject of a campaign of intimidation by Israeli nationalists. In May of this year, his house was vandalized following several death threats made to him over the phone. Messages that were left on his house included “fight terror--support Israel" and a caricature of Judge Goldstone (the author of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, which accused the Israeli Defense Forces and Palestinian militants of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity). Tikkun Magazine itself has received many death threats towards its staff over the years.
And the threats are not simply targeted towards Jewish activists, but non-Jewish activists as well. Alison Weir is the executive director of the web site If Americans Knew which seeks to provide Americans with facts about the Middle East which often go unreported in the media. In 2003, she received the following death threat on her voice mail: "Hi. I heard your speech today in UC Berkeley; the debate. I'm telling you this right now. On Monday, at 2 PM, you better not be in your office. Because me and my buddies, who were trained in the Israeli Army, will come and kill every single one of you son-of-a-bitches for what you are doing to destroy Israel. So watch out. This is not a joke. On Monday you better watch out. Don't come to work. And close your organization or you're going to die."
This pattern of intimidation of peace activists in the Bay Area, Jewish and otherwise, is simply outrageous and has no place in a civilized society. It is the position of Students Confronting Apartheid by Israel that no one in our community should be terrorized by nationalist groups. SCAI abhors the disturbing recent developments above, and recognizes that without taking a strong stand against intimidation, the situation may very will continue to deteriorate.
Therefore, SCAI calls for:
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, it is said, is for good men and women to do nothing. What we can do now is clear: call out the Israeli nationalists’ disgusting behavior for what it is -- an unacceptable blight of intimidation -- and work towards a society where we can resolve our disagreements with reasoned words instead of death threats and pepper spray.
on behalf of Students Confronting Apartheid by Israel
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