Monday, May 13, 2013

MUNI Buses: The latest battleground for the war in the Middle East?

The war in the Middle east has moved to our MUNI buses, with the arrival of yet another series of deeply disturbing ads, this time sponsored by the American Muslims for Palestine. A consortium of local Jewish community organizations have joined together to condemn anti-Israel ads, in much the same manner as they did several months ago, to condemn ads that demeaned Islam. While acknowledging the constitutionally protected right of these organizations to run political ads, the statement expresses its concern regarding their polarizing and divisive nature.

The joint Statement from the Jewish Community Relations Council, The Anti-­Defamation League, and the American Jewish Committee reads:

Today, another misleading advertisement appeared in San Francisco targeting one segment of our community in an attempt to sow division in our city.

The Bay Area’s organized Jewish community strongly condemns the ad’s deceitful claim that Israel is an apartheid state. Placed by American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), the ad is morally reprehensible as it employs inflammatory rhetoric designed to delegitimize Israel’s very existence. The ad’s false claims diminish the suffering of the millions of people who were truly subjected to apartheid. The term “apartheid” describes the systematic oppression of the racial majority population by South Africa’s minority through comprehensive racial discrimination.

In sharp contrast to Apartheid South Africa, Israel is a diverse democratic country that affords equal political and civil rights to all its citizens.We hope for a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians and an end to the suffering on both sides.

In stark contrast, AMP’s apartheid rhetoric is profoundly misleading, and harms good faith efforts toward a peaceful resolution based on two states for two people.

Locally, the campaign promotes polarization and division among San Franciscans, who pride themselves on fostering Strong inter-­ethnic and inter-­religious relations.

The Jewish Community has long stated our concern that the repeated appearance of offensive anti-­Israel and anti-­Muslim ads is making our Public transit system a battleground for the Israeli-­Palestinian conflict. While protected by the First Amendment, extremist language directed at any group has no place in our city. We call upon all civic, ethnic and religious leaders who oppose bigoted lies and demonization to exercise their constitutional rights by condemning these inflammatory advertisements.

In the Orwellian world of the AMP, the JCRC statement, expressing its profound disappointment that our public transit system is being used in this manner has been labelled an "attack", an "attempt to stiffle open debate" and a "smear tactic used to shut down free speech". In classic AMP manner, the laundry list of  imagined slights is followed by a plea for donations.

The response of the American Muslims for Palestine is so far divorced from reality, I can't help but wonder if they even read the JCRC statement.  Perhaps Hatem needs  to work on his reading comprehension- the statement at no point  characterizes his efforts as "anti-Semitic", and his straw man arguments simply belie the failure of his organization to justify their actions.

...AMP has come under renewed attack by the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Community Relations Council, which are attempting to stifle open debate on these important issues by labeling any public critique of Israel as hateful and anti-Semitic.

“The attempt to characterize our efforts as anti-Semitic is a time-worn smear tactic used by pro-Israel organizations to shut down free speech. It is no more anti-Semitic to critique Israeli policies than it is Islamophobic to criticize Iran,” Dr. Bazian said.

AMP considers Jewish participation in our work to play an essential role in advocating for a better future for all the people of the Middle East. AMP has worked with such organizations as: Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews for Justice in Palestine, Jews for the Palestinian Right of Return and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network. AMP routinely features Jewish speakers at its conferences and lectures.

While Israel denies its policies constitute apartheid, Tutu has said, “I’ve been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa.”

The Jewish Voice for Peace has come out strongly in support of AMP and against attempts to stifle constitutionally protected political speech.

"Jewish Voice for Peace supports SF bus campaign criticizing Israeli human rights violations, condemns local Jewish Community Relation Council’s attempt to muzzle political speech."

"AMP remains determined to bring the truth to the American people, despite the scurrilous and false attacks by Zionist groups," said Kristin Szremski, AMP director of media and communications. "The fact the JCRC and the ADL are attacking us show that our efforts to educate the public are working and we remain more committed than ever to our mission."

AMP needs your support to continue its work. Help us bring the truth about Palestine to the American public. Donate now.   ********* To Kristin Szremski and to Hatem Bazian :  A campaign based on falsehood rests on a very shaky foundation. If your efforts are working so well, why do you feel the need to  lie, not only to the public, but to your core constituency?

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