Pam Geller, a New York activist decided to run offensive ads on our local bus system. The message was uncomfortable to those in the Jewish community who believed our best hope for peace is a Jewish State of Israel living side by side with an Arab state of Palestine. The ads did nothing to further the cause of peace, and were damaging to the cause of community building and interfaith relations. The MUNI system clearly felt their hands were tied- they’ve issued their own disclaimers on the buses, and have pledged to donate the proceeds of the ads to the SF Human Rights Commission for educational purposes
The Jewish community took a principled stand and denounced the ads. Additionally, the Jewish Federation has pledged to match funds donated to the HRC
The response from the Arab Resource Organizing Center rivals Pam Gellers' ads in its intractable hatred, shrilly claiming "The reality is that Zionism and structural racism have the same impact whether couched in JCRC's politesse or AFDI's vulgarity." and asserting "we cannot allow HRC to accept Zionist money".
Please read an Open Letter to the Arab Resource Organizing Center crossposted at Bluetruth Written by DrMike
The recent condemnation of Pamela Geller’s MUNI ads by the Jewish Community Relations Council and the American Jewish Committee could have provided an opening for dialogue, given the shared sentiments about those ads. Yet AROC has chosen not to use this as an opportunity to build bridges but rather to throw gasoline onto hot ashes and inflame the situation further.
Your dismissal of the JCRC’s statement begins with a statement that you reject in other contexts: “We must not equate support for free speech with support for hate speech.” I completely agree. Can I assume that you then also condemn these exercises of free speech in San Francisco? I'm sure the leaders of your group saw these in person at some of the many anti-Israel demonstrations held here.
What about the new University of California report on campus anti-Semitism which explicitly states “The Principles of Community operate under the assumption that not all speech is protected. Words and accusations which at their core demean, defame and degrademust be addressed and denounced.” Will you join me in endorsing this statement, and condemn the repeated invitations by the Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine to hate speaker Amir Abdel Malik Ali?
Unfortunately it appears that your answer will be in the negative, since your statement then moves sadly but predictably on to rhetoric that far exceeds Geller’s in explicit hate. Phrases such as “the racism that drives Zionism” are dropped throughout the rest of the statement, which labels any support of Israel,whether by JCRC or by Geller’s AFDI, as “based on racism andIslamophobia”. Any review of JCRC’s statements, whether on Israel or any other topic, is of course notably absent of any trace of either racism or Islamophobia, unless one adheres to your insistence that the very existence of a Jewish state is a racist endeavor.
Since that appears to be your position, you might want to review the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism prepared by the European Union in 2002; I’m sure you agree that many Europeans are not the strongest friends of Israel and you might even be aware that the EU funds NGO’s in Israel and overseas that promote BDS and similar anti-Israel activities.
The EU stated:
“Examples of the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:
Denying the Jewish people their right of self-determinatione.g. by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor
Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior notexpected or demanded of any other democratic nation
Using the symbols and images associated with classicanti-Semitism (e.g. claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) tocharacterize Israel or Israelis
Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to thatof the Nazis.”
You close by saying that “we cannot allow HRC [the SanFrancisco Human Rights Commission] to accept Zionist money.” When “Zionist” gets thrown around repeatedly as an epithet, the words of Dr Martin Luther King spoken in 1968 come to mind: “When people criticize Zionists,they mean Jews. You are talking anti-Semitism.”
Sadly, you have lived up to the expectation that you will apply blatant hypocrisy and double standards not only to any issue involving Israel, but to concepts such as free speech as well. Not that this a surprise coming from AROC. After all, it was AROC's own program director, Lily Haskell, who exercised her free speech rights in December 2008 (a few weeks after the untimely and tragic death of Dan Kliman z"l in an elevator accident) by threatening the lives of Israel advocates by leading chants of "Israel Supporters watch your backs, or we'll push you down a shaft!"