Jews Protest Selective Portrayal of Terrorism at CELL

cell exhibitMembers of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), the Christian group Sabeel, and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) sent a message to the Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab (CELL) of Denver that the material used in its exhibits are skewed toward terrorism perpetrated by Muslims, and therefore promotes racism and Islamophobia.  According to its website, the CELL portrays itself as reflecting “today’s reality of the threat of terrorism.”

Demonstrators congregated outside of the CELL establishment on Wednesday evening to protest an over-representation of terrorism perpetuated by Muslims and an under-representation of terrorism perpetuated by non-Muslims.  “To us, omitting attacks by Timothy McVeigh and other non-Muslims seems like a very disproportionate way to speak up against terrorism.  They are teaching people how to racially profile,”  said Neal Feldman, member of Jewish Voice for Peace who led Hannukah prayer and song outside of the CELL’s front doors.  Timothy McVeigh was a white US citizen responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995 killing 168 and injuring hundreds.

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In the days preceding the Jewish Hanukkah holiday, allies of those targeted by President-Elect Donald Trump in his campaign speeches and proposed policies want to remind the national community of his messages of racism, white supremacy, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and an increased militarized response to the public and to voices of dissent.

“In the wake of the election, Islamophobia and racism in the United States, both on interpersonal and systemic levels, have been accelerating. Existing policies like heightened surveillance and policing of Muslims and other communities of color, U.S. state violence against the Sioux tribe and communities of color both domestically and internationally will be augmented by even more blatantly racist policies proposed by President-elect Donald Trump, including a Muslim registry and limiting immigration from largely Muslim and/or Arab countries.”

A registry begun during the George W. Bush administration in 2002 required Arab and Muslim visitors and temporary US residents to supply personal information about themselves and to present for in-person interviews to answer questions.  Requirements to register location information were also imposed.  The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEER) was temporarily discontinued in 2011 during the Obama administration, but not before 85,00 men were interviewed, and thousands deported despite associations to terrorist activity.

Eight separate proclamations on representative candle posters of the Jewish menorah displayed messages that participants wanted to send:

  1.  We will not be silent about anti-Muslim and racist hate speech and hate crimes.
  2. We condemn state surveillance of the Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities.
  3. We challenge through our words and actions institutionalized racism and state-sanctioned anti-Black violence.
  4. We protest the use of Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism to justify Israel’s repressive policies against Palestinians.
  5. We fight anti-Muslim profiling and racial profiling in all its forms.
  6. We call for an end to racist policing (#SayHerName #BlackLivesMatter)
  7. We honor and support indigenous rights and the resistance led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to protect their land and water.
  8. We fully stand with the Vision for Black Lives Matter platform.

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Extending solidarity with communities of color including the Standing Rock Sioux and the Black Lives Matter movement was an integral statement of emphasis voiced at the demonstration and in the distributed literature.  In a stark criticism to some platforms that have been voiced especially against the Black Lives Matter movement, Wednesday’s action lent emphatic support to all communities while drawing comparisons to movements that are working for recognition and justice.

“As a caucus we fully endorse the Movement for Black Lives Platform in its entirety without reservation.”

The caucus made the connection between movements that respond to ongoing violence against their communities and named those connections as critical in understanding the current position.  The demonstration criticized some white US institutional Jewish communities such as the Rabbinic Council for Human Rights,

“Recent statements by the Boston JCRC, Truth: The Rabbinic Council for Human Rights, and the Union for Reform Judaism condemning the BLM Platform also send the message that the lives of Black Jews (along with Black gentiles) directly affected by US police brutality are less important than protecting Israel from scrutiny.  We reject this message and call on these groups to commit themselves to honor the leadership of Jews of Color, including those critical of Israel.”

In the statement, the caucus further condemned Jewish organizations that “fail” Black people in refusing to recognize Israel state violence that targets Black people as well as Palestinians under the stated platform of focusing only on domestic issues, “Hiding under the pretense of focusing solely on ‘domestic issues’ does not absolve US Jewish groups of complicity with and perpetuation of Israeli anti-Black racism and settler colonialism.”cell exhibit

In responding to the surge of racially charged harassment and violence against groups targeted by Trump, The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) represented by Jordan Garcia shared suggestions adapted from recommendations by The People’s Response Team (PRT) for being an active bystander to a subject of racial violence.  The PRT works to end police violence and is modeled after the Anti-Police Terror Project of Oakland, California.  At the top of the list of “don’ts” is the caution against calling the police, “For Arab and Muslim communities, Black people, queer and trans folks, and immigrants, police can cause a greater danger for the person being harassed.”  Instead the PRT recommends making eye contact with the person being harassed and asking if the person wants support, and if possible to move to a safer place, but to follow the cues of the person being harassed in terms of whether to digitally record, or by censoring the response of the person being harassed.

The PRT warns against remaining silent in a situation of harassment and while witnessing an act of violence, because of the possible message to the perpetrator of the witness’ approval or agreement.

Garcia pointed to a positive result of the November election, “We have been brought together to fight, intersectional organizing is here to stay for the duration.”

The CELL was contacted for a response to the demonstration, but phone calls have not been returned.

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