Former HRC Chair Says HRC Dismissing Concerns of Jewish Leaders

Phil Seib

Phil Seib sent the letter below to the Durham Human Relations Commission (HRC) on January 8, 2018 at 2:15PM. Mr. Seib served on the Durham Human Relations Commission (HRC) from 2012-2018 and is past Chair. 

This letter comports with the chief concern of the Jewish community that the Durham HRC is now condoning and endorsing discrimination against the Jewish people. 

Durham HRC Dismisses Jewish Leaders, Institutions, and Community  

Dear Chair, Vice-Chair and Commissioners,

I am writing you asking that the Commission re-consider the omission of the recommendation “The City Council should revise the language in the April 16th language to provide clarity based on the concerns and findings outlined here” found in the prior November 2018 draft report Findings, and Recommendations on April 16th Statement by Durham City Council on International Police Exchanges.

To point I am deeply disturbed by the reasoning of why the Sub-Committee felt this recommendation should not be included in the final draft of the report for consideration by the whole body of the Human Relations Commission in the reports final vote. With this action you are dismissing the main point of concern voiced consistently by all the major Jewish institutions in Durham including The Jewish Federation of Durham-Chapel Hill, Judea Reform, [and] Beth-El Synagogue. 

I take issue with the statement in the draft version dated January 6, 2019 in which it states:

“We do not feel that the HRC’s attempt to revise the statement would be of service toward ameliorating tensions or providing appreciable relief from perceived harm. In addition, it is our understanding that the City Council does not plan to revisit their April 16th “Statement by Durham City Council on International Police Exchanges.”

The HRC Increases Tension in Durham

Is this the same Human Relations Commission that I served from 2012-2018? As I read this statement it seems the Commission is saying that you will not add this recommendation primarily because those that have authority (City Council) to help ameliorate the tension in the Jewish Community caused by the proclamation refuse to revisit their proclamation. Additionally I am unsure how it can be concluded that including the recommendation would not ameliorate some tensions with in the Durham Jewish Community. 

To me this is deeply disheartening and problematic. There are several examples in the history of the HRC in which we held elected officials and authorities accountable even though those entities said that they were unwilling to revisit or change current policy. 

The three primary examples that come to mind are:

  1. Police Reform: During our initial research period we were told by Chief Lopez and the City Manager that they were not interested in changes to the way Durham Police Department operates and conducts investigations. It wasn’t until Mayor Bell, based on petitioning of the HRC leadership and leadership of other community groups, that the HRC was given authority to create recommendations of change to the way we police.
  2. The attempted deportation of Wildin Acosta: During the process of bring Wildin home to Durham several voices of authority and some elected Federal officials said it was an near impossible mission alluding to the hopelessness of our actions but yet the HRC and other community groups persevered in the face of such negativity to develop a Proclamation on our community’s values for all residents of Durham.
  3. Durham County Detention Center Reform – From the very start of the HRC’s research continuing to the HRC’s public forum and beyond our submitted report on changes needed to bring the DCDC HRC commissioners were told by elected officials and staff of the Durham County Sheriff’s Department that the majority of concerns raise would not be revisited by the Sheriff or the Detention Center staff. But in the face of all those direct expressions of DCDC leadership refusal to change conditions the HRC continued to hold officials accountable in our written report.

The HRC Is Losing Community Confidence and Is Failing

In addition I find this new statement problematic for the continued success of the HRC. This message can be perceived that the HRC will selectively challenge the established power structure based on the amount of possible push back by those in power. This weakens the trust given to the HRC by the Durham Community and in my mind creates doubts to the ability of the HRC to be an effective agent of change.

I implore the Commission to stay true to the mission, charge and history. There were several times those HRC recommendations caused disharmony within the Commission and each time the Commission held robust discussion on the particular recommendation culminating in a full member vote. I ask that you do the same with the retention of the prior draft’s inclusion of the statement “The City Council should revise the language in the April 16th language to provide clarity based on the concerns and findings outlined here.”

With much respect,

Phil Seib

A Second Punch in the Gut: Updated HRC Draft Endorses Discrimination Against Israel and the Jewish People

Durham HRC, Israel, Durham City Council

A Second Punch in the Gut

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the history of the Jewish people, we should by now be accustomed to government discrimination against Jews and Israel. Yesterday, an updated, January 2019 draft report was sent to Voice4Israel and the Jewish Federation of Durham-Chapel Hill by the Durham Human Relations Commission (HRC). It is another “Big Lie” in the long history of others blaming the Jews for society’s ills.

The original, 2018 November HRC draft report has been reversed entirely in key areas. Most notably, the first HRC draft asked the Durham City Council to remove the singling out of Israel from the April 16 statement the Mayor called the “Israel Resolution.” The entire, local, mainstream Jewish community supported the November HRC draft report (see the outpouring of letters here).

In yet another “punch in the gut” to the Jewish community, the current HRC draft, updated yesterday, reneges this recommendation. Of great concern is the shocking admission by the HRC that because the Durham City Council refuses to revisit this issue, the HRC decided to reverse their November recommendation that the City Council remove the singling out of Israel. In essence, the HRC seems to be saying that because the Durham City Council wants this issue to go away, the HRC will oblige by not asking for change. That is hardly a good faith effort to seek justice. Would the HRC treat any other group of people in such a manner?

Durham HRC Ignores Local Rabbis, Synagogues, and Jewish Institutions 

The HRC has ignored the pleas of twelve local rabbis, our synagogues, and Jewish institutions. Would the HRC ignore other religious leaders in such a manner?

The HRC readily acknowledges that it was unnecessary to single out Israel in the April 16 city council Israel Resolution. Therefore, its inclusion without municipal benefit is by this very nature discriminatory. Yet the HRC has shown no interest in the argument that singling out Israel for no purpose is anti-Semitic.

The updated HRC draft will be voted on at the HRC meeting tomorrow night, January 8, 2019, which starts at 7 pm in a relatively small room in the Golden Belt Office Center, 807 E Main St, Building 2, 3rd Floor Conference Room, Durham, NC, 27701

It is almost certainly going to be a pro-forma vote of approval. We have been given 10 minutes to respond. Pilar Rocha Goldberg (CEO of the El Centro Hispano), Jill Madsen (CEO of the Jewish Federation of Durham-Chapel Hill), and Bishop Ronald L. Godbee (lead Pastor of Durham’s River Church) are scheduled to be our speakers.

The speakers will cover such things as reminding the Commission of the adverse effects of discrimination, that only the targeted minority group can determine what is discriminatory against us; that it is altogether wrong for a Human Relations Commission to endorse discrimination; that one of the Council Members and local activists clearly engaged in anti-Semitism; that the Commission never asked any participants in the police exchanges what they experience; and that the City Council appears to have violated State policy and state law in the manner in which they used personal emails for public business. In addition, meetings that by law must be openly declared appeared to be closed and conducted in secret.

Please Show Up!

We hope you will make a showing at the meeting. It may not be possible to get into the room, but sheer numbers in the hallway will demonstrate the depth of our community’s despair at this impending second punch in the gut.

Opposition to the City Council’s Statement

Israel, Durham City Council, Don Stanger

In November, the Durham Human Relations Commission (HRC) presented a draft proposal recommending that the Durham City Council remove the singling out of Israel from their divisive and discriminatory April 16 statement. 

C. Donald Stanger, a valued friend and ally of the Jewish community and Past President of the Rotary Club of Durham,  wrote the Durham HRC the powerful letter below. 

Read more Letters to the Durham HRC.

Human Relations Commission City of Durham

City of Durham
Golden Belt Office Center 807 E Main Street
Building 2, 3rd Floor Conference Room
Durham, North Carolina 27707

Subject: Opposition to the City Council’s Statement
Ref.: Statement by the Durham City Council on lnternational Police Exchanges

The purposes for writing this letter are twofold: to express my deep concerns about the completely unnecessary and extremely hurtful statement made by the Durham City Council regarding the unlikely prospect of DPD personnel attending education sessions in lsrael to allegedly ‘militarize’ our police department, and to voice my support for Commission’s Sub-Committee draft recommendation on the issue.

As a resident of this city for over 25 years, I have seen wonderful advances in our City, especially with race relations. The Durham Police Department has made great strides with its community policing initiatives. As amember of Mayor Bill Bell’s Jobs Task Force (an element of Mayor’s Bell’s Poverty lnitiative), a former chair of the Habitat for Humanity of Durham board of directors, an active member of DPD PAC 3 through my board membership of the Hope Valley Neighborhood Association, a past president of the Rotary Club of Durham, and a six-year reading tutor at Y. E. Smith Elementary, I am very familiar with how our police interact with our diverse community. ln my various roles, I have found our police, both collectively and individually, to uphold the most professional law enforcement standards. When on occasion individual police officers act inappropriately, the DPD takes corrective measures.

I am a life-long Roman Catholic and have led the Ministry to the Sick and Homebound at Holy lnfant Catholic Church in Durham for many years.

With all this as context, I strongly oppose the statement made by the City Council. lt is unnecessary, not only because our police department has no intention of becoming a militarized force, let alone attend training in lsrael. More importantly, our police department has been committed for years to implementing a community policing model that is very successful.

I am proud to stand with my brothers and sisters in Durham’s Jewish community to declare my opposition to this statement. lt is not only inaccurate, but it unfairly singles out lsrael above all other countries and paints it with the broad brush of anti-lsrael rhetoric. This statement is not only unnecessary and hurtful, it has divided our community.

I strongly encourage the Human Relations Commission through its mission to improve human relations among the people of Durham, to request that the City Council modify their statement by eliminating any mention of the State of lsrael.

Respectfully,

C. Donald Stanger

December 19, 2018

Judea Reform Supports HRC Draft Critical of Durham City Council

Judea Reform Congregation, JRC, HRC, Durham City Council

Judea Reform Strong

On December 13, 2018, Judea Reform Congregation (JRC) announced that President Ziva Raney, Rabbi (Interim) John Franken, and the Board of Trustees sent a letter to the Durham Human Relations Commission (HRC) in support of its draft report.

Judea Reform is the largest congregation in the North Carolina Triangle area with approximately 600 family memberships. Dr. Robert Gutman, co-chair of Voice4Israel and former Judea Reform member, responded, “The community has united in this cause in a beautiful fashion and with clarity of purpose. And now we have the largest Congregation taking a firm stance. Thank you.”

After thanking the HRC for its “thorough and thoughtful report,” The JRC letter stated, “It is our hope that the full HRC, and subsequently the City Council, will adopt the recommendations of your subcommittee as submitted, especially the rewrite of the Council Statement that omits the unnecessary and disruptive reference to the State of Israel. These recommendations go a long way to correcting misinformation and the pain felt by many in the Jewish community.” Read the full JRC letter here

Judea Reform Members Embrace Their Synagogue’s Letter to the HRC 

Larry H. Rocamora told Voice4Israel, “I am President of the Durham-Chapel Hill Jewish Federation and a past President of Judea Reform Congregation. I am proud of my Congregation coming out in support of the draft HRC report and recommending the removal of Israel from the April 16 statement. Singling out Israel served no purpose in furthering Durham City Council business and has led to hurtful rhetoric that is painful to the Jewish community and makes many of us feel unwelcome in the city where we live.”

Ethan Hertz shared with Voice4Israel, “As a member of Judea Reform Congregation for almost three decades, and as someone who has served JRC in a variety of capacities, including as a Vice President, and as someone who knows the Durham Police well, having served on Durham’s Civilian Police Review Board for nine years, I am delighted that JRC’s President, Rabbi and Board joined other area congregations and our local Federation in asking the Durham Human Relations Commission to adopt its subcommittee’s draft report related to the City Council’s resolution on police training and Israel. This unfortunate resolution implies that there is a linkage between Israel, Jews and police misconduct. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Mark Rodin, a 38 year member of Judea Reform, shared with Voice4Israel, “I am pleased Rabbi Franken and our board support it, and hopefully the full commission will approve the reference to Israel be taken out of the City Council’s April 16 statement.”

“Collectively, we need to check our American privilege at the door since Palestinian rockets aren’t being fired at our own homes, and the leadership at Judea Reform get this, as they have publicly supported the terrific work of the Durham Human Relations Commission on the anti-Israel resolution,” said Durham resident and Judea Reform member Kathryn Wolf. “It’s so imperative that our Jewish leaders stand up to anti-Semitism in all its forms, whether it comes from the Right or the Left.”

Peter Reitzes, a five year member of JRC, stated, “I am proud of Judea Reform for encouraging the HRC to approve its draft report and for encouraging the Durham City Council to accept the recommendations.” Reitzes added, “When Mayor Steve Schewel spoke at JRC in October, he stubbornly and repeatedly refused to revisit the April 16 statement. Hopefully that will change now.”

Dr. Stanley Robboy, a former Judea Reform member and more recently co-president of the Kehillah Synagogue shared, “I am proud that the three area synagogues (Beth El, Judea Reform and Kehillah) and 12 of the area rabbis all have denounced the ill-conceived statement. I am also proud that the Durham Human Relations subcommittee has drafted a report (to be voted upon at it Jan 8, 2019 meeting) that will tell the City Council it should remove the word Israel while amending the statement in many areas to improve its over all content. We all strongly support its adoption.”

Read more Letters to the Durham HRC

Anti-Semitic “Deadly Exchange” campaign can be defeated when local pro-Israel groups respond quickly

Legal Insurrection, Deadly Exchange, Israel, anti-Semitism

By Miriam Elman

Originally published in Legal Insurrection here with accompanying pictures and social media posts. 

In Rhode Island, the small but active RI Coalition for Israel immediately responded to the Jewish Voice for Peace pressure campaign, and the Rhode Island State Police (as well as Boston Police) did not cancel their Israel trips.

Anti-Israel activists thrive in darkness. On campuses and municipalities, they spend months and sometimes years planning attacks on Israel that are often unveiled only at the last second, leaving Israel advocates scrambling.

That is unfolding with a vile antisemitic campaign called “Deadly Exchange,” which seeks to blame Israel and American Jewish groups for domestic U.S. problems in the policing of minority communities. Run by the misleadingly named Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), Deadly Exchange seeks to exploit pre-existing domestic racial tensions to stoke antisemitism in order to turn minority communities against Israel.

JVP achieved it’s first success for “Deadly Exchange” this past spring in Durham, NC and no one saw it coming until it was too late. Now the Vermont State Police and the Northampton, MA police department have pulled out of a scheduled ten-day police training seminar in Israel sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

The ADL has been funding this exchange program for high-ranking U.S. state police and federal law enforcement officials for nearly two decades. The current program, ADL’s New England Leadership Seminar in Israel: Resiliency and Counter-Terrorism, began on December 2nd and will conclude this week on December 11th.

It’s reportedly the first time in the history of the program that political pressure led police officials to withdraw after they had initially signed up to attend.

According to multiple media reports (see, for example, here and here) public officials in Vermont and Northampton decided to nix their participation at the last minute after being lobbied heavily by local progressive coalitions which were mobilized quickly and led by the JVP.

In press releases, media interviews, and social media posts, JVP leaders and activists themselves have also been highlighting how they were instrumental in convincing public officials in these two Northeast locations to back out of the police exchange program.

Basically, the Vermont State Police, responsible for law enforcement in about half of the state, and the police department in the town of Northampton, Massachusetts have now linked themselves to JVP’s undeniably antisemiticDeadly Exchange” campaign, which we’ve discussed in a number of prior posts.

But it’s important to note that while the same level of intense campaigning from JVP activists and their allies was also applied in Boston and Rhode Island, law enforcement officials in those parts of the northeast didn’t end up backing out of this week’s New England Leadership Seminar.

Absent any statement from public officials there, we can only speculate as to why they were able to withstand the pressure. Below I offer some tentative conclusions that can be drawn by comparing the two cases where JVP-led coalitions succeeded (Vermont and Northampton, MA) to those where they failed (Rhode Island and Boston, MA).

Background: the JVP-Initiated “Deadly Exchange” Campaign

As we highlighted in a number of prior posts, for the past several years the virulently anti-Jewish and anti-peace extremist organization Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) has been running a national campaign which falsely blames Israel and American Jewish organizations like the ADL—America’s leading civil rights organization fighting antisemitism, prejudice, and hate crimes—for institutionalized racism in America, discriminatory racial profiling, policing problems and U.S. police militarization, and even the killings of blacks by cops on the beat in American cities.

In these earlier posts we discussed how this “Deadly Exchange” campaign is based solely onspurious accusations and is akin to a modern-day antisemitic blood libel in which “Jews are falsely blamed for outrageous crimes”:

JVP has been widely condemned for trafficking in anti-Jewish tropes and canards via its “Deadly Exchange” campaign. Even staunch critics of Israel have said the initiative makes them sick to their stomachs. Nonetheless, the campaign garnered its “first win”  last spring when Durham, North Carolina imposed a total ban on police exchanges “with only one country in the world: the Jewish state of Israel”:

Since then, JVP has been trying to capitalize on its success in Durham by spearheading coalitions of far-left groups in other cities, like Washington DC and Pittsburgh, which are now also calling on their own police departments to end their visits and counter-terrorism training programs in Israel,More Demonization: Jewish Voice for Peace leading effort to ban DC police training in Israel.

So JVP’s intense lobbying campaign across New England for the past few weeks isn’t anything new. It’s part of a multi-year national effort to defame Israel and its police force as “oppressive and repressive” and to convince American citizens and their elected officials that “no good” can come from the “toxic connection between the US government and the Israeli government” or from any kind of exchanges with the Jewish state.

The City of Northampton, MA and the State of Vermont pull out of a planned ADL-training junket in Israel after being pressured by JVP-led campaigners

According to JVP press releases, an op-ed, and media interviews, the JVP chapter in Western Massachusetts found out about the New England leadership seminar now underway a few weeks ago after filing dozens of public records requests.

They reportedly discovered that the Hampden Country Sheriff’s Department had declined an upcoming ADL-sponsored trip. The University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s police department was also invited to the same trip but declined.

So, JVP’s Western Mass chapter members learned from its FOIA requests when the next northeast area ADL policing seminar was scheduled and who some of the pre-registered participants were. Its goal then became to convince these law enforcement officials to withdraw from the delegation.

As we noted in prior posts, ADL policing exchange programs in Israel have long provided senior American law enforcement leaders with the opportunity to enhance their effectiveness in preventing and responding to terrorism, active shooter, and mass casualty situations.

During the seminars, U.S. participating police officers meet with their Israeli and Palestinian counterparts to learn about the “importance of community-police ties” for dealing with these threats. They also learn how to foster community resiliency which is essential in the aftermath of tragedies and terror.

But despite the proven track record of these seminars, following a barrage of emails, letters, phone calls, and public meetings with “concerned constituents”, JVP—a fringe, radical group that doesn’t actually represent American Jewry in any way—managed to get public officials in these two American municipalities to unwittingly buy into its anti-Israel propaganda.

Vermont

According to a media report, a local JVP activist and a member of Vermonters for Justice in Palestine (Kathy Shapiro) was able to mobilize dozens of individuals and organizations across Vermont to send letters and emails calling on the State Police to cancel its participation in the ADL trip.

The intersectional coalition that Shapiro was reportedly quickly able to organize included local chapters of Migrant Justice, Black Lives Matter, and Justice for All. One local activist noted that “Our campaign was fast, focused and precise, and they pulled out.”

It’s important to understand that the Vermont State Police didn’t back out of the trip because they thought the training was unhelpful.

State Police spokesperson Adam Silverman said in a statement that Col. Matthew Birmingham had originally accepted the invitation to join the ADL program because it

offered an opportunity to interact with Israeli and Palestinian law-enforcement agencies, observe the security strategies and systems Israel uses to prevent terror attacks, and discuss the challenges the parties face in the region.”

It would have been Birmingham’s first time taking part in the seminar but a previous state police leader, Col. Thomas L’Esperance, had attended in the past.

The statement specifically noted that “fellow Vermonters” had expressed “concerns” about the trip and that after “weighing options” with the Commissioner of Public Safety it was decided that it would be “in the best interests of Vermont State Police” for Birmingham not to go.

That is, it was because of the “criticisms raised over the issue by local activists” that Col. Birmingham decided to withdraw his participation.

Northampton

In Northampton, a local JVP activist (attorney Rachel Weber) affiliated with the group’s Western Massachusetts chapter took the lead.

She organized a meeting with Mayor David Narkewicz which included community business leaders, sympathetic city councilors and a few academics.

At the one-hour meeting, the group reportedly told the Mayor that they had been “preparing a public campaign” and would launch it “if the mayor stalled.” The plan was to put an ad in the local paper and organize a large protest outside the Mayor’s offices.

After the meeting, JVP also initiated a targeted letter writing campaign. Dozens of emails were reportedly sent to the Mayor’s office urging him to cancel the police chief’s trip. Some of these emails reportedly came from “quite prominent” individuals from the area.

It was at that point that the Mayor withdrew Police Chief Jody Kasper from the ADL leadership training program. (Kasper reportedly heard about the trip because she serves on the Governor’s task force for hate crimes along with Robert Trestan, the executive director of the ADL’s Boston office).

It’s important to understand that this was a “well-orchestrated” community group that was pulled together in a matter of days.

Members of the Northampton coalition included Bernadine Mellis, a professor at Mount Holyoke College who slammed the ADL for failing to provide any content about the trainings even though taxpayers are still paying the salaries of the police chiefs while they’re abroad participating in them:

We don’t know anything about the actual content of these trainings—what the police chiefs are being told, what they’re learning, what political ideologies they’re being encouraged to adopt. That lack of transparency is extremely disconcerting.”

Also joining the Northampton coalition was Trinity College’s Vijay Prashad, a “Marxist intellectual” who directs Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research (a center I’ve never heard of). Both Weber and Prashad were interviewed on a local radio show (WHMP) after the mayor’s decision to nix the ADL trip.

It’s worth listening to this 20-minute interview (at the start of this podcast). It offers a good sense of what those pushing the “Deadly Exchange” campaign think about Israel and why they succeeded in Northampton, MA.

As Weber puts it at the start of the interview, in the U.S. “people of color feel unsafe and targeted” so “government officials shouldn’t be training with Israel’s security forces.” Towards the end, Prashad insists that “there’s no point going” to Israel because of its “brutal infrastructure of repression” and all the “ruthlessness that’s on display”. Weber has the last word, castigating the ADL trainings for convincing U.S. police officials who go on their trips that Zionism is legitimate. For Weber and her allies, that’s a “clear agenda” that needs to be opposed.

One critical factor that the interview also highlights is how JVP continuously repeats the falsehood that U.S. law enforcement officials train with Israel’s military when participating in the ADL-sponsored seminars. Weber says it so often on the radio talk show that even the host begins to repeat the lie. The reality is that the New England delegation isn’t meeting with any members of the IDF.

Why the City of Boston and the State of Rhode Island Refused to “Skip the Trip” to Israel

Once JVP learned of the cancellations in Vermont and Massachusetts, it went into overdrive to convince other police departments which had registered for the ADL’s New England junket to back out of the program.

Last Friday—just two days before the delegation was due to fly to Israel—JVP and its allies sent a letter to the mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, urging him to “cancel Boston’s participation.”

JVP also organized a letter-writing campaign similar to ones fielded in Vermont and Northampton. A JVP Action Alert contained the phone numbers of Rhode Island’s Governor Raimondo and Colonel Assumpico and the phone number of Boston’s Mayor Walsh. It also provided talking points.

In addition, an “open letter” from the Pittsburgh Coalition to End the Deadly Exchange was sent to Mayor Walsh and Governor Raimondo. (It’s worth noting that, in addition to Pitt Students for Justice in Palestine and the Pittsburgh Democratic Socialists of America, the Pittsburgh JVP-led coalition also includes the Pittsburgh chapter of If Not Now and Friends of Sabeel North America—FOSNA).

But in Boston and Rhode Island these efforts didn’t convince public officials to “skip the trip”.

In Boston, perhaps that’s because Commissioner William Gross has previously attended the training (a BPD spokesperson noted that two top-ranking officers were scheduled to go on the training, and Gross is likely one of them). It’s also possible that Mayor Walsh and officials in Boston’s PD are more aware than are public officials in Vermont or Northampton of JVP’s fringe and radical agenda, and that they don’t represent the Jewish community.

In the past, JVP’s Boston chapter has organized large anti-Israel protests. Members of the JVP partner group If Not Now more recently got themselves arrested in Boston for unlawful protests of Israel’s counter-terror efforts at the Gaza border. So, this may be at least partly be why theprotestations of a Boston JVP organizer (Elsa Auerbach) that the ADL-sponsored police training in Israel doesn’t “serve the interests of a safe Boston” didn’t have much of an impact.

In Rhode Island, a small group of pro-Israel activists—the Rhode Island Coalition for Israel (RICI)—got wind of JVP’s efforts to “deprive our law enforcement of useful training just to promote their radical agenda.” Then, RICI quickly put out a mass emailing, urging all members to immediately contact Raimondo and Assumpico and also providing their email addresses.

Here is the email RICI sent to public officials:

December 3, 2018

Dear Governor Raimondo and Colonel Assumpico,

On behalf of the majority of Rhode Islanders who support Israel, the Jewish people, and traditional Judeo-Christian values, we would like to thank you most sincerely for resisting the devious, politically-motivated pressure campaign that was waged upon both of you last week by the malevolent radical leftist group Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).

This group’s activities, and that of the so-called BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement) are well known to our organization. In these difficult times, they traffic in false propaganda regarding Israel as a “racist” and “apartheid” state. The boldness and the viciousness of their lies, which attempt to equate Zionism with racism, is a throwback to the Nazi propaganda machine of 70 years ago.

Last week JVP mounted an email and telephone pressure campaign to attempt to force you to cancel  Lt. Colonel Joseph Philbin’s scheduled participation in the elite National Counter-Terrorism Seminar (NCTS) training program, conducted by the Anti-Defamation League. Branding this program as the “Deadly Exchange”, JVP  works to deprive American law enforcement of valuable and unique training from Israeli law enforcement on dealing with domestic terrorism and relations with multi-varied ethnic communities. In truth it is a cynical component of the radical left’s agenda to delegitimize law enforcement everywhere in the US while at the same time bashing Israel.

RI Coalition for Israel has been expecting this attack on RI law enforcement ever since JVP’s bitterly divisive Deadly Exchange campaign was launched in Durham, NC, earlier this year. The fact that at this time, two other New England law enforcement agencies (Northampton, MA and the State of Vermont) succumbed to JVP pressure while that campaign failed in Rhode Island is a testament to the good judgement of leaders such as yourselves.

Be assured that RICI stands with you in standing firm against the erosion of traditional values, such as religious tolerance, which are the bedrock of Rhode Island.

RICI released this press release on its efforts:

BDS attack aimed at RI State Police countered by RI Coalition for Israel

An attempt by the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanctions) movement late last week to disrupt an exchange training program on anti-terrorism for the RI State Police failed, according to a letter released today from the RI Coalition for Israel (RICI) to Governor Gina Raimondo and Colonel Ann Assumpico.

According to RICI President Mary Greene, email communications from Jewish Voice for Peace, a radical leftist fringe group, urging recipients to bombard the Governor and Colonel Assumpico with demands to cancel the program, were intercepted by RICI and met with a counter campaign supporting the program.

The program in question is the National Counter Terrorism Seminar (NCTS), organized by the Anti-Defamation League, which brings American law enforcement officials to Israel for training in areas in which Israeli law enforcement has unique experience: domestic counter-terrorism, and working constructively with multi-varied ethnic communities. American law enforcement has participated in the program since at least 2016.

“Unfortunately Jewish Voice for Peace has been successful in at least three other communities in cancelling this training for their local law enforcement – Durham NC, Northampton MA, and the State of Vermont”, said Greene. “If we had not interceded, that number might have been four. RICI is a watchdog against BDS activity in Rhode Island because the BDS movement is anti-Semitic.”

The RICI letter states in part, “In these difficult times, they [JVP] traffic in false propaganda regarding Israel as a “racist” and “apartheid” state. The boldness and the viciousness of their lies, which attempt to equate Zionism with racism, is a throwback to the Nazi propaganda machine of 70 years ago.”

“We are grateful to the Governor and the Colonel for standing firm in the face of radicalism, especially during this time of Hanukkah”, concluded Greene.

When contacted, Laura Kirk of the RI State Police PublicI Information office declined comment.

ADL’s New England chapter did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Legal Insurrection also has been unable to ascertain whether any of the more major pro-Israel and Jewish groups in Rhode Island also contacted public officials.

But maybe RICI’s intervention was just enough pushback to convince these Rhode Island officials not to nix a valuable police training on account of some cockamamie argument that the program would “further the militarization” of Rhode Island’s law enforcement.

Conclusion

For the past week, JVP activists have been in a self-congratulatory mode, celebrating theirvictories for the “Deadly Exchange” campaign in Vermont and Northampton, MA.

But its important to understand that JVP only won because Jewish leaders and major organizations failed to respond quickly and visibly to JVP’s calculated campaign of disinformation. As far as I can tell, Jewish Federation leaders didn’t mobilize their Boards to counter the sophisticated grassroots campaigns launched by JVP and its virulently anti-Israel partners. Nor did the AJC, the JCRCs or any other major Jewish organization organize any significant pushback, based on the many media reports I covered for this post.

Can there be any doubt that plenty of Jewish business leaders, academicians and legal scholars in Northampton and Vermont would have welcomed the chance to give Mayor Narkewicz and Col. Birmingham a piece of their mind about JVP’s radical anti-Zionist agenda—had they known about it? Surely many would have also phoned in and sent emails, and even taken the time to meet with their public officials.

Here, perhaps much of the fault ultimately rests with the ADL.

Eager to insulate prospective participants from JVP’s propaganda, it doesn’t publicly share much information about its police exchange programs. It’s probably likely that few if any Jewish Federation Presidents in the New England area even knew about this week’s seminar or which senior-level police officials were scheduled to take part.

It’s understandable that the ADL has to keep some information about their seminar content from public view. But all the secrecy just enables JVP and its coalition partners to criticize the ADL’s lack of transparency. It makes it easy for JVP to insinuate that something nefarious must be going on at these Israel trainings because the ADL has to hide and obscure records and insists that participants keep the records confidential. This is especially going to annoy progressives who insist on “democratic control” over government agencies.

What’s more, not disclosing information about the trips also prevents mainstream Jewish organizations—like Federations and JCRCs—from mobilizing an effective counter-campaign to JVP’s disgusting lies. Essentially, what the ADL is doing is enabling JVP to falsely present itself to public officials as a legitimate Jewish voice and to provide Jewish “cover” for its non-Jewish allies.

Bottom line: The ADL needs to do a better job of publicly showcasing the value of its life-saving law enforcement trainings in Israel. At the very least, it needs to start informing Jewish community leaders about when their programs are taking place and who’s scheduled to go. Then, those leaders and major organizations need to do their jobs by speaking out against “Deadly Exchange” and by working to mobilize the American-Jewish communities that they serve to stand against this hateful campaign.

Miriam F. Elman is an Associate Professor of Political Science and the Inaugural Robert D. McClure Professor of Teaching Excellence at the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse University. She is the editor of five books and the author of over 65 journal articles, book chapters, and government reports on topics related to international and national security, religion and politics, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She also frequently speaks and writes on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel movement. Recently, Elman was included on the Algemeiner newspaper’s 2018 list of the top 100 people worldwide who are “positively influencing Jewish life.” Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @MiriamElman

 

Triangle Rabbis Support Durham HRC Draft

Israel, Durham

In November, the Durham Human Relations Commission (HRC) presented a draft proposal recommending that the Durham Ciaty Council removes the singling out of Israel from their divisive and discriminatory April 16 statement.

12 North Carolina Triangle-area rabbis wrote the seminal letter below to the Durham HRC in support of their draft report. This is likely the single most important letter sent to the HRC. Our Jewish spiritual leaders are speaking in unity and make us proud. Voice4Israel applauds and thanks our local rabbis. Be sure and also read the rabbi’s impressive “punch in the gut” letter sent to the Durham City Council. Read more letters to the Durham HRC here.

Letter to the Durham Human Relations Commission

December 2, 2018

To the Durham Human Relations Commission:

We, rabbis from Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh, are writing to express our support for the November 12, 2018 “Draft Report, Findings and Recommendations on April 16th Statement by Durham City Council on International Police Exchanges.” We appreciate the report’s thoroughness and thoughtfulness and we believe it charts a constructive way forward for our community to heal. We call upon the Human Relations Commission to adopt the report at its upcoming January meeting.

B’virkat Shalom (with blessings of peace),

Rabbi Lucy Dinner

Rabbi Jen Feldman

Rabbi Jerry Fox

Rabbi Elana Friedman

Rabbi John Franken

Rabbi Daniel Greyber

Rabbi Pinchas Herman

Rabbi Laura Lieber

Rabbi Steve Sager

Rabbi Melissa B. Simon

Rabbi Eric Solomon

Rabbi Jennifer Solomon

Letter to HRC: Standing in Solidarity with the Jewish Community

Rene Paul de la Varre, Israel, Durham HRC, Durham City Council, Israel Resolution

In November, the Durham Human Relations Commission (HRC) presented a draft proposal recommending that the Durham City Council removes the singling out of Israel from their divisive and discriminatory April 16 statement. 

Rene Paul de la Varre, a valued friend and ally of the Jewish community,  wrote the Durham HRC the heartfelt letter printed below. We are proud to have such strong allies as Rene.

Read more letters to the Durham HRC here.

Letter to the Durham Human Relations Commission

December 1, 2018

Dear Ms. Standaert, and Mr. Correa,

I want to compliment and thank you and your committee for the excellent draft report which I have read. No doubt, the April 16 statement from the Durham City Council singling out Israel was wrong. The group who initiated this is known for their anti-Israel activism, who constantly base their opinion on lies and disinformation. I am not Jewish, but my Jewish friends feel unwelcomed in Durham, targeted, and marginalized by the reckless actions of the Durham City Council. I am in pain because my Jewish friends are in pain. “Durham for all” should include the Jewish minority.

I have also lived and worked in Israel on five different occasions. I respect your hard work, therefore, I purposely left out a list of seminars police departments around the country have had in Israel. All who took part raved about what they had learned.

I have followed this situation closely. The City Council fast-tracked anti-Israel foreign policy using non-transparent procedures that make the Jewish community and their allies feel marginalized. Your draft report captures this injustice using evidence and research. Thank you!

I implore all HRC commissioners to do the right thing. Support the draft as its official position for the good of Durham, its Jewish minority, and our country.

Respectfully,

Rene Paul de la Varre
Chapel Hill, NC

Israel Singled Out: HRC Draft Zeroes in on Facts

Voice4Israel, Durham City Council

In November, the Durham Human Relations Commission (HRC) presented a draft proposal recommending that the Durham City Council removes the singling out of Israel from their divisive and discriminatory April 16 statement. 

Adam Goldstein, MD, Chair of North Carolina Hillel, wrote the Durham HRC the impressive letter printed below. 

Read more letters to the Durham HRC here.

Letter to the Durham Human Relations Commission

December 10, 2018
 
Dear Diane and Ricardo,
 
I want to add my voice to those representing thousands of others in the Durham community who have reached out to you and others on the HRC who wrote the Draft report of November 12th, 2018, on the Durham City Council statement singling out Israel on International Police Exchanges. 
 
Your Draft report has zeroed in on the facts that the Durham City Council singled out Israel in their April 16 statement and it displayed a lack of transparency and diligence in its approach. Your Draft report goes a long way to helping recognize and begin to rectify the discriminatory nature of the City Council’s actions that have harmed so many in our community. Over the last six months, I have witnessed a community that has been the subject of tremendous derision and hate from extremist groups bent on bringing their agenda to our community.  Efforts by groups wanting to use City government to single out and demonize one country in the world, the Jewish homeland, that decry large segments of our community, including most institutions and members of the Jewish community, must not be encouraged.   Your Draft statement would be a breath of fresh air to bring the great majority of Durham’s citizens together and to make a clear and unequivocal distinction between policy decisions based on facts and one’s personal beliefs based on opinion. The HRC appears to be taking its obligation to look at the facts, and the facts alone, of this issue.  
 
I am currently the Chair of North Carolina Hillel, the organization that represents Jewish life for students on 13 campuses across North Carolina. In that role, I have seen and heard of dozens of anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish organizations and students across our state.  The rise in anti-Semitism alone in Durham over this past year, in targeted attacks throughout Durham and on Duke’s campus, have been alarming but perhaps not surprising from many who might feel emboldened by the tolerance.  Many of our Jewish students on campus are fearful for the first time expressing their Jewish faith or their love of Israel.  After the synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh, however, moderates of all faiths came together on vigils across North Carolina campuses and communities to express support for tolerance and to say no to acts that directly or indirectly encourage intolerance.
 
I applaud you again for your leadership, and I hope the HRC will adopt its sub-committee report at its January meeting. Please do circulate my letter to the entire Commission.
 
Sincerely,
 
Adam Goldstein, MD
Chair, North Carolina Hillel

Kehillah Synagogue Writes Durham HRC

Israel, Durham HRC

In November, the Durham Human Relations Commission (HRC) presented a draft proposal recommending that the Durham City Council removes the singling out of Israel from their divisive and discriminatory April 16 statement. 

On behalf of its board of directors, The Kehillah Synagogue’s Co-presidents wrote the Durham HRC the impressive letter printed below. 

Read more letters to the Durham HRC here.

Letter to the Durham Human Relations Commission (December 6, 2018)

Dear Chief Commissioner Standaert, Subcommittee Chair Ricardo Correa and members of the Durham Human Relations Commission,

The Kehillah Synagogue of Chapel Hill thanks you for your Subcommittee’s thoughtful approach to addressing the concerns that the members of the Durham-Chapel Hill Jewish community have raised regarding the Durham City Council’s statement on international police exchanges. About one-fourth of our congregants reside in Durham and more work there.

Please adopt the report as drafted when you next meet on January 8.

Thank you for examining in detail the Durham City Council’s statement of April 16, 2018, the circumstances leading to its adoption, and reaching out to the diverse stakeholder groups whom the statement directly affected. Thank you also for attending two community forums, one which the Jewish Federation held that many from the Jewish Community and other faith-based groups attended, and the other that the Judea Reform Congregation hosted where Mayor Schewel answered audience questions. We thank you for considering the many diverse perspectives.

The Kehillah has a deep and well-known commitment to supporting human rights through our Social Action Committee. Our Rabbi and members of our congregation have been leaders in championing the interests of low-income and minority populations in the Durham-Chapel Hill area. We have long-standing, meaningful relationships with many social service and interfaith organizations. The Council’s statement condemning Israel jeopardized these relationships threatening the wellbeing and safety of the Durham-Chapel Hill Jewish community. As so many of the rabbis from the Triangle stated in their joint letter, the statement was a “punch in the gut.”

Your Subcommittee’s draft report highlights the many ways the City Council’s process might have been improved and offers suggestions for the future. We concur. In particular, we support the statement, “Because of the process by which the statement was passed and the fact that the statement could have been written more clearly in some parts, we believe the statement contributed to tension in our community. We also believe there are steps that can be taken to address this. The City Council should revise the language in the April 16th language [statement] to provide clarity based on the concerns and findings outlined here…”

We appreciate the Commission’s commitment to both bringing our community together and speaking out against antisemitism. After the recent Pittsburgh shooting, the Kehillah held a vigil in which over 700 persons from many different faith-based churches participated. Our Rabbi Jennifer Feldman said, “We stand in solidarity against hatred with our LGBTQ+, Latino, African American, Muslim, immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters, and with people of faith everywhere.” The Kehillah members fully intend to work with the Commission and the City Council to continue building strong interfaith relations. Everybody wins by such actions.

Jonathan Kotch and Andrew Werden, Kehillah Synagogue Co-presidents and the Kehillah Synagogue Board of Directors

Discrimination is Singling Out One Among Many

Herman Sperling
Herman Sperling

In November, the Durham Human Relations Commission (HRC) presented a draft proposal recommending that the Durham City Council removes the singling out of Israel from their divisive and discriminatory April 16 statement. 

Herman Sperling and Robert Gutman, both Durham residents, sent the Durham HRC the strong letter printed below. 

Read more letters to the Durham HRC here.

Letter to the Durham Human Relations Commission 

December 9, 2018

Dear Dianne and Ricardo:

Thank you so much for allowing us to address the HRC in support of the well-researched and considered recommendation from the subcommittee about the reference to “Israel” in the Council’s April 16 memorandum. Not only do we hope that our message resonated with the Commission, but we benefitted from essential insights into how the issue is being considered.

While we understand the main issue to be whether the inclusion of the specific reference to Israel in the document ratified by the Durham City Council is discriminatory to us here in Durham, it became clear that at least one of the members sees the issue as being about alleged discriminatory practices within Israel. We see these as two separate and distinct issues.

If the issue in front of the HRC is about training practices that are alleged to promote militarization of the Durham Police, then we ask that either the singular mention of Israel be deleted, or that all counties, including the US, the UK, Germany, Jordan, Egypt and all countries that offer similar training also be included.

If the issue is about countries where discrimination exists, we ask that Israel not be the singular mention. But if she is to be mentioned then every other country where at least as much discrimination exists such be included as well. Examples would include: The US, South Africa, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan Iran, Egypt, Morocco, Japan, The Islamic Republic of Iran, The Philippines, India, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, China, Russia and France to name but a few.

We do understand the immediacy of concern about others who might be close friends and neighbors in our city having experienced discrimination in Durham, Ferguson, Pittsburg, Baltimore and elsewhere. Afterall, those espousing discrimination attacked both people of color and Jews in Charlottesville and elsewhere. The hundreds of centuries of discrimination, persecution and murder the Jewish people have suffered compels us to be aligned with them to fight any type of discrimination everywhere it occurs, including here in Durham.

We do not understand the claim that removing the name, which was needlessly added is an insult to others. There is no right to insult gratuitously. The expressed interest in returning to the original claim by the petitioners that perceptions of discrimination in Israel are relevant to what happens here is itself discriminatory

In conclusion we simply do not understand how discrimination is not defined by singling out one of many. And, as the Supreme Court of these United States has ruled, harassment is based on impact, not intent. Let there be no misunderstanding but that citizens of Durham have been adversely impacted by a discriminatory memorandum. Therefore, there cannot be any reasoned conclusion other than recommending an adjustment to the City Council’s memorandum of April 16 eliminating the singular reference to Israel.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

Herman Sperling and Robert Gutman
Citizens of Durham North Carolina