BDS Attacks Come to the Triangle

Israel, Durham City Council, Israel Resolution

What is BDS?

BDS is the movement to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel. BDS targets only one country — Israel — which is the only country with a Jewish majority population. 

During a 2019 interview, the co-founder and leader of the BDS movement, Omar Barghouti, explained that boycotting Israel would continue even after the establishment of a Palestinian state. In other words, the BDS movement denies the very right of Israel to exist.

BDS Rejects the Right of Israel to Exist

Barghouti does not hide the BDS movement’s goal: “Definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.”

The BDS Movement website refers to the “right of return” as “the most important of all Palestinian rights.” For many BDS activists and leaders, this envisions a one state solution in which millions of Palestinians move into Israel — not into the future state of Palestine — thus eliminating Israel. In Barghouti’s own words, “If the refugees were to return, you would not have a two-state solution, you’d have a Palestine next to a Palestine.”

BDS Demonizes Israel with False Accusations of Apartheid

One of the ways BDS activists and anti-Zionists attack Israel is by the false and defamatory accusation that Israel practices apartheid. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) responds: “Arab citizens of Israel enjoy the full range of civil and political rights, including the right to organize politically, the right to vote and the right to speak and publish freely. Israeli Arabs and other non-Jewish Israelis serve as members of Israel’s security forces, are elected to parliament and appointed to the country’s highest courts. They are afforded equal educational opportunities, and there are ongoing initiatives to further improve the economic standing of all of Israel’s minorities. These facts serve as a counter to the apartheid argument, and demonstrate that Israel is committed to democratic principles and equal rights for all its citizens.”

In the New York Times column Why Israel Is Nothing Like Apartheid South Africa, a South African journalist explains, “I am acutely aware of Israel’s problems and faults, but it is nothing like South Africa before 1994. Those who accuse Israel of apartheid — some even say, ‘worse than apartheid’ — have forgotten what actual apartheid was, or are ignorant, or malevolent.”
Tshediso Mangope, a member of the African National Congress, explained, “The argument by BDS supporters that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be solved with a one-state solution, following the South African model of democracy, is false and dangerous. This assessment is heavily supported by my experiences in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, as well as my experiences as a black South African who experienced apartheid…Expecting people with a bitter history of persecution, like the Jewish people, to abandon the idea of a Jewish state, the only state that has guaranteed them freedom and security, is not only unreasonable, but also unfair.”

BDS in North Carolina

Here in North Carolina, BDS activists refer to themselves as anti-Zionists and have attacked and harmed the Jewish community. Most notably, the local chapter of the euphemistically named Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) led the campaign to have the Durham City Council pass the “Israel Resolution” which made Durham the first city in the U.S. to boycott police training specifically with Israel. 11 local rabbis referred to this as a “punch in the gut” to the Jewish community.

Tweet by local BDS organization identifying themselves as anti-Zionists.

In 2018, BDS activists led by JVP went to Durham City Hall and told the Mayor and City Council lies saying that Israel is the last country in the world to respect human rights and Israel trains U.S. police officers to return to the U.S. as killers. JVP’s petition — signed by six out of seven council members before being delivered to the Council to be turned into the “Israel Resolution” —basely alleged that training American police in Israel “helps the police terrorize Black and Brown communities here in the U.S.” 

In 2018, a local JVP leader wrote a public email to five fellow JVP members and to Mayor Pro Tempore Jillian Johnson opposing a leader of the Durham Hispanic community as a candidate for Durham City Council because the candidate, a Latino woman, attends Beth El Synagogue. Rather than distance themselves from their leader’s antisemitic email, JVP recently doubled down on hate by featuring a picture on social media of this leader attending an August, 2019 JVP leadership retreat.

BDS and Anti-Zionism in Our Jewish Institutions 

Love of Israel is a basic tenet of our mainstream Jewish institutions and synagogues. In 2018 the Union of Reform Judaism proclaimed that “Zionism and love of Israel” are “core beliefs and central tenets of North American Reform Jewish life.” The Jewish Federation of Durham-Chapel Hill explains, “We view Israel as a core element of Jewish life.” A goal of Hillel International is to “inspire every Jewish college student to develop a meaningful and enduring relationship to Israel and to Israelis.”

The BDS inspired Israel hatred in the Triangle area became very concrete when a local synagogue board member, who is a also a BDS activist in the role of a JVP leader, announced on social media that they encouraged the Durham City Council to single out Israel in its now infamous “Israel Resolution.” This BDS activist even bragged on Twitter, “I am…a leader in my synagogue.” Many community and congregation members were dismayed to find out that a synagogue leader used their status as a synagogue board member to promote BDS with local government. This same individual currently co-chairs this same synagogue’s Adult Education Committee. The past co-chair of this same committee is also a local JVP leader. Thus, the very synagogue committee that was charged with planning Israel-related programming has been led by anti-Israel activists. This committee even went so far as to publish a website with the synagogue’s picture and name linking it to anti-Israel, pro BDS materials. Thankfully this website was taken offline. With so many BDS supporters in key leadership positions, it is sadly no surprise that this same synagogue featured a BDS presentation led by a JVP activist. 

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President Emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism and a past rabbi at Judea Reform Congregation in Durham, warns, “BDS speakers have no place in American synagogues. They do not simply oppose Israeli policies; they oppose Israel’s very existence.”

BDS in Local Academia

Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are academic leaders in BDS activism and anti-Israel demonization.

Duke University Press: BDS’s Publisher of Choice

In the article Ivory Tower Bigots, Tablet Magazine explained, “for those seeking an ardently anti-Zionist classroom, Duke University Press has found its scholarly niche as the BDS movement’s publisher of choice.” 

In 2017 Duke University Press published the Right to Maim by Jasbir Puar, a BDS leader. In the book — which one historian called “academic garbage” — Puar writes about what she calls “Israeli tactical calculations of settler colonial rule – that of creating injury and maintaining Palestinian populations as perpetually debilitated, and yet alive, in order to control them.” Puar states, “Debilitation is extremely profitable economically and ideologically for Israel’s settler colonial regime.”

In the “The Right to Maim,” Puar presents thinly veiled comparisons of Israelis to Nazis when she wonders if Gaza is “not a death camp but a debilitation camp,” asks, “Is Gaza an experimental lab for the production, maintenance, and profitability of biopolitical debilitation?” and states, “The understanding of maiming as a specific aim of biopolitics tests the framing of settler colonialism as a project of elimination of the indigenous through either genocide or assimilation.” It is important to note that according to the State Department, one example of antisemitism is “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

As reported in 2018 by a Voice4Israel board member, seven members of Duke University Press’ Editorial Advisory Board, charged with granting “final approval” to manuscripts, have signed initiatives related to boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. An eighth member of this board promoted BDS on social media. In other words, a majority of Duke University Press’ Editorial Advisory Board supports BDS related initiatives against Israel. In addition, at least three of their staff members are anti-Israel activists. The official Duke University Press Twitter account has made more than 20 Tweets which include “#BDS.” Considering its staff, advisers, and social media presence, it is no surprise that Duke University Press has a long, disgraceful history of publishing anti-Israel and antisemitic screeds camouflaged as scholarly work.

Antisemitic UNC/Duke Conference

In 2019 the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies hosted the “Conflict Over Gaza” conference which was in reality, three days of anti-Israel indoctrination. North Carolina Congressman George Holding asked the Department of Education to investigate this conference writing, “According to first-hand accounts, the conference had a radical anti-Israel bias…A video recently surfaced depicting the main musical performer, rapper Tamer Nafar, singing a brazenly antisemitic song.” 

Nafar encouraged his audience to sing along with him, saying “I cannot be antisemitic alone.” After the video of this antisemitic performance was made public, this conference became national and international news (see video above).

Many speakers at this joint UNC/Duke conference were BDS activists. For just one example, in a single conference presentation, titled “The (De) Development of Gaza: Economy, Women, and Youth,” both speakers, Sara Roy and Laila El-Haddad, and the moderator, Rebecca Stein, were all on record as having supported various boycotts of Israel. Perhaps the blatant antisemitism on display at this BDS oriented conference even surprised UNC and Duke officials because halfway through the event a conference organizer demanded that audience members stop recording. A Voice4Israel board member attempting to document the academic sponsored antisemitism on display was ordered by an event organizer to cease.

While the antisemitic song at the conference made big news, there were many other deeply troubling aspects of this UNC/Duke conference (read a three part conference report: part 1, part 2, part 3). For example, a Jewish student at Duke politely approached a presenter during a break. The presenter, a BDS activist, refused to speak with him but then spent considerable time at the conference speaking with anti-Israel activists. Those who observed these interactions report that it felt like a boycott of Jewish students. This raises the question — are some faculty and officials at UNC and Duke encouraging or allowing Jewish students to be treated differently and discriminatorily on campus?

BDS Apologists and Appeasers

Some BDS apologists, including some well-meaning Jewish leaders, are quick to say, “Not all BDS activists oppose the right of Israel to exist” and “Not all BDS activists are antisemitic.” 

Under President Obama’s leadership, the State Department of the United States provided three examples of ways which “anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel.” Demonizing Israel, holding Israel to double standards, and delegitimizing Israel. A fourth has recently been added: comparing Israel to the Nazis. The BDS movement consistently does all four.

At Voice4Israel, we fully support freedom of speech. This freedom includes our right to speak out against the bigotry and antisemitism that BDS promotes, attracts, embraces, and tolerates.

Lessons Learned from Local BDS Attacks

In 2018, the mainstream Jewish community and our allies suffered a terrible “punch in the gut” when the Durham North Carolina City Council compromised with BDS activists to make Durham the first city in the United States to boycott police trainings specifically with Israel. As terrible as this has been, one silver lining is that many local Jews, Jewish leaders, and our allies have become aware of the anti-Israel bigotry that BDS activists advocate in our community. 

Local synagogues and Jewish institutions are waking up to the reality that Jewish leaders need to be vigilant in supporting and safeguarding the values of our beloved Jewish institutions. 

Other Resources on BDS

The Voice4Israel suggests exploring the links below:

Lawsuit Update: Friedman vs Durham City Council

Background: Durham Passes the Israel Resolution

A year ago, on April 16, 2018, the Durham City Council passed the “Israel Resolution” making Durham the first city in the United States to boycott police trainings specifically with Israel. This initiative began on April 5, 2018 when local activists led by the anti-Zionists of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) presented a petition to the Council demanding that Durham ban police training specifically with Israel. It took the City Council just 11 days to do so. 

Since then, three lawsuits have been filed against Durham on this matter.

Friedman vs Durham City Council

One of the lawsuits filed, “Friedman, Deborah vs Durham City Council,” had a hearing today in Durham County Superior Court. Deborah Friedman is a resident of Durham County. Judge Cynthia King Sturgis presided at this morning’s proceedings and three Voice4Israel board members attended. 

The suit alleges that the City Council held electronic public meetings without notifying the public, thus being in violation of open meetings law. At the heart of this lawsuit are two emails regarding the Council’s “Israel Resolution” that Mayor Schewel sent from his personal email account to the personal emails accounts of City Council members (Voice4Israel unearthed these emails using public record requests). Each of the two emails consists of a quorum or majority of City Council members. To put it simply, the Council met electronically and privately without public notice.

North Carolina State Law requires advance notice of public meetings. Public meetings, such as City Council meetings, are defined as consisting of a “majority of the members” and specifically include electronic meetings.

The attorney for the City of Durham, Henry W Sappenfield, argued today that the term email correspondence does not meet the law’s language or criteria because it is not usually “simultaneous.” In order to meet the law’s definition he argued, the conversation had to occur with some rapidity whether it be in an in-person conference, telephone conversation, or electronic interaction such as with social media services like Facebook. Sappenfield told the court that he considered emails to be discontinuous in time and therefore not simultaneous.

The lawyer for the plaintiff, Jonathan Jones, argued that the intent of the statue was broader and should include electronic conversations where responses could go back and forth over short periods. He bolstered his argument with several examples. In one example, Jones used an email sent by Mayor Schewel which was unearthed by a Voice4Israel investigation. In the email, Mayor Schewel wrote to the entire Council,  “We can’t ‘meet’ as a group via email outside of the sight of the public and press, and I think that’s a good law and practice. But we can correspond in two’s and three’s–fewer than a quorum.” 

A second example, which was also unearthed by Voice4Israel, was related to Jordan Peterson performing at the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC). In this example, the entire Durham City Council corresponded via email to draft and sign a statement opposing Peterson that was not officiated at a formal, publicly announced meeting of the Durham City Council. This occurred even after the mayor had already said they are not supposed to meet via email. 

Both plaintiff and defense lawyers agreed there was little case law about the issue in question.

City Councils Need to Meet in Public So as Not to Harm the Public

The most compelling argument presented was the potential consequences of the judge’s forthcoming ruling and why. If the Judge were to summarily dismiss the lawsuit, this would allow City Council members in this judicial region to adopt the practice of meeting electronically to conduct various types of city business in ways hidden from the public and thus injurious to the public. Ruling in favor of the plaintiff would discourage or prevent any City Council from backhanded maneuvers to conduct City business in private, thus reducing the chance of decisions being made in secret without public awareness and without public feedback. 

The judge is taking the arguments under advisement. She will announce her results at some future time. We await the judge’s decision.

Press Release: I am not a Jew with trembling knees

Israel, Durham City Council, Israel Resolution

Durham, NC Boycotts Police Training with Israel

On April 16, 2018, Durham, North Carolina became the first city in the country to boycott police trainings specifically with Israel. Since then, two lawsuits have been filed against Durham on this matter. Now a third complaint, released March 8, is being prepared by the North Carolina Coalition for Israel (NCCI).

This third legal complaint goes directly to the issue of anti-Semitism in a manner echoing this important talk to the House of Representatives by Congressman Ted Deutch (D-Fla) making clear that “It should not be this hard” to condemn this scourge. We thank the North Carolina Coalition for Israel.

Read the press release below. 

Update: Article in News & Observer – Durham facing 3rd possible lawsuit over city’s policing statement and Israel

Press Release

North Carolina Coalition for Israel

TO:  General Press

Date and Time:

            The North Carolina Coalition for Israel has announced the preparation of a Complaint to be filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, to be filed against the City of Durham, North Carolina; Durham City Council and Steve Schewel, Mayor, Jillian Johnson, Mayor Pro Tem, Vernetta Alston, Javiera Caballero, DeDreana Freeman, Mark-Anthony Middleton, and Charlie Reece, all in their official capacities as officials of the City of Durham and Members of the Durham City Council; Durham Human Relations Commission; Andrea M. Hudson, HRC Commissioner; Diane Standaert, HRC Commission Chair; John Rooks, HRC Commission; and Mikel Barton, HRC Commission. 

            The North Carolina Coalition for Israel will be joined by Kathryn Wolf, Rabbi Jerome Fox and Perri Shalom-Liberty as Plaintiffs.

            Counsel for Plaintiffs are Clifford A. Rieders of Rieders, Travis, Humphrey, Waters & Dohrmann, and D. J. O’Brien of Brooks Pierce.

            In keeping with the Coalition’s reputation for integrity, the Complaint has been sent by its attorneys to Kimberly Rehberg,City Attorney, for review prior to filing and in order to determine whether any resolution is possible prior to formal litigation occurring.

            The lengthy and detailed Complaint explains the manner in which the Plaintiffs and Jewish community in the City of Durham have been discriminated against based upon religion and nationality due to the conduct of the Defendants, including but not limited to the City of Durham, North Carolina.

            The pleading to be filed with the Court, if the matter cannot be resolved, details how Mayor Steve Schewel, City Council and others, demonized the Jewish community in stereotypical anti-Semitic fashion by making false and highly misleading claims about the State of Israel and its police training programs. 

            The City of Durham, through its elected officials, disregarded Durham Police Chief Cerelyn Davis’s endorsement of the Israel Exchange program in which she said that she was never instructed on methods to oppress Palestinian Arabs or any other group.  Nevertheless, City officials passed a “statement” which was knowingly false, claiming that Israel was a source of “militarized policing” and thus prohibited any future involvement in the Israel program.  None had ever been planned.

            The attorneys explained in their correspondence to the city attorney that the city and the rest of the Defendants would be given 30 days to determine if there is any serious interest in prefiling negotiations.  Thereafter, the Complaint will be filed with the federal court, and litigation will ensue.

Editor’s note: The title of this post, “I am not a Jew with Trembling Knees” was taken from a Menachem Begin quote featured in the NCCI announcement of this complaint. 

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.


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

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

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

Durham City Council Sued Over Alleged Violation of Open-Meetings Statute

Durham HRC, Israel, Durham City Council

Using public records obtained by a Voice4Israel investigation, a Durham resident filed a lawsuit yesterday alleging that the Durham City Council used email communications in violation of the open-meetings statute related to the writing and passing of the April 16 anti-Israel City Council statementMayor Steve Schewel and Mayor Pro Tempore Jillian Johnson initially called the April statement the “Israel resolution.” The lawsuit asks, “For judgement declaring…the  simultaneous email communication among a majority of council members were official meetings of the Durham City Council in violation of the Open Meetings Law and clearing that any action taken, considered, discussed or deliberations as a result is null and void.” For details, read these articles:

Durham Council Members Sued Over Alleged Violations of Open-Government Law

Indy Week article

Durham leaders face a second lawsuit about policing statement that mentioned Israel

Herald Sun article