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

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

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

Respected Professor and Jewish Federation Leader Supports HRC Draft Report

Lewis Margolis, Israel, HRC, Durham City Council, Letters to Durham HRC, 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. 

Dr. Lewis Margolis wrote the letter below to the Durham HRC. Lewis Margolis, MD, MPH, is a Jewish Federation leader and retired associate professor of maternal and child health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. He has received the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs’ (AMCHP) Vince Hutchins Leadership Award.

Read more letters to the Durham HRC here.

Letter to the Durham Human Relations Commission 

November 25, 2018

Dear Ms. Standaert and Mr. Correa:

I am deeply troubled by the mis-guided April 16 resolution of the Durham City Council and expect, hope, that the Human Relations Commission will act according to its purpose and advise that the reference to Israel be deleted. I expect and hope that the Human Relations Commission will help the Durham City Council to understand that the mis-informed singling out of Israel amounts to an anti-Semitic intent and has no justified place in the resolution of April 16. Many members of the Jewish community, leaders and non-leaders, feel marginalized by this action of the Durham City Council. The first step in the re-emergence of anti-Semitism is when it moves from the fringes to the mainstream of politics, such as a Council resolution. Sadly and alarmingly, the members of the City Council have acted as if this resolution poses no political harm to them, the second ominous step in the emergence of anti-Semitism.

As long-time resident of the Durham-Chapel Hill community, I appreciate the value that open-minded tolerance has added to our community and fear the harm that results when that value is diminished by careless political thinking. Please keep me informed of your actions. I trust that the Human Rights Council will act appropriately, consistent with its mission.

Lewis Margolis
Chapel Hill, NC

World Renowned Historian Supports HRC Draft Report

Gerhard L. Weinberg, Israel, Durham City Council, HRC, Durham Human Relations Commission

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. 

Gerhard L. Weinberg wrote the letter below to the Durham HRC. Dr. Weinberg is a world renowned historian, North Carolina resident, and Professor Emeritus of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Weinberg is author of many highly acclaimed books including A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II and Hitler’s Foreign Policy 1933-1939: The Road to World War II.

Read more letters to the Durham HRC here.

Letter to the Durham Human Relations Commission 

November 17, 2018

Dear Ms. Standaert,

While my wife and I live in Efland, we belong to Judea Reform Congregation in Durham.  As a retired professor of history who taught the first course on the Holocaust ever offered at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill I was astonished and disappointed to hear about the Durham City Council’s anti-Israel action.  Now I have been pleased to learn of the excellent report on this matter prepared for the city’s HRC which you chair.  I do hope that the HRC will approve the report as its official position on this issue.

Respectfully yours,

Gerhard L. Weinberg

 

Progressive Jewish Community Leader Supports HRC Draft Proposal

Pilar Rocha-Goldberg, Israel, HRC, 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. 

Durham resident and community leader Pilar Rocha-Goldberg wrote the letter below to the HRC in support of their well researched draft report. Rocha-Goldberg is President and CEO of the El Centro Hispano, an organization that advocates “for equity and inclusion for Hispanics/Latinos in the Triangle Area of North Carolina.”

Read more letters to the Durham HRC here

Letter to the Durham Human Relations Commission 

November 24, 2018

Dear Diane and Ricardo,

I live and work in Durham. I would like to start by thanking you for the draft recommendations to Mayor Schewel and the Durham City Council regarding the April 16 statement, which included language specifically against Israel and no other foreign country.

I see what transpired at the City Council as a very serious issue of anti-Semitism arising from an action of a Government – I don’t say this lightly, I say this as a progressive community organizer who works hard for equality and human rights.

A small group of anti-Israel activists lobbied the Durham City Council with the message, based on lies and innuendo, that Israel trains police to “terrorize Black and Brown communities here in the US.” It is almost incomprehensible to imagine that these anti-Israel activists succeeded in getting the Durham City Council to single out Israel without a shred of evidence to support such hateful claims.

In addition, I have been troubled by the lack of response by the Mayor Pro Tempore to an anti-Semitic email she received about me when I was applying for the open City Council seat in January (see pasted below my letter). I would have hoped that Jillian Johnson would have responded to her anti-Israel supporters by clearly stating that opposing my candidacy because I attend a certain synagogue is simply wrong and anti-Semitic. She did not.

Please note that the email to Jillian Johnson was written by Elyse Crystall. Crystall is one of the anti-Israel activists who spoke at the November HRC meeting. CC on the email were other leading architects of the virulently anti-Israel petition and campaign – Tom Stern, Sandra Korn, Beth Bruch Noah Rubin-Blose, and Gabriel Baldasare. Some of these anti-Israel activists had the audacity to lecture the HRC at the November meeting on the definition of anti-Semitism. Please don’t take advice on anti-Semitism from people who opposed my candidacy for City Council because of what synagogue I pray in. These folks should be taking sensitivity classes, not lecturing on the subject.

It is clear they have an “agenda” that is not opposed to employing anti-Semitism to see it succeed.

I believe that the Council, with their April 16 “Israel Resolution,” has contributed to an attack on Israel – the Jewish homeland. To many of us, this feels like an attack on the Jewish community. There was no value to mentioning Israel at all in the statement – doing so only caused pain and divisiveness and made the mainstream Jewish community feel attacked and unwelcome in Durham.

Criticizing Israel’s government is totally acceptable. We Jews do that all the time. Specifically targeting and singling out Israel at the City Council level, without targeting any other country, is divisive, discriminatory, and has created an environment that is welcoming and nurturing of anti-Semitism. The April 16 City Council statement – and the fast-tracking, clandestine process that enabled it – is arrogant and undemocratic. It has enabled anti-Semitism to flourish in Durham.

See this important column in the Washington Post by Rabbi Jill Jacobs, “How to tell when criticism of Israel is actually anti-Semitism.” Jacobs, a progressive Jew like me, stated that the Durham City Council’s statement against Israel amounts to an example of left wing anti-Semitism. I agree.

Lastly, I am very thankful for your draft HRC report. In addition to recommending that the City Council remove the singling out of Israel from their April 16 statement, I deeply appreciate the HRC’s careful detailing of the City Council’s lack of transparency and fairness in this entire process.

With all respect,

Pilar Rocha-Goldberg

Durham, NC

Israel, Israel Resolution, Durham HRC
Israel, Israel Resolution, Durham HRC

Supporting the HRC Report in Durham

Voice4Israel and the Jewish Federation of Durham-Chapel Hill jointly sent this letter today, on behalf of the mainstream Jewish community, to the Durham Human Relations Commission. 

The Case for Supporting the Report of the HRC Subcommittee on the April 16 Council Statement

Dear Members of the Human Relations Commission,

As we have noted with appreciation, the HRC draft report was written with great care and clearly based on research, evidence, and listening to many people on all sides of this issue. Its preparation is admirable. We wish the Durham City Council had applied such great care and sensitivity in their April 16 statement. If the Council had, we would have never needed to bring this issue to the HRC. The HRC subcommittee is a wonderful role model for how the City Council should strive to seek out and listen to all voices.

It bears emphasis that we stated our primary concern from the beginning: “The City Council reached a hasty decision that made the mainstream Jewish Community feel marginalized and unjustly singled out.” We believe they profoundly misunderstand what the modern State of Israel means to Judaism as much of the American Jewish community understands it and we invite City Council members to increase their outreach to Jewish institutions and local community members to foster meaningful relationships and restore trust between the Jewish community and the city of Durham.

To be “marginalized” means having the community despise what we love, based on lies. We embrace justified criticism of Israel, but big lies are intolerable. There is nothing that has happened in Durham or any other city that can be traced to exchange programs. The advocates of leaving the name of Israel in the document chose to exploit the very legitimate effort of the Council to write a policy regarding policing. They asked the Council to add their campaign against Israel to the drafting. Their plan had been formulated and implemented in a national anti-Israel group. Their assertion that the subcommittee draft that includes removal of the name, Israel, from the Statement supports an unjustified and hurtful claim.

On the other hand, to leave the name in does nothing whatsoever to the policy to improve policing.

The assertion we heard Tuesday night that they are insulted by our request to remove the Council’s insult to us is most unusual. For us to object to an insult and ask that it be removed is quite different and cannot be insulting. Put more directly, there is no inherent right for anyone, especially a Government to insult, especially if it adds nothing of value and based on a big lie.

We will try to outline some key issues that arose in the discussion Tuesday night.

Those of you who were at the previous meeting, when the petitioners also discussed this issue in great detail will remember a set of influential speakers from the same group who gave the same talks. While there were new individuals who spoke Tuesday night, their ethnic group leaders had already given virtually the same talks.

We heard from them that Israel must receive a public rebuke based on their memories from another land. They and others have been saying so consistently for decades. Using gross lies (see attachment 1) to link the troubles in the Middle East to those here in the US was the basis of the national organizations that put together the plan executed first in Durham. There is no truth to their accusations of a causal relationship between police training in Israel and oppression of minorities in the US.

As we said in our first presentation: “The petition put forth from the Jewish Voice for Peace and other Israel-demonizing groups, which initiated the process in Durham is part of this hurtful process and is a painful echo of the ancient “blood libel” *. The petition includes the following: “The Israeli Defense Forces and the Israel Police have a long history of violence and harm against Palestinian people and Jews of Color.” This accusation is a classic case of using the Big Lie Technique: tell a big lie, repeat it often, until people start believing it is true. It added another big lie: “These tactics further militarize U.S. police forces that train in Israel, and this training helps the police terrorize Black and Brown communities here in the US.” There is no causal relationship between police training in Israel and oppression of minorities in the US. Charles H. Ramsey, Commissioner (retired) of the Philadelphia Police and past co-chair of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, explained “allegations that exchange programs with Israel are racist… nothing could be further from the truth… simply not true.”

We realize the deeply felt pain of those who suggest that Israel is evil, but that is irrelevant to the affairs of the City of Durham because not even the most avid Council supporter of including the name of Israel on the Statement could find any causal relationship claimed by them. It is valid to criticize Israel when the criticism is based on verifiable facts. However, when it is based on lies, it is illegitimate and harmful. It is not the job of the City Council to issue statements about foreign government actions that have no relation to our city, particularly when unfounded. We too object to adversity caused in Israel/Palestine by both sides, but we did not petition the Council to delegitimize the Palestinians.

According to its website, the Human Relations Commission provides open channels of useful communications among the various racial, religious, ethnic and economic groups in Durham and between those groups and the City Council so that misunderstandings and wide differences leading to conflict may be ameliorated. We ask that the Human Relations Commission formally conclude that this governmental decree was discriminatory and to call upon the City Council to take necessary corrective action.

As the sub-committee draft so carefully explains, there is no need to mention Israel in the April 16 statement. The purpose and vision of the statement initially named “the Israel Resolution” by Mayor Schewel, was to communicate the council’s vision for improving community relations between police and residents. As Councilperson Mark-Anthony Middleton has repeatedly and publicly said, Israel has nothing to do with this. The reason one has to believe that the Council agreed to include Israel in the Statement arose from the inflammatory petition Council members had received, an information sheet filled with outrageous lies and is attached above.

The Statement needs to be changed because it supports and legitimizes a deliberately concocted Petition which presents falsehoods as facts and attributes causal relationship when there is none. It criticizes “militaristic” training and then blames Israel for a non-existent pattern. These inclusions make the statement deeply offensive to rabbis, secular Jewish leaders, hundreds of others, and any fair-minded person, primarily because none of the allegations is true.

Even the claim, which has been repeated to the Commission twice, that no other country shares in police exchanges with other countries is false as seen here where England, Hungary, Canada, Brazil, Austria and Egypt are named; and reported here.

The question of the exact definition of the term “anti-Semitism is not relevant because all parties have agreed that the Council did not intend to write an anti-Semitic Document. We contend that unwarranted Anti-Israel Government sponsored action can and has led to Anti-Semitism by others. This history appears to be an unintended consequence. It is the responsibility of the Council to correct that.

In the words of Bishop Godbee: “When any population of our city is radically adversely affected by the words of its leaders, it is incumbent on the leaders to retract and apologize and not double down on their actions. For the leaders of our city to vilify a proposed program and demonize the people supporting it, based on empirical evidence, is an egregious use of power. To make such a claim is unacceptable for any reasonable human being. The leadership should be measured by its ability to serve all in the city. He ended by saying:” we have a wonderful opportunity here, which is to heal the great hurts in the city.

The request to reopen the Sub-Committee meetings to hear more from those individuals who spoke Tuesday night is an exemplification of the same pattern of provocation these individuals and groups have been using. They will repeat the same claims, lies, and distorted facts you have heard. They claim they have had bad experiences both here and there. That was the same messaging by their friends, heard at the last meeting. If you are going to resume the Sub-Committee hearings, we repeat a request we have made several times to both the Council and the Commission: please also take testimony from Police Chiefs Davis and Ramsey (and many others who participated in such exchanges) in order to hear a clear first-person account of what actually happens in the police exchanges in Israel.

Finally, we have included for convenience (second attachment) our last prepared document. Please read carefully.

Sincerely and gratefully,

On Behalf of the vast majority of Jewish Members in the area affected by the Statement

Robert Gutman, Co-Chair of the Voice for Israel

Jill Madsen, CEO of the Durham Chapel Jewish Federation

Michael Ross, Chair of the Voice for Israel

Larry Rocamora, President of the Durham Chapel Jewish Federation

 

*The phrase “blood libel” refers to the ancient lie that Christian children were killed to use their blood in the making of Matzah.