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

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.

Standing with Jewish Brothers and Sisters

Voice4Israel, Bishop Ronald Godbee

Voice4Israel is proud and honored to share with you this letter to the Durham Human Relations Commission (HRC) by our ally, friend, and mentor, Bishop Ronald L. Godbee.

Bishop Godbee, author of Why Leaders Fail, serves as the lead pastor of the River church in Durham, North Carolina. Read Bishop Godbee’s full bio here

Nov 14, 2018

Human Relations commission
807 E. Main Street
Durham NC 27701
Attention: Diane Standaert

Human Relations Commission,

"I’m writing you in regards to the discriminatory statement released by the Durham City Council involving Israel…As an African American leader who has suffered the injury of prejudice and bias I would be negligent not to stand with my Jewish brothers and sisters in this very unfortunate incident. I thank you in advance for your time and consideration in this matter."

Bishop Ronald L. Godbee

I pray that this communication finds you well. I’m writing you in regards to the discriminatory statement released by the Durham City Council involving Israel. I am the lead Pastor of The River Church, Durham NC and I speak on behalf of myself and my congregation. As a leader in the City of Durham I was profoundly impacted by the blatant disregard for the Councils responsibility to represent all the citizens of Durham and to articulate a position that reflected its heart for all those who make up our wonderful city. To cast the Jewish in such a disparaging light is a reckless and egregious use of power.

I’m clear as a leader that certain decisions have to be made, and when made, they may seem to favor one side over the other. The issue here is not who’s being favored, but it is who’s being injured. When the injury exceeds the favor it is incumbent upon the City Council to rethink its approach and to reword this injurious document. The intent of the council is greatly overshadowed by the outcome. When an entire community on your watch as a leader is exclaiming its disapproval and concern, I would think that a responsible, conscientious leader would immediately suggest the wording be altered and not double down to demand the language of the document remain as is.

The naming of Israel as a causal link to police violence against brown communities is not only irresponsible but it exudes a prejudice that for anyone reading this language from a minority group is cause for pause and great concern for the direction this City Council is taking our beloved city. This document and its intent can clearly stand alone and convey its sentiment without the naming of Israel. Please secure the integrity of this city and the melting pot that we hope it to be, by asking the City Council to remove the name of Israel from this document. As an African American leader who has suffered the injury of prejudice and bias I would be negligent not to stand with my Jewish brothers and sisters in this very unfortunate incident. I thank you in advance for your time and consideration in this matter.

Serving into greatness,
Bishop Ronald L. Godbee Sr.
Lead Pastor of The River Church
www.theriverdurham.com

HRC Recommends Durham Removes Israel from Divisive Statement

Israel, Durham

In response to a complaint jointly filed by the Durham-Chapel Hill Jewish Federation and Voice4Israel, Durham’s Human Relations Commission (HRC) plans on proposing at their monthly meeting tonight that the Durham City Council rewrite their divisive April 16, 2018 statement by removing the singling out of Israel. 

The HRC recommends revisions to the April 16 statement that are far better written and omits Israel’s name.

Voice4Israel is deeply appreciative of the HRC’s research, outreach, efforts, thoughtfulness, and time spent to bring clarity to this vital issue.  

Voice4Israel is deeply appreciative of the HRC’s research, outreach, efforts, thoughtfulness, and time spent to bring clarity to this vital issue.

In their draft report, the HRC writes, “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…”

The HRC plans to vote on this proposal at their December 4 meeting.

Voice4Israel will be following this issue closely and bringing you more news and analysis in the coming days and weeks.

Show Your Support

We urge you to consider writing the HRC, to their Chair Diane Standaert, using her email: diane1009@gmail.com.

Your email to Ms. Standaert should be brief and complimentary, expressing appreciation to the subcommittee for their intense study and care. Urge all the HRC commissioners to support the draft. Avoid all mention of the anti-Israel activists who petitioned the HRC and City Council. You may be tempted to argue relatively small parts of the HRC’s report, but that will not help and may hinder our getting a vote of approval. If you live in Durham it is meaningful, so be sure to include that in your letter.

We at Voice4Israel are grateful for your support and patience in this meaningful effort.