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Jewish Voice for Peace Activists Interrupt Bibi at GA
By Josh Nathan-Kazis/Yitzhak Benhorin
Jewish Voice for Peace/Y-net/Press TV
November 8-9, 2010,7340,L-3981697,00.html
C:\Documents and Settings\user01\Local Settings\Temp\WPM$12E1.HTM

New Orleans - Benjamin Netanyahu was interrupted five times by protesters who shouted and held up signs while the Israeli prime minister was delivering an address on Monday to the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America.

The protesters shouted �the loyalty oaths delegitimize Israel� and �the occupation delegitimizes Israel� while being escorted from the room. Their signs bore similar messages.

The disrupters were members of a group of young protesters convened by Jewish Voice for Peace, a left-wing activist organization. The protesters said that they were responding to the General Assembly�s focus on what has been called an international effort to delegitimize Israel. At a General Assembly that has made much of the involvement of 600 college students, the protesters claimed that they represented a political perspective and an age cohort that deserved a place at the conference.

But the group�s pretensions to representing a generational voice, manifested in the publication of a document roughly outlining their positions and titled the Young Jewish Declaration, were called into question by the presence of scores of young, pro-Israel activists in the halls of the G.A.

�I think the point is more that there needs to be space for people like us, people who don�t fit into the paradigm that�s been laid out,� said a member of the protest group, Eyal Mazor, 22, a recent graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, who was born in Israel. Though involved in planning the action, Mazor was not one of the activists who disrupted the speech. �We need to be seen as a legitimate part of the Jewish community,� he said.

The protesters rose and shouted one at a time, separated by pauses of a few minutes. While the first few were escorted out with minimal interaction with the crowd, the fourth appeared to be pulled down violently by people sitting around him. One crowd member wearing a yarmulke stood on a chair to tear a sign carried by another protester.

According to members of the activist group, three of the disrupters were being detained until Netanyahu left the building and the remaining two had been let go.

Individual activists said in interviews that they supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, and JVP supports the right to engage in BDS campaigns, although a document created by the group does not mention BDS.

The Forward was given limited access to the protesters before the disruption on the condition that the information not be published until after the disruption took place.

On the night of November 7, in a Unitarian Universalist church a few miles from the site of the convention, a dozen young activists sat in a room crowded with half-drawn signs, debating the contours of the next day�s protest.

The activists had been based in the building since November 4, two days before the general assembly�s official kickoff. Convened by JVP, the group of 14 had spent two days engaged in training and skills sharing and preparing for their actions. Members ranged in age from 17 to 39.

Activists initially told the Forward that they planned to silently hoist signs. But in the meeting the night before the action, the plan seemed to be shifting. Rae Abileah, a staff organizer for the anti-war group Code Pink, was arguing for the disrupters to shout while being removed from the room. Abileah said that the time between when the signs are taken from the protesters and when they were removed from the room could total 15 minutes � time that could be used to shout slogans.

�We are often far [more] concerned with being polite and being politically correct and being nice than we are with human rights, dignity, justice, and international law,� Abileah said later in an interview. Abileah said that she has participated in similar disruptions at two recent AIPAC conferences.

In the end, Abileah apparently won out. She was among those who rose to interrupt Netayahu.

Communications staff at the JFNA knew of plans to disrupt Netanyahu�s speech as early as the evening of November 6. Staff members became aware that at least one person registered as a member of the press was actually an activist. JFNA staff sought to intercept any protesters going in disguised as press before they could enter the ballroom. It�s not clear whether they were successful.

Asked about the JFNA staff�s concerns about a disruption of the speech hours before the second plenary, Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles president Jay Sanderson said, �I would rather my enemy be standing right in front of me than hiding. I�m not afraid of any kind of protest. At least we have an opportunity to respond.� Sanderson has been one of the architects of the Israel Action Network, the new JFNA anti-divestment initiative that has been a focus of the program at the G.A.

After the disruption, Jewish Council for Public Affairs senior vice president Martin Raffel, who is leading the Israel Action Network, said that the disruption demonstrated the atmosphere advocates for Israel face. �Trying to prevent the audience from hearing what the prime minister has to say is in itself a form of delegitimization,� Raffel said.

This is not the first time young activists have disrupted the federation movement�s annual meeting. In 1969, the North American Jewish Student�s Network conducted a sit-in at the general assembly of Council of Jewish Federations, an organizational ancestor of the JFNA, to protest what was described as the Jewish establishment�s lack of attention to issues concerning young Jews. They were ultimately invited to offer their own speaker at the event.

This week, JVP activists attended G.A. sessions and panels, some as participants and some posing as members of the press. JVP paid for the tickets of those attending as participants.

Activists offered different rationales for their decision to disrupt the prime minister�s speech and undertake other actions at the G.A. Some spoke of a feeling of alienation from the Jewish community; others of an imperative to confront what they saw as injustice.

�I think I�m very much succeeding in practicing tikkun olam and derech eretz by standing up for the rights for all people,� said Hana King, 17, a freshman at Swarthmore College. �It such hypocrisy for these Jewish leaders that I grew up admiring to say that, you know, that the Holocaust was a tragedy but what we�re doing to [the Palestinians] is fine.�

�We have to get their attention somehow,� she said.

King was in the room during the disruption, but did not stand or shout.

Other young people at the conference, whose registration fees had been subsidized by the JFNA and other groups, said that they supported the federation�s emphasis on opposing the movement to boycott Israel. One McGill senior attending with MASA, a Jewish Agency for Israel-funded program that facilitates longer trips to Israel for Diaspora Jews, said that she appreciated the support Jewish groups were marshaling to combat Israel delegitimzation on campus. �I think its speaks wonders to be supported,� said Aily Leibtag. �It means a lot to me to know that they care about what�s going on for us.�


Israeli who disrupted PM`s speech: We were raised on human rights

Youngster who heckled Netanyahu during GA address in New Orleans says US Jews distancing themselves from community due to `expectation of blind loyalty to Israel`

`When I got up to disrupt the prime minister`s speech, he was speaking of the de-legitimization of Israel, and I yelled out that I am an Israeli and that it is the occupation, the Gaza blockade and the loyalty oath which delegitimize Israel,` said Matan Cohen, one of five protestors who heckled Benjamin Netanyahu during his keynote address to the Jewish Federations of North America�s General Assembly in New Orleans on Monday.

`We (protestors) decided every five-six minutes one of us would get up and yell. We were detained and later transferred to the custody of the Secret Service,` he told Ynet.

Cohen is a member of Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization that works to achieve a `lasting peace that recognizes the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians for security and self-determination.`

Cohen, 21, was one of the founders of Anarchists Against the Wall, an Israeli group supporting the Palestinian campaign against the construction of the West Bank security barrier. Four years ago, he was injured from a rubber bullet fired by security forces during an anti-fence rally in the West Bank.

He is currently enrolled at Hampshire College in Massachusetts, which became the first of any college or university in the US to divest from companies due to their involvement in the `Israeli occupation of Palestine.`

`Israel`s actions are the cause of its deteriorating status in the international community,` Cohen said. `Many young Jewish Americans are distancing themselves from the community, which expects their blind loyalty to Israel.

`Netanyahu was expecting a supportive audience, but as Jews and Israelis we will not remain silent. An entire community that was raised on human rights will not turn a blind eye.`


Netanyahu heckled in New Orleans

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ended an address at the Jewish Federations General Assembly in New Orleans amid repeatedly heckling from the audience.

The first heckler was forced out of the plush ballroom after he interrupted Netanyahu barely moments into his 30-minute speech, the Israeli daily Ha`aretz reported on its website on Monday.

The protester condemned the so-called `loyalty oath` law approved by Netanyahu`s cabinet last month, which requires Israeli citizens to take an oath of loyalty to Israel as `a Jewish and democratic state.`

Subsequent interruptions of regular intervals protested Israel`s occupation of Palestinian land and Tel Aviv`s policy in the occupied territories.

Hannah King from the Jewish Voices for Peace, which organized the protests, said the protesters had been forced out of the hotel and were handed over to the police.

The 17-year-old activist said that she had been driven to action as she felt Israel`s behavior contradicts Jewish values.

�We believe that the actions that Israel is taking, like settlements, like the occupation, like the loyalty oath, are contrary to the Jewish values that we learnt in Jewish day school,� she said.

She condemned `oppressing people in refugee camps` as `a hypocrisy that I cannot abide,� urging action against all establishments that abuse human rights.

`I don`t believe that Netanyahu heard our message but our message was aimed at the other young Jews at the convention,` King noted.


Young Jews Challenge American Jewish Leadership At Jewish Federation General Assembly in New Orleans

PRESS RELEASE Jewish Voice for Peace, Israelis and Palestinians: Two Peoples, One Future

Antonia House, 646-541-3174
Matan Cohen: 917-460-6350
Eyal Mazor: 408-718-2942

Young Jews Challenge American Jewish Leadership At Jewish Federation General Assembly in New


Disrupt Bibi Netanyahu speech to say Israel’s own behavior is making
it a pariah, student and peace groups that are trying to stop
Israeli human rights violations

[November 8, 2010, New Orleans] A group of young Jews with the Young
Leadership Institute of Jewish Voice for Peace has traveled to the
largest gathering of Jewish leaders in the US, the Jewish Federation
General Assembly, to confront leaders on an approach to saving
Israel’s reputation and building young Jewish identity they say
actually turns young Jews away.

Five of the young adults, including 3 Israelis and Israeli–Americans,
are disrupting a speech this morning by Israeli Prime Minister Bibi
Netanyahu with banners that said: and

and one of the below-
The Settlements Delegitimize Israel
The Occupation Delegitimizes Israel
The Siege of Gaza Delegitimizes Israel
The Loyalty Oath Delegitimizes Israel
Silencing Dissent Delegitimizes Israel

The young Jews’ website,, presents the
group’s Young Jewish Declaration, a compelling vision of collective
identity, purpose and values written as an invitation and call to
action for peers who care about Israel and Palestine. It is also a
strong challenge to elders.

These actions are in part a protest of the Jewish Federations of North
America (JFNA) and Jewish Public Affairs Council (JCPA) newly
announced $6 million dollar program to target campus, church, peace
and human rights groups that are working to end Israel’s human rights
violations through nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions
pressure campaigns. The Federations and JCPA are calling this
initiative the “Israel Action Network.” Critics say it is a “Shoot
the Messenger” approach.

“We’re here to call out the elephant in the middle of the room. Israel
continues to expropriate Palestinian land for Jewish-only
communities,passes increasingly racist laws in the Knesset, the
foreign minister wants to strip Palestinian citizens of their
citizenship — these are the reasons Israel is becoming a pariah in
the world, NOT the human rights groups that are using nonviolent
economic pressure to hold Israel accountable. We would be dismissing
the values we were raised on if we did not speak up.”

Eitan Issacson, Israeli-American, Seattle

“The Jewish establishment thinks that all we want are free trips to
Israel and feel-good service projects. That is in insult to our
intelligence and to the Jewish values we were brought up on. What we
want is for the American Jewish community to stand up and say that
Israel’s ongoing violations of Palestinian human rights are wrong and
that we will not continue to support it with our dollars, our
political strength and our moral abilities. We are the next generation
of American Jews, proud of our heritage, strongly committed to Jewish
life. We live our Jewish values in opposing Israel’s human rights
violations and we invite – no, implore –all Jews to join in this
urgent struggle.”

Hanna King, Swarthmore College, Philadelphia

“We were surprised by how many other young Jews were enthusiastic
about the perspective that we brought to the General Assembly. It was
scary to ask questions of sometimes hostile panelists, but in fact
many people our age were supportive and even asked their own critical
questions. We realized this is a terrific opportunity to organize.”

Antonia House, graduate student, NYU

“Right now, the choice for those of us who care about the future of
Israel and Palestine is between the status quo— which includes
continued settlement expansion, the siege of Gaza, and the racist
Israeli foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman– or Boycotts, Divestment
and Sanctions. Given that choice, Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions
will win every time.”

Matan Cohen, Israeli, Hampshire College

The students also announced the creation of a spoof Birthright Trip
called Taglit-Lekulanu,
All, open to Palestinian and Jewish-Americans which they followed up
with a spoof denial. The goal of the spoof was to highlight the
one-sided narrative that Birthright presents, the ways it renders
Palestinians invisible. The rebuttal laid bare the problematic
assumptions underlying Birthright such as the emphasis on marrying
Jews and procreating.

Participants in the institute include students from schools as diverse
as UCLA, NYU, UC Berkeley, Hampshire, and Swarthmore.

A new Jewish Voice for Peace campus chapter was recently started at
Brandeis University.

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