Thursday, December 17, 2009 | return to: news & features, local


Now with Code Pink, ex-Diller teen prepares for Gaza Freedom March

by dan pine

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Rae Abileah first visited Israel with her BBYO chapter, then as a Diller Teen fellow. She remembers feeling “an amazing homecoming” the first time she stepped on the tarmac at Ben Gurion Airport.

That was then.

Now, as the grassroots coordinator for far-left organization Code Pink: Women for Peace, she takes part in protests against Israel and what she calls the “illegal siege” of Gaza.

Rae Abileah participates at a Code Pink protest during “Tel Aviv Beach Day” in New York’s Central Park in August.
She will be one of more than 40 Bay Area residents taking part in the Gaza Freedom March, a three-day trek from the Egyptian-Gaza border into Gaza, beginning Dec. 29. Up to 1,000 people from 40 countries are expected to participate.

There will also be local Gaza actions: a Dec. 27 vigil in San Francisco’s Union Square marking one year since the launch of Operation Cast Lead (Israel’s war on Hamas) and a march across the Golden Gate Bridge on Dec. 31.

Abileah, 27, is one of a handful of local Jews taking part in the march in Gaza.

“As a Jewish American of Israeli descent,” Abileah said, “I feel a responsibility to bear witness to the suffering of the people in Gaza, and be part of the transformation that will ultimately tear down the walls that enclose the world’s largest open-air prison.”

As one of the few paid staffers with Code Pink, an anti-war group composed mainly of women, the San Francisco resident travels the country organizing street protests. Most of those in the recent past focused on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Abileah said that changed a year ago.

“It was hard for me to see the reality of what the Israeli government is doing,” Abileah added. “Cast Lead was a real eye-opener.”

Abileah emphasized that Code Pink (one of the main organizers of the march) does not necessarily support the Hamas government in Gaza.

“This march is purely about the blockade of Gazans’ basic human rights in the Geneva Convention,” she said. “It’s not about taking one side or another, joining with a political party in power. It’s about being on the side of innocent people.”

She cites as proof the fact that last year, on a tour of Gaza she co-led, she also visited Sderot, the southern Israeli town besieged by Hamas rocket fire.

To local pro-Israel activist Dr. Michael Harris, Abileah and other Jews participating in the Gaza Freedom March are deluded. The leader of StandWithUs/S.F. Voice for Israel cuts them little slack.

He says what Abileah and her colleagues are doing is “providing support for Hamas, and that doesn’t do anything to further the cause of peace. I would say the people going on this are overtly against the existence of a Jewish state of Israel. They’re not trying to bring about peace. They are trying to encourage the eternal jihad against the existence of Israel.”

Whether that’s true for some of the Gaza marchers, Abileah’s case is more complicated. Her father, the son of Holocaust survivors, was born in Israel. Her great-uncle, Joseph Abileah, was a famous Israeli peace activist and conscientious objector.

Raised in Half Moon Bay, Abileah and her family belonged to Burlingame’s Peninsula Temple Sholom. She participating in temple activities, then and after college joined a mission to El Salvador sponsored by American Jewish World Service.

Proud of her Jewish heritage, she said, “The principle that resonated with me was tikkun olam, putting our faith into action. “It’s such an amazing legacy of Jewish activism I learned in college. I feel I’m, doing the work my ancestors have paid the pathway.”

She also says being Jewish helps her understand why most Jews resist condemning Israel as harshly as does Code Pink and similar groups.

“I have a certain compassion and understanding for the American Jewish response around Israel,” Abileah added. “I can see how it’s possible to be P.E.P. — progressive except Palestine. I was like that for a long time.”

Harris doesn’t buy it.

“There are plenty of people who support a Jewish state of Israel and also want to see peace between [Israel] and an Arab state of Palestine,” he said. “But these aren’t the people doing the Gaza march. I think if someone is going to those lengths, they’re not being duped. They know exactly what they are doing.”

He also promises his pro-Israel activists will be on hand to counter the upcoming local Gaza protests, which have hit a small bump already. Glide Memorial Church decided against hosting a Dec. 27 “memorial service” for Palestinian casualties of Operation Cast Lead that had been scheduled in conjunction with the Union Square protest, prompting local Palestinian-American activist Noura Erakat to call the church’s decision “overt racism.”

Despite that cancellation and expected counter-protests from S.F. Voice for Israel, Abileah is not deterred.

“This is an [Israeli] government that is doing illegal things every day,” she said. “We have a moral responsibility to speak up when that is happening.”


Posted by elliotc02
12/17/2009  at  05:31 PM
Why is this news?

Why are the coming vacation plans of Rae Abileah news worthy of inclusion in the J? If she has a beef with Israel’s security policy and wants to vacation in Gaza with like minded folk, fine. But why is this covered? Why not cover someone doing something useful, praiseworthy, or, for that matter, interesting?

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Posted by Jeff Blankfort
12/17/2009  at  06:36 PM
Going to Gaza IS News

Elliot asks why the story of Rae Abileah going to Gaza to participate in a march designed to call attention to Israel’s ongoing inhumane blockade of its 1.5 million residents is news.

I suspect he would prefer that no one, Jew or non-Jew concerned themselves with the issue.

Rae represents what is best in a Jewish tradition of fighting for justice that has all but disappeared and which has unfortunately been replaced by one represented by himself and Michael Harris that might best be labeled,  “Just US.”

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Posted by Janice
12/17/2009  at  07:00 PM
A woman of conscience

Rae represents what I believe is what Judaism should be - a compassion for all and not just our tribe.

She has taken off the blinders that cover the eyes and minds of too many of us in the Jewish community who fail to understand how our people who have lived under oppression have now become oppressors.

Rae stands in the finest tradition of our people and I wish her luck on her trip to the battered and bombed out Gaza strip where she will be welcomed, not as an enemy but as a friend.

Would that there were more Rae Abileah’s in this world.

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Posted by Jack Kessler
12/17/2009  at  08:57 PM
Why Abileah is a clueless bigot

The Israeli embargo against Gaza would be meaningless if the Egyptian crossings were not also closed.  Yet Code Pink and other such folk complain about Israel, never about Egypt.  Why is that?

Could it be that Gaza is only a pretext for their bigotry against Israel?

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Posted by BayAreaJew
12/18/2009  at  12:01 PM
Why this IS news, and why Ms. Abileah is wrong

1) This is an incredibly newsworthy article. What could be more important that publicizing minority views in the Bay Area Jewish community? Regardless of how ignorant Ms. Abileah is, that doesn’t change the level of public interest in her activities. (Which is high, judging by the tenor of the preceding comments.)

2) Ms. Abileah is wrong because she is ANTI-Israel, instead of PRO-peace and human rights. Her comments reveal her to actively blame/oppose/complain about Israel, instead of fighting for constructive change in the region. I’m proud to be “Pro-Israel and pro-peace,” and I know that my Jewish heritage supports my desire to see peaceful change in the region. But nowhere does Ms. Abileah’s Judaism permit her to blindly and automatically blame Israel without working toward a constructive solution.

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Posted by MendelsohnToday
12/19/2009  at  12:42 AM
Who Should Be A Jew?

Maybe the Catholic Church had the right idea when it came to excommunication. When I read about Jewish Groups such as, “J Street” & now “Code Pink” that are directly doing harm to The State of Israel,  Jewish Causes, Jewish Politicians and Jews around the world it’s time to raise the bar and ask the question, who is a Jew & what criteria should be used to kick Jews out of our faith. When Jews such as
Rae Abileah of “Code Pink”, are protesting against Israel going to Gaza giving comfort, aid, assistance and media exposure to the sworn enemy of Israel
they should be banned from Judaism forever. Those that planned the Jewish Film Festival in SF that allowed an anti Israeli Documentary to be shown at a Stated Jewish Event should be denied entrance to all Jewish Organizations, Temples and denied entrance into the State of Israel forever.
Every member of, “J Street” should be banned from Jewish Life. “Yes Black Listed”, forever. You ask is this too harsh a punishment for, Dumb Jews who doesn’t really know what their doing?  These are highly educated Jews who know exactly what their doing and know they can commit these damaging actions with impunity. Self hating Jews, just look at the face above of Rae Abileah, is this the face of Happy Young Jewish Girl who was once in BBYO? I see a lot of anger & hate in her eyes.
80% of most Jews have no affiliation with Temple, Jewish Groups, they don’t give to Jewish or Israeli causes they just don’t care, so what do we have? We need quality committed Jews on any level. But we can no longer afford to have Jews that promote anti Jewish, anti Israel causes in the name of Judaism. These so called Jewish Groups of today such as, “J Street” that attack AIPC, ADL, Israel & Code Pink who support Hamas, Hezbollah are the modern day Jewish Nazi Sympathizers. These groups are a liability and will cause us harm, pain suffering and may get some of our people killed if we don’t purge them from our religion. Judaism has a cancer that could get much worse if we don’t remove it today.
These people have no right to call them selfs jews and no one should say Kaddish for them when they die. The Chief Rabbi’s of Israel, The Orthodox, Conservative & Reform movements in the US & around the world must go back to this basic question, Who Is A Jew? & Who Should No Longer Be A Jew?

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Posted by Cadance M
12/19/2009  at  06:11 PM
There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza

Some “blockade”.  What Jeff Blankfort calls “inhumane” is 668,393 tons of aid and over a billion liters of fuel delivered to the Gaza Strip.

According to the Middle eastern Children’s Alliance,  in addition to food, medicine and hygiene products, the following were also delivered games, basketballs and balloons, trampolines and swimming pools, generators, air-conditioning accessories, clothing, shoes and hats, chairs, mattresses and styrofoam cups; and raw materials for paper production.

What comes to my mind, Jeff, is “Just like the Warsaw ghetto.”

There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.  The recent photos from “Palestine Today ” show shops in Gaza overflowing with candy, produce and supplies. 

If people like Rae and Jeff stopped with the hyperbole and the exaggeration, maybe there would be less polarization.  Lets try and keep things honest.

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Posted by bluesdoctor
12/24/2009  at  05:05 PM
What Happens the Millions in Aids Hamas Gets?

You might ask yourself where do the millions in aid that Hamas receives go? How is that Hamas has all the rockets, missiles, mortars, explosives, weapons, and ammo it wants yet Gazans under its tyrannical terrorist rule go hungry and without medical care?
Answer: Hamas is the Arabs’ worst enemy in Gaza, not Israel.
How is it that H1N1 victims from Gaza are treated in Israel?
What happened to the truckloads of humanitarian aid Israel sent to Gaza last year in the middle of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza? Answer: it was seized by Hamas and sold to the Gazans.

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Posted by DaveM
12/26/2009  at  11:53 AM
Code Pink and Glide UMC

It is amazing that Glide UMC has been accused of racism. Reverend Cecil Williams, who decided they could not host this kind of attack on the Jewish community, is a friend of Bishop Tutu. The runaway rhetoric of groups like this is filled with anger and can only lead to more anger. Angry folks are not the friends of peace.

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