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Occupy Oakland votes 135-1 to support BDS

by emma silvers, j. staff

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In a nearly unanimous vote at a general assembly meeting Feb. 1 at Oscar Grant Plaza, Occupy Oakland protesters voted to endorse a proposal in support of the BDS movement (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) against Israel.

The endorsement of the proposal was the first of its kind from any Occupy movement in the United States — and a decision that, though mainly symbolic, may have alienated many of the Jews who have made an effort to maintain a visible Jewish presence at Occupy Oakland since its beginnings, including members of the Occupy Bay Area Jewish Contingent.

Noura Khouri, a protester who was among the 400 or so people arrested during a day of clashes in Oakland on Jan. 28, presented the proposal. In her speech to the general assembly, she drew a connection between the tactics used by Oakland police against Occupy protesters and those used by the Israeli army against Palestinians.

Jewish activists erected a sukkah on Oct. 12 during the early days of Occupy Oakland.
A sukkah erected by Jewish activists at Occupy L.A.
“Israel is an apartheid state that has policies that treat Palestinians as second-, third- and fourth-class citizens on their own land,” Khouri said in her pre-vote comments. “We’re seeing a militarization of our police forces by local government, and they’re using the same weapons and polices against [occupiers] here as they are there.”

Deppen Webber, an organizer who presented alongside Khouri, decried the U.S. government’s funding of the Israeli military at a time when the U.S. economy is struggling. According to Twitter postings and other Internet reports by pro-Palestinian activists pushing the proposal, the resolution passed with 135 people voting yes, 12 abstentions and one person voting no.

A lengthy statement on the Occupy Oakland website attacked U.S. aid to Israel and suggested that Israel had “prodded” the United States into the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

According to some observers, the vote was another in a long list of signs that the Oakland occupiers have lost touch with the focus and spirit of the national movement.

“I’m not surprised [about the vote],” said David Biale, a professor of Jewish history at U.C. Davis and the former director of the Center for Jewish Studies at the Graduate Theological Union. “The Occupy Oakland movement has in many ways discredited itself by its tactics, which have violated the nonviolent character of the movement in general … personally I’m an opponent of BDS, so obviously I’m opposed to that position. But beyond that, it reflects the deterioration we’re seeing in this particular Occupy movement. It weakens the focus.”

Biale, who organized a teach-in at U.C. Davis after campus police were captured on video using pepper spray on peaceful Occupy protesters, made those comments a few days before he was to take part in a panel discussion Feb. 9 titled “Beyond Tactics: Jewish Activists on the Occupy Movement” at the Oakland branch of the JCC of the East Bay.

Susan Lubeck
Susan Lubeck
The panel lineup also included Fred Werner, a founding member of the Occupy Bay Area Jewish Contingent; Talia Cooper, the director of Jewish Youth for Community Action; and Miriam Priven, a youth activist and Albany High School student. The discussion was to be moderated by Susan Lubeck, the Bay Area regional director of the Progressive Jewish Alliance and Jewish Funds for Justice.

The Jewish Contingent initially started as an offshoot of the Interfaith Coalition, a multi-faith Occupy group, a multi-faith Occupy group, Werner said, but soon grew in numbers and took on a life of its own, encompassing Jews of many denominations and political slants. Rabbi David Cooper, spiritual leader at Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont, was very active, while Chabad of the East Bay donated candlelighting kits for nighttime vigils. Members of Kehilla helped JYCA youth set up a sukkah last October and offered morning and evening prayers for anyone interested in stopping by; the Jewish Contingent marched as an organized group during the first port shutdown Dec. 12.

But, according to Werner, the Contingent began to distance itself from Occupy Oakland well before the BDS vote, because of what Werner described as a “hijacking” of the movement by protesters who were not willing to eschew the use of violence.

As for the BDS discussion, Werner said it has no place in the Occupy movement.

Talia Cooper
Talia Cooper
“We have Jews of every stripe and denomination in this contingent: There are people who support BDS, who belong to groups who believe [BDS] would be good for Israel, for its own safety. And we have others who are doing work for groups like [the Jewish National Fund], and ‘stand-with-Israel’ kinds of groups. Everyone has been made to feel welcome,” he said.

Werner did note that he had heard at least one Jewish member say the vote made them feel frightened to identify openly as a Jew while at Occupy Oakland events — especially near the intifada tent, home base in Frank Ogawa Plaza for a group of pro-Palestinian activists aiming to shift some of the focus of the Occupy Oakland discourse toward the Middle East conflict.

“I think it’s too soon to know what kind of impact it will have,” said Talia Cooper, who has been active in Occupy Oakland since its inception, and slept in the Jewish Contingent sukkah for several nights in the movement’s early stages. “I don’t think they were trying to be anti-Jewish … but I do think [the proposal’s passage] will be hard for some Jews. My first thought was, ‘How will this make other people feel?’

“There’s so much wisdom and such a history of working for social justice in the Jewish community,” she continued. “We want to be bringing people in, and that means we should want to be inclusive.”

The BDS vote aside, the core values of the Occupy movement remain plainly in line with Jewish values, said Lubeck, explaining the impetus behind the panel discussion.

“There are so many people in the Jewish community who are excited for the chance to talk about these underlying issues of income inequality and inequity,” she said. “And the fact is those topics have burst onto the scene recently and been getting the visibility they deserve in no small part because of the Occupy movement.”

Lubeck cited a survey in which 70 percent of Jews in the East Bay stated that, to them, “helping people in need” was the most important thing about being Jewish.

“The value of doing what’s right — including recognizing that not everyone’s going to have the same amount of resources yet it’s not OK for people to be destitute, not OK to have these kinds of disparities in a country that’s so full of abundance, –— that absolutely resonates with Jewish thought and tradition,” she said.

Werner echoed that belief. “In terms of social justice, in terms of helping the poorest of the poor and the weakest of the weak, the movement represents some very core Jewish values,” he said. “It’s true tikkun olam.”


Comments

Posted by lucid
02/10/2012  at  03:31 AM
interesting

There were thousands of Jews who supported Stalin even as he purged ie murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews.

Jews do a lot of dumb things, like believing the idiots in the far left who are the core of occupy are pushing for sdakah.

Wake up and smell the coffee naifs. Israel may cease to exist if Iran gets the bomb and you are wasting your time in Oakland? C’mmon.

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Posted by Theresa
02/10/2012  at  07:39 PM
is any one surprised?

Noura Khouri and Deppen Webber, for the uninitiated are amongst the organizers of the latest assault on Israel’s borders, the global March to Jerusalem, linked to Hamas and Muslim brotherhood terror groups.  Noura was arrested for attempting to disrupt the oakland AIPAC dinner several years ago.  These are doctrinaire, paid anti-Israel activists.

What this article doesn’t mention is that anti-israel forces packed the General assembly with their supporters, specificlly to stuff the ballot box. 

The Occupy oakland contingent broke into City Hall, destroyed a childrens art exhibit, and burnt an American flag.  We’ve seen the same flag-burning behavior at anti-Israel rallies.  This vote and the machinations behind it should not surprise anyone.

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Posted by Raanan
02/12/2012  at  07:55 AM

Dear Editor,
Jane Lubek creates a new invention of what Jewish values are?

Judaism abhors anarchy!  The Occupy movements all believe as a core value that Jews own Wall Street & Congress.

To quote Occupy Oakland’s website Dec 5, 2011: “Join us in Washington to welcome AIPAC, the “Apartheid Israel Public Affairs Committee”, as they celebrate their occupation of Congress”[1]

This isn’t anti-Semitic? The Jews of “Occupy” are so “Occupied” and out of touch with their own roots it doesn’t bother them to advocate to put Israeli Jews in danger with BDS endorsements and against Jews everywhere as Occupy movements around the country spread the message that “Jews Occupy Americas Money, movie industry, Wall Street, Washington and more.”

As NY Times Andrea Peyser put it: (Oct 24, 2011) “Occupy Wall Street must no longer deny it. The movement has a serious Jewish problem. But organizers are desperate to maintain that acts of bigotry are isolated, carried out by a small cadre of hoodlums who don’t represent the movement.” [2]

ABC Channel-7: “Occupy protests have Jewish leaders concerned” (Oct 26, 2011) “As Occupy Wall Street nears the six-week mark, a vein of anti-Semitism flowing through the movement has reached Chicago. Jewish leaders say they are concerned. This is the ugly underbelly of Occupy Wall Street: Recycled anti-Jewish prejudices from small but vocal segments of the movement whose hatred on the picket lines is being magnified on the Internet.”[3]

Does Susan Lubek have her head in the ground? Every newspaper is echoing growing concern at the anti-Semitism that Occupy movements across the US are feeding. Demonstrations blame Jews, reminding us of Germany in the 1930’s.

How can this be labeled: “Jewish”? Is espousing genocidal Holocaust ideals now a Jewish value?

Advocating using America’s system to lobby for equal rights, more charitable services, etc is the normal Jewish way to get something done.

“Class wars” fighting with police is not Jewish. It’s not even normal. Using bureaucratic means have proven so successful over the years. This IS an acceptable way to advocate for change. Today, who doesn’t do what Jews showed them to do in the sixties? ACLU, Black rights groups. Everybody.

But to advocate for communism or anti-Semitic causes and claim this is somehow “Jewish” because the person advocating is a Jew? This only invites problems.

These groups are Anti-Jewish and anti-God. They have NOTHING to do with Judaism or Jewish values. They breed hatred of Jews and feed Israel’s enemies. Something explicitly forbidden by Jewish law.

As Talia Cooper noted: “helping people in need” is indeed a Jewish value.  True! But first one has to learn how to help so we don’t hurt others, especially Jews. Jewish law defines “help” as: Your family comes first. You have children and other family members who are down and out. Give to them. Get them a job! Every Jew in your community comes next. After, other Jews in other communities and Israel. These are our extended family. Anyone else is after that.

If you even accomplish a little bit of this, you will be so busy helping people your husband will protest demanding equal time…

All the very best,
Raanan Isseroff
Former Administrator
Shtetl Foundation

1. http://occupyoakland.org/ai1ec_event/rally-against-aipac/?instance_id=
2. http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/the_hate_in_zuccotti_KyGNaMM6eLBirVJN24fEEP
3. http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/iteam&id=8407349

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Posted by Raanan
02/12/2012  at  08:32 AM

Dear Editor,

In commenting on: “Occupy Oakland votes 135-1 to support BDS” (Feb 9, 2012)

Jane Lubek invents Jewish values?
Judaism abhors anarchy!  The Occupy movements all believe as a core value that Jews own Wall Street & Congress.
To quote Occupy Oakland’s website Dec 5, 2011: “Join us at the Marriot Hotel to welcome AIPAC, the “Apartheid Israel Public Affairs Committee”, as they celebrate their occupation of Congress”[1]
This isn’t anti-Semitic? The Jews of “Occupy” are so “Occupied” and out of touch with their own roots it doesn’t bother them to advocate to put Israeli Jews in danger with BDS endorsements and against Jews everywhere as Occupy movements around the country spread the message that “Jews Occupy Americas Money, movie industry, Wall Street,Washington and more.”
As NY Times Andrea Peyser put it: (Oct 24, 2011) “Occupy Wall Street must no longer deny it. The movement has a serious Jewish problem. But organizers are desperate to maintain that acts of bigotry are isolated, carried out by a small cadre of hoodlums who don’t represent the movement.” [2]
ABC Channel-7: “Occupy protests have Jewish leaders concerned” (Oct 26, 2011) “As Occupy Wall Street nears the six-week mark, a vein of anti-Semitism flowing through the movement has reached Chicago. Jewish leaders say they are concerned. This is the ugly underbelly of Occupy Wall Street: Recycled anti-Jewish prejudices from small but vocal segments of the movement whose hatred on the picket lines is being magnified on the Internet.”[3]
Does Susan Lubek have her head in the ground? Every newspaper is echoing growing concern at the anti-Semitism that Occupy movements across the US are feeding. Demonstrations blame Jews reminding one of Germany in the 1930’s.
How can this be labeled: “Jewish”? Is espousing genocidal Holocaust ideals now a Jewish value?
Advocating to lobby for equal rights, more charitable services, etc is the normal Jewish way to get something done.
“Class wars” fighting with police is not Jewish. It’s not even normal. Using bureaucratic means have proven so successful over the years. This IS an acceptable way to advocate for change. Today, who doesn’t do what Jews showed them to do in the sixties? ACLU, Black rights groups. Everybody.
But to advocate for communism or anti-Semitic causes and claim this is somehow “Jewish” because the person advocating is a Jew? This only invites problems.
These groups are Anti-Jewish & anti-God. They have NOTHING to do with Judaism or Jewish values. They breed hatred of Jews and feed Israel’s enemies. Something explicitly forbidden by Jewish law.
As Talia Cooper noted: “helping people in need” is indeed a Jewish value. True! But first one has to learn how to help so we don’t hurt others, especially Jews. Jewish law defines “help” as: Your family comes first. You have children and other family members who are down and out. Give to them. Get them a job! Every Jew in your community comes next. After, other Jews in other communities and Israel. These are our extended family. Anyone else is after that.
Even to accomplish a little bit of this, one will be so busy helping people your husband will protest demanding equal time…
Best,
Raanan Isseroff
Former Administrator
Shtetl Foundation
1. OccupyOakland.org/ai1ec_event/rally-against-aipac/?instance_id=
2. NYPost.com/p/news/local/the_hate_in_zuccotti_KyGNaMM6eLBirVJN24fEEP
3. ABClocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/iteam&id=8407349

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Posted by mkwrk2
02/13/2012  at  07:09 AM
It is a pity the

It is a pity the OWS-Oakland is hijacked by radicals looking to a direction much different than one this movement was supposed to as it was understood in N.Y.C. (M.Kerjman, “New York Revisited:2011” http://digitaljournal.com/blog/14464 ).

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