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As war splits progressives, a Jewish group and a Black group find common ground on voters’ rights

(New York Jewish Week) — In late 2021, activists from the Workers Circle, a progressive Jewish group, and the voting rights organization Black Voters Matter gathered outside the White House for a protest.

The protesters — who demanded that President Joe Biden call for the elimination of the filibuster in order to pass voting rights legislation — blocked the sidewalk, singing and chanting, said Noa Baron, who was then a college student activist with the Workers Circle.

“It was one of those things where you feel like and you know you’re doing the right thing,” Baron, now a staffer at the Workers Circle, said of the protest and the then-nascent partnership with Black Voters Matter. “They believe in showing up and we believe in showing up, so all of us have that shared understanding that bringing people and being on the ground is an important part of organizing for democracy.”

Now, even as war between Israel and Hamas has stoked tensions on the left and frayed relationships between some Jews and progressives, the two groups have forged ahead with their partnership. Both feel that their constituencies are threatened by racism and by the prospect of a Donald Trump victory in the 2024 presidential election.

At an annual dinner on Monday night in downtown Manhattan, the Workers Circle honored Black Voters Matter with its Activism Award and announced that the groups were formalizing their partnership. The move will deepen the relationship between the two groups and details will be released next month.

Ann Toback, the Workers Circle CEO, said the strained relationships between different groups due to the war “makes our partnership more important.”

“We need to model to the Jewish community and the Black community that there is so much that still brings us together,” Toback told the New York Jewish Week. “I think there’s a lot of people out there who want to create divisions even when they may or may not exist, and what we’re doing is modeling what it means to be on the ground fighting for something we all believe in.”

Yiddish-speaking Jewish immigrants to the U.S. established the Workers Circle, then called the Workmen’s Circle, in 1900 in New York as a labor and mutual aid organization. The group now runs a robust Yiddish language and culture program, and advocates for progressive causes. In recent years, the group has focused on strengthening democratic and voting rights, Toback said.

As a policy, the national organization stays out of Middle East politics, which has contributed to some friction with other Jewish groups. In August, the Workers Circle left the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations over disagreements about policies in the U.S., discourse on Israel and how to define antisemitism.

And one local affiliate has allied with the left on Israel. In October, the Boston Workers Circle, which is a separate nonprofit, split with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Boston after joining a rally in support of a Gaza ceasefire.

“We were founded by activists who very much believed that you change the world you live in and we’ve always followed that,” Toback said of the decision to stay away from opining on the conflict. She said her group is focused on the possibility of voting rights being curtailed ahead of Election Day next year.

“Our democracy is under attack right now,” she added. “And it’s so important that the American Jewish community understand that, as much as our hearts may be distracted, we can’t take our eyes off what may happen here in 11 months’ time when millions of people may not be able to vote.”

In the immediate aftermath of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, left-leaning Jews said they felt abandoned by former partners. In the days after Oct. 7, multiple Black Lives Matter chapters appeared to praise or endorse Hamas’ attack. Black Voters Matter is a separate group from Black Lives Matter.

More broadly, polls have also shown a divergence between white Americans and people of color in their views on the war, and between Jewish Americans and non-Jews.

The Workers Circle and Black Voters Matter vowed to press ahead with their work despite the war.

“We’ve had plans on launching this partnership for months and so it’s definitely not a response to current events, but we’re not going to not do it because of current events. We’re going to stay focused on what our mission has been,” said Black Voters Matter’s co-founder, Cliff Albright. “When we come together, Black communities do better and Jewish communities do better.”

The two groups both see themselves as threatened by bigotry and voter suppression, and say they are linked by the history of cooperation between the Black and Jewish communities during the civil rights movement. In an homage to that era, the Workers Circle and Black Voters Matter are planning to march together in November at an annual event in Selma, Alabama, marking the historic march in that city for voting rights in 1965.

The two groups will also organize activists from geographically close Jewish and Black communities, starting in Florida, for discussions on issues including book banning, education and health care, Toback said. The two groups and others are co-sponsoring a virtual discussion on voter suppression on Thursday.

Other initiatives include get-out-the-vote projects, combating voter suppression in North Carolina, a summit to talk about organizing for voting rights and “democracy circles” that bring together small groups of activists around the country to examine topics such as gerrymandering.

Noelle Damico, the Workers Circle’s social justice director, said the group had worked together with Black organizations and leaders, including the civil rights activist A. Philip Randolph, since the early 20th century. The Workers Circle supported Randolph’s newspaper, The Messenger, and conducted outreach to Black needleworkers. Randolph helped the group see its labor organizing as a way to advance civil rights, Damico said.

In the civil rights era, Workers Circle members and leaders were deeply active in the movement, she said.

“Some of them were desegregating parks and other public facilities, some of them were involved in the major marches,” including the Selma March and the March on Washington in 1963, Damico said. “It’s been a big part of our history and at this moment it seems really important for us to reclaim that. Not that we forgot it but just to pay special attention at this moment.”

Danielle Brown, the deputy national field director for Black Voters Matter, said the fraught moment was “an opportunity to form bridges.”

“There are so many different things that we could come together around, just in understanding who each other is, understanding each other’s culture, but voting rights is something that’s common,” Brown said. “That’s not a Jewish thing, that’s not a Black thing, that’s something that we need across the board.”


The post As war splits progressives, a Jewish group and a Black group find common ground on voters’ rights appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Israeli Official: ‘Important Operation’ in Yemen Sends Strong Message to Shiite Axis

Drones are seen at a site at an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on April 20, 2023. Photo: Iranian Army/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS

i24 NewsA senior Israeli security official spoke to i24NEWS on Saturday on condition of the retaliatory strike carried out by the Israel Air Force against the Houthi jihadists in Yemen.

“This is an important operation which signals that there’s room for further escalation, and sends a very strong message to the entire Shiite axis.”

“We understood there is a high probability of counter attacks, but if we do not respond, the meaning is even worse. Israel has updated the US prior to the operation.”

The strike on Hodeida came after long-range Iranian-made drone hit a building in central Tel Aviv, killing one man and wounded several others.

The post Israeli Official: ‘Important Operation’ in Yemen Sends Strong Message to Shiite Axis first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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IDF Confirms Striking ‘Terrorist Houthi Regime’ in Yemen’s Hodeida

Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi addresses followers via a video link at the al-Shaab Mosque, formerly al-Saleh Mosque, in Sanaa, Yemen, Feb. 6, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

i24 NewsThe Israeli military on Saturday confirmed striking a port in Yemen controlled by the Houthi jihadists, a day after the Iranian proxy group perpetrated a deadly drone attack on Tel Aviv.

“A short while ago, IDF fighter jets struck military targets of the Houthi terrorist regime in the area of the Al Hudaydah Port in Yemen in response to the hundreds of attacks carried out against the State of Israel in recent months.”

After Houthi drone attack on Tel Aviv, reports and footage out of Yemen of air strikes hitting Hodeida

— Video used in accordance with clause 27A of Israeli copyright law pic.twitter.com/d2uE16ZzQ1

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) July 20, 2024

Yoav Gallant, the defense minister, issued a statement saying “The fire that is currently burning in Hodeidah, is seen across the Middle East and the significance is clear. The Houthis attacked us over 200 times. The first time that they harmed an Israeli citizen, we struck them. And we will do this in any place where it may be required.”

“The blood of Israeli citizens has a price,” Gallant added. “This has been made clear in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Yemen, and in other places – if they will dare to attack us, the result will be identical.”

Gallant: ‘The fire currently burning in Hodeida is seen across the region and the significance is clear… The blood of Israeli citizens has a price, as has been made clear in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Yemen and in other places – if they dare attack us, the result will be identical.’ pic.twitter.com/DmHjwfHtPV

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) July 20, 2024

The post IDF Confirms Striking ‘Terrorist Houthi Regime’ in Yemen’s Hodeida first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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One Part of Cyprus Mourns, the Other Rejoices 50 Years After Split

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan leaves after attending a military parade to mark the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus in response to a short-lived Greek-inspired coup, in the Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, in the divided city of Nicosia, Cyprus July 20, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

Greek Cypriots mourned and Turkish Cypriots rejoiced on Saturday, the 50th anniversary of Turkey’s invasion of part of the island after a brief Greek inspired coup, with the chances of reconciliation as elusive as ever.

The ethnically split island is a persistent source of tension between Greece and Turkey, which are both partners in NATO but are at odds over numerous issues.

Their differences were laid bare on Saturday, with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attending a celebratory military parade in north Nicosia to mark the day in 1974 when Turkish forces launched an offensive that they call a “peace operation.”

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was due later on Saturday to attend an event in the south of the Nicosia to commemorate what Greeks commonly refer to as the “barbaric Turkish invasion.” Air raid sirens sounded across the area at dawn.

Mitsotakis posted an image of a blood-stained map of Cyprus on his LinkedIn page with the words “Half a century since the national tragedy of Cyprus.”

There was jubilation in the north.

“The Cyprus Peace Operation saved Turkish Cypriots from cruelty and brought them to freedom,” Erdogan told crowds who gathered to watch the parade despite stifling midday heat, criticizing the south for having a “spoiled mentality” and seeing itself as the sole ruler of Cyprus.

Peace talks are stalled at two seemingly irreconcilable concepts – Greek Cypriots want reunification as a federation. Turkish Cypriots want a two-state settlement.

Erdogan left open a window to dialogue although he said a federal solution, advocated by Greek Cypriots and backed by most in the international community, was “not possible.”

“We are ready for negotiations, to meet, and to establish long-term peace and resolution in Cyprus,” he said.

Cyprus gained independence from Britain in 1960, but a shared administration between Greek and Turkish Cypriots quickly fell apart in violence that saw Turkish Cypriots withdraw into enclaves and led to the dispatch of a U.N. peacekeeping force.

The crisis left Greek Cypriots running the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, a member of the European Union since 2004 with the potential to derail Turkey’s own decades-long aspirations of joining the bloc.

It also complicates any attempts to unlock energy potential in the eastern Mediterranean because of overlapping claims. The region has seen major discoveries of hydrocarbons in recent years.

REMEMBERING THE DEAD

Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides, whose office represents the Greek Cypriot community in the reunification dialogue, said the anniversary was a somber occasion for reflection and for remembering the dead.

“Our mission is liberation, reunification and solving the Cyprus problem,” he said. “If we really want to send a message on this tragic anniversary … it is to do anything possible to reunite Cyprus.”

Turkey, he said, continued to be responsible for violating human rights and international law over Cyprus.

Across the south, church services were held to remember the more than 3,000 people who died in the Turkish invasion.

“It was a betrayal of Cyprus and so many kids were lost. It wasn’t just my son, it was many,” said Loukas Alexandrou, 90, as he tended the grave of his son at a military cemetery.

In Turkey, state television focused on violence against Turkish Cypriots prior to the invasion, particularly on bloodshed in 1963-64 and in 1967.

Turkey’s invasion took more than a third of the island and expelled more than 160,000 Greek Cypriots to the south.

Reunification talks collapsed in 2017 and have been at a stalemate since. Northern Cyprus is a breakaway state recognized only by Turkey, and its Turkish Cypriot leadership wants international recognition.

The post One Part of Cyprus Mourns, the Other Rejoices 50 Years After Split first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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