(JTA) — Within two weeks, a series of Bay Area billboards equating anti-Zionism with antisemitism were targeted by activists. In the first incident, an unknown group of culprits wrote “Free Palestine” on them, leading the billboards’ sponsor to replace them and call the graffiti “a hate crime.”
The second time they were targeted, a group of Jews took the credit.
On Tuesday night, a group of self-proclaimed “anti-Zionist Jews” papered over three billboards paid for by the New Jersey-based group JewBelong. It was a further escalation in a national debate over anti-Zionism, antisemitism and whether and how Jews and non-Jews alike should criticize Israel.
“We are part of a growing number of Jews across the United States who know that opposing Israeli apartheid and occupation has nothing to do with antisemitism, and that the biggest threat to Jews in this country comes not from those supporting Palestinian rights, but from white, Christian nationalists,” the collective, who identify themselves on the billboards as “Jews4FreePalestine,” told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in a statement.
The original billboards read, “You don’t need to go to law school to know that anti-Zionism is antisemitism.” It was JewBelong’s tongue-in-cheek reference to a recent controversy at the University of California-Berkeley law school, in which some student groups signed a statement pledging not to invite “speakers that have expressed and continued to hold views … in support of Zionism, the apartheid state of Israel, and the occupation of Palestine.”
The bylaws attracted national attention after Ken Marcus, founder of the pro-Israel legal group Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, declared that Berkeley was erecting “Jew-free zones.” Later, allegations against the law students prompted an investigation from the U.S. Department of Education. The episode caught the attention of a right-wing group, which drove trucks displaying Adolf Hitler through the Berkeley campus and intimidated some of the anti-Zionist petition signers at their homes out of state. Meanwhile, attempts by Berkeley students to pass a resolution condemning antisemitism failed to pass when some student senators did not show up for the vote.
Targeting the billboards, the anonymous group of self-proclaimed “anti-Zionist Jews” changed the word “antisemitism” to “anti-racism.” They added other messages: “Jews for a free Palestine” and “End Israeli apartheid.”
Declining to provide their names, the group said only that they are “organizing ad-hoc in response to the billboards from JewBelong” and that they numbered more than two dozen. Though spokesperson Joe Rivano Barros said the group was not responsible for the first tag, the group defended the anonymous first group against JewBelong’s hate-crime allegations, calling the labeling “dishonest.”
Online, the altered billboards were being promoted by the Jewish Voice for Peace anti-Zionist group, an editor of the anti-Zionist website Electronic Intifada and a Jewish former Google employee who has organized against some of the company’s business dealings with Israel.
The group also directly went after JewBelong — which it said “has long equated anti-Zionism with antisemitism in order to normalize Israeli apartheid” — and its co-founder, Archie Gottesman, whom they said “has an appalling history of making racist and genocidal statements.” Originally founded as a public relations movement to promote Jewish pride, JewBelong pivoted in 2021 to focus on combatting antisemitism, aligning itself with staunchly pro-Israel influencers.
Gottesman sits on the board of Democratic Majority for Israel, a lobbying group that pushes Democratic Party lawmakers to adapt more pro-Israel stances. She tweeted in 2018 that Gaza was “full of monsters” and that it was “time to burn the whole place,” statements for which she has since apologized.
“We stand by our billboards,” Gottesman told JTA in a statement in response. “The vast majority of American Jews are Zionists. The billboards appear to have been defaced by a fringe group trying to create a Jew vs Jew fight at a time when we should all be united against the larger issue, which is growing antisemitism in the US.”
While Berkeley Law’s own Jewish dean, Erwin Chemerinsky, has called the law students’ bylaws antisemitic, he has also criticized JewBelong’s billboards, saying they are not “contributing to useful discourse.” After they were graffitied over the first time, Chemerinsky said the culprits were infringing on JewBelong’s First Amendment rights.
Since the recent Israeli elections bringing to power the country’s most right-wing government in generations, a growing number of influential Jews around the world have increased their criticism of the government and stated that such criticism should not be conflated with antisemitism.
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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