As with the anti-Israel third-grade event, some level of subterfuge appears to have been used.
We recently wrote about Miko Peled after Jewish Voice for Peace accused him of posting an antisemitic tweet, Jewish Voice for Peace disavows BDS activist Miko Peled: “No place 4 antisemitism in our movement”:
Peled denied that the tweet was antisemitic, as detailed in the prior post. But the fact that an anti-Israel group like JVP would make this accusation against Peled and would support the cancellation of his speech at Princeton was pretty remarkable.
After an intense pressure campaign by supporters of Peled, JVP stated that it was not completely ostracizing Peled, but stood by its critique of the tweet, A second group, San Diego State University Students for Justice in Palestine also cancelled a Peled appearance for that same reason.
Peled comes from a famous Israeli military family. His father, Matti Peled, was a well-known General. Playing off his father’s legacy and name is a key component of Miko’s public relations strategy, and the main reason he is so attractive to anti-Israel groups. There is no one so valuable as an anti-Israel Israeli. An anti-Israel Israeli from a famous family is like gold to the anti-Israel movement.
(See the Forward’s article, Miko Peled and Progressive Jewish Anti-Semitism, for a discussion of the Peled phenomenon.)
Peled does not accept Israel’s existence. He considers all of Israel occupied territory, illegitimate, and in need of liberation:
Peled’s tweet giving rise to the JVP condemnation is not even his most toxic. As Ithaca College Professor Rebeccas Lesses documents, Peled has a long record of inflammatory rhetoric above and beyond the usual stuff, referring to Israel’s supporters as “the KKK without white sheets”:
As Prof. Lesses points out, Peled’s Twitter profile picture is a Trump-like red hat stating “Make Israel Palestine Again”:
Peled even endorses the disgraced and now revoked 1975 U.N. General Assembly resolution declaring Zionism is Racism:
Peled accuses Israel of using “Nazi like” methods:
Peled, not surprisingly, is being embraced by Ithaca’s small but vocal group of anti-Israel fanatics, led by Ariel Gold.
Two groups effectively run by Gold organized Peled’s appearance on November 2, 2016, in Ithaca, The Ithaca Committee for Justice in Palestine and Ithaca Jewish Voice for Peace.
The embrace of Peled is symptomatic of the increasing radicalism of the Ithaca anti-Israel activists. But that’s a post for another time.
Controversy has erupted not just because of the embrace of Peled, but because of the venue, The Greater Ithaca Activities Center.
GIAC is run by the City of Ithaca, though it has its own Board of Directors. GIAC reopened in 2010 after a $4 million renovation.
GIAC’s Mission Statement highlights its youth focus:
The Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC) is a center for all ages, particularly youth and teens. It serves the immediate neighborhood and the greater Ithaca area by providing multicultural, educational, and recreational programs focused on social and individual development.
The center’s programs include services dedicated to improving the quality of life for the people we serve; advocating for the rights and needs of youth, families, underrepresented, and disenfranchised populations; providing structured employment training opportunities for at-risk youth and adults; and fighting against oppression and intimidation in our community.
The center executes this mission through its own programming and by drawing on the resources of other community agencies and individuals.
GIAC’s focus on youth is reflected in this list of recent GIAC-sponsored events:
GIAC events are community and family-oriented:
GIAC seems like an unlikely place to hold an anti-Israel hatefest. But it makes sense if you understand how the Ithaca anti-Israel activists operate.
Based on communications with GIAC, it appears that some level of subterfuge may have been used. The room was reserved by Mary Anne Grady Flores on behalf of the Ithaca Catholic Workers group. Grady is friends with Gold, and participated with Gold in the Ithaca third-grade anti-Israel event that generated a condemnation by the Ithaca City School District Superintendent. In the third-grade event, subterfuge was used, as the elementary school principal was not told the true nature of the event or that Palestinian activist Bassem Tamimi was the guest speaker.
While the Ithaca Catholic Worker’s group is one of many sponsors of the event, it is an event organized by Ithaca Committee for Justice in Palestine and Ithaca Jewish Voice for Peace. Flores apparently has rented space at GIAC before for the Ithaca Catholic Worker’s group, so it raised no suspicions when she reserved this space for this event. (I have requested a copy of the rental application.)
As with the third-grade event, the intent appears to be to get an anti-Israel event in a location where youth will be exposed, at least indirectly, to the anti-Israel agenda in a government-controlled setting.
This has sparked pretty widespread outrage, including from Rabbi Scott Glass of Ithaca’s conservative (and largest, I believe) synagogue. I’ve only met Rabbi Glass a few times in passing, but he’s definitely not known as someone who is a hothead (in fact, just the opposite). Here is what he posted on Facebook:
“It is deeply troubling that an organization that is known for fostering understanding between people is sponsoring such an event. The board of GIAC should be embarrassed to have been duped into hosting this speaker.”
I emailed GIAC for comment and reaction, and received a form email which appears to be geared towards people complaining about the event being held at GIAC. (I didn’t complain, just asked for comment and reaction for this post.)
The email was from GIAC’s Board of Directors:
Thank you for your email regarding the upcoming event scheduled to be held at GIAC. Your email and others received today are the first to raise concerns about this event since this event was publicized by the event’s organizers two weeks ago. We understand your concern and on behalf of the GIAC Board of Directors, the organization’s Executive Director, and as per the Greater Ithaca Activities Center rental policy, we would like to clarify that GIAC is not hosting, co-sponsoring or endorsing this event. The GIAC gym was rented by Mary Anne Grady Flores and the Ithaca Catholic Workers group.While the rental policy calls for rental requests to be reviewed, If no obvious problems are identified at that time, the rental is approved. The Ithaca Catholic Workers group has rented space before for speakers with no adverse effects. As a public City of Ithaca facility, the space at GIAC can be rented for public use- excluding established hate organizations, or for holding teen/young adult parties or concerts.
We hope you understand our position and encourage you to bring your concerns forward to those sponsoring this event.
I also emailed the Mayor of Ithaca, Svante Myrick, but received no response as of this writing.
We will continue to investigate, and will report what we find.
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