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Ariel Gold Tag

On Friday morning, September 18, 2015, the third grade classes at the Beverly J. Martin School in Ithaca, NY, heard a presentation on "human rights" by Palestinian activist Bassem Tamimi and local anti-Israel activists, including Ariel Gold of the local chapter of the anti-Israel Jewish Voice for Peace. On Sunday night, September 20, Legal Insurrection broke the story, Anti-Israel activism hits elementary school in Ithaca, NY. Because of Tamimi's notoriety for exploiting children in videotaped confrontations with Israeli soldiers, Tamimi's mere appearance in a third grade class raised suspicions about the event. After our report, a firestorm of controversy erupted, with the Superintendent of the Ithaca City School District (ICSD), Dr. Luvelle Brown, conducting an investigation, after which he issued a statement that the event was "politically skewed, inflammatory, and not endorsed by the Ithaca City School District.” The Superintendent's statement, though, contained few details of his investigation. But now Legal Insurrection exclusively has obtained documents pursuant to a Freedom Of Information Law (FOIL) request that show the event was even worse than we thought.

A storm of controversy erupted when the Ithaca, NY, chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace brought Palestinian activist Bassem Tamimi to a third grade class. Tamimi is best known for the viral videos and photos he creates by sending children, including his own, to confront Israeli soldiers. Tamimi, who argues that it is the “duty” of children to engage in acts of resistance, was on a now-concluded U.S. national tour co-sponsored by JVP and the Chicago branch of Amnesty International. [caption id="attachment_146972" align="alignnone" width="600"] [Image capture Ithaca Week video][/caption]The Superintendent of the Ithaca school district, after an investigation, denounced the visit,finding that Tamimi was not invited by the school and the event was “not developmentally appropriate for third graders, nor aligned with the New York State standards. The statements were politically skewed, inflammatory, and not endorsed by the Ithaca City School District.”

A firestorm of controversy erupted in Ithaca, NY, hometown of Cornell University and Ithaca College, when it was learned that local anti-Israel activists brought highly controversial Palestinian activist Bassem Tamimi to third grade class. Tamimi is best known for using children, including his own, to confront Israeli soldiers to create viral video and photo opportunities. He also is an advocate of children taking part in resistance activities, including stone throwing. To pro-Palestinian activists, however, he is a symbol of Israeli repression. The third-grade presentation was skewed and biased against Israel, according to a statement issued by the Ithaca City School District Superintendent, after an investigation. Among other things, after seeing videos and hearings stories of how Palestinian children suffer at the hands of Israelis, the third graders were urged to become "freedom fighters for Palestine."

The misnamed "Jewish Voice for Peace" (JVP) has launched a national campaign along with other anti-Israel groups to claim that "pro-Palestinian" speech is stifled around the country. In fact, The accusation of speech stifling is a passive-aggressive move to preclude legitimate criticism. As we demonstrated, what JVP and other such groups really want is Freedom from Criticism. Two events in Ithaca and Rochester, New York, are being used by JVP to claim a "wave of censorship and bullying is sweeping upstate New York." As we demonstrate below, JVP has seriously misstated what happened, and those events show the contrary to what JVP is claiming.

JVP's Anti-Israel Event to Third Graders in Ithaca

One of, it not the first, actions JVP took in furtherance of the "stifling" campaign is unfolding in upstate New York. In ‘Jewish Voice for Peace’ defends anti-Israel Third Grade event, we explained that the local Ithaca JVP branch, run by anti-Zionist (and now Code Pink) activist Ariel Gold, is defending bringing the highly controversial Bassem Tamimi to a third grade class as part of a one-sided presentation demonizing Israel.

We previously reported how activists in Ithaca, New York, arranged a one-sided anti-Israel presentation to the Third Grade classes at the Beverly J. Martin School, which included local Jewish Voice for Peace activist Ariel Gold and Palestinian activist Bassem Tamimi. Tamimi is best known for using children, including his own, to confront Israeli soldiers to create viral photo and video. He also advocates using children in protests, including setting up roadblocks, and rock throwing. Tamimi is on a national speaking tour, co-sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace, and had two other appearances in the Ithaca area in addition to the third grade appearance. When news of the third grade event came to the attention of the Ithaca City School District Superintendent Luvelle Brown, he launched an investigation, and at the end of that investigation issued a strongly worded statement condemning what had happened. The statement reads, in part:

In a stunning development, Luvelle Brown, Superintendent of Schools, Ithaca (NY) City School District, has acknowledged that serious anti-Israel agitation took place when controversial Palestinian activist Bassem Tamimi appeared with local anti-Israel activists before third graders, ending in a call to activism:
"In a closing statement of how students could help, a speaker spoke of solidarity and being freedom fighters for Palestine; to bring peace and protect the future of their children."
Brown stated, among other thing, that such statements and others were inappropriate:
"The Ithaca City School District’s position is that such statements are not developmentally appropriate for third graders, nor aligned with the New York State standards. The statements were politically skewed, inflammatory, and not endorsed by the Ithaca City School District."
The full letter is later in this post. But first, the background of how we reached this point.

Bassem Tamimi and Ariel Gold

On Sunday night, September 20, 2015, Legal Insurrection broke the story how Anti-Israel activism hits elementary school in Ithaca, NY:
An uproar is brewing in Ithaca, New York, after anti-Israel activists bragged on Facebook how they managed to bring Palestinian activist Bassem Tamimi to a third-grade class as part of a presentation on the suffering of Palestinian children at the hands of Israel.
That third grade event took place on Friday, September 18.

See this important update: Superintendent: Third Grade event “politically skewed, inflammatory” against Israel An uproar is brewing in Ithaca, New York, after anti-Israel activists bragged on Facebook how they managed to bring Palestinian activist Bassem Tamimi to a third-grade class as part of a presentation on the suffering of Palestinian children at the hands of Israel. According to the activists, the event took place on Friday morning, September 18, 2015 at the Beverly J. Martin Elementary School. Tamimi is best known for his use of children, including his own, for media purposes. The game goes like this: Tamimi's children and other children from the village of Nabi Saleh are encouraged to confront Israeli soldiers in the hope of provoking a reaction. The children are surrounded by a phalanx of photographers and videographers waiting for the viral moment when the Israeli soldier reacts, which then is fed to the media through the Tamimi media operation and international activists who often participate. Tamimi's daughter Ahed (the blond girl in this 2012 video) is world famous for such staged confrontations, having been given a heroism award by the anti-Israel Prime Minister of Turkey for this performance:

Ithaca Jewish Voice for Peace is sponsoring two events in Ithaca and Cortland, NY, honoring and celebrating Bassem Tamimi. The first event, in Ithaca, is at 5:30 p.m. today, September 17, 2015. The "host" of the event is Ithaca Committee for Justice in Palestine, run by the same people who run Ithaca JVP. They use various group names for various purposes to create the appearance they are a larger movement than they are. They recently also formed a group called Vegans Against The Occupation (seriously), using as their featured image in the left sidebar Ariel Gold, the leader of Ithaca JVP.  The anti-Israel movement in Ithaca is very interconnected, and run by a handful of activists. Why is Ithaca JVP celebrating and glorifying Bassem Tamimi? Tamimi, you may recall, has perfected the art of using children (including his own) to confront Israeli soldiers to create viral photos and video.  We set forth the evidence in great detail in two prior posts: Tamimi's daughter, Ahed was featured in a video in 2012 which has many millions of views, in which she screamed at Israeli soldiers and shook her fist at them, as other children gathered around trying to provoke a reaction. It all was a set up for the cameras, as the video below exposes.

A video of an Israeli soldier near the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh being confronted by women and children is making the rounds. It has over a million views on Facebook alone. (Embedded towards end of this post.) As you view the history below, don't blame the children. They are victims of their family's abuse which puts them in harms way for photo-ops. Were these children treated such a way in the U.S., there is no doubt that local family services agencies would be involved in preventing their dangerous exploitation by their parents. In the current incident, the soldier, according to Israeli authorities, was in the process of detaining a member of the Tamimi clan of Nabi Saleh for stone throwing. Haaretz reports:
An Israeli soldier tried to detain a minor during clashes in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on Friday, but a number of Palestinian women and children managed to stop him. According to the army, the youth was throwing stones at the troops, who did not realize he was a minor. Photographs taken by Reuters and AFP show the soldier surrounded by women and children. In one of the images, a young girl is seen biting his hand. The soldier was lightly wounded as a result of the altercation. The commander in the area decided to release the minor. The army said that one other Palestinian was detained in Friday's clashes, along with one foreign activist.
Haaretz quotes left-wing Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak, who denies Israel even has a right to exist, as denying that there was stone throwing. The fact Pollak was present makes the whole incident suspect, in addition to the background of the Tamimi family. Now, questions are being raised by The Daily Mail of Britain and others as to whether the current incident was deliberately provoked because Tamimi members were involved. The most famous photo shows a girl biting the hand of the Israeli soldier. That girl is Ahed Tamimi.

In recent posts we have discussed Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a U.S. based organization that has established itself as the “Jewish wing” of the Palestinian solidarity movement. JVP plays a critical role in numerous aspects of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in the United States by giving Jewish cover. In so presenting itself as the Jewish justification for BDS, JVP serves the role of washing away the stains of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism which are central to the BDS movement's founding and conduct.

1. JVP - Not a Major Player in Jewish Life

Founded in 1996 by a small group of left-wing San Francisco Bay Area Jews, JVP worked in relative obscurity for years. Today it looks poised to break into the big leagues of American Jewish organizational life. According to its website and recent press releases, JVP currently has a youth wing and a Rabbinic Council, over 65 member-led chapters across the country, and 200,000+ online supporters. But looks can be deceiving. It’s difficult to pin these numbers down. According to Yitzhak Santis, Chief Programs Officer for the Jerusalem-based watchdog group NGO Monitor, “JVP provides no evidence” for its claim of tens of thousands of Jewish American followers. It doesn’t actually require that its members be Jewish or American.

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, a Palestinian Christian organization headquartered in Jerusalem, is a group you probably never heard of. But Sabeel plays a critical role in seeking to reverse Christian support for Israel around the world. In the U.S., Friends of Sabeel - North America (FOSNA) is behind or involved in virtually every divestment resolution pending before various Christian denominations, often teaming up with Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). You need to know about Sabeel, and how Sabeel and JVP team up against Israel. Sabeel provides the Christian liberation theology, JVP provides the Jewish cover.

1. United Church of Christ

For the past few days, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ (UCC) has been deliberating in Cleveland, Ohio on several resolutions related to Israel. Back in 2005, the UCC passed a resolution condemning Israel’s security barrier and calling on Israel to “tear down the wall” (Israel’s construction of the security barrier began in 2002 as a counterterrorism measure). This week its General Synod is considering a divestment resolution modelled after the one that narrowly passed last year by a 310-303 vote in the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the largest of several Presbyterian denominations in America.

This would be funny were it not for the fact that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is such a sad sack of haters. Activists from Ithaca Jewish Voice for Peace were behind the recent failed effort to get GreenStar Food Coop in Ithaca, NY (home of Cornell University) to boycott Israel. Those activists formed a group called Central NY Committee for Justice in Palestine, later reconfigured as Ithaca Food Justice for Palestine. But two JVP activists, Ariel Gold and Beth Harris -- who (in)famously got themselves arrested at the AIPAC annual conference -- were behind it all. Details on that GreenStar boycott effort, including the hateful messages used as part of the campaign (See Featured Image for one example), are in my post, Huge BDS loss – GreenStar Food Coop rejects Israel boycott. Attempts were made to take the GreenStar boycott movement national, involving such "stars" as Angela Davis and Medea Benjamin, but that didn't help them much: Greenstar Boycott Angela Davis Medea Benjamin One aspect of the failed boycott effort involved China. China?

Activists from Ithaca Jewish Voice for Peace brought a referendum to the GreenStar Food Coop in Ithaca calling for a boycott of Israeli products.  The effort was national, with big names such as Angela Davis (radical anti-Israel prof.) and Medea Benjamin (Code Pink) lending their support (see Featured Image). The effort was rejected tonight unanimously by the GreenStar Council based on the NY State Human Rights law prohibition of boycotts based on national origin. (Full decision at bottom of post.) Similar to the Park Slope Food Coop in Brooklyn, NY, the referenda caused enormous tension among the GreenStar membership and within the community. See our prior posts: The proposed referenda read:
1. Shall Greenstar be required to halt the sale of all Israeli products and produce grown or produced in the Occupied West Bank in Israeli settlements, settlements which are recognized as illegal under international law?

We have written several times before about the effort by Jewish Voice for Peace activists in Ithaca, NY, where Cornell is located, to advance a referendum at the GreenStar Food Coop to boycott Israeli products. The Greenstar Council is considering whether, under its bylaws, there are grounds to reject the referendum petition, or whether it is obligated to let the referendum go to a full membership vote in early November 2015. The GreenStar Council takes no position on the merits of the boycott, and seems aware that the referendum process itself, not to mention if it passes, will do serious damage to GreenStar itself. Yet the referendum is being pushed hard by the JVP activists, particularly Ariel Gold (who works as an organizer for the anti-Israel Friends of Sabeel - North America) and Beth Harris (a retired Ithaca College professor long active in the boycott movement). Gold and Harris tried hard to and did manage to get themselves arrested at the 2015 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual conference as part of a Code Pink-led protest. The boycott push, though just starting, has been marred by incendiary rhetoric from the pro-Boycott side. Last fall, the group promoting the boycott (the Central NY Committee for Justice in Palestine - CNYCJP) posted on its Facebook page a horrible photoshop of Nazi concentration camp inmates holding anti-Israel signs. The photoshop was taken down after I called attention to it and people began to complain. CNYCJP claimed it was done by a former member and without group permission, but it refused to identify the person.

On Sunday, March 1, 2015, we provided on-scene coverage of Code Pink's "Shut Down AIPAC" protest. The most notable feature of the protest was the waving of Hezbollah flags. Code Pink managed to get some press coverage even though it didn't shut down AIPAC, or even an itsy, bitsy part of AIPAC, because five protesters were arrested, including two from Ithaca, my current place of residence. One of the arrestees, Ariel Gold, may be familiar to readers from prior coverage of Gold's efforts to have GreenStar Food Coop in Ithaca boycott Israeli products and products co-owned by Israelis, such as Sabra and Tribe Hummus. Gold is employed as a professional organizer for Friends of Sabeel - North America, a group which works to weaken American Christian support for Israel, and is a leader of Ithaca Jewish Voice for Peace. You may recall that when I spoke on local progressive radio against the boycott movement, Gold called into the control room to complain about me in the middle of the interview! Publicity, of course, was the real goal of the Code Pink protest. If all you knew about the arrests was the press coverage, you'd think that the arrests were not the goal, but the byproduct of protesting. Much as the Pallywood fake or staged photo ops are used to gin up press coverage against Israel, however, so too were the arrests at AIPAC. It was pure Pallywood, arrests contrived for the cameras. They weren't arrested for protesting. They were protesting to get arrested for publicity. Don't take my word for it. A Legal Insurrection reader who saw our coverage of the protest sent along a video of Gold speaking at a post-arrest event, in which she admitted it was all a set up:

We are in the midst of "Israel Apartheid Week."  In the U.S. it lasts from February 26-March 12 -- which is more than one week, but anti-Israel groups always take liberties with terminology and numbers. On campuses we will see mock "Apartheid Walls" (referring to the Israeli security barrier); but we will not see any mock suicide bombers, whose relentless self-detonation killed 452 Israeli civilians in 2002 leading to construction of the barrier (a wall in some places, but mostly fencing). Student groups like Students for Justice in Palestine, will chant and scream slogans like "From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free."  I believe them when they say that. The BDS movement is about the destruction of Israel, even if some naive supporters think otherwise. Guess who is a big, big fan of Israel Apartheid Week? None other than the Supreme Leader of Iran, that beacon of freedom and justice for all, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, who tweeted this greeting: He has good reason to gloat.

Today, I braved an ice storm to video protests at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington, DC. The nasty weather didn't stop a group of around 60 anti-Israel activists from storming the steps of the Washington Convention Center and blocking at least one entrance to the conference grounds. Code Pink and other anti-Israeli groups went into a frenzy against AIPAC, the "Israel lobby," and what they believe is the "Apartheid" State of Israel. I also saw harassment of men, women, and children who had done nothing to deserve it except make the mistake of revealing their conference badge before they reached the door. Those who were obviously religious Jews (based on their head coverings, clothing, and facial hair) got it worse.  There were shouts of "Go Home" hurled at the attendees. There was also the Hezbollah flag flying overhead, as this video shows.  There were chants that "BDS is the best" (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement), and "The State of Israel's Got to Go."
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