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Ithaca 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 (she also is a full time employee of Code Pink), and Mary Grady Flores. The event was arranged through third grade teacher Brooke Burnett, a friend of Gold and Flores. Bassem Tamimi Beverly Martin School Ariel Gold redacted w border

As you may have noted from some of my recent posts, we recently bought a small waterfront house in my formerly-now-once-again home State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. For the past six weeks I've been back and forth several times, and expect to split the year between Ithaca and Rhode Island again like I did for five years prior to selling our prior RI home in June 2013. During these breaks from Ithaca I've come to understand how living full time in Ithaca is a political pressure cooker. In Ithaca, everything is political. You can't escape it. You will not be left alone. You will be made to care. Even about your coffee, as I joked when we left RI for Ithaca full time:

In January 2016, I reported how an Ithaca (NY) Black Lives Matter rally over the death of Sandra Bland and others set up a procedure to segregate speakers by race, with "people of color" being given priority over whites, At anti-racism rally, Whites allowed to speak only after People of Color:
We ask that people of color who would like to bring written statements/speeches to address the ralley [sic] please let us know below so that we can add you to the list of schedueled speakers. There will be an open speak-out afterwards for those who just want to speak. Please be sure to bring warm clothing. Please also be sure to bring any signs or pictures of thoes affected by police brutality. We will meet at the center of the commons at 1pm. Disclaimer: If you are a reporter at this event we will not be answering any questions. Disclaimer: If you are a white person at this event note that the voices of people of color will take precedence in rally space.
Ithaca Protest Sandra Bland FB Page comment white people welcome

Ithaca, NY, loves it some Democratic Socialism of the Bernie Sanders type. Ithaca is the second Most Pro-Sanders Zip Code in the nation, just behind the Mission District of San Francisco. Here are the directions to my house, circa November 2008:
To live in Ithaca is to live in a city alive with anti-Bush, anti-war protest.  I often joke that the directions to my house in Ithaca  read as follows:  Take a right at the fifth Obama sign, a left at the third “Impeach Bush” placard, bear right at the “Support Our Troops, End the War” poster, and we are the house just after the “There’s a Village in Texas Missing its Idiot” banner.
Ithaca really is "10 Sq. miles surrounded by reality"

You may recall the name Janna Jihad. Janna is a member of the Tamimi clan from Nabi Saleh. Among the more infamous Tamimi members is Ahlam Tamimi, the woman who organized the Sbarro Pizza restaurant suicide bombing in 2001, and then broke out with a huge smile when she learned that more children actually were killed than she thought. The Tamimi clan also has a sophisticated media operation. Under the guidance of Bassem Tamimi and his wife, Tamimi and other village children are used as media props to confront Israeli soldiers for the cameras, including throwing rocks, hoping to create a viral image or video.

It doesn't sound quite as good as "on the cover of The Rolling Stone." A reader emailed me a photo of a NY Times front page story today in which I am quoted. Thing is, the Times article suggests I opposed the proposal:
Ever since Mr. Myrick, 29, unveiled a plan last month for what he called a “supervised injection facility,” critics have pounced on it as a harebrained idea that would just enable more drug abuse. A Republican state legislator, Tom O’Mara, called it “preposterous” and “asinine,” and a Cornell law professor, William A. Jacobson, said it would be a “government-run heroin shooting gallery.”
In fact, in my blog post from which the quote was taken, to which The Times links in the online version, I was ambivalent:

Bassem Tamimi has been on these pages quite frequently in the past half year, most of it related to his appearance at an Ithaca, NY, third grade class as part of an anti-Israel propaganda event organized by local Jewish Voice for Peace activist Ariel Gold (now employed by Code Pink) and one of the teachers. Tamimi is best known for using children, including his own, to confront Israeli soldiers in the hope of creating viral video and photo images. He has been quite successful at this, and many of the images resulting from these provocations have become international hits, such as this video of his daughter from several years ago: And this more recent incident:

As detailed in a prior post, my Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to the Ithaca City School District (ICSD) regarding Bassem Tamimi’s appearance before third graders at the Beverly J. Martin School (BJM) encountered a completely unexpected problem:
In brief, and incredibly, the teachers union in the Ithaca school district appears to have instructed its members not to produce records responsive to my FOIL Request contained on personal electronic devices and email accounts.... So I went to court and obtained a Temporary Restraining Order preserving records pending a court determination on the merits.
After responsive motion papers from ICSD and the Ithaca Teachers Association [ITA], in which ITA disputed some of ICSD's allegations, and my reply, the case was argued on January 25, 2016, before the N.Y. State Supreme Court (the trial level court in NY) in Ithaca. I was pro se in the case. ICSD was represented by a large Syracuse law firm, and ITA by the legal department of New York State United Teachers, the statewide teachers union. In a decision issued today, the Court granted most of the relief I requested, including injunctive relief requiring ICSD to make specified efforts to obtain records contained on the personal electronic devices of ICSD employees. (Full embed at bottom of post.) But first, some background for those of you not familiar with the third grade incident.

I'll never forget my one and only visit to a heroin shooting gallery. It was my first summer of law school, and I was working at the Manhattan (New York County) District Attorney's Office. It didn't pay much; we were paid $100 a week, in crisp $100 bills handed out at the cashier's window every Friday. Seriously. The extra-curricular part of the job was the most interesting. We took a tour of the Medical Examiner's Museum, not open to the public. Use your imagination as to what we saw there. We viewed an autopsy; the one I attended was of a guy found burned in a dumpster. I walked out on it. But by far the most exciting part was my police ride-along. My law school friend and I randomly were assigned to the same patrol, West Harlem on a Friday night. The cops we rode with thought it was really funny to have two young Harvard Law School students with them that night, so they decided to show us a good time.

A rally is planned in Ithaca, NY, for January 9, 2016, against allegedly racist violence by police, specifically the non-indictments in the deaths of Sandra Bland and Tamir Rice, and the deaths of Betty Jones and Quintonio LeGrier. The event is taking place at the Ithaca Commons, a public space in the center of town. Here's part of the description from the public Facebook Event Page:
On December 23rd a grand jury decided not to indict the jailers involed in the death of Sandra Bland. On December 28th a grand jury decided not to indict officer Timothy Leohmman in the extra judical killing of 12-year old Tamir Rice. On December 26th 55 year-old Betty Jones was mistakingly shot and killed by police as she opened her door. Her neighbor 19-year old Quintonio LeGrier was also killed. This is a rally in response to these events and the increasing violence and general terror administered by police towards people of color. The purpose of this rally is as follows: Agitation Mobilization Information
Ithaca Protest Sandra Bland FB Page banner

If you've wondered why I've been relatively absent from the website the past few days, it's because I had to deal with a completely unexpected problem regarding my Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to the Ithaca City School District (ICSD) regarding Bassem Tamimi's appearance before third graders at the Beverly J. Martin School (BJM). In brief, and incredibly, the teachers union in the Ithaca school district appears to have instructed its members not to produce records responsive to my FOIL Request contained on personal electronic devices and email accounts. [See Update, as to whether there has been a change of position on this.] So I went to court and obtained a Temporary Restraining Order preserving records pending a court determination on the merits. Details and full copy of Court Order below.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has been targeting American Reggae musician Matisyahu because he is Jewish and refuses to denounce Israel. In the summer of 2015 an international firestorm of controversy erupted after BDS succeeded in getting Matisyahu banned at the Spanish Rototom Reggae festival. The ban was reversed only after an international outcry, including denunciations by the Spanish government and a leading Spanish newspaper that the action amounted to religious discrimination. So when Matisyahu booked an appearance in Ithaca, NY, as part of his world tour, it was not long before the local BDS crowd, including our own BDS "star," sought a boycott of the event and planned a protest. But it didn't work. There was a substantial backlash in favor of artistic freedom. Ithaca resident Linda Glaser wrote a powerful op-ed in The Ithaca Journal, Let Jewish artist perform in Ithaca:
Artistic freedom is the right of every American, as it is based on the First Amendment right of freedom of speech. The Ithaca Coalition for Unity and Cooperation in the Middle East (ICU-CME) supports the right of American musician Matisyahu to perform and to be heard free from intimidation at the State Theatre of Ithaca.

Matisyahu is the American Jewish reggae musician who has been targeted by the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Last summer, BDS managed to get Matisyahu banned from the Spanish Rototom Reggae Festival after he refused to sign a statement renouncing and denouncing Israel. Matisyahu, believed to be the only Jewish musician scheduled to perform, was the only musician asked to sign a political statement in order to appear. After denunciations of the ban as religious discrimination by the Spanish government and a leading Spanish newspaper, and an international outcry, the Festival organizers apologized. Matisyahu was reinstated and performed on the main stage. Matisyahu also is the target of a BDS group in Ithaca, NY, where he is appearing tonight at the historic State Theatre, as part of a world tour.
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