The bullies who stand with Stand With Us are developing ever more belligerent, assaultive behavior in their jihad against the pro-peace movement. Last week at one of its regular meetings, members of Jewish Voice for Peace were confronted with a number of hecklers who were also attempting to videotape the meeting against the express wishes of JVP. I’m going to let JVP explain what happened:
…Up to a dozen members of San Francisco Voice for Israel/StandWithUs, a right-wing Israeli advocacy group with a documented track record of aggressively taunting and intimidating grassroots peace activists, attended a Bay Area Jewish Voice for Peace community meeting at a South Berkeley Senior Center.
…Wrapped in an Israeli flag, San Francisco Voice for Israel/StandWithUs (SFVI/SWU) member Robin Dubner, an Oakland based attorney, pepper-sprayed two JVP members in the eyes and face after they attempted to nonviolently block her ability to aggressively videotape the faces of JVP meeting attendees against their will. The members, Alexei Folger and Glen Hauer, were careful to make no physical contact with her or her camera prior to the attack.
Folger said, “I did not see it coming and all of a sudden there was gooey stuff all over my head and hand. I have never been pepper-sprayed before, my whole head felt like it was on fire.”
[At an earlier JVP street protest last June]…Caught on a widely seen videotape was a SFVI/SWU supporter pointing his camera to the faces of silent peace vigil participants while saying “You’re all being identified, every last one of you…we will find out where you live. We’re going to make your lives difficult. We will disrupt your families…”
For that reason, JVP members were particularly concerned about protecting the safety of meeting attendees and preventing the videotaping.
…Hauer, a retired attorney and member of San Francisco’s Congregation Sha’har Zahav who was treated for pepper spray explained, ”When one of the intruders [Dubner] continued standing and filming people despite the facilitator and facility manager repeatedly telling her that she could not, I first asked her politely to please put away the video camera, then several times told her to put away the camera, and then tried nonviolently to stay in front of the camera with my body, even when she shoved me. I could have taken the camera but decided instead to talk to the woman and to try to be the only person she photographed.”
…Dubner was accompanied by up to a dozen other StandWithUs members–including Dan Spitzer, Susan Meyers, Mike Harris, Bea Lieberman, Faith Meltzer, and Ross Meltzer–who repeatedly disrupted and aggressively videotaped the JVP meeting and JVP members against their will, wielding the cameras in an intimidating and belligerent manner. Despite repeated requests from the JVP meeting facilitator and other JVP activists to desist from recording and put away their videocameras, the SFVI/SWU activists – who had spread themselves throughout the room – continued to record and launch lengthy monologues while the presenters attempted to speak.
They were explicitly invited by the JVP facilitator to stay in the meeting and participate without videotaping but they refused. They also refused offers for floor time by the presenters. The manager of the facility asked the SFVI/SWU members to abide by JVP’s rules or face the police, and when SFVI/SWU refused to comply with JVP’s protocol, the police were called.
…When police arrived, Dubner was temporarily placed in handcuffs while other members of San Francisco Voice for Israel/StandWithUs remained inside the meeting blowing loud whistles, using videocameras to intimidate meeting attendees.
Dubner refused repeated requests by JVP members or the police to identify the substance she sprayed. A police officer later identified it as pepper spray and paramedics were called to help treat the victims of the attack. One of them, Alexei Folger, looked visibly red and swollen, as though she had been burned on more than half her face.
…This deliberate confrontation is part of a pattern of escalating intimidation and attacks against peace activists in the Bay Area. Earlier this year, the home of Tikkun Magazine editor Michael Lerner was covered in threatening posters. In addition to the videotaped harassment of Women in Black and JVP members, several months ago someone placed threatening graffiti outside of the JVP offices.
Americans for Peace Now and Meretz USA have denounced this attack. No word yet on when JVP will hear from the ADL or even J Street. Yes, yes, I know naysayers will say that these assaults are the acts of aberrant personalities who don’t represent the mainstream Jewish community or even Stand With Us. But look, Stand With Us is a deliberately confrontational organization. Perhaps Roz Rothstein or Rob Jacobs won’t douse anyone with pepper spray but clearly a significant number of their members will. And they either cannot or will not control them.
This behavior is not exclusive to the Bay Area either. Here in Seattle, SWU board member David Brumer (he was even on the board of my shul at the time) wrote in an e mail to me that I should be spanked for my views. Brumer works as the geriatric social worker at the Kline-Galland Home, Seattle’s Jewish home for the aged. Neither the leadership of the Jewish community nor his employer finds anything untoward with Brumer’s verbally assaultive behavior.
Stand With Us plays an honored role in the Israel discourse in Seattle. At the Operation Cast Lead local community meeting, SWU’s Nevet Basker made the main presentation. Included on the Jewish federation’s Israel committee is Stand With Us. This is the same committee that organized the anti-Iran program last October at which the Israeli consul general and an Aipac flack with no experience dealing with Iran, spoke. They bring their dog and pony shows to Hebrew schools, synagogues, Hillels and universities with IDF veterans telling American Jews that Palestinians force them to kill them against their will. Stand With Us organizes gay tours to Israel to promote the notion that Israel is a paradise for gays–all this in order to juxtapose the supposed homophobia of Muslim countries.
When it all comes down to it, the behavior of Stand With Us is of a piece with Zionist Organization of America and Israel’s Im Tirzu and even mainstream Israel-apologists like Alan Dershowitz. The latter will not pepper spray anyone, but his rhetoric is no less brutal and inciting, as anyone who reads this blog will know from my posts about him.
There is a struggle for the heart and soul of the Jewish community and Israel going on in both places. I have no problem with Stand With Us existing in our community. But I have a problem with mainstream Jewish leaders refusing to recognize the quality of the people behind this group. They are thugs and pogromists. If you lie down with them you will get up with fleas.
- APN Condemns Violence at JVP Event (peacenow.org)