Jewish Voice for Peace Detroit stands with Palestinian activist attorney Huwaida Arraf, who is under attack with false smears of anti-Semitism after speaking in support of Palestine as an invited speaker at a Bloomfield Hills High School diversity event on March 14. Bloomfield Hills Schools has caved to pressure against these false accusations.
There is a special meeting of the Bloomfield Hills School Board tonight, Monday, March 20 at 8 pm. They have 3 rooms reserved for it. Please attend to express your support for Huwaida, especially if you live in BH and/or have kids who go to BH schools. There should be an opportunity to speak out.
Gary M. Doyle Center for Professional DevelopmentBooth Center, Rooms A, B, C7273 Wing Lake RoadBloomfield Hills, Michigan 48301
We encourage you to contact Bloomfield Hills Schools Superintendent Pat Watson at (email@example.com) to express your support for Huwaida and make clear that supporting Palestine is not anti-Semitism.
Huwaida Arraf is a Palestinian-American lawyer and human rights advocate. She received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, and her Juris Doctor from the American University Washington College of Law, where she focused her studies on international human rights and humanitarian law. In 2001 Huwaida co-founded the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which has twice been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Huwaida is co-editor of the book “Peace Under Fire: Israel, Palestine, and the International Solidarity Movement.”Huwaida was one of the initiators and organizers of a delegation of American lawyers to Gaza in February 2009, and co-authored the report on their findings, “Onslaught: Israel’s Attack on Gaza and the Rule of Law.” Huwaida is the former Chairperson of the Free Gaza Movement. Since August 2008, she has led 5 successful sea voyages to the Gaza Strip to confront and challenge Israel’s illegal blockade. Huwaida ran for Michigan’s 10th Congressional District in the 2022 election and was supported by JVP-Action. Read more
Below is the message sent from JVP-Detroit member Mike Friedman to the Bloomfield Hills School’s Superintendent:
Dear Superintendent Watson –
I am writing as a member of the Detroit Jewish community to express my opposition to the Bloomfield Hills school system’s response to Huwaida Arraf’s recent presentation at the Bloomfield High School. There was nothing in her presentation that was anti-semitic or harmful to any students in the audience. She was speaking out against the harms caused by the racism and discrimination of the Israeli government’s policies that fail to provide full citizenship to Palestinians, illegally under international law occupy the West Bank, support settler violence, destroy Palestinian homes as a means of collective punishment, detain and jail Palestinian children without charges for extended periods of time, and now seek to undermine Israel’s claims to being a democratic state by abolishing the independence of the judiciary.
While it may be uncomfortable for some high school students to hear these things, it is far from “harming” them. Education should be unsettling as it causes us to re-think inherited notions and explore areas we may not know much about, but think we do. Apologizing to the community because the students were confronted with a different perspective degrades the very educational project that the Bloomfield Hills school system should be dedicated to. As Huwaida said about the subject of her talks, “My message addressed the harms caused by racism and discrimination, and denying others the same rights that you seek for yourself; rights that all people deserve. To the extent that anyone was upset to hear about what is happening to Palestinians, they should be. But, it seems to me that their problem is with the policies of the state of Israel, not with me.” In short, don’t shoot the messenger!
It should also be noted that the various Jewish organizations that lodged protests about Huwaida’s talks have, both historically and currently, proven unable and/or unwilling to comprehend or accept that criticism of the policies of the government of Israel is not the same as, and is most often quite different from, anti-semitic hate speech. Voicing opposition to governmental policy is, at least in this country, a constitutionally protected activity, even when such views may be strenuously opposed. Those who participated in the civil rights movements and anti-war movements (both Vietnam and Iraq) in this country, were accused of being “anti-American,” but history has proven those accusations to be wrong. In Israel today thousands of its Jewish citizens are protesting in the streets against the Israeli government and many in the Israeli military are refusing to serve. Would these Detroit Jewish organizations also call those protestors “anti-semitic?”
These groups seemed to be especially upset that Huwaida spoke of the Palestinians’ right to resist, but they should remember Israel’s own history. Jewish paramilitary organizations like the Palmach, Irgun and the Stern Gang waged war against the British occupation and undertook brutal military actions against the native Palestinian populations during and after Israel’s struggle for independence. Organizations who likely pride themselves on the guerrilla struggle of Jews to found the state of Israel should not be surprised that Palestinians may want to assert a right to resist their current oppression and treatment by a government that does not represent them, does not include them, and seeks only to be rid of them. No apology for pointing this out is needed. That an educational institution that seeks to promote open inquiry, free thinking and a commitment to democratic values felt it necessary to apologize is shameful. Indeed, if the Bloomfield Hills school system owes an apology to anyone, it is to Huwaida Arraf.
Mike Friedman (JVP-Detroit Steering Committee member)
—JVP Steering Committee & JVP Friends
Mariam Alboustani, Barbara Barefield, Matt Clark, Mike Duffy, George Evalt, Dave Finkel, Joshua Feinstein, Michael Friedman, Don Greenspon, Barbara Harvey, Tasneem Sultan, Ray McCarus, Lori Ajlouny
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