UC regents have bigger issues than student rep debate

July 18, 2014

For the second consecutive year, the UC regents board is embroiled in an unnecessary and counterproductive controversy over the views of its student representatives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

On Wednesday, the regents voted to confirm the selection of Abraham “Avi” Oved, a UCLA economics major who will begin his senior year this fall, to be a student representative on the university governing board. Oved has previously served as the internal vice president of the campus undergraduate student government, and he was the selection committee’s unanimous pick for the regents board due to his thoughtfulness and boundless energy, committee members said.

But Oved is also an active member of student Jewish organizations at UCLA and an opponent of the movement to have the University of California divest its holdings in companies that do business with the Israeli military. That, regrettably, helped incite an effort to stymie his appointment.

Oved’s appointment comes during a period of contentious debate on UC campuses about the Middle East. Last year, for instance, the U.S. Department of Education exonerated UC Berkeley, Irvine and Santa Cruz of allegations of anti-Semitism in connection with protests that some Jewish students felt constituted harassment. This spring, Students for Justice in Palestine called on UCLA student council candidates not to take trips to Israel under the sponsorship of three pro-Israel groups.

Last year, this page supported the appointment of a Muslim student, Sadia Saifuddin, to the Board of Regents despite harsh objections from Jewish organizations because of her advocacy for divestment. Now, we support Oved as well.

The people involved in these squabbles should take a cue from the two student appointees themselves, who have, for the most part, said the right things. Oved said he would “reach out to communities that may have felt uncomfortable” with his nomination. And despite casting the only vote to delay Oved’s confirmation, Saifuddin welcomed the opportunity to work with him and to help guide him “through the myriad moral and political factors” student regents face.

Jewish and Muslim communities to break fast for peace

July 15, 2014

NEW HAVEN. The violent actions on display between Israelis and Palestinians is a sight Rabbi Herbert Brockman doesn’t like viewing or listening to.

But instead of hearing about casualties, Brockman, spiritual leader of Congregation Mishkan Israel of Hamden, doesn’t want to stand by.

At sundown Tuesday, Brockman and other members of the Jewish community will head to The Islamic Association of Greater Hartford in Berlin for a date with Muslims, where they will break fast together. Tuesday is Shivah Asar B’Tammuz, a fast day for Jews, while Muslims are fasting during the month of Ramadan, Mongi Dhaouadi, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations in Connecticut, praised the event. CAIR’s focus is to empower the Muslim community through activism.

“It was well received from both sides,” Dhaouadi of New London said. “It’s a very small gesture. I don’t think sitting on the sideline doing nothing is acceptable either.”

CAIR Condemns Vandalism of Mass. Synagogue with Pro-Palestinian Graffiti

July 15, 2014

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, today condemn vandalism of a Massachusetts synagogue with pro-Palestinian graffiti.

Police are investigating graffiti, which included “Free Palestine” and “God Bless Gaza,” spray-painted on the Montefiore Orthodox Synagogue in Lowell, Mass.

In a statement, CAIR said:

“Whatever views one holds on the current round of violence in the Middle East, attacks on houses of worship must be condemned and the perpetrators brought to justice.”

64 public figures, 7 Nobel laureates, call for arms embargo on Israel

July 20, 2014

Tutu, Chomsky, Waters, Pappe, others accuse country of ‘war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.’

Sixty-four public figures, including seven Nobel Peace Prize winners, have called for an international arms embargo on Israel for its “war crimes and possible crimes against humanity” in Gaza. The statement came in a letter published in Britain’s The Guardian on Friday.

“Israel has once again unleashed the full force of its military against the captive Palestinian population, particularly in the besieged Gaza Strip, in an inhumane and illegal act of military aggression. Israel’s ability to launch such devastating attacks with impunity largely stems from the vast international military cooperation and trade that it maintains with complicit governments across the world,” read the statement.

“We call on the UN and governments across the world to take immediate steps to implement a comprehensive and legally binding military embargo on Israel, similar to that imposed on South Africa during apartheid,” the letter concluded.

German ZMD statement concerned with the war in Palestine

July 17, 2014

The Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD) issued a statement concerned with the continued bloodshed in the Holy Land. It called upon the European Union as well as the United Nations to undertake their utmost to cease the extrajudicial killing and collective punishment of the Palestinian civil population taking place in Gaza. Likewise the ZMD utterly condemned the kidnapping and killing of four innocent teens (3 Israeli and 1 Palestinian). Finally, the statement called upon all Abrahamic communities in Germany and Europe to distance themselves explicitly from any forms of anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism as well as appealed to the media to give an unbiased and unprejudiced account of the conflict.

 

 

Hollande urges Middle East diplomacy after pro-Palestinian protest in Paris

July 14, 2014

After Muslim youths attempted to forcefully enter two Paris synagogues on Sunday, July 13, French president Francois Hollande is calling for diplomatic measures between leaders of Hamas and Israel and “pressing Israel for restraint in Gaza.”

The conflict has caused religious tension within France and has led to several violent outbursts by pro-Palestinian protestors.

In a recent televised speech, Hollande stated, “Israel has the right to its security; Israel can defend itself if it is attacked; but at the same time Israel should show restraint.” A synagogue near the Bastille was stormed by more than 100 youths chanting “Israel murder.” More than two thousand protestors participated in Sunday’s march. Some carried banners saying “stop killing children.” Six policemen and two worshippers at the synagogue were injured.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who lives in the neighborhood, condemned the attacks. “France will never tolerate people trying in words or deeds to import the Israeli-Palestine conflict onto its territory,” he said.

The French president said that he has attempted “to convince those who could have an influence on Hamas, on the Gaza Strip, and at the same time putting pressure on Israel” to put a stop to the ongoing attacks. Hollande has affirmed that he is intent on stopping the violence from being “imported” to France.”

“We cannot have intrusion or efforts at intrusions into places of worship, whether they are synagogues, as happened yesterday, but I would say the same thing for mosques, for churches, or for temples,” he said. “Religions should be respected, all religions. These places of worship should be protected.”

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations: Muslim leaders call for calm

July 16, 2014

Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, called for peace and “strongly recommends respect for places of worship” following the incidents on Sunday, July 13 in front of two synagogues in Paris.

His statement condemned the “misbehaviors” that “should not disrupt the lives of Frenchmen, no matter their religious beliefs.”

His speech came in the wake of a pro-Palestinian demonstrations responding to the current conflict between Israel’s government and Hamas, some of which ended in violence. “The current Muslim opinion concerning this conflict must remain calm and work for peace in this blessed month of Ramadan,” wrote Boubakeur. “The escalation of violence has already caused several casualties and we call for all national and international authorities to stop the violence,” he declared. The Great Mosque of Paris announced that it would hold a “prayer for the absent” to honor the victims. The mosque “called for all other mosques to do the same.”

The president of the Union of French Mosques, Mohammed Moussaoui believes that peaceful demonstrations in support of Palestinians are “legitimate and justified,” while reaffirming that “nothing justifies an action that harms our Jewish citizens, their institutions, or their places of worship. Such an action, strongly condemnable and morally unjust and unacceptable, would also affect the interest of the Palestinian people and the support that they could have in French public opinion.”

The president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France, Roger Cukierman, expressed his “utmost concern” to Hollande concerning the demonstrations. The Jewish community views the incidents “as a break from the republican pact…the Jewish community feels isolated within its national community,” stated Cukierman after meeting with the president. “No pro-Palestinian supporter should confuse anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Because today there is identification between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.”

Five people were sent to criminal court for violence and for disruption of public order after the demonstrations on July 13.

Jewish and Muslim friends, remain foremost Frenchmen

July 13, 2014

“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the heart of any discussion at the moment” begins Tareq Oubrou in a recent op-ed. “I call on my fellow citizens, no matter their religious beliefs, to calm. I know well that certain, quick to vilify any attempt to move in this direction, will interpret this message as treason, even if it is a call to live together and to learn to decipher the subtleties of our society.”

Oubrou called on French Muslims to distinguish between “what is political and what is religious” and said that French Jews must also do this. He stated that the current conflict is political rather than religious. Oubrou stressed that each community must adopt this viewpoint in order to work towards peace and that “Jews must recognize the state of Israel’s part in the conflict, just as Muslims must also recognize the responsibility of organizations that ‘sow disorder.’”

“We are Frenchmen, citizens of the same country, we have the task of living together in harmony. So, we need to know how to discuss, to accept an opposite side’s dialogue and most of all, most of all to never move from political position to violence,” he said.

He recognized France’s importance as one of the most important Western countries to house large Muslim and Jewish communities. “We need courageous men and women to speak to their communities and make them see reason when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict creeps too far into our lives.” Oubrou stated that the “colonization of Palestinian territories needs to end, international law must be applied. It seems to me that it is the only way to appease Muslims in the world. And Muslims must say loud and clear that the multiple aggressions by Hamas are condemnable.”

Oubrou stated “while adopting different political positions in regard to this deadly conflict, a dividing line between French citizens remains necessary to live together in France.”

Arab American group urges boycott of White House Iftar dinner

July 14, 2014

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) urged all Arab and Muslims in the United States to boycott the Obama administration’s celebration of the holy month of Ramadan on Monday, arguing the president has condoned the killing of Palestinians in Gaza and the spying on some Americans based on their Muslim identities.

Like George W. Bush before him, Obama has hosted an Iftar dinner — the meal after sunset that breaks the day of fasting — each year he’s been in office. Other federal agencies, including the State Department, also hold iftar dinners to commemorate the holiday.

The ADC, the nation’s largest Arab American group, issued a statement citing both the administration’s support for Israel’s bombing campaign in response to airstrikes by the militant group Hamas as reasons not to participate in the administration’s celebrations.

Obama remains overwhelmingly popular with Muslims, although he has recently come under fire since Glenn Greewald and Murtza Hussain reported former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden had documents indicating the NSA had conducted surveillance on five American Muslim leaders.

The custom of celebrating Ramadan in the White House dates back at least to 1996, when then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton hosted a dinner during Eid-al-Fitr, the three-day festival marking the end of Ramadan. National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan noted in an e-mail Monday that the tradition may go back two centuries, according to accounts from the nation’s early days.

“Some consider President Thomas Jefferson to have hosted the first Iftar by a U.S. president, as he hosted a sunset dinner with an envoy from Tunisia over 200 years ago,” Meehan wrote. “The invited guests tonight include elected officials, members of the diplomatic corps, religious and grassroots leaders in the Muslim American community, and leaders of diverse faiths.”

Breaking the Ramadan fast in the company of Jews

July 10, 2014

(RNS) Muslim tradition calls for breaking the Ramadan fast in the evening with a date and a sip of water, and increasingly these days, the company of Jews.

Muslim-Jewish iftars are popping up across the nation, bringing together dozens and sometimes hundreds of people for a celebratory Ramadan meal and a chance to forge interfaith friendships.

This Ramadan, as Jews and Muslims exchange rocket fire in Israel and Gaza, those attending these meals say they are all the more significant, as a way of demonstrating that Jews and Muslims have much in common, and can enjoy each others’ food and company.

In Los Angeles on Thursday (July 10), an iftar that bills itself as the single largest gathering of Muslims and Jews in the city, is sponsored by NewGround, an organization that works year-round on Muslim-Jewish relations. The group exists to build resilient relationships that both groups can draw upon in particularly difficult times, said Rabbi Sarah Bassin, NewGround’s former executive director.

“Yes, we are in another awful flare-up of violence and both of our communities are suffering,” Bassin said. “That will be acknowledged at the iftar.”

At Muslim-Jewish iftars, particular attention is paid to food. In Los Angeles, the meal will be both halal and kosher, in keeping with both Muslim and Jewish dietary laws, which often overlap. Neither faith community eats pork, for example. Out of respect for Muslim tradition, no alcohol will be served.

Some of these interfaith Iftars will be hosted in mosques or other Muslims institutions — on Sunday (July 13), for example, at the Institute of Islamic and Turkish Studies in Cary, N.C. Others will take place in synagogues.