April 23, 2018
News Press Release

ACTION ALERT: ZOA: Durham, NC City Council Must Rescind Its Discriminatory, False Statement Libeling Israel/Banning Police Training with Israel

Durham City Council Sided with Jew-Hating Terrorist-Allied Organizations, and Ignored Pleas of Durham’s Rabbis, Police, Civic Groups, and Frightened and Concerned Jewish and Pro-Israel Community Members

Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) Chair, Dr. Michael Goldblatt, President Morton Klein, Director of Special Projects, Liz Berney, Esq. released the following statement:

On April 16, the Durham, North Carolina, City Council and Mayor Steven Schewel unanimously approved an appalling, anti-Semitic, gratuitous, false official statement and policy libeling Israel and banning any Durham police training with Israel.  Opponents of the Durham City Council’s action correctly pointed out that the City Council’s action was a solely an anti-Israel political stunt, because no such police training was planned.  The opponents of the City Council’s action also correctly pointed out that the Council’s action marginalizes and threatens Durham’s Jewish community. 

The City Council’s racially divisive, hurtful, anti-Semitic statement adopted anti-Israel smears, including that police training in Israel causes “militarization” of American police, “racial profiling” and “harms to communities of color.”  In fact, Israel has long experience combatting Palestinian-Arab terrorism targeting Israeli civilians, while Israeli law enforcement continues to act incredibly humanely towards Palestinian civilians.  This experience is of immense value to any police force that likewise seeks to act humanely while protecting its citizens.  

The ZOA demands that Mayor Schewel and the Durham City Council immediately rescind its appalling statement and ban. 

ZOA urges: Call and email Mayor Schewel and the Council members at the phone numbers and emails listed below to demand rescission, and explain why the City Council’s action is wrong, discriminatory and anti-Semitic.  Also please email the entire council at:  [email protected]  (with a copy to ZOA at [email protected]). 

The Durham City Council’s statement read in pertinent part:

The Durham City Council appreciates receipt of the memo dated April 4, 2018 from Chief C.J. Davis to City Manager Tom Bonfield stating that “there has been no effort while I have served as Chief of Police to initiate or participate in any exchange to Israel, nor do I have any intention to do so.”  The Durham City Council endorses this statement by Chief Davis and affirms as policy that the Durham Police Department will not engage in such exchanges. The council opposes international exchanges with any country in which Durham officers receive military-style training since such exchanges do not support the kind of policing we want here in the City of Durham. We recognize and share the deep concern about militarization of police forces around the country. We know that racial profiling and its subsequent harms to communities of color have plagued policing in our nation and in our own community. . . Black lives matter. We can make that phrase real in Durham by rejecting the militarization of our police force in favor of a different kind of policing, and that is what we are doing in Durham now.”

The City Council’s actions were instigated by a coalition of Jew-hating terrorist-allied groups, called “Demilitarize from Durham2Palestine,” who ran a vicious anti-Israel disinformation campaign.  The coalition includes groups such as the Muslim Public Affairs Council, which is on record calling for Israel’s complete destruction and blaming Israel for 9/11 terror attack ;see MPAC and its president’s statements and citations in ZOA’s Report on J Street, at page 76 & footnote 294), and two chapters of the virulent anti-Israel, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which Congressional testimony revealed is funded by Hamas. (See “Former Treasury Official: Hamas Group Funds BDS/SJP Groups,” ZOA summary of testimony, May 3, 2016.)

A City Council Platform for Antisemitic Israel-Bashers:  The Durham City Council meeting on April 16, 2018 (See town council meeting full video) was a platform for Islamists (including a Arab woman wearing what appears to be a Hamas neckscarf) and their sympathizers to spew outrageous, vicious, anti-Semitic, anti-Israel lies.  For instance:

  • Durham’s Minister Rafik Zaidi Mohammed, who described himself at the hearing as “a Muslim believer, a follower of Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, . . . on the forefront with the Palestinians since 1975,” twice referred to Jews as “the Synagogue of Satan,” and accused Jews  of being “unseen forces.  There’s always a synagogue of Satan lingering in the background.”  Minister Mohammed added: “I point out the inordinate control that some Jews have over the political system in this city,” and closed with a blessing for “Allah” to “intervene.”  (See video, Open Anti-Semitism at Durham City Council Meeting,” video, April 16, 2018.)
  • Aptly-named speaker Jihad Shawa showed a video of someone calling the Israeli army “the best-trained, best-equipped, best-fed terrorist organization in the world. . . . their entire purpose is terrorism,” while Jihad Shawa yelled “this is Israel, this is Zionism!” (full meeting video, 1:07)
  • Gazan Mohamed Eid falsely portrayed the IDF as brutes, with lies such as that “[IDF] soldiers laugh when soldiers kill elderly Palestinians” and “at the Gaza border, officers command soldiers to aim at a very young boy, and cheer in excitement.”  (meeting video, 59) 
  • Other Islamist speakers and their sympathizers repeated the same themes – falsely portraying Israel as practicing apartheid, occupying Palestinian land, targeting children, “mutilating and torturing” Palestinian Arabs, and shooting “peaceful demonstrators” in Gaza. 

None of the “coalition” speakers mentioned the thousands of Palestinian-Arab deadly terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians, including the violent Gazan riots, in which Hamas and its paid rioters have been screaming for “death to the Jews,” lobbing Molotov cocktails and shooting at the IDF, and trying to storm the border to carry out their death threats against the Jewish people.

JVP’s Anti-Israel Leadership Role and Infiltration of Durham Jewish Education:  One of the leaders of the Jew-hating, Israel-maligning “Demilitarize from Durham2Palestine” coalition is the misleadingly named “Jewish Voice for Peace” (JVP) – an extremist, virulent anti-Israel group promoting anti-Israel boycotts, which gives “Jewish cover” to Islamist anti-Semites.  JVP is running a defamatory national campaign to blame Israel for purported American police violence towards “people of color.”  Unfortunately, JVP has infiltrated some local Durham synagogues.  At the City Council hearing, JVP leader Sandra Korn described herself as “a Jewish educator, a leader in my synagogue,” and then urged the City Council not to be dissuaded by “accusations of anti-Semitism,” and falsely portrayed the Jewish community as overwhelmingly in favor of the Council’s anti-Israel statement and ban.  (full meeting video, 1:10-1:12)

Durham local Jewish businesswoman Sloan Rachmuth informed ZOA that she has raised the issue of extremist anti-Israel JVP members such as Sandra Korn teaching Jewish children in the local synagogues and Jewish day school for years – and the Jewish community has failed to act.  The Durham City Council’s action should be a wake-up call to the Durham Jewish community that they must rid themselves of the anti-Israel anti-Semitic JVP cancer in their midst.

The Brave Opponents’ of the Durham City Council’s Action:There were many brave opponents of the Durham City Council’s action – but their statements fell on deaf ears.  ZOA praises all their efforts. 

Some notable examples include the following:

  • Local Durham Rabbi Zalman Bluming, after mentioning the over 3000 years of Jewish presence in the holy Jewish capital of Jerusalem, urged “Let’s make Durham a city for all.  My phone is ringing non-stop by young adults who feel unsafe, marginalized.  Why don’t we consider this sensitively?”  Rabbi Bluming also explained that he sat with IDF soldiers by the Gaza border, and that these are young 18 year olds fighting for their lives.  Rabbi Bluming again pleaded against the divisiveness of the Israel ban, saying: “Let’s make the city we love a city for all.”  (full meeting video, 1:43-1:45)

It is not just young Jewish adults who are feeling unsafe.  A Durham resident told ZOA that her young children are now afraid to disclose that they are Jewish at their public school, and that more and more Durham Jews are now hiding their faith, especially after this City-Council-endorsed anti-Semitism. 

  • Longtime Jewish resident of Durham Evelina Molder, correctly explained that the City Council’s statement “is a response to a non-existent problem” because the Durham police chief has already said that there are no plans for the Durham police force to train in Israel.  Ms. Molder noted that the Durham City Council “has become a pawn in a publicity initiative,” and that “This statement demonizes Israel and by implication the Jewish people.  I am one of those Jewish people. I care deeply that Israel not be vilified and not misrepresented. [This is] unnecessary political targeting and demonization of Israel.”  (full meeting video 1:49-1:51)
  • Durham resident Larry Beckler responded to the false charges of racism against Israel.  He cited Israel going into Ethiopia in Operation Moses (1984) and Operation Solomon (1991) to rescue black Jews and bring them to their homeland, Israel.  Mr. Beckler also noted that Israel’s Knesset includes a high percentage of Muslims.  Mr. Beckler also respectfully suggested that the City Council exercise caution, citing the famous Biblical passage: “Those who bless Israel will be blessed, those who curse Israel will be cursed.  If you curse Israel today or in the future, you will bring woe upon Durham, North Carolina and the United States.”   (full meeting video, 1:01-1:03)
  • Duke University student Max Cherman passionately spoke about how Israeli training was a “non-issue” because it was not even being proposed, and noted: “A vocal minority of petitioners has exploited a non-issue for an anti-Israel political agenda. Like hawks circling their prey, they are political opportunists targeting this council.”  Cherman also noted that Students for Justice for Palestine (SJP) at Duke University ignores the Hamas terrorist group’s genocidal ambitions.  He also stated regarding the blood libel accusations being bandied about at the meeting: “the Jews are again being baselessly and shamelessly accused of heartless murder for economic gain.”  He also warned, regarding the City Council’s treatment ignoring the concerns of the Jewish community, “Tomorrow it could be you.”  (full meeting video, 1:33)
  • Richard Ford, Chairperson of Friends of Durham, noted that the City Council should not be taking a position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has nothing to do with Durham, and instead should deal with its job: the city of Durham’s business and issues. (full meeting video, 1:03)  
  • Rabbi Jerome Fox (one of 10 local Rabbis, also including Rabbi Bruning, who sent a letter to the Durham City Council urging them not to single out Israel), spoke about how JVP spouted anti-Semitism at a recent class, including calling the IDF butchers as bad as ISIS.  (full meeting video, 1:39)
  • Deborah Freedman correctly noted that the Jewish community has a long tradition of empathy and support for the African-American community – and that some Jews have even sacrificed their lives for African-American rights. [Incidentally, ZOA President Morton Klein was injured while fighting for African American voting rights.]  Ms. Freedman explained that the City Council statement was anti-Semitic – involving a double-standard, hypocrisy, and scapegoating.  She directly stated that it is a lie that Israeli police teach militaristic tactics.  Rather, the Israeli police teach counter-terrorism, and how to assist during national disasters.  (full meeting video, 1:53.)

Indeed, as the Jewish Press reported: “Former Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez traveled to Israel to attend one of the programs while serving on the department, and said the petition [to ban training in Israel] was inaccurate and provided grossly distorted information about Israel. Lopez said he was trained in how to manage major crisis situations “where bombings had occurred, shootings, things of that nature, things that really a lot of Americans need to concern themselves now.” He added that the exchange is valuable and the petition distorts what really happens, pointing out that none of the training had anything to do with “militarizations.””

  • William Rosenberg wisely asked the Durham City Council to table the issue, until the Council could measure the full impact of what it would mean to Durham.  Rosenberg noted that if the Council passed this statement, it will be widely recognized as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic, and it will adversely impact Durham businesses, home values, schools and universities.  (full meeting video, 1:25-1:26) 

Sadly, the Durham City Council even refused Mr. Rosenberg’s most reasonable request to wait to consider the interests of the citizens whom the council was elected to represent.  Instead, the Durham City Council furthered the interests of a cabal of anti-Semitic, anti-Israel hate groups, and enacted a shameful discriminatory, anti-Semitic, anti-Israel statement and policy. 

ZOA again urges the Durham City Council to rescind and remove this stain on the City of Durham, its mayor and Council.