Demonizing Israel- From Durham to Gaza

In April and May of 2018, events unfolding in Gaza and Durham, North Carolina coalesced as individuals attempting actions to threaten the future of Israel cried ‘victory’ in both locations by promoting lies and falsehoods.

In the first charade, activists from the deceptively entitled Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) falsely accused Israel of terrorizing people of color in Israel and that Israeli training of police officers in the US helped Durham police to “terrorize Black and Brown communities here in the US.”   JVP made numerous false accusations about Israel and lied to the City Council in getting support for a petition to the Council to ban police exchanges between Israel and Durham police officers.  The activists continued to promote the narrative that Israel should be condemned for any leadership training U.S. police receive in Israel, irrespective of the content of the training, whether it is on combatting homelessness or counterterrorism. The fact that police exchanges between Israel and Durham never existed did not stop those making false claims.

Further demonization of Israel occurred when these same activists spoke at City Hall on the issue and falsely stated, “We know Israel is the last country in the world to respect human rights.”  The gross libel that these charges promoted were not lost on the local Jewish community of Durham, whose Rabbis and Jewish Federation vociferously protested to the Durham Council about the anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, and ultimately anti-Semitic effect of such charges.  Nine local Rabbis signed a letter that said in part: “To link Israel to White Supremacy and other forms of hate speech in the U.S, to insinuate that Israel teaches American police to attack minorities in our country, or that problems in U.S. policing are due to the Israel/Palestinian conflict are insulting and will only serve to demonize Israel and the Jewish people. Efforts to delegitimize Israel are a purposeful strategy by some organizations, part of a broader strategy to promote Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, and one that is purposefully targeting Durham to accept terrible lies.”

The City Council meeting where the statement was heard allowed for more unfettered charges against Israel and the Jewish people, with anger spewing forth from lips as pungent as the lies that accompanied that anger. One speaker even referred to Satanic Jews, but most simply demonized and singled out Israel over all other countries in the world. The Council discussed a “compromise” statement in cahoots with anti-Israel organizations.

The Council’s statement took one sentence out of context from a glowing letter by the Durham Police Chief for her exceedingly positive leadership experiences in Israel while Police Chief in Atlanta, where she learned about the challenges of building stronger community and police relations. The Mayor and Council knew from the Police Chief said that there had been no effort to have discussions related to Durham police officers for training in Israel, that she did not plan to establish such an exchange program in Durham, and that she felt this effort to target Israel was a distraction to community policing efforts she was trying to achieve in Durham. What she did say was that: “My specific visit [while an Atlanta chief] was based on developing leadership academies, leadership principles, and the challenges experienced with building community and police relations with the growing homeless population in the US, comparable to Sudanese populations in Israel. The Atlanta Police Leadership Institute was an assigned project under my leadership and is well regarded as a curriculum designed to groom bright and extremely prepared Atlanta Police leaders of tomorrow. This highly academic training has no police operations component, and challenges selected participants to become 21st Century police leaders.”

The Mayor and Council left out the entirety of the positive aspects of the Police Chief’s statement, kept in one sentence about the lack of intent to establish such training in Durham, and thereby suggested to the public that the Police Chief supported targeted efforts against Israel.  Thus the entire Durham NC effort to demonize Israel was based on activist organizations known to promote anti-Israel and anti-Zionist rhetoric combined with a City Council intent on believing that rhetoric at the expense of mainstream Jewish leadership, with both entities intent on promulgating false narratives, all for an effort that had never existed in Durham.

About this same time, the charade in Gaza again flared as Hamas began their month of protests by amassing Palestinian civilians by the tens of thousands at the border of Israel. Hamas leaders incited civilians to act violently with chants calling for the destruction of Israel. Hamas sent in thousands of missiles, started (and lost) two wars, dug hundreds of tunnels under the border to try and kidnap Israeli soldiers and citizens, diverted humanitarian funds for its citizens to build bombs, and still does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, much less seek a peaceful solution in the Middle East.

This history of violence and terrorism did not stop Hamas and its supporters across the globe from starting a new chapter indirectly to demonize Israel, and directly to seek its destruction. The protests in Gaza involved having thousands of Hamas soldiers dressed as civilians, burning tires up and down the border to create smoke clouds as these soldiers attempted to cross the border, encouraging civilians to stand up front and move forward, having families bring children to the border, and arming ‘kites’ with Molotov cocktails and swastikas before releasing them into Israel to burn down land and buildings.

Hamas even took pride in the fact that their protest was violent and the fact most of those killed in the violent protests were Hamas soldiers.  They said that “if 62 martyrs were killed in the riots, 50 of the martyrs were Hamas”.  Hamas leadership even admitted that “calling violence in Gaza as peaceful resistance represents a clear terminologic deception”.

One week later, Hamas started sending missiles into Israel, directed at civilians. One hundred missiles and mortars were sent 10 miles into Israel, sending over 1 million Israelis into bomb shelters. Hamas publicly thanked Iran, whose leaders cite Death to America and Death to Israel. Terrorists and their families receive payments over $300 million annually as financial rewards for killing civilians.

Linking events in the Middle East to events in Durham NC is really not difficult.  Anti-Israel discourse anywhere promotes anti-Israel discourse everywhere. In response to the Gaza riots by Hamas, JVP predictably blamed Israel, saying that “The disproportional response of the Israeli military to a mostly unarmed civilian demonstration reflects a disregard for the basic human rights of Palestinians.” JVP advocates nationally promoted moments of silence in a school for Hamas terrorists killed in the riots. JVP activists in North Carolina promoted tweets saying Israel “imprisons and controls Palestinians for profit”.

Back in Durham, emboldened racists and anti-Semites placed placards across Durham and on Duke University’s campus with caricatures of Jews and Israel as satanic. JVP activists who backed the anti-Israel City Council statement protested Israel legitimate self-defense with social media posts and a rally for Gaza to “Free Palestine.” JVP continues to post pictures on social media spreading hate and continuing the demonization of Israel. One held a sign with the Palestinian flag completely covering Israel which suggests that all of Israel is illegitimate. Protestors held a sign that read, “Well done Israel- Hitler would be proud.” The false comparison of Jews to Nazis continues the demonization, lies and deception, from Durham to Gaza.

Elie Wiesel once said, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” Protesting lies and terrorism anywhere protects democracy and truth everywhere, including Gaza and Durham.

About the Author
Adam Goldstein, MD, is a family physician and researcher, who has served in leadership capacities for multiple Jewish organizations in North Carolina, across the U.S. and in Israel. His research on addiction has been cited nationally and internationally, appearing in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, on CNN and multiple other media platforms.
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