How Anti-Israel Politics Overtook Durham, North Carolina

Oct. 27 2020

In April of 2018, the Durham city council adopted, by unanimous vote, a statement opposing “international exchanges with any country in which Durham officers receive military-style training.” The statement concluded with some generic declarations about racial justice, clarifying that “Black lives matter.” But it began with a quotation from the municipal police chief stating clearly “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.” This disclaimer points to the origins of the statement in a petition from an offshoot of Jewish Voice for Peace, a particularly vicious anti-Israel group. In his speech in favor of the resolution, Durham’s mayor made the connection to the Jewish state clear, as Sean Cooper reports:

“I want to start [by] speaking to the folks from Jewish Voice for Peace. I really mainly want to speak to the Jews in the room, my fellow Jews,” Mayor Steve Schewel told the crowd [at the city-council meeting].

As it turned out, rewriting the JVP petition—[which originated on the local university] campus—into the city-council resolution was the mayor’s own doing. He himself had penned the final draft of the document.

“I’m a Jew and I am a Zionist,” he declared. “I believe in the existence of a Jewish state. I fear for its survival. But I know the terrible traumas visiting on us as a people, we are now visiting on others in Gaza and on the West Bank,” the mayor claimed, somehow turning the murder of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust into a motive for the infliction by Israel . . . of equivalent horrors on Palestinians, a charge for which there is zero evidence.

Many of Durham’s Jewish citizens attended the city-council session to voice their dissatisfaction at the resolution, which had been pushed onto the agenda with unusual rapidity and possible procedural irregularity—but their efforts proved to be too little, too late. Cooper notes the comments of Deborah Friedman, one of the most dedicated opponents of the resolution:

Friedman’s concerns . . . centered on the fear that condemning the Jews would bring out acts of bigotry throughout the city. “If you do something anti-Semitic, it lets others fly their flags. It energizes them,” she said. She saw her fears come to fruition when Minister Rafiq Zaidi of the Nation of Islam came forward [to speak in favor of the resolution]. “I thank the council very deeply from my heart because the movement that you have made to approve this petition was one against forces that are unseen,” he said.

Lest his point be missed, Zaidi began by speaking of “the synagogue of Satan” and concluded with a reference to the “inordinate control that some Jews have over the political system in this city.”

With a look of wide satisfaction on his face for entering his own take on the malignancy of the Jewish threat into public record, Zaidi sat down. . . . Kathryn Wolf [noted] in a published letter that, two weeks following the public hearing, posters began appearing in downtown Durham. “One showed a man pointing a gun at a bearded man with a long nose and kippah, saying, ‘Your ancestors threw off foreign oppression, time for you as well.’”

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Jewish Voice for Peace, Nation of Islam, U.S. Politics

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy