Condemn ABC 7 Slander of Palestinian Activist and Occupy Chicago

Below is the text of the letter sent to ABC7 by many individuals:

 

Last night, you broadcast an irresponsible and uninformed report by Chuck Goudie. Goudie asserted that the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement has a “vein of anti-Semitism flowing through [it],” and used the presence of Palestine solidarity activists in the movement to “prove” his argument.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has the support of tens of thousands of Americans in cities across the country, and is growing rapidly, because Americans are suffering from an economic crisis brought about by Wall Street and big banks. As the OWS movement describes it, the “99%” experience extreme economic inequality, where millions are unemployed without meaningful help, while bankers in trouble are bailed out.

While there have been unfortunate anti-Semitic statements made by individual protesters at OWS actions that should and have been challenged as dangerous and divisive, the vast majority of the movement does not espouse these opinions. Media reports, including Goudie’s, have inflated these unrepresentative views for the purpose of discrediting two movements—OWS and Palestine solidarity. Instead of substantiating his false claim that anti-Semitism is a pervasive problem in the OWS movement, Goudie uses the presence and involvement of Palestinians and Palestine solidarity activists at OccupyChicago and elsewhere to “prove” the movement anti-Semitic.

By smearing the OWS movement and Palestinian community and solidarity activists, Goudie blatantly avoids discussing the real issues that are bringing tens of thousands of Americans to the streets in cities and towns across the country.For example, some OWS protestors, including American Jews, have brought to the protests Palestinian flags and signs condemning US military aid to Israel. The US gives $3 billion a year in aid to Israel, which is used to carry out its policies of military occupation, inequality and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people. And in an ad hominem attack, Goudie also falsely accused Palestinian-American community organizer Hatem Abudayyeh of advocating for the destruction of Israel because he spoke in support of Palestinian freedom and self-determination at a Chicago anti-war rally earlier this month.

Holding a Palestinian flag and advocating for Palestinian human rights, civil rights and equality should never be equated with anti-Semitism. By doing so, Goudie attempts to smear a just movement and evade discussing the real issues: unequal economic policies in the US and unrestricted military and diplomatic support to the human rights-abusing state of Israel.

Finally, Goudie also claimed last night that OccupyChicago did not provide a response to his emailed questions, but as an example of how disingenuous and unprincipled his whole process behind this piece has been, the questions were not sent to OccupyChicago’s spokespeople until after 8 PM, less than 2 hours before the broadcast. OccupyChicago did eventually respond, and WLS-TV posted the statement on the page linked above.

We call on Goudie and WLS-TV/ABC 7 Chicago to immediately apologize for the story’s false statements about Hatem Abudayyeh and mis-characterization of the Palestinian flag and struggle for freedom as symbols of anti-Semitism.

Additionally, Chicago IJAN sent this letter to ABC 7:

As Jewish Americans we are disappointed, saddened and frustrated at Channel 7’s recent news piece regarding anti-Semitism and the Occupy/Decolonize Wall Street movement.

In addition to using a non-representative sample to diminish an entire movement, the piece makes libelous claims equating advocating for Palestinian rights with anti-Semitism.Specifically we are outraged at the attempt to conflate the Palestinian liberation movement in general and Hatem Abudayyeh in particular with the clearly anti-Semitic statements of a very small minority of those involved in the Occupy movement. The video of Mr. Abudayyeh provides no evidence of him speaking “about destroying Israel.” He is clearly speaking in support of Palestinian liberation, making a connection between Israel’s 40-year plus occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (of which Israel still controls the air space, territorial waters and eastern border) and US support of Israel. There is nothing anti-Semitic about highlighting the plight of Palestinians.

In addition, the segment unbelievably seems to be identifying the Palestinian flag as anti-Semitic. Why would a movement bring a Palestinian flag to the Mayor’s office? Many of us have held the flag or its image while demonstrating at events sponsored by the city (with former mayor Daley) in connection with Chicago’s Sister City relationship with Petah Tikvah. In addition to being built on Fajjaa (a Palestinian village destroyed during 1948) Petah Tikvah is the site of a notorious military detention center which was subject to a joint investigation by B’tselem (the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the occupied territories) and its Palestinian counterpart HaMoked. The report “reveal[ed] severe human rights violations of the detainees.”1

Furthermore the Chicago Police have had an ongoing relationship with the Israel Security Agency which operates the detention center in Petah Tikvah. In 2009 and 2010 Chicago’s “most senior commanders and leaders of public safety agencies [were] in Israel, learning and sharing what the professionals call ‘intelligence-led policing techniques and responses to critical events.’”2

Given Chicago’s work in aiding in the brutalization of Palestinians, it is entirely appropriate to bring a Palestinian flag to the Mayor’s Office.

Anti-Semitism is of course very real—as is anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism (with far more severe material consequences in the current moment). Both have a long tradition within American politics. These are important issues that deserve serious attention not to be used as fodder to undermine legitimate dissent.

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