Last weekend, we posted on Facebook the background of controversial anti-Semitic vandalism in the Boston suburb of Newton, Massachusetts. The topic at the core of a heated public meeting convened by Mayor Setti Warren. A video produced by the team at Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT) provided background on the rancorous public meeting in Newton. The Facebook post of the APT video garnered over 60 shares from FB pages across the U.S., Europe and Israel. It provided documented evidence of the use of Saudi and UAE funded anti-Semitic texts and Arab World Studies notebook laced with pro-Palestinian propaganda materials and maps. We noted that APT had been in the forefront of uncovering the use of these materials by the Newton public schools since discovery in 2011. They contended their removal has yet to be independently confirmed. Watch it here:
A second FB post contained a Wicked Local Newton report noted the acrimony at the Newton public meeting:
Emotions were running high at a community discussion organized by Mayor Setti Warren Thursday night in response to several incidents of anti-Semitism and racism in the schools, with some in the overflowing audience apparently frustrated with the city’s response to the incidents as well as with the event’s tone.
A panel of speakers, including the mayor, a civil rights law expert, a child psychiatrist, teachers and students, spoke of the need for dialogue around discrimination in Newton, addressing issues of racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and discrimination against people with disabilities.
But some Jewish residents, including many with direct familial or personal ties to the Holocaust, wished the forum was more focused on recognizing and denouncing the anti-Semitic graffiti in particular. There was also a group of activists upset about “anti-Israel” teaching materials they feel contributed to the anti-Semitic incidents.
“The idea that we’re supposed to have a dialogue with people who put swastikas up after the Holocaust is absurd,” said resident Steven Katz, a professor of Jewish Holocaust Studies at Boston University. “And this evening is not supposed to be about liberal values. It’s supposed to be about anti-Semitism.”
Tina Glik, a resident and parent, said she was concerned that “as clearly as the message was written, ‘Burn the Jews,’ we came here to listen to: let’s be nice, let’s talk about racism, let’s talk about discrimination against gay people, let’s talk about anything else but anti-Semitism.”
Warren reiterated that he took any instances of anti-Semitism “very seriously,” calling anti-Semitic graffiti found at F. A. Day Middle School “despicable” and “horrible.” He pledged that all potential hate crimes would be investigated, with the perpetrators punished. Anti-Semitic graffiti was also discovered at Newton North High School multiple times during the past several months.
The Boston Globe initial report of the acrimonious meeting alleged that the protesters at the public meeting had ‘disrespected’ an articulate African American woman who drew attention to her son’s isolation at the Newton High school as evidence of racism, “Activists disrupt Newton forum on prejudice:”
The group of activists was led by Newton resident Charles Jacobs, who has had a longtime grievance with the city’s schools about what he says are pro-Palestinian and anti-Semitic text books.
Newton resident Janet Yassen said it was her first time attending this type of community meeting, and she came because she was interested in hearing what Warren had to say.
But what she saw from some members of the crowd “disgusted” her, she said.
“It was embarrassing, it was awful,” she said.
After hearing the students, who at the end of the evening mingled with some of the most vocal in the crowd, Yassen said she was heartened.
“The young people were phenomenal,” she said. “For them to confront the disrespect shown by some of the adults was really courageous.”
Following the ‘rowdy’ meeting two Boston Jewish community groups, the Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the Boston Jewish Federation’s affiliate, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) and the local chapter of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) seized upon the Globe report that an African American woman had been ‘heckled’ by protesters at the public meeting. The joint AJC/JCRC news release, while noting the persistent problems of anti-Semitic materials in school programs, wrongly criticized the protesters:
To our dismay, a group of activists – who have been identified in the media as members of the Jewish community – disrupted the proceedings. An African-American mother was heckled while discussing her own child’s experience of racism. There were loud contentions that the only concern worthy of discussion was anti-Semitism. The overall affect was to shift the focus of the meeting from concerns about anti-Semitism, as well as racism and homophobia to the conduct of the meeting itself.
The escalation and obfuscation was amped up by The Boston Globe that seized upon the joint JCRC/AJC news release in an article that went viral via the AP and internet outlets like Yahoo news and other social media, “Jewish groups condemn ‘disrespect’ at Newton forum:”
Leaders of two Jewish organizations on Monday condemned the behavior of a group of activists at a community meeting in Newton last week, saying the struggle against anti-Semitism must be part of a larger effort to build “respectful tolerant communities.”
In a joint statement, the American Jewish Committee Boston and the Jewish Community Relations Council said the activities of those who disrupted a meeting at City Hall on Thursday night “do not represent the broader sentiments of the Jewish community.”
This time, Jacobs of APT was able to fire back at both the Globe and AJC/JCRC accusations in the latest Globe article:
Charles Jacobs, the leader of the activists, said in an e-mail to the Globe that he was “quite surprised” by the statement.
Jacobs, founder of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, has had a longtime grievance with the city’s schools about what he says are pro-Palestinian and anti-Semitic textbooks.
“Given that Jews in Europe and in the Middle East are hunted, hounded and murdered because of an anti-Semitism which falsely portrays the world’s only Jewish state as among the cruelest of nations . . . and given that the Saudis and United Arab Emirates have been caught funding ‘lessons’ that taught these things in the Newton schools . . . and given that (Newton) School Superintendent David Fleishman was forced to remove some of this material and yet told the people at the meeting that he knew nothing about it, I think the meeting was, under these circumstance, quite civil,” Jacobs wrote.
However, the AJC/JCRC with the complicity of this second Globe article continued to convey the false information by School Superintendent Fleischman that the woman at the Newton public meeting had been ‘disrespected:’
“Moreover, it is hardly a secret that pernicious elements exist that are seeking to import anti-Israel and anti-Jewish bias into American school curriculums. We share this concern. However, it does not justify conduct that was manifest at this meeting or the disrespect that was shown to neighbors, who also had difficult experiences of their own to discuss.”
Fleischman, who was booed at last Thursday’s meeting and required a police escort to leave, retorted in an email on April 11, 2016 cited by The Globe saying:
In an interview Friday, Fleishman said that Jacobs’s complaints about the Newton curriculum being biased against Israel “are issues from the past,” which were resolved in 2013.
“They have our entire curriculum, our faculty at both high schools spent hours putting together all the material, unit by unit, in response to freedom of information requests,” Fleishman said of Jacobs’s group.
Fleishman sent an e-mail to faculty on Monday discussing the events of the forum.
“What was intended to be a community discussion to ensure Newton is a welcoming and inclusive place for all turned into a display of disrespectful and uncivil behavior,” Fleishman wrote. “Some in the audience were particularly insensitive toward a Newton parent who courageously shared a story of racism faced by her son.”
Jacobs and APT responded to Fleischman’s allegation, Tuesday with video documentation suggesting that both Fleishman and The AJC/JCRC were wrong about the alleged “heckling”. The Globe proceeded to soft pedal it:
On Tuesday afternoon, Jacobs’s organization issued a statement denying that the woman had been heckled.
In a video of the community meeting posted on the city’s website, the woman talks about her son’s experiences with racism. Twice she is interrupted, prompting someone in the crowd to call out, “Let her speak.”
The JCRC/AJC and The Globe were upended by the APT cell phone video that captured evidence that the woman had been, if anything, respected by attendees at the public hearing. Watch the You tube video of the woman’s presentation at the Newton public meeting.
Problem is that the JCRC/AJC and The Globe reports have not been challenged on the lack of credibility, let alone credulity.
Jacobs has been warning for years that establishment Jewish organizations have failed to shift to the new situation Jews face: anti-Israelism, the new anti-Semitism. Now Jews are hated for their “apartheid state,” Israel. The radical left/radical Muslim alliance, the red-green alliance is hunting and killing Jews in Israel and Europe. They intimidate Jews on American college campuses with eviction notices, fake Apartheid walls, simulated border checks and die –ins, especially during Israel Apartheid Weeks. The Jewish establishment Jacobs contends fled from this new anti-Semitic alliance. They still want to fight the old anti-Semitism, neo- Nazis, White Aryan nation and KKK racists. They cower and are confused in the face of a leftist anti-Zionism and patently Islamist anti-Semitism that Jews in Europe fear will cause them to leave, a second time. Jacobs has been hounded by what passes for the Jewish Establishment for years because of his position. This latest episode in Newton he thinks may be their push-back
We asked Jacobs for his views on the dispute. Here is what we wrote us:
Why would the Boston Jewish leadership not insist on seeing the curriculum, after Newton School Superintendent Fleishman was forced to remove a Saudi funded anti-Semitic lesson that taught students that Jews in Israel murder Arab women in jail? After they have all seen the video which shows those libels.
It should not be forgotten that the Jews of Europe are hounded, hunted and murdered because of anti-Israelism. American Jewish students are harassed and intimidated on campuses because of the same ideology that is being taught in the Newton schools. Newton has security at its synagogues for the very same reason: anti-Israelism. Yet some of Newton’s top Jewish leaders prefer to circle the wagons, defend their friends and deny the truth.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Newton, Massachusetts Mayor Setti Warren faces Dr. Charles Jacobs of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, taken on April 7, 2016. Source: Katherine Taylor, Boston Globe