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National Speaking Tour Applies "Never Again" Label to Palestinians

A national speaking tour called "Never Again for Anyone," featuring two anti-Zionist Holocaust survivors and several other activists, is making stops in a dozen U.S. cities from January 24-February 19, 2011. In addition to scheduled stops at churches and other venues, the tour has already visited several universities on the East Coast and has planned appearances at several other campuses around the country.

The agenda of the tour, which headlines Hajo Meyer, a Holocaust survivor and longtime anti-Israel advocate, is to reject the notion that the "Never Again" label is only applicable to the Holocaust. The tour's organizers claim that in light of worldwide attacks against minority groups, including the "on-going ethnic cleansing of Palestine [and] attacks and persecution of Muslim and Arab communities in the US and Canada," the "Never Again" pronouncement should be expanded beyond the Holocaust that was perpetrated upon Jews during World War II. 

The tour is the latest effort by anti-Israel activists to exploit the sacred memory of the Holocaust for the purpose of painting its victim, the Jewish people, as the "new" oppressor in the form of Israel. Anti-Israel activists have regularly used Holocaust language to demonize and vilify Israel, including referring to Israeli soldiers as Nazis and comparing Israel's blockade of Gaza to a "concentration camp" or "ghetto."

 Despite promoting the tour as a call for an end to abuse of all minority groups, speakers at every event thus far have solely focused on demonizing Zionist ideology and comparing the Israeli government to the fascist dictatorship that ruled Nazi Germany. At the events that have taken place, speakers have compared Israeli policy to "Nazi tactics" and have accused Zionists and the state of Israel of exploiting the Holocaust in order to carry out the "dehumanization" and abuse of another people, the Palestinians.

Tour Stops

  • DePaul University, February 4, 2011: The event featured anti-Israel Holocaust survivor Hajo Meyer and Hatem Bazian, the chairman of an extreme anti-Israel organization called American Muslims for Palestine that was one of the main sponsors of the "Never Again" tour. Bazian accused Israel of a long-standing plan to "ethnically cleanse Palestine of its indigenous Palestinian population."
  • Rutgers University, January 29, 2011: This stop on the tour featured two anti-Israel Holocaust survivors, Hajo Meyer and 86-year-old Hedy Epstein, as well as Sara Kershnar, a leader of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network; Osama Abu Irshaid, the editor-in-chief of Al-Meezan, an Arab-American publication based in Washington, DC; and Dawud Assad, a Palestinian-American who fled from Israel to Jordan during the War of Independence in 1948. Meyer alleged that Zionism is "contrary" to the values of Judaism and Zionists have therefore "created"  a new religion predicated on the Holocaust. He called Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman a "big friend of Hitler" and compared the treatment of Palestinians in Gaza to the treatment of Jews in concentration camps, according to news reports. During Abu Irshaid's part of the talk, he noted that the Holocaust and the Palestinians' situation are not equivalent but at the same time said, "Now the descendants of the victims have become the oppressors." Prior to the start of the event, tensions arose between organizers and several hundred pro-Israel students who decided to attend, after the pro-Israel students were told they must pay a fee to be admitted. The event had been advertised online as free and open to the public with a suggested donation of $5-20.
  • Barnard College, January 27, 2011: This stop on the tour featured Hajo Meyer, Hedy Epstein and Dawud Assad. During his PowerPoint presentation, Meyer claimed that Zionists created a "religion" out of the Holocaust and exploited the memory of the Holocaust for their own objectives. He also alleged that only those who have "become dehumanized" can attempt to dehumanize others and that Israeli policy is comparable to Nazi Germany's racist laws against Jews from 1933-1941.
  • University of Maryland, January 24, 2011: The event featured Hedy Epstein and two leaders of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Mich Levy and Sara Kershnar. Epstein recounted her experiences participating in "nonviolent" protests against the Israeli army and claimed that her hearing problems are the result of sonic booms deployed by the Israelis to break up the protests. Epstein also described Israel as an "apartheid" state and announced that she planned to participate in American campaign to send a boat to Gaza in March 2011. During the Q&A session, Kershnar described the Israeli government as "semi-fascist," alleged that it uses "Nazi tactics" against Palestinians and called Gaza the "world's largest prison."    

The tour, which was timed to overlap with the International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, is sponsored by American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), an extreme anti-Israel group based in Chicago; the Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA), a Berkeley-based anti-Israel organization; and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN).

In January 2010, IJAN co-sponsored a similar tour throughout Europe, including stops in the UK, Austria, Germany and Switzerland. The European tour was also called "Never Again for Anyone" and featured Hajo Meyer and Haidar Eid, a Palestinian supporter of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel and a professor at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza.

SPONSORING GROUPS:

American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) is an extreme anti-Israel group that was founded in Chicago in 2006. Leaders of AMP, including its chairman Hatem Bazian, are often invited to speak at anti-Israel events on college campuses, grassroots demonstrations against Israeli policy and the annual conventions of several major Muslim-American organizations. Presenting a distinctly biased view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, AMP also regularly uses these platforms to propagate an extreme ideology, including calls for resistance against Israel, support for Middle Eastern terrorist organizations and anti-Semitic messages. In addition to these radical sentiments at public gatherings (including at the December 2009 Muslim American Society-Islamic Circle of North America Convention), AMP has circulated anti-Semitic and extremist material through its electronic mailing list, including articles by anti-Semite Jeff Gates and conspiracy theorist Alan Sabrosky. In recent months, AMP has decided to focus its efforts on coordinating anti-Israel activity on college campuses and has reached out to leaders of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters around the country for this effort. AMP has hosted several conferences for regional SJP chapters to meet and discuss methods of cooperation.

Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA) is a Berkeley-based non-profit organization that was founded in 1988 to fundraise for children in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon. MECA is very involved in grassroots activity in the U.S. to oppose Israel, including protests against AIPAC events in the Bay Area, divestment against Israel conferences on college campuses, and "break the siege" campaigns to Gaza. In 2009, MECA raised $70,000 for an American convoy to Gaza organized by a group called Viva Palestina that had previously donated money to Hamas, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. MECA's director, Barbara Lubin, participated in the Viva Palestina convoy, whose members met with Hamas officials, including Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), a coalition formed in the fall of 2008, seeks to facilitate global anti-Israel activity on the part of anti-Zionist Jews. Since its inception, IJAN chapters around the U.S. have co-sponsored and endorsed numerous anti-Israel demonstrations and have advanced boycott efforts against Israel, including organizing campaigns to pressure celebrities to cancel planned visits to Israel. IJAN's "Statement of Purpose" is vitriolic about Israel and Zionism, charging Israel with "historic and ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people" and accusing Israel of using the memory of the Holocaust to "justify and perpetuate European authoritarianism and colonialism." The statement blames Zionism for, among other things, distorting Jewish culture, establishing "an apartheid system," and causing the "demonization of Arabs and Muslims everywhere." Other IJAN leaders, including Sara Kershnar, have described Zionism as a "racist and sexist ideology which attempts to justify Israel's ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people by invoking the name and the history of Jews everywhere."

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The tour is the latest effort by anti-Israel activists to exploit the sacred memory of the Holocaust for the purpose of painting its victim, the Jewish people, as the "new" oppressor in the form of Israel.

Highlights

  • The "Never Again for Anyone" tour visited a dozen U.S. cities.
  • Speakers used offensive Holocaust-related imagery to demonize Israel and portray Israelis as the "new Nazis."
  • American Muslims for Palestine, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and Middle East Children's Alliance were the primary sponsors
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