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Missing the Point on Clifton BOE

The article “Clifton BOE Anti-Israel Comments Draw Criticism” (August 19, 2021), by Debra Rubin was very interesting, but I feel that she missed the tenor and points I made in my letter to the Clifton Board of Education. Instead of reading an article that would wake up our community and urge them to take action to protect our interests, I found it lacking. She failed to emphatically describe the viciousness of some of the speakers in putting forth their ideologies.The anti-Israel statements made by commissioners Feras Awwad and Fahim K. Abedrabbo were accompanied by a number of lies and distortions about Israel.

As stated by Board President Jim Smith, commissioners have the right to speak their minds, but I don’t think that this should be extended to lies and distortions, without comment. These commissioners’ anti-Israel comments had no place at a school board meeting. Their remarks were later expanded upon and presented in a very aggressive and confrontational manner by fellow Palestinian-Americans and others during the “Public Comments” section of the meeting.

We Jews and our supporters must appear and speak in our own defense. To just write letters that will only to be viewed by the addressee may make one feel better but is just treading water. Go to meetings; speak forcefully. When one hears someone repeating falsehoods, correct them. Don’t worry about causing ill will. Regarding the Clifton Jewish Community Council, they should have urged their members to view the statements by Awwad and Abedrabbo on YouTube and prepare rebuttals to present at subsequent BOE meetings.

Among the information presented, we “learned” at the May 20 meeting that the $40 billion given to Israel is used to subjugate the Palestinian people occupied by Israel. Gaza, the most densely populated open-air prison in the world, is subjugated by the colonial, apartheid Israelis. The people living in Gaza are allegedly victims of uncontrollable crises, the killing of many children and apartheid-style walls. Children go to school not knowing if their homes will be there to welcome them at the end of the day. American police are sent to Israel to learn and practice how to use abusive tactics against our urban communities. George Floyd was killed by a skill taught to them by Israelis. One should take the time to view the Clifton BOE meetings of May 20 and August 5, 2021 on YouTube.

Mr. Abedrabbo at the August 5 meeting pointed to the fact that he never mentioned the word “Israel” in his references. He described how children should not be caught in the middle of atrocities, going to school and not knowing if they would return home to find their homes or areas ethnically cleansed by different people; of his prayers for them because of all the problems fostered on them in the West Bank, within the 1948 borders or Gaza. How in their trip to Palestine they were stopped at the border and faced guns while showing their permits, “not by Palestinians. I will not say who, but you can use your imagination.”

Mr. Abedrabbo said that after the trip his daughter had a nightmare that she and her mother were shot, but he wouldn’t say by whom. No, he didn’t use the word “Israel.” In fact, while members of the board went on a fact-finding trip to Israel, he stated that he went to “Palestine.” As an aside, there’s a bird. It lives much of its life in the water; it has webbed feet; it quacks. I didn’t state the name of the bird, just as he didn’t state the word “Israel.”

He further stated, “The current state of Palestine has nothing to do with the state of the Jewish faith,” a quote that can be open to many interpretations. Is he referring to the Jewish faith and its connection to Eretz Yisrael? On a purely geographically interpretation, if it was not for the Jewish revolt in 135 C.E. against the Romans, there would probably not be the geographical area known as “Palestine” today. It would still have been known as Judaea. The name Palestine,” a corruption of “Philistine,” was used to rename the area in an attempt to erase any name connected with the Jews and their revolt against Roman rule.

He emphasized the importance of education. I agree completely, but the education must be honest, fair and factual. If there is more than one interpretation, all sides must be fairly represented. With the way that the anti-Israel individuals presented their facts, I am apprehensive. Members of the honestly pro-Israel community must be aware of the curriculum presented concerning the Middle East. They must be aggressive, not passive. I do not include Jewish Voice for Peace, the Satmars or similar ideological groups as “pro-Israel” when deciding who will represent this side of the issue.

The reactions of many Jews to the attacks against us, reminds me of the story
about a young boy running down a hall. As he comes to the end where a “T” is formed, he closes his eyes and keeps running straight. The wall will not disappear just because one doesn’t see it. We must all open our eyes.

Howard J. Cohn
New Milford
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