At Brookline Town Meeting last week, the lead-off opponent of the PAX-sponsored antiwar resolution explained his rationale: Iraq seeks to destroy Israel, and Israel's survival outweighs all other factors -- including unilateral US entry into "unnecessary wars." Despite the applause he received, the resolution passed overwhelmingly.
Unfortunately, too many American Jews share that speaker's shaky position. Although he acknowledged the history of US imperialism as well as Israel's transgressions against Palestinians -- drawing hisses from some in the audience -- his bottom-line Israel-first stance is dangerous, even for Israel. "My country, right or wrong" is a prescription for injustice, regardless of the country.
By coincidence, this Sunday the national organization Brit Tzedek v'Shalom -- the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace -- meets in Brookline for the founding meeting of its Boston chapter (November 24th at Temple Beth Zion, 1566 Beacon Street, 2 pm). Despite hostility from both directions, the organization seeks a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Although Brit Tzedek members support a secure Jewish state, they reject reflexive one-sided support for every Israeli policy.
Led by American-born peace activist and former Knesset member Marcia Freedman, Brit Tzedek v'Shalom hopes to generate discussion within the Jewish community and to influence US policy. Brit Tzedek and other similar national and local groups understand that any acceptable Middle East solution must end oppressive Israeli policies while providing justice and security to both peoples, a view shared by many American Jews who are too often reluctant to say so publicly.
By another coincidence, Amer Jubran is again behind bars. Immigration and Naturalization Service and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrested the Palestinian activist on November 4th after showing up at his house without a warrant. Refusing to provide substantive reasons, INS later told Nelson Brill, Jubran's Brookline-based immigration attorney, that they intend to hold Jubran indefinitely at the Cranston, RI Adult Correctional Institution. A bond hearing is scheduled for November 21st.
Jubran first made local news in 2001 when Brookline police arrested him for allegedly kicking a passerby while demonstrating at the annual Israel Independence Day Festival. A few months later, when the only credible evidence pointed not to Jubran's guilt but to his victimization by authorities, the Brookline judge dismissed all charges.
According to attorney Brill, the new INS case against the permanent resident -- a suspicious interpretation of Rhode Island marriage-law technicalities -- is as fishy as the "patently illegal" arrest's timing and process.
The arrest came two days after Jubran led a Boston march organized by a new group he co-founded, the New England Committee to Defend Palestine. Jubran also helped organize other protests over the past half year. Not surprisingly, it's the FBI, not INS, that's most persistently interrogated him. The feds won't say, but it looks like they're trying to find something more serious than a paperwork glitch to justify Jubran's continued confinement and -- more to the point -- pressure him to provide details on his political activities.
In the meantime, Brill agrees with Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner: Jubran was arrested to prevent his continuing activism. Confinement also prevents the Jordanian citizen from tracking down the people and paperwork he needs to clear up his residency status.
Jubran's Brookline supporters are no doubt outnumbered by those who would just as soon have him remain in jail. Yet you don't have to agree with Jubran's politics to be appalled by the federal government's escalating repression. When the feds can detain without explanation someone who's not accused of violence or, indeed, of anything serious at all, none of us is safe.
I don't know if Jubran's situation will be on Brit Tzedek v'Shalom's agenda this weekend, but it should be. The group, which supports a Palestinian state alongside Israel, presumably disagrees with Jubran's own goal: a single secular democratic state consisting of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.
Yet Brit Tzedek members know that any peaceful solution requires working with people who begin from different positions. Helping free Jubran is one way to demonstrate concretely that at least some American Jews are willing to speak against repression, both in the Middle East and right here at home.
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Page updated September 30, 2007