America-Israel Friendship League Condemns Attempt by Food Coop to Join the BDS Movement
Contact: Dr. Alex Grobman
Phone: (212) 213-8630
STATEMENT OF KENNETH J. BIALKIN, CHAIRMAN AND DR. ALEX GROBMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE AMERICA-ISRAEL FRIENDSHIP LEAGUE.
New York, February 27, 2012...The America-Israel Friendship League (AIFL) is dismayed to learn that the 40-year-old Park Slope Food Coop is even considering a boycott against products made in Israel.
According to reports, at the end of March, the Brooklyn-based coop, which boasts more than 15,500 members, will decide whether or not to hold a referendum on joining the virulently anti-Israel, quasi-antisemitic BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement.
The goal of the BDS movement is to ostracize Israel among the nations of the world by placing it in the same category as the hated apartheid regime of South Africa and, thereby, use economic pressure to force Israel to make unilateral concessions to the Palestinians which would ultimately result in harming the Jewish state.
Attorney Kenneth Bialkin, chairman of the AIFL, called the BDS movement not only "misguided and discriminatory," but also "tinged with antisemitism." Holding a referendum on the issue, he said, gives legitimacy to a policy that encourages bigotry and intolerance.
AIFL Vice President Paul Kaplan noted the historical parallel between the current BDS campaign and the one employed by the Nazi regime before and during World War II. Its purpose was to delegitimize Jews and their businesses as a first step in dehumanizing the Jewish population.
"The BDS campaign should be called out for what it is-a close alignment with the Nazi propaganda of the 1930's and 1940's," said Mr. Kaplan, a practicing attorney and law professor in New York.
Mr. Bialkin pointed out that while BDS supporters demand self-determination for the Palestinians, they resolutely refuse to acknowledge the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in their historic homeland, Israel.
"BDS supporters, who blame Israel alone for the conflict in the region, are waging a political, economic, cultural, and ideological campaign to delegitimize the State. The BDS movement applies a double-standard, criticizing Israel mercilessly, dishonestly, and unfairly, while ignoring abuses by other nations and the role of the Palestinians in the conflict," said Mr. Bialkin.
Equally egregiously, he said, the BDS movement proceeds without care for the Palestinians whose jobs would be jeopardized by boycotts against Israeli products and companies which have many Arab employees.
"The BDS's rhetoric notwithstanding, boycotting Israeli products does nothing to help the Palestinians improve their lives. No wonder ardent peace activists oppose BDS campaigns as counterproductive," said Mr. Bialkin.
The effort to convince the Park Slope coop to join the BDS movement is led by "Hima B," an artist and filmmaker who, according to her website, is a former stripper whose work focuses on homosexual activism. She claims she wants to force Israel to stop its "apartheid policies" against the Palestinians.
Mr. Bialkin called the "false analogy" between Democratic Israel and apartheid South Africa a "fabricated attempt to isolate and stigmatize Israel."
"Under apartheid, black South Africans were not permitted to vote and they were not citizens. Israeli-Arabs, by contrast, are full citizens of the state. Just like their Jewish counterparts, they vote and are represented in the Israeli Knesset, as well as on the Supreme Court of Israel. They attend schools and universities and enjoy all the rights of citizenship. Even Arab residents of the Palestinian Authority are permitted to work in Israel, where they receive the same salaries and benefits given to Jews," said Mr. Bialkin.
In the effort to retain the right of members of the Park Slope Food Coop to purchase fine Israeli products, the AIFL is supporting "More Hummus Please," the group opposed to the referendum.
Mr. Bialkin agreed with the leader of the anti-boycott group, Barbara Mazor, that the coop's chief function should not be to impose a political point of view on its members, but, rather, to help them all save money on food.
Joe Holtz, the manager of the Park Slope Food Coop, said holding the referendum would probably hurt the enterprise. Some members have already told him they will leave the coop if the referendum is held. Even Ms. Mazor said she already shops at the coop less frequently because of the anguish caused by the issue. She said she will consider leaving entirely if a referendum is held. Merely conducting a referendum of the topic lends undue legitimacy to an illegitimate campaign, she said.For more information on the AIFL position, contact Dr. Alex Grobman, Executive Director, at 212-213-8630 ext. 230.
Supporting the Legacy of US - Israel Relations in the Wake of BDS Movement
In an effort to counteract the anti-Israel Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) movement in the United States and abroad, Paul M. Kaplan, vice-president of the America-Israel Friendship League (AIFL), plans to lead a delegation this spring of senior leaders of the American business and financial-services sector on a mission to Israel.
Scheduled to take place after Passover, the six-day mission will include CEOs and other officers involved in banking, investment firms, and businesses. Non-sectarian and politically non-partisan, AIFL delegations encompass Americans of all creeds and ethnicities.
Delegation participants on the planned financial-services mission will have the opportunity to meet and network with their Israeli counterparts, giving the trip a combination of educational, business and pleasure components.
"While the BDS movement seems to have lost most of its steam, bringing business leaders to experience Israel first-hand for themselves is a way of inoculating participants and those they influence against adopting tactics and policies that are destructive not only for Israel, but also for the United States," said Mr. Kaplan, a partner in the Manhattan-based law firm of Alston and Bird.
An adamant opponent of the BDS movement, Mr. Kaplan, who has practiced law for more than 25 years with major firms and corporations in the US and Europe and has been an adjunct professor of law at Fordham Law School since 2006, said he views it as a throwback to the early 1930s tactics of the Nazis in Germany.
"Inciting antisemitic boycotts was a trademark of the Nazis. I believe increasing business connections between Americans and Israelis is a positive effort that helps the economy in both countries while working against the potential damage caused by BDS anti-Israel activists," he said.
Mr. Kaplan is far from a novice at leading this sort of delegation to Israel. In recent years, he led two similar missions along with the late, fervently pro-Israel Republican Congressman, Housing Secretary, and vice-presidential candidate, Jack Kemp, who was also a member of the AIFL Board.
"He was a wonderful leader on behalf of the US-Israel relationship and an all-around great guy," said Mr. Kaplan.
Mr. Kaplan expects to attract a similarly well-known, pro-Israel political leader to accompany the mission this spring.
He sees the planned mission to Israel, which, for most, if not all of the expected 10-12 participants, will be a first visit to the Jewish state, as akin to a "businessman's version of Birthright," the program that provides free, first-time trips to Israel for young adults ages 18-26.
While there may be some subsidies for the mission in Israel, for the most part, participants will be expected to pay their own way.
Business-sector leaders who are interested in participating in the delegation should contact Mr. Kaplan at 212-210-9510 or Dr. Alex Grobman, AIFL executive director, at 212-213-8630 ext 230.
"Although I can't guarantee it, I can say that, almost by definition, the trip will generate business activity between the American participants and the Israelis they will meet," said Mr. Kaplan.
NYSE Euronext : NYSE Celebrates 5th Annual Israel Day at the Exchange
New York, Nov.29-- The America-Israel Friendship League (AIFL) and a delegation of Israeli and American chief executive officers visited the New York Stock Exchange to celebrate the fifth annual Israel Day at the NYSE. Israel Day at the NYSE kicked off a full day program, hosted by the AIFL in cooperation with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Israel-America Chamber of Commerce, including a showcase conference at the NYSE. This year, the Israel Day highlighted business innovations that can establish new partnerships and mutual investments, which can create new e
The Problem of Sharia Law in Britain
Unequal justice under unequal laws.
On many occasions James Madison warned of the power of an "ecclesiastical establishment." Britain now is confronted by such a threat. The estimated Muslim population in Britain is now 2.9 million, nearly five percent of the total population, and an increase of about 75 percent in the last decade. In Britain, which has the third largest Muslim population in Europe, over twenty- five areas have Muslim populations so large that if they are not the majority yet, they are approaching it. The Muslim increase has resulted from a high birth rate, greater immigration and conversion. Over 5,000 people in Britain convert each year. Hundreds of mosques have been built. Islamic primary and secondary schools have been established; the schools devote part of the time each day to religious instruction.
The country is therefore challenged by a steadily increasing number of regions with considerable Muslim populations, by the influence of Islamic religious extremists, by the influence of religion in the society, by differences over social issues such as women's rights, marriage, and divorce, and by the trend towards a legal system for Muslims, separate from the rest of the British population.
Sharia (Path, in Arabic) law is the divine law of Islam. It comes from a number of sources: the Koran, the teachings (Sunna) of the Prophet Muhammad, the interpretations by successive imams of those teachings, and fatwas, the rulings of Islamic scholars. Practicing that law in Britain is legal. As a result of the 1996 Arbitration Act, which allows private disputes to be settled by an independent arbitrator, the rulings of religious bodies have legal force in disputes about inheritance and divorce, and can be enforced by county courts or the High Court, thus making them binding in British law.
Sharia law is practiced in Sharia councils, Muslim arbitration tribunals and informal tribunals. Since 1982, well before the 1996 Arbitration Act was passed, Muslims have been resorting to Sharia courts rather than the courts of the British government. There are now 85 Sharia courts acting in accordance with Muslim principles. The rules of these courts are legally binding. About 3,500 Muslims go each year to these courts for arbitration.
The procedures of these courts present problems. The presiding judges are imams; there is no agreed-upon selection process based on experience and credentials over their appointment. Furthermore, there is little or no access to legal representation for defendants and there is no real right of appeal even when there may not be genuine consent by both parties to the arbitration. The proceedings themselves are not even recorded.
Another issue is the fact that different legal systems for individuals of different religions living in the same country and under the same government promote division. Some of the rulings of the Sharia courts are both contrary to British common law, particularly those that are discriminatory against women and non-Muslims. Sharia courts and British courts hold different standards. Sharia courts have tried to ban alcohol, drugs, gambling, smoking, prostitution, pornography, homosexuality, and the mixing of sexes in public. Extremist Muslim groups, especiallyMuslims against the Crusades, have even called for the creation of a " Sharia controlled zone" in three boroughs in London (Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets, and Newham), and in several towns including Bradford, Luton, Leicester, and Dewsbury. These would be autonomous entities operating outside British law. Their objective is to defeat " Western decadence" in Britain. These controlled zones would be the first step in the creation of an Islamic state.
Surprisingly, Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, in February 2008, argued that the adoption of certain aspects of Sharia law seemed unavoidable, and that such adoption, or "constructive accommodation," would help maintain social cohesion. He held that Muslims should not have to choose between the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty. He sought "constructive accommodation with some aspects of Muslim law," even though the principle that there is only one law for everyone is an important pillar of social identity in a Western democracy, Williams held that people also hold other affiliations and loyalties which shape and dictate how they behave in society and the law must take account of that.
The fundamental question is whether Islamic courts should be forced to acknowledge the primacy of British common law, especially in relation to the issue of discrimination against women. Sharia law treats women as second class citizens. Already, about 17,000 Muslim women in Britain have become victims of forced marriages, have been raped by their husbands, or subjected to female genital mutilation.
The Sharia courts claim that their verdicts are officially binding in British law in cases involving divorce, financial differences between husbands and wives, and domestic violence that is a criminal, not a civil, offence. Lord Phillips, the former Lord Chief Justice, spoke of the "widespread misunderstanding" of Sharia law and approved the use of Islamic courts for cases of family, marital, and financial disputes. However, many disagree with that view and hold that British law is absolute. Should the rulings of those courts be officially enforced rather than simply accepted voluntarily?
British lawmakers are concerned about the pressure being exerted on women to accept the ruling of the Sharia courts. To this end Lady Cox in June 2011 introduced a bill in the House of Lords to acknowledge the primacy of British law; the bill will be discussed during the 2012 parliamentary year. She and others have deep concerns about the discrimination Muslim women suffer in Sharia courts, particularly in cases involving child custody and domestic violence. The custody of children reverts to the father at a set time, usually the age of seven, regardless of what would be in the best interests of the children. The bill would make it an offence to claim that Sharia courts have legal jurisdiction over British family or criminal law. It would end the Sharia practice of giving women's testimony less weight than that of men, and overcome the unequal access of women to divorce. Under Muslim Sharia law, a man can divorce his wife by repudiation: a woman must provide justifications. Female evidence is not permissible in a Sharia court in the case of rape. Women cannot become judges in those courts. The general principle is the concept that human rights laws should take precedence over religious law. The immediate point is that women should be free of coercion, intimidation, and unfairness.
Of course, Sharia law is interpreted differently by Muslim judges. Not all would accept the view of Judge, Dr. Suhaib Hasan, that the penal law should provide that women be stoned for adultery and that robbers have their hands amputated. Nor is it clear to what extent women go to Sharia courts voluntarily and accept unfair decisions. It is more probable that they are pressured by families to abide by those decisions, and even more probable that they do not know their rights under British law.
Will Sharia law become the dominant law in Muslim areas? Surveys show that most Muslim students in Britain want Sharia law to be introduced into British law. Sharia law reflects Muslim cultures abroad in which compliance is enforced. Opponents of Sharia law object to law derived from theocratic systems. Once confined to Saudi Arabia, enforcing theocratic rules through national laws has spread to democratic countries, thus becoming a troubling issue. It is not consonant with the true values of democratic systems-the rule of law, legal equality, and open justice.Michael Curtis is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Rutgers University and author of the forthcoming book, Should Israel Exist? A sovereign nation under attack by the international community. Curtis is also a board member of the America-Israel Friendship League.
Shalom TV to Feature Interview and a Panel Discussion about the America-Israel Friendship League's efforts
STATEMENT OF KENNETH J. BIALKIN, CHAIRMAN AND DR. ALEX GROBMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE AMERICA-ISRAEL FRIENDSHIP LEAGUE.
Shalom TV to Feature Interviews and a Panel Discussion about the America-Israel Friendship League’s Efforts
New York, January 12, 2012… Kenneth J. Bialkin, chairman of the America-Israel Friendship League (AIFL) will be the featured guest of Mark S. Golub on Shalom TV, North America’s Jewish Television Network, in an interview which will be available, on demand, from Sun., January 15, through Saturday evening, February 11. It is currently available on Shalom TV’s website, which can be accessed at www.shalomtv.com.
The program features segments with several leaders who know about and value AIFL’s mission, which is to build close bonds of friendship and affection between the people of the United States and Israel. Working with individuals and common-interest groups in both countries.
With its special grassroots focus, AIFL brings Americans of all creeds and ethnicities to Israel, and Israelis—Jews, Christians, and Muslims—to the United States to participate in an experience that has repeatedly proven to transform lives and perceptions.
In several of its recent programs, AIFL celebrated Israel as a start-up nation not only economically but also in the fields of medicine, science, high-technology, cultural arts, and humanitarian services.
In a separate program which will also run next week, Shalom TV will air a panel discussion focused on determining why, despite all Israel’s efforts and tremendous achievements for its own citizens as well as the world, the Jewish state is still bedeviled at the UN and threatened with boycotts and divestment.
The panel discussion, which was conducted as part of AIFL’s recent dinner, features, as moderator, AIFL supporter Jonathan Medved, a co-founder and CEO of Vringo, a leading provider of software platforms for mobile social and video applications.
The rest of the panel includes former Israeli UN Ambassador Dan Gillerman, who serves as AIFL Israel’s chairman of the board; Dan Senor, co-author of the international best-seller Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle; and former NYC Mayor Ed Koch.
To access these programs, Cable subscribers should go to www.shalomtv.com and click on “Find Us” on the menu bar to determine on which channel Shalom TV appears on the local system. The AIFL programs will be in the category “News and Israel.”
Currently, the programs are also available on the Shalom TV website home page, archived under “Watch Complete Programs” in the category “News.”
The direct link to the program featuring Mr. Bialkin is http://videos.shalomtv.com/video/aifl-2011-gala-highlights-dec-6
The link to the panel discussion is http://videos.shalomtv.com/video/aifl-panel-senor-koch-gillerman-dec-6-2011
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