Pro-Muslim Rally Sparks Progressive Claims

Pro-Muslim Rally Sparks Progressive Claims

Michael Jacobs

Atlanta Jewish Times Editor Michael Jacobs is on his second stint leading the AJT's editorial operations. He previously served as managing editor from 2005 to 2008.

A Jewish-led demonstration Thursday, Dec. 10, against Islamophobia linked the defense of Muslims to a range of progressive issues, including the Black Lives Matter movement and criticism of U.S. aid to Israel.

The rally came three days after Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump called for a ban on all Muslim visas to the United States in response to the terrorist slaughter in San Bernardino, Calif., on Dec. 2. It also occurred while Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal faces off against the federal government over food stamps for Syrian refugees settled in the state.

But Ilise Cohen, who organized the event at the intersection of North Druid Hills and LaVista roads for Jewish Voice for Peace, said that maintaining an alliance against injustice requires looking at the big picture and addressing more than anti-Muslim rhetoric and vandalism against mosques.

About 40 people attended the rally during the evening rush hour. It was part of a series of Chanukah demonstrations Jewish Voice for Peace held in cities across the nation in the name of “rekindling our commitment to justice.”

That organizational commitment, which includes support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, involved repetition of an eight-point statement every few minutes throughout the one-hour demonstration as the fourth day of Chanukah ended.

Cohen and Roberts Andrews, wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh, took turns reading the statement, which echoed the points featured on eight candle signs held by fellow demonstrators:

  1. We will not be silent about anti-Muslim and racist hate speech and hate crimes.
  2. We condemn state surveillance of the Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities.
  3. We challenge through our words and actions institutionalized racism and state-sanctioned anti-black violence.
  4. We protest the use of Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism to justify Israel’s repressive policies against Palestinians.
  5. We fight anti-Muslim profiling and racial profiling in all its forms.
  6. We call for an end to racist policing #SayHerName #BlackLivesMatter.
  7. We stand against U.S. policies driven by the “war on terror” that demonize Islam and devalue, target and kill Muslims.
  8. We welcome Syrian refugees and stand strong for immigrants’ and refugee rights.

That range of issues appealed to Jewish activists such as Brian Sherman, who held a “Honk for Peace” sign Thursday. Perhaps 15 passing vehicles honked over the course of the demonstration.

Sherman said he’s a rally regular, from protests of war and police violence to events calling for action against climate change.

“All of these injustices are linked,” Cohen said. “If we leave out one, we’re saying it isn’t important.”

She said the war on terrorism denigrates Muslims, and she criticized the U.S. record of military actions and alliances in countries such as Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq. But Cohen was vague about what the United States should do now, aside from welcoming Syrian refugees and cutting off military aid to Israel “until it no longer occupies Palestinian territory.”

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