Archive | November 10th, 2020

California university comes to defense of professor targeted by Zionist groups

Nora Barrows-Friedman Lobby Watch 

San Francisco State University professor Rabab Abdulhadi (YouTube)

A professor at San Francisco State University has been cleared of accusations made by Israel-aligned groups of “misusing funds” by traveling to Palestine and Jordan earlier this year and meeting with Palestinian leaders and political figures.

Just days ago, San Francisco State University forcefully concluded that such accusations have “no merit” and that the university “will not censor our scholars nor condone censorship by others.” In addition, the dean of the college of Ethnic Studies has admonished the accusers for their “propaganda-style tactics.”

Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi, a senior scholar and associate professor of ethnic studies and race and resistance studies, has been the target of a months-long campaign led by the Santa Cruz-based Amcha Initiative, a Zionist watchdog group that harasses student Palestine solidarity activists and faculty members critical of Israel’s policies.

“Fundamental to scholarship”

Amcha and other Israel-aligned watchdog groups including the Simon Wiesenthal Center Campus Outreach, StandWithUs, the Zionist Organization of America and Scholars for Peace in the Middle East accused Abdulhadi in May of “misrepresenting” the nature of her trip and “neglect[ing] to inform” San Francisco State University officials of her planned meetings with Sheikh Raed Salah and Leila Khaled, whom Amcha and the other groups identify as “terrorists.”

They also accused the professor of “egregious abuse of university and taxpayer funds as well as potential violations of California state law prohibiting the use of state resources for personal or political purposes.”

Sheikh Raed Salah, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and a political and religious leader, has been a target of anti-Palestinian groups in the US and UK. He was arrested by British authorities on baseless charges in 2011, which were thrown out by a judge a year later. He has also been jailed multiple times by Israel.

Leila Khaled is a Palestinian refugee and an icon of the Palestinian armed resistance due to her involvement in two separate airline hijacking operations in 1969 and 1970.

In a public, eight-page statement she released last week, Abdulhadi writes: “My stated intention to research and network with scholars in the region and throughout the world is a legitimate and important use of state funding. As Senior Scholar at the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative, it is part of my job duties to establish educational and research collaboration on Palestine and between Palestinians in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. Research and discussion between actors in the US and Palestine is fundamental to my scholarship. It is one of the reasons why SFSU hired me in the first place.”

The professor adds that “meeting with diverse and controversial figures in Palestine furthered the educational purpose of the trip.” She notes that there is “no law or university regulation that prohibits meeting and speaking with figures seen as ‘controversial’ in US media and dominant discourses. Such activity is clearly protected under the First Amendment and is a necessary part of gathering and sharing information. Such encounters are the very lifeblood of academia, journalism and other fields of knowledge production and are also protected by academic freedom.”

“No merit”

In a brief statement released on 24 June, San Francisco State University and its president, Les Wong, say the university reviewed the allegations and has concluded that Amcha’s claims “have no merit.”

The university’s statement reads in full:

Recently the AMCHA Initiative, Simon Wiesenthal Center Campus Outreach and others have made allegations against Professor Rabab Abdulhadi regarding her travel. San Francisco State University takes allegations about the use of state funds seriously, investigates any issues and responds as appropriate.

The records for Professor Abdulhadi’s travel have been reviewed, and they comply with established rules without fault or violation. Therefore, we conclude that the allegations made against Professor Abdulhadi have no merit. The CSU’s Travel Procedures and Regulations can be viewed at:

Faculty can and do communicate with others relevant to their research, communicating by various methods that can involve travel. Professor Abdulhadi’s academic work in race and resistance studies requires examination of some of the world’s most challenging and controversial issues. San Francisco State University will continue to respect academic freedom, and we will not censor our scholars nor condone censorship by others.

San Francisco State University remains committed to providing a safe and civil campus environment that supports all members of its community.

In addition, the dean of the College of Ethnic Studies issued a statement of his own on 25 June, admonishing Amcha “for their continued ill intent and propaganda style tactics.”

“Historically, Amcha’s awareness of fact has not discouraged its unrelenting and mean-spirited attacks,” Dean Kenneth Monteiro says.

Monteiro adds:

[F]or a number of years, Amcha has gone well beyond just expressing its views, and developed a reputation for misrepresentation of facts against individuals and institutions. Moreover, it appears to also try to provoke very powerful people to punish those with whom it disagrees. It has done that to individuals at San Francisco State University and campuses across California. Recently, Amcha has made a number of sensationalized and false claims about students and faculty at our campus. Further it has promoted these claims to sympathetic media. Most perniciously, it has lobbied powerful civic and private figures, including the state Governor and dozens of elected statewide and local leaders, encouraging them to punish individuals and institutions based on misleading or false claims.

… Sensationalized attacks based on incomplete or inaccurate information such as these (at times accompanied with requests for monetary donations) exploit the worst fears of many, causing unfair and unnecessary distress for both Amcha’s intended targets as well as its stated allies. Coupling misinformation instigation or direct attack academic organizations or individuals degrades the campus climate for all.


In January, The Electronic Intifada’s Asa Winstanley and I published an investigatory report on Amcha’s lengthy history of spying on student activists and faculty who support the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

Amcha’s co-founder, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, is a lecturer at the University of California at Santa Cruz. She has previously claimed that students involved in Palestine solidarity organizing have ties to “terrorist organizations” and that “many of them are foreign students who come from countries and cultures where anti-Semitism is how they think about the world.” Her racist statements were caught on video in 2012.

Students at University of California at Santa Cruz at the time called on the university to condemn her hate speech. The administration declined to comment and took no disciplinary action.

History of failure

Rossman-Benjamin and Amcha have targeted other professors in California who are outspoken in their criticism of Israel, accusing such educators of “anti-Semitism” and “misuse” of public resources. To date, none of these allegations have resulted in punishment of the professors. Meanwhile the group’s attempt to use civil rights law claims in order to shut down discussion on Israel was thrown out by the US government last year.

The National Lawyers Guild’s San Francisco Bay Area chapter stated in a recent letter to the University of California’s Board of Regents and the California State University Board of Trustees that Amcha’s history of “relentless bullying” of professors and educational institutions “can be foiled by universities issuance of clear, strong statements upholding principles of academic freedom in general, and discussion of Israel-Palestine in particular — and by promptly rejecting the unconstitutional demands by Amcha and others whenever they occur.”

“Series of incidents”

Lawyers with the Palestine Solidarity Legal Support, which has supported Dr. Abdulhadi in protecting her freedom of research and scholarship, stated in a press release that “Amcha’s attack was the latest in a series of incidents intended to stifle and criminalize any and all discussion of Palestine or Palestinians.”

Since San Francisco State University’s rejection of the accusations this week, Amcha says that it has now demanded, along with the other Israel-aligned watchdog groups, that the California State Controller conduct a state audit of the university.

In the Palestine Solidarity Legal Support press release, Abdulhadi says: “All over California, the Amcha Initiative’s accusations have repeatedly proven to be all smoke and no fire. SFSU President Wong’s statement confirms there was no wrongdoing here. But we must do more to protect California scholars from Amcha’s McCarthyist campaigns, which aim to strait-jacket Ethnic Studies scholars, especially those studying Palestine.”

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Lobby trying to reshape California education to shield ‘Israel’

Nora Barrows-Friedman The Electronic Intifada 

A protester holds a sign
Israel lobby groups are pressuring California lawmakers to conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. (Melissa Minton)

Israel lobby groups are once again attempting to manipulate public education in California in order to censor Palestinian and Arab scholarship, under the guise of fighting anti-Semitism.

The battle is being waged around the state’s ethnic studies curricula.

“We can’t underestimate our opposition and the coalescing of right-wing organizations coming together against ethnic studies,” Lara Kiswani of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center told The Electronic Intifada.

Hers is one of many groups organizing to fight back.

Pro-Israel groups are agitated over the state’s decision to reinstate Arab American Studies in the proposed ethnic studies model curriculum, after they pressured the California Department of Education to remove it altogether.

The curriculum must be approved by the State Board of Education next year.

Since the planning stages of the model curriculum, dozens of Israel lobby groups have tried either to change its parameters to shield Israel from criticism or kill it entirely.

In September, 80 pro-Israel Jewish groups called on Governor Gavin Newsom to veto a bill mandating ethnic studies for public high school students beginning in 2025.

Newsom did veto the bill – a decision that had been unexpected.

Bill AB331 had already been watered down to include so-called “guardrails” that conflate anti-Jewish bigotry with criticism of Israel.

StandWithUs@StandWithUsStandWithUs co-founder and CEO @RozRothstein : “We are relieved Governor Newsom acknowledged the concerns that so many citizens across California have expressed about the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC),”

JCRC@SFJCRCWe’ve launched #JewsNotIncluded to call “for the inclusion of a meaningful definition of #antisemitism; no return of the derogatory language about Jews, Israelis and Israel, with guardrails in place to keep such language out of the classroom,” writes @TyeGregory

San Diego Union-Tribune@sdutTyler Gregory: A lesson plan on the Jewish American experience needs to be part of California ethnic studies [Opinion]


The Amcha Initiative – an Israel advocacy organization that spies on students and whose leaders smear Palestinian rights supporters as anti-Semites – is leading a new campaign targeting the California State University (CSU) system over its ethnic studies graduation requirement.

The governor signed the CSU requirement into law in August.


But Israel lobby organizations aren’t just pressuring California lawmakers to adopt anti-Palestinian policies from the outside.

Racist group aims to “end hate”

It was recently announced that the Simon Wiesenthal Center is partnering with the state’s public education superintendent, Tony Thurmond, to design an “Education to End Hate” initiative.

This is being touted as a way to “combat all forms of hate, bias and bigotry” in California public schools.

It is also marketed as a response to President Donald Trump’s denunciation of critical race theory and a planned executive order calling for “patriotic” education that whitewashes slavery.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance say they were asked by the state to “offer signature training to schools who will then use this for countering anti-Semitism in California.”

Grassroots activists and educators see this as an underhanded attempt to assimilate Israeli propaganda into public education under the guise of an anti-racist curriculum.

A year ago, anti-Palestinian organizations – including the Simon Wiesenthal Center – attacked the state’s education department over an initial draft of the ethnic studies model curriculum.

That draft highlighted Arab American studies and accurately described the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian rights.

The curriculum was sidelined in August 2019 after Israel advocacy groups complained that the guidelines omit discussions of anti-Semitism.

Organizations including StandWithUs and the Jewish Legislative Caucus, a grouping of state lawmakers that serves as an in-house Israel lobbyclaimed that the curriculum “singles out Israel for criticism” and “would institutionalize” anti-Semitic stereotypes in public schools.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center condemned the model curriculum at the time and offered to help revise it.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has previously worked with US lawmakers and University of California governors to draft policy and legislation intended to shield Israel from criticism.

Like other lobby groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center conflates anti-Jewish bigotry with legitimate criticism of Israel and its racist state ideology, Zionism, and works to shut down almost any discussion of Palestinian rights and history.

Part of the struggle

This comes as state and federal lawmakers are formally adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism.

This definition, supported by Israel and its lobby, explicitly conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish bigotry.

In 2019, Donald Trump issued an executive order adopting the definition and boosting the aims of Israel lobby groups who claim that Palestine rights advocacy is anti-Semitic.

But despite the efforts to muzzle criticism of Israel, California’s public educators and school districts are already moving to adopt ethnic studies curricula without legislative mandates, Chicana/Chicano studies professor Theresa Montaño told The Electronic Intifada.

Montaño, who teaches at California State University at Northridge, is also a member of the Save Arab American Studies coalition and was on the original advisory committee for the ethnic studies model curriculum.

“We’re not going to let legislators destroy ethnic studies,” she told The Electronic Intifada.

This is part of a longstanding struggle to implement and protect the “anti-racist and anti-colonial core” of ethnic studies, a field born from student protests in California 50 years ago, Montaño said.

The amendments to AB331 were not in response to communities of color who had been fighting for ethnic studies. Rather, they were “the result of caving in to Israel lobby groups,” Montaño said.

“For someone who had been fighting for this for so long, it was gut-wrenching.”

It was clear that these groups were only committed to silencing the Palestinian voices, no matter what or who they had to sacrifice, Montaño added.

“If you are a civil rights organization whose work is centered on the interests of communities of color [and] to challenging systemic racism, you don’t enter a struggle for ethnic studies from a standpoint of ‘what’s in it for me,’” she said.

School boards must resist lobby efforts

“Many elected officials in California pride themselves for the ways they are standing up for what’s right in Trump’s America,”the Save Arab American Studies Coalition said.

The coalition wants the state and lawmakers to retain that pride by standing up for ethnic studies.

The Arab Resource and Organizing Center has been at the forefront of community-based advocacy for the inclusion of Arab American and Pacific Islander Studies in the model curriculum.

AROC: Arab Resource & Organizing Center@AROCBayArea·Oct 15, 2020A6 (1/2): We imagine a world free of exploitation. A free Palestine, Turtle Island, and liberated and dignified communities from here to our homelands.

The Rising Majority@rising_majorityReplying to @rising_majorityQ6: What are your wildest #FreedomDreams about what is possible within your own issue area? What changes, policies, campaigns, and/or strategies are your organizations currently working to implement? #TheFreedomSide #OurTurn #RisingMajority

Embedded video

“It’s a moment for us to demand more, to expect more and to be hopeful because there is too much at stake,” AROC’s Lara Kiswani said.

“The more beautiful side of this story is that the attack on this curriculum has brought to the surface how united we are as communities who have the most to lose and the most to gain from this fight,” Kiswani added.

JVP Los Angeles@JVP_LA
JVP-LA adds our voices to the students, educators, and CA communities pushing for a revolutionary, honest #EthnicStudies curriculum since the 3rd World Liberation Movement in the ’60s. Our letter is posted here:


Even though educators have been galvanized by this struggle, Montaño implored parents of public school students to pay attention to their local school boards and be ready to stand with teachers who don’t capitulate to Israel lobby demands.

School boards “will be next in terms of these lobby efforts,” she warned.

“We need to make sure that they remain faithful to the voices of their teachers and to ethnic studies.”

Nora Barrows-Friedman is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada.

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An unholy alliance

Two documentaries reveal how the U.S.’s pro-Israel coalition swung to the far right — endangering American Jews in the process.

Natasha Roth-Rowland

By: Natasha Roth-Rowland

As the results of the U.S. election are being tallied, a question mark hangs over the future of the Israel lobby and the broader pro-Israel scene in the country, which has enjoyed widespread patronage by the Trump administration over the past four years. 

That question mark, and what it reveals about Israel’s place in U.S. politics, is placed under the microscope in two new Israeli documentaries: “Kings of Capitol Hill,” which looks at the history and evolution of AIPAC and is directed by Mor Loushy, whose CV includes Censored Voices; and “Till Kingdom Come,” which focuses on a small, Evangelical Zionist congregation in rural Kentucky, and is helmed by Maya Zinshtein, whose previous work includes Forever Pure.

As both films show, one of the most unsettling trends in the U.S.-Israel political nexus is the way in which pro-Israel constituencies have at best pulled punches on, and at worst indulged, the most heinous excesses of the Trump administration. This includes its galvanization of antisemitic white supremacists in the United States — with lethal consequences.

The rise of Zionist antisemitism as a standard behavior among large swaths of the GOP and its ecosystem has become a defining feature of the American far right’s worldview and modus operandi. Antisemitic conspiracy theories about the boundless and malign influence of Hungarian-Jewish financier George Soros, or dog whistle comments about Jews and money, or Jews and dual loyalty, are, apparently, neutralized by professing support for Israel — and above all its settlement project.

The Israeli settler right has, to that end, scored an incredible string of victories thanks to the Trump campaign, which has also handed the Israeli government no end of diplomatic coups. Occupation denialism is now State Department policy; the White House embraced Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights; the U.S. embassy was moved to Jerusalem; and anti-free speech laws targeting the Palestinian-led boycott movement have accumulated at a dizzying pace across U.S. state legislatures.

This political maneuvering has engineered the conditions for reappraising the meaning of antisemitism. For the Trump administration and the GOP, as well as for the American Jewish institutions who have sided with them, antisemitism’s animating force is criticism of Israel — even as far-right antisemitism, much of it inspired and echoed by the government, is at fever pitch.

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man looks at a large billboard of U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as part of the Likud election campaign, at the entrance to Jerusalem, Feb. 3, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man looks at a large billboard of U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as part of the Likud election campaign, at the entrance to Jerusalem, Feb. 3, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

For groups such as AIPAC, this political realignment has been a simple matter of expediency: the Trump administration has been unfailingly supportive of the Israeli government, and therefore these institutions have embraced the U.S. government. In this, they have prioritized pro-Israel policies above the safety of American Jews. For even more far-right American Jewish groups, the alliance is yet more ideological: the Zionist Organization of America, for example, is invested in the Trump administration not only for the free rein it has given to the Israeli government, but also for its single-minded persecution of Muslims.

Given these immense shifts, it makes sense to wonder whether any of the deterioration that occurred over the past four years might be rolled back under a Biden presidency. For example, how would a Democratic administration impact the extraordinary influence of Evangelicals on U.S. foreign policy? Or the relative quietism from the American Jewish establishment regarding far-right antisemitism, compared with its outspokenness on criticism of Israel?

‘As long as he likes Israel’

Both “Kings of Capitol Hill” and “Till Kingdom Come” offer some clues. In Loushy’s film, former AIPAC stalwarts guide us through the group’s early years, painting a picture of a small, scrappy organization run by a handful of liberals who believed they were doing their bit to help Israel and, by extension, American Jews. As the film wears on, they express their disillusionment and deep anxiety over what the organization has become — not least over its increasing thrall to the far right.

On the face of it, “Kings of Capitol Hill” is not a particularly radical documentary. There is precious little mention of the occupation, and the interviewees’ rosy-eyed rendering of the early decades of Israel’s history and relationship with American Jews is largely unchallenged. But the film’s power lies in its intimate, critical portrayal of an immensely impactful lobbying organization that — until a string of costly, high-profile electoral setbacks this year — appeared to be unstoppable.

Indeed, in watching Loushy’s documentary, one is reminded of just how influential and impervious to criticism AIPAC has been over the past decades. As former insiders line up to recount the group’s seemingly benign early years and its descent into deranged, NRA-style “with-us-or-against-us” partisanship, it is difficult not to be astounded afresh at the level of deference AIPAC has enjoyed in Washington. 

Audience members at the AIPAC Policy Conference, Washington, D.C., March 26, 2017. (Paul Kagame/Flickr)

Audience members at the AIPAC Policy Conference, Washington, D.C., March 26, 2017. (Paul Kagame/Flickr)

AIPAC’s arc is, in some senses, reflective of the American Jewish institutional community writ large. Founded in 1963, riding a wave of American Jewish activism, the organization’s orientation was rooted in a wide-eyed liberal Zionism that viewed a strong U.S.-Israel relationship to be crucial to both countries. However, as the group became increasingly beholden to wealthy conservative donors — whose contributions came with strings attached — AIPAC shifted even further right, eventually espousing the kind of hardline positions that have put it in lockstep with the current Netanyahu and Trump administrations.

The latter alignment in particular seems to have been the catalyst for many of those speaking out in this documentary, dismayed by what they see as AIPAC’s deterioration into a cheerleader for Israeli and American governments that are utterly out of control. Ada Horwich, a former AIPAC board member, predicts — correctly — that the lobby group would not object to Israeli plans to annex large swathes of the West Bank; clearly pained, she acknowledges that “we’re down the road to being called an apartheid state.”

Former AIPAC employee MJ Rosenberg, meanwhile, takes on the group’s alliance with Christians United For Israel, the hard-right Evangelical lobbying group and the largest pro-Israel organization in the country. The fact that high-profile members of CUFI have a track record of antisemitic statements is of little concern to AIPAC, he says; rather, the group’s line is: “I don’t care if he’s antisemitic as long as he likes Israel.”

That privileging of support for Israel above all else has led to a proliferation of disquieting endorsements by AIPAC, as evidenced by the hair-raising list of speakers at its most recent policy conference. It is difficult to see what will undo that calculus, now that it has emerged as a legitimate political strategy. Indeed, a Democratic administration may further harden, rather than undermine, such alliances, tied up as they are in America’s culture wars.

‘AIPAC took people out’

Inevitably, a central strand of Loushy’s film examines AIPAC’s financial activities surrounding national and state congressional elections. Rosenberg, who last year wrote an op-ed supporting Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s controversial characterization of AIPAC’s influence in Washington, lays out the group’s mode of indirect political fundraising.

At AIPAC’s annual policy conference, side meetings are held in rooms that have not been booked by AIPAC itself. Congresspeople pitch donors for funds, and via one indirect route or another, the donations agreed upon in the margins of the conference — but not, of course, directly solicited or presented by AIPAC itself — makes its way into political campaigns.

As Rosenberg points out in the film, AIPAC’s modus operandi is entirely congruent with its political environment. Stopping just short of saying “It’s all about the Benjamins,” he argues that “every single issue in the United States is dictated by money” — and AIPAC is no different.  

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner delivers remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference, May 23, 2011. (Speaker John Boehner/Flickr)

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner delivers remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference, May 23, 2011. (Speaker John Boehner/Flickr)

The lobby group’s open-secret fundraising is intimately connected to the film’s other main concern: the organization’s growing intolerance and the malign consequences for any policies and politicians that don’t adhere to a strict pro-Israel line. The group’s sway in elections is legendary; remarking on AIPAC’s ability to make or break a campaign, the New York Times journalist Jonathan Weisman notes that the organization “took people out.” 

The group’s success in getting its preferred candidates elected began to gather steam in 1984, we are told, when AIPAC apparently jeopardized Illinois Republican Senator Charles Percy’s reelection bid over his perceived lack of support for Israel. Percy lost to his Democratic opponent, and his defeat was, according to the documentary, a turning point for the role of Israel in American domestic politics.

What the documentary doesn’t discuss, though, was that 1984 was a turning point in Israeli domestic politics, too: earlier that year, the Israeli security services arrested the ringleaders of the Jewish Underground, a terrorist group who were plotting to blow up the Dome of the Rock; and at the same time, Israeli voters sent the ultra-nationalist Rabbi Meir Kahane to the Knesset. Get Our Weekly NewsletterSign up

The juxtaposition of Israel’s rightward lurch and AIPAC’s heightened pressure on U.S. politicians to uncritically support the Jewish state — precisely during one of its ugliest moments — was a harbinger of things to come. Later in the film, Rosenberg recalls AIPAC’s disdain for Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, owing to a very basic calculus: if Israel made peace with the Palestinians, it would no longer need a lobby. Indeed, the group faced a drastic budget crunch during the Oslo years. 

From that, Rosenberg draws out the group’s true raison d’etre: “AIPAC’s role is to defend Israel when it’s wrong, not when it’s right.” On that reckoning, a Biden victory — even with the growing prevalence of Palestine in U.S. progressive politics — will do little to make AIPAC change course.

‘Israel, their people, the Jews — they’re better than all of us’

If Loushy’s film explores the shifting politics of a once bipartisan lobbying powerhouse, in “‘Til Kingdom Come,” Zinshtein documents a more traditionally far-right constituency: Israel’s Evangelical supporters. Zinshtein opens with William Boyd Bingham IV, a baby-faced pastor from Binghamtown Baptist Church in Bell County, Kentucky, firing off a few rounds with a rifle in the woodlands.

Shortly after, talking in his car, he readily admits that children in the Evangelical community undergo “indoctrination” surrounding a religious imperative to love and support Israel. For Bingham, there is no question about the righteousness of this process: “Israel, their people, the Jews — they’re better than all of us,” he says.

About 3000 evangelical Christian Israeli supporters from all over the world attend a festival at the International Conference Center in Jerusalem, September 6, 2009. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

About 3000 evangelical Christian Israeli supporters from all over the world attend a festival at the International Conference Center in Jerusalem, September 6, 2009. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Zinshtein’s documentary shares some common themes and inflection points with “Kings of Capitol Hill,” including the phenomenon of antisemitic “friends of Israel” and the transfer of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. But it is a very different kind of film, which foregrounds the personal stories of its main subjects, Bingham and Yael Eckstein, president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Zinshtein’s approach here is deft: rather than pressing too hard on her interviewees’ contradictions — for example, when they discuss the Bell County church’s fundraising for Israel despite acknowledging the depth of local poverty — she simply allows their thought processes to play out on screen.

The trade-off that organizations such as the IFCJ help orchestrate is thrown into troubling relief early on in the film, when we see a destitute elderly Israeli woman, weeping over a box of provisions that IFCJ donations have paid for. We are told that, thanks to the Fellowship, Christians are the largest supporters of humanitarian projects in Israel. Never mind that the goods and services they’re providing are making up for the Israeli government’s neoliberal dismemberment of its welfare sector, or that many of those Christians may themselves be struggling to make ends meet.

A conservative Bell County talk radio host, who acknowledges the poverty around her, claims that local deprivation is the very reason supporting Israel is necessary; doing so, she says, will bring God’s blessings to the community. Eckstein is only too happy to encourage such magical thinking, telling the Binghamtown congregation that “The destiny of the Jewish people is the destiny of this church, and the destiny of this church is the destiny of the Jewish people.”

During the same service, Bingham’s father, Pastor William Boyd Bingham III, launches into a rant about wealthy Jewish NBA owners and movie moguls. Asked later about her thoughts on what Bingham III said in the church, Eckstein, visibly stumped, pauses for several moments before conceding her discomfort with the theological differences between Evangelicalism and Judaism.

The annual Christmas eve procession into the Church of the Nativity in the West bank city of Bethlehem, December 24, 2018. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

The annual Christmas eve procession into the Church of the Nativity in the West bank city of Bethlehem, December 24, 2018. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

One outright accusation of antisemitism does appear in the documentary, however. On a visit to Israel-Palestine, Bingham sits down with Reverend Dr. Munther Isaac, a Palestinian minister at a Lutheran church in Bethlehem, who patiently explains the ways in which Evangelical theology contributes to Palestinian oppression.

After the meeting, Bingham tells the documentary crew that Palestinians do not exist, and that Dr. Isaac’s interpretation of scripture is “theological antisemitism.” He does not explain what he means by that, nor how his community’s end-times theology — in which all Jews are destined to either convert to Christianity or be killed — escapes the same charge.

‘Demented alliances’

That underbelly of the Judeo-Christian partnership, which downplays antisemitism so long as it is accompanied by Zionism, haunts both documentaries. The brokers of this project, those in the Trump and Netanyahu governments above all, seem willing to deny that “Judeo-Christian” is in fact a stand-in for Christian hegemony with an optional, and disposable, Jewish filter.

What American writer Gore Vidal once characterized as a “series of demented alliances with the Christian (anti-semitic) right,” currently embodied by the alignment of AIPAC and CUFI, is not new. But it has become a high-profile cause for progressive American Jewish activists who have witnessed antisemitism proliferate at the upper echelons of their government, even as many of their communal representatives praise Trump’s ratification of Israel’s military occupation.

While these “demented alliances” increasingly put Jews in the crosshairs, they have also, as Isaac points out in Zinshtein’s film, deepened and broadened Israel’s crushing of Palestinian rights and freedoms. Yet one would not think it looking at both documentaries. Palestinian interviewees are entirely absent from “Kings of Capitol Hill,” and, with the notable exception of Isaac, are largely peripheral in “‘Till Kingdom Come.” Tragically, this is a reflection of the current state of the U.S. conversation on Israel-Palestine, which mostly considers Palestinians surplus to discussions regarding their fate. Whether that will change under a Biden presidency remains to be seen.

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‘We were and are still here’: A visual history of Palestine’s lost past

Abeer Ayyoub

'We were and are still here': A visual history of Palestine's lost past

The Al Jamal family in the Talbiya neighbourhood of West Jerusalem, 1920s. [Tarek Bakri]

Date of publication: 5 November, 2020Share this page:

Tarek Bakri was determined to tell Palestine’s history. His work is now one of the largest visual documentation projects tracing personal stories of exile and loss.


PalestineNakbaIsraelexilevisual historyoccupationNine years ago, Jerusalem-born researcher Tarek Bakri received a request from his Palestinian school colleague in Amman to take a picture of Haifa during the summer break.

Forbidden from travelling there himself under Israeli law, Tarek, now 34, took pleasure in helping with his friend’s request.

As time went on, Tarek began receiving more and more requests from Palestinians in the diaspora to photograph the villages, and even houses, their relatives were forced to leave.

Eventually, he decided to launch the ‘We Were and We Are Still Here‘ initiative, a visual documentation project sharing personal Palestinian histories.

On the Facebook and Instagram pages he set up, Tarek began receiving requests from the grandchildren of those who were forced to flee Palestine asking to locate their family homes.

He normally asks for pictures, maps or detailed descriptions of the properties so he can locate them – that is, if they have not already been destroyed.

“The more requests I get, and stories I publish, the more it disproves the Israeli narrative that Palestine was an inhabited land when it was occupied in 1948. This is my goal, actually, to disprove this narrative,” Tarek told The New Arab

The project expanded as Palestinians in the diaspora with dual nationalities began travelling to Israel to see the villages and homes of their ancestors, in cooperation with Tarek, who made all of the logistical arrangements and later shared their stories online. 

“I do this not only because I know how it feels to be denied access to your original home, but also because this is another way to fight against an occupier who wants to bury your identity and history,” Tarek says. 

As a Palestinian from Jerusalem, Tarek has Jordanian travel documents and an Israeli residence permit, but not any official Palestinian papers. “This is what makes me more attached to Palestine, Israel is trying to make me feel disconnected with my home country, but I do everything I can to feel more connected.” 

‘Acre’s Bride’ was one of the project’s stories that went viral, recounting the family history of a Canadian-Palestinian woman called Zaina who made it to Palestine for the first time to look for her grandfather’s former house. 

Tarek took the newly married Zaina and started the probing journey, later finding the abandoned home, which was still intact, and organising a traditional Palestinian-style zaffeh wedding procession which was attended by her family’s old neighbours.

More than 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their villages during the 1948 Nakba, or catastrophe, in 1948, while hundreds of Palestinian villages were destroyed.

The more requests I get, and stories I publish, the more it disproves the Israeli narrative that Palestine was an inhabited land

The descendants of those who fled to neighbouring Middle Eastern countries, Europe, and the Americas now number around seven million, but have been forbidden by Israel from permanently returning. Those who have foreign passports are able to visit, but it is a process fraught with difficulty.  

2020 has been a difficult year for Palestinians. In January, US President Donald Trump presented his long-awaited Middle East peace plan, which effectively greenlighted the annexation of the Palestinian Jordan Valley and East Jerusalem.

More recently, a series of normalisation deals have been signed between Israel, Bahrain, the UAE and Sudan, further damaging the Palestinian cause. 

In this environment, the work Tarek does in documenting Palestinian history is of increasing importance. He says the two-minute videos he produces often take up to a month of intensive research and are completely independent and voluntary, although friends pitch in to help with filming and editing.

Asked if confrontations occur between the Palestinian descendants of former house owners and their current Israeli occupants, Tarek says they happen, but it is not one of his goals. 

“I happened to tell some of these residents that I have the former owners of the house with me, some were okay with it, others went angry and very defensive.” 

Tarek recalls one encounter in which an Israeli resident told the Palestinian visitor that he could come and visit the house anytime he wants. “Another said that he has the house because his country won a war, and no one should be sad if his country wins the war,” Tarek said. 

Recently, Tarek decided to elevate the project and has begun training Palestinians who can travel in Israel to work with him. “Sometimes I get requests while I’m out of Palestine; this is why it was important to have a team with me to make this project continue.” 

While never expecting his efforts to become this popular, he is overjoyed that his project is raising more awareness about Palestine and Palestinian refugees. 

“I’m very happy and content with the work I do. I’m determined to keep doing it until Palestine is finally liberated.”  

Posted in Palestine AffairsComments Off on ‘We were and are still here’: A visual history of Palestine’s lost past

Wounded Palestinian Remains In Serious Condition At An Zionist Hospital

By: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

The Palestinian Detainee’s Committee has reported, Monday, that a wounded Palestinian, who was shot by Nazi soldiers on Sunday, remains in a critical condition, hooked to a life support machine at Soroka Israeli medical center.

The Committee stated that the Palestinian, Ali Amro, from the southern West Bank city of Hebron, underwent surgery at the Zionist medical center, and remains sedated and hooked to a ventilator, in a critical condition.

It is worth mentioning that Amri was shot by the soldiers, Sunday, at the entrance of the al-Fawwar refugee camp, south of Hebron, after the Nazi army claimed he “attempted a stabbing attack” targeting the Nazi soldiers.

A court hearing will be held this coming Thursday at the Ofar Nazi military court, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, as the army is asking for a remand so that Amro can be interrogated later.

It is worth mentioning that Amro is a teacher, who has been working at Majed Abu Sharar School, in Doura town, west of Hebron, for the past fifteen years.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Wounded Palestinian Remains In Serious Condition At An Zionist Hospital

Soldiers Abduct Fourteen Palestinians In West Bank

By: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

The Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) has confirmed that Nazi soldiers abducted, on Monday at dawn and morning hours, at least fourteen Palestinians, including siblings, a female journalist, and former political prisoners, in several parts of the occupied West Bank.

In the central West Bank governorate of Ramallah, the soldiers abducted a journalist, who is also a former political prisoner, identified as Bushra Tawil, from the al-Biereh city, after stopping her at a sudden military roadblock near Nablus, in northern West Bank, before moving her to Huwwara military base, south of Nablus.

The Nazi soldiers also invaded the al-Jalazoun refugee camp, in addition to Doura al-Qare’ town, north of Ramallah, and used a military surveillance drone while conducting searches.

In Hebron, in southern West Bank, the soldiers abducted two siblings, identified as Mos’ab, 28, and Salah Nidal Zghayyar, 29, after storming their homes and ransacking them in the Schools Street area in the city.

The family said the soldiers conducted very violent searches, leading to property damage, and added that Salah is a former political prisoner who was only released from Israeli prison two months ago, after spending fifteen months in captivity.

In addition, the soldiers abducted Moayyad Walid Amro, 28, and Mohammad Yousef Shahin, 27, from their homes in Doura town, southwest of Hebron.

The soldiers also installed roadblocks at the entrances of Sa’ir and Halhoul towns, in addition to Hebron’s northern road, in Jouret Bahlas area, and Hebron’s southern road, in the al-Fahs area, before stopping and searching dozens of cars, and interrogated scores of Palestinians while inspecting their ID cards.

In Bethlehem, south of Nazi occupied Jerusalem, the soldiers abducted Mohammad Hamdi Masa’id, from his home in Aida refugee camp, in the northern part of the city.

The Nazi soldiers also abducted Fateh Movement’s secretary in Beit Ta’mar area, east of Bethlehem, Morad Mohammad Abu Moheimeed, 38, in addition to Mohammad Hashem Abu Moheimeed, 42, after confiscating his car, along with three siblings, identified as Salah, 29, Fuad, 28, and Mo’taz Jom’a Abu Moheimeed, 25, after storming their homes and ransacking them.

In Tulkarem, in northern West Bank, the Nazi soldier abducted Emad Fahmi Ammar, from his home in Qaffin town, north of the city.

Protests took place in the town after the soldiers invaded it; the army fired many gas bombs, concussion grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets.

In Tubas, in northeastern West Bank, the soldiers abducted a former political prisoner, identified as Bashir Eyad Abdul-Razeq, in addition to Mustafa Shahrouri, while crossing the al-Hamra military roadblock, in Northern Plains.

In addition, the Nazi soldiers invaded Yaffa Street area and the areas surrounding the al-‘Ein refugee camp, west of Nablus, before storming a shop owned by a political prisoner, and confiscated its belongings.

In Qalqilia, in northern West Bank, the soldiers invaded Jayyous town, northeast of the city, and fired many gas bombs near the annexation wall.

In Nazi occupied Jerusalem, the soldiers invaded the home of Marwan al-Ghoul, the head of Silwan Club, and summoned him for interrogation.

On Sunday evening, the Nazi soldiers abducted a young man after he reportedly breached the perimeter fence, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human Rights, West BankComments Off on Soldiers Abduct Fourteen Palestinians In West Bank

Nazi Navy Shoots, Injures Two Palestinians off Gaza Coast

By: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

The Nazi Navy shot and injured two Palestinian fishermen, on Saturday, off the northern coast of the besieged Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Information Center reported.

Local fishermen committee said Nazi navy ship opened fire with rubber-coated steel rounds at the fishing boat, injuring Mohamed al-Sultan, 26, and his 12 year old brother.

The two were sailing off the coast of Beit Lahia in the northern Nazi occupied Gaza Strip.

The Jerusalem Press described the wounds as mild, no further details were available.

The Nazi occupation state imposed a land, air, and sea blockade upon the coastal enclave in 2007, causing high rates of unemployment and poverty, resulting in the current humanitarian crisis.

Nazi navy ships regularly harass and open fire at Palestinian fishermen, sailing within the stipulated boundaries.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Gaza, Human RightsComments Off on Nazi Navy Shoots, Injures Two Palestinians off Gaza Coast

Nazi soldiers Abduct Three Palestinians, Assault One, Near Jenin

By: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

Nazi soldiers abducted, earlier Sunday, three Palestinians from the al-Jalama town, and assaulted one in al-Yamoun, in addition to storming the home of a political prisoner, in Jenin governorate, in northern West Bank.

Media sources said the soldiers abducted Mohammad Yasser Shaban, Mohammad Zakariya Hamdan, and Fadi Yahia Abu Farha while walking near a section of the annexation wall, which was built on Palestinian lands in al-Jalama.

In addition, the soldiers assaulted a young man, identified as Karam Eyad Sammar, from the al-Yamoun town, west of Jenin, while walking near the Annexation Wall on Palestinian lands in Rommana village, west of Jenin.

The wounded man suffered various cuts and bruises and was moved to the Jenin governmental hospital.

In addition, the Nazi soldiers stormed the family home of a detainee, identified as Nathmi Abu Bakr, 49, and searched the property.

It is worth mentioning that, on October 21st, 2020, the army poured sponge finished concrete into Abu Bakr’s home, sealing approximately %40 of the property; the soldiers repeatedly invade the property to inspect it.

The army claims Nathmi is responsible for the death of an Israeli soldier, identified as Staff Sgt. Amit Ben Ygal, 21, after he reportedly dropped a large stone on his head from a rooftop when the soldiers invaded Ya’bad town, on May 12, 2020.

In related news, the soldiers shot a young Palestinian man at the entrance of the al-Fawwar refugee camp, south of Hebron, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Nazi soldiers Abduct Three Palestinians, Assault One, Near Jenin

Nazi soldiers Shoot A Palestinian Near Hebron

By: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

Nazi soldiers shot, on Sunday morning, a young Palestinian man at the entrance of the al-Fawwar refugee camp, south of Hebron, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank.

The Nazi soldiers shot the Palestinian, from Doura town south of Hebron, after he reportedly approached the fortified military town at the entrance of the al-Fawwar refugee camp.

The Nazi army claimed the soldiers shot the Palestinian “because he attempted to stab soldiers.”

The Nazi soldiers abducted the Palestinian after shooting him, and took him to an unknown destination.

His condition was still unknown at the time of this report.

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Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass

The widespread violence of Nov. 9-10, 1938 signaled an escalation in the Nazi reign of terror.


A Timeline of the Holocaust


Nazi Germany 1933-1939: Early Stages of Persecution


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The unprecedented pogrom of November 9-10, 1938 in Germany has passed into history as Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass). Violent attacks on Jews and Judaism throughout the Reich and in the recently annexed Sudetenland began on November 8 and continued until November 11 in Hannover and the free city of Danzig, which had not then been incorporated into the Reich. There followed associated operations: arrests, detention in concentration camps, and a wave of so-called Aryanization orders, which completely eliminated Jews from German economic life.

The November pogrom, carried out with the help of the most up-to-date communications technology, was the most modern pogrom in the history of anti-Jewish persecution and an overture to the step-by-step extirpation of the Jewish people in Europe.

Jews Leaving Germany

After Hitler’s seizure of power, even as Germans were being divided into “Aryans” and “non-Aryans,” the number of Jews steadily decreased through emigration to neighboring countries or overseas. This movement was promoted by the Central Office for Jewish Emigration established by Reinhard Heydrich (director of the Reich Main Security Office) in 1938.

In 1925 there were 564,378 Jews in Germany; in May 1939 the number had fallen to 213,390. The flood of emigration after the November pogrom was one of the largest ever, and by the time emigration was halted in October 1941, only 164,000 Jews were left within the Third Reich, including Austria.

READ: Sept. 16, 1935: Nazi Laws on Jews Put Into Effect

The illusion that the legal repression enacted in the civil service law of April 1, 1933, which excluded non-Aryans from public service, would be temporary was laid to rest in September 1935 by the Nuremberg Laws — the Reich Citizenship Law and the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor. The Reich Citizenship Law heralded the political compartmentalization of Jewish and Aryan Germans.

Economic Exclusion

The complementary ordinances to the Reich Citizenship Law, dated November 14-28, 1935, sought to define who was a Jew; it also created a basis for measures limiting the scope of Jewish occupations and the opportunities for young Jews to get an education. Following the March 1938 annexation (Anschluss) of Austria, which brought 200,000 Austrian Jews under German domination, exclusion of Jews from the economy began first through the removal of Jewish manufacturers and business chiefs and their replacement by “commissars” in charge of “aryanization,” the expropriation of Jewish businesses.

READ: Feb. 14, 1934: Jewish Agents Thrown Out of Reich System

Within a short time, from January to October 1938, the Nazis aryanized 340 middle-sized and small industrial enterprises, 370 wholesale firms, and 22 private banks owned by Jews. The November pogrom was the peak of a series of events intended to expel the Jews from economic life and to force a hurried emigration.

Kristallnacht damage Nazis Holocaust

A sequence of normative legislation in 1938 heralded economic despoliation. Under the Law Concerning the Legal Position of the Jewish Religious Community (March 28, 1938), the state subsidy for the Jewish community was withdrawn. Under the decree of April 22, 1938 against “continuing concealment of Jewish business activity,” Jews were obliged to declare their assets–an indication that their possessions might be seized.

The Fourth Decree (July 25, 1938) under the Reich Citizenship Law deprived Jewish doctors, as of September 30, of their practices among Jewish patients. An edict by the police president of Breslau dated July 21 ordered that shops and businesses belonging to Jews should bear a notice: “Jewish Firm.” Air Ministry political-economic guidelines of October 14, 1938 were accompanied by a recommendation, summed up by Hermann Goring (then head of the ministry): “The Jewish question must now be grasped in every way possible, for they [Jews] must be removed from the economy.”

Goring also said that he was in favor of the creation of Jewish ghettos in German towns. His words gave notice of a general anti-Jewish offensive in the coming weeks. The most favorable opportunity for unleashing the attack was afforded by the fatal wounding of the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath on November 7th 1938 in Paris by the 16-year-old Polish Jew Herschel Grynszpan.

READ: Nov. 8, 1938: Polish-Jewish Youth, 17, Shoots Nazi Embassy Official in Paris

A Top-Down Pogrom

Ernst vom Rath’s death gave the signal to the Reich propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, to unleash the pogrom against the Jews. The news of the death was received by Adolf Hitler during the traditional dinner for the “old fighters” of the Nazi movement, held in the assembly room of the Old Town Hall in Munich on the anniversary of the bloody march on the Feldherrnhalle and the unsuccessful putsch of November 9, 1923.

The atmosphere for announcements of victory or incitements to hate and revenge was optimal, not only in Munich but also among Nazi organizations throughout the country, where Germans awaited the radio transmission of the customary memorial celebration and Hitler’s speech. The signal for retaliation had already been given by Goebbels (with Hitler’s agreement) in an unusually aggressive speech, which Hitler did not attend. The political propaganda initiative and management of the pogrom was in Goebbels’ hands, though he held no written authority from Hitler.

While the Fuhrer went to his Munich apartment, the propaganda minister told the Nazi notables and old fighters present that there had already been acts of revenge on November 8 in Kurhessen and Magdeburg against State Enemy No. 1 — the Jew. Synagogues and shops belonging to Jews had, he said, been destroyed.

His words were understood by his audience to signify “that while the party would not openly appear as the originator of the demonstrations, in reality it would organize them and carry them through” (secret report of supreme party judge Hans Buch to Hermann Goring, February 13, 1939). These intimations were immediately passed on by telephone to the headquarters of the various districts and were followed by telegrams from the Gestapo. Heydrich’s secret order, sent by teleprinter to all Gestapo offices and senior SD sections, was transmitted at 1:20 a.m. on November 10.

Once Goebbels had given the Nazi district leaders the impetus to unleash a massive pogrom, the further initiative lay in their hands. The execution of the pogrom, under direction of the highest Nazi party leaders, was entrusted to police and state agencies, to units of the SS, and in part to SA members. By means of the latest communications technology — telephone, teleprinters, police transmitters, and radio — within a few hours the pogrom had reached almost every part of the Reich without meeting any resistance.

Desecrated Synagogues, Looted Shops, Mass Arrests

During the night of November 9-10, 1938 Jewish shops, dwellings, schools, and above all synagogues and other religious establishments symbolic of Judaism were set alight. Tens of thousands of Jews were terrorized in their homes, sometimes beaten to death, and in a few cases raped. In Cologne, a town with a rich Jewish tradition dating from the first century CE, four synagogues were desecrated and torched, shops were destroyed and looted, and male Jews were arrested and thrown into concentration camps.

Brutal events were recorded in the hitherto peaceful townships of the Upper Palatinate, Lower Franconia, Swabia, and others. In Hannover, Herschel Grynszpan‘s hometown, the well-known Jewish neurologist Joseph Loewenstein escaped the pogrom when he heeded an anonymous warning the previous day; his home, however, with all its valuables, was seized by the Nazis.

In Berlin, where 140,000 Jews still resided, SA men devastated nine of the 12 synagogues and set fire to them. Children from the Jewish orphanages were thrown out on the street. About 1,200 men were sent to Oranienburg-Sachsenhausen concentration camp under “protective custody.” Many of the wrecked Jewish shops did not open again.

Following the Berlin pogrom the police president demanded the removal of all Jews from the northern parts of the city and declared this area “free of Jews.” His order on December 5, 1938 — known as the Ghetto Decree — meant that Jews could no longer live near government buildings.

READ: Dec. 5, 1938: Nazis Take Drivers’ Permits from Jews, Ban Use of Central Berlin

The vast November pogrom had considerable economic consequences. On November 11, 1938 Heydrich, the head of the security police, still could not estimate the material destruction. The supreme party court later established that 91 persons had been killed during the pogrom and that 36 had sustained serious injuries or committed suicide. Several instances of rape were punished by state courts as Rassenschande (social defilement) in accordance with the Nuremberg laws of 1935.

At least 267 synagogues were burned down or destroyed, and in many cases the ruins were blown up and cleared away. Approximately 7,500 Jewish businesses were plundered or laid waste. At least 177 apartment blocks or houses were destroyed by arson or otherwise.

It has rightly been said that with the November pogrom, radical violence had reached the point of murder and so had paved the road to Auschwitz.

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