San Francisco Voice For Israel’s mission is “to stand up to anti-Israel speech wherever it may surface.” The group formed in 2004 to confront public attacks on Israel “in the time-honored tradition of peaceful protest, help to counter the lies and to educate our neighbors.”
The incident began when a number of activists from the Israel advocacy groups tried to obstruct a meeting of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), cheap the largest US Jewish peace group originally founded in San Francisco, hoping to convince them of the error in their ways.
According to Jewish Voice for Peace activists, an Oakland-based attorney named Robin Dubner then tried to videotape the faces of the 50 to 60 Jewish Voice for Peace activists at the meeting against their will. Two Jewish Voice for Peace members, Alexei Folger and Glen Hauer, then “attempted to nonviolently block” Dubner from videotaping. The lawyer responded by pepper-spraying Folger and Hauer in the eyes, face and hands.
Folger and Hauer claim they “were careful to make no physical contact with her or her camera prior to the attack.”
”When one of the intruders [Dubner] continued standing and filming people despite the facilitator and facility manager repeatedly telling her that she could not, I first asked her politely to please put away the video camera, then several times told her to put away the camera, and then tried nonviolently to stay in front of the camera with my body,” said Hauer. “I could have taken the camera but decided instead to talk to the woman and to try to be the only person she photographed.”
“I did not see it coming and all of a sudden there was gooey stuff all over my head and hand,” said Folger. “I have never been pepper-sprayed before, my whole head felt like it was on fire.”
Dubner was temporarily handcuffed by police, and paramedics were called to treat Folger and Hauer.
There were dozens of witnesses, but Berkeley Police public information officers did not return requests from Change.org for comment on the incident, and there are no reports of Dubner being charged.
The video shows one of the pepper-sprayed women immediately after the incident waiting for police, as well as Dubner draped in an Israeli flag and giving a speech which no one is listening to.
JVP has accused StandWithUS of a pattern of aggressive harassment and intimidation, and say they tried to block the videotaping of the meeting after a campaign of harassment against their members, including threats and the posting of JVP members’ photos on Israel advocacy websites.
“In my mind was the history targeting of Jewish peace activists by the right wing of the Jewish community,” said Hauer. “The posting of our photos on internet hate sites, for example, followed by acts of vandalism at our homes and places of work.”
Most recently, JVP filed a police report about a protest in June in which they were intimidated and threatened by StandWithUs activists. A StandWithUs member is seen in a video of the incident filming JVP activists and telling them “We will find out where you live.”
The following instructions for StandWithUs activists are found on their website:
“We are (unofficially) representing the state of Israel, the brave soldiers of the IDF, and the civilians living under terror from rocket attacks. The other side will offer the most vulgar, hateful anti-Israel and anti-Semitic language and images that you can possibly imagine. Remember that we are better than they are. They stand for hate and death; we stand for Hayyim v’Shalom– for life and for peace. Many of them are anti-Semitic; we are not anti-Islam. They support terrorism; we support freedom from terror. If you keep that in mind, you will project an image that will infuriate the other side that wants to drag us down into their gutter and make it seem like we’re not any better than they are.”
GOT A TIP FOR US? Is there a story or campaign in your area that we’d want to know about? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also follow Change.org’s Human Rights page on Facebook and Twitter. Photo credit: Jewish Voice for Peace.