Howell Resolution Against Billboard Stating “Stand With Palestine” Modified – Local “News” Site Smears Jewish Opponent Advocates Who Attended Meeting – Updated 5/10

Update: As of end of business day May 9, the original draft that was objectionable to many who attended the council meeting has been removed from the Council site as had been requested in this article.

Howell Township has passed a resolution on the issue of “Anti-Semitism.” However the resolution was introduced in response to a billboard containing protected speech supporting the Palestinian cause. The billboard stated “Stand with Palestine. Stand with Humanity.” The billboard was paid for by Voices for Humanity and the Palestinian American Community Center, with headquarters in Clifton NJ.

There is nothing wrong with resolutions against anti-Semitism. A well crafted resolution would also usually make passing reference to Anti-Arab racism and Islamaphobia. It is ok to have a resolution primarily focused on one form of bigotry but acknowledging the other forms of bigotry present and noting opposition is a unifying way to address these issues. The initial draft of the resolution from Howell did none of that. Those who came out to oppose the wording of it were promised at the meeting that the resolution would be redrafted and they believe they had a partial at least win. They currently await Howell to post the actual draft of what was voted upon by 4-0 margin.

The following is critique of the initial draft of the resolution.

The initial text (leaving link activated to demonstrate that the draft has indeed been removed as we had suggested in this article) of the original draft could be argued is itself an example of Islamophobia and anti-Arab bigotry. The smear of NJ’s Palestinian, Arab, Muslim and Humanitarian constituency is contained in the original draft that included weaponization of opposition to “anti-Semitism” and using it to coerce support for Israel. The following is an excerpt of the original resolution from the Howell Township site:

WHEREAS, there recently appeared on Route 9 in Howell a billboard with the words, “Stand with Humanity. Stand with Palestine. Paid for by Voice for Humanity Project”; and
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WHEREAS, the Township received numerous contacts from its residents expressing concern about the billboard, and about a potential anti-Semitic undertone; and WHEREAS, in the presence of objectionable speech, even speech that is protected by the First Amendment, it can be appropriate for a Governing Body to make its feelings known, especially when, as here, there is concern being expressed by some residents; and
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WHEREAS, to the extent the billboard in Howell is or could have been used as a rallying point for anti-Semitic thought, or as a battle cry against Jews in America or throughout the world, the Governing Body of the Township of Howell condemns such anti-Semitic sentiment in no uncertain terms and stands against hate in all of its manifestations.”

The original draft does not explicitly enact any specific ban of speech – it makes four points confirming opposition to anti-Semitism, including one that implies support for Israel.

What was Wrong with the proposed Resolution Then?

The initial resolution draft is an anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian, Islamaphobic and anti-humanitarian smear. There is nothing wrong with the billboard. Palestinians are being slaughtered. Communities have a right to support their own against genocide – and a responsibility to do so. Howell resources and its council meeting and resolution process was improperly being used for a smear against NJ constituents because they express a policy difference from that held of the governing body.

Initially, they were using the council process for a self serving political rally to promote an agenda against Palestinians. The original resolution draft was trying to say that the mere mention of “Palestine” is anti-Semitic. The genocidal process against any peoples not only includes the physical removal of those people, through slaughter and other means but the wiping out of the culture and definition of those people – they were smearing the mere use of the word Palestine!

The meeting was well attended including by those who are opposed to the US – Israel genocide in Gaza. There were many who spoke out and the meeting even broke out into chants of “Free Palestine” at times. NJ is in the midst of a historic and unprecedented effort to rise against the genocidal operations of US and Israel and every touch point on the issue is drawing the attention and ire of ever growing numbers of NJ citizens and residents. This development is much to the chagrin of the political establishment and both political parties that have always taken for granted the willingness of the NJ’s constituency to allow the US to pursue with Israel oppressive policies toward the Palestinians. With about 40K Palestinians killed in the last 7 months – the shock has awoken many to this decades long tragedy.

Across the political aisle, Republicans and Democrats are reaching for their fascist boots to respond to the rising tide of opposition to genocide. Violent crackdowns, pro-Israel gangs attacking students with weapons, students shot in the head with rubber bullets, gassed, bones broken, blunt force injuries, 2000 arrests – and open calls for violence by politicians and pundits and smearing accusations by Town Councils is creating what is approaching open warfare against anyone who dares criticize Israel. The original resolution from Howell was part of that entire context.

While the council promised revisions to the resolution, that it would not be the what was published in the end, those revisions have yet to be provided. We will update the story accordingly once revisions are posted.

Other things wrong with the initial draft of the resolution includes referencing the ADL as a source of authority on the issue of anti-Semitism. The CEO of ADL, Jonathan Greenblatt recently stated that wearing a Keffiyeh is equivalent to wearing a nazi armband! That is literally hate speech – and a clear dog whistle for violence against Palestinians. Greenblatt also accuses all opposition to the US-Israel genocide operation of being “Hamas” supporters which is a tacit call for state violence against the opponents of genocide, which as mentioned is transpiring. ADL is a hate group – it lost all credibility as an authority by suggesting that Palestinians are all “nazis.”

The original draft, was also doxxing of the organization that sponsored the billboard – which is a clear coded message to promote harassment of the sponsoring group. Indeed Voices for Humanity one of the groups that coordinated the billboard has received numerous threatening phone calls likely as a result of the council putting their phone number into the initial draft of the resolution.

This FightBackBetter editor calls upon Howell to take the draft of the resolution that was not passed, down immediately to prevent more violent elements from the pro-Israel crowd from getting the number and continuing to call in threats and harassment. It needs to be pointed out that while Howell must do this immediately – the damages from their reckless inclusion of the phone number of Voices for Humanity in the resolution has already resulted in threats and we have to now just hope that none of the deranged Israel advocates threatening them end up following through with any violence.

We also join community members in urging Howell to immediately post the resolution which was passed. It was promised that the new version would be more inclusive with recognition of opposition to other forms of hate as well as that the reference to the billboard would be completely removed. We await the new draft with great impatience!

Another observation from the meeting, as relayed by participants, there was a strong presence from pro-Israel advocates at the meeting and there were some disturbing occurrences. One of them took a picture of the registration of who attended signed up to speak at the meeting. That information could end up being doxxed and it could result in violence and threats and intimidation toward them as happened with the Voices for Humanity . The council responded to demands that the police force the removal of the picture by stating that the information was public any way. However, council should respect the privacy of the people there with a rule against the review and photography of the list – pre-publication.

What also happened, according to participants, as the meeting started to disperse, pro-Israel advocates got in between the exiting Palestine supporters creating a dangerous situation to the point where police got involved to assure the safe exit of those trying to leave. There were taunts and some physicality!

Another aspect of this situation is that a local hyper news site called the Scoop apparently has promoted some anti-Semitism of its own, referring to Jewish participants that spoke in support of the billboard being “dressed up like Jews” as if they are not indeed Jewish! FightBackBetter was contacted by two NJ Jewish residents who are very concerned about this and they have offered the following comments. Due to the violent climate targeting opponents of genocide we are withholding the names. Neither of the quoted individuals are members of the Neturei Karta group. The Scoop smear of the Jewish group appears below. FightBackBetter possesses a screen shot of the tweet though we are hoping that the Scoop takes that down and removes the unhelpful and unwarranted smearing of Neturei Karta sector of Judaism.

“The Lakewood Scoop needs to apologize for the repugnant Jew-hate expressed in their tweet describing members of Neturei Karta as ‘dressed like up like Jews.’ While supporters of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and Apartheid may disagree with the views of this  86 year old Haredi Jewish organization, no one has the right to deny their Jewishness. They are not “dressed up like Jews” – they ARE Jews.” – A Jewish NJ resident

“As a member of the Jewish faith I find The Lakewood Scoop’s description of Neturei Katara members as “men dressed as Jews” appalling. The Jewish people are a diverse diaspora, and, not only does rhetoric like this wholeheartedly go against the tenets of the religion, but questioning someone’s “Jewishness” to further a political agenda does nothing more than create more danger for our community. This is a perfect example of the weaponization of anti-semitism and its conflation with anti-zionism that has been forced upon us to try to further the US and Israel’s anti-Palestinian, pro-genocide agenda over the past six months.” – Another Jewish NJ resident

Intentionally not linking to tweet so as not to support this “news” site supporting anti-Semitism toward the Neturai Karta group.