The City of Ann Arbor’s Human Rights Commission (HRC) was created in 1970 to, among other things, “Investigate, study, hold hearings and make recommendations to City Council regarding complaints from any class or group protected under the human rights ordinance” (Ann Arbor City Code §1:222(b)) The City has gradually gotten out of the human rights business by all but dropping “human rights” from the text of the relevant city code section (Chapter 112) and by eliminating the City’s Human Rights department (HRD), which had several duties including providing staff support to the HRC, whose members are unpaid volunteers.
It is probably not coincidental that the HRD was eliminated after the HRC, led by Helen Fox and a Palestinian, Hani Bawardi, showed great courage and integrity in 2003 in adopting a “Resolution in Support of Ending U.S. Military Support for Israel” (text below). At the time, none of Ann Arbor’s Zionized local ‘peace’ organizations–Veterans for Peace, Michigan Peaceworks, Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, Jewish Voices for Peace and Justice–supported the HRC or endorsed its resolution. And Ann Arbor’s Zionized City Council, led by Democratic Mayor John Hieftje, never even formally considered the resolution.
Although the HRC is still active, elected officials recently demonstrated their contempt for human rights and the integrity of the HRC once again. Less than a year after Israel’s murderous assault on Gaza, in a sneak attack of his own, Mayor Hieftje appointed Neal Elyakin to the HRC, effective last year on December 7th ( “a date which will live in infamy,” indeed). According to his LinkedIn profile, Elyakin is, among other things, a “Formation (founding) Member at Michigan Israel Business Bridge;” a Board Member of the Friends of the IDF, Michigan Chapter; and a Board Member of the Jewish National Fund (Michigan).
The Michigan Israel Business Bridge obviously aims at facilitating trade and business between Michigan and Israel, contrary to the Palestinian BDS campaign. As for Friends of IDF, well that speaks for itself, doesn’t it? According to Adalah, the Jewish National Fund controls “over 2.5 million dunams of land, equating to 13% of the total land-space in Israel,” the majority of which “was transferred to it by [the] state and was originally in the ownership of Arab refugees or internally displaced persons.” In other words, the JNF controls land that was ethnically cleansed during the Nakba in 1948. The JNF manages these lands to create Jewish-only towns and neighborhoods in Israel; Palestinian citizens of Israel are prohibited from leasing JNF land and building houses on it. For these reasons, the JNF was singled out in the Cairo Declaration to End Israeli Apartheid of January 1, 2010, and has been the object of a campaign by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee to strip the group of federal tax-exempt status.
Elyakin also has a blog. Concerning Israel’s attack on Gaza, Elyakin wrote: “Let Israel do what it does; let Israel take on Hamas and the terrorist government in a way that will dismantle the infrastructure in Gaza that supports the terror state. Let it happen fast, let it take its course, and let us support Israel to once again tell the world that terrorism will not defeat her.” On January 11, 2009, he wrote: “I know that hundreds of Gaza residents have died. I know that many non-combatants have died. I know that schools and mosques have been destroyed. … I blame Hamas. … I will support Israel in her campaign to keep her children free of terror, away from the bomb shelters, and secure in their own recognized country.”
Here’s part of what Elyakin wrote last June:

There was no Nakba in 1948. There was, though, a war for independence that Israel waged after being attacked on all fronts by pretty much the entire Arab world … Most of the Arabs living in what is now Israel came during the early years of the century, enticed by the work offered as a result of the opportunities created by the early Jewish immigration … Palestinian nationalism didn’t exist prior to the UN vote, prior to the war of 1948, prior to the establishment of the State of Israel. … For all intents and purposes, there was no Arab Palestinian movement. … There is no Palestine. … The area that was called Palestine is now called Israel. … The borders of Israel are or will be what Israel determines them to be. … Countries wage war; countries lose and countries win. Israel won. Get over it.

Two weeks after appointment to the HRC began, Elyakin wrote: “The myth most strongly reinforced, the biggest lie repeated over and over again, is that Israel threw people out of their homes and took over their lands; that Israel exists only because of what they did to the indigenous Palestinians …”
It is, frankly, an outrage for a man with Neal Elyakin’s record of denigrating the history and human rights of Palestinians and of supporting the racist institutions of apartheid Israel to be appointed to the Ann Arbor Human Rights Commission. What can one expect though in times such as these when the oxymoronic lie of “Israeli democracy” is a commonplace?


Proposed by the Ann Arbor Human Rights Commission on December 4, 2003
Whereas, the United States, by providing Israel with virtually unlimited diplomatic, economic, and military support, has made itself complicit in Israel’s 36-year old military occupation of Palestinian lands;
Whereas, the State of Israel’s building of a 25-foot Separation Wall that cuts through Palestinian communities, is further undermining chances for a peaceful resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict;
Whereas, construction of the Separation Wall deprives a significant proportion of the Palestinian people of all means for self governance, movement, commerce, and education on all levels, and makes the prospect of a viable independent Palestinian state unfeasible;
Whereas, the United States government has expressed its official opposition to the construction of the Separation Wall (President George W. Bush, London, Nov. 19, 2003) while at the same time refusing to use its unquestionable influence to prevent the Israeli government from proceeding with its construction;
Whereas, a majority of Jewish Americans support ending the occupation of Palestinian lands and dismantling of the Settlements (US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Sept. 23, 2003) and;
Whereas, the City of Ann Arbor has in recent months witnessed dozens of vigils, peaceful protests, teach-ins, lectures, and debates on behalf of the beleaguered Palestinian population;

RESOLVED, That the City of Ann Arbor urge the United States Federal Government to stop military aid to the state of Israel until such time that Israel ends its occupation of Palestinian lands; and
RESOLVED, That the City Administrator send copies of this resolution to our U.S. Congressional and Senate representatives, and the President of the United States.

Labels: , , ,  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *