“Kansas won’t let me train math teachers because I boycott Israel”

Esther Koontz, math teacher and Mennonite Church member, is suing Kansas for denying her a position because of her faith-based boycott of Israel. (photo: ACLU)

Esther Koontz speaks out on her suit against the Kansas anti-Israel boycott law.

By Esther Koontz / ACLU Speak Freely / Oct 12, 2017

“I believe that the First Amendment protects my right, and the right of all Americans, to make consumer spending decisions based on their political beliefs. You don’t need to share my beliefs or agree with my decisions to understand that this law violates my free speech rights. The state should not be telling people what causes they can or can’t support.”

I’m a member of the Mennonite Church. I’ve also been a math teacher for almost a decade. Because of my political views, the state of Kansas has decided that I can’t help it train other math teachers.

I was chosen last spring to participate in a program that trains public school math teachers all over Kansas. After completing a two-day preparation course in May, I was ready to take on the role.

But in June, Kansas passed a law requiring any individual or company seeking a contract with the state to certify that they are not engaged in a boycott of Israel. That law affects me personally. As a member of the Mennonite Church USA, and a person concerned with the human rights of all people — and specifically the ongoing violations of Palestinians’ human rights in Israel and Palestine — I choose to boycott consumer goods made by Israeli and international companies that profit from the violation of Palestinians’ rights.

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ACLU sues Kansas for punishing teacher over Israel boycott


Following its new law, Kansas denied longtime teacher Esther Koontz a new position because of her faith-based boycott of Israel.

By Zaid Jilani / The Intercept / Oct 13, 2017

“This law is clearly aimed at suppressing not just boycotts generally but one particular boycott based on its viewpoint. So we think that’s a blatant constitutional violation and we hope the court agrees with us.”
— Brian Hauss, ACLU staff attorney

“Whether in Kansas or in Congress, this kind of legislation is an anti-democratic attempt to silence a nonviolent movement for equality for Palestinians, and a just peace for everyone in the region. It sets an alarming precedent of curtailing free speech, in an era when mobilizing grassroots energy to resist repressive government policies is more important than ever.”
— Rabbi Joseph Berman, Jewish Voice for Peace government affairs liaison

Esther Koontz is a long-time math teacher and curriculum coach at Horace Mann Dual Language Magnet School in Wichita, Kansas.

She’s also a member of the Mennonite Church USA, which in July voted to divest itself from American companies that profit off of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

One month prior to that vote, Kansas’s legislature passed into law House Bill 2409, which seeks to discourage boycotts of the state of Israel by prohibiting state contracts with individuals who refuse to say they will not engage in such boycott activity.

Continue reading “ACLU sues Kansas for punishing teacher over Israel boycott”

Jewish Youth Riot in Muslim Quarter of Old City

Jewish youth rampaging through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem on Oct 11, 2017. (photo: Haaretz)

Palestinian shopkeeper is hospitalized after being beaten; police make no arrests.

By Nir Hasson / Haaretz / Oct 13, 2017

“If it were Palestinians who were rioting, they would have sent for reinforcements, and probably shot tear gas and stun grenades.”
— Louis Zorba, a resident of the Muslim Quarter

A Palestinian shop owner was hospitalized after hundreds of Jewish teenagers reportedly rioted in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City on Wednesday night.

According to Palestinian eyewitnesses, approximately 400 youths marched through the Old City from the Western Wall towards the Muslim Quarter’s Damascus Gate, allegedly shouting, beating the doors of houses and shops, throwing rocks and smashing car windows.

As they approached Damascus Gate, the youths stormed an open shop and attacked the shop’s Palestinian owner. The owner was taken to Hadassah University Hospital to be treated for his wounds and was released in the morning, his injuries described as “light.”

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NJ community center targeted in Facebook hate campaign

Students doing homework at the Palestinian American Community Center in Clifton, NJ. (photo: Viorel Florescu)

In just a few hours, more than 400 Facebook posts accused the community center of being “terrorists, terrorist sympathizers and liars.” Many of the posts came from Israel.

By Hannan Adely / NorthJersey.com / Oct 11, 2017

“It was very shocking because of the fact that it has nothing to do with the center. It was blatant that it was people who don’t know our center and have never been to our center writing these hateful comments. . . . It’s very clear that it’s hate speech. “It’s a group of people that don’t like the general idea of what we’re about and they’re being hateful for it.”
— Rania Mustafa, Executive Director of PACC

Hundreds of negative online messages flooded the Facebook pages of a community center in Clifton and a Rutgers student group over the weekend, in what appeared to be an organized effort targeting them for their support of Palestinian causes.

Some commenters accused the Palestinian American Community Center and the Rutgers chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine of being terrorists, terrorist sympathizers and liars — allegations the groups dismissed as politically motivated smears.

Rania Mustafa, executive director of the community center, said 400 posts were written on the center’s Facebook page over just a few hours on Sunday morning. The posts were attached to one-star reviews that drove the community center’s rating from a 4.8 out of five to a 1.8.

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US pulls out of UNESCO over “anti-Israel bias”

UNESCO headquarters in Paris, Oct 17, 2016. (photo: Francois Mori / AP)

The US is pulling out of UNESCO for the second time, leaving $550 million in unpaid dues.

By Thomas Adamson & Matthew Lee / The Associated Press via The Seattle Times / Oct 12, 2017

“Universality is critical to Unesco’s mission to strengthen international peace and security in the face of hatred and violence, to defend human rights and dignity.”
— Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General

The United States announced Thursday it is pulling out of the UN’s educational, scientific and cultural agency because of what Washington sees as its anti-Israel bias and a need for “fundamental reform” in the agency.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel plans to follow suit.

While the Trump administration had been preparing for a likely withdrawal from UNESCO for months, the timing of the State Department’s statement was unexpected. The Paris-based agency’s executive board is in the midst of choosing a new chief — with Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari leading the heated election heading into Friday’s final vote.

Outgoing Director-General Irina Bokova expressed “profound regret” at the U.S. decision and tried to defend UNESCO’s reputation. The organization is best known for its World Heritage program to protect cultural sites and traditions, but also works to improve education for girls, promote understanding of the Holocaust’s horrors, and to defend media freedom.

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Saturday — PeaceWorks 2017: From marches to movements


Please join our brothers and sisters at the Rachel Corrie Foundation for the 11th Annual Peace Works conference, a day of presentations, workshops and networking opportunities.

Date: Saturday, Oct 14, 2017
Time: 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Location: Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for Performing Arts
South Puget Sound Community College
2011 Mottman Rd SW
Olympia, WA  98512
Information: Event website

Event Details

The last year has seen an alarming rise in armed conflict, social bigotry, and political authoritarianism. At the same time, unprecedented numbers of people around the globe have rallied to resist the politics of hate. Many of us have felt fear and motivation, isolation and empowerment, disillusion and hope. PeaceWorks 2017 asks how we might harness these passionate feelings into effective social movements.

The event will be filled with workshops, panel discussions, presentations, and networking opportunities. People and organizations from Washington and beyond will come together with a goal of developing concrete strategies for justice, peace, and progressive social change.

[More information here . . . ]

Thursday — Reception for liberation theologist Naim Ateek


Naim Ateek is a Palestinian priest in the Anglican Church and founder of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem.

Date: Thursday, Oct 12, 2017
Time: 2:30 – 4:00 pm
Location: Episcopal Diocesan House
1551 10th Ave E
Seattle, WA 98102
Information: Email questions here
Tickets: Free

Event Details

We are pleased to welcome the Reverend Naim Ateek, founder of Sabeel, and Tarek Abuta, Executive Director of Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA), to Seattle. Rev. Ateek and Mr. Abuta will be in town to mark the launch of the Bishop Edmund Lee Browning Memorial Fund, honoring the former Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Bishop Browning was instrumental in the founding of FOSNA and one of the strongest supporters of Sabeel.

The Fund is being created to support seminarians and seminary faculty who wish to go on witness trips to Palestine.

Bishop Rickel will host a public reception at the Diocesan House, a block north of St. Mark’s Cathedral. All are welcome!