Group does not support BDS


To the editor:

(re: “It’s North Bronx groups vs. Dinowitz on BDS,” June 2)

Something is wrong at The Riverdale Press. The front-page, above-the-fold story June 2 is begun by Stacy Driks describing the support of some CUNY students and faculty for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

Ms. Driks then states that the BDS issue “pits Councilman Eric Dinowitz against some North Bronx grassroots social justice organizations like, North Bronx Racial Justice and Jewish Voice for Peace.” (To be clear, Jewish Voice for Peace is not a North Bronx organization. There is a Jewish Voice for Peace of Westchester and of New York City, but none located in the North Bronx.)

Where to begin? This story is clickbait. It is false in important places, and is clearly designed to mislead readers of The Press on a topic that is, to put it mildly, highly sensitive in this community.

For anyone not familiar with the term, clickbait “is an online text or a thumbnail link that is designed to attract attention and to entice users to follow that link and read, view or listen to the linked piece of online content, which is typically deceptive, sensationalized, or otherwise misleading.”

The story states North Bronx Racial Justice held a pro-BDS rally on May 25 “in the shadow of the Riverdale Monument.” That is false. The rally was not about BDS. Titled “In Anger and Mourning: Shireen Abu Akleh and East Buffalo,” the rally linked the racist killings in Buffalo with the targeted assassination of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the occupied West Bank by the Israeli Defense Forces. On our Facebook event page, there is an extensive statement about the topic of the rally, which does not mention BDS.

May 25 was chosen because it was the second anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, and would have been the 29th birthday of Kalief Browder. Organizations that participated in our rally included Jewish Voice for Peace of Westchester and the NAACP of Yonkers. There were other unaffiliated participants.

In a phone conversation with Gary Larkin, the new editor of The Press, he insisted that our May 25 rally was about BDS.

When asked why he believed this, he gave three reasons:

• One of our five speakers, Professor Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, mentioned BDS in passing.

• A sign at the rally included the words “West Bank”

• Another sign stated that Shireen Abu Akleh was murdered by Israeli forces.

Neither of these — nor any combination of these reasons — made our May 25 rally about the BDS movement.

To get background for her June 2 story, Stacy Driks interviewed Steve Siegelbaum, who is a member of North Bronx Racial Justice and of Jewish Voice for Peace-Westchester. As Ms. Driks later conceded, at the outset of the interview, Mr. Siegelbaum stated that he was speaking, on the record, on his own behalf, and was not speaking for either North Bronx Racial Justice or Jewish Voice for Peace. Ms. Driks wrote her piece in a way that suggests that Mr. Siegelbaum was speaking for the two groups.

Stacy Driks’s piece states that North Bronx Racial Justice supports BDS. This is another manipulation that served The Press in whatever was motivating it in publishing this spurious piece. As with many grassroots organizations, North Bronx Racial Justice has a large membership — in our case, 134 people currently — and a far smaller core planning group.

Our core planning group, currently consisting of seven people, supports BDS. We have no idea whether a preponderance of the full membership supports BDS. For that reason among others, our May 25 rally was not about BDS.

The article is intent on “pitting” North Bronx Racial Justice against Councilman Eric Dinowitz on the issue of BDS. Why? We have never, publicly or privately, had a conversation with Eric Dinowitz or with any elected official, or any other entity, about BDS.

What is the intent of The Press in manipulating its readership into believing there is an active community dialogue occurring on this issue involving North Bronx Racial Justice when there is not?

Before our May 25 rally occurred, Stacy Driks reached out to us to discuss BDS. The timing seemed strange.

Readers of The Riverdale Press deserve better. They deserve an apology from the paper. North Bronx Racial Justice deserves an apology. We all deserve an independent local paper that holds itself to the highest journalistic standards.

We close with two thoughts: we will not be intimidated with false and slanderous accusations of antisemitism — Ms. Driks’s story stated that many who oppose BDS believe that those who support it are ipso facto antisemitc — in working for justice for Palestine. Nor will we be painted as anything other than a community group that seeks to work thoughtfully and transparently with our neighbors, motivated by sensitivity, love, honesty and courage on all topics, including those related to Israel and Palestine.

Jennifer Scarlott

The author is a coordinator for North Bronx Racial Justice

BDS, boycott, divestment, sanctions, Israel, Palestinians, North Bronx Racial Justice, Eric Dinowitz, Jennifer Scarlott, Gary Larkin, Stacy Driks, Rabab Ibrahim Abduljadi, antisemitism, Steve Siegelbaum