FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jewish Voice for Peace - Philadelphia | email@example.com
Philadelphia, PA (May 7, 2015) - Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) - Philadelphia challenges mayoral candidate Anthony H. Williams to publicly reject anti-Muslim organizations and activities.
JVP - Philadelphia member Matt Berkman stated, “When anti-Muslim hate speech is plastered on our city buses and our current mayor is forced to hold a major press conference rejecting it, we need to ask whether candidates in Philadelphia’s upcoming mayoral election are committed to opposing Islamophobia.”
In 2013, State Senator Williams accepted a "Friend of Zion Award" from the right-wing Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). “In recent decades, the ZOA has moved to the political fringes, employing dangerous Islamophobic scare tactics to drum up support for Israel,” said JVP - Philadelphia member Ezra Nepon. At the ZOA’s annual banquet in New York last year, ZOA President Morton Klein tellingly referred to the occupant of the Oval Office as "Barack HUSSEIN Obama,” while homophobic evangelical pastor John Hagee denounced the President as “anti-Semitic.” Nepon stated, “The ZOA is one of the only national Jewish organizations willing to host Pamela Geller, the anti-Muslim activist responsible for the recent SEPTA ads that were widely condemned by the mainstream Jewish community.” In a statement to the Jewish Exponent, ZOA’s Morton Klein refused to condemn the ads and instead sympathized with Geller’s position.
Members of JVP Philadelphia and others delivered a letter from over one hundred community members of all faiths to the Senator’s staff, detailing the ZOA’s record of bigotry and requesting that he decline the award. “What happened next was shocking,” said Rabbi Linda Holtzman (of Mt. Airy, member of the Jewish Voice for Peace national board), “not only did Senator Williams inform us that he would accept the award in the name of ‘understanding and tolerance’—an Orwellian thought, given the ZOA's intolerant agenda—but he doubled down, using his platform at the award ceremony to denounce the petitioners, his own constituents, for daring to express their concerns, telling us ‘Don’t ever show up in my office again.’” Sitting next to Williams as he delivered his remarks was fellow award recipient Nonie Darwish, a key speaker on the anti-Muslim lecture circuit known for spreading the conspiracy theory that the Obama administration has been infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood, and claiming that the President “has a Socialist/Islamic centered worldview.”
Berkman adds, “It is disturbing that these are the people Williams considers his ‘friends,’ as he described them at the ZOA ceremony.”
JVP - Philadelphia asks all candidates for mayor to commit to actively opposing Islamophobia in Philadelphia, and to distance themselves from organizations like the ZOA that promote it. The recent SEPTA advertisements are only the most flamboyant manifestation of this increasingly fashionable hatred. Confronting it head-on is the best way to ensure a safe and inclusive Philadelphia for all its residents.
WATCH: Williams praises ZOA "friends," disparages constituents