Jews are the “Synagogue of Satan.” So said a local Nation of Islam minister at a Durham City Council (DCC) hearing on April 16, 2018. This was just one of a host of flamingly anti-Semitic remarks hurled at our Jewish community that day, by supporters of a petition to ban all police exchanges between Durham and exactly one country on earth—Israel. The (Jewish) mayor stated that Israel was doing to the Palestinians what was done to them by the Germans. Six of the seven city council members had already signed the petition that they were supposed to be evaluating at the hearing. The hearing date was expedited in violation of council rules to minimize reaction time for the Jewish community, and scheduled in the middle of Passover, as an added sign of disrespect for our people.
Durham was “Ground Zero” for what a loose coalition of anti-Semitic groups referred to as their Deadly Exchange campaign. The main premise of this campaign, as espoused in their petition to the DCC, was that American police officers training in Israel learned techniques to “target Black and Brown populations” in the USA. The fact that African-American police chiefs including Durham’s own police chief, CJ Davis, who had gone through the Israeli training refuted these inflammatory lies did not impact the unanimous vote by the DCC to approve a resolution banning any future Durham police training with Israeli police.
In reaction, we tried to work with the one nonprofit pro-Israel education group that was in our area at the time. They were very small, very well intended, and their main activities were to sponsor on average one speaker annually, and to react to anti-Semitic slurs by writing very polite, humble letters to the news media. We quickly discovered that the passion of the anti-Semites was dominating the local messaging, even when espousing twisted half-truths and lies.
A group of us realized that we needed to vigorously, actively oppose the anti-Semitism in our local government and community, and that we also needed proactive education programs. We also observed that a strong grassroots movement was percolating within the anger and shock we felt and witnessed amongst many in our Jewish community.
These were the seeds for formation of the North Carolina Coalition for Israel. We energetically call out anti-Semitism where we find it, and use a variety of grassroots, highly personal ways of educating and advocating for the Jewish State of Israel and the Jewish people.