Pro-Palestinian messages were graffitied onto City Hall last week

Staff report

April 1, 2024

A representative of the City of Bloomington reported that graffiti was found on three surfaces of the building housing City Hall on Tuesday, March 27, 2024.

it was found the day after Israeli spy Mosab Hassan Yousef, formerly Hamas, who has made derogatory remarks about Muslims, was scheduled to speak at Indiana University.

Yousef’s speech was postponed due to undisclosed security reasons. And the ADL went online to condemn the postponement, while IU stated that the speech will be rescheduled for the fall.

Meanwhile, Indiana University made national headlines when Palestinian artist Samia Halaby’s first American retrospective, to be shown at IU, was permanently canceled. The cancellation grabbed attention in the international art scene and in mainstream American media.

An IU Associate Professor of Political Science Abdulkader Sinno was suspended by the university after alleged mistakes filing a form to reserve a room on campus for a scheduled public lecture by Miko Peled, an Israeli-American IDF veteran and peace activist.

https://www.petitions.net/open_letter_in_support_of_professor_abdulkader_sinno?fbclid=IwAR1HlJRPMihhiWYosoRJLoL6RU62c7T9SnN6LNWYSVTlhwFVLMex9BKDZTM_aem_Ae3WXOR_BXvsQZ2SK97bpcLa66GvLnGz50_g8_gri2EdRNS1mvUfXrbgEC3yunp02DYHVOwUH-oMTqRr7IlzF5pQ

A planned protest against the postponement of Yousef’s speech was relocated to Dunn Meadow and proceeded as planned on the afternoon of March 26, 2024. It was organized by students upset by what they perceive as decisions by the IU administration not to support Muslim and Arab students at the university.

Dozens gathered in Dunn Meadow and then marched downtown. However, there were several counter-protesters, including Babak Seradjeh, the husband of Bloomington Mayor Kerry Thomson, who stood in the middle of the protesters holding a large American flag.

Seradjeh has voiced his opposition to a Gaza ceasefire resolution proposed as a Public Safety resolution calling for a ceasefire in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. The City Council considers the resolution during the April 3, 2024 meeting.

https://bloomington.in.gov/onboard/meetingFiles/download?meetingFile_id=13271#page=36

Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, 2023, killing at least 1200 and taking hundreds more as hostages. Consequently, Israel invaded Gaza, and more than 30,000 people have been killed in retaliation.

The war has divided many progressives in Bloomington who would normally be allies on other issues.

The city representative who reported the graffiti as vandalism said it was written between 10 p.m. on March 26th and 6 a.m. on the 27th. This occurred hours after the protest at Dunn Meadow had concluded.

The case is still active, but the messages written were as follows:

“Indiana Tax $$$ funds Gaza genocide” “Free Palestine” “Let Gaza Live”

###

For reference, here is what Seradjeh posted to Facebook on March 5, 2024:

This is the text of a letter I sent to the City Council yesterday on the proposed ceasefire resolution.

———

Dear Members of the Common Council,

I am writing to express my deep concerns about the proposed Community Advisory on Public Safety resolution [1] calling for a ceasefire in the current Israeli-Hamas conflict. I find the proposed draft resolution to be one-sided, divisive, and inappropriate for consideration by the Council. Conversations with other citizens, coupled with my personal experience, lead me to believe that adopting this resolution in its current form may make many Bloomington residents feel less safe and more fearful in our city.

Fear has been a persistent presence in my life. I was born in jail in Iran where my mother paid a price with her freedom for advocating for political prisoners. I am still haunted by memories of walking the streets of Tehran fearing arrest and worse for expressing my views, and by the bombs and missiles that rained on us in a prolonged 8-year war that pitted Saddam’s pan-nationalism against Iranian Ayatollahs religious fanaticism to “liberate Al-Quds”. Even after I left Iran, I have lived in fear of the regime’s intelligence and security apparatus for living the life I choose in the free world. A bit over a decade ago, my decision to visit Israel marked a turning point, helping me to face my fears and freeing me from their shackles. Israel, to me as to millions of others, represents a beacon of hope and freedom from fear.

It is with this background that I urge you not to adopt the proposed CAPS resolution. The draft repeatedly mentions Israel without acknowledging Hamas, frames the conflict erroneously as Israeli aggression against Palestine, and fails to distinguish between countering Hamas’s threat and harming Palestinian civilians. Remarkably, despite multiple references to back various statements, the failure to mention Hamas persists even when the authors of the resolution quote the Hamas-run health ministry statistics.

This is not a coincidence: it’s a perpetuation of antisemitism. The draft resolution checks several items of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism [2]. In particular, the resolution fails the “3D test” [3] (part of the IHRA definition) of antisemitism:

1. The 𝗱𝗼𝘂𝗯𝗹𝗲 𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗻𝗱𝗮𝗿𝗱 in focusing solely on Israel’s actions while ignoring conflicts with a higher death toll elsewhere in the region. The US plays a significant role in these conflicts either by direct support, including military support, of various factions and governments from Saudi Arabia to Jordan and Palestinian groups or lack of humanitarian intervention as in Syria and Afghanistan.

2. The singling out of Israel for a ceasefire without mentioning Hamas implies an attempt to 𝗱𝗲𝗹𝗲𝗴𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗶𝘇𝗲 Israel’s right to defend itself.

3. Israel, some public commenters claimed, perpetuates apartheid and is a “colonial occupier” of Palestinian land, notwithstanding thousands of years of Jewish presence and sovereign state on that land. Another public commenter claimed “Israel has become addicted to violence”. This association of Israel with greed, apartheid, colonialism, and unjustified violence, despite all the evidence to the contrary, contribute to a pernicious 𝗱𝗲𝗺𝗼𝗻𝗶𝘇𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 of Israel.

Criticizing Israel can and should be done without resorting to double standards, delegitimization, and demonization of antisemitic tropes. In fact, as citizens of a democratic society that is exactly what millions of Israelis do every day. The draft resolution’s trifecta of antisemitism, makes many Bloomington residents, including myself, feel less safe in our city.

I feel less safe when antisemitism masquerades as a call for peace without holding Hamas and their state sponsors accountable for their actions. Ignoring Hamas’s terrorism on Oct 7 and urging Israel to cease defending its citizens is deeply concerning. I submit to you that it is the moral duty of people who strive for lasting peace and justice for the people in Israel and Palestine to provide a coherent answer to this question: 𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗵𝗮𝗽𝗽𝗲𝗻𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗲𝗳𝗶𝗿𝗲 𝗼𝗻 𝗢𝗰𝘁 𝟲?

Any call for a ceasefire by the citizens, and even more so by the Council, should at the very least clearly state the responsibility of Hamas for starting the current conflict and for unconditional release and safe return of hostages.

Sincerely,

Babak Seradjeh

[1] https://bloomington.in.gov/onboard/meetingFiles/download… (Accessed March 4, 2024)

[2] https://holocaustremembrance.com/…/working-definition… (Accessed March 4, 2024)

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Ds_of_antisemitism (Accessed March 4, 2024)

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