To the editor:
I thank the Berkshire Edge for their coverage of last Saturday’s BLM protest in Great Barrington and their video, which showed a peaceful, well-attended demonstration. I was one of the nearly 2,000 demonstrators and was impressed by the non-violent nature of the gathering and the wisdom of the police to stay, for the most part, out of sight.
I was, however, troubled and surprised by the comments of Mr. Powell, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, concerning Israel’s role in the training of American police. There is truth to his assertions that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) sponsors and the Israeli government conducts seminars in combating and thwarting terrorism at which police from U.S. cities attend. Like most stories, however, this one is complicated, and the subject deserves a fuller discussion.
Why then would Mr. Powell choose to bring this issue up at this particular time when the purpose of these demonstrations is not to alienate but to bring allies together? Surely, he must have known that there would be a large group of Berkshire County Jews, all of whom in attendance supporting the BLM movement.
I assume, too, that Mr. Powell needs no reminder of the long history of cooperation between Blacks and Jews. Or how throughout the civil rights movement Jews in large numbers joined forces with the Black community to fight racism and support legislation for that purpose.
He may also have been aware that the Berkshire Jewish Federation and every synagogue in the county encouraged their membership to attend Saturday’s demonstration. One can only assume that this was precisely why Mr. Powell chose this moment.
But rather than educate or motivate his Jewish audience (if this was his purpose), Mr. Powell’s comments only served to anger, frustrate, and disaffect the many Jews in the crowd.
I cannot know what Mr. Powell’s intent was. My own view is that these statements were divisive, ill-timed, and inappropriate for the moment. I have contacted the NAACP; I have written to Mr. Powell; I and others have invited Mr. Powell to discuss this issue further, all to no avail.
I am disappointed that in their June 13th story and video The Edge chose to ignore Mr. Powell’s remarks concerning the ADL. Perhaps more in-depth reporting on the part of The Edge, more attention to these particular statements, might yield better results. I surely hope the matter is not ignored, either by the media or by the community at large.
Editor’s note: The full text of Dennis Powell’s remarks can be read HERE.