August 14, 2020

Media contact Howard Brown (401)338-3916


In a controversy recently triggered by anti-Semitic comments posted on-line to the RI Coalition for Israel’s Facebook page, Westerly businessman Patrick Sunderland publicly defended a remark about the “holohoax”. And the organization is calling on the State to proclaim a “RI Anti-Semitism Awareness Day” for the purpose of public education.

An August 14 story in the on-line publication GoLocalProv traces the events leading up to the controversy. In July of this year Blue Bug Solutions, which mounts banners as a public service for non-profits at the iconic Big Blue Bug on Rt. 95 in Providence, displayed a non-political banner with the message “STOP ANTI-SEMITISM”.

The banner drew widespread activity on Facebook, mostly supportive. But to the chagrin of its creators, it also attracted a number of comments they deemed clearly anti-Semitic. That included Sunderland’s comment: “Hell with Israel they lied about the holohoax and they don’t care about NATO and they bomb crap out of Gaza and they support the downfall of America.”

“Anti-Semitic comments we received showed that the 2000-year old virus is, unfortunately, alive and well in Rhode Island,” says Mary Greene, President of RICI. “Anti-Semitism is not just ‘hate’. It has even reached the halls of Congress and exists in a category all its own.”

According to Greene, negative comments included Holocaust denial, accusations of dual loyalty and treason, genocide, global domination, mass immigration, and responsibility for Marxism, among others. “Basically the Jews and Israel are being held responsible for every evil in the world. That has always been the case.”

In his response to a follow-up press inquiry, Sunderland stated. ““As far as them sending out a press release that is there [sic] right as an American to freedom of speech and freedom of the press just as I am allowed my freedom of speech. If they want to label me anti-Jew that's cool that's they're [sic] right" 

"I've had a better class of people insult me and drag my name through the mud than an organization that has no bearing on my life..funny how they whine about other people's views,” said Sunderland in a Facebook message to GoLocalProv.

“Certainly Mr. Sunderland has the right to his opinions, as uninformed or as bigoted as they may be,” said Greene. “The atrocity of the Holocaust is indisputable historical fact. But you can’t make Jew-hatred illegal”, says Greene. “You can make it socially unacceptable. To accomplish that we need more public awareness about the unique nature of anti-Semitism.”

Along with its call for the establishment of an Anti-Semitism Awareness Day, the RI Coalition for Israel is part of a coalition of over 140 NGO’s in an on-line campaign with the hashtag #AdoptIHRA. The campaign is intended to get an agreement from Facebook to fully adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Anti-Semitism in evaluating on-line content. Facebook has come under criticism over its policy on hate speech after cases of Holocaust denial and antisemitism were allowed to remain on the social media platform. Facebook says it is addressing anti-Semitism.



WATCHHow can Anti-Zionism be Anti-Semitism? 

A 5-minute animation by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations (United Kingdom) 1991-2013

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