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JfJfP comments


2016:

06 May: Tair Kaminer starts her fifth spell in gaol. Send messages of support via Reuven Kaminer

04 May: Against the resort to denigration of Israel’s critics

2015:

23 Dec: JfJfP policy statement on BDS

14 Nov: Letter to the Guardian about the Board of Deputies

11 Nov: UK ban on visiting Palestinian mental health workers

20 Oct: letter in the Guardian

13 Sep: Rosh Hashanah greetings

21 Aug: JfJfP on Jeremy Corbyn

29 July: Letter to Evening Standard about its shoddy reporting

24 April: Letter to FIFA about Israeli football

15 April: Letter re Ed Miliband and Israel

11 Jan: Letter to the Guardian in response to Jonathan Freedland on Charlie Hebdo

2014:

15 Dec: Chanukah: Celebrating the miracle of holy oil not military power

1 Dec: Executive statement on bill to make Israel the nation state of the Jewish people

25 Nov: Submission to All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism

7 Sept: JfJfP Executive statement on Antisemitism

3 Aug: Urgent disclaimer

19 June Statement on the three kidnapped teenagers

25 April: Exec statement on Yarmouk

28 Mar: EJJP letter in support of Dutch pension fund PGGM's decision to divest from Israeli banks

24 Jan: Support for Riba resolution

16 Jan: EJJP lobbies EU in support of the EU Commission Guidelines, Aug 2013–Jan 2014

2013:

29 November: JfJfP, with many others, signs a "UK must protest at Bedouin expulsion" letter

November: Press release, letter to the Times and advert in the Independent on the Prawer Plan

September: Briefing note and leaflet on the Prawer Plan

September: JfJfP/EJJP on the EU guidelines with regard to Israel

14th June: JfJfP joins other organisations in protest to BBC

2nd June: A light unto nations? - a leaflet for distribution at the "Closer to Israel" rally in London

24 Jan: Letter re the 1923 San Remo convention

18 Jan: In Support of Bab al-Shams

17 Jan: Letter to Camden New Journal about Veolia

11 Jan: JfJfP supports public letter to President Obama

Comments in 2012 and 2011

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Posts

When a Jew equates Zionism with racism


Palestinians trying to reach Bethlehem – open all hours for monied foreign tourists; a ‘perversion of the Zionist ideal’. Photo by Porter Speakman, Jr.

Jews argue whether Zionism is racism — in the Forward!

By Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss 
August 22, 2017

This is good news. Remember that monolith of Jewish opinion? The days when the leading Jewish organizations dictated the pro-Israel line and all other Jewish groups fell into line lest they undermine the security of the Jewish state, with Wolf Blitzer and Jeffrey Goldberg running shotgun? Well that orthodoxy is at last coming to an end.

Charlottesville has been a depth charge. The Israeli right was loth to condemn the white nationalists at the fringe of Trump’s base, and this has sent a shock through the American Jewish community. There is open argument about Israel; and it’s not going to end.

The best news is that the Forward, America’s leading liberal Jewish publication, published a piece by Naomi Dann of Jewish Voice for Peace last week equating Zionism with racism. That’s revolutionary. Time was when that argument was made by Arabs at the United Nations and then stifled as supposed antisemitism. Now it’s in the Forward, from the mouth of a Jew!

Dann says that white nationalist Richard Spencer was right when he expressed common cause with Israel, saying it’s an ethnocracy that discriminates in favour of a privileged group.

Richard Spencer, whose racist views are rightfully abhorred by the majority of the Jewish community, is holding a mirror up to Zionism and the reflection isn’t pretty.

Looking at Israel today, we can see a state premised on the privileging of one group, and all too often perpetuating the erasure and displacement of another. We also see an obsession with demographics and the maintenance of an ethnic majority.

It’s a marvel that this piece even ran. Forward editor Jane Eisner then responded angrily to Naomi Dann, denouncing her as a member of “the radical group Jewish Voice for Peace” spreading untruths about Israel. Ouch! Hats’ off to Eisner for allowing the debate to happen. Even if she says it’s all lies.

“We work hard to reflect a range of American Jewish opinion, which is why the piece and reaction to it was published. The free flow of ideas is to be cherished. But when a Jew even hints at comparing Israel to Nazis, it must be denounced.

“The argument that Zionism is akin to Nazism is not new, and it’s never been correct. Its related equation – that Zionism is racism – was codified by the United Nations when it passed Resolution 3379 in 1975. Though hardly Israel’s best friend, the international body later came to its senses and overwhelmingly rescinded the resolution in 1991.”

Eisner is an ardent Zionist. She believes that ideology is necessary to Jewish survival and that the current Israeli government is undoing Zionism (not expressing it) with its discriminatory policies and the occupation and “denial of Palestinian sovereignty.”

That such policies are done in the name of Zionism is painful, a perversion of the Zionist ideal. It is something that all Jews must reckon with. But the imperfections of reality do not negate the underlying fact that Zionism is not inherently racist and can — and, in fact, does — exist side-by-side with democracy.

It’s great that the Forward is hosting this conversation, because people can argue openly about whether Zionism is necessary. That’s all I’ve asked for; I believe the answer (No it’s an anachronism) will change US Jewry and crumble the Israel lobby. Norman Finkelstein once mocked the idea that Americans could or should argue about Zionism because Zionism might as well be “the name of a hairspray” to Americans. Good joke; but he was always wrong about this. People can argue about any idea that’s important, once it’s identified. And this toothpaste is not going back in the tube.

Eisner clearly believes that Jews are unsafe in America, and that’s why we need Zionism:

For Dann to write that Spencer is “holding a mirror up to Zionism and the reflection isn’t pretty” is especially perilous in the current political climate. The intimidating display of Nazi slogans and symbols in Charlottesville, Virginia, legitimized by the shocking statements of President Trump, are a chilling reminder that even in America, Jews are at risk simply because we are Jews.

We need to “recognize our shared vulnerability” and “strengthen our sense of solidarity,” Eisner says. Back to the monolith! Palestinian vulnerability just gets passing mention.

Also addressing the idea of Jewish vulnerability are writers Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon. Last week they published an “open letter to our fellow Jews, in the U.S., Israel, and around the world” declaring that Trump is an anti-Semite who is endangering Jews and it’s time for all Jews to denounce him.

Now he’s coming after you. The question is: what are you going to do about it? If you don’t feel, or can’t show, any concern, pain or understanding for the persecution and demonization of others, at least show a little self-interest. At least show a little sechel*. At the very least, show a little self-respect.

To Steven Mnuchin, Gary Cohn, and our other fellow Jews currently serving under this odious regime: We call upon you to resign; and to the President’s lawyer, Michael D. Cohen: Fire your client.

To Sheldon Adelson and our other fellow Jews still engaged in making the repugnant calculation that a hater of Arabs must be a lover of Jews, or that money trumps hate, or that a million dollars’ worth of access can protect you from one boot heel at the door: Wise up.

“Boot heel at the door” is a Gestapo reference. In another traditional phrasing, the writers warn Trump’s Jewish family members Ivanka and Jared Kushner that if they don’t act, You’re dead to us.

To Jared Kushner: You have one minute to do whatever it takes to keep the history of your people from looking back on you as among its greatest traitors, and greatest fools; that minute is nearly past. To Ivanka Trump: Allow us to teach you an ancient and venerable phrase, long employed by Jewish parents and children to one another at such moments of family crisis: I’ll sit shiva for you. Try it out on your father; see how it goes.

Among all the bleak and violent truths that found confirmation or came slouching into view amid the torchlight of Charlottesville is this: Any Jew, anywhere, who does not act to oppose President Donald Trump and his administration acts in favor of anti-Semitism; any Jew who does not condemn the President, directly and by name, for his racism, white supremacism, intolerance and Jew hatred, condones all of those things.

Waldman and Chabon deserve a lot of respect because of their anti-occupation book Kingdom of Olives and Ashes, which contains anti- and non-Zionist voices. I disagree with them about the vulnerability of Jews in the United States. I don’t think history repeats itself; I think that chapter in the west is over and the belief in its endurance is atavistic. But I’m glad to have the debate; especially because that question is at the heart of Zionism.

Finally, here is Chemi Shalev in Haaretz, who is more in the Jane Eisner camp, warning that the Israeli right has shattered American Jewish solidarity with Israel by siding with the enemies of American Jews.

“Rash Embrace of Trump Accelerates the Jewish Schism” is the headline [see below]. Shalev says Netanyahu’s animosity toward “liberal, cosmopolitan, universalist Jews” is reminiscent of “the kind of anti-Jewish bile spouted by Jew-haters around the world, from David Duke to Viktor Orban.”

The delineation between the two opposing Jewish camps has never seemed clearer. On one side we have Netanyahu, many of his colleagues, the pro-settler lobby, an unfortunate proportion of Orthodox Jews, supporters of Jewish settlements, Obama-and/or Muslim-hating Israelis along with hyper-hawks and ultranationalists such as Sheldon Adelson. On the other side there are Israeli doves along with American Jewish liberals, Reform and Conservative Jews and other Trump-haters. And increasingly it seems that never the twain shall meet.

Israel’s willingness to embrace Trump above and beyond the call of duty is alienating large chunks of the American Jewish community. Those that supported Israel wholeheartedly are beginning to question themselves, those who had been harbouring doubts all along have reached a guilty verdict and those who are sitting on the wall certainly won’t come down in Israel’s favour now or anytime in the future.

Emotions run high in times of conflict. When people fear for their country or for their wellbeing or for the safety of their loved ones, there is scant room for moderation and nuance. In the era of Trump, the main question on the minds of his critics is the one Joshua asked when he met God’s emissary: Are you with us or with our enemies? By standing so firmly and so recklessly with Trump, Israel is telling American Jews exactly where it stands: With their enemy.

Again, I’d insist on the existence of broader strains of belief here. Neither Eisner nor Shalev is a universalist. Universalist cosmopolitan Jews can include anti-Zionist Jews, anti-racist Jews, and those of us who do not see the haters of Charlottesville as a real threat to our place in the west.

NOTE

*Sechel is both a Hebrew and a Yiddish word, the Hebrew meanings having been absorbed into Yiddish. Pronounced sekhel in Modern/Israeli Hebrew and seykhel in Yiddish, it can mean intelligence, smarts, brains, reason, common sense, cleverness or even wisdom. Sechel is defined in the authoritative Eben Shoshan Hebrew Dictionary as “the spiritual ability to think, to weigh, the strength to judge and to come to a resolution.”



Demonstrators protest at a rally outside Trump Tower in New York, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 14 , 2017.  Photo by Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg

Israel’s Rash Embrace of Trump Accelerates the Jewish Schism

Netanyahu’s silence on Trump’s white nationalism tells American Jews that Israel stands with their enemies

By Chemi Shalev, Haaretz
August 21, 2017

The erosion of American Jewish solidarity with Israel didn’t start with Donald Trump. The identification of the Jewish community with the Jewish state reached a zenith in the 1967 Six-Day War and has been going downhill ever since, in spurts and bursts. While Israel continued to enjoy the support of an overwhelming majority of American Jews, divisions about peace, the occupation, religious pluralism and Israel’s increasingly right-wing character grew steadily. When the presidency of Barack Obama pitted his adoring Jewish supporters against a right-wing Jewish establishment and an Israeli prime minister that reviled him, many people thought the rupture couldn’t get worse. But that was before anyone imagined that Trump could be elected president.

Trump is different. His tenure could be a quantum leap, from strife to schism. Jewish liberals and doves may have detested George Bush and conservatives and right-wingers may have despised Barack Obama, but no U.S. president in the modern era has sparked such widespread fear and loathing in the American Jewish community as Trump.

For many Jews, Trump is the worst thing that has happened to America in their lifetimes. Their fear, hostility and revulsion are so strong that they encompass not only Trump but anyone who seems to comfort and support him, to give him aid and succour, to be blind to his awfulness, which seems so obvious to his detractors. That includes Trump’s Jewish friends and supporters in the U.S. as well as the State of Israel, which has embraced him.

Israel’s tepid reaction to the neo-Nazi show of force and violence in Charlottesville is a case in point. It casts Israel as a country that continues to curry favour with Trump despite his flirtation with antisemitic scum. It portrays Netanyahu as a leader willing to sacrifice American Jews in exchange for continued support for his policies and for the occupation. It sullies Israel’s image, perhaps irrevocably, among the 70 percent of American Jews who preferred Hillary Clinton even before it turned out that Trump would be a worse president than anyone could have imagined.

As if it didn’t have enough excusing and explaining to do, Israel’s support for Trump renders it complicit by association as well. When it comes on top of 50 years of occupation, the Orthodox monopoly in Israel that rejects and humiliates Reform and Conservative Jewry and the deterioration of democratic norms in Israel in recent years, Israel’s identification with Trump proves its guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The disgust that many Jews are feeling towards Trump is spilling over now into whatever remained of their goodwill towards Israel as well. If Trump is a perpetrator, then Israel is a collaborator. As time goes by, the two will fuse completely.

A left-wing government in Israel might also have steered clear of confronting the U.S. president head on, but its actions could be easily excused as realpolitik. The support shown by Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition, on the other hand, seems to confirm their detractors’ worst accusations and their sympathizers’ secret suspicions.

Trump is seen as an authoritarian, ultra-nationalist rabble-rouser who preys on people’s fears, incites against Muslims and immigrants and is disdainful of democracy and the rule of law. Netanyahu and his cohorts are increasingly seen as the exact same thing.

Even the suspicion that Trump is an anti-Semite to one degree or another has rubbed off on Netanyahu. Israel has been shamefully reticent to call out Trump on the antisemitism that permeated his election campaign, on his Holocaust-denying refusal to mention Jews as the main victims of Nazi extermination or on his recent effort to whitewash the racist neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville.

In fact, the animosity shown by Netanyahu along with right-wing and Orthodox Jews in Israel towards liberal, cosmopolitan, universalist Jews – who are perennially funded, it seems, by either George Soros or the New Israel Fund – is strikingly similar to the kind of anti-Jewish bile spouted by Jew-haters around the world, from David Duke to Viktor Orban.

The delineation between the two opposing Jewish camps has never seemed clearer. On one side we have Netanyahu, many of his colleagues, the pro-settler lobby, an unfortunate proportion of Orthodox Jews, supporters of Jewish settlements, Obama-and/or Muslim-hating Israelis along with hyper-hawks and ultranationalists such as Sheldon Adelson. On the other side there are Israeli doves along with American Jewish liberals, Reform and Conservative Jews and other Trump-haters. And increasingly it seems that never the twain shall meet.

Israel’s willingness to embrace Trump above and beyond the call of duty is alienating large chunks of the American Jewish community. Those that supported Israel wholeheartedly are beginning to question themselves, those who had been harbouring doubts all along have reached a guilty verdict and those who are sitting on the wall certainly won’t come down in Israel’s favour now or anytime in the future.

Emotions run high in times of conflict. When people fear for their country or for their wellbeing or for the safety of their love ones, there is scant room for moderation and nuance. In the era of Trump, the main question on the minds of his critics is the one Joshua asked when he met God’s emissary: Are you with us or with our enemies? By standing so firmly and so recklessly with Trump, Israel is telling American Jews exactly where it stands: With their enemy.

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