In an act of stupefying disrespect, a coalition of New York groups, including the New York City Branch of Jewish Voice for Peace, disrupted a meeting of New York’s City Council on Thursday. The disruption began as the council was “concluding a vote on a resolution commemorating the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.” The coalition demands that the New York City Council respect the call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. Fifteen Council members plan to travel to Israel next month on a trip sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council and the UJA Federation of New York.
I suppose that Jewish Voice for Peace can claim to be more politically savvy than the other still more marginal groups (Marxist-Leninists? Really?) with whom it has allied itself. At least it has occurred to JVP that it may have been bad optics to be observed yelling at council members as they attempted, as Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito put it, to “honor the memories of millions of Jews and other persecuted minorities who were so senselessly slain, and … the strength and fortitude of the survivors who endured in the face of such terrible pain and loss.” So not long after the protest, JVP-NYC issued this statement on its Facebook page: “We are proud to be part of a coalition organizing for Palestinian rights and strongly oppose the City Council’s JCRC-sponsored trip to Israel. We were not aware that the action organized by the #DontTourApartheid coalition would coincide with the introduction of a resolution on Auschwitz liberation; this was a mistake and extremely unfortunate.”
This hedged statement, which does not say whether others in the coalition were aware of what would be going in at the council meeting, which does not explain why they went through with the protest anyway, and which does not really apologize, cannot be taken seriously. The boycott-Israel movement of which JVP is a part has long trafficked in the odious comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany. From that deranged perspective, when Melissa Mark-Viverito votes to honor victims and survivors of the Holocaust, it is our right, indeed our duty, to yell “Melissa, you hypocrite!” because she is willing to set foot in Israel.
The completely unapologetic stance of the New York branch of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, another member of the coalition, was therefore more honest than JVP’s half-hearted admission that a “mistake” that was “unfortunate” had been made by someone or another. In response to the revelation that the protesters had disrupted the council as it was voting to commemorate the liberation of the freeing of prisoners from Auschwitz, QAIA snarked “Oh the irony,” by which they meant that a council morally compromised by the intent of some of its members to take a trip to Israel has no business moaning about the Holocaust. But perhaps even QAIA felt they’d been caught at something, since they also claimed that the council agenda was a secret, which isn’t true; however, they also suggested that their action would have been appropriate, even if they had known (“Still:”).
Today’s protest was disgusting, but it was not an aberration. It is what the boycott movement stands for.