Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jewish Voice for Peace

Jewish Voice for Peace Takes Off Its Mask

Jewish Voice for Peace was a major force behind Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 2014 divestment from companies, like Caterpillar, said to profit from Israel’s activities in the West Bank. They provided a useful Jewish fig leaf for the Church, who could assert that some of divestment’s best friends are Jews. JVP has also eagerly made itself useful to Students for Justice in Palestine, which seeks to promote divestment, among stronger measures against Israel, at our colleges and universities.

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Jewish Voice for Peace was a major force behind Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 2014 divestment from companies, like Caterpillar, said to profit from Israel’s activities in the West Bank. They provided a useful Jewish fig leaf for the Church, who could assert that some of divestment’s best friends are Jews. JVP has also eagerly made itself useful to Students for Justice in Palestine, which seeks to promote divestment, among stronger measures against Israel, at our colleges and universities.

JVP’s position has always been merely tactical. As the organization explained in a 2005 statement, “we face a more hostile environment than our European comrades, and thus we cannot uncritically adopt” direct sanctions against Israel. In a 2011, statement, JVP again affirmed its preference for the tactic of selective divestment, but fully endorsed the overall goals of the BDS movement, including the right of return, or, in effect, the end of Israel as a Jewish state. JVP never really so much distanced itself from BDS as reluctantly concluded that only BDS-lite was possible in the U.S. for the time being. Yet in both the Presbyterian debate and the Stanford debate over divestment, at least some advocates insisted that a vote for divestment was not, in fact a vote for BDS.

It is therefore refreshing that JVP has finally come out and joined the BDS movement, openly endorsing not only the goals but also the strategy of that movement, complete isolation and demonization of Israel as an apartheid state.

The fact is, it’s not necessary to point to the right of return to show that BDS has never acknowledged Israel’s right to exist. Although one version of the BDS call asks, as JVP claims to be asking, only for an end to the Israeli presence in the territories disputed after 1967, the original call, never disavowed, distinguishes not at all between 1967 and 1948 Israel. The call condemns what Israel has done “since 1948” and demands an end to Israel’s “occupation and colonization of all Arab lands.” This studied ambiguity helps keep both those who merely would like Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and those who would like Israel to withdraw from the face of the Earth in the same camp.

That is the camp that Jewish Voice for Peace has always belonged to, and the camp it has at last openly joined. In joining up at this particular time, Jewish Voice for Peace also declares that it is ready to lead the charge to catch up with its “European comrades” who have contributed to the anti-Semitic environment that has many European Jews contemplating emigration. Perhaps JVP, which has now openly allied itself with a movement that refuses to concede their right to live in Israel, will help drive them into the sea.

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Group Calls for Romney Apology

File this in the “Never Going to Happen” folder. The Hill reports that Jewish Voice for Peace is sending Mitt Romney a petition demanding that he apologize for his comments about Palestinian culture:

Jewish Voice for Peace has called Romney’s comments at a Jerusalem fundraiser last Monday “racist and ignorant.” Romney says he did not mean to denigrate Palestinians when he credited “the power of at least culture” and the “hand of providence” for Israel’s superior economy.

The petition, addressed to “Governor Mitt Romney,” urges him to apologize. …

“Your comments were not a reflection of the values Jews, Americans, and our allies hold dear. We call on you to apologize to the Palestinian people for your willful lack of understanding of the facts on the ground and the racist assumptions behind them.”

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File this in the “Never Going to Happen” folder. The Hill reports that Jewish Voice for Peace is sending Mitt Romney a petition demanding that he apologize for his comments about Palestinian culture:

Jewish Voice for Peace has called Romney’s comments at a Jerusalem fundraiser last Monday “racist and ignorant.” Romney says he did not mean to denigrate Palestinians when he credited “the power of at least culture” and the “hand of providence” for Israel’s superior economy.

The petition, addressed to “Governor Mitt Romney,” urges him to apologize. …

“Your comments were not a reflection of the values Jews, Americans, and our allies hold dear. We call on you to apologize to the Palestinian people for your willful lack of understanding of the facts on the ground and the racist assumptions behind them.”

The Hill calls Jewish Voice for Peace a “liberal Jewish group,” but it’s far more accurate to describe it as a fiercely anti-Israel group. JVP is one of the most outspoken supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel in the U.S. As NGO Monitor’s Gerald Steinberg and Yitzhak Santis wrote in the New York Jewish Week last month, JVP “provide[s] a useful cover for non-Jews to justify gratuitous Israel-bashing.” Steinberg and Yitzhak wrote that JVP’s Rabbinical Council has defended Sabeel, a Palestinian Christian group which has dabbled in false deicide charges against Jews. The Anti-Defamation League has written:

Sabeel often compares the Palestinians to the crucified Jesus, and Israel to his murderers, alluding to the ugly and false deicide charge against all the Jewish people – a concept rejected by prominent historians and repudiated by the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian denominations.

In his paper, The Zionist Ideology of Domination Versus the Reign of God, the organization’s Jerusalem-based director, Rev. Naim Ateek, compares what he calls the “powers of darkness” against which Jesus fought to “the evil structures that have dominated the Palestinians for the last hundred years.”

In his Easter message in spring 2001, Ateek described the political situation in these words: “It seems to many of us that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him…Palestinian men, women, and children being crucified. Palestine has become one huge golgotha. The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily. Palestine has become the place of the skull.”

The JVP is a fringe group that doesn’t have standing to influence mainstream politics in the first place. But it’s comical that it would demand an apology from Romney about his supposedly “offensive” comments, after its Rabbinical Council defended a group such as Sabeel.

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