‘JVP’ takes on the ‘epic battle’ inside the Jewish community

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 45 Comments

The other night I went to a fundraiser for Jewish Voice for Peace that left me so charged that when I walked out of the apartment and on to a downtown New York street I heard myself singing an old Woody Guthrie tune. What was the song– and why did it pop into my head?

The first thing to be said about the evening was that many Jews were gathered who are unapologetic in support for BDS. While the hosts explicitly granted room to those who do not believe in BDS, the spirit was, Look, we are guided in life by a sense of being Jewish, and the only way we can be Jewish now is by having Palestinian solidarity; they want BDS, so we are for BDS. Naomi Klein said she had been "privately" for BDS before Gaza, but Gaza was the gamechanger, and after Gaza she could hold her tongue no longer. While Rebecca Vilkomerson of JVP sought to explain BDS to the party by saying that the situation on the ground has just gotten worse and worse through the peace process and "we look at other tactics and actions that have worked in previous struggles"–BDS.

Then using the Yiddish interjection Nu that means Well/but, Vilkomerson said, “You can’t just say, ‘Nu nu nu, stop doing this, Israel, this is bad;’ there have to be consequences.”

And then there was Udi Aloni, an Israeli filmmaker, who said, "I don’t have to speak as a Jew, but I want to speak as a Jew. And the only way for me to speak as a Jew is to fight for Palestine. There is no other way."

Aloni referred to his mother, Shulamit Aloni, an Israeli politician, saying that he has promised her that so long as she is alive, he won’t call himself an anti-Zionist– and this brings up my second strong impression of the evening, it was matriarchal. There were three forceful male speakers, but the overall mood was one of female strength and moral rootedness, beginning with Deborah Eisenberg expressing disdain for power politics in the name of JVP’s grassroots network of students and retirees, artists and scholars, lawyers and community organizers. For me, personally, this is a hugely important fact. I grew up in a matriarchy, I took my political lead in life from my mother’s values; if I can point to one act that shaped me, it was that when I was 10 and she crossed social, geographic and ethnic lines to go to the Quaker meeting in Baltimore remembering Norman Morrison, who had burned himself alive the week before outside Robert McNamara’s Pentagon office in protest of the Vietnam War. But on the Israel/Palestine issue my mother isn’t there, and this has been unanchoring. The JVP event was filled with Jewish women who are not strident or shrill or abstract (arguing about the two-state solution). 

I was not the only one in whom the event stirred feelings of Jewish liberation. "I really do feel a sense of community in this room," Naomi Klein said, as she stood on a table to speak. People had found one another at last, and we were going to express ourselves. We were overcoming intimidation.

Cecilie Surasky of JVP also spoke of the fears. "It’s very painful to do this work and it’s very hard… I do not use the word McCarthyite lightly. That’s exactly what’s going on… There’s an attempt to rewrite human rights laws…. It is a battle, an epic battle, and again, we have incredible privilege." (She meant by comparison to Palestinians.)

Klein told two stories that capture the intimidation that so many of us have experienced inside the Jewish community. During the Toronto International Film Festival last fall, Klein signed the Toronto Declaration— which didn’t even call for boycott; it was about protesting the film festival working with the Israeli consulate in an Israeli branding campaign–and so did 11 Israeli filmmakers. Still "we were called Ahmadinejad’s fifth column," Klein said. "The strategy is to shame, to embarrass and to extremize us when we say perfectly reasonable things."

Klein brought up "Rachel," the Rachel Corrie movie that was sponsored by JVP at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival last year, leading to the usual outrage, forced "context," and attempted suppression. Well now Klein has seen the movie, and she couldn’t believe how balanced it is. The film quotes Israeli authorities at length. And this is what the Israel lobby was so afraid of?

"What this whole uproar was about is a fear of the truth, a fear of telling the truth."

Cecilie Surasky echoed the point, saying that Jewish organizations in San Francisco have "banned us [JVP] from the Jewish public square," because of JVP’s support for BDS. Jews in the Bay Area have been instructed to "drop a dime if they see us on a panel," so that the local Jewish Federation can then seek to break up the panel. (So much for our intellectual traditions.)

The understanding of opposition stoked defiance inside the gathering. Michael Ratner said that he was so shocked and devastated by his first trip back to Israel in 50 years this year that after a lifetime of work focused on US policy in El Salvador and Bolivia and other third world countries, he feels called to "step out" of his work to address this situation. "This has got to end… the situation just cries out. …  you can’t be a human being… you can’t be a Jew, you can’t be a humanitarian, and allow that situation to exist." While Klein said that the struggle is winnable, if you will only give money, and scoffed at the charge that we are trying to "delegitimize" Israel–"whatever the hell that means." 

She brought up Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi, and Abdallah Abu Rahman too, the Palestinian protest leader who is still in jail because he collected the tear gas canisters and stun grenades that were hurled at him and made them into a peace sign, and Udi Aloni said that this was Alabama and the freedom riders all over again, and that is why I went out of the party humming, This train is bound for glory, this train.

45 Responses

  1. Shmuel
    March 5, 2010, 12:15 pm

    Prior to Emancipation, European Jews were under the thumb of narrow-minded, control-oriented community authorities. It was virtually impossible to dissent and remain a Jew. Spinoza helped to create the status of citizen, neither submitting to the authority of the Jewish community nor embracing another faith. Country by country, Emancipation made Jews free not only to participate in nati0nal life, as citizens, but to interpret their own Judaism as they saw fit – to dissent and remain Jewish. The social, cultural and theological implications for European Jewry and Judaism as a whole were immense. Today, our communities – the independent institutions we created and joined to reflect both our Judaism and our humanism, our traditions and our modern values – are, once again, narrow-minded and control-oriented, enforcing the dogma dictated by Israeli governments and Zionist comissars. They have re-introduced the “herem”. Da Costa couldn’t handle it, but Spinoza was out of their league. JVP is Spinoza.

    • MRW
      March 5, 2010, 1:28 pm

      Shmuel, “It was virtually impossible to dissent and remain a Jew.” But was that necessarily the case in pre-14 C Spain and Portugal?

      • Shmuel
        March 5, 2010, 1:43 pm

        I don’t know what state-delegated power the Jewish communities of Spain and Portugal had, and whether it was comparable to the state-within-a-state situation further to the north or, later, under the Christian kings of Spain (eg. in Aragon and Provence) prior to the expulsion. The Spanish/Portugese communities themselves could be rather dogmatic and autocratic at times, as witnessed by the case of Ibn Gabirol – forced to leave Saragossa for his “heretical” views (and possibly explaining Ibn Ezra’s departure from Cordoba, leaving Spain altogether). Remember that the Amsterdam community that excommunicated Da Costa and Spinoza was heir to Spanish and Portuguese, not Ashkenazi traditions.

  2. potsherd
    March 5, 2010, 12:21 pm

    Zionist propagandists are correct to be afraid of letting Surasky be heard. I’ve heard her and she’s extremely effective.

  3. Citizen
    March 5, 2010, 12:30 pm

    “This has got to end… the situation just cries out. … you can’t be a human being… you can’t be a Jew, you can’t be a humanitarian, and allow that situation to exist.”

    Kudos to Michael Ratner! He boiled it down.

  4. Oscar
    March 5, 2010, 12:52 pm

    Great post, Phil. You’re at the forefront of the movement, a gifted communicator.

    • Kathleen
      March 5, 2010, 9:52 pm

      You can say that again.

      • annie
        March 6, 2010, 10:26 am

        ok, Great post, Phil. You’re at the forefront of the movement, a gifted communicator.

  5. Avi
    March 5, 2010, 1:10 pm

    I’m curious as to the number of people in attendance. Does anyone have a rough guesstimate?

    How was the event publicized, through local media, mailing lists, by word of mouth?

  6. Les
    March 5, 2010, 1:36 pm

    It is noteworthy that Jews come to feel that promoting BDS brings about Jewish liberation, which of course comes from within. I suspect that this new sense of freedom and liberty changes attitudes about many many other things in the world.

  7. seafoid
    March 5, 2010, 2:51 pm

    “Aloni referred to his mother, Shulamit Aloni, an Israeli politician, saying that he has promised her that so long as she is alive, he won’t call himself an anti-Zionist”

    That will be a very hard one to pull off. Zionism is at the heart of this, way beyond its sell by date. Israel needs a new ideology.

    • Keith
      March 5, 2010, 9:14 pm

      SEAFOID- You hit the nail right on the head. With Zionism, a just solution is not possible. Without Zionism, numerous possibilities open up.

  8. pabelmont
    March 5, 2010, 4:50 pm

    The McCarthyism is to be expected and is, perhaps, a positive thing. Groups like JVP and individuals must decide whether to “come out” as ethical Jews or whether to seek to maintain warm community fuzzies by denying their ethical core.

    I recall explaining to someone at a recent NYC get-together — who may have been at the meeting described here — why I believed that American Jews should demand a recall of the settlers and removal of the wall instead of demanding peace. I got what I took to be a friendly version of a blank stare.

    Today it may be that that person is supporting BDS, which is all about removing settlers and the wall and I guess ultimately the occupation. Coming in from the cold is doubtless hard for people who, unlike me, have been part of wider Jewish communities. I take off my hat to those who have done it.

  9. Keith
    March 5, 2010, 9:32 pm

    Phil, this was a deeply moving post. I have some reservations about your comment that “…we are guided in life by a sense of being Jewish….” Why Jewish, why not human? Are Gentile feelings of humanity, morality and justice so different from Jewish ones? Why such ongoing strong feelings of tribal solidarity? Be that as it may, anytime people gather together to reaffirm their commitment to justice, it can’t help but be moving.

    • VR
      March 6, 2010, 12:17 am

      Keith, it is very difficult when you have perceived yourself as part of a community and then you find yourself in a position of feeling cut off from familiar moorings. It is in many ways like experiencing a death, and you question yourself and this feeling of loss at times of what you thought you had all your life.

      However, it takes real perception and a sense of who you are, what is right and true to put yourself in a position of loss – even to the point that you lose what has been the traditional way you have provided for your home. This is an inadequate way of telling you what Phil has thought and felt, what he has wrestled with – what it is to lose what is all too familiar for you. Suddenly you feel yourself shaken to the core, as if everything you have lived for is now in question – it is quite traumatic.

      Let me assure both you and Phil (if he reads this) that he has really found himself, and he has regained the core of what being Jewish means. Because the applause of men, and the admiration of people means absolutely nothing if you must, in order to experience such, embrace horrid atrocities. If you have to be part of twisting what has been the life of Judaism for thousands of years.

      So, for a while you feel like you are cut adrift with what you know and feel to be right, just, and true – the people that you love spurn you and hold you at arms length – and really, at the core they do these things to you because they fear where you are (if they have any sense of reality at all) and being the same object to avoid. It is like wandering an empty hall which has haunting memories for you, and yet it is barren and there is no movement, empty.

      Than, just imagine if you will, finding others like you and they have similar if not the exact same convictions you hold, that you know are right and true. They are like you, and you feel your Jewish feet beneath you growing stable, resolute, and forward looking. This community also has its elders, it giants and people of accomplishment, and best of all they will not compromise the core principles which have meant to be Jewish from the beginning.

      Let me tell you why “…we are guided in life by a sense of being Jewish..” is not alien to “feelings of humanity, morality, and justice – Judaism, in the true sense of the word, is all of this with deep abiding roots – so there is no contrast. It is a celebration of humanity, of life, of justice – it is merely a facet on the diamond of humanity. This is why he shares what he learns, knows, and feels on this site – it is not other, but it is humanity together. This is why you should never fear the expression “sense of being Jewish” (at least as Phil has expressed this) as being separate, above or beyond or “other,” nor exceptionalism, in the true sense of the meaning of being Jewish it regains the status of “light.” It is a celebration of life, a demand for the equal justice for all, a protection of the weak and the poor, which embraces all of humanity. Ergo, it is an expression of what you called for Keith.

      • Keith
        March 6, 2010, 3:37 pm

        VR- Thanks for the post. You put a lot of thought into it and I appreciate that. Let me begin by noting that my post was not an attack on Phil, who wrote a moving account of a significant event. Nor do I fear any expression of Jewish community, etc. Furthermore, I am aware of the angst Phil feels as he wrestles with this issue.

        The purpose of my post was to initiate some reflection on Jewish group solidarity. What exactly is it that binds the Jews together in powerful ethnic solidarity. A solidarity which greatly facilitates group success. A solidarity which, in fact, has been constructed.

        At one time, the answer would have been the Judaic religion and Judaic traditions, combined with coercive social control mechanisms. With the advent of the Enlightenment, all of these tended to break down. The Rabbis lost their coercive power, and the religion splintered into Orthodox, Conservative, Reformed and secular Jews. I suspect that prior to the Holocaust, world Jewry was undergoing declining religious/ethnic solidarity.

        The Holocaust and Zionism changed everything. There is nothing quite like fear to unite people in common defense. Zionism gave it direction. Israel became the mythical promised land. The very symbol of safety and redemption. Jewish affinity for their fellow Jews and antipathy to the Goyim was re-energized. Group solidarity facilitated group success. Jewish elite power-seeking was seen, in part, as a form of group defense against anti-Semitism.

        Nowadays, as the fear of holocaust fades into memory despite the best efforts of the Zionists and Hollywood, the myth of Israel as salvation has become tarnished by the reality of Israel as a militarized ethnic cleanser and destroyer of human rights. This is causing considerable discomfort to increasing numbers of Jews who believe in social justice.

        Alas, many of these Jews find themselves in a conundrum. How to change Israel and Zionism without destroying Jewish solidarity in the process. Power and privilege are seductive, and Jewish life has been good for most American Jews. Hence, many liberal Jews choose to emphasize their “Jewishness”, their “Jewish” values, etc., in an attempt to establish Jewish solidarity in the absence of the Zionist unifier.

        VR, what I am trying to get at is an understanding of social behavior and social control. Why we are who we are and why we do what we do. To a degree, I think that this is one of the things that Phil is wrestling with. The issue of Jewish solidarity and how that relates to the Jewish state is quite relevant. As an exercise, I suggest that you re-read various posts on the Modoweiss website, including Phil’s excellent post above, and your response to me, and every time you see the word “Jewish” substitute “German”, and then see if perhaps despite “German” sense of justice, light, etc, you might perhaps detect just the merest whiff of chauvinism.

      • VR
        March 6, 2010, 9:42 pm

        I can appreciate your response Keith, and your inquiry about the link of solidarity is in being Jewish. However, why would I want to compare Judaism to be “German?” There are Jewish people throughout the nations, and as much as I would like to oblige there is no distinctive “Jewish people,” there are now Israelis, but that is about it. To confound Zionism with Judaism is to do exactly what Zionists want you to do, it gives them power and turns Jewish people into a monolithic whole – not unlike what Zionists do with Islam.

        What you call antipathy for the goyim was never an integral part of Judaism, in its essential component. Not that theories were not assessed from the law and written down, but it became virulent with Zionism specifically in relation to the Palestinians and equally toward the goyim with their disagreement with the aberration of Zionism.

        Let me recommend that you study the idea of “Jewishness” further, because there is an essential whole that does not necessitate some ominous linkage that aces out goyim in order to become filthy rich. However be assured of this, these atrocities are not being done in your name but ours, and it is a matter of personal responsibility to see them halted, and understand that we want others in this trap restored, and justice done for others assaulted by this aberration.

      • VR
        March 6, 2010, 10:06 pm

        One other matter Keith, you also give the impression that “Israel” is like some equalizer with which all people involved equally benefit, but this is not the case. As in any other form of a settler state there is an elite which feeds off of the ignorant masses with their myths and lies and the youth is so much fodder. Israel also has the 90/10 principle – where 10% of the people and even a smaller percentage of that accrue all the wealth. Perhaps in the beginning of the Zionist project of Israel there were some noble aspirations, but not now, their elite is as accustomed to deception and thievery as any other settler state.


        (interactive, you have to use the prompt on the left)

  10. Kathleen
    March 5, 2010, 9:52 pm

    Thanks for sharing this Phillip. And thank you for all you do for peace and justice.

    It was so heartening to see Naomi Klein get on the Free Gaza Free Palestine bus recently. Been a long time coming. For 30 years I have had trouble understanding why many of my Jewish friends felt compassion and focused on so many other justice issues but not NOT the Israeli Palestinian conflict. It was as if a glaze would go over their eyes a huge mental roadblock. Not able to talk about the issue in a fair and balanced way AT ALL..

    The situation has opened up the last five years. More Jews getting involved. Hopeful

  11. Richard Witty
    March 6, 2010, 2:41 am

    I don’t think you can be ethical and for forced isolation and trivial condemnation.

    It is necessary to consistently and firmly distinguish between dissent against a people and their desire to self-govern, and dissent against specific actions and policies.

    BDS does NOT distinguish yet, or likely ever.

    Academic and cultural boycott, rather than academic and cultural interchange.

    Think about it. Rather than urge that Norman Finkelstein be allowed to visit and speak in Israel, you are arguing that he not be.

    • Cliff
      March 6, 2010, 5:38 am

      You act as though Israel is complying with IHL. Or that it treats its neighbors humanely or that it is not occupying and colonizing Palestine. Etc. etc.

      BDS did not come out of nowhere. The occupation has been going on for over 40 years. Israel only exists because of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

      These equivocations of yours are stale and worthless. BDS is going to keep building because people who can think clearly and understand the facts on the ground, know that their activism requires a sense of urgency and BDS is something to do, a foundation to establish.

      Israel isolates itself because it is a criminal State, a vandal State. Israel condemns itself.

      It is not trivial. 1400 dead in 2 – 3 weeks is not trivial. The occupation and colonization, the blockade of Gaza, the wars in Lebanon, etc. are all NOT trivial.

      In fact, it is phonies like yourself and this Rabbi, who only apply these kinds of ridiculous standards to Israel, simply because it is Jewish. Meanwhile, people will be all for sanctions on Iran, when Iran is not murdering it’s neighbors and subjugating an entire population like Israel has. Israel, which requires such tremendous propaganda campaigns to distract people long enough to establish more facts on the ground.

      You, WJ, and yonira (a fucking idiot) can go to hell. You think you’re going to convince the Palestinian solidarity activists otherwise? No one gives a shit about your self-worshiping ideology. You’ve lost, and in time it’s only going to get worse for you because you’re so greedy, that you couldnt just steal 75+% of Palestine, you went for the whole thing.

      • Richard Witty
        March 6, 2010, 8:23 am

        I contrast, I think you turn your moral lights on only in speaking of “them”, and NOT in speaking of the effects of your own actions and advocacy.

        BDS in this case is both wrong and counter-productive. I get that it is very frustrating to change Israeli consciousness and to find and pick paths that are considerate of Palestinian civilians.

        BDS is isolating. It is not precise, led by politically precise and benevolent moral leaders, with a clear vision for a mutually just beneficient future. Certainly, there are some individuals that start and hopefully maintain their compassion as motivation for dissent.

        But, in the wings (and some in the lead), are racists, political opportunists, anti-Semites, reactionaries.

        To the extent that the movement itself holds a self-selective basis of exclusion it is hypocritical. “We’ll attend a lecture by Akiva Eldar, or Amira Hass or Ilan Pappe, but we’ll disrupt one by Olmert”. Thats not principled and disclined BDS, thats trivial favoritism and hooliganism (in the name of democracy).

        It indicates a FAILURE on the part of dissent to persuade. Its upsetting that people like Naomi Klein enter the discussion only as a public person, a celebrity only, and does not really put in the time to go community to community to dialog.

        And, its a grave failure that the far left condemns those that do do that, those that do urge the formation of relationships between peer Israelis and peer Palestinians, instead urging the dissolution of those relationships somehow in an “effort” to form an integrated, democratic, single state. (by the method of isolation).

      • Richard Witty
        March 6, 2010, 8:26 am

        One of the things that I love about Judaism is the form of its primary prayer.

        “Hear, Israel. The ever-present that is Lord (yeilded to), is ONE/whole.”

        Hear. Don’t tell. Don’t force. (Ignored by left and right)

      • Donald
        March 6, 2010, 9:04 am

        Some of this is true–hang around blogs on this subject and one generally sees some anti-semites crawling out from under rocks, usually accompanied by some anti-Arab racists on the other side (and once in a while, both in the same person). But your criticism of BDS would have more force if you had a decent alternative to offer or if your own example was something to emulate. But you trivialize Israeli crimes and much of what you (and people like Richard Cohen) do is an attempt to put limits on perfectly legitimate criticism of Israel and Zionism. I don’t think there can be much progress until the American perspective changes. And that’s going to require a deeper appreciation of just how brutal Israel has been, accompanied by a realization that Zionism as a form of nationalism has all the flaws that nationalist ideologies generally turn out to have. (In particular, they create a mindset which elevates the human rights of one group at the expense of all others.)

        The US conversation has been dominated for decades by your point of view and that’s why the US has stood by and supported Israel no matter how badly it behaves, only expressing some toothless criticism of settlements and generally turning a blind eye to Israeli atrocities. Nothing will change with this attitude in place.

        You could point to some specific targeted sorts of sanctions we could support without trying to boycott Israel in general. For instance, there’s no justification for supplying them with bulldozers or weapons that they will use on Palestinian civilians. But so far you haven’t said anything of the sort–one could naturally conclude that you want Israel to be supplied with weapons, while you support their extremely harsh blockade of Gaza until guarantees can be put in place that will keep weapons out of Gaza.

      • LeaNder
        March 6, 2010, 10:46 am

        To the extent that the movement itself holds a self-selective basis of exclusion it is hypocritical. “We’ll attend a lecture by Akiva Eldar, or Amira Hass or Ilan Pappe, but we’ll disrupt one by Olmert”. Thats not principled and disclined BDS, thats trivial favoritism and hooliganism (in the name of democracy).

        As far as I remember Olmert started operation Cast Lead. No

        I can’t see that Eldar, Hass or Pappe did the same.

        Protesting this fact, or interrupting him with questions about it, when he mentions something related is what? undemocratic?

      • Richard Witty
        March 6, 2010, 10:49 am

        The entire relevant distinction is between criticism of policies and actions and demonization and delegitimization of Israel as Israel.

        On atrocities (a loaded word implying judgment before inquiry), there are two concerns:

        1. That actions in the past are remedied, paid for, punished
        2. That wrongs aren’t repeated.

        The second conclusion is most important. The first is at best a means to the second.

      • LeaNder
        March 6, 2010, 10:56 am

        That doesn’t answer my question. I would consider questions to Olmert, even interruptions “targeted enough”.

      • pabelmont
        March 6, 2010, 11:55 am

        Richard Witty has written:

        “The entire relevant distinction is between criticism of policies and actions and demonization and delegitimization of Israel as Israel.”

        This is correct, but not so simple as Mr. Witty suggests. The USA fought Nazis even though they were also fighting Germans, a wonderful people with a long and uplifting cultural history, especially music, literature, philosophy, and poetry.

        The USA fought because the Nazis were performing “aggressive warfare” against most of Europe and (at that time, at that place) the USA did not favor “aggressive warfare” (seems to have changed its mind as to its own behavior, but times change). It had nothing to do with Holocaust, which the USA (and NYT) tended to ignore.

        I am sympathetic to Jews who say (sometimes rather plaintively) “but surely Jews needed — and therefore also deserved and had a right to — a homeland of their own”.

        If by “Israel as Israel” is meant nothing in reality but merely a sort of dream to fulfil this need, well then, who could complain?

        But if “Israel as Israel” means something about reality, we must examine reality.

        CASE 1. If it requires a crime to obtain a homeland for the Jews, what then?

        In that case, is not “Israel as Israel” already an instance of policies and practices which very much deserve demonization and deligitimization? From the beginning until today?

        CASE 2. Suppose that it does not require a crime to create Israel in the first place, or suppose that even if it did such crime should be forgiven.

        BUT THEN notice that Israel has been fighting aggressive wars (“wars of choice” as Israelis like to say and have said about these wars) (Egypt 1956, Egypt-Syria-Jordan-West Bank-Gaza 1967, Lebanon 1982 and 2006, Gaza 2008-2009, Iran possibly coming soon to theaters near you — perhaps very near you) and violating international law (occupation — settlements, land confiscation, uprooting olive trees, expulsions, imprisonments without regular trial, torture, and much, much more) 1967-2010; — is all this unlawful behavior something accidental w.r.t. Israel or something essential? Is it an aberration which is temporary and correctable, or is it essential? If (as it appears) it is essential and not a temporary aberrancy, then it is part of “Israel as Israel”.

        The USA has been publicly urging Israel for many years to stop the settlements — every one of which is illegal, and all 500,000 settlers who inhabit the same do so illegally — to no avail. Looks pretty essential to me, a crime committed from 1967-2010 (43 years) in a country whose entire lifetime is 1948-2010 (62 years) or more than 2/3 of Israel’s lifetime. I think we must agree that these violations of international humanitarian law are “Israel as Israel”

        Mr. Witty’s point is a good one. But the development of his idea requires discussion.

      • Donald
        March 6, 2010, 2:17 pm

        “On atrocities (a loaded word implying judgment before inquiry), there are two concerns:

        1. That actions in the past are remedied, paid for, punished
        2. That wrongs aren’t repeated.”

        And yet you have never complained when I or someone else describe some of Hamas’s actions as “atrocities”. Hypocrisy as usual with you.

        On the second point, punishment is not realistically going to happen–Western officials don’t pay for their crimes. Bush won’t, Olmert won’t. War crimes trials are for the Other. End of story. What is important is that Americans stop seeing the conflict through an Israel-centric lens. It’s not a case of “settlements on the one side vs terror on the other”. Presented with what looks like complaints about real estate developments vs. the murder of innocent people, the natural tendency is to think the Palestinians are more to blame. And so we have in the US the bias, the one-sided support for Israel accompanied sometimes by token recognition that they aren’t perfect. But since the Palestinians are perceived as worse, nothing changes.

        And that’s the logical outcome of the trivializing of Israeli crimes.

      • Donald
        March 6, 2010, 2:31 pm

        By the way, the quotes were not of any specific person, but it is the way the issue is commonly framed in the US, in Obama’s speeches among other places. The Israelis are guilty of “settlements”, which is a bloodless sort of accusation. Literally bloodless–there’s enormous violence behind the settlement policy and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, but simply saying “settlements” conveys little or none of this to the average person. On the other hand, there’s that word “terrorism”, which everyone knows is a practice of Palestinians.

        How could anyone expect America’s policy to be different from what it is given the way the issue is framed? One side builds houses where it shouldn’t and the other side blows up buses with innocent civilians on them, or fires rockets at innocent civilians for no good reason. That’s the framing. How could anyone possibly think that building houses is as bad as killing civilians?

        It has been this way for decades, and every time someone tries to point out just how bad Israeli behavior really is, we have people like Richard Witty to inform us that we are “demonizing” Israel, though they expect people to be truthful about the crimes of Palestinians (or rather, the crimes of Palestinians who are aren’t collaborating with Israel). That’s just a perfect recipe for maintaining the status quo.

      • tree
        March 6, 2010, 2:35 pm

        Hear. Don’t tell. Don’t force. (Ignored by left and right)

        And also ignored by you. I’ve never noticed you listening, just judging and pontificating on others’ personal failings.

        And anyone who calls BDS violence and then supports the magnitude-harsher Israeli blockade of Gaza is engaging in specious judgment without inquiry.

        But you don’t let that hefty dose of hypocrisy get in the way of your sanctimonious and banal lecturing on concepts of which you have no real grasp.

      • Richard Witty
        March 6, 2010, 3:59 pm

        Boycott would be boycott, not selective.

      • Richard Witty
        March 6, 2010, 4:07 pm

        BDS is certainly a form of violence. To ignore that is to be ignorant (the root term being “to ignore”).

        You cannot distinguish between the political causitive and the racialist. It makes it a WEAK mode of dissent that nearly inevitably devolves to actual hatred.

        It is a poor choice for a movement that advocates for full democracy.

        It is unlikely to be effective, and in frustration, “non-violent” dissenters, up the range of what is acceptably non-violent to the level of rationalization that accompanied much anti-Vietnam “non-violent” demonstration.

        Many that are sincerely non-violent are then forced to decide whether they have more in common with rock-throwers or less pure but intentionally only talkers and artists.

      • Richard Witty
        March 6, 2010, 4:09 pm

        Tree, hear all the time.

        Don’t force, listen (I know that I am violating that in my suggestion).

        As it plays in politics, it results in successful mediation (resolving conflict). Once “which side are you on” is invoked, “hear” becomes irrelevant, as war has been announced.

      • Donald
        March 6, 2010, 4:25 pm

        “Boycott would be boycott, not selective.”

        So then a selective ban on the importation of of bulldozers, military equipment and other devices used to oppress Palestinians would be okay with you then? You just object to a wholesale boycott of anything and everything Israeli, but if the boycott was more carefully targeted you would support it, just as you support a ban on weapons going into Gaza? (In the latter case, you even support very harsh sanctions until there is a guarantee that weapons are kept out.)

      • tree
        March 6, 2010, 4:54 pm

        Richard, really, you are in no moral position to lecture. Why do you not realize that? Can you not listen, even if only to what you yourself are saying.? I hear what you say and can see instantly that you do not follow your own advice. Isn’t it counterproductive for you to continue with “Do as I say, not as I do”? You post here as if you have no ability for self-reflection.

      • pabelmont
        March 6, 2010, 10:29 pm

        Richard Witty writes “BDS is certainly a form of violence.”

        Not quite like even the pop-guns that some Gaza people were shooting ineffectively at Israel. If violence, then a different kind. A pocket-book thing perhaps.

        But whether violent or not, the BDS is correctly aimed — at the Jewish Israelis to let them know that there are costs (other than ineffective Palestinian resistance) for their anti-human rights behaviors. If Israelis are ignorant of what’s really going on, they will surely lose that ignorance quickly.

        BDS needn’t last long. Ideally, Israel would say, “Oh dear, Did we do THAT? Oh, so sorry, We’ll make it all nive now” — and propose a 6-months removal of all 500,000 settlers and the wall whilst energetically negotiating with the PLO for the right to leave some settlers in place. A 6-month window for peace sure beats the 20 years since Oslo! And BDS people could resume their lives.

        If BDS turns into a protracted matter (“violence” Mr. Witty calls it), then Israel will have itself to blame. The settlements were not necessary for Israel’s SECURITY, only for its dreams, and the WALL was never necessary for the security of Israel behind the GREEN LINE.

        Meanwhile, Israeli craziness even against its own citizens is stepping up to a point where even the Europeans will sense a level of fascist violence which if perpetrated by non-Jews would be called anti-Semitism. I think BDS might just catch on.

      • Cliff
        March 6, 2010, 11:04 pm

        All activism is essentially one side against another. In that sense, you could straw man BDS as ‘violent’. Only if you use a very loose definition of the word.

        You’re so pathetic Witty.

        And how symbolic of Zionism. Just like the butchers in Israeli society and government who want to rewrite the rules of war to suit their appetite for carnage and colonization, you want to redefine violence so that BDS can be dismissed.

        Basically, you want Israel to be treated with kid gloves. BDS is the mainstream within the Palestinian solidarity camp and will only get stronger as Israel resorts to the ONLY tactic it has – VIOLENCE – to achieve its goals.

        You’ll never convince non-Zionists and those without a partisan/ideological interest in the Jewish State, that BDS is ‘violent’. They will not accept your double standards, because of ‘Jewishness’.

      • yonira
        March 6, 2010, 10:26 pm

        You, WJ, and yonira (a fucking idiot) can go to hell. You think you’re going to convince the Palestinian solidarity activists otherwise?

        I can’t speak for Witty or WJ, but I am not too worried about the Palestinian solidarity movement. Especially when your main objective is to hate Israel, not justice for the Palestinians. Your movement is laughable, I apologize to those of you who truly care about Palestinian justice, but the motives of most of this movement is not that.

        I am not sure what we lost Cliff, can you fill me in? Justice for Palestinians will only come in the form of a two state solution because this ‘solidarity movement’ and BDS will not bring shit for them and armed resistance has been fairly useless to date.

        We all know the motives behind a one-state solution, not sure who you guys think you are fooling, I almost respect Hamas activists more, they will at least tell you that their goal is the destruction of Israel, something you guys will say in your ‘inner hate circles’ but are unwilling to say out-loud.

        Cast Lead and the death of 1400 is far from trivial, but you Cliff and your cronies are definitely trivial, you are a dime a dozen on college campuses right now, but that has been the case for the last 15 yrs, and NOTHING has been accomplished yet.

        Oh yeah, it was great to see Witty own you once again on this blog, it keeps me coming back for more!

      • Cliff
        March 6, 2010, 10:58 pm

        Anyone who agrees with you, and can articulate a Zionist talking point beyond the intellectual level of a 12 year old screaming N***** on Xbox-Live (you), qualifies as having ‘owned’ an anti-Zionist here.

        Yea, I’m sure he did. Just like that other guy right? Please, keep saying the same idiotic histrionics over and over, moron. You’re about as intimidating as Dr. Evil.

      • yonira
        March 6, 2010, 11:11 pm

        so about as intimidating as BSD and the Palestinian Solidarity hate fest? Oh yeah, how is the 14 day hate week treating you Cliff? I bet this must be your favorite time of year huh?

      • Cliff
        March 7, 2010, 12:30 am

        Yea, you got me, sunshine. I’m plotting with Ahmedinejad to establish a Worldwide Caliphate, push the Jews into the sea, and carry out a nuclear Holocaust times over 9000.

        Do a barrel roll.

  12. Judy
    March 6, 2010, 7:35 am

    It takes a lot of courage to do what you guys are going, and you don’t *have* to do it, by any means.


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