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Anti-occupation activists in New York blast United Jewish Appeal for supporting attacks on Gaza

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Jewish Voice for Peace members call for an end to the blockade of Gaza inside the UJA-Federation building in New York. (Photo: Jewish Voice for Peace NY/Facebook)

Jewish Voice for Peace members call for an end to the blockade of Gaza inside the UJA-Federation building in New York. (Photo: Jewish Voice for Peace NY/Facebook)

Members of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) gathered outside the offices of the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies in New York today, criticizing the group’s support for Israel’s policy towards Gaza, including the blockade of the coastal territory and the ongoing military assault.

The action was one of many across the country that Jewish Voice for Peace has organized in recent days to highlight and critique Jewish establishment support for Israeli policy towards the Gaza Strip. In Philadelphia, six people were arrested after refusing to leave a Jewish Federations office, while in Durham, North Carolina, JVP members disrupted another Federation event to call for an end to the blockade and the occupation.

A sign held outside the UJA-Federation building. (Photo: Alex Kane)

A sign held outside the UJA-Federation building. (Photo: Alex Kane)

At the New York action, two JVP members–Brandon Davis and executive director Rebecca Vilkomerson–entered into a Manhattan building to deliver a petition urging the heads of mainstream Jewish groups, including UJA-Federation head Eric Goldstein, to take a stand for an immediate cease-fire and and end to the blockade of Gaza.

“Your support for Israel as it destroys so many lives is all the more painful given your positions of leadership in the Jewish community,” the petition, signed by over 2,340 people from the New York area, reads. “Your decision to stand with the oppressor rather than the oppressed is a betrayal of our history and values, when authentic moral leadership is more important than ever.”

Over 20 other demonstrators also entered the office building to call on the group to do the same before going back outside to chant and march past the building that hosts the UJA-Federation. The street theater outside–protesters linked arms to simulate a blockade–and the facts JVP members recited focused on the blockade of Gaza, a key issue in discussions for a lasting cease-fire, the latest of which expired Monday. Rocket fire and Israeli bombardments have resumed since the expiration, resulting in the deaths of 22 Palestinians.

One passer-by called the demonstrators “terrorists,” while a security guard wondered why they weren’t focusing on the plight of Christians.

UJA-Federation was targeted because it is one of the many Jewish establishment organizations that have urged lockstep support for the Israeli attack on Gaza.

The JVP petition is also addressed to Jerry Silverman, the head of the umbrella group Jewish Federations of North America, which UJA is a part of. But when JVP members tried to set up a meeting with Silverman last week, the Federations had a blunt message: there would be no in-person meeting. The umbrella group said they refuse to be in “direct communication” with JVP.

“Your ongoing support for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel render any kind of direct communication, beyond this email, impossible,” said Federations’ Managing Director of Communications Rebecca Dinar in an e-mail to JVP. “If you alter those tactics, accept Israel as a Jewish State and explicitly condemned BDS we would be open to arranging a meeting.”

Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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15 Responses

  1. seafoid on August 20, 2014, 3:34 pm

    I think another of the absolute worst cases highlighting the sad state of affairs within the Jewish community over Gaza, very much anti Tikkun olam, was the Jewish chronicle having to apologise over carrying an ad for humanitarian relief in Gaza

    • just on August 20, 2014, 4:10 pm

      It will remain an indelible stain, seafoid.

      More exposure of these “leaders” is very welcome. They are frightened that it’s coming undone. They can’t face even some of their own faith or engage in any discussion other than their narrative. They demand that any and all individual thought and reason be discarded…

      “One passer-by called the demonstrators “terrorists,” while a security guard wondered why they weren’t focusing on the plight of Christians.”

      Just goes to show how abysmally and willfully ignorant so very many people are.

      • seafoid on August 20, 2014, 4:30 pm

        Put the lotion on or you get the hose

        From the JC link

        “Both I as editor and the JC are entirely supportive of Operation Protective Edge, as our coverage has demonstrated. Almost alone in the British media the JC has stressed Israel’s right to defend herself and sought to explain why Israel was faced with no choice but to take action in Gaza.
        There is, clearly, a humanitarian cost to that action. But I do not accept the figures touted around much of the media about the level of civilian casualties – many are, I am sure, terrorists.”

        Good dog. Here’s a biscuit.

  2. just on August 20, 2014, 4:36 pm

    Sad news from down under:

    “Supreme court bans pro-Palestine protest at Sydney’s Israeli film festival

    Police have successfully stopped a pro-Palestinian protest planned for the opening of the Israeli Film Festival in Sydney, citing concerns about traffic.

    The New South Wales supreme court ruled the protest, which was to be held on Thursday evening at Palace Verona on Oxford Street, could not go ahead. The ruling was made on Wednesday but the judge is not publishing the reasons until Thursday morning.

    The protest was being organised by the Palestine Action Group Sydney. Its founder, Damian Ridgwell, was served with a summons last Friday to appear in the supreme court this week.

    “Unfortunately the judge ruled against us,” he said. “We are still deciding what to do, we will continue with some act of protest but we’re not entirely sure what form that will take … we are not going to be silenced by this.” ”

  3. Les on August 20, 2014, 5:01 pm

    This marks a huge age divide, not that there aren’t older Jews opposed to Israel’s massacre of the Palestinians.

    A few days ago Haaretz had stories of young American Jews off to college where one typical example was someone off the Florida where she intended to organize a Jewish Voice for Peace chapter. Our Jewish media mavens choose not to notice this divide.

    • Mooser on August 20, 2014, 8:50 pm

      “Our Jewish media mavens choose not to notice this divide.”

      In a little while non-Zionist Judaism will have a presence in America, at least. At that point the ‘he-said, she-said’ loving media in America will at least have (if I may be so bold) a ‘she-said’ to go along with the Zionist ‘he-said’.

  4. globalconsciousness on August 20, 2014, 9:31 pm

    “The umbrella group said they refuse to be in “direct communication” with JVP.”
    Good God, does this mean that JVP is persona non grata like Hamas – only indirect talks….

  5. jayn0t on August 20, 2014, 10:37 pm

    “Anti-occupation activists in New York blast United Jewish Appeal for supporting attacks on Gaza” – why? Do they expect the United Jewish Appeal do anything else?

    • Mooser on August 21, 2014, 5:39 pm

      “Do they expect the United Jewish Appeal do anything else?”

      Because it says “Jewish” on it? This is the issue they are forcing. They are not going to accuse the UJA of a bunch of stuff, they are forcing the issue to the point where the UJA must say ‘Yes, this is what we support, and we have no intention of changing it. Or even talking about it’

  6. wondering jew on August 21, 2014, 2:39 am

    prologue: consisting of sentence fragments, meant to convey the feelings conjured by the topic rather than a logical response:
    JVP, agnostic on one state-two state. can someone oppose the war against gaza and still support two states? can someone support two states and still “justify” the war against Gaza?

    Personal (the evolution of an opinion based upon a long term view of the world’s rejection of the settler occupation and the need to get out of it):
    My reaction to this “war” was informed by my reaction to cast lead. In the first weeks I supported the war of 2008-2009, though certainly reluctantly. Then, I broke. There was too much hardening of my heart against people (Palestinian civilians in particular) being killed, that it became too painful to support the Israeli offensive.

    As such (since my change on the war was emotional rather than logical a la Spock) I do not see my opposition to this war of 2014 to be a purely logical conclusion. there was nothing absolutely logically wrong with cast lead, I just couldn’t stomach it anymore.

    with ISIS triumphant in Iraq and achieving a stalemate in Syria. with egypt’s coup supported by millions last june 2013, the logic of labeling hamas to be a type of ISIS, (or Muslim Brotherhood) or an ally of ISIS, or a fellow traveler of ISIS, will be rejected by some as superficial and thus “racist”, (an overused term), but I merely view it as irrelevant. If Israel had left the west bank relatively bare of settlers, then Israel would have the luxury of being purely logical vis a vis the intentions of Hamas. That is: if Israel had left the west bank with a purely military occupation then Israel’s claim to a security need would justify not looking for a way to pull out of the west bank. Israel could stay there as long as the winds of Islamism threaten. but Israel engaged in a settler occupation and ultimately such an occupation cannot be justified in the eyes of the world (and “ultimately” in the eyes of the Israeli left wing and in the eyes of left wing world jewry) on the basis of security needs. so as a result there must be a leap of faith to negotiate with hamas, so as to extract Israel from the west bank. logically moshe arens’s attitude towards hamas might score higher with the judges (a crew of historians) than david grossman’s assessment of hamas. there is no reason to assume, or way for me to judge whether david grossman’s assessment of hamas is more accurate than moshe arens. but because Israel must get out of the west bank sooner rather than later, therefore i view the moshe arens attitude towards hamas and the various bloody wars against gaza as heading in the wrong direction. Israel needs to take a leap of faith in the direction of david grossman (a leap of faith that goes against its grain), because Israel must extract itself from the west bank sooner rather than later.

    But Israel will not do so. and thus the place for activists. (and confusion for the likes of wieseltier, beinart and chait)

    • Mooser on August 21, 2014, 8:44 pm

      Yonah, c’mon, I told you about standing there in a corner muttering with your hands working in your pockets and your eyes darting about wildly. Dude, it makes people really nervous, just sayin…

  7. just on August 21, 2014, 7:34 am

    Antony Loewenstein:

    “…In the global Jewish diaspora, dissent against Israel of this magnitude is a relatively new phenomenon. Although support for the Jewish state has been an unofficial second religion for Jews for decades – in my own family it was simply expected that Israel would be uncritically backed in times of war and peace, with Palestinians demonised as unreasonable and violent – times are changing.
    While Israel doesn’t attract the same degree of support, some blind, it once enjoyed, the extent of dissent shouldn’t be exaggerated. Netanyahu’s message is still overwhelmingly appreciated by the majority of active Jews worldwide. Orthodox and Liberal around the world embrace Israel in their own, often deeply reactionary way – as do plenty of evangelical Christians.

    Even some self-described progressive Jews, like the US writer Peter Beinart, still identify as Zionist. They do so to stay connected to family, friends and community. Were they to oppose Israel they would become outsiders. After all, since Israel’s establishment in 1948, and more so since the 1967 Six Day War, communal organisations have been deeply involved in providing the intellectual, emotional and financial backing for the Jewish state.

    Who knows how many more Israeli massacres it will take to wean Jews in the diaspora off the Zionist cultural drip-feed? There’s a feeling of belonging, a prestige associated with the Zionist world that makes many Jews feel complete. Losing that means cutting ties with the modern, Jewish ritual of devotion to a foreign country. It’s perhaps hard for an outsider to understand this.

    Nevertheless, groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace in America are giving strength to an independent view. While acknowledging the worrying signs of real antisemitism emerging around the world, they argue, as Israeli journalist Amira Hass does, that “If the security of Jews in the Middle East were of real interest … [the west] would not continue subsidising the Israeli occupation”.

    French Jews are moving to Israel in ever-growing numbers, but few Jews feel safer in Israel than in their own nations. What threatens the Zionist establishment is not antisemitism or migration, but boycotts. A spokesperson for Britain’s Community Security Trust, a group that monitors antisemitism, recently said that the community would “get through” a spike in Jew hatred – “but the boycott stuff is really, really serious”. ”

    more @

  8. just on August 21, 2014, 8:56 am

    “Two weeks ago, nine of us from the London Palestine Action network travelled to the village of Shenstone in Staffordshire and occupied the roof of an Israeli-owned drone engine factory. We closed the factory down for two days before being arrested.

    The government recently announced that it would suspend 12 of the arms export licences for Israel if the recent ceasefire did not hold. Now that the ceasefire has broken, the UK government cannot shirk its responsibility. Any backtracking on its pledge to take action if the ceasefire breaks down will mean that David Cameron and the rest of his government will have more blood on their hands.

    But given the scale of the UK-Israel military trade, which included £185m worth of military exports to Israel in the period 2008-12, the UK government must go further than suspending just a fraction of the currently active export licences. What is needed is a full two-way military embargo on Israel. Without this, the UK’s complicity in Israeli militarism will continue to put us all to shame.

    When those in power stay silent in the face of crimes against humanity, and indeed facilitate them, ordinary people must take direct action and put serious pressure on the UK government to stop arming Israel.

    All nine of us have been charged with aggravated trespass. On Wednesday morning we pleaded not guilty. As some of our supporters, including Noam Chomsky and John Pilger, have pointed out, the real criminals are those who sell weapons to Israel.

    Even if and when a full arms embargo is imposed on Israel, this alone will not be enough. We support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to isolate Israel in the manner of apartheid-era South Africa until it complies with international law.

    Issued by a coalition of Palestinian civil society groups in 2005 and rapidly gaining traction, the BDS​ cal​l urges​ people of conscience around the world to show their solidarity by refusing cultural, academic and economic ties with Israeli institutions and businesses. Heed their call.”

  9. Mooser on August 21, 2014, 10:30 pm

    “Your ongoing support for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel render any kind of direct communication, beyond this email, impossible,” said Federations’ Managing Director of Communications Rebecca Dinar in an e-mail to JVP. “If you alter those tactics, accept Israel as a Jewish State and explicitly condemned BDS we would be open to arranging a meeting.”

    They don’t see too much difference between JVP and Hamas, do they? Here it comes!

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