Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘BDS

The Jewish community excommunicates Jews who support Palestinian freedom and rights

And I also made my choice: if excommunication is the cost of supporting Palestinian rights, bring it on. And to the extent Jewishness is important to me, which it still is, I am proud to have an outlaw Jewish community of friends”.

BY PHILIP WEISS.

When you are Jewish and come out as an anti-Zionist, you get excommunicated.

That is how the Jewish community works to support Israel. The Jewish community says directly, “You may choose your community or what you call your sense of ethics”.

And if you persist, forget about your community, because Jewish life as we know it is committed to supporting Israel, the miraculous achievement of the Jewish people in the 20th century in the wake of the extermination.

REFORM JEWISH LEADER RICK JACOBS SPEAKING TO JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE MEMBERS AT THE PRESBYTERIAN CONVENTION IN 2014 DURING DEBATE OVER DIVESTMENT.

PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER HAZOU VIA @LIZAVETA9 ON TWITTER.

As an optimist, I keep declaring that this “herem” — or ban/excommunication– is softening.

That young Jews who believe in justice are slowly taking over the community and an apartheid state is becoming impossible to defend.

But I’m inside the anti-Zionist bubble, not the community, and an interview published last week gives me pause. It is with a friend, Rabbi Alissa Wise, who lately stepped down as deputy director of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Wise has played a big role in growing that organization into a political force, as an openly anti-Zionist organization that supports BDS of Israeli settlers products in the West Bank.

RABBI ALISSA WISE, WHEN SHE WAS AT JVP

In the interview, Wise says in so many words, I’ve had enough for now. I’ve battled my community for 20 years and now I am going to be a member of that community and take a less political role, for the sake of my children being Jewish.

The interview was published in the Jewish Currents newsletter. Editor Arielle Angel reached out to Wise because of a speech Wise gave at her Reconstructionist synagogue in West Philadelphia on March 12, to celebrate her departure from JVP.

Alissa Wise spoke of the pride of building an anti-Zionist bloc among American Jews. “Our numbers have exploded in the past decade.”

But that achievement came at an “excruciating” personal cost, Wise said, alienation from her family and community.

Wise has strong family connections to organized Jewry, and her first shock came in 2002, when her efforts to bring a group of Israeli draft resisters to the U.S. was rejected by every “liberal” Brooklyn synagogue she went to.

It was truly painful to see so plainly how the Jewish community I had been raised to trust was in fact so closed. Sure, looking back I was being totally naive, but I recall just feeling genuinely crushed that the community who taught me Judaism, which led me to understand that I have a responsibility to stand with Palestinians, would refuse to hear the voices of young Jewish Israelis because they were challenging the occupation.

Wise developed a “tough skin” under the hail of hate mail, but she fears the spiritual consequences.

[T]he most vitriolic hatred directed towards me comes from the Jewish community. It has come between me and my family. Over the past ten years, I have regularly received death threats, sexually threatening emails, voicemails and even letters delivered to my home.

I have been barred from traveling to Israel. I almost was kicked out of rabbinical school. I have been called a kapo more times than I can count. I have developed a thick skin. One has to in order to keep doing this work.

I always maintained it didn’t seep in. But did it? Does it?…

She concluded that riding over the feeling of being trampled on by the community was actually hurtful. It prevented her from attaining her “full power.”

I think I was negligent when taking care of those feelings for myself, and I think that is a part of how I ended up needing to take a break 10 years in, when in all honesty I had imagined myself at JVP until JVP was not needed anymore.

We don’t want to let our skin be so tough that we don’t recognize the pain that is there. Let’s feel our pain AND feel our power…

Arielle Angel then drew Wise out in a Q-and-A. And my interpretation of Wise’s comments is: Jewishness is a core value, and she doesn’t want to be in an oppositional frame so as to allow her children to grow up with a healthy relationship to Jewishness and life.

Some excerpts. Wise says we’re in a “closed” period of Jewish history Not so different from the insular intolerance of religious Jews in the eastern European ghettos before the enlightenment.

“We’ve been in a closed period again, because of the hegemonic power of Zionism in the Jewish community. The vision I have is one of openness.”

But she can’t bring about that openness personally. She’s been scarred by the exclusions, notably when she was barred from getting on a plane to Israel and Palestine.

“[T]hat was the beginning of the end for me…I really felt like I’d been trampled on. I reached a point where the thick skin turned from being protective to being corrosive. There’s only so much that one can bounce back from. I’m not leaving the Palestinian rights movement, but I am attentive to where I am emotionally and how that affects my ability to lead this organization….

Wise recognized that membership in the Jewish community is central to her.

[T]he future of Judaism and Jewishness still matters to me and is the centerpiece of my life.

My kid is in second grade, and she was in her Torah school class on Zoom last week… The teacher introduced the concept of l’dor v’dor, from generation to generation, because they were going to be talking to an elder. She asked the class, “What do you want to pass down to the next generation?”—which is a very tender thing to ask eight-year-olds. One little girl said, “I want to pass down being Jewish.” I started crying in the other room, because that’s what I want. I have this sacred, intimate responsibility to caretake Judaism in my lifetime…

Wise says she has banged her head against the wall for 20 years trying to get the Jewish community to change its views of Palestine, and it worked. “Now there are anti-Zionist Jews all over rabbinical school!”

But the political approach can be overwhelming, for instance when every Torah portion has to be interpreted in an anti-Zionist manner. That’s one reason she is leaving JVP.

“I felt clearly how my relationship to Judaism was going to compromise my children’s relationship to it, and I wasn’t willing to have that.”

Alissa Wise imagines an open Jewish community in which everyone is not judged either for being a Zionist or an anti-Zionist.

One principle I emphasized to [JVP staffers] was pluralism: No matter how much we want to interpret a Torah text or a holiday cycle or a historical event in a way that brings people into solidarity with Palestinians, we need to leave room for other ways to be Jewish. Obviously, I want there not to be apartheid in Israel. I don’t want Palestinians to be living under occupation. But that’s different from how we live our Jewish cultural and spiritual lives. Our vision isn’t that everybody be anti-Zionist, or for that to be the centerpiece of everybody’s Jewish lives. It needs to be bigger than just an expression of a particular politics

And she believes her next job will be in Jewish life.

I decided to dedicate my life to the Jewish people, and I’m going to pursue that and trust that the work I’ve been a part of has created enough space for another Jewish home for me.

I respect Wise’s choices. I like pluralism, I’m Not a litmus test person. But having done this work for some time now and been subject to the same invective and ostracization, with the same initial emotional shock that Wise experienced, I’ve lost my romance about the Jewish community.

It made a clear choice to cancel us. And I also made my choice: if excommunication is the cost of supporting Palestinian rights, bring it on.

And to the extent Jewishness is important to me, which it still is, I am proud to have an outlaw Jewish community of friends.

Wise’s word “hegemonic” is helpful. So is her admission that her own family is divided. The official Jewish community has decided again and again in recent years that it is going to close rank around Zionism and muster the astounding historical unity of Jews to enforce orthodoxy in the face of apartheid.

“[Studies have noted that the overwhelming majority of British Jews support Israel,” says a British Jewish group in enforcing the line. Anti-Zionist Jews are “as deeply opposed to Jewish interests as many of our community’s enemies,” a leading Zionist writer told a leading liberal NY Jewish institution.

Another leading Zionist writer said that 97% of Jews worldwide support Zionism and that anti-Zionist Jews are as marginal as black people who voted for Trump.

The line here is clear. If you support BDS targeting Israel, you are not welcome. We will not invite you to the synagogue or even the J Street conference.

We will say you are antisemitic, or “you have Jewish parents” (as former Israeli prison guard Jeffrey Goldberg once laid down the law to redline me and others).

The young Jewish group IfNotNow is still on the community side of the line. It is careful in its criticism of Israel; not taking an anti-Zionist position.

That’s why it continues to be welcome in the Jewish community. Even if the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights is pushing it to go further, it hasn’t done so yet, presumably because it values its communal position. 

Jewish Currents is in a similar position. In that interview Angel notes that attacks from inside the Jewish community for the publication’s new investigative fund to look into the Israel lobby’s hold inside U.S. Jewish institutions, have been “exhausting” and “demoralizing.”

I assume both IfNotNow and Jewish Currents will continue to move left.

Jewish Voice for Peace has been a leader, and over the line. It supports BDS. It is not welcome inside the Jewish community, except at outsider congregations, because it insists on the truth about Israel and Palestine: a tale of oppression. All the rest is just commentary.

h/t Abushalom.

Note: Israel was created by the USA and the colonial powers, including the Soviet Union of Stalin, to dismember the Middle East and eliminate daily trade among the peuple. There would have been many more Jews confronting Zionist, racism and apartheid if Not for the total support of the colonial powers institutions.

Israel election: The triumph of Kahanism

Richard Silverstein 24 March 2021

As Netanyahu looks to cobble together his farthest-right coalition yet, western democratic governments and diaspora Jewish leaders need to take a stand

The biggest winners in Tuesday’s Israeli election appear to be Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the little-known Religious Zionist Party. (Though Netanyahu still lack a few deputies to form a government)

Behind the milquetoast name is an alliance of some of the most extreme Kahanist elements in Israeli politics.

According to the results announced so far, a race that had been predicted as a virtual tie between centrist and rightist parties may offer Netanyahu a narrow path to a renewed term as prime minister.

Far-right and religious parties, likely coalition partners for Netanyahu, were victorious in the election.

An Israeli man walks past an electoral billboard bearing portraits of Netanyahu flanked by extreme-right politicians, including Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, in Jerusalem in 2019 (AFP)

At the time of publication, it remained unclear as to whether this coalition would be able to secure the needed 61-seat majority.

The question is: will the suspicion and hostility with which some of these party leaders, such as Gideon Saar and Naftali Bennett, view Netanyahu outweigh their desire for political power? If history is any judge, they will put aside their personal rancour and play the political game.

Now begins the horse-trading, during which potential partners play hard to get, extracting the maximum in ministerial portfolios and other perquisites before adding their support to the coalition.

Collapse of Blue and White

Election turnout was 67%, down from the most recent election and the lowest percentage since 2013. The initial results would suggest that many of those who elected Not to vote had previously supported the moderate parties that performed better in the last election.

There are two critical factors leading to this outcome.

The first factor was the near-collapse of the centre-right Blue and White coalition, which won 33 seats in the last Knesset. The decision by its then-leader, Benny Gantz, to desert his partners and enter a coalition with Netanyahu led to a drastic decline in its vote share. 

With close to 90% of Tuesday’s vote counted, Blue and White picked up only eight seats, while Yesh Atid, which split from Blue and White last year, won 17.

This fracture essentially destroyed the centre-right as a viable alternative to Netanyahu’s far-right Likud-led coalition.

Diaspora Jewish leaders could declare that Netanyahu has gone too far, and refuse to raise funds for Israel or to attend meetings with Israeli government officials

Voters who abandoned Gantz did not necessarily turn to his former partners in Yesh Atid, which represented a moderate option, nor to Likud, which lost several seats compared to the last election. They were likely disenchanted with Netanyahu and the multiple corruption charges he faces, so they turned to newly formed parties generally even farther to the right.

By fleeing to parties likely to join a governing coalition with Likud, however, they might have guaranteed an outcome they did not foresee.

Postponed until after the election, Netanyahu’s corruption trial is scheduled to resume in early April, and Likud sources have pointed to legislative outcomes that could provide him immunity from conviction while in office, including passage of the “French Law”.

A more draconian and controversial method would be for a new justice minister (No appointed minister so far) to fire the current attorney general and appoint one who would dismiss the charges, eliminating the greatest threat to Netanyahu’s continuing on as leader.

Extreme nationalist views

Though there are regular protests against Netanyahu’s corruption, which would likely increase if charges were dropped, it is unlikely they would reach a tipping point and lead to Netanyahu stepping down.

Even if he did, the rivals waiting in the wings are no less extreme in their nationalist views; the country would merely be swapping one Judeo-supremacist autocrat for another.

Voters who turned away from Blue and White appear to have favoured soft-right parties, such as Saar’s New Hope, and some even farther right than Likud, including Bennett’s Yamina and the Kahanist Religious Zionist Party, led by Bezalel Smotrich.   

Head of Israel's Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit) party Itamar Ben Gvir (R) talks to supporters through Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, on 19 March (AFP)
Head of Israel’s Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit) party Itamar Ben Gvir (R) talks to supporters through Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, on 19 March (AFP)

Smotrich was once apprehended by the Shin Bet for allegedly plotting a terror attack to protest Israel’s Gaza withdrawal, although charges were never laid. He once boldly claimed that Jews cannot be terrorists; in other words, one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.

In 2006, to protest the Gay Pride parade, he organised a “parade of beasts”, in which goats and donkeys were marched through the streets of Jerusalem. He has called himself a “proud homophobe”. He has served as an MK with the Yamina alliance and as minister of transportation.

Smotrich is allied with Itamar Ben-Gvir, whose political evolution as a youth led him into the arms of far-right Rabbi Meir Kahane.

According to a Haaretz report: “First, Itamar joined the youth movement affiliated with Moledet, a right-wing political party that advocated ‘transferring’ Israeli Arabs out of the country. But that turned out to be too tame for him. So not long thereafter, he defected to Kach, the eventually outlawed racist party founded by the American-born Rabbi Kahane.

‘I found in this movement a lot of love for the Jewish people, a lot of truth, and a lot of justice,’ says the utra racist Ben-Gvir.

Breaking with precedent

As a teenager, Ben-Gvir gained notoriety in 1995, when he vandalised then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s vehicle and brandished its Cadillac hood ornament, boasting: “We got the car. We’ll get to Rabin too.” Rabin was murdered only weeks later by another Kahanist.

Ben-Gvir is now the go-to defence lawyer for settlers charged with terrorist attacks against Palestinians. He is the Israeli equivalent of US lawyer and politician Rudy Giuliani, except instead of representing sleazy crooks, he represents accused mass murderers.

Itamar lives in Hebron, (a region declared military zone) among the most violent of settler enclaves, where Jews and Palestinians are separated by barbed wire, locked metal gates and thousands of Israeli soldiers, who protect the settlers from the wrath of the indigenous population. (A wrath in reactions to daily settlers violent activities)

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Despite several prior attempts, Ben-Gvir has never served in the Knesset. His alliance succeeded this time for one reason only: Netanyahu made clear to far-right voters that if they weren’t voting Likud, he preferred they vote for the Religious Zionists. He also said the party would be a coalition partner in his next government, a striking break with previous precedent.

In 1988, Kahane’s newly founded Kach Party was so far outside the mainstream that the government banned it, and both Israel and the US have declared Kach to be a terrorist organisation.

No Israeli leader has ever promoted an explicitly Kahanist party, let alone agreed to include one in a governing coalition – meaning it’s likely the Religious Zionists will obtain at least one ministerial portfolio representing the interests of their settler constituency. This offers unprecedented access to Israeli protocols and power.

This should not be surprising to anyone aware of the history of the Zionist movement.

At least two former Israeli prime ministers, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, were accused terrorists, linked to the King David Hotel bombing, the Deir Yassin massacre and the assassination of UN peace negotiator Count Folke Bernadotte, among other crimes.

Flirting with terrorists

There is one powerful way in which the world could respond to Netanyahu’s flirtation with supporters of Jewish terrorism: the US government, UN and EU could declare this government persona non grata, and refuse to have any dealings with it.

It would be a diplomatic version of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

Israel is united in its determination to pursue racist, apartheid policies. The world is not united in opposing them

Diaspora Jewish leaders could declare that Netanyahu has gone too far, and refuse to raise funds for Israel or to attend meetings with Israeli government officials.

Contrary to what some believe, international pressure works.

While Israel may complain grievously about bias towards it, when push comes to shove, such pressure works in modifying Israeli behaviour – though usually not in significant ways, as Israel does the bare minimum to avoid international censure.

Regardless, a united front of western democratic governments and diaspora Jewish leaders would offer a powerful statement, defining a red line that Israel has crossed.

And yet, the likelihood of this happening is almost nil. Israel is united in its determination to pursue racist, apartheid policies. The world is not united in opposing them. It dithers while Rome burns.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Richard Silverstein writes the Tikun Olam blog, devoted to exposing the excesses of the Israeli national security state. His work has appeared in Haaretz, the Forward, the Seattle Times and the Los Angeles Times.

He contributed to the essay collection devoted to the 2006 Lebanon war, A Time to Speak Out (Verso) and has another essay in the collection, Israel and Palestine: Alternate Perspectives on Statehood (Rowman & Littlefield) Photo of RS by: (Erika Schultz/Seattle Times)

‘We will not be silenced, siloed, or stopped’: federal judge tosses lawsuit targeting Palestinian rights group

A federal judge has dismissed a Jewish National Fund lawsuit that targeted the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights for alleged terror connections over its support for BDS.

BY MICHAEL ARRIA

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that targeted a Palestinian rights organization for alleged terror connections.

In 2019 the Jewish National Fund (JNF), and 12 American citizens living in Israel, sued the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR) for $90 million.

The lawsuit alleged that USCPR had funneled money to Boycott National Committee (BNC), which was then used for terrorist activities.

The USCPR was represented by attorneys at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR).

The complaint asserts the money was used to release balloons that ended up causing “extreme emotional pain” for people in Israel.

“Members of the public have been denied the use and enjoyment of KKL-JNF forests and public areas including scenic trails, recreation areas, bicycle trails and public areas and amenities provided by KKL-JNF and others for their use and enjoyment, as the rockets, incendiary terror balloons and kites have interfered with the public’s health, safety and peace,” it reads.

A DC judge dismissed the lawsuit and ruled that it was “to say the least, not persuasive.

“We have been looking forward to this day and welcome the court’s decision,” said USCPR Executive Director Ahmad Abuznaid in a statement.

“This should reinforce to all advocates of freedom for the Palestinian people that we will not be silenced, siloed, or stopped. Justice for all is the only way forward.”

https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=michaelarria&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1376936924871598091&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fmondoweiss.net%2F2021%2F03%2Fwe-will-not-be-silenced-siloed-or-stopped-federal-judge-tosses-lawsuit-targeting-palestinian-rights-group%2F&siteScreenName=mondoweiss&theme=light&widgetsVersion=e1ffbdb%3A1614796141937&width=550px

Lawsuits like this one are frequently implemented by pro-Israel groups in an attempt to bog down Palestinian organizations and stifle support for movements like BDS.

“The smearing of human rights advocates as terrorists is a troublingly common and dangerous tactic. The JNF complaint perversely cites our clients’ human rights advocacy in an attempt to support their ultimately fruitless effort to hijack U.S. courts,” explained CCR staff attorney Diala Shamas in a statement,

“We are glad the court did not let these meritless claims stand, and we hope this marks a turning point that discourages private actors seeking to weaponize terrorism laws to silence their critics.”

Judge Rejects Application of Israeli Law in Landmark Defamation Case Against Palestinian Activist

by Alan Macleod March 10th, 2021

SANTA ANA, CALIFORNIA — A Palestinian-American activist has vowed to continue fighting Apartheid after winning a court case brought against her in the U.S. by a former Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldier.

Suhair Nafal was facing a defamation suit over a 2018 Facebook post condemning the murder that summer of Palestinian nurse Razan al-Najjar during the Great March of Return.

The case was brought by Israeli-American Rebecca Rumshiskaya, who was seeking $6 million in damages after Nafal described her as “evil” for joining the Israeli military.

Rumshiskaya was also attempting to convince the California court to try Nafal under Israeli law.

The attempt backfired as Orange County Superior Court Judge Craig Griffin rejected the suit, even ordering Rumshisky to pay Nafal legal costs under anti-SLAPP laws, effectively deeming it an attempt to intimidate Nafal into silence.

Nafal moved to the U.S. as an 8 year-old and was relatively apolitical until she saw images of the destruction caused by Operation Protective Edge, the 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza that killed more than 2,000 people. (and thousands of injured and handicapped Palestinians)

Since then, she has gained an online following and joined a number of pro-Palestinian organizations, including New Generation for Palestine. The post that triggered the lawsuit can be seen below.Suhair Nafal Facebook Post

Nafal’s Facebook post and the impetus for the lawsuit against her

While the post makes no connection between Rumshiskaya and al-Najjar’s murder, other, copycat posts did, explicitly claiming Rumshiskaya was the nurse’s killer. Rumshiskaya’s complaint states that she was inundated with hateful and violent messages as a result.

But it remains unclear why she sued Nafal and not others who did make demonstrably false accusations. 

“Not going to let them silence me”

Rumshiskaya is a Jewish American from Brookline, Massachusetts.

In 2012, she decided to emigrate to Israel and join the IDF. Not content with a non-combat role she had been assigned, she transferred to a combat intelligence unit.

The IDF used images of her in its promotions, which is how she came to Nafal attention. Rumshiskaya left the military in 2015, long before al-Najjar was killed. Her lawsuit describes Nafal as an “extremist” who “viciously defamed” her, and the Great March of Return as a Hamas-sponsored riot filled with terrorists using civilians as human shields.Rumshiskaya V Nafal

An IDF Facebook post featuring Rumshiskaya, left, and a photo of Nafal provided to MintPress, right

This conflicts with reports from human rights organizations, which describe the events as a demonstration, pinning the blame for the deaths on Israeli forces and noting that 70 of the 183 Palestinians killed were shot in the head. (snipers targets. Later, the snipers were ordered to aim at the legs of demonstrators, so that they will Not return to join the marches)

78 journalists and medics were also shot. No Israelis were killed.

“Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed,” the IDF stated. There was no evidence of human shields being used, although the IDF have used Palestinian children as such in the past.

“To be honest, I was in disbelief,” Nafal said, when first learning about the accusations.

“I was stunned by their audacity… But truth be told, I sort of saw it coming. I knew the day would come where I was going to be pursued by them, based on my visibility on social media.”

Nafal rejects the characterization of her as an extremist, telling MintPress, “If extremist political ideology means advocating on behalf of people who are occupied, oppressed, starved, and killed with impunity by colonialist occupiers who justify their violence based on a claim of their own religious supremacy then yes. I’m a extremist.”

I had no choice but to continue what I was doing. I was not going to let them silence me. I continue to post like I’d always posted. I did not shy away, for one minute. And I will continue to share news of what is happening. And I am going to continue doing what I am doing. If anything, I am going to do more of it.”

No Israeli First Amendment

Perhaps the strangest thing about the case was that the plaintiff’s team attempted to convince the Orange County court to apply Israeli law to the case between a Bostonian and a Californian.

“The pleadings they filed make it clear this was all about Israeli interests, although they used Rebecca as the anchor for the lawsuit,” said Haytham Faraj, Nafal attorney.

Faraj told MintPress that any future attempts to silence criticism of Israel have been dealt a serious blow by the ruling, noting the fundamental disconnect between Israeli law and the First Amendment:

What this judge brilliantly uncovered is that Israeli law is inherently inconsistent with American values. The truth is always a defense to defamation virtually the world over in democracies — except in Israel, where it is not a defense unless it is in the state’s interests… So if they do try to [pursue] other challenges, they will be unsuccessful.”

MintPress spoke via email to Rumshiskaya’s attorney, Michael Weiser, who expressed his disappointment with the decision. Weiser disputes Faraj’s reading of events, stating that the case was “dismissed on procedural grounds and the merits of what happened were never addressed.”

Attempts to chill

If Nafal had lost the case, she would have been required to pay the plaintiff $6 million in damages, which she does not have.

Because of this, all her property and possessions and even future earnings could be taken or garnished. Furthermore, interest in these cases accrues in California at 10% per year, meaning that she would have been destined for a life of poverty.

Fortunately for her, Judge Griffin dismissed the case, even ordering Rumshiskaya to pay her defense costs. Faraj saw this case as much larger than just Nafal:

This is a lawsuit that attempted to establish precedent in the U.S. for exercising Israeli law against criticism of Israel and Israeli agents. It is nothing but that.

She could have sued Suhair under U.S. law within the few weeks that followed the post when there was the most amount of activity and she was, presumably, most affected by it. But this is not just a lawsuit by Rebecca, this is a lawsuit by an enterprise that seeks to silence anyone who would dare criticize Israel.”

The legal nature of criticism of Israel in the United States is in limbo. “Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism” outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flatly stated in January, adding that BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions,) the practice of refusing to economically cooperate with Israel until it retreats from the Occupied Territories is a manifestation of anti-Jewish racism.

Targeting BDS

Currently, the majority of American states require those receiving public funds (such as state employees) to sign pledges not to practice BDS on pain of termination.

A number of Texas employees have lost their jobs after refusing to sign. Last year, a Georgia university also shut down a media literacy conference after journalist Abby Martin refused to sign the pledge. Martin is currently suing the state.https://cdn.iframe.ly/0o9tGba?iframe=card-small&v=1&app=1

In 2019, the U.S. Department of Education ordered both Duke and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to alter their joint Middle Eastern Studies programs, as it had determined they were presenting Israel in too negative a light. Henry Reichman, chair of the American Association of University Professors’ Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure described the Trump administration’s interference as a “chillingly inappropriate political intrusion into curricular decisions best made by faculty.”

On BDS, Nafal categorically rejects the Trump position:

BDS is one of the most important non-violent tools of resistance we have. And it is working. And that is precisely why they are investing and rallying around to try to shut it down. It is probably their biggest threat, in my opinion, along with social media. They are being exposed.”

The Biden administration has, so far, shown little break with its predecessor when it comes to Israel and Palestine.

The president has decided to keep the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, a controversial Trump-era decision that effectively rubber-stamps the occupation. Last week, Vice-President Kamala Harris met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reaffirm the administration’s “unwavering commitment” to Israeli security.

For Nafal, however, change comes from below:

It is not about the administration. It is going to take the efforts of everybody in the United States and internationally to push the truth. And in time, justice will prevail.”

Feature photo | Pictured left is a photo of Rumshiskaya taken for an IDF promotional campaign, and right, a photo of Nafal provided to MintPress.

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News.

After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles

He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

Israel’s Leaders Are Trying to Cancel the Debate Because They Know They’re Losing

BY BASHIR ABU-MANNEH

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) “working definition of anti-Semitism” has become a hot political topic, from Britain to the United States.

Though the IHRA’s Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial has described it as “non-legally binding,” the working definition is being used by governments, civil society groups, and political institutions as part of a concerted effort to suppress criticism of Israel.

The German parliament has recently passed a resolution condemning the BDS campaign as antisemitic and cutting off funding from any organization that supports it.

In the UK, the secretary of education has threatened universities — already reeling under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic — with funding cuts unless they adopt the IHRA definition.

Though such measures are facing increasing public scrutiny and challenge, they have had a chilling effect on those who seek justice for the Palestinians — and with good reason.

The IHRA definition does in fact actively constrain advocacy for Palestinian rights and criticism of Israel. The man who originally drafted it, Kenneth Stern, has even said as much and has argued against its adoption by the incoming Biden administration.

I recently participated in drafting a letter with other Palestinian and Arab writers and intellectuals, published in the Guardian, that shows exactly why the IHRA definition is a flawed tool for tackling rising antisemitism and should be discarded.

In what follows, I will set out the logic of the letter on the IHRA and the question of Palestine, and then examine what is behind Israel’s ideological assault on free speech.

Why is it so vicious, and why is it being imposed in a top-down fashion through institutions of state power?

Shutting Down Debate

Israel is silencing speech rather than engaging in argument because it has become extremely hard for that state and its backers to win the political argument in public. It is more and more difficult to conceal some basic facts.

It is clear to anyone who looks directly that the occupation has actually deepened and worsened during the period of the so-called peace process.

They can see that there is a huge power imbalance between Israel and the Palestinians — a nuclear power, armed to the teeth with the most advanced technology, facing a defenseless, occupied people who can barely muster primitive rockets — and that, as every human rights report shows, Israel is the one violating the rights of the Palestinians and denying them freedom — not the reverse.

Israeli soldiers take positions as Palestinians gathered for the March of Return on April 13, 2018. (Lior Mizrahi / Getty Images)

If you don’t want to rectify any of these facts, the only alternative is to cover them up. Israel bullies and criminalizes those who draw attention to such uncomfortable realities, accusing them of antisemitism and supporting terror. The intention is to weaken, confuse, and disorganize opposition to its ongoing colonial plans.

Does it work? If what happened in the British Labour Party — the ousting of a pro-Palestinian leadership — is representative of a broader trend, then it clearly does.

In the grand scheme of things, this silencing tactic keeps on delaying justice for the Palestinians.

Fundamental Questions

Before considering this political context in more detail, I want to say a couple of things about the Guardian letter, which also appeared in equally prominent venues in Arabic (al-Quds daily), Hebrew (Haaretz), and in newspapers in Germany and France.

Its signatories, who include many of the world’s most prominent Arab writers, took a robust public stance against growing antisemitism and voiced their support for teaching the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides (many slave people and minorities) — including in the Arab world.

The spirit of the letter was universal, critical of exclusionary nationalism, and committed to international law and human rights as the best way to fight racism and oppression.

It called for an acknowledgement of the political realities of Israeli aggression, Israel’s national dispossession of the Palestinians, and its ongoing occupation, while at the same time affirming the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to live in security and safety.

It also advanced an understanding of self-determination as a form of non-domination over others — as the route to justice and peace for both peoples.

On the question of antisemitism, more specifically, the letter accepted the definition of antisemitism adopted by the IHRA “as hatred toward Jews.” But it objected to the examples that the IHRA provides as potential evidence for such hatred.

The key issue here is about whether you can state any or all of the following things (some of which are simply facts) without being accused of antisemitism.The strongest and most consistent trend in Britain has been the rise in support for the Palestinians: from 28 percent in 2003 to 35% in 2013.

First, Are you free to say that Israel as it actually exists is a racist state — that the state of Israel (not hypothetical state of Israel, as the wording of the IHRA example has it) was founded on ethnic exclusivity, expulsion, (ethnic cleansing, mass transfer of Palestinians since 1948) and military conquest against the wishes of the majority who then lived in Palestine?

Second, And can you say that those it expelled have a right of return to their homeland?

Third, is it acceptable to describe Israel as a state whose laws and practices since its foundation have been structured to benefit Jews over its non-Jewish citizens, which now constitute 20 percent of the population? Fourth, And to describe it as a state that allocates core rights based on ethnicity rather than citizenship?

Fifth, What else is the Nation-State Law in Israel today, if not the latest codification of Jewish supremacy in Israeli law?

Sixth, Other key issues are whether you can criticize Israel’s daily aggression against the millions of Palestinians it occupies, whether you can say that Israel’s wars and occupation contravene international law, violate Palestinian human rights, and deny Palestinians their internationally recognized right of self-determination…

Seventh, and whether Palestinians can engage in any of the forms of resistance (Intifada or disobedience resistance) explicitly granted to an occupied people by the UN — including nonviolent forms like BDS — without having their actions branded as antisemitic.

Israel and World Opinion

The IHRA examples conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, preventing us from posing such elementary questions. Drawing attention to some obvious facts can bring you with the accusation of being antisemitic.

The advocates of the definition have in fact mobilized it by weaponizing, exploiting, and abusing the concept of antisemitism in order to protect Israeli state power.

They brand anti-Zionism (which is a long tradition in the Jewish community) as antisemitic, and target progressives around the world, who call for peaceful forms of action to end the occupation. They seek to exempt Israel — with great success thus far — from criticism or sanctions for its illegal conduct.

Why are Israel and its supporters employing this aggressive strategy?

It is essential here to fill in the political context.

Since the invasion of Lebanon (in six pre-emptive wars) and the first intifada in the 1980s, Israel has steadily escalated its military attacks on Palestinians and has been losing popular support around the world as a result.

Its image has changed from that of a victim state to that of an intransigent, occupying power.

This shift in perception has been most dramatic since the Second Intifada that began in 2000. (Actually, the First Intifada took place during the British mandate period in 1936 because they refused to hold municipal election, on account that the Jews constituted only 20% of the population. this Intifada lasted till 1939 and England had to dispatch 100,000 soldiers to quell this mass disobedience)

In a BBC World Service poll conducted in 2013, Israel ranked as one of the world’s least popular countries, at the bottom of the scale with Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea, with 52% of respondents declaring its influence in world affairs to be negative. The equivalent figure for North Korea was 54 percent.

Another important example comes from the Pew Research Center and its Global Opinion Survey the same year:

The US is the only country surveyed where a majority expresses positive views of Israel: 57% of Americans have a favorable opinion and 27% have an unfavorable view of one of their country’s closest allies in the Middle East …

In predominantly Muslim countries, as well as in France, Germany, Britain and China, majorities or pluralities express negative opinions in Israel …

In Lebanon (99%), Jordan (96%), the Palestinian territories (94%), Egypt (92%), Turkey (86%), and Tunisia (86%) offer unfavorable views …

Majorities in China (66%), France (65%) and Germany (62%) also express negative opinions of Israel, as does a 44%-plurality in Britain.

The British case is important to note because of what has been happening in that country’s politics recently.

In answer to the question: “Now thinking about the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, which side do you sympathize with more, Israel or the Palestinians?”, sympathy for Israel has consistently hovered around the level of 20 percent, with ups and downs in different years.

But the strongest and most consistent trend in Britain has been the rise in support for the Palestinians: from 28 percent in 2003 to 35 percent in 2013. There was also an increase in such support in France from 36 to 44%, although the percentage of those sympathetic to Israel rose in the same period there as well.

The Failure of Hasbara

Another worrying fact for Israel has been the declining support for it among Jews in the United States. Israel’s ongoing occupation jars (anger) with liberal Jewish views and support for human rights.

There is an increasing trend of totally disengaging from Israel or being neutral about the conflict. Take, for example, a 2018 survey of the Jewish population in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2018:

While far more (43 percent) said they sympathized with Israelis than those citing the Palestinians (8 percent), almost half said they either sympathized with both sides, neither or were not sure.

Most troubling for Israel are the views among the new generation of Jews: “Among 18-to-34-year-olds, only 11 percent described themselves as very attached to Israel, [and only] 37 percent said they felt the existence of a Jewish state was very important.”Weaponizing charges of antisemitism is part and parcel of Israel’s efforts to hold on to the occupied territories and obstruct Palestinian statehood.

For a state that spends so much money and effort on public relations and hasbara, such results make stark reading.

Increasingly, key populations and core constituencies around the world are either neutral or have negative views of Israel, and strong sympathies with the Palestinians.

If you combine these statistics with the hard political facts that an overwhelming majority of states in the UN still support the right of Palestinian self-determination, Israel has a serious diplomatic and political problem on its hands.

It is Israel’s loss of prestige and public sympathy that ultimately explains the aggressive efforts to silence discussion of its conduct. Weaponizing charges of antisemitism is part and parcel of Israel’s efforts to hold on to the occupied territories and obstruct Palestinian statehood.

Invocations of antisemitism also perform another ideological role: they obscure the realities of the conflict and allow Israel to present itself as a victim of discrimination — as the injured party that is only trying to protect its fearful people from attack by supporters of terrorism and spreaders of hate.

Netanyahu’s Rhetoric of Victimhood

In 2016, in response to comments from the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that presented Palestinian violence as an expression of despair at their long experience of occupation and oppression, Benjamin Netanyahu accused him of “stoking terror” and claimed:

The Palestinian terrorists don’t want to build a state; they want to destroy a state, and they say that proudly. They want to murder Jews everywhere and they state that proudly. They don’t murder for peace and they don’t murder for human rights.

Once again, Israel’s leaders claim that their state is merely defending itself against terrorists who want to destroy it. Once again, they erase from history the fact that the PLO had already recognized Israel as far back as 1988, and that its rival Hamas has de facto accepted a two-state solution for well over a decade now, having won an election on the strength of this new political moderation in 2006.

Netanyahu totally inverts the reality that it is Israel that is blocking statehood for the Palestinians and denying them basic human rights.

Netanyahu does not care about Viktor Orbán’s antisemitic demonization of George Soros, or the Polish government’s denial of any Polish responsibility for the fate of the Jews during World War II.

What matters is the support of these governments for his right-wing, expansionist policies.

For Netanyahu, resistance to the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza is the same as antisemitic terror attacks in countries like France. They are simply two varieties of Islamic, antisemitic terrorism.

The message is repeated endlessly: we in Israel are just like you in the West, fighting the supposedly murderous hatred of Islam.

In January 2015, for example, Netanyahu said the following:

Israel is being attacked by the very same forces that attack Europe … they might have different names — ISIS, Boko Haram, Hamas, Al Shabab, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah — but all of them are driven by the same hatred and bloodthirsty fanaticism.

While Netanyahu bandies these false and deeply Islamophobic conflations around, he is forging alliances with well-known antisemites like the rulers of Hungary and Poland.

Israel’s main historian of European nationalism, Zeev Sternhell, has attacked Netanyahu for this and stated that Israel now “sees itself as an integral part of this anti-liberal bloc led by nativist xenophobes who traffic in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.”

This is all part of Netanyahu’s strategy to divide the EU in its stance toward Israel’s occupation.

. As far as Netanyahu is concerned, what is good for Israel is by definition good for Jews everywhere.

The controversy over the IHRA definition is another reminder that this is not the case. Progressives should oppose antisemitism everywhere it appears as well as taking a stand against Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.

Far from being in contradiction with each other, these stances should go hand in hand. And no state should be insulated from criticism for its abuses of human rights.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2021
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