Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘IfNotNow

The bad faith try to win the left? Which left?

Jonah Goldman Kay and Sylvie Rosen February 7, 2021

By JACK GUEZ/Getty Images

On Monday, Rudy Rochman, a bombastic, keffiyeh-wearing Zionist activist, will debate famed academic Noam Chomsky.

It’s a mismatched and bizarre pairing: a world-renowned linguist Noam Chomsky whose ideas on Zionism and the state of Israel have shaped leftist discourse for decades versus a glorified college activist whose works include the YouTube videos “Avatar Jewish Connection” and “Breaking Down Seth Rogen’s ‘Internalized Anti-Semitism.”

The fact that this event is happening at all demonstrates the unfortunate success of Rochman’s approach to activism, which stands in contrast to traditional Zionist advocacy. Organizations like the Jewish National Fund, AIPAC and the Zionist Organization of America have historically adhered to a limited ideology that has gone largely unchanged for 7 decades, one that sells Israel as a post-Holocaust bastion of security for the Jewish people and a perpetual underdog.

They see the role of American Jews as being to uncritically support Israel, both financially and politically.

And many of them still wrongly identify support of Israel as a shared issue with those on the left.

There was substantial support for Zionism on the American left around the time of Israel’s founding. (Actual it was the “left” movements in the colonial powers that supported Israel at its creation because the right wings were and are still racist and value apartheid policies)

But after the 1967 Six Day War, which saw Israel occupy the Golan, West Bank, Gaza and Sinai, Israel increasingly ran afoul of growing anti-colonial sentiment among those on the left.

But to more traditional American Zionists, it was not Israel that changed, but the left itself. Unwilling to adjust their ideas about Israel as it gained power, their arguments for unfettered support of the country increasingly failed to resonate with new generations growing up in a world where Israel was an occupier, not a victim.

Debate | Is anti-Zionism anti-Semitic?Ari Hoffman and Joel Swanson April 19, 2020

Rochman represents a new approach: He is part of a growing wave of Zionist activists that aim to appeal to a younger audience by mimicking forms of activism that are already popular in leftist circles.

By blending historically leftist language about indigeneity and solidarity with the hasbara of clickbait Zionism, Rochman and his ilk have created a form of activism engineered to appeal to the liberal tendencies of a younger Jewish audience.

But Rochman’s ideology centers on the notion that Jews deserve a voice in discourse about indigenous rights, and that denying them that is antisemitic.

He claims that the Jewish people are indigenous to Judea, the Biblical name for part of what is today part of the state of Israel. He has stated that Zionism is the “most successful indigenous liberation movement that has ever existed.”

That position is a canny twisting of true Indigenous rights movements, which exist everywhere from Australia to the United States and seek to gain recognition for the suffering of native groups.

As in many places, the Palestinian cause centers around the issue of dispossession at the hands of European colonial powers — in their case, Britain’s decision to carve out part of Mandatory Palestine as a Jewish state (and pseudo-State of monarchic Jordan to become a buffer zone to Israel)

Zionism, on the other hand, echoed those European colonial movements.

This new face of American Zionism is deeply connected to the peculiar position of younger American Jews. American Jews aged 18-29 are substantially more “progressive” than their parents, particularly when it comes to Israel.

We witnessed the development of Rochman’s ideology and influence as his classmates at Columbia University. As leaders in left-leaning groups like J Street and IfNotNow, we watched as Rochman founded Students Supporting Israel, a group notorious for its almost comical pro-Israel antics, which included flying a plane over campus during Apartheid Week with a banner that read “HEBREW LIBERATION WEEK.” (Actually, J Street movement support excommunicating Jews who support divestment in West Bank).

One of Rochman’s earliest experiments with indigeneity discourse was his highly memeable “Indigenous People’s Unite” event, for which he brought together speakers from a variety of indigenous groups with the purpose of validating his belief that Israelis, or “Israelites,” as he referred to them, were indigenous to the Land of Israel.

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.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2021
M T W T F S S
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031

Blog Stats

  • 1,482,602 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.adonisbouh@gmail.com

Join 813 other followers

%d bloggers like this: