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Posts Tagged ‘Jewish Voice for Peace

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.

Durham, NC votes for nation’s first ban on police exchanges with Israel

US Politics .  on 

Late Monday evening, Durham voted unanimously to become the first city in the U.S. to prohibit police exchanges with Israel, after broad community pressure and popular petition by the Demilitarize! Durham2Palestine coalition, an affiliate of the Deadly Exchange Campaign.

The policy, which states that, “the Council opposes international exchanges with any country in which Durham officers receive military-style training,” was voted into official policy of the City of Durham during heated debate at City Council.

Activists with the  Demilitarize! Durham2Palestine coalition. (Photo: Jewish Voice for Peace)

In a time of increasing concern about policing and police violence, in particular for communities of color, the city of Durham is leading the way in declaring that safety for all means de-militarizing the police force.

From traffic stops that target Black drivers, to checkpoints that target immigrant communities, to police murders of Black, Brown, and disabled people, police forces cause daily harm.

Police exchanges between the U.S. and Israel explicitly offer U.S. police officers exposure to methods used against Palestinians that numerous international human rights groups say are discriminatory and lead to human rights violations.

“This is an important step towards divesting from militarization and over-policing, and investing in Black and Brown futures,” stated Laila Nur of Durham For All, one of the coalition members. “I am proud to see Durham leading the way; it’s a huge victory towards a vision of safety and sanctuary for all.”

“The Demilitarize Durham2Palestine Coalition is leading the way as a model of how to build communities that value safety for all people. We are thrilled by this first win of the Deadly Exchange campaign, which is especially meaningful as a response to the ongoing targeting of unarmed Palestinians in Gaza and the call from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction Movement in response to end U.S./Israel police exchanges,” stated Jewish Voice for Peace Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson.

Ending police training exchanges between U.S. law enforcement and Israeli security forces, according to the Deadly Exchange campaign, works towards reducing state violence and discrimination.

Since the early 2000s, thousands of U.S. police officers, sheriffs, border patrol agents, ICE officers and FBI agents have trained with Israeli military and police forces.

Through one of these programs, the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) National Counter-Terrorism Seminar (NCTS), U.S. law enforcement agents visit checkpoints and prisons and meet with Israeli officials at other sites of violence and racial profiling, such as Hebron’s settler-controlled areas and Ben Gurion airport.

Lee Mortimer, a member of the Coalition for Peace with Justice, pointed out that, “There are many countries with human rights abuses; Israel is the only one on which the US government lavishes monetary and financial support.”

“This policy is a powerful affirmation of the solidarity many of us feel with Palestinians in Gaza, who continue to march for land and freedom despite IDF massacres, and it is an important step towards a demilitarized Durham, where all people can be truly safe and free,” added Noah Rubin-Blose of Jewish Voice for Peace – Triangle NC, another coalition member.

Ajamu Amiri Dillahunt, of coalition member Black Youth Project 100-Durham Chapter, said, “BYP100 is part of this campaign because we are against expropriation and genocidal occupations. We recognize how our struggles correspond as we fight against police violence in the U.S. and unarmed Palestinians fight against violence from the IDF.”

In recent decades, the U.S. has witnessed a shift in policing, a post-9/11 trend bringing counter-terrorism logics, technology and tactics into domestic policing and immigration policy.

This militarization of the police has led to the increased police violence against  communities of colorintrusive surveillance particularly in Muslim communities, and the violent repression of Indigenous-led movements, compounded with increased police targeting of people of color, including in the city of DurhamLaw enforcement exchange programs, under the banner of Israeli counter-terrorism expertise, contribute to these deadly trends by encouraging an even deeper application of counterterror and counter-insurgency modelsinto domestic policing, immigration and surveillance policies and practices.

Durham City Councillor Javiera Caballero stated: “I am an immigrant because of military influence and a foreign power […] At some point we need to move away from militarization, period… To the immigrant community: You are loved, and your fight is our fight.”

“In my own experience, having spent my winter break in the West Bank, the tear gas that clouded the vision of my eyes and those of the few hundred protesters around me served as an eye opener to the unjust, militaristic practices the Israel Defense Forces uses against peaceful protesters,” said Ahmad Amireh of Duke Students for Justice in Palestine.

 “No police department needs any exposure to the IDF’s racist practices, and Durham will be a safer city by committing to ending police exchanges with Israel.”

In order to raise their concerns over possible police exchanges with Israel, the Demilitarize! Durham2Palestine coalition of ten local organizations, including the Jewish Voice for Peace-Triangle, NC chapter, led a petition drive that gathered over 1,200 signatures of Durham residents in opposition to such exchanges with Israel.

The coalition was galvanized as Durham’s current Police Chief, Cerelyn Davis, previously organized police exchanges between Atlanta and Israel through the Atlanta Police Leadership Institute International Exchange Program.

Durham’s past Police Chief Jose Lopez, while in office, participated in the American Defense League’s National Counter-Terrorism Seminar with the Israeli Defense Force in 2008; the ADL lists the Durham Police Department as one of many law enforcement agencies trained through NCTS.

Pastor Mark Davidson of the Church of Reconciliation and Miriam Thompson, co-conveners of the Abrahamic Initiative on the Middle East, said in a statement: “As faith leaders and human rights advocates, AIME is honored to support the D2P campaign and gratified at the (recommended) vote of the Durham City Council that establishes and secures a just and peaceful environment and a police-community partnership, by prohibiting foreign military training of Durham police, especially from countries that practice human rights violations.”

A letter of support to the City of Durham by an interfaith movement of rabbis, Christian clergy and imams, sponsored by American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Friends of Sabeel – North America (FOSNA) and JVP, which was read on Monday evening, states:

 “As clergy, we wholeheartedly endorse the amazing work of Demilitarize! Durham2Palestine to halt any future police exchange partnerships between the Durham Police Department and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)… We believe it is our religious and moral duty to champion human rights, and we respect this courageous statement that seeks to protect all communities from harm—in Durham, Israel/Palestine, and around the world.”

 

Junot Díaz: “I think the occupation of Palestine is fucked up”

“If you say, I think the occupation of Palestine is fucked up on forty different levels, people are like, you’re the devil, we’re going to get your tenure taken away, we’re going to destroy you. You can say almost anything else. You could be like, ‘I eat humans,’ and they’ll be like bien, bien.”

Letters to Palestine: Writers Respond to War and Occupation, edited by Vijay Prashad, is a collection of personal essays, letters, and poems to and for Palestine from some of the most prominent writers, thinkers, and activists of our time, including Junot Díaz, Teju Cole, Mumia Abu Jamal, Robin Kelley, Noura Erakat, and Corey Robin.

To mark the book’s release, we bring you Junot Díaz’s foreword to the collection.

Tonnie Ch shared Jewish Voice for Peace‘s post.
Junot Díaz is the author of one of my all-time favorite novels; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
versobooks.com
Americans Are So Deranged About Palestine

I grew up in the ’80s in Central New Jersey, and every single kind of colonial settler calamity was present in my community. I was friends with an Irish kid, the only white kid in our community, and a hard-core Irish Catholic republican.

His family used to pass the hat around in church to raise money for the IRA. My other friend was an Egyptian kid whose family extended into Palestine, and throughout the ’80s, while everybody else was watching John Hughes movies, this kid had me on point on Palestine.

And then of course this was at the height of the apartheid movement. So all of my African American friends, well, two of them, not all of them, had parents who were part of the leftwing, pro-ANC, anti-apartheid movement. I’m in this poor community and this is all just getting beamed into my head.

So by the time I was in college, I could give you chapter and verse on anti-Zionist projects.

And look, for many people it’s a really tough issue. It’s like we’ve kind of gotten deranged, so that there are certain areas we can’t discuss.

And of course the situation in Palestine is an utter taboo in this country. Our ideas of terrorism, our ideas of Arabs, are over saturated with the most negative, weirdly perverse racist ideologies.

I can’t even turn on the news for five seconds without hearing the most racist shit about Arabs or Muslims. And so in that kind of atmosphere, it’s just a shouting match.

If you say, I think the occupation of Palestine is fucked up on forty different levels, people are like, you’re the devil, we’re going to get your tenure taken away, we’re going to destroy you. You can say almost anything else. You could be like, “I eat humans,” and they’ll be like bien, bien.

On the basic, basic level: If you are occupying other people’s shit, guess what—you are fucked up. That’s that.

And that’s a tough thing for people to stomach. Because we live in a country that’s currently occupying people’s fucking land.

Perhaps Americans are so deranged about Palestine because Americans are thinking, if we give up here, these fucking Indians are going to want their shit back.

Well, maybe they should get their shit back. Since 90 percent of us don’t own anything, I don’t know how much it would hurt us.

Letters to Palestine is available here.

More in #Gaza #Israel-Palestine #BDS #Nakba Day

Recently mentioned books

Pink Floyd Roger Waters: Divest in Israel

Roger Waters, British rock band Pink Floyd, wrote in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on July 2, 2012 under “Divest in Israel: Presbyterians should support Palestinian aspirations“:

“On Tuesday, I will be visiting Pittsburgh to perform my Pink Floyd hit “The Wall” at Consol Energy Center.

By coincidence, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has gathered this week in Pittsburgh.

One issue the Presbyterians will be debating is whether to take action in support of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank, under siege in Gaza and governed as second-class citizens in Israel under the rule of the apartheid government there.

I write in support of those Presbyterians who would like their church to divest its holdings in three U.S. companies — Motorola Solutions, Hewlett-Packard and Caterpillar. These companies profit directly from Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank and suppression of the Palestinian people in both the West Bank and Israel itself.

Divestment in these companies is supported by Jewish Voice for Peace, which has noted that:

1.  “Caterpillar profits from the destruction of Palestinians’ homes,”

2.  Motorola profits by providing safety equipment to “segregated communities on stolen land”

3. Hewlett-Packard profits by providing “support and maintenance to a biometric ID system installed in Israeli checkpoints in the occupied West Bank which deprive Palestinians of the freedom of movement in their own land.”

When I wrote “The Wall” in 1979, I thought it was about me and the way I walled myself off from others because, for one reason or another, not the least of which was the loss of my father at Anzio in 1944, I saw myself as a victim. Thirty-three years later I have come to realize that “The Wall” has a broader message.

A picture that shocked the world
An Israeli woman protects a Palestinian boy in front of an Israeli Soldier !

The theatrical wall I build each night serves as a metaphor for all the walls erected to separate us, human being from human being: walls between rich and poor, between opposing cultural, political or religious ideologies and particularly between the oppressor and the oppressed.

The Israeli wall in the West Bank is a particularly graphic example. I make reference to that wall every night in my concert, but the injustices faced by Palestinians living under Israel’s brutal occupation and apartheid are not adequately addressed through theater and music alone. They warrant other forms of comment.

Note 1: Roger Waters is a founding member of the British rock band Pink Floyd.
 
Note 2: Rabbi James A. Gibson of Temple Sinai in Squirrel Hill argues that a decision by Presbyterians to divest in companies doing business in Israel would damage relations between Christians and Jews and set back conciliation efforts between Israelis and Palestinians.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/opinion/perspectives/divest-in-israel-presbyterians-should-support-palestinian-aspirations-642882/#ixzz1zdTtnOv3

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