Jewish Values vs. Israeli Policies: Young Jews Disrupt PM Netanyahu in New Orleans

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Guest post by Rae Abileah

Rae Abileah is an alumni of several Jewlicious Festivals*.

Being young and Jewish and realizing what Israel’s occupation is really like, contrary to what we may have been taught in our religious schools or high school trips to the holy land, can be a lonely journey. It can be compared to a “coming out” experience, where sharing your perceptions with friends and family, let alone a room full of over 4,000 Jews, can be a daunting task. While more American Jews—and particularly young American Jews—are growing disillusioned with Israeli policies implemented in the name of all Jews with the support of old-guard groups such as AIPAC, it is still often a scary thing to publicly criticize Israel within the broader community.

In New Orleans during the Jewish Federation’s General Assembly (GA), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) created a safe space for young Jews, like myself, whose stomachs are still churning from the bombings in Gaza nearly two years ago, and whose eyes can no longer be averted from the daily reality of oppression for Palestinians. We came together to organize effectively and from the heart. And if we have faith in our generation’s capacity to transform politics and create peace, then we can believe in JVP’s mission as possible in the face of all odds.

On Monday morning, the GA plenary began with Oscar the Grouch — seriously, the Sesame Street puppet opened the plenary with a satire about how gross it was that Israelis were so friendly, always sharing, caring and helping each other out. Next, New Orleans Mayor Landrieu stressed a belief in tikkun olam, the Jewish principle of “repairing the world”, and almost in the same breath, an unending support for Israel. Contradiction? We think so. Our well-orchestrated protest began with the bold voice of local New Orleans resident Emily Ratner, who stood up after applause for Netanyahu and proclaimed, “The Loyalty Oath delegitimizes Israel!” as she unfurled a banner with the same message. (The protest was captured on video by AP here and a photo of Ratner on Israeli television below)

As Emily was removed from the room she continued shouting, and Netanyahu commented from the podium, “If they came to delegitimize Israel, they came to the wrong address.” We believe we were knocking on exactly the right door, with a message to the Jews in attendance: Israel’s occupation and oppressive policies delegitimize Israel in the eyes of the world.

The second protester was Israeli resident Eitan Isaacson who unfurled a banner stating, “Silencing Dissent Delegitimizes Israel.” He was forcefully removed from the building while chanting in English and Hebrew. (Photo here) Isaacson stated that the purpose of the action was as follows: “We’re here to call out the elephant in the room. Israel continues to expropriate Palestinian land for Jewish-only communities, passes increasingly racist laws in the Knesset, the foreign minister wants to strip Palestinian citizens of their citizenship — these are the reasons Israel is becoming a pariah in the world.”

After Netanyahu continued to decry delegitimization, Matthew Taylor of Berkeley, CA, arose, unfurled a banner reading “Occupation Delegitimizes Israel” and spoke the slogan loudly. Taylor was pushed to the ground, his button-down shirt ripped open, and his shoe flung from his foot (he lost the shoe during the protest). Meanwhile, an enraged rabbi grabbed Taylor’s banner and proceeded to rip it to pieces with his teeth and fists.

Several minutes later, Israeli activist Matan Cohen stood up on his chair to unfurl yet another banner while shouting, “The siege on Gaza delegitimizes Israel!” Matan is the founder of Anarchists Against the Wall in Israel and has been a prominent organizer at Hampshire College. Cohen explained his reasoning for demonstrating: “Right now, the choice for those of us who care about the future of Israel and Palestine is between the status quo– which includes continued settlement expansion, the siege of Gaza, and the racist Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman–or Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions. Given that choice, Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions will win every time.”

And finally, after Netanyahu summarized the two “greatest threats” to Israel – a nuclear Iran and “delegitimizers”– I stood up and unfurled a pink banner that read, “The settlements betray Jewish values” and in Hebrew: “Justice, justice you shall pursue,” a verse from Deuteronomy. The crowd had grown increasingly hostile with each disruption, and I was instantly attacked from all sides. A man in the row in front of me pulled the El Al seat cover off his chair and tried to gag me with it. Another man came up from the side and grabbed me by the throat. I fell into a pile of chairs until two female sheriffs buoyed me up and hustled me out of the room. The police later confided that they were trying to protect me from the angry mob and get me out of there in one piece.

The JTA reported: “Jeff Shapiro from San Antonio grabbed her from behind and put her in a choke hold, dragging her backwards towards the floor. When asked later if he had ever put a woman in a chokehold, he replied, ‘Not really. No. I really did not know what was going to happen, I wanted to keep her in check. I was trying to help.’” Jeff Shapiro, according to an Internet search is the president of the synagogue brotherhood and a 7th grade teacher at Temple Beth-El, and is the chair of the Federation’s San Antonio Association for Jewish Education.

Some in the audience chanted “Am Yisrael Chai” and later “Bibi! Bibi!” to try to drown out our voices. Others tackled us or shouted obscenities. But not all were outraged by our actions and words. We heard later about the many Jewish students who were brought to tears seeing the visual display of an internal conflict of values they themselves felt.

As Rob Eshman’s blog in the Jewish Journal summarized:
“What were they against?” one Israeli journalist in the audience asked rhetorically. “The loyalty oath? The occupation? Gaza? Most Jews would agree with them.”

Why did we feel the need to take such a bold, direct action that some might view as rude or inappropriate? We would have been content to stand silently holding up our banners, revealing the truth in a more subtle, somber way, but the instant violence projected at us meant that our banners were ripped from our hands within seconds of unfurling them. Giving voice to the cause of justice seemed the moral thing to do. We also would have been happy to participate in dialogue, had the GA created a comprehensive program that encouraged a multiplicity of views and opinions. Rather, the GA was a propaganda grounds for furthering a narrative about the state of Israel that simply does not stand up to the facts as we have witnessed them. When the traditional routes of civic engagement fail us, we turn to nonviolent direct action, and the time-honored tactics that secured women the right to vote, an eight-hour day for workers, and civil rights protections for people of color.

By staging this loud disruption of Netanyahu’s speech, we inserted an alternative narrative into the GA and into the media in Israel and the US. The Israeli occupation and the oppression of Palestinians in Israel cannot be ignored. We made visible the unsettling disconnect between Jewish values of social justice and current Israeli policies. Instead of the single-sided story Netanyahu and his supporters hoped to present, we were able to create a dynamic conversation that reverberated through the papers, radio stations (including the Israeli Army Radio), blogs, twitter, and among the delegates. Our disruption has been picked up by AP, the New York Times, Haaretz, The Jersualem Post, NPR, Democracy Now!, The Jewish Forward, Ynet News, and many more outlets. We heard from many students who said the protest sparked discussions about Israel’s policies and emotional exchanges. A group of rabbinic students met to discuss the occupation. With our actions, we opened up the possibility for people to have genuine dialogue about these issues, and we are part of a seismic generational shift in the Jewish community that Peter Beinart outlined in his groundbreaking piece in the New York Review of Books entitled “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment.” (Incidentally, Beinart tweeted after our action, “Expect more of this. http://ping.fm/sDgHO”) We are not willing to leave our Jewish and democratic values at the door, which means we must stand up and criticize Israeli policies.

The shift is also evident in blogger comments about the actions we took at the GA, which include remarks such as: “I think the use of force in this instance against people peaceably holding banners is more than a bit ridiculous.” Rabbi Moshe Waldoks commented, “These protests would not have been necessary if the American Jewish leadership at the GA had created an open opportunity to ask the questions that need to be asked about the loyalty oath…”

A new website launched November 8, www.YoungJewishProud.org, presents our group’s Young Jewish Declaration, a compelling vision of collective identity, purpose and values written as an invitation and call to action for peers who care about Israel and Palestine. It is also a strong challenge to elders. The declaration includes these words: “We are your children, your nieces and nephews, your grandchildren… We refuse to knowingly oppress others, and we refuse to oppress each other. We won’t be won over by free vacations and scholarship money. We won’t buy the logic that slaughter means safety. We will not quietly witness the violation of human rights in Palestine.”

The actions are in part a protest of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and Jewish Public Affairs Council (JCPA) newly announced $6 million dollar program to target campus, church, peace and human rights groups that are working to end Israel’s human rights violations through nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions pressure campaigns. The Federations and JCPA are calling this initiative the “Israel Action Network.” Critics say it is a “Shoot the Messenger” approach.

We also announced the creation of a spoof Birthright Trip called Taglit-Lekulanu http://taglit-lekulanu.org/, Birthright for All, open to Palestinian and Jewish-Americans, which was followed up with a spoof denial. The goal of the spoof was to highlight the one-sided narrative that Birthright presents, the ways it renders Palestinians invisible. The rebuttal laid bare the problematic assumptions underlying Birthright trips, such as the emphasis on marrying Jews and procreating. The spoof was picked up Tuesday, November 9 by Haaretz in a piece that sheds a glaring light on the Birthright agenda.

Perhaps the most inspiring voice of the day came from the youngest member of the JVP delegation, 17-year-old Hanna King, a freshman at Swarthmore College, who was quoted in the Jewish Daily Forward as saying, “I think I’m very much succeeding in practicing tikkun olam and derech eretz by standing up for the rights for all people. It such hypocrisy for these Jewish leaders that I grew up learning to say that, you know, that the Holocaust was a tragedy but what we’re doing to [the Palestinians] is fine.” In an article in Haaretz, King continued to say, “We believe that the actions that Israel is taking, like settlements, like the occupation, like the loyalty oath, are contrary to the Jewish values that we learnt in Jewish day school. This is not Tikkun Olam. Oppressing people in refugee camps is not Tikkun Olam. And it is a hypocrisy that I cannot abide. We must be tough on all countries that abuse human rights but I care about Israel because for me it’s personal. “

Rae Abileah is a 28-year-old Jewish-American of Israeli descent and is a national organizer with CODEPINK Women for Peace and a member of Jewish Voice for Peace. She lives in San Francisco, CA and can be reached at rae@codepink.org.

* This post previously reported that Rae was an ROI Community Alum. This was inaccurate. Rae attended an ROI event but was never part of the ROI program. We apologize for any confusion.

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25 Comments

  1. Eden

    11/9/2010 at 5:09 pm

    To paraphrase the banners: your method delegitimizes your message.

  2. themiddle

    11/9/2010 at 6:05 pm

    I have put up a post responding to Rae’s post. What continues below is the gist of it, but without the photo accompaniment.

    First of all, it’s amazing that you disrupted the speech in this way because I’m sure that you caused a severe disruption to whatever protective measures Netanyahu’s security detail was trying to put into effect. Sheer stupidity on your part.

    Second, you were rude. There are ways to go about expressing viewpoints and this was extraordinarily rude.

    Third, your organization is the founder of Muzzlewatch. Muzzlewatch is a blog that claims that voices criticizing Israel are under censorious attack. The irony of this claim is that when some of us went to Muzzlewatch to debate your group’s claims, they shut down all comments. Permanently. The fact that you would disrupt a speech with the claim that your claims can’t otherwise be heard is sheer hypocrisy.

    Fourth, your banners are mistaken. What delegitimizes Israel are groups such as yours which serve as the vanguard of the numerous organizations that attack Israel regularly. What helps to delegitimize Israel is that many haters of Israel (as well as haters of Jews, just so we are perfectly clear on this point) use groups such as yours as shills, because you are Jewish, to enable their movements to avoid or to take cover behind you guys when they are justly criticized for singling Israel out in ways they don’t single out other nations that do far worse. In other words, you serve as a fig leaf for Israel’s enemies.

    Fifth, your group and others like it have done more to damage the possibility of peace than has Hamas. What you have effectively done is give the Palestinians the confidence and belief that their waiting strategy is likely to succeed in defeating Israel over time. You have strengthened those who would refuse peace deals like Olmert’s and Barak’s.

    Sixth, it is precisely peace offers such as Barak’s and Olmert’s which undermine the many false claims your organization makes in general and even specifically with your lying banners in this event. The fact is the occupation could already be over, the Palestinians could have their own state over approximately 98% of ’67 borders with additional land inside Israel to compensate for the other 2%. The Palestinians could have eastern Jerusalem with either sovereignty over their holy places or able to enjoy international sovereignty over the Holy Basin. The Palestinians could have received over $30 billion in reparations and even a limited return of original Palestinian refugees to Israel.

    Yet, here you are complaining that the occupation continues and that an embargo on Gaza – a place which has launched thousands of rockets at Israel and is making great efforts to arm itself to the teeth – should be lifted thus easing the way for more arming of those who have no problem shooting rockets at Israeli civilian centers in order to cause both terror and death.

    And I could go on and on.

    My point, however, is different.

    If you had the true courage of your convictions, you would make every effort to convince the Palestinians to negotiate for peace and to close a deal. Polls in Israel for many years and three of the past four Israeli Prime Ministers have shown conclusively that Israel is ready for peace and ready to close a deal. The Palestinians, however, true to their history of the past 90 years and particularly the past 73 years during which they have had 5 (or 6 depending on how you count) opportunities to agree to divide the land and build their own state next to the Jewish one, have continued to refuse. While they refuse, they continue to attack Israel in public forums, the press, university campuses, NGO conferences, church conferences, etc. as an illegitimate and criminal state. This, despite the fact that in their society they have no democracy, no liberal values to speak of, no freedom of expression, effective rules that discriminate heavily against minorities such as homosexuals and Christians and a heavy propaganda push that educates their young toward war and non-settlement of the conflict despite nearly two decades of a peace process.

    Yup, if you were really Jewish Voices for Peace, you would make every effort to make the Palestinians come to the table and forge a historic compromise. Instead, you seek to weaken Israel and strengthen those who would damage it.

    ck has balls for letting you post on our site. What you represent are the forces that will bring Israel to future wars – wars where young and middle aged Israeli men, fathers, brothers, sons – will have to give their lives and limbs to protect their homes and families.

  3. LB

    11/9/2010 at 7:03 pm

    Ms. Abileah-

    1. “derech eretz”?! Interrupting a speaker – and causes a disruption for the other listeners – is, in no universe, a form of “derech eretz.”

    2. You are not the voice of anything Jewish. By acting the way you did, and by espousing your hatred – you have actively disassociated yourself from the Jewish people. As tm said: “If you had the true courage of your convictions, you would make every effort to convince the Palestinians to negotiate for peace and to close a deal.” Even if your views of the facts on the ground were true – all you are doing is ignoring the unbroken Jewish connection to the land, and the Jews who live – and have always lived – in Israel.

    3. You have not helped start a “dynamic conversation.” You have not changed anyone’s previously held views on the issues. You have made a laughing stock of yourself. The only quasi-constructive result of this childish schtick was the contribution to the livelihood of journalists covering your antics.

  4. Jin

    11/9/2010 at 8:43 pm

    The detractors above miss the point. Young jews don’t want to be tarred with the mire and corruption of occupation and apartheid. Universal human rights are morally sustainable, whereas racism and oppression are not.

    Wondering what their reaction to Bradley Burston’s latest piece is.

    haaretz.com/bl...

    • themiddle

      11/10/2010 at 12:27 am

      Jin says

      Young jews don’t want to be tarred with the mire and corruption of occupation and apartheid. Universal human rights are morally sustainable, whereas racism and oppression are not.

      Good. Then young Jews should prevent anti-Israel groups from tarring them because it serves political purposes. As I point out, Israel has made good-faith and credible peace offers to the Palestinians and these offers have been refused. Had they been accepted, or even negotiated to a different conclusion but a conclusion nonetheless, then there would be a Palestinian state living side by side next to a Jewish one already. Then you’d be able to focus on the type of corruption the PA has displayed over the years, the apartheid policy of evicting every last Jew from their midst unless said Jew is a political activists attacking Israel, and of course on the oppression most Palestinian journalists and citizens feel in both areas under Palestinian control.

      You see, Israel has internalized that it needs peace and that peace will cost – unfairly – the areas of Judea and Samaria as well as a compromise on Jerusalem. The Palestinians haven’t internalized this at all. They pretend, for example, the UNSCR 242 doesn’t exist. Or that 194 carries the same weight, or has a meaning which it does not.

      So if young Jews are tarnished with lies and severe accusations that are false, accusations about apartheid for example, they should be standing proud and strong against those lies. If somebody falsely convicted you of murder tomorrow, would you want your friends and family to walk away because they could be “mired” in your supposed crime, or would you want them to fight hard for the truth so that both you and your reputation can be saved? Which would be the Jewish value here?

  5. LB

    11/9/2010 at 9:01 pm

    Young jews don’t want to be tarred with the mire and corruption of occupation and apartheid.

    These “young Jews” just want to tar Israel by throwing these words around with no basis in fact? No, they just want to be “IN” and not feel left out from the liberal crowd (or should I say mob?).

    As for Burston – American Jews are divesting from Israel – by remaining in America. Judaism is a nation – and as a diaspora, they are not “crucial to Israel’s future.”

    I stopped reading when I got to Friedman – his name-dropping megalomania is simply not worth anyone’s time.

  6. rabbiyonah

    11/9/2010 at 9:45 pm

    I have a lot to say Rae and some I may put in this comment and some in a post, and some we can discuss over a beer.

    You could have gotten your point across in a much more effective and peaceful way. And as much as you write that this method was necessary, it seems more reasonable to assume that it was done to gain street cred with the radical anti-Israel posse that you have surrounded yourself with.

    You did not persuade the Jewish community in any direction, you did not hurt Bibi’s stature, you did not permanently disrupt the proceedings.

    You absolutely did not insert ” an alternative narrative into the GA and into the media in Israel and the US.”

    It’s old, it’s been tried, and it only gains traction with fringe Jewish groups, and Israel-haters.

    I was not shocked to learn that members of the audience tackled hecklers – but that was just plain wrong what they did.

    A better response would have been for them to sing Hatikvah – those that tackled people should have also been escorted out for using violence.

  7. Kung Fu Jew 18

    11/9/2010 at 10:19 pm

    Kol hakavod to CK for being willing to bring this conversation to this blog, and to the commenters who have, even if piqued, discussed the issues themselves.

  8. Fun Joel

    11/9/2010 at 11:42 pm

    I was about to write a comment in which I respond to the specific claims in this post, but then I thought, “Why? Will they accomplish anything, or simply add to the publicity?”

    Rae, I liked you when I first met you at a Jewlicious Fest years ago, and I still like you now. But I disagree with the bulk (though not all) of the points you raise here, along with your method of publicizing them. If you are interested in discussing them with an open mind, let me know. If you’d prefer to continue in the same way without having the humility to consider that you might not be completely correct, then go on.

    Of course I will say that violence on the part of the crowd is completely unjustified and wrong. And I will also say (as I commented on themiddle’s post) that I highly suspect the core reasons for choosing this method of expression. But as for the specifics, feel free to contact me if you want to discuss.

  9. Rae Abileah

    11/10/2010 at 12:18 am

    I want to respond to Rabbi Yonah’s comment. Thanks Rabbi Yonah for taking a moment to respond to this piece. And thanks to Jewlicious for posting this piece here. I too look forward to discussing this all over a beer someday, maybe a He’brew? ;)

    As for the method of our protest, I tried to explain in my post that direct action is a last option after traditional means of petitioning governments and institutions have been exhausted. It is an effective one, from Gandhi’s salt march to Cesar Chavez’s boycott campaigns. This direct action was not the only form of action we took at the GA. We also held discussion sessions, poetry readings, put out the spoof website and PR, and more.

    I find it offensive to be labeled “anti-Israel”. Why is it “anti-Israel” to take a stand for human rights and justice? I have dedicated much of my 20′s to working to end the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and been at many rallies where angry men three times my age have roared their Harley engines, spat at me, and called me “un-American” for protesting the occupation of Iraq. They have said I don’t support the troops because I don’t want them to die unnecessarily in a place far away that we should have never invaded over false pretenses of WMDS. I am un-American for wanting to spend our precious financial resources on our schools, libraries, and jobs for Americans so that we can rebuild our own country in the aftermath of a devastating recession. To this label of “un-American” I have replied time and again that “dissent is patriotic,” and that our country was founded on the principle of dissent and freedom.

    So when I say that I want freedom of travel for fellow human beings in Palestine to be able to eat, pray, and love where they want to, I am called “anti-Israel”. When I say that I want to see a new generation of Israelis grow up without having to go through a draft and defend checkpoints and kill innocent children with bulldozers, and shoot out American young women’s eyeballs, I am called “anti-Israel”. When I say I want to see integrated schools and shared highways, I am “anti-Israel,” which I recall being taught in Sunday school was “the only democracy” in the Middle East. And when I say that I want Israel to be held to the same standards of law as the rest of the global community in the United Nations, which has supported the Geneva Conventions, I am called “anti-Israel.”

    Anti-war marchers have never accepted the term “un-American.” Pro-choice advocates have never accepted the term “pro-Life”. So how can pro-justice for Palestine activists accept the term “anti-Israel”? It is the Israeli government and military’s actions that are both “anti-Israel” and “un-American.” Israel’s illegal policies—separation walls, settlements, the siege of Gaza—have been tragic for the Palestinians, but also hurt Israel and the United States. It’s time to break the stranglehold that this false narrative has on U.S. policy and discourse and call reality for what it really is.

    It is hard to believe we didn’t insert an alternative narrative into the GA, when I heard from youth attendees, rabbinic students, elders, and even from the father-daughter pair who spoke on stage preceding Bibi, that after our action there were powerful conversations, dialogues, meetings, exchanges that took place, not to mention the media coverage which was so abundant (over 2000 articles so far), and all the thanks we received even from people who may not be on the same page politically.

    I appreciate your affirmation of nonviolence at the end of your comment post re participants’ violence and assault toward us.

    And again, I do look forward to further dialogue about this and other values of social justice in Judaism. And also to our overdue discussion about the way Ariel and I were targeted with hateful words by a couple of participants at Jewlicious after asking questions about the occupation to the Israeli govt rep some time ago. There may be some areas where we will have to respectfully agree to disagree, but I am confident that we can appreciate in each other the passion, heart & soul, and integrity with which we engage with our respective communities, and the Jewish community as a whole. I know I appreciate the leadership and work you do in Long Beach and the tremendous care you have for the people in your community – this has been an inspiration for me.

    Here’s to hatikva, hope, that one day Israel will be a true democracy with equal rights for all and justice pursued and prevailing, a light unto nations, abiding with international law and integrity.

  10. JVP=nazis

    11/10/2010 at 1:06 am

    “Jewish Voice for Peace”? More like Judenrats for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews.” This group is funded by Saudi Arabia and other anti-semtic terrorist groups. In fact this group is a front for the terrost blood-thirsty group hamass. Their goal is not human rights for the Fakestinians, btw “Palestine” has never existed and neither have Palestinians”, but the destruction of Israel. Keep up the good work Rae, hitler would be proud!

    • themiddle

      11/10/2010 at 1:10 am

      Aw jeez, give it a break. If you have nothing of substance to add, keep out of the conversation.

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  12. Barry

    11/10/2010 at 6:26 am

    I always get a good laugh out of people who disrupt an organized event and then act all shocked that more people weren’t receptive to their “alternative viewpoint”. When people attend pre-planned events, they tend to what to see what was advertised, and anything that gets in the way of that tends to piss people off. This is hardly surprising. Try sneaking into a movie theatre and projecting your own films on the sides of the walls, you think people will think “well, I was here to see Hollywood film X, but now I’m intrigued by this alternative bit of film making presented by local filmmaker Y, I’ve reconsidered and prefer to watch this instead.”

    So, this kind of stunt is a “last resort”? Whatever, why is it considered acceptable at all? If you’ve already petitioned organizations and government offices and those people aren’t buying what you’re selling, then maybe people simply aren’t interested in what you have to say. Or maybe it’s time to get your message across in a different way. Or maybe you need to do more grass roots organizing. Because, y’know, that’s how politics works.

    So instead of organizing your own event you hijacked somebody else’s, give yourself a pat on the back. And don’t spew nonsense about “human rights and justice”, this was about the press coverage you knew you’d get and nothing more. If it was purely about the principles, then you’d do the same thing even if you knew it would get hardly any attention from the press.

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  14. Lisa R

    11/10/2010 at 4:03 pm

    Rae, people call you anti-Israel because that is what your actions and remarks show you to be. It’s referred to as ’cause and effect’. If you act and speak in a way that shows you to be anti-Israel (cause), people will call you anti-Israel (effect). You are a textbook example of intellectual dishonesty.

  15. Janet Weil

    11/10/2010 at 11:48 pm

    Rae and her fellow/sister disrupters flipped the script of “delegitimzing” Israel on Netanyahu, with 5 spot-on examples of the Israeli government’s counter-productive and abhorrent policies: the “loyalty” oath; the continuing and provocative settlements; the silencing of dissent (in this case, crassly and even violently); the siege of Gaza; and most importantly, the occupation of Palestinian lands since 1967.

    The Jewish Federation needs to open up its National Assembly and its local/regional gatherings to much wider perspectives. In the absence of panel discussions and other public events that allow Israeli government policies to be criticized, and alternatives to the “Jews want peace, Palestinians don’t” narrative, Rae and others took this brave and daring step. Others around the world have spoken out and will continue to speak out against high officials of the Israeli government who are guilty of (well-documented) war crimes.

    Most US Jews are not involved with the Jewish Federation, and I think most would also be shocked and disturbed at the brutality with which these young Jewish dissenters were treated. I know I am.

  16. Racheli Gai

    11/11/2010 at 8:54 am

    Ditto to what Janet Weil wrote!
    As someone who has been an activist (on the issue of Israel/Palestine)for over two decades, during which I (and fellow activists) have made numerous efforts to penetrate the local Jewish Federation – efforts that repeatedly failed – I felt thrilled to see these young activists get the word out. Not politely, but politeness has proved itself futile.
    To my mind, being impolite is truly a tiny sin, if it’s a sin at all, when we think of the crimes Israel is committing each and every day.
    Israel is sliding towards fascism at an alarming rate, and the fact that people – such as most discussants here – imagine that by supporting its government they are doing Israelis a favor is a colossal mistake. MY way of supporting Israel is supporting the amazing Israeli activists – those who work with the Coalition of Women for Peace; the Anarchists Against the Wall, the committee against torture, Physicians for Human Rights, and so on. For its own survival in any form worth preserving, Israel must change, and time is running out.
    Even if the only message that the 5 activists got out was that the Jewish Federation doesn’t speak for us all (in fact – it speaks for fewer and fewer Jews, especially among the young) that would have been good enough. But I think it’s done much more than that, and I’m glad.

  17. Hannah

    11/11/2010 at 1:31 pm

    To quote Martin Luther King Jr.:
    “Without justice there can be no peace.”
    “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
    It’s no great surprise that Palestinians don’t want the peace that the Israeli state is offering. How can you expect Palestinians to accept the sovereignty of Israel in the West Bank and Gaza when that same sovereign power is unwarrantably evicting them from their homes, severely restricting their travel, systematically removing their civil and political rights, and much more? If the Israeli government really wanted peace they’d begin to remove the injustices that hinder it. I admire Rae and her peers for standing against voices that conflate dissent with being anti-Israeli, or often anti-Semiitic- that takes a great deal of courage. Perhaps she was “rude” and maybe a cooperative discourse would have worked better (I doubt it) but that hardly matters when it’s oppression and people’s lives at stake. Condemning symbolic and verbal violence is hardly sensical when physical violence is being perpetrated daily.

    • themiddle

      11/11/2010 at 2:13 pm

      Hannah, Palestinians have been evicted from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, for example, after years in the courts and only after Israel’s High Court ruled in favor of the Jewish landowners. Palestinians have severe travel restrictions placed upon them because for many years, whenever Israel relented on travel restrictions, it was rewarded with suicide bombings or attempted suicide bombings. Palestinian civil and political rights are taken away by their own leadership, not by Israel. In fact, Israel withdrew from Areas A entirely beginning in 1998 and this meant that virtually all Palestinians in the WB and Gaza were under Palestinian rule in the form of the PA. Elections were held. If elections are no longer being held, that is by choice of Fatah and Hamas, not Israel. If Palestinians lack freedom of expression or freedom of the press within their society, that is a function of their leadership, not Israel. Palestinians build incessantly in the WB and Gaza, as well. In fact, there was a recent ruling by the Israeli High Court where the state was challenged as to why it wasn’t upholding its own laws by destroying illegally built Palestinian homes, particularly when it was acting with forcefulness against illegally built Jewish homes.

      In addition to these facts, there is the inescapable fact that two of the last 4 Israeli Prime Ministers have made concrete peace proposals to the Palestinians and the current PM has offered to negotiate and has hinted strongly both personally and through ambassador Michael Oren that Israel is willing to make far-reaching compromises for a deal. He also stopped settlement construction for 10 months.

      As for being called “anti-Israeli,” it is certainly warranted when the rhetoric is anti-Israeli. Jewish Voices for Peace is an organization that is at the vanguard of anti-Israel activities in North America. For example, I encourage you to take a look at how they took a leading role during the attempted boycott of the Tel Aviv section of the Toronto International Film Festival. Pro-Israelis don’t engage in activities that undermine Israel in this way.

      Where we agree, however, Hannah, is that there shouldn’t be any violence of any sort anywhere where Israeli soldiers might be found. Perhaps Jewish Voices for Peace could place intense pressure and criticism upon the Palestinian leadership and other leftist groups that endlessly criticize Israel but give the Palestinians a “pass” (as you did) to avoid compromise and peace, to finally agree to a peace deal that would allow both sides to live in peace side by side?

  18. Racheli Gai

    11/11/2010 at 4:53 pm

    To “The Middle”: Your “facts” are so anything-but, one doesn’t know where to start, and perhaps there is no point.
    The bottom line is: Endless number of human rights groups: Palestinian, Israeli, and international have documented Israeli human rights abuses, war crimes etc. This isn’t really a debatable issue, except for people who are so committed to a certain view, that they simply aren’t ready to open their eyes.
    I think that undermining Israeli supremacist regime is a good thing, which I’m very much committed to. This isn’t to say that Israel cannot exist, or that Jews have to leave. It means that it needs to become a just state (as opposed to a Jewish one), where all people have equal rights, in accordance with international law.

  19. themiddle

    11/11/2010 at 6:41 pm

    Racheli, you’re a JVP organizer so please don’t sell yourself short. I am confident that you can gather the strength to correct my “facts.” Go ahead and try.

    In the meantime, allow me to add a couple of additional “facts” that you are welcome to challenge. One, Israel isn’t “supremacist” and, two, it isn’t a “regime.” Also, three, in Israel citizens have equal rights according to international law. If I were you, I’d be much more concerned about the rights of those who live next to Israel. Here is an excellent story to show you what I mean:

    ynetnews.com/a...

    Now with all due respect, I’ll put Israel’s “war crimes” record up against most countries that have to fight wars, such as, say, England’s. Go ahead and challenge me on that as well. Make sure you read the Wikileaks documents about Iraq that came out in the last weeks before you do. Also, make sure to do a comparison between Israel’s civilian to militant death ratio and England’s. After you read those reports, do ask yourself how it’s possible that all those “human rights groups: Palestinian (do they ever investigate Palestinian human rights abuses?), Israeli (do they ever investigate Palestinian human rights abuses?) and international (do they ever investigate Palestinian human rights abuses?),” managed to focus so much attention on little ol’ Israel and yet managed to miss what England has been doing during years in which their enemies did not launch rockets at their civilians from right next door.

  20. themicah

    11/12/2010 at 3:18 pm

    Rae,

    People are accusing you of being “anti-Israel” for two reasons: (1) because your rhetoric is hard to distinguish from the rhetoric of the avowedly anti-Israel crowd and (2) because it’s not really clear what you realistically seek to achieve.

    As an example of rhetoric, you say “the occupation” delegitimizes Israel. What do you mean by that? Do you mean the occupation of Hebron? The Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem? Talbiyeh? Tel Aviv? There are many of us who are decidedly pro-Israel but who agree that, as much as we’d like Jews to be able to live there, the occupation of Hebron in its current form absolutely delegitimizes Israel. But most self-described radical leftists seem to either view the Green Line as inviolable (implying that the Jewish Quarter is somehow less Israeli than Talbiyeh) or view the mere existence of a Jewish state in the land of Israel as an “occupation.” I’m pretty sure you don’t fall into that last category, but your rhetoric makes it hard for many people to tell for sure.

    On the second point, let’s take the “siege on Gaza” as an example. I agree with you that the blockade of Gaza is problematic from a human rights perspective (and I was heartened to see that one good thing that came out of the flotilla disaster was a loosening of some of the restrictions of the blockade). But I am at an utter loss as to how to end it without creating a serious existential threat to Israel. You might argue that guarding against that threat still doesn’t justify the blockade, which is not an invalid argument, but can be interpreted by some people as flirting with anti-Zionism.

  21. AlexK

    11/14/2010 at 12:39 pm

    I can’t believe you guys gave this peace of trash a venue here. Gross.

  22. Brett Walkow

    10/4/2011 at 4:37 pm

    youtube.com/wa...

    This this a must see Video about how are women will never leave us alone even after death…

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