Anti-Israel Groups: Polluting The Debate
Tue, 11/09/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Criticism of Israel, like criticism of any sovereign nation in the world, can be reasonable and legitimate. In recent years, however, discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have all too often been polluted by those who seek to simplify the conflict into a battle between good and evil and turn public opinion against Israel.

Our recently released report on the “Top Ten Anti-Israel Groups in America” is comprised of groups that look for every opportunity to singularly blame Israel. Despite claims of pro-peace and pro-justice objectives, these groups are dedicated to delegitimizing and demonizing the Jewish state.

The inclusion of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) in the Top Ten elicited a strong reaction, particularly from some in the American Jewish community. Some questioned our decision to include JVP and pointed to the group’s stated ideals of peace, justice and equality as evidence that it is not an anti-Israel group. While JVP’s objectives may outwardly seem “kosher,” a look at its actual agenda and activities reveals a clear anti-Israel bias, including initiating numerous boycott and divestment campaigns against Israel, protesting celebrations of Israel’s 60th anniversary and organizing and participating in anti-Israel rallies that regularly feature extreme messages.

[Members of the group interrupted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech five times Monday at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in New Orleans, reportedly shouting “the occupation delegitimizes Israel.”]

In June, for example, the New York chapter of JVP was one of the organizers of a rally to protest Israel’s raid of the flotilla to Gaza. Several hundred demonstrators participated in the rally, which was held outside the Israeli Consulate in Manhattan. Many held signs that read, “Nuremberg Justice for Israeli War Criminals” and “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free.” One speaker went so far as to describe Gaza as a “death camp.”

JVP did not condemn the calls for Israel’s destruction and offensive Holocaust analogies at this rally and has not condemned similarly outrageous messages featured at other events it has participated in. In fact, JVP has remained willing to co-sponsor and organize events with radical anti-Israel groups time and time again.

A credible “voice for peace” would have condemned these messages, refused to partner with groups that promote extreme anti-Israel rhetoric and sought to create an atmosphere where a real conversation about the conflict could take place.

Many of the anti-Israel groups named in the ADL’s Top Ten are responsible for organizing events that routinely feature conspiratorial allegations about Israeli control over the U.S. government and media, comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany and expressions of support for terrorist groups. Chants of “long live the intifada” and “resistance is justified when people are occupied,” as well as signs equating the Star of David with a swastika, are all too commonplace.

Several of the groups hold Israel to a different standard than other countries and advocate for boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns targeting Israeli institutions and companies that engage with Israel. Others organize and fund “break the siege” missions to Gaza that serve to buoy the terrorist group Hamas and castigate Israel for its legal blockade of the Palestinian territory.

In these and other ways, the Top Ten groups paint Israel as the perennial aggressor and Palestinians as the eternal victim, choosing to judge every step and misstep by the Israeli government as immoral, repressive and irredeemable. This approach is fundamentally anti-Israel.

While JVP had an ambivalent response to its inclusion in the report — describing it as an “honor” yet also claiming that it is not anti-Israel — many of the other groups named were thrilled with the designation. They expressed cynical enthusiasm, letting their supporters know with e-mails that read, “Congratulations to Us — We Made ADL’s List,” “We’ve Made the Top Ten” and “Bravo!!!”

We welcome the intense debate our Top Ten report has engendered. Now more than ever, Americans need to be able to distinguish between those who are critical of Israel policy and those who are engaged in a full-fledged assault on Israel’s legitimacy.

Abraham H. Foxman is national director of the Anti-Defamation League. His latest book is the forthcoming “Jews and Money: The Story of a Stereotype” (Palgrave Macmillan, November 2010).

 

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Peter, It is not Foxman's job to protect freedom of speech, yet that is the basis of your criticism of his defense of the top ten list. You commit the fallacy of the straw man. Foxman and the ADL are not talking about free speech, yet that is the issue on which you criticize him. Foxman's job is to protect Jews and Israel from DEFAMATION. That is exactly what you and the Jewish Voice for Peace are engaged in - defamation of Israel. Thank you Mr. Foxman for doing your job.
Of course these groups will veil their agendas with pleasant sounding terms like pro-peace, pro-justice and pro-human rights. Pro-aggression, pro-islamic hegemony and pro-ethnic clensing (while more truthful) don't focus group as well.
JVP does not promote the "right of return." Its website espouses the following position on the "return" issue: "The plight of Palestinian refugees needs to be resolved equitably and in a manner that promotes peace and is consistent with international law. Within the framework of an equitable agreement, the refugees should have a role in determining their future, whether pursuing return, resettlement, or financial compensation. Israel should recognize its share of responsibility for the ongoing refugee crisis and for its resolution." Sounds reasonable to me. This is not a call for dismantling Israel. Just because JVP also associates with other BDS groups with more extreme positions regarding the right of return, doesn't mean they support those positions themselves. Groups with overlapping goals and tactics collaborate all the time without necessarily endorsing all each other's positions. Similarly, the Israeli public, broadly speaking, supports the Israeli settler movement, though large segments of that public also disagree with some of the specific positions and actions of the settlers.
The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement has three main objectives: end the 1967 occupation, end "apartheid" in Israel and a call for the "right of return." Omar Barghouti, a major leader of the BDS movement, has stated that ending the 1967 occupation is the least important, while the "right of return" is the foremost. In other words, BDS supports ending Israel and forcing upon Israeli Jews a "return" of some 5 million Palestinian Arabs into Israel, rendering Israeli Jews a minority. Jewish Voice for Peace supports the BDS movement, proudly and uncritically. JVP on its own web site cannot even commit itself to support Israel's right to exist. For its entire existence since the mid-90s JVP has co-sponsored numerous programs and lectures and rallies with numerous anti-Israel organizations. JVP is anti-Israel and aids and abets Israel's enemies in the international campaign to demonize and delegitimize Israel. If JVP doesn't like being designated as "anti-Israel" they can change their behavior. Actions speak louder than words, and to date, their actions show them to be anti-Israel.
Mr. Foxman is disingenuous when he claims that he supports the right to criticize Israel. His real message is: you may criticize, but only within parameters approved by me. You may criticize, but only mildly. You may criticize, but only if you criticize both sides equally (a guarantee, of course, that nothing will happen, since nobody will feel any actual pressure to do anything.) If these people think Israel bears more of the blame than the other side, then they are perfectly entitled to say so. It does not make them anti-Israel; it just means they think Israel is wrong in this debate. Period. Mr. Foxman, if you really support free speech, stand up for it.

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