By MITCHELL BARD
According to its website, “Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is guided by a vision of justice, equality and freedom for all people. We unequivocally oppose Zionism because it is counter to those ideals.”
In rationalizing this position, JVP displays arrogance, myopia, paternalism, and disregard for facts and history. Its positions are not just anti-Israel, but racist and antisemitic.
That very first sentence quoted above from JVP’s “Our Approach to Zionism” page misrepresents Zionism. The definition of Zionism is the belief that the Jewish people are a nation entitled to self-determination in their homeland, which is Israel. It says nothing specifically about justice, equality, and freedom; but in its ultimate expression, namely, the State of Israel, it provides all of these to its citizens (and non-citizen residents).
JVP lies when it claims that Israeli Jews have more rights than others, and that Zionism is a “settler-colonial movement.” All citizens, Jews and non-Jews, have equal rights under Israeli law. The canard that Zionists are colonialists is popular with the extreme left, which misuses the word to tar Israel.
Colonialism means living by exploiting others, but the Zionists did not return to their homeland for that purpose. As philosopher Martin Buber explained:
Our settlers do not come here as do the colonists from the Occident to have natives do their work for them; they themselves set their shoulders to the plow and they spend their strength and their blood to make the land fruitful. But it is not only for ourselves that we desire its fertility. The Jewish farmers have begun to teach their brothers, the Arab farmers, to cultivate the land more intensively; we desire to teach them further: together with them we want to cultivate the land — to “serve” it, as the Hebrew has it. The more fertile this soil becomes, the more space there will be for us and for them. We have no desire to dispossess them: we want to live with them.
This is the true application of Zionism, not the tortured misrepresentation peddled by JVP.
It is also a lie to say that Zionism was based on the idea of a “land without a people.” Palestine was not empty prior to the birth of the Zionist movement, but neither was it teeming with people — as photos and eyewitnesses easily prove. Moreover, the influx of Arabs to Palestine — who subsequently called themselves Palestinians — was driven in part by the desire to benefit from the social and economic advances produced by the Jewish community.
Zionists were well aware of the existing population and expected that Arabs would be included in a Jewish state. And that is precisely what happened when Palestinians who remained in Israel during the 1948 war were given citizenship.
Further turning history on its head, JVP speciously claims that “Palestinian dispossession and occupation were by design.” The group knows that it was the Palestinians under the Mufti and, later, Arafat, Abbas, and Hamas who believed that the Jews have no place in their homeland. The current plight of the Palestinians is not a result of a Zionist plot; rather, it is the direct consequence of the Arab states trying to drive the Jews into the sea.
JVP neglects to mention the occupation of the West Bank by Jordan and Gaza by Egypt, during which time the Palestinians never demanded a state. Had Jordan and Egypt not attacked Israel, the Palestinians would still be living under this occupation, and no one would be talking about a two-state solution with their Arab neighbors.
Similarly, JVP overlooks decades of Palestinian terrorism directed at Jews in Israel and around the world. Instead, JVP blames Zionism for teaching Jews to “treat our neighbors with suspicion.” Conveniently, JVP forgets that Zionists withdrew from 40 percent of the West Bank and 100 percent of the Gaza Strip, and that these concessions prompted more terror.
JVP is also uninterested in abuses against Palestinians by their fellow Palestinians and other Arabs. Instead of condemning Palestinian violations of human rights, and Palestinian terrorism and glorification of murderers, JVP is “humbled by the vibrance, resilience, and steadfastness of Palestinian life, culture, and organizing.”
JVP’s idea of a Palestinian icon is Rasmea Odeh, a member of the terrorist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who was convicted of the murder of two Jewish students in the bombing of a Jerusalem supermarket. JVP invited her as a guest of honor to its 2017 national meeting. That year, the United States stripped Odeh of American citizenship and deported her after she admitted to lying about her past on her citizenship application. Contrary to JVP’s claims about her innocence, US officials reported that “other admitted participants in the bombings named Odeh as the person who chose the supermarket as a target, scouted the location and placed the bomb.”
JVP’s moral contortions are used to justify its support for the antisemitic boycott against Israel. The BDS movement’s raison d’etre is the destruction of Israel, and its proponents discriminate against Jews by asserting that only Palestinians have a right to self-determination. JVP presumes to speak for Jews, but 134 major international Jewish organizations representing a broad cross-section of Jewish religious and political opinion oppose BDS.
If there is any doubt about JVP’s interest in the destruction of Israel, one need only read their position on Palestinian refugees. They falsely state that the 1948 war (started by the invasion of five Arab armies) resulted in “millions of Palestinian refugees.” They ignore the causes of their flight, which included the expectation that the Jews would be driven into the sea, and they would return to their homes and take over those of the Jews. JVP exclusively blames Israel and paternalistically relieves Palestinians of any responsibility for their actions.
JVP’s support of the boycott is well known, but JVP had concealed its racism until now. “Jewish people of color,” JVP asserts, have “long been subjected to discrimination and violence by the Israeli government.”
Are they referring to the thousands of Ethiopian Jews whose ardent Zionism sustained them for decades before they were rescued by the Israeli government?
A coalition of Sephardi and Mizrahi groups issued a statement rejecting JVP’s perversion of their experience “as a driving force of their anti-Zionism.” The majority of Jews from Middle Eastern and African countries live in Israel, and “continue to identify as Zionist,” the statement said, and JVP’s position “perpetuates a history of racist exclusion where Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews are spoken for and spoken over.”
Arabs sometimes spuriously claim they cannot be antisemitic because they are Semites. Similarly, members of JVP cannot hide behind their Jewish background to evade the conclusion that their views are antisemitic, racist, and promote hatred and intolerance against the Jews of Israel.
(Mitchell Bard, executive director of AICE and Jewish Virtual Library, has written 24 books including “The Arab Lobby,” “Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews” and “After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.”)