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JVP just declared itself anti-Zionist and it's already shifting the conversation

‘We often play the role of being able to say things that the rest of the movement cannot,’ Jewish Voice for Peace director Rebecca Vilkomerson says in a wide-ranging interview about the group’s decision to come out as opposed to Zionism, how to fight the conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, and recent attacks on Black-Palestine solidarity.

Jewish Voice for Peace’s announcement that it opposes Zionism, published quietly on its website earlier this month, has thus far come and gone without much fanfare or public attention. It simply wasn’t surprising for many.

“This doesn’t change anything about our focus or our political analysis,” JVP’s executive director, Rebecca Vilkomerson says, explaining that the change is not a huge departure for the organization in either practice or principle. “It just names something that hasn’t been named before.”

Naming, however, can have powerful repercussions. Just a few days after the statement went up on JVP’s website, an umbrella group of Jewish organizations in Boston voted to expel any of its members who partner with anti-Zionist Jewish groups.

In many ways, JVP’s decision to declare and formalize its position on Zionism is reflective of the political moment in the United States at large, but also specifically regarding Israel-Palestine. After years in which its supporters took great pains to try and prevent Israel from becoming a divisive, partisan issue, it seems all sides are drawing lines around each other — and just like a growing number of issues, both sides seem to be embracing those divisions, hardening their positions, and demanding litmus tests of varying degrees from their supporters.

The decision to adopt those lines, however, is not always just about standing on a particular side but also creating space for others to fit within them. While much of the demand to make the change came from within the organization, Vilkomerson says in a telephone interview last week, another part had a lot to do with JVP’s Palestinian partners, helping frustrate attempts to label Palestinian activists as anti-Semitic, and making it easier for JVP chapters to enter into explicitly anti-Zionist coalitions.

Rebecca Vilkomerson, Director of Jewish Voice for Peace, at the organization's offices in Brooklyn, NY, January 23, 2019 (Kevin Hagen for +972 Magazine)

‘There’s no doubt some people will leave JVP because of it. I hope it will be very few people and that a lot of people will stay even if they feel uncomfortable with it right now,’ says Rebecca Vilkomerson, Director of Jewish Voice for Peace, seen at the organization’s offices in Brooklyn on January 23, 2019. (Photo: Kevin Hagen for +972 Magazine)

At least temporarily, the result has been advancing a small shift in the discourse about Zionism. This week, J Street, one of the only other progressive Jewish political outfits on the national scene, came to the defense of JVP and the Workmen’s Circle, the organization that was threatened with banishment from the Boston Jewish community over its ties to JVP.

“We reject the contention that Jewish identity itself or inclusion in the organized Jewish community demands support for Israel or Zionism,” J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami wrote, while reaffirming that his organization is Zionist and proudly pro-Israel. “We do not accept the contention that all anti-Zionism should be automatically defined as anti-Semitism.”

A change is clearly happening in the way that American Jews talk — and think about — Israel and its ruling ideology. +972 Magazine spoke with Rebecca Vilkomerson about why and what it means that JVP has declared itself to be “unequivocally opposed” to Zionism, but perhaps more interestingly, the broader political moment for the question of Israel-Palestine.

The following has been edited for length and clarity.

Why did JVP publicize this change now? I imagine that it was a long time coming but was there something about this political moment?

“It’s been a very long and intensive process. We actually started talking about doing this in 2016. It turned out to be the perfect political moment to be launching this for a variety of reasons, but we didn’t know that was necessarily going to be true when we started.”

“When we became a national organization in 2005 we made a conscious decision not to describe ourselves as either Zionist or anti-Zionist, or to talk about Zionism at all, because we thought it was a way we could actually state our positions and organize Jewish people.”

“A good portion of our membership had been agitating for some time for us to have a clear stance on Zionism. Many of our Palestinian allies have also been active around talking about Zionism as the root cause of oppression to Palestinians. So especially as chapters were building coalitions, the lack of clarity was confusing and hard for our partners to understand sometimes, and sometimes put barriers in building coalitions.”

“But most relevant to this political moment is that by not having a stance, we were really allowing the opposition to define what Zionism is — and the conversation about it. The increasing push for anti-Zionism to be defined exclusively as anti-Semitism is problematic, and in order to better respond to that we needed to have clarity about our own position.”

How do you address that question beyond your supporters?

“Obviously there are people who are anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist and there are people who mask their anti-Semitism with anti-Zionist language. That’s a given, but that doesn’t paint anti-Zionism as concept.”

“Ever since [the advent of] Zionism there has been anti-Zionism within Jewish communities. One of the things we’re most interested and excited about talking about is Jewishness beyond Zionism, decoupling Zionism from Jewishness, and exploring what Jewishness is like beyond Zionism.”

“The other piece is how important it is for people other than Palestinians [to be] talking about anti-Zionism not being anti-Semitism. When anti-Zionism is defined as anti-Semitism, that means that Palestinians can’t speak of their own oppression without being called anti-Semitic, which is obviously an exceptionally damaging and dangerous thing for someone to say. What it does is silence Palestinian voices from being able to talk about their lived experiences. It’s really important as part of a broader movement to be able to stake out a position that says thoroughly that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism.”

Linda Sarsour, who has been accused of anti-Semitism for her support of BDS and opposition to Zionism, is seen at a rally against Trump's immigration ban in New York City, January 29, 2017. (Shutterstock.com)

Linda Sarsour, who has been accused of anti-Semitism for her support of BDS and opposition to Zionism, is seen at a rally against Trump’s immigration ban in New York City, January 29, 2017. (Shutterstock.com)

I assume that the original decision not to stake a position on Zionism was largely based on — and a lot of other activists have made the same decision — a desire to increase your appeal, to not make it a litmus test for people who want the same moral outcomes but have trouble getting over that particular word or that concept. You said that a lot of the pressure to publish this statement came from within your membership. Has there also been push-back from JVP members?

“So far the feeling is that it’s not so surprising to people that we’re taking this position. This [statement] doesn’t change anything about our campaigns or our focus or our political analysis, it just names something that hasn’t been named before.”

“There’s no doubt that some people will leave JVP because of it. I hope it will be very few people and that a lot of people will stay and struggle with us even if they feel uncomfortable with it right now. I hope we’ve created the conditions for [those people to] still feel heard and respected and seen.”

“For the longest time it felt like the word Zionism ended conversations instead of allowing them. A few years ago we also thought the word apartheid ended conversations, and our opinion shifted on that. There was a shift at some point where it felt like avoiding the word was making it harder to have conversations. I hope it’s clear from this statement that we are not creating some new litmus test. The idea is not that people have to sign on the dotted line in order to be part of [JVP].”

The other side likes to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism by conflating Zionism with Israel and Israel with the people in Israel, thereby suggesting that being anti-Zionist is to threaten the safety and physical presence of Jewish Israelis. How do you go about separating an ideology and a regime from a people or a state? How do you counter that, particularly beyond the ranks of your membership? 

“We need to work to detangle and decouple them. It’s important to understand that was a specific tactic developed by a number of Jewish organizations to specifically define Israel as ‘the Jew of the world,’ essentially, so that critiquing Israel became the equivalent of being anti-Semitic. It’s very effective and very dangerous because it cheapens the definition of what is actual anti-Semitism.”

“The idea that it should shield Israel from criticism because anything said against Israel is inherently anti-Semitic — that concept has been decades in the making. You see it now in the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism and all its variants that are being passed in various ways and places in Europe and the United States.”

“To a large extent that’s the work. Part of challenging that more effectively is also talking about what real anti-Semitism is and how to separate it out.”

One of the things that defines this political moment for me is that it feels like there are lines being drawn around people on this issue. The more that happens, the more people are willing to embrace those divisions and say, ‘you know what, I am on this side or that side.’ What’s the best-case outcome of that? As an organizer, how do you build on that momentum?

“Especially among liberals, and liberal Zionists, there is an increasing pressure to choose. There’s a way that this political moment writ large is forcing people to really grapple with what their values are — and being consistent with them.”

“To a large extent, the audience that we want to reach are liberal Zionists. There are people who still identify as Zionist, who are uncomfortably Zionist, or who are Zionists but with reservations, and those are the people who I think are moving right now. Some of them are saying ‘I can’t let [Zionism] go and therefore I’m going to throw in with the camp on the right.’ And some people are like, ‘okay, it’s the Zionism that I have to let go of and stick to my values.’ As very painful as it is, that’s one of the opportunities of the Trump regime: facing the contradictions.”

“We’re in a battle and we don’t know who’s going to win and it’s very disconcerting and terrifying because of the stakes. I’m talking way beyond Israel-Palestine, more of the general direction of United States, but it’s creating incredible opportunities.”

“What’s definitely happening, and the Michelle Alexander article is a complete distillation of that, is the fight for Palestinian rights is being very much integrated into the progressive left agenda. It’s starting to be seen standard that if you support single-payer healthcare, if you support immigrant rights, and support the fight for $15, then you’re also going to support Palestinian rights.”

What do you make of the recent attacks on Black-Palestine solidarity?

“One thing is that it’s much easier to attack black people than white people — because the country is racist. Black people are much more vulnerable to criticism and critique than white people who have other kinds of privilege, so that’s part of what’s happening.”

“People supporting Israel recognize the danger and the strength of the coalition that’s emerging among people who are supporting Palestinian rights. People understand the power of solidarity and consciousness and moral leadership being brought to bear, especially given the history of civil rights in this country and the parallels.”

“I think the Jewish community in the United States is extremely proud still, and I would say even resting on its laurels a little too much on the ways that Jews were part of the Civil Rights struggle. Jewish identity in the United States, especially a certain kind of liberal progressive Jewish identity, is very tied up in having been good allies to the black community in the United States, and so to be challenged on the basis of a civil rights struggle is very threatening, and potentially very powerful.”

Jewish activists and allies rally as part of a Jewish Day of Action to End Police Violence, in Brookline, MA on December 16, 2014. (Tess Scheflan /Activestills.org)

Jewish activists and allies rally as part of a Jewish Day of Action to End Police Violence, in Brookline, MA on December 16, 2014. (Tess Scheflan /Activestills.org)

Somebody recently described JVP to me as a Jewish backing block for Palestine organizing in the United States. Is part of the strategy that simply being Jewish and anti-Zionist is a way of educating people that Zionism is not Judaism?

“Absolutely. That’s why it felt really important in the statement to say that we are drawing on this history of anti-Zionism that has always been concurrent with the history of Zionism and that has really been obscured until recently — that has always been a part of Jewish community.”

“The way you just raised the question hit on one of the key things that we grapple with — and when I say grapple, I mean in a healthy way. We often do play the role of being able to say things that the rest of the movement cannot say — to our Jewish communities — and we often take a lot of heat for it, obviously.”

“For a lot of people JVP is part of their Jewishness, and I’ve had many people say that they’ve come back to their Jewishness or come into their Jewishness through JVP. That’s not part of our mission statement but I think it’s a very beautiful byproduct of what we do and that I think people miss sometimes when they think of us just as the Jewish backing block for the Palestine movement. It also brought along a very vibrant Jewish community for those people who wanted it be that.”

It seems like there have been more and more articles either warning about or declaring a schism between Jewish Americans and Jewish Israelis. First off, do you think that’s actually happening? And secondly, is it good for the struggle for justice in Israel-Palestine or for creating an anti-Zionist, non-Israel-dependent Jewish identity in the United States?

“It does seem to be true because Jewish Israelis are increasingly right wing […] and Jewish Americans are still extremely strongly Democratic and extremely strongly connected to traditional progressive, liberal-to-left values, and people’s positions on Palestine have been very strongly shifting”

“It does seem like there’s a real split.”

“What would be good for the movement is if there was a really vibrant resistance movement inside of Israel. It’s great that American Jews are moving on this issue. There is something deeply sad, especially for those of us with really strong ties to Jews inside of Israel, that there is that sense of separation and difference. It may be what has to happen but I think what would be ideal would be is if there were something similar happening [in Israel], which I don’t see really happening.”

Do you think that those people who have who have changed their view on Zionism are coming to an understanding of Zionism was a well-intentioned original sin — looking for a solution for a genuine real problem but with the wrong answer? Do they feel they were lied to about what Zionism meant? Or is it that people feel like it’s been hijacked by the wrong Zionism and therefore they can’t support any Zionism anymore?

“It’s different for different people, obviously.”

“We wanted to acknowledge that other forms of Zionism have existed but that was what was most important was to talk about the Zionism that won. That you can’t excuse Zionism any more by saying ‘but there are all these different steams of Zionism that existed at the time and you could have lots of conversations.'”

“There are different camps among JVP members about whether it matters that there were kinds of Zionism that in an alternate universe could have gone in a different direction or whether it was just doomed from the start because it’s an inherently flawed ideology that places Jews above others in practice. The important thing that we all agree on is what it looks like now.”

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    1. Sheldon Ranz

      Social Democrats USA supports BDS within a Democratic Zionist framework. There is no need for Jews to be be anti-Zionist to support and be active in the BDS movement. The JVP rejection of Zionism is not worded against one Zionism but against all of them.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bill kransdorf

        Should white people have a national home?

        Reply to Comment
        • Sheldon Ranz

          No, Bill, because white people are not an ethnic group but a race (Caucasians).

          Reply to Comment
          • Tommy Goldberg

            Should any ethnic group have a national home where members of the groups have rights not afforded to other citizens?

            Virtually every Western democracy has answered that question in the negative. Except Israel, of course.

            Reply to Comment
          • Sheldon Ranz

            I agree with you on your question. Democratic Zionists support Israel’s Declaration of Independence. Left-wing State Zionists do not, as you pointed out with Meretz.

            Reply to Comment
      • Tommy Goldberg

        I’ll be a proud Zionist the moment someone shows me an actually existing, relevant stream of Zionism that repudiates Jewish supremacy. Even the leftmost Zionists (represented on the Israeli political scene by Meretz) will say something alone the lines of “Oh, we totally need to treat Arab Israelis equally in all respects — as long as we make sure that no Arab ever has a chance of becoming prime minister.”

        I’m sorry, but that way of thinking is just incompatible with “one (wo)man, one vote” and the very foundation of Western democracy.

        Reply to Comment
    2. UnimpressedRealist

      Leftist Israelis and secretly centrists in Israel have all reached this same conclusion. Its just taking them more time to realize what they have to do next and some want to delay the inevitable but the longer they wait the worse it will get.

      Israel in its current form of blood lust, blood shed and capitulating to fascism if not actually collaborating with it, is beyond redemption. Its time for a revolution.

      Its time Jews put on those old shoes of rebellion and become the revolutionaries they have always been and break down those walls, those check points and those barriers, take the hands of Palestinians and march together into a federation of peoples in the land of peoples.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Roche

      Why would anyone believe her when she personally went out of her way to ruin the lives of Greta Berlin, Alison Weir and others because though they had nothing at all to do with JVP, they were accused (quite falsely) of being anti- Semitic, so JVP jumped on them and made sure to condemn their very important work?
      Historically, JVP had lots of Zionists, albeit liberal Zionists and I don’t believe they are going away.
      Rebecca Vilkomerson has always been so duplicitous that I have trouble getting excited over this statement.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Jola

      Great news on JVP. Not sure the various streams or sects of or in Zionism matters much given the core of the ideology is based on jewish supremacy which is like all supremacist movements or ideologies – vile. I hope the days when Jews sincerely fought for human rights and equality soon return and they stand shoulder to shoulder with the palestinians to fight the good fight.

      Reply to Comment
      • Tal. C

        Yes indeed great news, we now know exactly where they stand regarding the legitimacy of Israel’s existence. They oppose it because that’s what anti-Zionism means.
        Zionism isn’t Jewish supremacy, it’s the legitimate existence of Israel as the Jewish national country. it’s amazing how many people who talk about Zionism have very little idea what that means.

        Reply to Comment
        • john

          zionism is
          a colonial project
          of land settlement

          Reply to Comment
          • Tal. C

            Incorrect. Like I said, many people just seem to be oblivious of what Zionism means and apply it to whatever version they seem to prefer which incidentally usually matches their anti-Israel sentiments. See Bruce’s answer below for an example. Zionism doesn’t apply to specific borders Bruce, you can still be a Zionist and support the two state solution like many Israelis do.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Tal C, I think this misses the point that Bruce makes about current practice, and that Vilkomerson also very clearly makes:

            “We wanted to acknowledge that other forms of Zionism have existed but that was what was most important was to talk about the Zionism that won. That you can’t excuse Zionism any more by saying ‘but there are all these different steams of Zionism that existed at the time and you could have lots of conversations.’”
            “There are different camps among JVP members about whether it matters that there were kinds of Zionism that in an alternate universe could have gone in a different direction or whether it was just doomed from the start because it’s an inherently flawed ideology that places Jews above others in practice. The important thing that we all agree on is what it looks like now.”

            Reply to Comment
          • Tal. C

            Nothing you say or do is going to change what Zionism is. A century ago it was the establishment of the Jewish country in its ancestral land. Now when Israel exists again for 70 years it means the validity, protection and continual existence of the Jewish nation in Israel. Groups like Hamas and Neturey Karta are anti-Zionists, they deny the legitimate existence of Israel.

            Reply to Comment
        • Bruce Gould

          @Tal C: In practice Zionism is the ongoing expulsion of people from their homes, justified with legal mumbo-jumbo and nonsense about ‘ancestral homelands’


          Peace Now: “This is part of an organized and systematic campaign of settlers, with the assistance of government agencies, to expel entire communities in East Jerusalem and to establish settlements in their stead. Dozens of other families face the risk of eviction by legal proceedings in which settlers and government officials exploit discriminatory laws that allow Jews to return to pre-1948 assets yet forbid Palestinians from doing the same.

          Reply to Comment
    5. Lewis from Afula

      What’s the main difference between the JVP leaders and Donald Trump?
      Donald Trump has Jewish grandkids !
      Hah aha ha

      Reply to Comment
    6. Bud Hensgen

      As a non-Jewish American liberal, long supportive of social justice for Palestinians and critical of lsrael’s occupation of the West Bank and blockade of Gaza, I am happy to see JVP openly opposing Zionism. I guess the question I have is how open can JVP be about the implications of opposing Zionism, i.e. maintaining support for the State of Israel, but opposing the Jewish State of Israel — the existence of Israel as a Jewish state?

      As a supporter of BDS, I have long argued that, in the long run, BDS can save the state of Israel, by bringing Israeli Jews to their senses and helping them realize that Israel cannot survive in the long term while suppressing the rights of 5 million Arabs/Palestinians.

      But my Jewish friends, all fine people, can’t accept BDS because they see it as the end of the Jewish State of Israel. So how can I talk about my support for the State of Israel while opposing a Jewish State of Israel, which by definition suppresses rights of Palestinians? And will JVP openly call for the end of the Jewish State of Israel?

      Reply to Comment
    7. Harry Appelman

      I’m disappointed to see JVP take this step, and I agree with the points made in the first 2 comments above (David Mandel and Abe Simhony).

      The first step is to define what the explosive term “Zionism” means, as Mandel notes.

      Ms. Vilkomerson’s reasoning is faulty — she leaves out those who still believe that a “Liberal Zionism” is possible. She says:
      “Some of them are saying ‘I can’t let [Zionism] go and therefore I’m going to throw in with the camp on the right.’ And some people are like, ‘okay, it’s the Zionism that I have to let go of and stick to my values.’ ”

      There is a third category she completely leaves out: those of us who believe that a Jewish state within internationally accepted (pre-1967) borders can exist without occupying and subjugating Palestinians. Obviously Netanyahu (like most Israeli leaders since 1967) has no interest in such a just solution, but that doesn’t mean that the concept itself is inherently impossible. “Zionism”, in this definition, is certainly not incompatible with liberal principles.

      I recognize that this would require a major change politically in Israel, however many of us think that such a change is still more realistic than whatever path (never specified) that would somehow get us to a single binational state that truly granted equal rights to all. Now THAT would require a political earthquake, not just in Israel but also in the US.

      Reply to Comment
      • Nathanael

        It’s about time. Zionism is racism, as the UN determined back in the 1970s.

        There should be no “Catholic state” (like the ones from the Middle Ages which murdered people of other religions), no “Buddhist state” (the fascist government of Myanmar is trying to create one by murdering all the ethnic minorities), and no “Jewish state” (denying citizenship to non-Jewish people and murdering ethnic minorites, naturally) — the very concepts are bigoted.

        The history of Rwanda and Burundi, with the repeated attempts to create a “Hutu State” and a “Tutsi State”, or South Africa’s apartheid-era “white state” with “black homelands”, show us the evil path which is followed by making religious or ethnic states. It must stop.

        Many Orthodox Jews rejected Zionism from day one as being contrary to Jewish law; the rabbinical tradition said that Israel could only be restored after the nations all agreed to it; if it was attempted to restore it by force and violence it was contrary to the will of the Almighty and would end in tears. Their followers remain living peacefully and happily in Iran, the US, and many many other places.

        It is interesting to see that the most traditional and the most modern branches of Judaism agree: Zionism is wrong. Perhaps it is because they both listen to the 2000-year-old wisdom of the rabbis (as do many non-Jews!)

        By contrast, Zionists now ignore the teachings of the rabbis in favor of a brute and immoral, and frankly fascist, “support Israel’s government, right or wrong” attitude.

        Reply to Comment
    8. Edgo

      I call myself a Critical Zionist, neither a post- nor an anti-Zionist. Jews, who are a people (which is up to them to decide like it was up to “Negroes” in the 60’s to decide what they should be called) have a right to their own nationalism. I still believe in the original purposes of Zionism: to create a refuge for persecuted Jews, especially those in danger of being murdered, and to create a locus for Jewish cultural renewal. The Jewish connection to Palestine is a historical and cultural anthropological one — as it is for Palestinians — not a divine right. But Zionism could and should have tried to realize its purposes in as little of Palestine as possible, instead of its constant expansionism. The latter led to the current Occupation and predictable moral, political and cultural decay in Israel and amongst Pro-Israel people elsewhere, Jew and Gentile alike. What Zionism has become is what requires opposition, though Israel (like any other state) must be very extensively reformed, not destroyed which itself would be a huge, bloody human rights violation. Confederation of independent states of Israel and Palestine with citizens of each free to travel back and forth and to live in either state (as citizens of their original state, not the one they settle in) is, I suggest, the way forward. Unrealistic? No, it might prove less bloody and degrading than continued construction of the one state Israel is almost through creating which, we can assume, will be an apartheid state more explicitly than now.

      Reply to Comment
    9. This is a courageous and principled decision – to define Zionism for what it is …a form of settler colonialism that persists in the post-colonial period. I applaud those in JVP that have come out in defense of this decision. Settler colonialism is by its very nature discriminates, is racist,be it in Algeria, South Africa, Australia, the US of A, or Israel. Yes there have been “liberal Zionists”, those who believed there could be some kind of co-existence with Palestinians. These elements have never held state power in Israel and it looks like they never will as the country surges to the right. America’s military handmaiden in the Middle East.Every day one reads of a new outrage committed by the IDF against the Palestinian other Arab people. I don’t need to elaborate; it is well known whether it’s Gideon Levy, the Electronic Intifada, or the British Guardian that one reads..

      Thank you JVP. I am proud of this organization, of its courage, its activism, its struggle against all forms of racism and bigotry…it’s getting back to some basic Jewish values, that the history of Israel has trampled upon…

      Reply to Comment
    10. DEvorah Marks

      JVP is following in the inspirational footstep of The Bund-which in 1870s rejected Zionism as being colonialist Members of The Bund were widely vilified but stood their ground So it seems- tat in 2019- we have come a full circle VP is to be praised an supported for taking a principled stand Undoubtedly it will be vitriolically vilified Whether agree with this decision or not- one thing we can all agree on is that JVP is enacting Jewish Values

      Reply to Comment
    11. Bernard Bohbot

      Gibberish… One can be anti-Zionist without wanting to destroy Israel. Arguing that all countries have a right to exist except for Israel is clearly discriminatory. As for those who argue that Jews have no right to self-determination because Israel is a ”colonial-settler” state, keep in mind that the Arabs have colonized North Africa and dispossessed the Berbers. Does it mean that these countries should disappear? By the way, the Jews did not go to Palestine to enrich themselves. They went there to escape persecution.

      JVP has no credibility whatsoever. In 2016, it endorsed Black Lives Matter after it accused Israel of perpetrating genocide – despite the fact that this conflict killed only 100,000 people over the last 100 years. Rebecca Vilkomerson is no different than the Jewish members of the defunct Yevsektsiya, which attacked the Jews for the sake of the Bolshevik Revolution.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben


        I think this might be an example of people angrily talking past each other. Yes one can be anti-Zionist without wanting to destroy Israel, and I think Villkomerson is speaking intelligently to that, and likewise one COULD be Zionist without wanting to destroy the Palestinians but, as Vilkomerson says, “We wanted to acknowledge that other forms of Zionism have existed but that was what was most important was to talk about the Zionism that won….The important thing that we all agree on is what it looks like now.” You’ve got the poohbahs of the party in Israel totally dominant now for decades (Likud) saying that there will never be a Palestinian state and meaning it and only paying polite public lip service, at best, for the consumption of outsiders, to the contrary proposition. One can only entrench an interminable occupation and imprisonment of an entire other people for so long, and yet pose as a western liberal democracy and profess to being the victim for so long, before uncomfortable debunking opposition movements like JVP (and BDS) increasingly take the stage and assert themselves. JVP did not come out of nowhere, and the analogy to Bolsheviks and the Yevsektsiya does not take that history into account.

        Clearly it is radical and threatening to think in terms of “Jewishness beyond Zionism, decoupling Zionism from Jewishness, and exploring what Jewishness is like beyond Zionism.” I don’t think Vilkomerson and JVP want to “destroy Israel” but they do have——and again, this evolved in the context of a 50-year occupation with no end in sight and a self-coronating Israeli PM-King clearly doing everything he can to continue that occupation interminably, as a strategy——a very different concept of what is Israel and what is Israel’s relationship to Jewishness than the mass of Israelis and its right wing American supporters at this time.

        As far as Black lives Matter, yes, people spout ignorant things. “Genocide” is not the proper word (arguably, though “apartheid” is the proper word), any more than the ignorance displayed by Tamika Mallory is the proper thing. (But you can also find plenty of right wing near-genocidal statements towards the Palestinians in these comment sections for sure.) But I don’t think JVP endorsed the “genocide” charge of BLM.

        Tamika Mallory ignorantly, crudely and painfully parrots an anti-Semitic trope, “Jews are good with money,” but is educable and on “a journey now to learn more about my Jewish siblings and their history.” (See “Women’s March Jewish outreach director: ‘Anti-Semitism can be unlearned'” by Mairav Zonszein, January 29.)

        The president of the United States, however, told Republican Jews “You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money…Is there anyone in this room who doesn’t negotiate deals? Probably more than any room I’ve ever spoken.” And there’s obviously a whole lot else when it comes to Trump:

        And he is completely uneducable (I defy anyone to say that Trump is educable.) And those on the Right fall all over themselves to excuse him and Benjamin Netanyahu treats him as his best buddy.

        Where’s the outrage?

        Reply to Comment
    12. Ellyn Harris

      Tell the Palestinian story; for 60 years I’ve never read or seen any news that explains what Palestinians want except to have the land of Israel without Jews.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        You should widen your reading.

        Reply to Comment
    13. Dave Kreiselman

      And after all these incessant demands that Israelis should satisfy liberal American Jewish principles by cutting off the branch that they’re standing on by people (who by the way, have all benefited, whether they like it or not, from their own country’s on-going efforts to exploit the economies and resources of other countries and peoples around the world, the requisite outraged FB comments and angry Twitter posts notwithstanding) are surprised when Israelis are seemingly mute, even dismissive, while liberal American Jews are being massacred in synagogue. I’m not saying Israelis shit ice cream, but all of this dissembling carries a price tag.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Wesley Parish

      Perhaps the issue could be put this way: anti-Zionism as expressed by JVP and likeminded people is a repudiation of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians; anti-Semitism is the fear and hatred of Jews as Jews, for merely being Jewish.

      Conflating anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is then conflating policies with people.

      I found much to my surprise that I had had Jewish ancestors and thus Jewish relatives in Krakow, Poland, before the 1940s. They were “ethnically cleansed” from Poland. The Israeli policies that I and JVP agree on are repugnant, are ones of ethnically cleansing Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

      Dare I say I find it morally repugnant to the highest degree to conflate my Polish Jewish relatives with Israeli policies that are in essence the same as those that murdered my relatives? To say in effect that Israeli policies of ethnic cleansing have the same value as my relatives?

      That’s what AIPAC, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, ADL, etc, are saying.

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      • Ben

        @Wesley Parish: Well put. Clearly stated. We need more of this kind of clarity. I think Unsworth and Kreiselman, below, confuse important things and between themselves unfortunately generate more heat than light. I think “A Jewish homeland” or “homeland of the Jewish people” is a real and fine thing and an important thing both for protection and non-nationalistic self-determination reasons. And “a Jewish homeland” is crucially something different than “A Jewish state” or a “nation state of the Jewish people.” I don’t think, per Unsworth, that Jewishness is reducible simply to “a religion” and we are done with it. At the same time I don’t think Judaism or the Jewish people require a “nation state” as the right wing means that any more than White Anglo-Saxon French Catholics require a nation state in the sense the right wing means this.
        What is needed is a non-racialized homeland concept within a larger state that offers built in rock-solid protections for all. Via an American style system of check and balances with modification for the local particularities. Not an easy thing to accomplish. But this is where we are after fifty years of occupation and creeping annexation and surrender to settler crazinesss. Actions have consequences. The bed is made and the parties will somehow have to lie in it as already made by them. Whether that gets accomplished in a two-state or one-state version is up to the Israelis (who have all the power) but they seem to be doing their determined best to make only the one-state version, or possibly, a confederation arrangement, possible.

        The distinction between “Jewish homeland” and “Jewish state” in this context is gotten at with exemplary clarity by Noam Sheizaf:

        Published September 11, 2013
        Why I oppose recognizing Israel as a Jewish state

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        • Dave Kreiselman

          I’m not confused about anything, Ben. On the other hand your thinking seems cognitively muddled. We are all animals on the Serengeti fighting over the same piece of meat, except that some of us have sharper teeth than others. That said, as an Israeli, I see no reason to endanger my existence and that of my friends and family in order to satisfy the newly discovered enlightened principles of people who belong to nations and cultures that have spent the last 500 years raping and murdering their way around the world, and now have the temerity to lecture everyone else as to their behaviour. It is comical however, watching the outraged of the West stand around chagrined while everyone tells you to blow it out your ass…

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          • carmen

            What a crock of shit. Your ‘sharper teeth’ only exist because of the willingness of the west to look the other way and the complicity of the US in the continuation of the occupation and their deliberate failure to call out the crimes committed by the zionist enterprise against the palestinian people. There is no daylight between the u.s. and israel, both are colonizers (israel continues), have murdered and marginalized the indigenous people of the lands (not by some magical book) and call themselves democracies. TIMES UP.

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    15. Mark Unsworth

      The very concept of Zionism is racist as is its use to defend Israel. No religion requires a “national home” and neither being a member of a religion denotes ethnicity. A country, a state, is made up of its inhabitants who are human beings, no more no less. To enforce a difference has ominous historical echos.

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      • Dave Kreiselman

        So only Israel will be held accountable for its bad behaviours? And conversely all other countries on earth are not only to be given the latitude to behave badly, but are to suffer no consequences for having done so, except Israel? Tell me, did anyone (besides Henry Morgenthau) advocate the dismantling of Germany at the end of WW II? How about Japan, after the depredations inflicted upon the Chinese and others? Or Belgium after a hundred years of chopping off hands in the Congo? Or how America destroyed the Native American population and then put the survivors in concentration camps? Or how about what Americans did in Vietnam, or because of what China did in Tibet, or because of what the Russians did in Afghanistan, or the British in India, or the French in Algiers, etc, etc..? And with a historical double standard of such magnitude, you wonder why Jews take such rejoinders as; “anti zionism is not anti-semitism” with a large grain of salt? It beggars belief. 🙄
        As it references the Palestinians, Jews are not claiming innocence. What we are doing is “declaiming” the right of the West (and that of Gentiles and Christians in particular) to judge Jews. When Americans, Europeans, or whathaveyou can scrub the blood off of their goddamm hands, to effect the degree of moral persipacity that would be necessary for those hauling around the baggage of the pogroms, inquisitions, and genocides inflicted not only against the Jewish people but against millions of indigenous peoples around the world, be sure to let us know. What did Jesus say; “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”? You better believe it.🙄
        Zionism, as put forth by Herzl and others, is more than just the belief that Jews have the right to self-determination. It is the right for Jews to live without fear of oppression or prejudice. Nationhood, as having been determined after centuries of Inquisitions, Pogroms, and Holocausts at the hands of Christians, being the only reliable way to achieve that.
        A credible argument can be made that the creation of the State of Israel and the subsequent dislocation of the Palestinians is a direct result of the horrors inflicted upon Jews by Christians for the past 500+ years, but the problem lies with the gentile predeliction for removing themselves from the equation.

        The State of Israel was conceived in Paris at Dreyfuss’s trial in 1894 and born in a gas chamber in Poland, at Auschwitz in 1945. It was created for and still exists as a moral imperative to protect Jews from the centuries of excesses and depredations inflicted upon them by Christians. Thus the logical progression is that in order for the Jews to feel secure amongst the Muslims, they will first have to feel secure amongst the Christians. The reckoning that needs to happen to make that possible, has not yet occurred, an on-going state of affairs that has yielded predictable results. To sum up, if you’re interested in justice for the Palestinians, and whether Americans, Canadians, Europeans or whatever like it or not, it will only be by way of the Jews.

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    16. James

      Ultra-Zionists have even declared that all ethnic minorities from Israel need to be expelled or eradicated, including Druze. Many Druze are now refusing to serve on the IDF as they see the level of oppression and subjugation that is being committed against the Palestinians. So the Druze realize now that today are the Palestinians, tomorrow the Druze.

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    17. After reading your comments I have come to the conclusion that it’s more than sad that Arabs and many others hate us, but you moronic, self haters are so incredibly naive and in such denial that you should be institutionalized.

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