Legal Expert: Controversy Surrounding Israeli Radical Miko Peled Serves as Jew-Hatred Litmus Test for Anti-Israel Groups
A legal expert and founder of a conservative blog told The Algemeiner that the recent controversy surrounding offensive rhetoric used by radical Israeli activist Miko Peled serves as a litmus test of antisemitism for two prominent anti-Israel groups.
Legal Insurrection founder William Jacobson, a professor at the Cornell Law School, said he is gauging the reactions of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) to comments made by Israeli anti-Zionist Miko Peled, who referred to Jews as “sleazy thieves” on social media.
“The negative stereotypes of Jews employed by BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement) activists test the claims of JVP and SJP that they are only anti-Zionist or anti-occupation, not antisemitic,” Jacobson said. “That puts JVP and SJP in the problematic position of seeking solidarity with people who damage that narrative.”
After Peled’s comments were publicized, the Princeton Committee on Palestine and San Diego State University SJP cancelled scheduled lectures by the anti-Israel activist, while a third — Drew University SJP — allowed him to speak on campus as planned.
Though the initial response of JVP leaders was to condemn and distance themselves from Peled’s antisemitic rhetoric, on Tuesday, following apparent backlash and “varied feedback from members and allies,” Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson issued a statement asserting that she and JVP had “overreacted…and regret the impact it has had on Miko.”
That being said, we do feel that the language Miko used was reckless and inappropriate. As a Jewish Israeli man with assumed legitimacy on this issue, we believe it is incumbent upon Miko and all of us with that kind of privilege to be extra careful with our language. Trafficking in stereotypes about Jews is wrong and harmful, and it can result in making it harder for other activists, particularly Palestinians and other people of color, as well as student groups being targeted daily, to do their essential work.
However, in this case we clearly made a mistake. We should have first communicated our concerns to Miko privately, and then if necessary, been clear in our public statements that it was a critique of the language being used, not of Miko himself.
According to Jacobson, Vilkomerson’s back-track indicates that there “appears to have been intense pressure put on [her] by anti-Israel activists who felt she was selling out to the Zionists. Peled, who openly seeks the destruction of Israel, apparently has a following among JVP members and supporters.”
He added that the current “infighting” over the Peled controversy is occurring “among people who demonize Israel precisely because it is a Jewish majority state. It is no surprise they traffic in negative stereotypes of Jews.”
Anti-Jewish language is “necessary to BDS because it is a settler colonial ideology that seeks to dominate other causes and subjugate them to the anti-Israel cause under the doctrine of intersectionality [which states that all social justice movements are interrelated],” Jacobson said. “BDS makes the Jews the center of the world’s problems — from ‘Ferguson to Gaza,’ as BDS activists say.”
“The winner here, if there is one, is the truth. The ugly underbelly of the BDS movement has been exposed.” Jacobson said.
Reactions from anti-Israel student groups varied. The post prompted the cancellation of Peled’s lecture at Princeton some three hours before he was scheduled to speak.
SJP at Drew said that while it is “totally against antisemitism,” it wished “to continue with this event to address the topic that he is scheduled for and where his expertise lies.”
“Our scheduled speaker, Miko Peled, had made offensive remarks on Twitter. After consulting with many Jewish and non-Jewish allies, they made it clear that the tweets were offensive,” the group said in a statement on Facebook. “Although we believe that these comments are not reflective of Mr. Peled’s principles or character, continuing to host the event without a resolution of this issue would not be appropriate.”
Over the years, Peled has made repeated defamatory remarks against Israel and Jews.
For instance, he has advocated for a “single-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calling for the end of Israel as a Jewish state. He has also likened Israel to an “apartheid” state and referred to Gaza as an “enormous concentration camp.”
On his blog, Peled expresses support for the BDS movement, which he believes will lead to “a secular democracy where all Israelis and Palestinians live as equals…in our shared homeland.”