Panelists Prove That Jewish Voice for Peace Is Neither
On Saturday morning, panelists at a Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) conference in Chicago agreed that there’s a simple way to end global oppression and racism, and create a world overflowing with “equality, dignity and human rights.”
The solution? Simply eliminate Zionism from the planet.
“Arguing for a softer, less harsh, nicer version of capitalism, colonialism and racism won’t do it,” said Black Lives Matter leader Rachel Gilmer. “Many liberal Zionists believe that the problem with Israeli apartheid is simply a few bad policies, or Netanyahu, or the wall, but the problem is with the ideological foundation of the state itself: Zionism. Zionism, at its core, is white supremacy.”
While JVP claims that its mission is to “end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem; security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians,” speakers at the conference failed to mention any plan that keeps Israel intact. That’s not a surprise. JVP prides itself on playing a key role in the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which pressures corporations, churches and colleges to divest from Israel.
“A world without Zionism is a world without oppression” and would create “equality, dignity and human rights,” said panelist Lubnah Shomali, of the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights.
Shomali’s claim, of course, ignores human rights violations by Palestinian leaders inside the West Bank and Gaza. For example, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority use intimidation to silence journalists who dare to engage in peaceful criticism, as Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported in 2016. In addition, journalists face arrest and detention for exposing corruption, and the Palestinian Authority and Hamas flout international law by using the death penalty, torture and extrajudicial killings.
While speakers during Saturday’s “Let’s Talk About Zionism” panel tossed around Israeli “apartheid” accusations, they ignored the rights enjoyed by Israeli Arabs, including representation in the Knesset and prominent roles in Israel’s judiciary system.
Jewish Voice for Peace, therefore, let an entire panel push the message that Zionism — the belief in a national homeland and refuge for Jews — was evil.
At the conference, Ethiopian Jewish activist Efrat Yerday, an Israeli citizen, also claimed that Israel engaged in racism by forcing Ethiopian Jews to convert to rabbinical Judaism.
Ethiopian Judaism contains numerous elements that predate modern rabbinical Judaism, and the religion has similarities with Ethiopian Christianity. This has caused Israel’s rabbinate to mandate that the Ethiopians convert.
“Zionism does not only dispossess Palestinians, but it also dispossesses, in a very sophisticated way, non-white Jews. Being Jewish is highly identified with being white because of Zionism,” Yerday said. “This early fantasy that was shaped by the visionaries was to be a small Europe in the heart of the barbarian Middle East.”
Ironically, Yerday noted that Ethiopian Jews were able to peacefully demonstrate and protest against what they perceive as injustices against them in Israel. Such a display would not be allowed in neighboring Arab countries, or in areas ruled by the Palestinians.
Yerday also failed to reconcile the “Israel is racist” line with the fact that thousands of black Ethiopians have become citizens of Israel.
In 1984, Israel rescued 16,000 Ethiopian Jews in a secret airlift. That was followed by “Operation Solomon” in 1991, in which 14,000 Ethiopians were flown out of the country in just 36 hours. And Israel named an Ethiopian immigrant, Yityish “Titi” Aynaw, as Miss Israel in 2013.
Israel’s enemies have tried connecting Zionism with racism for decades, in an effort to delegitimize Israel.
During her remarks, Shomali lamented the fact that a 1975 United Nations resolution condemning Zionism as a form of racism was repealed in 1991. But her case for labeling Zionism as a form of racism relies on a cherry picked, one-sided history dating back to Israel’s 1948 declaration of independence.
“There had to be a link made between secular colonialism, secular Zionism and religious Judaism,” Shomali said. “Members of the Zionist movement went to religious Jews around the world and told them that … ‘God is telling you to come to Palestine. You are the chosen people. This is the promised land.’ [They said that Israel was] a land without people … knowing full well that Palestine was not a land without people.”
Then Zionists used the forcible transfer of populations to cleanse Palestine of Arab natives, she said.
JVP’s rabid hatred of Israel came into even clearer focus Sunday, when it gave the stage to Rasmieh Odeh, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist group. Odeh was convicted of leading two 1969 bombing attacks in Jerusalem. One of those bombings targeted a grocery store, and killed two college students.
JVP’s conference and its choice of speakers are just another reminder that Jewish Voice for Peace opposes any iteration of the Jewish state, and that its prescriptions will lead to anything but peace.