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November 28, 2017 1:04 pm

At NYU and Elsewhere, Jewish Voice for Peace Deters Positive Discourse

avatar by Bobby Miller


The NYU campus. Photo: File.

On November 8, NYU Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) — along with 26 other clubs — penned an open letter to the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life denouncing the NYU Israel Experience trip. The trip takes two dozen NYU student leaders to Israel in January, in an attempt to foster inclusivity and introduce students to the reality of life in Israel.

A coalition of student groups on campus, however, has pledged not to participate in or apply to the NYU Israel Experience in solidarity with the Palestinian “human rights movement.” A large coalition, which includes the NYU College Democrats, Queer Union and countless other student groups, supported the boycott. And their support speaks to the widespread approval of this sentiment among NYU constituents.

JVP dishonestly adheres to the principle of intersectionality when it attempts to construct artificial coalitions between groups such as the Queer Union , Muslim Christian Dialogue at NYU and NYU Freedom for North Korea; these are groups that share no common ground in regard to Israel.

Perhaps most striking is the NYU College Democrats’ support for the letter. The Democrats’ action is a testament to JVP’s efficiency and underscores the danger that JVP can pose when spreading lies and false information about Israel. This sort of intersectional branding threatens to stifle political debate on campus, and forces those who are both Zionist and progressive to choose between these two fundamental and — according to JVP — mutually exclusive values.

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Additionally, by tokenizing its Jewishness, JVP undermines and even shames fellow Jews who do not share its opinions. The NYU incident is a part of JVP’s strategic efforts to stymie meaningful dialogue and target those who do not share its view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Those views, of course, are fundamentally opposed to Israel’s existence, and whitewash Palestinian and Arab terrorism and human rights violations in order to single out Israel alone for criticism in the Middle East.

In another instance, TorchPAC, NYU’s Israeli Political Advocacy Club, announced that it was bringing Tzipi Hotovely — an Israeli politician who currently serves as a member of the Knesset — to speak on campus. The deputy minister was on a speaking tour of US universities to hear about the challenges faced by pro-Israel activists and Jewish students, and to push back against the falsehoods being disseminated about the Jewish state.

Amid pressure from JVP, TorchPAC asserted its stance as an open forum for political discourse and denounced the notion that Hotovely’s presence on campus was an endorsement of her policies. TorchPAC hosted a debrief the week after the event, where meeting attendees discussed their thoughts about the speech and expressed their own opinions.

If JVP had its way, the event would have been cancelled — and students wouldn’t have been able to come to their own views about Hotovely’s presentation. This form of censorship indicates JVP’s commitment to silencing those whose political beliefs differ from their own.

JVP views itself as an organization of “activists inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice and human rights,” according to its mission statement. It is increasingly important that NYU’s JVP internalizes these core values, instead of suppressing open discourse.

This article was contributed by NYU CAMERA Fellow Bobby Miller. 

A version of this article was originally published at Washington Square News, NYU’s campus paper.

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