Jewish Voices on College Campuses Run Away From the Truth
There Mahmoud Abbas sat in a hospital bed holding a newspaper with a vicious anti-Israel and antisemitic cartoon. The Algemeiner reported that Abbas may have produced this picture intentionally. That’s certainly not surprising, given his rant at the Palestinian National Council on April 30 that seemed to exhaust the world’s tolerance for Abbas’ antisemitism. But there are always exceptions.
Following Abbas’ rant, the “Jewish” anti-Israel group Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) seized the moment to show that they are still tone deaf to decency. Sprinkling in some Israel hatred, JVP wrote, “Anti-Semitism is not okay. Neither is leveraging anti-Semitism in service of racism against Palestinians.”
At the very least JVP doesn’t take Abbas’ antisemitism seriously, including his long history of Holocaust denial.
Yet, one cannot expect antisemitism to bother a group that cares very little about the deaths of innocent Jews. This is evidenced by many things, including their erasure and denial of Palestinian terrorism.
For example, JVP’s 2016 “Save Rasmea” campaign sought to protect Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh, who was responsible for the 1969 Supersol bombing that killed and maimed numerous Israelis and Jews, including Edward Jaffe, 21, and Leon Kanner, 20. JVP maintained, against all evidence, that Odeh had played no part in orchestrating the terror plot, and in 2017 it invited Odeh to speak to Jewish students at their conference.
JVP also hosted a vigil honoring the lives of Palestinians recently killed in Gaza and did not exclude Hamas members or violent protesters when they said Kaddish, a Jewish mourning prayer. As a result of such activism, diagnostic accusations such as “self-hating Jew” have erupted. As a “Jewish voice” they essentially legitimize antisemitism within the most radical anti-Israel circles. However, trading in antisemitism also serves a great utility for their own legitimacy among the most radical anti-Zionist groups.
JVP Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson pointed out that an effective social justice group must be careful not to lose the trust of the community that it seeks to serve. Showing callousness to the Jewish community’s interests and indifference to Jewish lives in Israel — such as when JVP co-sponsors events with groups that openly call for an intifada — is a proclamation of their commitment to work for Palestinian lives, not Jewish ones.
J Street, on the other hand, markets itself as a Jewish, progressive, and pro-Israel group. But how is using Congress to undermine the Knesset “pro-Israel”? 78 percent of Israelis are against the Iran deal. Yet, in 2016 J Street spent $500,000 on ads praising the deal and shelled out millions more endorsing candidates in favor of it.
Likewise, how can they label themselves “pro-Israel” if their rhetoric is largely a cacophony of criticism against Israel? A barrage of negativity, disproportionately directed against Israel, awaits anyone who scrolls through their social media pages.
At the J Street conference in April, former Haaretz journalist Ori Nir criticized Israel at length for its supposedly aggressive actions at the Gaza border and then said that he was “impressed” by the “classic non-violence” displayed by Palestinian protesters. When challenged, however, he admitted that “these are not non-violent demonstrations only.”
At that conference, Rabbi Jill Jacobs, the executive director of T’ruah, said this about the effect that Donald Trump’s presidency could have on antisemitism: “I don’t know how many of you had this reaction when hearing the names of Mnuchin and Cohn and all of the people advising Trump on economics. When the economy crashes, who are people going to blame?” Rather than explaining the irrationality of such hatreds to the young Jewish audience, she simply excused and legitimized it.
Jewish groups involved in educating college students must cease legitimizing antisemitism and empathizing with antisemitic hatred immediately. And though J Street and JVP are rarely lumped into the same category, both of them have taken on missions that are against the interests of the majority of the Jewish establishment and the Israeli people. One group misleadingly labels itself as “pro-Israel,” while seeking to undermine Israeli democracy using pressure in Congress and elsewhere. The other supports terrorists and claims to be “pro-peace.” Both are certainly no friends of the Jews or the Jewish state.
Hannah Grossman is a Committee for Accuracy of Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) fellow.