Has it finally come to this, David Horowitz?? Brit Tzedek ‘savaged’ by one of your attack dogs and mercilessly so? I don’t know how the group will ever recover from the piercing analysis and savage assault leveled against it. OK ’nuff sarcasm.
Alyssa Lappen writes an ‘expose’ in Frontpage Magazine about Brit Tzedek. I should explain that I’m a proud member of Brit Tzedek, sit on the steering committee of the local Seattle chapter, and often write about its projects and events here. When the chapter chair told me the local Seattle ADL (why is it that the ADL knows all the supposed ‘dirt’ on the Jewish left, but never has the guts to call right-wing dirt for what it really is?…but that’s another issue) director wrote him about this piece and provided the link to it I decided I should take a look at it myself.
The article is the flimsiest of flimsy journalism (if you can even grace it with that term). Let’s start with the title, The Anti-Zionist Zionists. Interesting that you’d try to sully an American Jewish organization with such a calumnious name when its founder and president served as a member of the Israeli Knesset. Interesting that a group which regularly hosts speaking tours and engagements with leading Israeli Labor and Meretz politicians (and has never hosted speaking events with anyone who might remotely be considered anti-Zionist unless one tries to label the leading Palestinians sponsoring the Geneva Accords as anti-Zionist) should be called such an odious name. Perhaps Ms. Lappen also means to say that the Labor party and representatives like Amnon Mitzna, Yossi Beilin, Colette Avital, Avrum Burg and others are themselves anti-Zionist? Now, that would take some intellectual hoop-jumping but I’m sure that Lappen is up to it.
So what is the substance of her ‘charges’? It seems that Brit Tzedek hosted one of its many teleconferences for Khalil Shikaki, the most prominent pollster in Palestine and often quoted by mainstream media including the New York Times and published by Foreign Affairs Magazine. What’s the problem? Well, first of all Khalil is a bad dude because his brother was Fathi Shikaki, founder of Islamic Jihad (and assassinated by Israel in one of those messy extrajudicial killings). In Judaism, I don’t think the sins of a brother are ever visited upon another brother, but apparently Lappen hasn’t bothered to read that part of the Tanach (though she will go so far as to say: “Khalil Shikaki is not responsible for his brother’s sins, of course, but…”). Even worse, Shikaki sat on the board of Sami al-Arian’s World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE)—the University of South Florida, who she breathlessly reminds us was an ‘indicted terror conspirator.’ If you read between the lines, you’ll understand that there’s a difference between ‘indicted’ and ‘convicted.’ The government indicts lots of people, but it doesn’t convict many. Prof. al-Arian (and understand that I don’t harbor any sympathy for what I know of Prof. al-Arian’s views) of course, was not convicted of anything and remains innocent till proven guilty (at least the last I checked…though that quaint notion may be abrogated soon for all I know).
Shikaki also sat on the board of the Islamic Committee for Palestine, which “supports Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the U.S., according to Investigative Project director Steven Emerson.” Steve Emerson is what I’d call a professional anti-terrorism pundit who appears so regularly on shows like Fox News that he might as well be labeled for what he is: someone who exploits the current mania for national security for professional and personal aggrandizement. While I do not know enough about the Islamic Committee for Palestine to make a judgment about its politics and mission (as Lappen so glibly does), the ‘proof’ she brings to bear here is laughable.
What’s the next item on Lappen’s bill of particulars? “Brit Tzedek condemned the assassination of the Hamas killer Abdel Aziz Rantisi, and the destruction of terrorist command centers as if they were an escalation of hostilities…” Holy jumpin’ Jehosaphat Batman! Israel assassinated the most prominent leader of Hamas and it was a terrible thing that Brit Tzedek labeled this “an escalation of hostilities?!” What was it–a step toward lessening tensions and increasing trust between both sides??
“The group worries more about inconvenience to Arab Palestinians of road blocks and check points than about the threat to Israeli and Arab life caused by human bombs…” More lies and distortions. First, to call Israel’s constant closure for many months if not years (except within the past week or so) of almost all entry and exit points into Gaza “an inconvenience” is laughable beyond measure. Imagine that an occupying power locked off all access to New York City for a year or more and then you’ll understand what “inconvenience” really means. Second, Brit Tzedek is TOTALLY OPPOSED to ALL violence whether initiated by the Palestinians or Israelis. Brit Tzedek has denounced Palestinian bombings countless times. I know because I have all the press releases sitting in my e mail Inbox. Such opposition to Palestinian violence seems to have slipped Lappen’s attention.
“Brit Tzedek defines ‘terrorist violence’ as part of a pattern of Arab ‘resistance,’ implying some measure of approval…” Why is it that right-wing pro-Israel supporters hate that word “resistance” so much when applied to Palestinian violence? If what they’re doing isn’t resistance, then what is it? Capitulation? Certainly not. Neither Brit Tzedek, nor anyone else who truly wants peace between Israelis and Palestinians believes that violence is the way to get there. The group does not endorse violence, it does not excuse violence in any way. But to deny a thing it’s rightful name is a sin against reality. The truth of the matter is that Palestinian violence IS resistance. It may be an illegitimate form of resistance. But it is resistance plain and simple. The problem with right-wing intellectual goons like David Horowitz and his ilk is that nuance and complexity are lost on them (the same holds true for our president and his advisors). If you say something constitutes “resistance” then that is tantamount to endorsing it. What lunacy!
Oh and Brit Tzedek did a ‘very bad thing’ when it expressed deep regret for the murder of Rachel Corrie, the ISM member mowed down by an armored Israeli bulldozer in Gaza. Somehow in the Lappen universe a defenseless woman standing in the middle of an open field and deliberately run down by the IDF driver is equated to a bomb-throwing Palestinian militant (now there I’ve gone and offended Alyssa again by not calling them “terrorists”). Lappen adds that Corrie was supposedly attempting to block the bulldozer from destroying gun smuggling tunnels (never mind that she presents no source documenting this charge) as if her murder could be justified by the extenuating circumstances of “fighting terror.” Have these people no heart? I’m afraid not.
Next Brit Tzedek is tarred with the brush of anti-Zionism by the claim it maintains ties with Israeli “anti-Zionist” groups like Women in Black, Ometz l’Seruv and Other Israel. What she actually should say if she was honest was that there is one representative from each of these groups on Brit Tzedek’s Israeli Advisory Board. I have not examined closely the websites of these three accused groups, but since Lappen brings no actual proof that they are anti-Zionist other than her own word, this accusation must be dismissed out of hand.
I’m really tickled by this next charge:
Brit Tzedek maintains close ties to other anti-Zionist groups such as the Arabist group Gush-Shalom. Its “goal is to work for a just peace cooperatively and in coalition with diverse, national, Middle East peace initiatives.” Those “diverse” initiatives, however, include support for the Arabist financed “Geneva Initiative” which seeks either the colonization of Israel by Arabs or creation of a “secular” state of Palestine to replace Israel.
Gush Shalom is NOT an “Arabist” group. It is Israeli through and through. And since when does working “for a just peace cooperatively and in coalition with diverse, national, Middle East peace initiatives” constitute anti-Zionism? She continues with the most vile distortions of the substance of the Geneva Accords. Neither the authors of the Accords nor anyone involved with the Accords wants anything of the sort. Lappen is trying in her inimitably incendiary way to say that the Accords endorse the Right of Return for Palestinians displaced during the various Israeli-Arab wars. In truth, the Accords grant no such right to the Palestinians. They do say that selected Palestinians may be allowed to return to Israel, but only with the consent of the Israeli government. This is what constitutes for Lappen Palestinian support for the “colonization” of Israel. I don’t have a clue what Lappen is referring to when she claims the Accords call for a “secular” state to replace Israel. This might legitimately be called the position of the bi-national staters, who claim that the only real option for peace now that Israel has taken control of the millions of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is to create a single, unified state consisting of both Israelis and Palestinians. This is most definitely NOT the position of the Geneva Accords. To claim that it is is sheer calumny. You will notice that Lappen never provides the slightest evidence to support any of these charges. Apparently saying them make them so (doesn’t Lappen remind you a bit of that character in Alice in Wonderland who says “a word means what I want it to?”).
Lappen’s dreck goes on and on: apparently Brit Tzedek is anti-Zionist via guilt by association. Did you know that Neturei Karta (those extreme Orthodox Jews so opposed to the state of Israel that they endorse the PA as their preferred government) and other “anti-Zionist” groups link to Brit Tzedek on their websites? Gee, that’s surefire proof in my book that Brit Tzedek endorses anti-Zionism and the views of Neturei Karta! And don’t forget that BT gets financial support from ” anti-American and anti-Zionist organizations” like the Ford Foundation! Really, I kid you not, that’s what she wrote (“The New York-based Ford Foundation supports far-ranging efforts in globalization, internationalism and other internationalist leftist programs. Founded by industrialist Henry Ford, an admirer and supporter of Adolf Hitler, the Ford Foundation today continues to display anti-Jewish bias.”). Henry Ford’s been dead and gone lo these many decades and the Ford Foundation is labeled anti-Semitic because he was? Please, give me a break.
Another BT funder, according to our intrepid reporter is that “hate-Israel” group, the Shefa Fund. Now, I know Shefa was founded by Art Waskow and Jeffrey Dekro and I know both of them and their views of the Mideast conflict personally. To mischaracterize them as “hating Israel” is flat out nonsense. Any reasonable person who visited their website would come away with precisely the opposite view: these people both love Israel and love peace. But in the narrow, petty universe inhabited by Horowitz and Lappen to love peace means you love Palestinians and if you love Palestinians then you perforce hate Israel. More lunacy.
Did you know that the International Responsibilities Task Force of the American Library Association’s Social Responsibilities Round Table calls BT “an organization concerned with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and that several pro-Palestinian groups are also listed under this category? That surely must make BT anti-Zionist, right?
The coup de grace for Lappen is this passage which comes near the end of her diatribe:
Brit Tzedek does not accept historical facts concerning the Jewish ancestral homeland, nor does it care that these disputed lands initially belonged to Israel, and were conquered by the Ottoman Empire and in 1949 illegally annexed by Jordan.
BT seems to be guilty of seeking to destroy Israel by “not accepting historical facts concerning the ancestral homeland.” But what are these “facts”? And what could she possibly mean by claiming that the Territories “initially” belonged to Israel? By “initially,” does she mean to return us to the kingdom of Saul, Samuel, David and Solomon? If you’re an Israeli settler then you surely might accept this as proof of possession. But the vast majority of Israelis and American Jews categorically reject this fantasy version of Jewish history as being of no relevance to contemporary reality.
Really, if someone wants to take apart Brit Tzedek they’re going to have to do better than this piece of doo-doo produced by Ms. Lappen.