Tonight I had the privilege of hearing Maya Wind and Eran Efrati give an excellent talk about their activism in Anarchists Against the Wall. I learned from a local JVP leader that the organized Jewish community of Seattle plans an event that betrays the level of hysteria and paranoia to which pro-Israel advocates are subject. The sponsors are calling it: Anti-Israel BDS Campaign: Bad for Israel, A Threat to Jews in Seattle and Beyond.
The notion that BDS has any impact on Jews in Seattle (other than losing the privilege of buying nine Israeli products at the Olympia Food Coop), let alone is a threat to them, is highly debatable. But this is part of the pandering style of the Israel Lobby. Take an issue of marginal importance. Blow it up into monumental significance and tell Jews that their very lives depend on fighting it. Whether its intermarriage, anti-Semitism or BDS, the MO is always the same.
I’m frankly shocked that even J Street and the New Israel Fund, the purported left-wing of the Jewish community have sponsored this shrey-fest. But one should be less and less surprised at the failings of the liberal Zionists. They temporize on every major moral issue concerning Israel.
I found it instructive that the pro-Israel Jewish Council for Public Affairs endorsed J Street’s effort to join the Conference of Presidents of Jewish Organizations with this encomium:
Both Raffel and Gutow cited J Street’s cooperation with JCPA in lobbying left-leaning mainline Protestant churches to reject divestment campaigns targeting Israel. Raffel said the importance of J Street lay in part in building a “firewall” between the anti-Israel left and the left in general. “Who better to do that than the Zionist left?” he asked.
It’s the old divide and conquer technique on which so much of the success of the British empire was staked. In this context, the Israel Lobby divides the left by identifying for us the good and bad left. It’s like the Lobby trying to tell us who the good and bad Muslims are. It’s shameful, but especially for liberal Zionists like J Street, New Israel Fund and many others like them to buy into it.
The keynote speaker will be Ari Shavit, one of Haaretz’s right-wing columnists. Shavit has just written a book with the catchy title, My Promised Land, that is the darling the liberal American media including Charlie Rose and David Remnick’s New Yorker. It’s what I call “shooting and crying” journalism. In the book, Shavit bemoans the moral injustice of Nakba. But in the end he finds it was necessary to ensure the birth and success of Israel.
In Israel, they’re less hoodwinked by his politics. For example, even his publisher, Amos Schocken, grew exasperated with him and penned this critique: The Visible Rejectionism of Ari Shavit. In it, he takes Shavit to task for endorsing the Likudist position that the Palestinians should publicly acknowledge that Israel is a Jewish state.
The flyer for Seattle event adds this largely fictional information about Shavit:
He is a leading voice from Israel’s political left. A frequent critic of Israel’s government, he is also one of Israel’s most vocal defenders.
Outside of Israel, however, Shavit faces increasingly ugly rhetoric, being called a “war criminal” and worse simply because he’s a Jewish Israeli. Shavit believes the BDS campaign vilifies not only Israel, but Jews and the Jewish community in general.
If Shavit was ever on Israel’s left, he hasn’t been for decades. I know he used to be a Peace Now colleague of Avrum Burg, but that goes back to the 1980s. To call someone a “leading voice of the left” because of views he held 35 years ago is preposterous.
As for the “ugly rhetoric” Shavit allegedly faces, the author of this flyer conveniently omits any source so we don’t know whether the claim is true. And if it is, we don’t know whether David Duke, Ali Abunimah or the Dalai Lama called him a war criminal. Further, the claim that he was attacked using these terms because he is a “Jewish Israeli” is nonsense. Shavit ultimately justified Nakba and that is but one of the reasons he’s being excoriated. These are political arguments and categories. They have nothing to do with religion. To confuse the two as the Israel Lobby does, is to play fast and loose with political reality. If they want to fight against what they allege as Muslim hatred of Israel, they ought to stop using the same terms Islamists do.
Also addressing the event will be an African-American minister from Detroit who believes BDS is “anti-Jewish.” Apparently the Israel Lobby cultivate African-Americans like Kenneth Flowers and Chloe Valdary who are experts on the subject of anti-Semitism. They’re so learned that pro-Israel Jews look to them to tell them which Jews are anti-Semitic. Had I not read Chloe Valdary calling distinguished UC Berkeley Prof. Judith Butler a Nazi, I’d never have known of the latter’s perfidy.
It never ceases to amaze me how much validation Israel advocates need from non-Jews for their racist ultra-nationalist views. Because Jews have a liberal reputation, the organizers of this event apparently believe having an African-American minister confirm their prejudices make these views kosher. It should be no surprise that Flowers is a darling of Aipac and spoke at its last national conference. Valdary didn’t get to address the believers, though her pals at CAMERA and StandWithUs likely paid her way to attend. She’s only playing Class A ball. But she’s a promising prospect who can expect a promotion to the ‘Bigs’ if she keeps swinging the bat well against those nasty anti-Semites in the BDS movement.
The last time Seattle’s Jewish community organized one of these alarmist gatherings, they were trying to gin up hysteria about Iran’s threat to Israel. In fact, they held that event in the same place they’re holding this one: Temple De Hirsh Sinai. At that time, I organized an educational program that brought experts on Iran and Israel’s relations with it to discuss the issues with dispassion and moderation. This anti-BDS hysteria calls for a similar response.
As an aside, the Jewish Federation has applied the tag “anti-Semitism” to this page on its website.