By Jonathan S. Tobin/JNS.org
The issue the organized Jewish world has struggled most with in recent years is how to keep communal peace at a time when the debate over Israel has become increasingly polarized. The result is a dialogue of the deaf that diminishes the community. That’s why I’m a firm believer in listening and reading opposing views. I know the differences between my positions and those of liberal friends are often arguments within the family about how to strengthen the Israel we all love.
As a general rule, I don’t back efforts to exclude those with views that differ from mine. Even in the case of the left-wing J Street lobby, whose platform I find to be, at best, irrelevant, and at worst, potentially dangerous, I don’t support denying it the right to be heard at communal forums. Anyone who supports Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state—as J Street’s leaders say they do—deserves a place at the table.
But while inclusion is an important value, it is not the only one, let alone the most important. This is why Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) doesn’t deserve to be included. It should instead serve as a warning of the consequences of granting legitimacy to forces willing to spread anti-Semitic canards in order to advance their campaign against Israel.
J Street’s perspective is still essentially Zionist, albeit of the left-wing variety that thinks the Jewish state will be saved by failed land-for-peace deals. But JVP, which is stealing J Street’s thunder on college campuses because it opposes Zionism, is an open supporter of the BDS movement that seeks to wage economic warfare on Israel. It claims to be agnostic about whether a Jewish state should exist, though in practice, it is clearly an opponent even of an Israel that would be forced back to the pre-1967 lines.
Support for BDS should be a red line that Jews should never cross. One need only listen to the voices of JVP’s partners like Students for Justice in Palestine—the primary engine of BDS propaganda—to realize that their goal is to eradicate the Jewish state, not shift its borders to bring peace. JVP has long been in league with hate groups that target Jewish students. The fact that at its most recent national conference, those in attendance cheered a convicted Palestinian terrorist murderer was just one more proof of their ill intent.
But recently, JVP has started to engage in anti-Semitic invective in its own right. Its “Deadly Exchange” campaign opposes initiatives that promote joint training programs between U.S. police and Israeli security forces. Yet their attempt to isolate Israel isn’t limited to opposing cooperation between the two allies on issues of mutual concern. JVP is blaming not only Israeli security experts, but also American Jews who back these useful exchanges for the deaths of black Americans who have been killed by the police.
Many Jews were shocked when the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement adopted an anti-Israel platform. But it was part of the same intersectional mindset that causes some left-wing LGBT organizers to ostracize gay Jews from pride parades or anti-Trump resistance groups to tell Jewish liberals that they must drop support for Zionism if they want to join.
But what JVP is doing with “Deadly Exchange” is to assert that it is the Jews who are enabling racist police to murder defenseless African-Americans. Leave aside that much of the BLM agenda is based on myths such as the one about the incident in Ferguson, Missouri. What happened there was correctly ruled a justified shooting rather than murder, but JVP blames it on the fact that years before the death of Michael Brown, Ferguson’s police chief took part in a trip to Israel. The main point here is that by claiming blacks are being murdered because of Israel and its Jewish supporters, JVP is engaging in a new version of the old anti-Semitic blood libel.
While the communal tent should be as large as possible, there is no place in it for those who not only work for Israel’s destruction, but encourage hatred against Jews. Some of those who venerate inclusion have been ready to treat JVP as just another Jewish group with a point of view that deserves respect. Yet just as we deny legitimacy to hate groups that make no secret of their prejudice, an organization that would stoop to this sort of vile anti-Semitic smear deserves to be ostracized by all people of good will.
Jonathan S. Tobin is opinion editor of JNS.org and a contributing writer for National Review. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.