(April 3, 2015 / JNS)
Why is a self-styled “Jewish organization” collaborating with rabid anti-Israel campaigners, including anti-Semites? This is a question that Oakland, Calif.-based Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) should answer, as it played a leading role in this week’s two pronged anti-Israel campaign, “Shut Down AIPAC” and “Skip the Speech,” in Washington, DC.
JVP, whose funding sources are a complete mystery, partnered with the radical organizations CODEPINK, If Americans Knew, Sabeel, and the Answer Coalition. Who are the activists behind these groups?
Anti-war group CODEPINK’s co-founder Medea Benjamin appeared at the October 2014 New Horizon conference in Tehran. Despite the participation of well-known anti-Semites at the conference, Benjamin somehow thought this was an appropriate venue to advance CODEPINK’s mission of “support [for] peace and human rights initiatives.”
This “peace and human rights” group remains mum on the Iranian conference, which boasted a range of anti-Jewish activists. This included French antisemitic “comedian” Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, who created the “quenelle” gesture that is modeled after the Nazi seig heil salute. There was also conspiracy theorist Wayne Madsen, who has accused Israel of carrying out the 9/11 attacks. Holocaust-deniers Maria Poumier and Claudio Moffa also presented. The conference featured discussions titled “Mossad’s Role in the 9/11 Coup d’Etat,” “Zionist Fingerprints on the 9/11 Cover-up,” and “9/11 and the Holocaust as pro-Zionist ‘Public Myths.’”
If CODEPINK or Benjamin had anything to say about Iran’s abysmal human rights record or this conference’s racist agenda, it is not readily apparent.
Another participant at this Iranian conference was Allison Weir, founder of If Americans Knew, another JVP partner. She has promotedthe medieval blood libel that Jews ritually murdered Christian children. For centuries, this accusation was used to incite mobs throughout Europe into massacring Jews. Weir modernized this blood libel by accusing Israel of “harvesting” Palestinian organs to sell on the international black market.
Sabeel, another JVP partner in this week’s campaign, consistently attacks Jews and Judaism. Sabeel’s founder, Rev. Naim Ateek, has declared “the establishment of Israel was a relapse to the most primitive concepts of an exclusive, tribal God.” He also employs antisemitic deicide imagery: “In this season of Lent, it seems to many of us that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him. … The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily.”
Another JVP partner was Answer Coalition, a Marxist anti-war organization, which has drawn condemnation from groups as widely varied politically as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the far-left Tikkun Magazine. ADL revealed the Answer Coalition’s support for terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Tikkun related that “many Jews report that they were encountering what they perceived to be antisemitism at anti-war demonstrations organized” by the Answer Coalition. Chants of support for Hezbollah, burning of Israeli flags, and Nazi-like salutes have been reported at Answer Coalition rallies.
JVP’s toleration of anti-Semitism is further seen in its other partners. When Presbyterian Church (USA) last year voted for divestment from Israel, JVP lobbied the delegates shoulder-to-shoulder with anti-Israel activists of the denomination’s Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN). NGO Monitor exposed IPMN’s Facebook page, which contained numerous anti-Semitic entries by its members such as deploring “Jewish interests” that are “corrupting” the U.S. government, charging that the media is “owned” and “operated” by these same “Jewish interests,” or that the “Christian Holy Land” is “occupied” by the “zionist (sic) instigator.” Even after NGO Monitor issued a report detailing this anti-Semitism, JVP remained silent and some of its leaders are still members of IPMN’s Facebook page.
With such partners, it should come as no surprise that JVP endorses the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. This is consistent with JVP activities such as attempting to block ZIM cargo ships from unloading in Tampa and in Los Angeles, participating in the Free Gaza flotillas, and raising funds for the anti-Zionist International Solidarity Movement.
Why does JVP associate itself with such radical, hateful organizations? Perhaps it is because they share the same goal: Israel’s demise. To this end, JVP advances a one-sided anti-Israel narrative, refers to Israel as an “apartheid” state, and lobbies to distance the United States from Israel. JVP views itself as the “Jewish wing of the Palestinian Solidarity movement” and is an integral part of this anti-Israel coalition, serving as its “Jewish shield,” washing away the moral stain of anti-Semitism from their partners’ records.
Given JVP’s emphatic statement that “as Jews, we have no tolerance for anti-Semitism,” the organization should be the first to speak out against its allies’ anti-Semitic rhetoric. Yet JVP remains silent, showing it has a blind spot when anti-Jewish hate emanates from its anti-Israel comrades. This willingness to consort with anti-Semites hiding behind an anti-Zionist façade says much more about JVP’s character than Israel, the sole target of its vitriolic and obsessive criticism.
Yitzhak Santis is Chief Programs Officer for NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institute.