If, in their eyes, a Jewish state is discriminatory and no longer really necessary, then many younger American Jews struggle with supporting it. They feel ambivalent about Israel, if not altogether alienated from it. This is particularly true for the children of interfaith marriages — now almost half the population of young American Jews — whose Jewish identities tend to be less ethnic and more cultural.
Natalie Portman, the Oscar-winning actress, recently kicked off a massive storm of controversy when she pulled out of a prestigious award ceremony in Israel because, she said, she “did not want to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu.”
The response to Portman’s refusal to appear alongside Israel’s prime minister was intense. She was denounced by right-wing Israeli politicians. One labeled Portman’s decision as borderline anti-Semitic. Another suggested that her Israeli citizenship should be stripped. Born in Israel, Portman is a dual American-Israeli citizen.
The reaction within the American Jewish community was more divided. Some assailed her for being disloyal, deluded, or, at best, misguided. Others hailed her as a hero for publicly voicing her opposition to Netanyahu and his government’s hard-line policies.
What shocks me about finding myself on Canary Mission is that I am far from being an outspoken activist or organizer on my campus. I am a Jew whose political beliefs differ from the community she grew up in. And because of this, I’ve ended up on a blacklist. . . . I’m not a young Jew with opinions of her own, but a young “radical,” brainwashed Jew.
Earlier this week, I discovered I’d been added to Canary Mission’s database. Canary Mission is a McCarthy-esque blacklist, a website that collects and publishes information about activists who support Palestinian rights. The site claims to document “people and groups that promote hatred of the USA, Israel and Jews on North American college campuses,” with the header, “if you’re racist, the world should know.” When the site launched in 2015, it’s goal was even more explicit: “It is your duty to ensure that today’s radicals are not tomorrow’s employees.”
Apparently, I, a senior at Barnard College, am one of those dangerous radicals.
“But the formality of this step — banning outright leaders and key members of a Jewish organization — is yet further concrete evidence of what has been apparent for some time: that even as the Israeli government makes crystal-clear its commitment to having as few non-Jews as possible within its borders, it is also becoming increasingly blatant about possessing criteria for the types of Jews it considers kosher.”
— Natasha Roth
The big news concerning Israel’s fight against the movement for Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions this week is the publication of an Israeli government blacklist of 20 organizations. Notable on the list is the American Jewish group, Jewish Voice for Peace.
Rebecca Vilkomerson, the head of the organization, wrote Monday that “now, contrary to any democratic norm, there’s to be a political litmus test for entering the country.”
It may come as a surprise to some that Jews are actually being banned in an organized and institutional manner — from entering Israel — the Jewish state. But scrutiny of Jewish history reveals how logical this is. They are simply considered “the wrong kind of Jews,” as Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann told Lord Balfour. And the “wrong kind of Jews” can be banned. The Jewish tradition of such societal expulsion of Jews is known in Hebrew as “herem,” the term also applied for “boycott.”
As long as Israel continues to violate the fundamental rights of Palestinians, people will continue to speak out — Palestinians, Jews, and people of conscience the world over.
The first time I went to Israel I was four months old. Throughout my childhood and young adulthood I visited regularly: My grandparents, in Haifa; and my aunt, uncle and cousins, on a religious kibbutz near the Jordanian border. There was no place, with the exception of the town where I grew up, to which I felt more connected.
As an adult, married to an Israeli, we spent three years living in Tel Aviv with our two young daughters, who also have Israeli citizenship.
In March last year, the Israeli Knesset passed a bill that forbids entry to “foreign nationals who call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts of either Israel or the settlements,” and yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that as a result 20 organizations have been placed on a blacklist that would prohibit entry specifically to its leaders. That list was published in full Sunday. Jewish Voice for Peace, the organization of which I am executive director, is one of the organizations named.
Despite the fact that my grandparents are buried there, that my aging in-laws still live there, and my extensive ties of friendship and family, my support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) for Palestinian rights now excludes me from Israel.
“This move is reminiscent of South Africa’s apartheid regime which also prepared blacklists in order to punish people and prevent the entry of those opposed to its racist policies.”
— Hassan Jabareen, of the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
The prominent British campaign group War on Want has been listed as one of 20 foreign NGOs whose representatives are banned from visiting Israel over their support of the pro-Palestinian boycott, sanctions and divestment (BDS) movement.
The publication of the list, which also includes a well-known Jewish anti-occupation group and a Nobel peace prize-winning US Quaker group, had been threatened for months by Israel.
The organizations were singled out by Israel’s rightwing strategic affairs and public security minister, Gilad Erdan, for advocating boycotts of Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.
Human rights groups condemned the move as an assault on free speech. A number of individuals have been refused entry into Israel in recent months, including a prominent African theologian and official of the World Council of Churches.
“When Israel, which aims to portray itself to the world as liberal and democratic, blacklists activists dedicated to nonviolent organizing and dissent, it only further exposes itself as a fraud.”
— Yousef Munayyer, the director of the Campaign for Palestinian Rights
Israel on Sunday published a blacklist of 20 organizations, including a Jewish group in the United States, whose leaders it has barred from entering the country for supporting an economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel.
The list was drawn up under a nearly year-old law enacted to combat the so-called boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which Israelis overwhelmingly oppose, consider anti-Semitic and view as calling for the country’s destruction.
Supporters of the pressure strategy favor the boycott of Israel until it ends the occupation of the West Bank, provides full equality under the law to Palestinian citizens of Israel and grants a right of return to Palestinian refugees. But refugees number in the millions, and their return would probably spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state.
You start out framing JVP as so bad that when you say white nationalists are bad, you say it by saying they are as bad as the JVP. So JVP becomes the standard of badness against which to measure just how bad neo-Nazis are.
Here is a clever but repellent variation of hasbara, or propaganda for Israel: New York Times columnist Bret Stephens equates Jewish Voice for Peace with white nationalists, because JVP supports Palestinian rights. In “Steve Bannon Is Bad for the Jews,” Stephens sets out to condemn the Zionist Organization of America for welcoming Steve Bannon to its gala the other night. Why? Because Bannon is an anti-Semite, just like JVP.
Here’s Stephens’s logic:
[W]hen a far-left group such as Jewish Voice for Peace makes common cause with someone like Linda Sarsour — the Palestinian-American activist who advocates the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state and publicly praised a convicted terrorist — it disqualifies itself as an advocate of any Jewish interest save its own. To deny Israel’s right to exist, as U.N. Secretary General António Guterres noted in April, is “a form of modern anti-Semitism.”
It also means that when a right-wing Jewish group such as the ZOA chooses to overlook Bannon’s well-documented links to anti-Semitic white nationalists, it puts itself on a moral par with JVP.
Budrus tells a story of Palestinian community organizers, with the support of Israeli and international activists, nonviolently resisting the destruction of their village by Israel’s Separation Barrier.
As you have likely heard, over the weekend Gov. Jerry Brown signed California anti-BDS bill AB 2844 into law. As our coalition looks at next steps, it would be good to know if any church groups here in California have chosen to boycott or divest believe they will/might be affected by this legislation which bars persons (but legally includes entities) from applying or renewing contracts for over $100,000 if they have a “policy” “against any sovereign nation or peoples recognized by the government of the United States, including, but not limited to, the nation and people of Israel.”
Thank you to all who engaged in the long and collaborative effort to block this bill from becoming law. My personal frustration with our governor’s decision does not overwhelm my gratitude to all of you and those in our broad coalition for the hours, days, weeks and months we joined together to fight this good fight.
I believe legislators should pay attention to the growing number of constituents who actively work to raise Palestinian rights as we do the rights of all oppressed people and minority groups. All who voted to support this misguided and dishonest legislation will find themselves on the wrong side of history.
Let’s stay focused and steadfast as Palestinians are. The arc of the moral universe is long.
— Estee Chandler
“Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.” — Cesar Chavez