Rebecca Vilkomerson has been a member of Jewish Voice for Peace since 2001 and the group’s Executive Director since 2009. She lived with her family in Israel from 2006-2009. In 2010 she was named one of the 50 most influential Jewish American leaders by the Forward, and was named one of “14 Women to Watch” in 2014.
FMEP: Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) has, in some ways, been a lightning rod for the global movement for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel (BDS). Many people can’t reconcile the idea of a Jewish organization advocating a boycott of Israel. Obviously, this is especially true for those who see BDS as unfairly anti-Israel, even anti-Semitic. As the Executive Director of JVP, how do you respond to those charges? And, perhaps a parallel question, what would you say are the major differences between the public perception of the BDS movement and its reality?
Dov Waxman is Professor of Political Science, International Affairs, and Israel Studies, and the Stotsky Professor of Jewish Historical and Cultural Studies at Northeastern University. He is also the co-director of the university’s Middle East Center. An expert on Israel, his research focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israeli foreign policy, U.S.-Israel relations, and American Jewry’s relationship with Israel.
Originally from London, England, Professor Waxman received his B.A. degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of Johns Hopkins University. He has also held fellowships and visiting appointments at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, the Middle East Technical University, the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, the Avraham Harman Institute for Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies and St. John’s College at the University of Oxford.
NOTE: The following piece is purely my own view. While anything on this blog that is not a piece written for the Foundation for Middle East Peace may not reflect the Foundation’s view, this piece in particular is a personal opinion. To date, the Foundation has not decided whether to make any statement about the policy platform issued by the Movement for Black Lives. The views here are strictly my own. They should not be taken as being in any way reflective of FMEP’s views, nor should this disclaimer be interpreted as meaning that FMEP disagrees with the views expressed here in part or whole.
A collection of groups that are part of the Black Lives Matter Movement have released an historic document. It is a policy platform that is broad in scope and wide-ranging in vision. Naming themselves the Movement for Black Lives (MBL), the 50 organizations do not claim to speak for any but themselves, but they clearly represent a large portion of the Black community in the US and of the Black Lives Matter movement.
So far, the opposition to the MBL platform has mostly come from the right wing. Liberals and leftists are either supportive or, I suppose, silent about any reservations they may have. But one controversy has been raging throughout the political spectrum, at least with in the Jewish community, and, not surprisingly, it’s about Israel. Two paragraphs are at issue:
“The US military accounts for over 50 percent of discretionary federal spending, a total of 598.5 Billion dollars spent annually, as compared to 70 billion spent on education, 66 billion spent on healthcare, $63.2 billion spent on housing and 29.1 billion spent on social security and unemployment. In addition, approximately 3 billion dollars in US aid is allocated to Israel, a state that practices systematic discrimination and has maintained a military occupation of Palestine for decades. Together with aid to Egypt — Israel’s most important regional ally — this figure represents nearly 75 percent of all US aid dollars. As these figures demonstrate, resources and funds needed for reparations and for building a just and equitable society domestically are instead used to wage war against a majority of the world’s communities.”
“The US justifies and advances the global war on terror via its alliance with Israel and is complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people. The US requires Israel to use 75 percent of all the military aid it receives to buy US-made arms. Consequently, every year billions of dollars are funneled from US taxpayers to hundreds of arms corporations, who then wage lobbying campaigns pushing for even more foreign military aid. The results of this policy are twofold: it not only diverts much needed funding from domestic education and social programs, but it makes US citizens complicit in the abuses committed by the Israeli government. Israel is an apartheid state with over 50 laws on the books that sanction discrimination against the Palestinian people. Palestinian homes and land are routinely bulldozed to make way for illegal Israeli settlements. Israeli soldiers also regularly arrest and detain Palestinians as young as 4 years old without due process. Every day, Palestinians are forced to walk through military checkpoints along the US-funded apartheid wall.”Continue reading →
Over the past few years, there has been a good deal of consternation in Israel and in the American Jewish community about the relationship between the two. That concern has grown as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu consistently works to please his right flank with ever more controversial statements and actions amid a petrified peace process.
Neoconservative pundit Elliott Abrams reviewed two new books that document this phenomenon and try to explain it. Trouble in the Tribe: The American Jewish Conflict over Israel by Dov Waxman of Northeastern University and The Star and the Stripes: A History of the Foreign Policies of American Jews by Michael Barnett of George Washington University both look at shifts in Israeli policy over the years and examine the effects of those policy shifts on Jews in the United States. Abrams sees both books as blaming Israel for the growing divide with the US Jewish community, and he feels compelled to respond by laying the blame instead on Jews in the United States. Read more at LobeLog
Many of you might have heard about the incident where a meeting that had been set between Joint List Chair, MK Ayman Odeh and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations (COPJ) fell through at the last minute. The issue was that Ayman was unaware, prior to his arrival, that the COPJ offices were in the same place as those of the Jewish Agency.
Not surprisingly, Ayman had a problem holding a meeting in the offices of the Jewish Agency, which has done so much to help in the dispossession of Palestinians over the years, and continues to do so to this day.
I’ll be writing more about this in the coming days. But for now, the full story of what happened here (and there is already a good deal of misinformation out there) was reported by Lisa Goldman at +972 Magazine. I have been able to corroborate Lisa’s story with people who were there. It differs in important ways from the story COPJ Vice President Malcolm Hoenlein put out almost immediately. Crucially, it also reflects the hubristic attitude of the so-called “mainstream Jewish community.”
Hoenlein says that Ayman’s problem was that the Jewish Agency is a “Zionist” organization. This is, of course, absurd. Ayman has been meeting with a variety of Jewish groups during his trip to the United States, and most of them are Zionist groups. Indeed, COPJ itself, far from encouraging the “open discussion” that Hoenlein claims, has barred J Street, a very distinctly Zionist group, form its table because, by COPJ’s standards, J Street is not “Zionist enough.” Yet Ayman was prepared to meet with COPJ.
As Josh Nathan Kazis wrote in The Forward, “The cancellation…highlighted the ideological distance between even the most moderate Israeli Arab politicians and the American Jewish mainstream.”