Jeffrey Salkin: Martini Judaism Opinion

I am not at peace with Jewish Voice for Peace

Rasmea Odeh

“Rabbi Salkin, we are organizing an event in [name of Florida city deleted], involving Jews and Muslims on issues of social justice. Is your synagogue interested in participating?”

Sure. Normally.

Except, the caller represents Jewish Voice for Peace, a radical left wing organization that supports the BDS movement.

“I cannot be part of any program that includes JVP.”

“Why not?” he asks.

“Because you are hosting Rasmea Odeh at your upcoming conference.”

In 1969, the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine planted a bomb in a Jerusalem supermarket. Two Hebrew University students, Leon Kaner and Edward Jaffe, were killed. Four days later, the PFLP bombed the British Consulate in Tel Aviv.

At that time, Odeh was a 21-year-old university student in Ramallah. She confessed to the bombings. She was convicted and sentenced to life in prison — a sentence later upended by a prisoner exchange. She since moved to Chicago.

“She was framed. Her confession was coerced.”

Thus says JVP: “We are eager to hear from Odeh, a feminist leader in the Palestinian and Arab-American community in Chicago, precisely because she has survived decades of Israeli and U.S. government persecution and oppression, and also because she lives and breathes the essential work of community organizing.”

“So,” I said, “you will at least agree with me – that Odeh is hardly a friend of Israel.”

“Well,” he said, “JVP is anti-Zionist.”

As we used to say in geometry class: QED.

This is why I reject Jewish Voice for Peace. In the same way that I will have nothing to do with Satmar and other anti-Zionist groups on the Jewish right — as well as pro-Zionist groups on the far right.

But, wait, you say: this Jewish-Muslim social justice thing is a good cause, right?

Several weeks ago, I asked some of my friends and teachers a more general and theoretical question about how we handle alliances with those who disagree with us on Israel. The question was not about JVP.

Rabbi Sharon Brous, activist and spiritual leader of Ikar in Los Angeles.

In multi-faith and coalitional politics, we won’t agree on all issues all the time. Our nation is suffering from a soul crisis, rooted in a cynical politics that pits vulnerable populations against each other. The antidote to this toxic new reality is a reawakening to shared foundational principles and moral imperatives…It won’t always feel good to stand with folks who share some, but not all of our priorities. But the only way to work effectively toward justice today is together. We have to do less finger pointing and accusing and more listening. We just might find not only shared humanity but also shared purpose, even in people who hold perspectives that differ from our own.

Or, Rabbi Jack Moline, president of the Interfaith Alliance:

I object to somewhat arbitrary litmus tests for worthwhile coalition partners. I march alongside of Roman Catholics who would deny my wife and daughters certain legal health care… I cooperate with Evangelical Christians who seek to reassign my spiritual identity.  I work with Mormons who converted my ancestors posthumously. Israel is central to my concerns, but it shares that space with my relationship with God and Torah as I understand them. To be sure, I would not stand with extremists who would take life to save life or deny me human rights in the name of their savior, but in a mass movement there are going to be some loose nuts mixed in.  Including Jews.

Finally, novelist and law professor, Thane Rosenbaum:

Throughout history, Jews have never received extra credit for siding with our avowed enemies on issues on which we were united. In fact, it ended up backfiring, displaying a willingness to ignore, placate, and disarm rather than standing up for the dignity and respect of our people. We have no business marching alongside those who disguise their Jew-hatred under the false pretense of human rights.

Here is my thought process about alliances.

  1. How problematic is the position taken by the “problematic” group? I disagree with J Street on some issues, but not on the fundamental existence of Israel. On the right, in some situations, I have stood with the ZOA. Ultra-right wing Kahane types? Nope.
  2. How large is the context? Let’s say that it is a large demonstration on issues with which I am in agreement. If a problematic group is part of it, I might agree to join in. I cannot micromanage every social movement. If the program is smaller and more local, probably not.
  3. Are there other ways for me to express my commitments? Take the Muslim-Jewish program that I described at the beginning. Since we are already involved in Muslim-Jewish dialogue, our synagogue does not “need” to be part of the JVC-partnered program to show our bona fides and to do the work of healing.

Jews should not engage in self-erasure.

Jews should not excuse or relativize the killers of Jews.

If Dylan Roof, the shooter in Charleston, is treif, so is Ms. Odeh.

If Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, the killers of Matthew Shepard, are anathema, so is Ms. Odeh.

The blood of Leon Kaner and Edward Jaffe, killed in 1969, cries out to me from the ground.

Had they lived, they would be seventy years old. They never married; never had children; never danced at a bar or bat mitzvah of a grandchild.

Jewish lives also matter.

About the author

Jeffrey Salkin

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin is the spiritual leader of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla., and the author of numerous books on Jewish spirituality and ethics, published by Jewish Lights Publishing and Jewish Publication Society.

24 Comments

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  • They can slap lipstick on this pig and give it crown of flowers, but we all know the BDS movement and it’s cohorts including JVP are nothing but ignorant hate mongers whose sole focus is the destruction of Israel. There is NOTHING good in what they do, say, or stand for.

    “Why not simply overlook your opposition to those who are opposed to Israel, and go along with them?”

    Because any presence will just be used as propaganda, gives weight to their lies. When no one continues to look or listen, they will wither on the vine.

  • I looked up the innocuous-sounding “Jewish Voice for Peace” online and quickly learned that it is a radical, fringe, far-left, anti-Zionist organization that is on the Anti-Defamation League’s top-ten list of anti-Israel organizations.

    Quite an honor!!!

  • Good article. “JVP” is a notoriously anti-Israel and often frankly antisemitic outfit, posing highly dishonestly as “peace advocates”.
    it’s composed of a cabal of virulent Israel- bashers, including unfortunately some self-hating Jews, and also many with ties to radical Palestinian terrorist organizations.

    They have been openly supportive of BDS and other anti-Semitic movements and have frequently disseminated highly dishonest information unfavorable always to Israel.

    JVP itself is basically a bunch of disingenuous bigots, dangerous because they often pose as a reasonable “peace group”. Recent summary report in NGO Monitor tells you everything you need to know about the nefarious activities of these dangerous racists.
    Thanks for the article.

  • JVP is an organization of honorable people dedicated to ending human rights violations in Israel/Palestine. In 2016 former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barack repeated his explicit warning that Israel is on a path to being a permanent apartheid state. “As long as in this territory west of the Jordan River there is only one political entity called Israel, it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic,” Barak said. “If this bloc of millions of ­Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”

    Western consensus holds that apartheid is a moral disgrace. JVP supports the same peaceful measures that helped bring an end to apartheid in South Africa. BDS will not bring about the end of Israel anymore than it brought about the end of the nation of South Africa. Indeed, just as it did in South Africa, throwing off the shame of apartheid will bring pride and greater harmony.

  • Except Israel is not South Africa and Jews have a very different history. I don’t see how BDS ends the occupation, which I oppose, one day sooner. It just makes people feel smug and self-righteous. It ends up helping Israel’s right-wingers. Jews and Israeli Jews already think everyone hates them and BDS proves it. BDS also contributes to the abuse and harassment of Jews and especially Jewish students around the world who are treated as racists who must prove that they are not racists by proving they are not Zionists. It’s not always nonviolent either. Israel is criticized with a ferocity and an intensity that I don’t see in the criticism of any other country. It is the new version of the Jew as uniquely evil and the Jew as international pariah.

  • Thanks. It’s all too easy to get suckered by JVP but the moment they say “BDS” one knows it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

  • “Never Again!” which is the rallying cry for Jews who stand against the rise of Anti-Semitism, has become internationalized into meaning for “everyone”.
    When a Dutch friend came back from Yad Vashem complaining about the tribal aspects of the term “Never Again”, I replied that countries usually do not send their young men and women around the world to fight and die to protect others.
    For example the Dutch UN troops who were put in charge of protecting the Muslims of Srebrenica in Bosnia. We all know what happened, there was no trial of the Dutch commanders, no resolutions in the UN condemning the Dutch troops for standing by and allowing the genocide to take place. No body actually expected the Dutch soldiers to put their lives on the line for the Bosnian civilians.

    “Never Again!” is an ethnic cry, and only the Jews can protect the Jews. To stand with anti-Zionists is simply evidence that quite a few village idiots left the shtetls and made their way to America, and now find themselves inhabiting the Left.

  • Excellent discussion, for once balanced views that supports dialog,interfaith cooperation, and civil discourse while rejecting extremism on both the left and right. Too many others condemn extremism only on one side and justify it on the other.

  • I suppose there are some well meaning people in JVP but it has no real strategy for peace, it only further polarizes both sides giving hope to Palestinians they can destroy Israel if the wait it out rather than compromise, and by eroding Israeli support for a peace process gives hope to those Israelis who want to have virtually all of the land west of the Jordan. The only way to help both sides is the opposite, seek reconciliation and compromise rather than silly demonization like “apartheid” (since in Israel there are many many important situations where Jews and Arabs are together rather than separated) just as those who demonize Palestinians (also not that hard to do) in hopes of helping Israelis only push them to more conflict.

  • JVP is an organization of people who consider themselves noble but have their eyes closed.

    Israeli Arabs have it better than Arabs in any other Middle Eastern country. They vote, have representatives in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) and the judiciary, and are doctors and lawyers and in high tech industries. What’s more, they have religious freedom and even have rights on the Temple Mount that Jews don’t have. Jews can’t pray there, even though this is the holiest site in Judaism and only the 3rd holiest in Islam.

    Israel within its green 1949 armistice lines plus Judea and Samaria (what you call “the West Bank”) has a population that’s presently about 66% Jewish. Now how would annexing Judea and Samaria make Israel an apartheid state? The Arabs there could have a path to Israeli citizenship and would have the same rights Israeli Arabs now have, even though the Arabs would still be a minority population within this greater Israel. Right now, these Arabs are governed by the corrupt Palestinian Authority and have little freedom to disagree with any of its dictates.

    Please realize also that the 1920 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine gave national rights in all of Western Palestine to the Jews–and only the Jews. Eastern Palestine (Transjordan, now the Kingdom of Jordan) was lopped off of what had been promised the Jews and was given by Britain (the Mandatory who was supposed to be encouraging Jewish immigration and settlement in Palestine) to an Arab ruler. The majority population of Jordan consists of Palestinian Arabs. And Jordan is something like 4 times the size of tiny Israel.

  • I’m South African and you insult black South Africans who suffered under real apartheid. When you claim Israel is an apartheid state you clearly have no understanding of what apartheid is.

  • Her US citizenship is being revoked and she is being deported for lying about her terrorist past and imprisonment.

  • Jews and Israelis should face the reality that some Jews (especially liberal Jews) have lost their survival instincts that helped them to exist for generations. George Sorros is an example of a Jew like that. He fund anti Israel organizations and have the hutspa to share with the world that the best time in his life was when he was working for the Nazi by removing/confiscating assets from Jewish homes during WW2.

  • What matters is what she says if she’s traveling the country with a group discussing Jewish-Muslim social justice and advocating peaceful solutions. She was 21 when convicted, 46 years ago. She’s a 67 year old woman now.

    The article doesn’t seem to want to tell us much about who she is now or what she advocates for. It seems to want to score points against the JVP.

    And before you ask — and since the article raises these sorts of question, let’s say we were talking about someone who took part in a lynching 46 years ago when they were 21. Would I let someone with that story speak on race relations? Depends. What are they about now, what are they going to say, and how are they going to answer for and explain what they did 46 years ago. In some circumstances, I’d very much want to hear what someone answering that description would say.

  • It stuck with me, Jeffrey Salkin, what you said – “I reject Jewish Voice for Peace. … I will have nothing to do with Satmar and other anti-Zionist groups on the Jewish right — as well as pro-Zionist groups on the far right.” I wasn’t intrigued by it, however, until these two pieces grabbed my attention because they focus on IfNotNow, whom Jewish Voice for Peace happens to endorse:

    (1) “‘Bible, not Google’ gives Israel right to land – minister”, RT, 29 March 2017

    (2) Max Blumenthal, “At AIPAC Protest, Young American Jews Voice Rejection of Israeli Policies”, The Real News Network, March 29, 2017.

    The first thing I always do, though, about activist groups of this nature, before making my mind up about them, is check out their funding sources, and so here’s what I got on JVP from (ir?)reputable Institute for NGO Research (“Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), February 20, 2017):

    “JVP’s funding sources are not transparent, and its website carries no information on its donors. Limited financial information on JVP is only available through public IRS documents (990s) and databases, which report a total revenue of $1,181,372 in 2013, $1,424,461 in 2014, and $2,596,654 in 2015. In June 2015, received a two-year grant of $140,000 from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. JVP has received funding from the Violet Jabara Charitable Trust (an Arab-American foundation that also supports Electronic Intifada), the Firedoll Foundation, and the Wallace Global Fund, which all contribute to numerous other anti-Israel groups.”

  • Yeah, Anti-Defamation League sounds pretty innocuous as well. But it isn’t. ADL is a Zionist organization, run by Israel. JVP simply stands for equality and freedom for all in the region, something Zionists cannot abide, can they? (Ever wonder why the organizations that pretend to act as watchdogs for racism, for example, are Jewish organizations, like the ADL are created and run by Jews? ADL — Jews can never be the target of ADL investigations and this is good because Zionism, at least, is a racist ideology and many Jews are racists, even without Zionism. It is a clever way of avoiding scrutiny. ) American values of freedom and equality are “shared” with Israel, for sure.

    As for Odeh, she is a terrorist of the same kind of Jewish terrorists which operated in Palestine throughout the forties and some became Israeli Prime Ministers. Shamir, for example, actual murdered Count Bernadotte who was assigned by the UN to help settle the crisis of Palestine. Odeh was as much a resistance fighter as any French resistance fighter against German occupation in WWII. Lastly — Israel uses terrorism on a large scale with sophisticated weapons and high tech control. Israel has terrorized the ME and even the US in its way: US Congress is entirely compromised by Zionists. If they dare to speak out against, they will lose re-election or suffer other calamities to themselves or loved ones. This is Zionism, a worldwide gangsterism and hucksterism …not for decent folks.

  • JVP stands for the destruction of the only Jewish nation in the world. It has few, if any, actual Jewish members and does not seek peace.

    For the life of me, I don’t know who you anti-Israel lunatics think you are kidding. And people wonder why there will never be a nation called Palestine.

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