Category Archives: JVP

AIPAC and dual loyalties: Jewschool weighs in

At Jewish Voice for Peace, we understand full well that AIPAC and others in the Israel Lobby are extremely influential when it comes to US foreign policy in the region (if they’re not, then AIPAC has conned a whole lot of folks out of their big donations, and Muzzlewatch should shut down now.)

But we think it’s an over-statement to say that the lobby is so strong that it actually gets the US to act against its perceived interests. ( To paraphrase an anonymous State Department official, “When they knock they get it, but we open the door.”) Yeah, it’s a matter of great debate.

But Mobius at Jewschool dares being called a self-hating Jew and calls out AIPAC’s role in the drumbeat for war with Iran as a classic case of putting Israel’s interests over those of the US.

Certainly, the let’s-stay-in-Iraq-forever love fest at AIPAC (despite overwhelming Jewish opposition to the war) can’t help but feed the already growing commonly held belief that we went to war with Iraq because and only because of the Jews and Israel. (The 9/11 truth movement stomachs a surprising amount of outright anti-Semitism, fed again by this belief.)

In the end, any attack on Iran (which we still think unlikely) would be driven by a complex set of factors, Israel being just one. But nuance matters not to a lynch mob.

As Mobius says, AIPAC is doing everything it can to make sure that a war on Iran can also be blamed on–the Jews!

Mobius writes:

See, here’s the thing… If you’re concerned about the prominence of phrases like –

“dual loyalty” […] and intimations of powerful “Jewish lobbies” […] exerting undue influence over foreign policy

– then perhaps you ought to stop acting in a way that affirms these impressions.

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Lee Kaplan: Using the IRS to shut down political opponents

You have to give self-styled investigative journalist Lee Kaplan an A for tenacity. There seems to be no line he will not cross in order to “protectwhat he sees as Israel’s interests. He fabricates stories, boasts about giving names of solidarity activists to the Israeli border police and infiltrating conferences, and makes a career out of demonizing and hounding groups that question Israel’s policies or in any way support Palestinians.

In fact, there’s so much to say about Lee Kaplan that he actually has his own website, Lee Kaplan Watch, run by two UC Berkeley students. Here’s just a tiny example of Kaplan-style revenge directed towards one of the students, Israeli Ehud Appel.

One of Kaplan’s favorite tactics is trying to get the IRS to investigate groups that he doesn’t like. Articles can be found all over the web, but particularly in the hawkish pro-Israel answer to the National Enquirer, Frontpage Magazine, calling for IRS investigations of myriad groups. He usually posts tax forms filed by the groups to make his case.

Recently, Jewish Voice for Peace was hit with an audit by the IRS. It seemed suspicious for several reasons: it was an audit that focused largely on our political activities, we weren’t the only ones who were audited at the time, and finally, a loose-lipped IRS agent mentioned something about claims made by “the other side.” (We passed the audit with flying colors.)

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Muzzlewatch in the Forward today

Rebecca Spence at the Forward wrote about the blog. She also cites our friend and dauntless researcher Richard Silverstein at Tikun Olam, who published our story about Adam Horowitz getting an “anonymous” harassing email at home from a high level American Jewish Congress staffer. As Richard pointed out, why was she monitoring Adam’s private emails in the first place? (Richard has done more original reporting on the story.)
I should point out, however, that our biggest beef isn’t the many hate mails we get. Really, who can count them? The biggest beef is getting disinvited to speaking engagements, seeing media stories get killed (yes, it happens), getting barred from major Jewish institutions, pulling down art shows, seeing supposedly reputable Jewish organizations pressure third parties not to speak to groups like JVP or Tikkun. The list goes on and on. Not to mention the general practice of tarring and feathering of non-Jews who dare begin to speak the truth we all know about our miserable foreign policy and Israel’s shameful history of violating the human rights of Palestinians.

In fact, this whole issue became such a problem for us at JVP, getting in the way of our ability to do our actual work, which is about ending the conflict, that last year our board approved a proposal to launch a campaign to help publicize and put an end to these kinds of attacks.

But I should emphasize that this is happening because these folks are afraid. They are afraid of the growing number of Jews, all over the world, including many of the sacred symbols of the Jewish community like rabbis, Holocaust survivors or IDF soldiers, all willing to speak the truth in public settings. The 40th anniversary of Israel’s occupation is coming up. The last 6 or 7 years has been a remarkable period of devastation for both Palestinians and Israelis. On these issues, our so-called leaders have let us all down.

Left-wing Critics of Israel Launch Blog To Combat Alleged Intimidation | Fri. Feb 09, 2007

In the wake of an increasing flurry of attacks leveled against left-wing Jewish groups by their right-wing counterparts, one dovish group is fighting back.

Jewish Voice for Peace, a San Francisco-based organization, recently launched a blog to track what it describes as a growing epidemic of intimidation and harassment from fellow Jews seeking to stifle open debate over America’s policy on Israel. The inception of the daily blog, MuzzleWatch.com, comes as one influential centrist organization, the American Jewish Committee, is facing fierce criticism for publishing an essay charging that Jews on the left, with their vocal criticisms of Israel, are helping to breed a virulent new form of antisemitism.

“As we’ve become more effective and more visible, there’s definitely been an increase in the backlash,” said Cecilie Surasky, communications director of Jewish Voice for Peace, which in the last year has grown from a local Bay Area group into a national organization with five chapters in major cities, including Boston and Washington. “Groups aren’t fighting fair,” she said.

While internecine squabbles within the Jewish community are nothing new, the tenor of hostilities between groups on opposite ends of the political spectrum seem to be reaching a fever pitch not felt in years. As left-wing activists contend that they face increasingly hostile attacks from hawkish groups, right-wing critics charge that their Jewish foes present a growing danger to Israel, already under siege from the international community and facing the prospect of a nuclear threat from Iran. Even a branch of the Israeli government has weighed in, with the consul general of Los Angeles, Ehud Danoch, asserting in a report he issued to the Israeli Foreign Ministry that Jewish groups, presumably left wing, are harming Israel’s image by sponsoring tours of ex-Israeli soldiers who speak out against alleged Israeli human rights abuses in the Palestinian territories.

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Muzzlewatch breaks Beinin story, ADL gets busted by the media

A collective gasp of disbelief could be heard some weeks back in the Bay Area progressive community when it was discovered that the ADL was putting on a conference – by and for progressives – on anti-Semitism on the left.

I say discovered because nowhere on the registration page did it actually say who was organizing the event. The only contact information was a gmail address. Also conspicuous was the fact that of the 50 or so co-sponsors, the Bay Area’s most prominent progressive Jewish groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, Tikkun and Progressive Jewish Alliance were nowhere to be seen. AIPAC and BlueStar PR, however, were.
Was this really a conference to address anti-Semitism on the left? Or was it a blatant ADL ploy to silence dissent by appropriating the “progressive” label and calling all criticism of Israel anti-Semitic?

The truth probably is somewhere in between. In fact, many excellent, thoughtful people did participate, and we think anti-Semitism on the left is a real issue that needs to be addressed. (So, by the way, is Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism. We’re waiting for the ADL to put on that conference.) But a quick glance at the program left no doubt that there would be ample discussion about things like fighting divestment and “emphasizing what’s right in Israel” from BlueStarPR, the folks who have perfected the art of promoting Israel by simply dissing the entire Middle East.
What was remarkable about this conference was that virtually none of the media outlets were buying just the ADL’s take on the “new anti-Semitism”. Check out these more thoughtful stories on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle and in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

And this archive of a 1 hour show on San Francisco’s KALW that we did with Rabbi Jane Litman, the rabbi the ADL brought in to organize the conference. After the conference, we were contacted by even more reporters from both the Jewish and corporate press.

This San Jose Mercury News article is notable not only for delving into the complexities of the issue, but for mentioning Muzzlewatch. In fact, it mentions the story we reported earlier about Professor Joel Beinin being booted at the last minute from a Harker School speaking engagement due to pressure from a parents group, with some kind of involvement by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Silicon Valley (though they have not responded to a request for a statement), that was no doubt, fulfilling its mission as a “protector of Israel.”

(Here at Muzzlewatch, we reject the term “pro-Israel” because many of the groups who proudly use that moniker are blindly marching Israel down the path of self-destruction. Further, it insinuates that if you care about Israelis, you don’t care about Palestinians. At Muzzlewatch, and Jewish Voice for Peace, we take the sadly radical position that you can and should care equally about both. We’re pro-humanity.)

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San Francisco Jewish Community Center Still Bans JVP

JCCSF

JCCSF singlehandedly solves the “who is a Jew question”! Not, apparently, JVP!
In May 2005, Jewish Voice for Peace held a sold-out fundraiser at the JCC of San Francisco, the crown jewel of the Jewish community here in the city. Turns out that in February, shortly after it became public that we’d be holding our shindig there, but before the event was actually held, they rewrote their rental agreement to keep us out. It wasn’t until a year later when we went back to rent a room that they told us we might first want to check out the, ahem, new agreement. (Reportedly, at least one board member who was in the room when the change was pushed through was appalled, but no one has gone on record about what happened.)

Now, sandwiched in between minor contractual details about things like cleaning or leaving a deposit, there is a paragraph which states:

It is the right and responsibility of the JCCSF to determine eligibility, in part, based on a group’s mission and activities. Groups that…engage in Israel-related activities without an explicit commitment to Israel’s right to exist as an independent Jewish State would fall outside of the JCCSF’s rental eligibility requirements.

It wasn’t that long ago that a majority of Jews were opposed to Zionism. Many still oppose the idea of a Jewish state for a multitude of reasons.
The funny thing is, JVP is not even anti-Zionist. But our crime is that we’re not Zionist either. We have members who span the spectrum. We support the rights of Israelis and Palestinians to self-determination, and keep our focus on international human rights and ending the occupation. You can read why we don’t endorse either a one or two-state solution–it’s up to Israelis and Palestinians, not us, to negotiate what will work for them. So, we don’t pass the new litmus test.

Oh yeah, and we’re Jewish. We’re very Jewish. Many of our supporters are members of the JCCSF. But apparently, we’re not Jewish enough.

In a few days, I’ll post the words of poet Adrienne Rich at a recent Hannukah reading, sitting on the very stage that we can never return to, calling out the JCCSF for making us “unwelcome”.

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Welcome to the new MuzzleWatch blog

Welcome to MuzzleWatch, the new blog dedicated to tracking efforts to muzzle critics of US-Israeli foreign policy. We, the folks at Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), decided to start this blog because we’ve simply had enough.

We found ourselves getting disinvited from too many speaking engagements. We saw too many groups we like get called anti-Semitic. We encountered too many people who capitulated to pressure to simply shut up.

MuzzleWatch is dedicated to creating an open atmosphere for debate about US-Israeli foreign policy by:

  • shining a light on incidents that involve pressure, intimidation, and outright censorship of critics of US-Israeli policy
  • showing that there is an environment of intimidation that keeps far too many people from speaking honestly and openly
  • demanding accountability from groups that use silencing tactics

It is simply absurd that these issues can be debated much more openly in Israel than in the United States. Continue reading