Jewish activism against Israel’s apartheid policies challenges a once unbreakable bond

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Our Own Correspondent

Safar 05, 1430 2009-02-01


by Our Own Correspondent (World, Crescent International Vol. 37, No. 12, Safar, 1430)

One of the consequences of Israel’s barbaric assault on Ghazzah has been to bring to surface the split in Jewish communities in North America and Europe. The split was always there but pro-Israeli groups consistently managed to monopolize media discourse and successfully blackmailed politicians and journalists to toe the line given to them. In the US, this is still the case with the Congress being described, in the words of political commentator Pat Buchanan, as “Zionist occupied territory.” Politicians elsewhere — in Canada, Britain and the rest of Europe — have been little more than apologists and have acted as cheerleaders for zionist crimes but the mass revulsion felt by ordinary people, including Jewish people, has forced a change in attitude.

Unlike Israel’s past crimes, this time round, Jewish voices were upfront and vocal in denouncing the assault on Ghazzah despite media censorship of the more gruesome pictures fromGhazzah. In Canada, for instance, there are several leading academics that have spearheaded the campaign against Israeli apartheid. Abbie Bakan, Professor of Political Studies at Queen’s University is part of the group that calls itself, Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA). The group has organized regular teach-ins and held rallies to denounce Israeli crimes. During the three-week onslaught on Ghazzah, the group held several well-attended programs to highlight Israeli crimes.

There is another group, led by several prominent Jewish women that have held regular vigils outside the Israeli Consulate in Toronto long before the latest crisis erupted. Calling itself Not in Our Name (NION), this group of dedicated Jewish women has not only held vigils but on January 7, eight of them also occupied the Israeli Consulate in Toronto for more than an hour. Joining the sit-in at the Israeli Consulate was Judy Rebick, professor at Ryerson University in Toronto who is also a social activist. Judy Deutch, President of the Scientists for Peace, JennyPeto, a university student leader, and several other prominent Canadian and Israeli Jewish women were also at hand. While guards at the consulate mistreated the eight protestors that occupied the consulate for more than an hour, including one guard knocking down their video camera, the women held their ground. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police finally escorted them out of the consulate only to be detained by the local police and confined to a police van for an hour. They were, however, not alone in their protest. A group of supporters was at hand to cheer them on and to express solidarity. Ultimately, the police realized that detaining them any longer or charging them would lead to even greater publicity for the protestors so the women were let go.

Canada, it seems, has a number of prominent Jewish academics and other personalities that refuse to be cowed by zionist propaganda. Michael Mandel, Professor of International Law at the Osgood Hall Law School in Toronto, who is the author of several highly acclaimed books on international law, has been a consistent critic of Israeli policies against the Palestinians. A number of other Jewish lawyers are also part of a group that held a press conference in Toronto to state that Israeli leaders and military officials may be guilty of war crimes and should be charged for such crimes before a properly constituted tribunal. Professor Richard Falk, UN Human Rights Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, was the first to make the war crimes charge on January 8 that followed on the heels of his earlier report of December 28, 2008. He also called on the UN Human Rights Council to issue a report demanding an independent investigation of Israeli war crimes and if any of its leaders or military personnel were found culpable, to try them for war crimes.

Other Jewish groups that have challenged the pro-Israeli lobby include Independent Jewish Voices. Representing some 18 to 20 different organizations in North America, the group has been vocal in condemning Israel’s violations of human rights in Palestine. It appears that the few organizations that have monopolized Jewish discourse on the conduct of Israel, justifying its every crime, are beginning to be challenged more effectively. In Canada, for instance, the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) has for years presented itself as speaking on behalf of all Jewish people. Similarly, B’nai Brith, another Jewish organization, has frequently attempted to silence criticism of Israel by using the now worn-out allegation of anti-Semitism. So what do they say about Jewish people criticizing Israel? B’nai Brith and the CJC immediately brand them as “self-hating Jews”. This is the charge leveled at Professor Norman Finkelstein, author of several highly acclaimed books, as well as a host of other respected Jewish academics in North America. When asked how he felt about this charge, Andy Lehrer of the Independent Jewish voices told Crescent International, “This is ridiculous. More than 100,000 Jews demonstrated in Tel Aviv against Israel’s attack on Ghazzah. If all of them are self-hating Jews, then Israelhas a serious problem on its hands.”

While Jewish voices opposing Israeli policies are more vocal and much stronger in Canada, this is not the case in the US. There, the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has a virtual stranglehold on the political system. Every politician has to clear his position with AIPAC before making a pronouncement relating to Israel’s conduct. When Barack Obama won the Democratic Party nomination to run for president, his first appearance was at AIPAC’s annual conference where he pledged allegiance to the Zionist State. But Israel’s Ghazzah onslaught may have created a crack in the pro-Israeli lobby monolith. True, there have been other voices critical of Israel including former president Jimmy Carter, academics like John Mearsheimer(Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago) and Stephen Walt (Professor of International Relations at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University) who together authored the book, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy. The two broke a taboo on a subject that had long been considered out of bounds for American academics, but Israel’s atrocious conduct in Ghazzah has clearly caused some rethinking.

Occupying Israeli consulates in North America, though virtually impossible for non-Jewish people because of tight security, has stunned Israeli supporters because Jewish people have taken the lead. For instance, a week after the Toronto sit-in at the Israeli Consulate, several Jewish community members formed a human chain to block entrance to the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles on January 14. Then they shut down the consulate for the first time ever in a historic protest against the policies of Israel.

An ad-hoc, multi-generational group including members of the recently founded International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, said they were sending a message to the Israeli government and its US supporters, “Not In Our Name! We will not be silent! Jews demand an end to the Israeli siege on Gaza and an end to Israeli apartheid.” Hannah Howard, a local member of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, told the media in Los Angeles: “We are shocked and outraged at Israel’s latest act of violent aggression against the Palestinian people, killing… women and children, bombing schools and mosques and then calling it self-defense — that is the worst kind of hypocrisy. It also amounts to war crimes,” Howard continued, “We are shutting down the Israeli consulate today because as Jewish people we cannot allow business as usual while violence is being done in our name. This is a direct betrayal of our Jewish tradition of social justice.” The group also spoke against the US government’s unconditional support for Israel’s siege and its ongoing war against the Palestinian people. “While US-funded F-16s rain down bombs on the people of Gaza, our elected officials locally and nationally offer unqualified support,” said Marsha Steinberg, a retired union representative. “Our government must stop sending billions of dollars in military and economic aid to the Israeli war machine while defending Israel in the international community,” Steinberg said. The group also demanded Obama change course in his dealings with Israel.

“While the end of the siege on Gaza is our most immediate priority, this is only the latest chapter in Palestinians’ 60 plus year experience of occupation and ethnic cleansing. Peace and justice in the region will only come when Palestinians have freedom and control their own destiny,” said Lisa Adler, a community organizer in Los Angeles and another member of the International Jewish Solidarity Network. “Even before the siege began, Israel’s inhumane months-long blockade of Gaza created a major humanitarian crisis. We must end the siege. And we are building a nonviolent international movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions that brings an end to Israel’s policies of occupation and apartheid and advances the Palestinian struggle for justice,” said Adler.

Clearly, things appear to have changed even within the Jewish communities in North America. It must be deeply troubling for the Zionist State that had hitherto taken the Jewish people for granted.

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