Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Jewish Voice for Peace: for freedom of speech except when they're against it

I recently wrote about a move among anti-Israel activists in Seattle to put a referendum on November's ballot which would mandate that the city's pension funds divest stock in corporations doing business in Israel (read here). Divestment advocates have been using the endorsement of a group called "Jewish Voice for Peace" (or "JVP") to deceive Seattle voters into believing that progressive, pro-peace Jews consider divestment a legitimate tactic. In fact, there is no indication that this is true.

JVP is an extremely small group. They do not make their membership figures public, but there are some indications that actual membership in the group is in the range of 500 - 1,000. A recent petition drive by JVP collected 4,000 signatures, and a recent letter writing drive collected 1,400 signatures. Assuming that their mailing list is larger than their formal membership, and that their petitions are forwarded to others by those on their mailing list, 1,000 members would be a very generous estimate of their formal membership. Assuming that JVP's membership is 100% Jewish, the organization represents between 0.008% - 0.015% of American Jews. In spite of this, JVP's leaders and their political associates portray the group as having a wide constituency.

JVP has made a name for itself as a supporter of divestment from companies doing business in Israel. In doing so, they, on the one hand, associate with extreme anti-Israel groups like ANSWER (read the ADL's take on ANSWER here), and, on the other hand, market themselves to groups that actually have mainstream, moderate constituencies like the United Methodists. Depending on their target audience, they sometimes represent themselves as mainstream and moderate themselves, saying to those audiences that they advocate very limited divestment targeting only corporations providing direct material support to the so-called "occupation" of the West Bank, Gaza and "East Jerusalem", sometimes naming specific individual corporations. The truth, however, is that JVP has a history of calling for a complete boycott of Israel, including of Israeli artists wishing to perform in the United States.

In one instance, JVP supported the group called "Women in Black-Los Angeles" (or "WIB-LA") in demanding that the individual members of the Israel Philharmonic sign a sort of loyalty oath with respect to their views of the political situation in the Middle East if they wanted to avoid a boycott of a planned concert in Los Angeles. WIB-LA sent, and JVP's leaders co-signed, a very polite letter to the orchestra's musicians, referring to the musicians as "representatives of the State of Israel", and giving them an ultimatum to sign a letter of support for the views of WIB-LA and JVP and return it three months prior to the concert in February 2007. (The letter containing this demand bore the closing "Peace and blessings". Nice touch.)

When the musicians did not sign this loyalty oath, WIB-LA picketed outside the concert with signs reading "BOYCOTT ISRAEL".

vigil in front of Disney Hall 1
vigil in front of Disney Hall 2

(Read about the protest action supporting a complete boycott of Israel at Women in Black - Los Angeles. Read the letter demanding the musicians sign a loyalty oath here at the so-called "OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF NORMAN G. FINKELSTEIN".)

Now, JVP (via their blog, "Muzzlewatch") is protesting two institutions (Spertus Museum and the University of Michigan Press) banning intellectual content deemed to be biased against Israel and, in the case of one, overtly anti-Semitic (read JVP's views on this here, a press report here, and the views of Stand With Us here). JVP's reasoning? They believe in freedom of expression. Their action against the Israel Philharmonic has apparently been forgotten.

JVP did not mention their push to boycott Israeli creative artists on "Muzzlewatch", the hypocrisy of doing so being too apparent. Maybe they need to have an alternate blog for such actions. They could call it "Muzzle".

1 comment:

Dusty said...

And the lovely folk at Jewish Voice for Peace made a vain attempt to line the steps of the San Francisco "Israel in the gardens" festival just a few weeks ago, in an effort to harrass and intimidate festival attendees. The good old San Francisco PD would not allow it, no matter how hard JVP begged.
You tube here:
"Muzzled" in their attempt to harrass the fair-goers, JVP and their partners in crime Women in Black paced back and forth in front of the festival entrance but found the 20,000 Israel supporters unresponsive to their message.

So sad, JVP. So sad.


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