Jewish Federation Promotes Boycott Supporting Anti-Israel Hate Group in JTNews

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SHOULD SEATTLE’S JEWISH FEDERATION PROMOTE AN ANTI-ISRAEL HATE GROUP?

As the nation reeled in the wake of the Ferguson Grand Jury decision and angry protests erupted in many urban centers, one organization chose to strategically redirect that anger towards the Jewish State. On December 2nd Jewish Voice for Peace Seattle issued a press release linking events in Ferguson to what they say are  similar offenses inflicted by Israel against Palestinians. The statement reads in part…

We recognize that  (The Ferguson Grand Jury Decision)  is just one example of the racism that permeates the US and devalues Black lives, just as Israel continues to devalue Palestinian lives. We are determined to use our outrage and heartbreak  to fight against the dehumanization and devaluation of people of color from the US to Palestine… We know that at the root of Israel’s assault on Gaza this summer is a belief that Palestinian lives do not matter...It’s not surprising to see the similarity in the tactics and technologies of repression against those who are rising up nonviolently in both places.

Concurrent to their press release, Jewish Voice for Peace promoted and participated in multiple local marches in which banners screamed slogans like “End Racism Ferguson to Palestine” and “Occupation is a crime Ferguson to Palestine. Resist US Racism, Boycott Israel”

JVP with other anti-Zionist groups calling for boycott of Israeli companies. Taken at Port of Seattle 110/27/14.

JVP joined with other anti-Zionist groups on 10/27/14,  calling for a boycott of Israeli companies.  At Port of Seattle. Photo Credit: The Mike Report

JVP’s attempt to target the rage precipitated by an incident in Missouri – towards the citizens of Israel is just the latest tactic in their ongoing war against the Jewish State. Designated as one of the top ten anti-Israel groups by the ADL, Jewish Voice for Peace actively promotes the boycott movement against Israel. The group is widely credited as having played a pivotal role in the Presbyterian Church’s recent decision to divest from the Jewish state. In the midst of the Gaza war, Jewish Voice for Peace activists stunned tourists at the Pike Place Market, accusing Israel of war crimes.

In a 2013 report the ADL declared “While the group’s innocuous name and some of its outward policies seem mainstream, JVP consistently co-sponsors rallies to oppose Israeli military policy that are marked by signs and slogans comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, demonizing Jews and voicing support for groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.”  The group supported the recent  failed divestment initiative at the University of Washington.

Indicative of their extremist positions, Jewish Voice for Peace openly calls for the demographic elimination of the Jewish state via a Palestinian “right of return” and claims to be agnostic on whether a Jewish majority state should exist anywhere in the Middle East.

TOUGH CHOICES; WHO IS IN AND WHO IS OUT?

Anti-Israel organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace pose a unique challenge for inherently inclusive organizations like Hillel and local Jewish Federations. While the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle has enacted a policy, at least on paper, precluding partnership with organizations or individuals that promote or endorse the BDS movement, the reality has been a bit more complicated. Perhaps the most notable example being the Federation’s  sponsorship this past October of Israel critic and “Zionist BDS” proponent Peter Beinart.

The Seattle  Jewish Federation’s JTNews publishes an annual community guide to Jewish organizations known as ” The Guide to Jewish Washington” in which an entry for  Jewish Voice for Peace is included along with a flattering description. The guide describes Jewish Voice for Peace as an innocuous pro-peace organization, offering readers no inkling of the group’s radical acts or agenda.

Jewish Voice for Peace entry in the Seattle Jewish Federation's Guide to Jewish Washington

Jewish Voice for Peace entry in the Seattle Jewish Federation’s Guide to Jewish Washington

Keith Dvorchik, President of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle responded to concerns regarding inclusion of JVP in the guide, telling TMR that “The Guide to Jewish Washington is merely a listing of Jewish organizations in Washington.  JVP, while identified by our guidelines as outside the tent and therefore not an organization we would partner with, is considered a Jewish organization.  For the Guide, there is no policy related to Israel that is required for inclusion – if you are a Jewish organization you get included.“

This past summer Jewish Voice for Peace leaders were included among the invitees at a Hillel/JConnect sponsored young leadership conference facilitated by the Jewish Federation President.  The invitation extended to Jewish Voice for Peace read in part, “Jconnect Seattle invites your organization to nominate two young adult leaders for a unique, community-wide event discussing the future of Jewish Seattle.”  

Attendees at the conference informed The Mike Report that the two JVP representatives made repeated attempts to derail the meeting to focus on their anti-Israel agenda.

Dvorchik defended the inclusion of Jewish Voice for Peace at the Young Leaders Conference explaining that “even with their more extreme views on Israel, these are young Jews in our community.  I would never write them off and disallow them, as individuals, to participate in something like that.  Perhaps they meet people who eventually help change their minds.  It feels like we’d be ‘ex-communicating’ them and I’d never want that to be the case.”

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JVP members pressing for divestment from Israel at Presbyterian convention.

As we prepared to  post this article, The Seattle Jewish Federation’s JTNews (aka Jewish Sound, aka Jewish Transcript) published a fawning piece about Jewish Voice for Peace highlighting an anti-Police rally they held last night in downtown Seattle. The paper has in the past served as a friendly outlet for anti-Israel activists like Seattle City Councilmember Kshama SawantCraig and Cyndie Corrie and groups like JVP, going so far as to assist JVP in whitewashing an anti-Semitic incident that occurred at one of their events. 

JVP celebrating their role in the Presbyterian Church Divesting from Israel

JVP celebrating their role in persuading the Presbyterian Church to Divest from Israel

While offering Jewish Voice for Peace several paragraphs of free promotion, the JTNews article mentioned only as an aside JVP’s “outspoken critiques of Israel’s government”. Some unwitting JTNews readers will undoubtedly be drawn to JVP as a result of their article, being unaware of the group’s venomous hostility towards the Jewish state. Nachshon Ben-Ami, a Social Worker and member of the Seattle Jewish community told TMR that “It seems to me that by not giving readers the full story JTNews has abrogated their responsibility to the community in favor of some misplaced ideology that is not so friendly to Israel”.

These conflicting imperatives of inclusion versus core Jewish values are not unique to the Seattle Jewish establishment. Communities across the country are struggling with similar issues as anti-Zionist groups fights to enter the mainstream. Asaf Romirowsky (Executive Director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East) recently told the Jerusalem Post that “the core of the problem regarding the “big tent” philosophy is that it has no red lines; everyone should be included, even at the expense of Jewish identity and survival of the Jewish state. This is not to say that diversity of opinion and academic freedom should not be exercised. The difference is that there needs to be a differentiation between criticism and delegitimization, and between open discussion and self-inflicted annihilation. Does the “big tent” allow in those who wish to burn it down?”

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