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Media Analyses

"Jewish Voice for Peace" A Voice for Defamation

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) bills itself as an organization of "activists inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, and human rights"  who "support the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians for security and self-determination." Its moral outrage, however, is decidedly one-sided, directed overwhelmingly at Israel.  The group's hostility towards Israel was apparent in an Op-Ed timed to coincide with Israel's 60th anniversary, appearing in the Detroit Free Press on May 22, 2008. In “No Time to Celebrate as Palestinians Still Suffer,” Barbara Harvey and David Finkel, Michigan board members of the Jewish Voice for Peace,  rehashed discredited allegations of massacres carried out by Jewish forces and accused the current Israeli government of intentionally starving the residents of Gaza.
CAMERA has previously discussed the agenda of  the deceptively named Jewish Voice for Peace noting their involvement in divestment and boycott campaigns targeting Israel. JVP's mission statement — available on its web site — contains a list of demands on Israel, but from the Palestinians it asks only that they halt suicide bombings and attacks against Israeli civilians (emphasis added). JVP calls for the United States to "stop supporting repressive policies in Israel and elsewhere" and stipulates that "aid may not be delivered to countries that abuse human rights." Since it assails Israel as a human rights abuser, JVP also calls for an end to military aid to that nation.
Tantura Falsehoods 

The authors cite an alleged Israeli massacre of 200 Arabs on May 22, 1948 in the village of Tantura by the 33rd battalion of the Alexandroni brigade. This allegation came from a graduate thesis by Theodore Katz, a disciple of revisionist historian Ilan Pappe at the University of Haifa. Katz was sued for libel by surviving members of the brigade, and it emerged during the trial that Katz's own notes and recorded interviews contradicted his claims that there had been a massacre. Katz then admitted under oath that he did not believe any massacre occurred. He apologized and agreed to publish advertisements at his own cost publicizing his disavowal of the massacre claim. Katz stated:

After checking and re-checking the evidence, I am now certain beyond any doubt that there is no basis at all for the allegation that after Tantura surrendered, there was any killing of residents by the Alexandroni Brigade, or any other fighting unit of the IDF. I would like to clarify that what I wrote was misunderstood, and that I did not mean to suggest that there had been a massacre in Tantura, nor do I believe that there ever was a massacre at Tantura.

The judge did not allow Katz’s subsequent attempt to recant his admissions. And a commission appointed by the University of Haifa re-examined Katz’s thesis and disqualified it after finding numerous further distortions and fabrications.

Since it is well-known that Katz lost the libel case, that his thesis was disqualified due to its inaccuracies, and that his own notes and recorded interviews showed there was no massacre, one must ask why  the Jewish Voice for Peace is promoting Katz’s discredited and defamatory claims?
Gazan Distortions
The authors accuse Israel of deliberately starving Gazans because they voted for the “wrong political party.” Although conditions for Palestinians in Gaza are cause for concern, there is no evidence that Gazans are starving. Furthermore, Hamas is not just a “political party.” It is deemed a terrorist organization by the United States, the EU and Israel. Its charter and leadership call for the annihilation of Israel. Its media, mosques and education system promote extreme bigotry toward Jews. Hamas has murdered hundreds of Israelis in terrorist attacks inside Israel and, since taking power in Gaza, has fired thousands of rockets into Israeli cities, a war crime under international law.
Several UN reports discuss the food situation in Gaza in some detail; none indicates starvation is occurring.
This UN Report published on May 13, 2008 provides an overview of the situation in Gaza. The number of Gazan children classified as acutely malnourished is 1.4 percent And 13 percent are chronically malnourished. This is a substantial improvement from what was reported on November 18, 2002.

Another UN Report  published on Feb. 19, 2008 discusses food insecurity, but gives no indication that starvation is imminent.

A third UN Report discusses how aid covered 61% of food needs in Gaza and the rest was covered by the commercial markets.

Israel has assured deliveries of food and medical supplies into Gaza despite the onslaught of rockets fired from that territory into Israel.
Presenting Disputed and Unsubstantiated Charges as Uncontested Fact
The authors also cite another alleged massacre in the village of Dawayameh. Their account seems to be directly copied from a book by Katz’s thesis adviser, Ilan Pappe (The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine). Pappe calls the events in Dawayameh “probably the worst in the annals of Nakba atrocities,” but judging by his narrative of the “massacre,” Pappe is no more reliable than his student Katz. For example, Pappe bases his account on a “UN report from 14 June 1949,” and quotes extensively from this supposed report’s findings. However, he gives no citation for the report, instead saying it’s “accessible today on the Internet just by searching for the village name.”
In fact, it’s not at all easy to find, but it can be found by browsing the UN’s quite extensive site on Palestine. Having found the report, it becomes all too clear why Pappe gives no citation; contrary to his claims, the report is not a “UN report” at all. Instead, it’s a report submitted to the UN by something called the “Arab Refugee Congress of Ramallah,” and it is based entirely on the uncorroborated account of a single Arab official from the town.
No real historian would so mischaracterize the archival record.

Unfortunately, that’s not the end of Pappe’s distortions regarding Dawayameh. In a footnote Pappe also cites work by Benny Morris. But while Morris (in The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem) does present claims of a Dawayameh massacre, he also describes denials of any such event from an Israeli soldier who fought in the village, and notes that a UN investigation – not the one cited by Pappe – found “no evidence of a massacre.” Pappe deceptively shares none of this with his readers.

It should also be noted that the evidence Morris presents for a massacre is based on hearsay: news of the massacre was learned from Israeli man A, who had heard the story from man B, who had heard the story from man C, an Israeli soldier. And man C was not actually an eyewitness – he had arrived in the “second wave.”

Finally, the authors include the “infamous massacre at Deir Yassin,” while keeping from readers the fact that accounts of what happened at Deir Yassin are disputed. Although there is no question that Arab villagers were killed, CAMERA has previously noted that some Arab accounts admit that atrocity charges were exaggerated. For example, Ayish Zeidan, a survivor of the fighting in Deir Yassin, told a British newspaper that:

The Arab radio talked of women being killed and raped, but this is not true... I believe that most of those who were killed were among the fighters and the women and children who helped the fighters. The Arab leaders committed a big mistake. By exaggerating the atrocities they thought they would encourage people to fight back harder. Instead they created panic and people ran away. (Daily Telegraph, April 8, 1998)

The Jewish Voice for Peace should be recognized for what it is -- a radical fringe group that defames Israel to promote a one-sided agenda. Op-Ed page editors should be aware that providing this group  a platform to disseminate baseless and distorted allegations damages their own credibility.

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