Jewish Voice for Peace leader Rebecca Vilkomerson’s Washington Post online commentary (“I’m Jewish, and I want to boycott Israel,” June 24, 2016) misled anyone unfortunate enough to have read it. Omissions and misrepresentation were rife as Vilkomerson boosted the anti-Israel, discriminatory boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) effort.
Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is described by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as the “most influential anti-Zionist group in the United States.” Vilkomerson is its executive director. ADL has asserted that JVP’s role in the BDS movement is to provide the anti-Israel effort a “veneer of legitimacy” and camouflage against identification as antisemitic (“Profile: Jewish Voice for Peace,” Nov. 18, 2014, ADL). As CAMERA has pointed out (“J-Street’s Unreported Pro-BDS Partner—‘Jewish Voice for Peace,’” June 18, 2015), Jewish Voice for Peace, while a noisy “voice” from part of the anti-Zionist fringe, is neither particularly Jewish not supportive of any sort of peace Israel could survive.
Uncivil ‘civil society organizations’
In her Washington Post commentary, Vilkomerson claimed she embraced BDS to “bring about freedom and full rights for Palestinians.” BDS, she asserted, is a “non-violent effort, started in 2005 by a broad coalition of Palestinian civil society organizations…a call for solidarity from the international community until Israel complies with international law and ends its violations of Palestinian rights.” This is standard BDS boilerplate; it completely misrepresents BDS and its supporters.
The movement’s co-founder, Omar Barghouti, has stated that its purpose is to permanently end Jewish self-rule in the region. He advocates a Palestinian Arab state to replace the Jewish one, not a “two-state solution.” (“BDS, Academic/Cultural Boycott of Israel, and Omar Barghouti,” Feb. 24, 2010, CAMERA).
As CAMERA has noted (“J Street’s Unreported Pro-BDS Partner—‘Jewish Voice for Peace,’” June 18, 2015), the “Palestinian civil society groups” behind the founding of the BDS movement include U.S.-designated terrorist organizations Hamas and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades of Fatah and non-Palestinian Syrian extremist movements. The charter of Hamas calls for the destruction of Israel and genocide of the Jews.
In testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, on April 19, 2016, Jonathan Schanzer, a former U.S. Treasury Department terror analyst, highlighted ties between the BDS movement and Hamas-linked charities. Schanzer testified that the U.S. Coalition to Boycott Israel (also known as the Chicago Coalition for Justice in Palestine) is led by a Chicago resident named Ghassan Barakat, a member of the Palestine National Council (PNC), and its coordinator is Senan Shaqdeh. Shaqdeh is a former member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a U.S.-designated terrorist group, and a self-described founder of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).
Both SJP and the U.S. Coalition to Boycott Israel often partner with JVP; Vilkomerson herself has spoken before members of both groups.
Horrific Palestinian leadership
Having obscured BDS’ aims and origins, Vilkomerson then omitted important facts about Israel. The JVP head calls the 2008-9 and 2014 Hamas-initiated wars against Israel, “horrific assaults on Gaza.” She failed to mention that, in both instances, Hamas had admitted to using Palestinian Arabs—including women and children—as human shields while it launched missiles indiscriminately into Israel.
Contrary to her insinuations of disproportionate force, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey told Congress that Israel had gone out of its way to avoid civilian casualties during the 2014 war, also known as Operation Protective Edge.
In a similar misleading vein, Vilkomerson lamented that “Palestinians in Gaza live under siege.” She omitted that Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Hamas has ruled the Gaza Strip since its victory in 2006 elections—the last instance in which the Palestinian public has been allowed to vote. Hamas, like the Fatah movement that dominates the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank, is repressive. Among other human rights violations, it has imprisoned striking teachers, jailed people for social media posts and been accused of systemic torture by the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights. But Vilkomerson’s commentary is silent about them.
In fact, she never so much as mentions Hamas, or for that matter, Fatah and the PA it dominates. She only blames Israel. Palestinian Arabs and their leaders are essentially infantilized.
Vilkomerson asserted that in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), “residents are severely curtailed by Israel’s matrix of control…including checkpoints, administrative detention and home demolition.” She omitted that the vast majority of the West Bank is ruled by the PA and that the Israeli measures she lists are efforts to curtail and prevent terrorist attacks against Israelis—attacks that are often carried out by the groups she refused to mention and praised by those Palestinian “civil society organizations” noted above.
‘Extraordinary’ JVP associates
Vilkomerson blames Palestinian Arab anti-Jewish violence on the Jewish state. She claims that Palestinian terrorist attacks against Jews are a “horrifying symptom of ongoing occupation and repression.” However, anti-Jewish violence by Arabs predates the occupation of the West Bank, which was taken following Israel’s successful defense in the Arab-initiated 1967 Six-Day War. Moreover, Arabs in pre-state Israel engaged in massive pogroms in 1937, 1929 and 1920, among other instances. In the latter example, on April 4, 1920, an Arab mob in British Mandatory Palestine, incited to “drink the blood of the Jews,”—hearing local Arab leader Musa Kazim Husseini exhort “The Jews are our dogs,”— murdered five Jews and wounded 211 others (“Remembering the 1920 Passover Pogrom,” April 14, 2016, Algemeiner). None of this relevant history is mentioned in Vilkomerson’s Post commentary.
The JVP head foists addit
ional falsehoods on readers by insinuating that Arabs in Israel live under apartheid-like conditions. Yet, Israeli Arabs serve on Israel’s Supreme Court, have command ranks in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and have their own political list in Israel’s legislature, the Knesset. By contrast, the PA—in accordance with its penal code—kills any Palestinian suspected of selling land to Jews. Ezra Nawi—a BDS supporter who has been called “extraordinary” by JVP, which has raised money for him—was caught on camera acknowledging that he helps the PA kill Palestinians by providing information on those selling land to Jews (“Israeli leftist brags turned in Palestinians who sell land to Jews, risking their death and torture,” Legal Insurrection, Jan. 9, 2016).
Casting all of the blame for lack of peace on Israel, Vilkomerson tells Post readers that “BDS is a powerful way to encourage the state to act.” This omits that Palestinian leaders have rejected Israeli and U.S. offers of a “two-state solution” in exchange for peace with the Jewish state on a number of occasions, including 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and 2008 after the Annapolis conference. More recently, PA officials rejected U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s 2014 “framework” to restart negotiations and a similar proposal by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in March 2016.
Perhaps the reason why Vilkomerson omits this Palestinian rejectionism is that, as noted above, her organization and its allies don’t want a “two-state solution.” That’s not what BDS is about. And Vilkomerson—her obfuscation notwithstanding—can’t mask that.
Her opinion piece appeared in The Post’s “Post Everything” blog. Is the online news and commentary world more than a little like television’s “vast wasteland” years, as some have suggested? Vilkomerson’s JVP propaganda at “Post Everything” suggests as much.
After CAMERA alerted Israel’s government press office (GPO) to the objectionable clip, the GPO asked AJ to remove it. We will see if and when that happens.