The Deir Yassin Remembered Blog

Report on Beth Israel vigil 02-20-10

Posted on February 28th, 2010 at 9:12 am by

Will IJAN Challenge Jewish Power?

Below is the analysis of Henry Herskovitz (with Michelle J. Kinnucan) of Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends to a recent op-ed by Rebecca Tumposky on the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN).

There are many problems with IJAN, which lead me to doubt the purposes of the group. I first question whether they are a Palestinian solidarity group or yet another group that seeks to shield and preserve Jewish power both in Palestine and in the U.S.

In this writer’s opinion, Jews – if they are acting in a group that represents Jews in the peace movement – should first and foremost challenge what Akiva Eldar and J. J. Goldberg, among others, call the “Jewish lobby” – the powerful people and institutions (and their rank-and-file supporters) who dominate the US discourse and policy regarding Jews and Israel. Often, these are the very people behind the charge of “self-hating Jews” (and for non-Jews, “anti-Semites”) about whom Rebecca Tumposky, national organizer with the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, complains. Yet, nowhere in her article does Ms. Tumposky show a disposition to directly do that.

It is perhaps worth mentioning that three originators of IJAN who live in southeast Michigan, including “Invincible,” declined the invitation to stand vigil with us at our Global Vigil Day in 2007 or at any other time. They refused to expose and challenge a local institutional bastion of open, unabashed Jewish support for Israel when they had the opportunity. And yes, I’m the first to admit that standing in front of a synagogue is not the only way to challenge Jewish power, but at the same time ask where does IJAN directly challenge this power using another tactic?

In Tumposky’s op-ed she says IJAN “seeks to challenge the violence and injustice of Israeli apartheid” but she and IJAN are US-based. So, where is her mention, let alone challenge, of the Jewish supremacism/power that allows Jews – less than two percent of the US population – to so effectively steer US policy and resources into underwriting Jewish apartheid in Palestine?

Right out of the box, she shows her hand – Tumposky’s and IJAN’s opposition to apartheid is rooted not in universalistic notions of justice and human rights but in Jewish chauvinism/exceptionalism. Thus, they appeal to Jews on the grounds of “our varied traditions of social justice.” And Tumposky wants to make sure – absolutely certain – that fighting anti-Semitism is prioritized in any work on freeing Palestine from the genocide brought on by the Jewish state. Thus, she writes, “We challenge anti-Jewish prejudice while standing in solidarity with organizations that support Palestinian liberation and historic justice …” In short, IJAN enters the Palestinian solidarity movement with an explicit agenda of highlighting, if not foregrounding, the concerns of Jews, the very people who enjoy Jewish privilege here and in Israel.

Her opposition to Zionism is carefully couched as a subset of opposing colonialism and imperialism, in general: “We share a commitment to participation in struggles against colonialism and imperialism. We therefore oppose Zionism … IJAN, in fact, opposes all imperialist aggression”. She refuses to take notice of the peculiar situation of Zionism – Jewish imperialism – in that Jews lacked a nation-state of their own and, thus, Zionists commandeered other countries, namely Britain and the US, to realize their goals.

Tumposky beats up one or two carefully placed straw men along the way: “We will say it again and again, despite accusations of being ‘self-hating Jews’: Zionism is not Judaism and the Jewish community.” Just who is it that equates Zionism with “Judaism and the Jewish community”? And why is this point so essential for “anti-Zionists” like the IJAN folks? What would Tumposky say to the 757 rabbis – “the largest number of rabbis whose signatures are attached to a public pronouncement in all Jewish history” – who in 1942 stated that Zionism is an “Affirmation of Judaism” and “Anti-Zionism, not Zionism, is a departure from the Jewish religion”?

She also plays a Left Zionist game when she attempts to distinguish the ‘types’ of Zionism, claiming that “the Zionism we oppose is not a longstanding cultural or religious expression”. She conveniently ignores the fact that when push came to shove, all the Zionists – Left, Right and Center – gave their blessings to destroying Palestine.

In the first chapter of his book Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, Norman Finkelstein challenged the myth that any of the Zionist tendencies (Labor, Religious, etc.) were ever benign. In short, the only thing about Zionism that really matters is that it “is a form of racism and racial discrimination,” as the UN General Assembly correctly identified in 1975.

Tumposky’s definition of Zionism is also problematic – “the 19th century ideology that led European Jews to work with imperialist powers to displace and ethnically cleanse the Palestinian people, which continues today.” It is folly to imply that Jews were passive objects of that “ideology”. Zionism was created, implemented, and popularized by Jews. Are readers supposed to believe that it was the imperialist powers that Jews only “worked with” that committed this crime? Isn’t it more accurate to say that Jews led these imperialist powers by the nose – as they still do today – to have non-Jews die for the Jewish state?

When she writes “Israel and its U.S. lobby helped pushed us toward the Iraq war and are exerting similar pressure to attack Iran”, readers need to be cognizant of what she omits – EVERY major constituent group of the organized Jewish community pressed for war on Iraq, and there’s a list of at least two dozen Jewish individuals – in powerful government or media positions – who also pressed strongly for war.

Tumposky touts “Jewish visions of collective liberation and traditions of social justice”, but doesn’t give us any proof that this tradition ever existed, other than in the minds of Jews who want their image spit-shined, if not outright falsified. More than 300 years ago, Benedictus de Spinoza, who is often upheld as a great Jewish intellectual, observed that Jews had in fact nothing to commend themselves as superior to others, had acted in such a way as to “incur the hatred of all“, and that this hatred was the glue that bound Jews together. Other than, perhaps, a few years during the Civil Rights struggle (and Benjamin Ginsberg casts doubt on even this), Jews collectively have acted in concert NOT for universal well-being, but for the benefit of Jews. IJAN does not seem to be an exception.

Distinguishing IJAN from AIPAC, J-Street and Tikkun, might make good reading, but doesn’t let them off the hook. Once again, I’m reminded of Paul Eisen’s words: “The crime against the Palestinian people is being committed by a Jewish state with Jewish soldiers using weapons displaying Jewish religious symbols, and with the full support and complicity of the overwhelming mass of organized Jews worldwide. But to name Jews as responsible for this crime seems impossible to do.” It seems obvious to me that IJAN and similar organizations exist, in no small part, to prevent the naming of Jews as responsible for the Jewish-led genocide against the Palestinian people.

Protest Obama … or Not

This writer has recently been in touch with a number of anti-war activists, including at this week’s Ann Arbor planning meeting for the US Social Forum to be held in Detroit this summer. Curiously, at this time, there does not seem to be much enthusiasm for protesting outside the Big House (aka Michigan Stadium) when War President Barack Obama comes to town. And it appears that some peace movement activists are reluctant to change their May Day plans to take advantage of anticipated national press coverage that will surely follow when Obama is in town. But time has a way of changing hearts, and we hope to convince these groups to help us “petition the Government for a redress of grievances on Saturday, May 1st.

Another Fine Presentation by local Palestinian

Jamal presented “Al-Nakba II – The Zionist Conquering of Palestine” last Sunday and his talk concentrated on the ethnic cleansing that occurred between February and March, 1948. He focused on exposing the myth of a “Land with people …” by clear photos and videos which detailed a thriving existence in Palestine well prior to the Catastrophe (al-Nakba) that occurred in 1947-1949. See

Eight Vigillers
Read the Goldstone Report
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends

6 Responses to “Report on Beth Israel vigil 02-20-10”

  1. Boycott Israel

    My first reaction is to take action against racism– by boycotting the source.
    These college kids have just voted for a divestment resolution at the University of Michigan:

    Historic Student Divestment Resolution Passed at University of Michigan, Dearborn

    Boycott Israel,
    Boycott Israel,
    Boycott Israel!

  2. Anonymous

    Your “first reaction” to what? The vigil report? The above comment by “Boycott Israel” doesn’t seem quite “substantive” or “relevant” per the comment guidelines.

  3. Boycott Israel

    The more time you complain privately, the less time you have to demand action (boycott) publicly.  Is IJAN the problem? Are they misleading the masses?  No!  They over-emphasize anti-Semitism, when it has all but ceased to exist in this continent.  They under-emphasize the importance of boycotting Israel.  But who cares? Nobody knows who they are, and nobody ever will.

    Moaning about IJAN is no substitute for getting out there and boycotting Israel until it’s abolished, South-Africa-style.

    No one will hear you moaning on this very private little corner of the Web.

    They will hear you if you get in front of the media and say what you think is most important.  So say it.

  4. Henry Herskovitz

    Of course IJAN is attempting to “mislead the mass[es]”; at least the masses in the peace movement. That’s exactly why they formed … to offer a “protect Jewish sensibilities” message as opposed to doing what you suggest: Boycott Israel! As Jews, they enjoy immense privilege in the peace community, and continue to colonize it as their right-wing counterparts colonized Palestine.

    The task of exposing these charlatans is certainly not “moaning”, though you’re welcome to your opinion. And spending energy on identifying fifth columnists in the movement detracts not a whit from our constant, weekly vigils, which, of course call for Boycott, among other information that 1,000 cars see every Saturday.

    And IJAN is not the only group doing the damage: JVP, Brit Tzedek, J-Street all have come under similar – and deserved – criticism in our vigil reports.

  5. Boycott Israel

    Can’t argue with that.

    A demonstration on a well-traveled street, with “Boycott Israel” signs, is an extremely important thing.

    Your criticisms of JVP, Brit Tzedek, J-Street are correct, but if they never existed, the peace movement would still be too frightened to say a word for boycott. They automatically give Zionists a veto over every word they utter.

    If it’s important to expose JVP, Brit Tzedek, and  J-Street, then do it in front of TV cameras, and in front of big campus events,  to get yourself heard.

    Of course, you’ll find that nobody has heard of JVP, Brit Tzedek, or J-Street.

    However, they HAVE heard of boycott.  So those boycott signs are powerful, and are very dangerous to the whole Zionist project.

  6. Boycott Israel

    The people who HAVE heard of  JVP, Brit Tzedek, or J-Street are professional Zionists, and those who follow their actions. No one else has.

    So who do you aim your hard work at?  The Zionists? They will never be convinced.
    Better to aim your words at the general public, in places where they will hear you.

    You do that with your Palestine vigils, for those motorists who drive by, and good for you.
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