The Deir Yassin Remembered Blog

Report on Beth Israel vigil 02-28-15

Posted on March 2nd, 2015 at 5:40 pm by

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain


A remark made by Barbara Harvey at her BDS presentation two weeks ago still sticks in our collective craw: in response to a question, she said “What is being criticized [by the BDS movement] is not a people”. What is being criticized, she clarified, is “[Israeli] state official policy.”

This brought to our minds the observation by Paul Eisen, who wonders why Jews are seemingly shielded from responsibility for the crimes committed on behalf of a Jewish state by Jewish soldiers using weapons adorned with Jewish religious symbols and with the full support and complicity of every mainstream Jewish organization. Ref: Jewish Power.

Cleary we have a tug of war here: Ms. Harvey is warning people not to peer behind the curtain of Jews acting collectively, and Mr. Eisen is calling the question. Since Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends has identified local Jews as a collective part of the problem and hold our protests at a Jewish House of WARship, we clearly see that Mr. Eisen has opened a can of worms that Ms. Harvey would like immediately and permanently closed.

Are Jews to be held responsible for their support of the crimes of the Jewish state? Enter Jewish peace groups: Jewish Voice for Peace (Ms. Harvey is a local leader), International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Israeli Coalition Against House Demolition, Jews for a Free Palestine, Code Pink, etc. They contrast themselves from their co-tribalist pro-Israel organizations like AIPAC, Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewish Federations, but both sides clearly indicate a preference for the continued existence of a Jewish state, and certainly side with Ms. Harvey’s answer, with implication: Say what you will about the state of Israel, but don’t you EVER hold Jews accountable for their part in supporting that state.

This sounds a little suspicious to we who hold vigils on Saturday mornings. Who supports the Jewish state more than “the Jews”? Are we allowed to say that? To think it? Does JVP and the BDS movement wish to reduce violence in Palestine, while maintaining Jewish control over the discourse? Is that their main function? Are they the man behind the curtain and we little Toto?

Heavens to Murgatroyd! What shall we do if Jews are somehow responsible for their support of crimes committed by the Jewish state? Will the world cease to exist? Will it draw attention to “anti-semitic” attitudes which just may have roots in collective Jewish behavior? Is learning from past history somehow a key to understanding current anti-Jewish behavior? Can we use this history to chart a different course for Jews or will we be content to wait for the “peasant’s axe” to fall once more?

Hiding behind the curtain solves nothing.

JWPF members Visit Berrien County Courthouse (again)

Two members of JWPF traveled to Benton Harbor to hear Judge Sterling Schrock dismiss at least four of the five legal considerations before him in the case of our friend Reverend Edward Pinkney. Ed has been incarcerated at the Marquette Branch Prison under the Michigan Department of Corrections, 500 miles away from friends and family for the past two months. He appeared well and was obviously moved by the attendance at this legal proceeding. About 60 supporters from across the state showed up for Ed. Mark Fancher of the Michigan ACLU delivered their amicus brief in support of allowing Ed free on bond. Request was denied by Judge Shrock.

What we heard: Pinkney attorney Tat Parish asked prosecutor Mike Sepic to state briefly the direct evidence which linked Ed to the changed dates on some recall petitions, and Sepic refused, saying that the jury already decided, and when you take motive into account with the circumstantial evidence, that “tells us who did this”. Local newspaper article here.


Three vigilers, 4 degrees
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends
End Jewish Supremacism

9 Responses to “Report on Beth Israel vigil 02-28-15”

  1. steve Kowit

    Barbara Harvey is right. To condemn an entire people is racism. There are millions of Jewish anti-Zionists & people who would be anti-Zionists if they had not been lied to for decades. JVP & other fighters for the Palestinian people are not the enemy. Henry, I would urge you to stop being a racist. To despise “the German people” or the “Dirty Japs” or the “Jewish people” is racist. Most political activists understand that & it’s time for you to stop being so self-righteous & start seeing your own very fallible belief system

    And since synagogue-going Jews are the least likely people in the US to wake up to the crimes of Israel, it seems rather counterproductive to put your political energies into trying to enlighten them. Or are you there each week just to give them the finger? & in that case it isn’t real political work that you’re doing. Your tactics are not smart & your ideology is confused. I would urge you to get rid of some of that self-righteous arrogance.

  2. Henry Herskovitz

    A slight but important correction here … the synagogue-going Jews are not the target audience of our vigils. True, they once were, but after reading their Hasbara Handbook, we adopted their advice and selected the general public as our target audience. The venue – Beth Israel Congregation – remains appropriate, since every congregant (according to their Rabbi) supports Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, the name Beth Israel translates to the “House of Israel” and we are an anti-Israel peace group.

  3. Michael Rabb

    Barbara Harvey is wrong. BDS has always been about Israel and the people who started it and continue to organize to support its existence and its continued crimes against humanity (genocide, ethnic cleansing and apartheid).

    The first goal of BDS is ending the “occupation” of all Arab lands — this means ending Israel (not just dismantling the the 48-year-old military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip), but the elimination of the entire Jewish state (the Jews as people (not a state) can stay in Palestine if they want as long as they act nice).

    Some states and yes, even some people can commit awful crimes against humanity (and should be criticized and opposed for it). BDS is a non-violent form of popular resistance that isn’t restricted to opposing just states. It works well against both states and people. In the case of Israel the overwhelming majority of Jews worldwide support Israel and therefore those Jews who support Israel are complicit in Israel’s ongoing crimes. BDS and JWPF can and should oppose and criticize the state of Israel and and people who support it.

  4. PeaceMonger

    To Steve Kowit: Where does Henry “condemn an entire people”? He asks: “Are Jews to be held responsible for their support of the crimes of the Jewish state.” If Jews don’t support the Jewish state then it follows they are not responsible for supporting the Jewish state. It seems dishonest of you to imply that Henry thinks Jews who don’t support Israel, which includes Henry, should be held responsible for supporting Israel. Do you also cry racism when someone says Americans should be held responsible for invading Iraq in 2003 in an illegal war initiated under false pretenses?

    You also claim, without evidence: “There are millions of Jewish anti-Zionists & people who would be anti-Zionists if they had not been lied to for decades.” What are the lies, who is telling them, and to whom? Are Jews so inept and/or morally benighted that they cannot see through these alleged lies or is this just another excuse deployed to absolve the Jewish mainstream of responsibility for their active, conscious support of Israel? In any case, Zionists (and anyone else who cared to) have known since the late 1800s that Palestine is “married to another man”.

    If JVP wants to be “fighters for the Palestinian people” then they should follow Henry’s example and take the fight to the Jewish mainstream and actively enlist non-Jewish Americans to liberate US Middle Eastern foreign policy from the Jewish lobby’s, to quote the Yedioth Ahronoth, domination. If JVP wants to be “fighters for the Palestinian people” then they should stop distorting the BDS campaign to fit their agenda. If JVP wants to be “fighters for the Palestinian people” then they should stop defining “occupation” in terms of 1967 and clearly state that all of Palestine–from the river to the sea–is occupied territory. They should stop waffling on Zionism and come out clearly and strongly as anti-Zionists. Until they do these things they are fighters for something but it ain’t the Palestinian people and they should be exposed as such.

  5. PeaceMonger

    To Michael Rabb: If the people who drafted and approved the BDS call in 2005 wanted to call for “the elimination of the entire Jewish state” then they certainly could have done that but they chose not to. Instead they call for “broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel” not its elimination.

    Likewise, they do not call for boycotts of individuals merely for supporting Israel. The Palestinian BDS national committee has stated:

    “… Palestinian civil society has called for a boycott of Israel, its complicit institutions, international corporations that sustain its occupation, colonization and apartheid, and official representatives of the state of Israel and its complicit institutions. BDS does not call for a boycott of individuals because she or he happens to be Israeli or because they express certain views.”

    It is fair to call for the end of the Jewish state or to boycott or protest individual supporters of Israel but neither of these are part of the BDS campaign and should not be attributed to it.

  6. steve Kowit

    Henry wants us to hold Jews responsible for supporting the State of Israel. But of course the overwhelming majority of Americans support the state of Israel. What does it mean to hold them accountable? And some of these folks commenting & Henry are mistaken about the “ideology” of JVP. Some members of liberal Zionists but the people I know tend to be anti-Zionists. They don’t want to see a “Jewish” state on Palestinian land. & of course people in an organization that is anti-Zionist are against the idea of a Jewish state. & I don’t get at all Henry’s argument seems to be that demonstrating at Temple Beth Israel is somehow protesting among the general public. Huh? Henry, what on earth have you been drinking? Of course Barbara Harvey doesn’t want to condemn the entire Jewish people. She’s condemning the racist state of Israel and not “the Jews” or “Judaism” or “the Jewish people” The distinction she’s making makes such obvious sense that it’s hard to understand the argument against it. As for lots of American Jews being Zionists, that’s unfortunate. But most Americans support the bombing of Iraq for a dozen years & the bombing of Afghanistan & the genocidal US slaughter in Korea & Vietnam & believe what they have been taught since childhood, that the US supports world peace & justice & freedom etc. etc. That’s the nature of tribal allegiance & human stupidity & “social proof” & you’ll find it among all races & nations. Surely that’s obvious.

  7. Michael Rabb

    To PeaceMonger: i didn’t say “individuals”. I said “people” oraganized to support Israel — for example Jews organized as congregations like Beth Israel who integrate into the the political and monetary support of the Jewish state. these people should be opposed through BDS actions and pickets like JWPF does in front of synagogues and other Israel-support organizations (e.g., AIPAC, JNF, Jewish Federations, Holocaust museums, etc).

  8. Michael Rabb

    To PeaceMonger: The 2005 BDS Call says “end the occupation of ALL Arab lands”. Not just the lands occupied in 1967. From the river to the sea Palestine shall be free. (Israel has got to go!)

  9. PeaceMonger

    To Michael Rabb:

    I agree that “From the river to the sea Palestine shall be free. (Israel has got to go!)” However, this is not what the “Palestinian Civil Society Calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights” statement says–it never has.

    The BDS call was written as an appeal couched in international law. Israel within the Green Line is not considered occupied territory under international law. This is not as it should be but that is how it is and I respect the decision of the Palestinians who drafted and approved the BDS call to make their own strategic and tactical decisions in their liberation struggle.

    If you’re dead set (I don’t know that you are) on ripping “Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands” out of the larger context of the statement then I will not waste much more of your or my time by trying to convince you of the error of your interpretation.

    I leave it at reminding you of the first sentence of the BDS call: “One year after the historic Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which found Israel’s Wall built on occupied Palestinian territory to be illegal …” That Advisory Opinion clearly states the wall is illegal because it is built primarily within the occupied West Bank. A wall on the Green Line would not be illegal because both the ICJ and international law recognize Israel within the Green Line as a fully legitimate nation-state with the right to exercise its sovereignty on the territory seized in 1948.
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