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Peter Beinart in the middle of a storm of debate heading into his talk at the JCCSF

by ron kampeas & shira schoenberg, jta

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Journalist Peter Beinart, author of “The Crisis of Zionism,” has in the past year become a lightning rod in the debate over what is and isn’t open for discussion in the American Jewish conversation about Israel.

In March 2010, in a much-discussed essay in the New York Review of Books, Beinart blamed what he called Israel’s slide away from democratic values, as well as the hard-line political stance of the American Jewish establishment, for young American Jews’ increasing alienation from Israel and organized Jewry.

Last month he took the debate up a notch, when in the New York Times he called for a boycott of goods produced in West Bank settlements — an action he defended as pro-Israel.

Peter Beinart discusses “The Crisis of Zionism” in Washington, D.C., on March 26.   photo/creative commons-new american federation
Peter Beinart discusses “The Crisis of Zionism” in Washington, D.C., on March 26. photo/creative commons-new american federation
On Monday, April 16, he will discuss his book, and his views on Zionism, at the JCC of San Francisco in a talk hosted by Janine Zacharia, former Jerusalem bureau chief for the Washington Post.

“The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment,” Beinart’s 2010 essay, won him plaudits from the pro-Israel left. He was the keynote speaker at last fall’s New Israel Fund gala in San Francisco, and a featured speaker at last month’s J Street national conference in Washington, D.C., among other prestigious gigs.

His March 19 essay calling for the boycott was considerably less popular.

Beinart cast the proposal in pro-Israel terms, calling it a “Zionist BDS” — an answer to the pro-Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions movement that targets all of Israel. In fact, he firmly condemned that larger BDS movement in his essay, calling it an effort to dismantle the Jewish state.

His aim, he says, is to save Zionism, even from itself. “If Israel makes the occupation permanent and Zionism ceases to be a democratic project, Israel’s foes will eventually overthrow Zionism itself,” he wrote.

The pushback was immediate, and came from multiple camps in the Israel debate: those who reject his thesis but seek to engage him, and those who think his latest call places him beyond the pale.

Just after the Times article came out, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said the boycott proposal is unlikely to yield positive results.

“We favor a border not a boycott — we want to get the political process going to arrive at a border,” he said.

Ben-Ami hastened to note, however, that the idea of boycotting settlements was not out of place in the Israeli discourse. Another J Street conference keynoter, he said, was Amos Oz, the widely respected Israeli novelist who has signed a letter supporting Israeli artists who refuse to perform in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

“It’s a legitimate point of view that a lot of passionate two-state Zionists share,” Ben-Ami said. “And Peter is within the mainstream in Israel.”

That may be true, but the boundaries of the Jewish conversation on Israel often are less flexible and more volatile outside Israel than within.

That is notably so in the Bay Area, where 2-year-old Jewish Community Federation guidelines place strict limits on Israel speech in determining what the S.F.-based organization will fund.

In mid-March, the JCC of the East Bay withdrew its co-sponsorship of an April 17 Beinart talk in Berkeley — not because of Beinart, but because the center learned the event would be moderated by Jewish Voice for Peace board member Penny Rosenwasser.  Beinart subsequently pulled out of the KPFA-sponsored event.

The JCC of the East Bay is not within the purview of the San Francisco federation, but it is part of the same Bay Area Jewish community that gave rise to the new funding guidelines.

Beinart gave a preview of what the JCCSF audience can expect when, at an April 4 appearance at Harvard University, he assailed Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians, warned that young American Jews are abandoning Zionism and criticized American Jewish leaders for what he depicted as their unquestioning support of the Israeli government.

Jewish leaders have “told young Amer-ican Jews not to ask hard questions, to avoid Palestinians, to start with the assumption everything the Israeli government does is right and we’ll help them reason backwards to figure out why,” he said.

Beinart also criticized the Birthright program, which takes young Jewish adults on free 10-day trips to Israel, for its lack of interaction with Palestinians.

“Ethically, how do we explain the fact that we send all of these kids to Israel and pretend as if essentially Palestinians don’t exist?” he asked. “In terms of a matter of education and educational honesty, to avoid that is intellectually insulting and dishonest.”

The pushback against Beinart’s settlements boycott proposal continues.

Seth Mandel, writing on the Contentions blog at the conservative Commentary magazine, assailed the proposal as well as Beinart’s labeling of Israel proper as “democratic Israel” and Israeli settlements as “non-democratic Israel.” Mandel called these arguments “both morally reprehensible and a dangerous slippery slope.”

Centrist Jewish groups also were critical.

“I don’t think a JCRC would support any organization that would support any kind of activity that would bring any harm to a segment of Israel,” said Ronald Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.

“I find it a less-than-serious proposal from a person I consider thoughtful,” he added.

But David Harris, the American Jewish Committee’s executive director, said questions of whether Beinart is in or out of the Jewish tent are rendered moot by the welcome Beinart receives in venues such as the New York Times — and that means he will continue to score speaking gigs from Jewish groups.

At least one Jewish group has taken a similar line to Beinart’s. Americans for Peace Now, which is a member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, announced its backing for a settlements boycotts last July.


J. staff contributed to this report.


Peter Beinart
will speak at 7 p.m. Monday, April 16 at the JCC of San Francisco, 3200 California St., S.F. $10-$20. (415) 292-1200 or http://www.jccsf.org


Comments

Posted by Pete
04/12/2012  at  10:05 PM
An important first step

Respected African American leader Bill Fletcher praised Beinart’s support for boycott and acknowledgment of colonial nature of the settlements, as an important first trip. He added that “within Israel itself “Beinart’s argument is fundamentally based upon a set of myths … The central myth is that Israel, within the pre-1967 borders, is a democracy … This misrepresents reality.  For 20 percent of Israelis there is no genuine democracy.  Palestinian citizens of Israel exist as second-class citizens compared with Jewish Israelis.  Whether one is referencing a “racial” differential in public education, availability of land, marriage laws, employment, or discriminatory housing access, Israel within the pre-1967 borders – with some 35 discriminatory laws – comes up short on democracy.  It’s like calling the pre-Civil Rights United States of America a democracy.”
http://www.alternet.org/story/154908/why_boycotts,_divestment_and_sanctions_should_be_used_to_target_israeli_apartheid

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Posted by Dave Marshak
04/13/2012  at  01:00 PM
The American South and Israel

I guess Pete is comparing the pre-Civil Rights American South to Israel. There is no comparison. Things were far worse for blacks in the South. Perhaps he is comparing Massachusetts with a black senator to Israel. That is a fair comparison. So is the SF Bay Area where blacks in places like Oakland can have it tough. We would all like to do away with all of that but it has proven to be hard. And we are not dealing with actual attacks on us since 9/11.

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Posted by Michael Harris
04/13/2012  at  05:25 PM
Let's compare and contrast

Pete’s comment shows an abysmal ignorance of Israel, American history, or most likely both.

Blacks in the Jim Crow South: prevented from voting, often by force. Arab citizens of Israel: equal voting rights

Blacks in the Jim Crow South: no elected officeholders. Arab citizens of Israel: members in every Knesset

Blacks in the Jim Crow South: legally prevented from attending public universities. Arab citizens of Israel: 20% of the university population, same as their presence in the population overall

Blacks in the Jim Crow South: no presence in the state police, the National Guard, or the judiciary.  Arab citizens of Israel: represented in all branches of government.

Is there equality of socioeconomic status?  No, neither in Israel where the poorest groups are the Haredim and the Arabs (are you going to make an allegation of discrimination against Haredim as well?) nor in the 21st century US. 

So Pete, you can take your Biased Dishonest Smear campaign to extremists like Jewish Voice for Peace where you will get a happy reception.  But you won’t fool people who know the facts.

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Posted by Dave Marshak
04/13/2012  at  06:12 PM
Black Schools

Mike,

Great note. Just one thing. Blacks had a separate and very unequal school system in the South before Brown vs Board of Education which continued for some years after it. They did have separate and inferior public universities. Israel has nothing like that.

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Posted by Ilene Sokoloff
04/14/2012  at  08:22 AM
Boycott Peter Beinart!

Shame on the JCCSF for inviting Beinart to speak. “Federation guidelines place strict limits on Israel speech in determining what the S.F.-based organization will fund.” I ask that Federation withdraw funding of the JCCSF if it allows Beinart to speak and tell the audience to boycott any place in Israel. I ask you the readers to contact Federation! I ask you the readers to contact the JCC! Beinart is leading the alienation of our youth, not stemming it.

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Posted by Pete
04/14/2012  at  11:05 AM
School Segregation

Is Dave aware that schools are segregated in Israel?  And that Jewish schools receive more than double the subsidy for the Palestinian Arab schools?  There are exceptions: 3 Hand in Hand School (Jerusalem, Galilee and Wadi Ara) and one: Mar Elias school in Ibillin. The Hand in Hand Schools receives some government support but even then, the support is higher per Jewish pupil than per Arab pupil.  Next time you visit Israel, go to one of the schools and ask.
And Mike: bring your points to Bill Fletcher to see if he finds your arguments convincing.  I don’t.

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Posted by Sam Liron
04/14/2012  at  12:38 PM
to Pete and other bleeding heart Jews

This self-hating and self-hitting Jewish melodrama is getting old and tiresome. What is a matter with the US Jewry that cannot accept faults, vices and strengths without pleading “Mia Culpa”. Why everybody is trying to outdo his brother in coming up with a newer version of moralistic hypocrisy.
Israel is not more/less democratic than your typical Western country. There are no perfect Democracies anywhere as long as people inhabit them. It is people’s nature to take care of their own….
Pete, I dare you to show me that you are going to favor a total stranger on your spouse or child…. or to people close to you on total strangers…  The same goes to all societies in the world, they first take care of their own. This is human nature and this is NATURE way of protecting and promoting its gene pool and specie. A wolf will protect his clan before rushing to help a coyote…. If you do not like it, then start your own world with different genes and evolution.
Further, please take of your utopian glasses and stop judging Israel to a higher standards that you may judge Mexico or China, and do not tell me that you are NOT doing that….You and your inane teachers got the US young Jews confused and demoralized to believe in utopian fable that do NOT exist in this universe….
Beinart and Lerner and J. Ben Ami are misguided in their quest of ‘Tikkun Israel’. You do NOT live in Israel and you have NO SAY in how and what Israel citizens think,  behave or do… 
Please get off your moralist hypocritical soapbox and accept reality, Jews and Israelis are human beings like all OTHERS with their fortes, blemishes and iniquities…  You can nitpick YOUR WAY TO HELL. And get as many psychotic complex, but NO ONE is PERFECT and cannot be.
Schools in Israel are NOT segregated more than in the US. Communities are segregated by choice, and thus their schools and kids…. The level of segregation is MONEY based, exactly like in all countries. In addition, the Arabs in Israel consist 20% of the population, but pay hardly 8% of the State revenue. Evasion and cheating on tax is rampant in the Arab sector, and the Israeli officials are afraid to pursue them, in order to avoid world criticism. Coming from bleeding heart lefties around the world, that are just too happy to admonish Israel, but look the other way elsewhere. The same goes for the Arabs’ paractice of building without permit, taking over State land with impunity, and flagrant abuse of other laws, which the Jewish sector get easily prosecuted for.
Again, to all progressive Jews, curb your criticism until you walk A MILE in Israel shoes.

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Posted by Dan Spitzer
04/14/2012  at  01:51 PM
Pete Lacking in the Simple Facts

On a per capita basis, public schools in Jewish neighborhoods receive no more per pupil than public schools in Palestinian neighborhoods.

Religious schools may be another matter, but most Jewish and Arab students in Israel attend public schools.

Where do you get your “data,” Pete? From Alison Wier, Barbara Lubin or Michael Lerner? You might consult more credible sources, that is if your strident anti-Israel ideological stance permits you to do so…

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Posted by Dan Spitzer
04/14/2012  at  01:57 PM
Addendum on Education in Israel

Last year, in response to the higher Arab drop-out rate from what Americans term secondary school, the Israeli education minister announced an affirmative action policy, promising that Arabs would be granted 25% of the education budget, more than their proportional share in the population (18%). He also added that the ministry would support the creations of an Arab academic college.

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Posted by Michael Harris
04/14/2012  at  04:34 PM
Don't confuse Pete with facts

Pete, the question isn’t whether YOU find facts convincing; if they don’t fit within your prejudicial worldview that the Jewish people are not entitled to national self-determination in their own land (while every other self-proclaimed nation, including the Palestinians, is granted that right) then of course you’re not going to pay attention to them.  The question is whether a reasonably fair person finds them compelling. 

Pete, I don’t know if you’re involved in JVP or not; but as you know, I’ve offered them a debate within the pages of J Weekly.  If you think the facts that I quote aren’t convincing, then you should encourage JVP to take me up on that offer.

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Posted by Pete
04/14/2012  at  07:51 PM
Why is that?

I find it amazing that every one of the commentators so far supports tolerance, equality and multiculturalism here at home but at the same time is anxious to support, justify or excuse segregation and intolerance in Israel.  Why is that?

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Posted by Dan Spitzer
04/14/2012  at  09:00 PM
What Rubbish, Pete...

If there was so much discrimination in Israel, then why is it the Palestinian citizens of Israel don’t move to live with their brethren in the W. Bank or Gaza? Couldn’t be that they have infinitely more opportunity and freedom in Israel could it?

In the Palestinian territories, you have true apartheid with second class citizenry for women, the brutalization of gays, and the torture, jailing, and/or murder of dissidents. In Israel, you have the polar opposite, with exemplary freedom for women and gays as well as complete freedom of expression.

Could those who cannot see this be blind, deaf and dumb (in both senses of the word)? I think we have a prime example in the commentary of our fine, intolerant, apallingly ignorant, JVP loving Israel loathing pal above…

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Posted by Pete
04/14/2012  at  11:01 PM
Gaining support

That’s exactly why JVP is gaining support all the time.

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Posted by Michael Harris
04/15/2012  at  12:13 AM
missed the point there, Pete

Umm, Pete—that was a reference to life for Palestinians under Fatah rule in the West Bank, which is what JVP and other extremists want extended into Israel.  (Hamas of course is even worse). 

But yes, life for Palestinians in the West Bank could be greatly improved if they would have their own state. What it takes is agreeing to live in peace alongside the Jewish state of Israel.  Is that arrangement OK with you, Pete?  It’s not with JVP….

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Posted by Joel Rubinstein
04/15/2012  at  12:44 AM
Ilene: Beinart doesn't call for a boycott of Israel.

Ilene Sokoloff wrote, “I ask that Federation withdraw funding of the JCCSF if it allows Beinart to speak and tell the audience to boycott any place in Israel.” But Ilene, Beinart opposes boycotting Israel; in The New York Times and elsewhere he has “called for a boycott of goods produced in West Bank settlements.” West Bank settlements are not “any place in Israel” — they are part of the occupation. The British Mandate of Palestine was an occupation; Palestine was never part of the United Kingdom. After World War II, the United States occupied Japan, but Japan was never part of the United States. After June 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank, but the West Bank is not part of Israel.

This is not just nitpicking, it is very serious. Palestinians in Israel have full Israeli citizenship. Palestinians in the Occupation are stateless.

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Posted by Joel Rubinstein
04/15/2012  at  12:50 AM
Dan Spitzer wrote, "On a

Dan Spitzer wrote, “On a per capita basis, public schools in Jewish neighborhoods receive no more per pupil than public schools in Palestinian neighborhoods. Religious schools may be another matter, but most Jewish and Arab students in Israel attend public schools.”

Where do you get your “data,” Dan? Religious schools in Israel are public schools, and spending is not nearly as equal as you say.

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Posted by Dan Spitzer
04/15/2012  at  07:38 AM
Mr. Rubinstein, You are Ill Informed

The majority of schools in Israel are public, not religious (innumerable sources can be found on the Web, ranging from Israeli public education to even Wikipedia). And as noted, the Israeli Minister of Education recently announced that schools with a Palestinian majority will garner more funding per capita than those with a largely Jewish student body to respond to its higher dropout rate.

Rubinstein and Pete must be getting their information from the likes of Lubin, Weir (her slogan: “We are the Weird”), Rosenwasser, and KPFA’s always credible and favorite Israel-hater, Dennis Bernstein.

As for Pete’s comment that JVP is growing, the only thing growing about JVP is fungus…

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Posted by Dave Marshak
04/15/2012  at  08:49 AM
Talking with JVP

“Pete, I don’t know if you’re involved in JVP or not; but as you know, I’ve offered them a debate within the pages of J Weekly.  If you think the facts that I quote aren’t convincing, then you should encourage JVP to take me up on that offer.”

It is unfortunate that JVP wants to preach to us but won’t discuss things with us. I don’t know if Joel is a member. I do know that insulting him on the theory he is a member and insulting JVP is no way to encourage the debate Mike has asked for.

It is a good thing for those of us who strongly support Israel to be models of civility and rationality. We have reason on our side.

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Posted by Joel Rubinstein
04/15/2012  at  08:49 AM
Again a call for civility

Dan, there has been a call for civility both within the Jewish community and on the comment section right here at jweekly.com. Can we please disagree civilly? You wrote, “Ruby, you and your fellow JVP’ers….” I assume “Ruby” is intended to be a disparaging nickname for me, but it is not my name, so please don’t call me that. I am not now nor have I ever been associated with JVP. That said, it is completely dishonest to say that JVP “would do Goebbels proud.” Dan, you do yourself no credit to make the Reductio ad Hitlerum argument, and the only proper response once Godwin’s law has been fulfilled (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin’s_law) is to end the discussion: “there is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress.”

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Posted by Dave Marshak
04/15/2012  at  09:08 AM
Nazis

Godwin’s law won’t work for Israel issues. Some people on both sides regularly compare the other side to the Nazis. That is certainly not helpful.

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2012/04/06/peace-group-anti-semitic-seder-israel-palestinians/

That is actually worse.

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Posted by Dave Marshak
04/15/2012  at  03:01 PM
Blacks and Arabs

One of the problems discussing the situation the Palestinians are in is the false analogies which arise because people don’t understand how bad things were for blacks in the US South and South Africa. In the US South up until 1865 blacks were treated like farm animals. Arabs have been in a position of dominance for over two thousand years and Muslims have been in a position of dominance since the 7th Century CE. Many Palestinians were tenant farmers under the Ottoman Empire and in many cases their land was sold to Jews. That included land taken over by Jordan in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

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Posted by Pete
04/15/2012  at  06:19 PM
Hasbara vs. Facts

And Mike, you are not ready for debates.  Just repeating Hasbara (הסברה‎) over and over does not transform it into facts.  Try diversifying your information sources.  For a starter read “The General’s son” by Miko Peled.  For Excerpt go to
http://mondoweiss.net/2012/03/exclusive-excerpt-miko-peleds-the-generals-son-journey-of-an-israeli-in-palestine.html

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Posted by Dave Marshak
04/15/2012  at  06:46 PM
Stories

Which stories about what happened in 1947 to 1950 are true and their significance is an interesting question. There were massacres on both sides. There is a Palestinian version of what happened and some people are sure it is totally true. The problem is that was a long time ago and they don’t seem ready to deal with Israel even now. BDS encourages them to think they can mount verbal attacks on Israel, throw in some violence, demand things no Israeli government will give them and wait for the world to force Israel to surrender to them. It hasn’t happened yet, there is no reason to think it ever will happen, but they just won’t change their strategy.

BDS folks can feel self-righteous about their superiority to Jews who support Israel as much as they want. They are working against peace not for peace.

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Posted by Dan Spitzer
04/15/2012  at  08:08 PM
Ruby Expects Us to Get Facts from MondoWeiss...

Now there’s a fine source of (mis)information. Even Alison Weir and Barbara Lubin draw what they term “facts” from that ignominious blog.

No wonder Ruby is so ill-informed. If Mondoweiss is exemplary of where he garners his information on Israel, this certainly provides some insight on why he holds such antipathy for the Jewish State and why he supports BDS vs Israel.

Again, Ruby, why don’t you or your pal Pete ever respond to questions raised concerning the intolerance exhibited by the Palestinians when it comes to women, gays and dissidents? I have yet to see someone with such a perspective hostile to Israel answer questions raised about these overt manifestations of Palestinian apartheid…

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Posted by gitelsura
04/16/2012  at  08:58 AM
Just Not Into You

Dave Marshak and Michael Harris keep imploring JVP to debate them in the J, but JVP doesn’t respond to their entreaties.  Maybe JVP has more pressing engagements on behalf of their tens of thousands of Jewish supporters and allies who support justice and equality in Israel-Palestine.

Face it, guys. They’re just not that into you.

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Posted by Dave Marshak
04/16/2012  at  09:07 AM
JVP

JVP is not into talking to any people who question their gospel. They are sure their approach is the only approach to peace and the only way to help the Palestinians.

I have a huge amount of experience managing complex projects. Refusing to consider issues with them is no way to succeed. BDS is making things worse for everyone. It is based on false premises and unreasonable demands. It can’t work. However it makes a lot of people, some of whom are Jewish, feel very good about themselves and oh so superior to the rest of us.

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Posted by Dave Marshak
04/16/2012  at  09:19 AM
Can we Talk?

“Alas, like others in the Jewish community I am not a lover of political states, and have learned from history not to pledge loyalty to any country, much less to one of which I am not a citizen.  I can, however, pledge to work for equality and security for all people in Israel-Palestine, and, as called for by our prophetic tradition, to love justice.

So –can we talk?”

Gitel Sura wrote that a while back. Of course we can talk. We are doing it here. But it helps to listen to the people we want to talk to. The world has far too many people who feel called to be prophets and too few critical thinkers who consider all points of view.

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Posted by Dan Spitzer
04/16/2012  at  09:36 AM
gitelsura says JVP has More Important Things to Do...

Right, such as calling for the destruction of the Jewish State with tactics such as BDS.

Of course, any real debate would include a discussion of Palestinian treatment of women, gays and dissidents, but ideologues such as gitelsura NEVER respond to such pertinent aspects of Palestinian political and cultural apartheid. What say you, gitelsura about this? Anything?

I laugh every time JVP’ers such as gitelsure talks about their “thousands” of supporters. Even in ground zero of the pro-Palestinian movement, JVP’s numbers are limited to a tiny marginal minion of those with demonstrably low cranium capacity. Hence, I think it’s reasonable to say that JVP’s alleged numbers, just like its “facts,” are more than a little suspect…

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Posted by Dave Marshak
04/16/2012  at  09:57 AM
Reason and Restraint

“demonstrably low cranium capacity”

That is absurd. As I have said before, those of us who support Israel have reason on our side. That kind of invective towards those who oppose Israel is not helpful. It only means something to those already firmly on our side. It turns off people who we are trying to reason with.

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Posted by gitelsura
04/16/2012  at  11:03 AM
David, do you support open discourse?

David, you characterize JVP’s failure to debate with you in the comments section of J as evidence of their unwillingness to engage with those of a different perspective. 

At the same time you, or at least your cohorts,  brag about JVP being shut out of all Jewish venues in the Bay Area EXCEPT J comments. 

If you are really a proponent of engagement and open discourse, do you support an end to the ban against JVP and other BDS proponents in
Jewish venues? If not, why not?

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Posted by gitelsura
04/16/2012  at  12:01 PM
clarification re ban against jvp

I should clarify that JVP is not excluded from all Jewish venues in the Bay Area. My understanding is that it is excluded from those venues funded by the Jewish Federation/Koret Foundation.

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Posted by Dan Spitzer
04/16/2012  at  01:06 PM
David, Have You Ever Tried to Reason with JVP?

You can’t reason with those who have proven time and again that they are incapable of it. JVP and its fellow anti-Israel ideologues fall definitively within those parameters.

Examples: try opting for a reasoned argument with the likes of Pete and gitelsura (who has admitted that he/she comes on this site simply to harass).

Again, those who lack a critical capability for reasoning demonstrate a low cranial capacity…

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Posted by gitelsura
04/16/2012  at  02:04 PM
Appreciation

I disagree with David Marshak about the motives of those who support divestment from occupation.  But I appreciate his rebuke of the kind of invective that drips from Mr. Spitzer’s lips.  I appreciate also Michael Harris’ call for civility and his earlier rebuke of a commenter who made fun of the vandalization of Rabbi Lerner’s home.

If a tone of reason can prevail on these pages, there will indeed be more discourse and debate from those with different perspectives on achieving a just peace in Israel-Palestine

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Posted by Pete
04/16/2012  at  02:10 PM
What do you suggest?

Joel Rubinstein brought to our attention a very important rule: the first person to make the Reductio ad Hitlerum argument discredits himself.  Let me add another obvious conclusion: those who attempt to change the subject by invoking human right violations in other places are equally bankrupt.  Israel was supposed to be a light unto nations and many of you are trying to justify the unjustifiable.  You seem to be stuck in the mythology you were fed as youngsters.  You are grown up now and should be able to open your eyes and grasp the reality of what Israel has become.  If BDS is not a good tool to reform Israel, what do you suggest?

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Posted by Dave Marshak
04/16/2012  at  04:14 PM
Reasoning with JVP

“David, you characterize JVP’s failure to debate with you in the comments section of J as evidence of their unwillingness to engage with those of a different perspective.”

No. They don’t seem to do it anywhere. Their bragging about disrupting meetings also doesn’t seem like the kind of thing people who are open to discussion do. They want a forum to preach from. Why should we give it to them? 

“I disagree with David Marshak about the motives of those who support divestment from occupation.”

I am sure they sincerely believe BDS is the only way to bring peace, that they have the truth and that they care about the Palestinians more than the rest of us do. I disagree about that. I am also sure that what they are doing is having effects opposite to those they intend.

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Posted by Dave Marshak
04/16/2012  at  04:29 PM
Reasoning

“those who attempt to change the subject by invoking human right violations in other places are equally bankrupt.”

I don’t see the point to Dan’s repeating his questions but the state of the art in the region and the rest of the world is relevant to judging Israel.

“Israel was supposed to be a light unto nations”

The Jewish people have been. The state of Israel has fallen short of the early Zionists hopes and many of us are sad about that. The leaders of Israel are simply human and they are no better than the leaders of other highly developed countries. Why do people expect them to be?

“You seem to be stuck in the mythology you were fed as youngsters.”

That is an all encompassing slam. The understanding the brightest and most knowledgeable people who lived closed to events had has now been deemed totally false by pro-Palestinian historians. People make mistakes and there are a variety of perspectives on what happened. I don’t buy that most of the books about the situation are filled with mythology. That is itself close to being a mythology.

“You are grown up now and should be able to open your eyes and grasp the reality of what Israel has become.”

What an odd idea. I had a good grasp of many things when I was a teenager back in the 50s and 60s.

BDS can’t work. Half the world’s Jews are in Israel and we know how they have been treated in countries where there was an Arab majority. The Right of Return for descendents of Arab refugees is a unique requirement and will never be met. Yet it is one of the three pillars of the BDS movement.

It goes against the interests of peace and the Palestinians to lead them to try to get things they will never get. Creating mythologies to counter what are believed to be mythologies makes it much harder to have meaningful discussions. Meaningful and respectful discussions are the key to peace.

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Posted by Dan Spitzer
04/16/2012  at  06:14 PM
David, If I Regularly Ask the JVP'ers to Address Palestinian Apartheid....

vs women, gays and dissidents, it’s to make a point. We respond with facts which undercut JVP’s incessantly fabricated harping about alleged Israeli intolerance and so-called human rights violations, in the process debunking the sewage JVP regularly spews.

On the other hand, you will not find JVP addressing to outrageous misogyny, the brutalization of gays, and the suppression of dissidents which is a daily norm of Palestinian life, culture and its political sphere.

In sum, JVP concocts allegations which wrongly castigate Israel while refusing to discuss the woeful bigotry and tyranny which is a regular part of the Palestinian realm…

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Posted by Dave Marshak
04/16/2012  at  08:18 PM
Human Rights

Every country in the world has some human rights violations because people make mistakes and some think badly of some groups. Israel is better than most advanced countries when we consider the situation Israel is in.

We have some people among us who don’t like Palestinians and that leads JVP and liberal Christians to think that we would do things differently if we just cared as much about peace and the Palestinians as they do. Many of us do care as much as they do. We are sure what they are doing can’t work and is making things worse for peace and the Palestinians. I have yet to find a way to get any of those folks to address that. They are sure their ideas are the only good ideas and their way is the only right way.

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Posted by Dave Marshak
04/17/2012  at  09:39 AM
Respect

The root issue in the Israel and Palestine conflict is respect. Arabs, Muslims and Jews have histories of not being treated with respect. We are very sensitive to that. Cultivating respect is key. With that the issues confronting the parties can be resolved. Without it they will never be resolved. We see here how hard cultivating respect is. We see in the Jewish community how hard it is to cultivate respect among Jews. JVP Jews treat those of us who support Israel with marked disrespect and some of us treat them with corresponding disrespect. BDS cultivates disrespect towards Israel, Israelis and many Jews. It is a problem not a solution but the people pushing it can’t see that. They confuse intent with accomplishment and are sure they will get good results because they intend to get good results. Things don’t work that way.

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Posted by Pete
04/17/2012  at  10:01 AM
A crisis indeed

Listen to someone who experienced Israel first hand:  “A society that has become centered on protecting, maintaining and furthering the oppression of another people produces and indeed rewards hate. This is not unique to Israel or Israelis—it’s human.
But I will not raise the two humans who matter most to me in such an atmosphere. I will protect them from what Israel has become, and I will raise them to know the Jewish values of human dignity and the sanctity of life.”
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/04/06/dear-israel-this-is-why-i-left.html

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Posted by Dave Marshak
04/17/2012  at  10:15 AM
Disrespect

It is easy to find reasons to look down on people, especially when you take what some members of a group do as representing what all members of the group are like. Many people who go to Israel and live in Israel find it to be as fair and decent a society as ours in the US. I trust the person who returned to Chicago is working to improve problems with racism there. You can find people in America and all over Europe saying and doing some amazing and disheartening things.

It is sadly easy to be pessimistic about the decency of people we strongly disagree with. It takes work to cultivate a mind of reason where we aren’t like that.

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Posted by gitelsura
04/17/2012  at  03:25 PM
Kumbaya

Pete -.  I’m very glad to read your comments.  They bring a strength and decency to this site, that is otherwise often absent.  I’m afraid I tilt to the sarcastic or worse in my frustration at how discussion here keeps getting beaten back by those who dominate it - members or allies of StandWithUs/Voice for Israel. 

My hopes rose a little with David’s words of civility.  But I see that it boils down to good cop vs bad.  Instead of racist rants, the space is filled with hot air about the merits of “reason”, without the facts of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people ever being rationally examined.  It’s a strange kind of kumbaya:  all of us humans are so flawed, so can’t we all get along, persecutors and victims, and accept that the status quo (Jewish privilege, Palestinian subjugation) is irreversible. Alas.

And of course, the ubiquitous amoral dodge—things are bad all over.

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Posted by Dave Marshak
04/17/2012  at  04:59 PM
Reason

It is unfortunate that reasonable discussion is viewed as hot air by people who divide the world into good people and villains. That is no way to peace. After all if we are all villains and apologists for villains who can’t be reasoned with as viewed by active and verbal people on both sides, the only solutions involve violence and the escalation of violence.

It is pointless to set standards no one can meet, denounce people as villains when they don’t meet them and think those denunciations will make them do whatever people who oppose them want them to do. What is the value to that? Why do people imagine it will change anything for the better?

Many of us are unhappy about things done in the US and in Israel. Many of us dearly want peace. The issue is what to do. There are people with pat answers who are absolutely sure people who don’t agree with them are wrong and that what they do will work. Sometimes people like that are right. In this case they aren’t. But while complaining they aren’t listened to, they will not listen. JVP is like that. I have addressed such information as has been presented above.

Somehow many people can not understand that their insisting something is a fact is not sufficient reason for other people to accept it as a fact. Evidence and analysis are key. Often there is conflicting evidence and no way to sort out all the facts especially when human motives are in question or things happened a long time ago.

There is plenty of Muslim and Christian privilege in the world. Jews are not attacking people all over the world in response to it. There are Arabs in important positions in the government of Israel. Were it not for some of their disdain for the Israeli political process, they could get the kind of accomodations other minorities in Israel get. The Russians, settlers and haredim aren’t that popular but they work the system to their advantage instead of attacking Israel.

Palestinians are treated badly all over the Middle East. Ordinary Arabs in Israel have more political rights than they do in some Arab countries.

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Posted by Frank
04/17/2012  at  11:04 PM
I agree with Ilene Sokoloff, above

It is appalling that a Jewish organization would host an enemy of Israel. 

What is more appalling are the leftist Jew-haters (if in fact Jews - then JINO’s) who are permitted to post their “progressive” anti-Semitism on this site.

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