Sunday, February 11, 2018

Against JVP

Some of my recent writings about why I oppose JVP.

I think of it as a perfect way to divide a growing and inevitable consensus among Jews on campus and elsewhere against Israel policy toward the Palestinians, and to foment useless and exhausting internecine battles instead.

This thought deserves fuller treatment than I'm giving it here, and I fully mean to expand on it, but still: Just as Weatherman helped incapacitate the campus based movement against the war in Vietnam — no one has better documented this than Mark Rudd, in his pained and rueful description of how proto-Weathermen gleefully and stupidly tore up mailing lists of anti-war students —  so JVP is helping to hinder or incapacitate a consensus among Jewish students that Israeli policy towards Palestinians needs to be opposed.

Just as Weatherman did, JVP  puts division and unneeded opposition in the way of potential unity.

[Here's an email to Mark Rudd who had had objected that I could just as easily — and wrongly — apply the above argument to any position to the "left" of mine. My response:]

First of all, I don't think of JVP as to the "left" of my position. I'm not sure those terms apply.  I think of JVP as mischievous and dishonest.

In brief, there's the mass line: apply BDS to products from the settlements — cool. Behind it, there's the cadre line: Israel is the first and foremost of illegal settlements; Israel is a colonial settler state — Leninist lingo lives on, don't it — and the oppression of Palestinians can only be resolved by annulling Israel and replacing it with a binational state, Jews and Palestinians, one person one vote.
The mass line — BDS as applied to the settlements is appealing, to me and others, and draws people to JVP. But the cadre line — abolish the Jewish state — is the driving and guiding force, the leadership. If you like I can establish that this is so with ease, as you can too,  simply by going to Omar Barghouti's site.

What did it for me about JVP — as perhaps tearing up the mailing lists on reflection did it for you — was learning that Barghouti flipped out when the Pope, on his visit to Israel, paid respects to Herzl’s grave. The Pope visited with Abbas to show clear Vatican support for a Palestinian state. That didn't satisfy Barghouti, who saw the Pope honoring Herzl as a hideous violation of Palestinian rights; for him, for JVP, the Pope had no business honoring Herzl, because, after all,  ZIONISM = RACISM.

Some of problem with JVP stems from this dishonesty. If JVP could be clear about its support for a "one-state" solution that would be to its credit, and allow for honest debate. (We can discuss: I'm against but understand why many at this point are for). But JVP is not honest; it fudges. At least we were honest about our admittedly meshugenah belief in world revolution guided by marxist-leninist-maoist parties.

That's not all of it: I do think Israel is pushing Jews except for the religious right to a consensus sharply critical of Israel. That would be more obvious on campus were it not for the way debate is being distorted and hijacked by whether or not you are for JVP. It's nice to think JVP/BDS is at last a practical way to push Israel to change its policy. (Ah, another parallel with W'man, for would not armed struggle compel the United States to disengage from Vietnam the way mass protests on their own would not?) But truth is JVP drains energy more than lends it to critique of Israel. Were it not for the exhausting and dumbfounding debate about JVP I think liberal Jews would be finding all sorts of ways to press their point, ways more integral than West Bank goods, maybe, who knows, pertaining to United States military/financial aid.

(As an aside: of course there is such a thing as liberal Zionism. Take me: As a liberal, both vis a vis the United States and Israel, I oppose much of Israeli policy, and have for decades. But do I believe Israel has a right to exist? Yep. Must be the Zionist in me, the elemental Zionism I do not disown. Could be how impressed I was by "Exodus"  when I read it as a kid. Could be my memory of how my maternal grandmother, with personal memory of pogroms, speaking Yiddish, her first language, would mutter that Israel [my transliteration] hut gerativit  — had saved menschen.

Could be how badly the left now as ever contends with anti-Semitism.

I think you came through the Weather experience uniquely — self-critically and sanely, with enough political grey matter remaining to make you worth hearing.

But I think with regard to JVP you are — out of frustration with Israel, violent impatience for it to change — going through the same thing twice.

I am often asked in these discussions how I propose to stop Israel on its awful course. I answer something to the effect that, I write, arthritis permitting I demonstrate, I read, I talk. I support J St because it educates and works so far as it can toward a 2-state solution, which is still the only solution, assuming there is any solution, short of war.

And there's the thing, this thing about solution. Why do I have to know the solution? There are many dire situations on earth that hurt to think about it. I don't feel in each case I have to know the answer. I've shrugged off that kind of arrogant global responsibility long ago.

But about the Middle East, I don't think JVP is anything like a solution, being neither left or right  but just mostly wrong.

There'd be more, and more effective, criticism of Israel, more channels for expressing it if JVP had not deranged the debate — yes, much the way W'man did, when it substituted a debate about armed struggle and global revolution for a debate about the war — and civil rights.

Don't tear up the mailing lists, Mark. Not again.

** I can see why decent people might support JVP/BDS out of profound frustration with Israeli policy toward the West Bank — yes, the West Bank, the Occupied Territory, not the Biblical lands of Judea and Samaria. I understand their outrage but think they're being fooled since, if  you take care to look into it just a bit, it becomes obvious that Omar Barghouti and other founders/leaders of JVP are not interested merely in addressing Israel's proto-apartheid policy toward the West Bank; no they think of Israel itself as just another, bigger, illegal settlement.

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