Archive | May 14th, 2017

“All In!” Jewish Voice for Peace Calls for Palestinian Liberation, Participation in BDS

JVP Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson

The 2017 National Member Meeting of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), held at Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center, galvanized the energies of the 1,000 advocates—Jews and non-Jews alike—who participated in the March 31-April 2 event. JVP members kicked off the long weekend with a raucous klezmer ensemble and ended with a stirring call to practice a prophetic Judaism insisting on justice for all. Intersectionality and solidarity were the watchwords of this massive, noisy meeting of activists on Chicago’s Near-South Side.

United by the national meeting’s slogan, “All In!”, participants called for an end to Israel’s brutal military occupation in the Palestinian territories, and an end to racism and discrimination against Palestinians within pre-1967 Israel.

More than 45 speakers crowded the speakers’ platform over the three days of plenaries and workshops. One plenary, “Let’s Talk About Zionism,” looked at “the connections between Zionism, white supremacy, and anti-Semitism in the Trump-Netanyahu era,” and explored “practical visions for imagining a world beyond Zionism.”

The wide array of workshops ranged from “Local Organizing Challenging Islamophobia and Racism” to “Fighting Anti-Boycott State Legislation: Legal, Media, and Organizing Strategies.”

“Knitting is a good metaphor for the work we’re doing,” declared JVP executive director Rebecca Vilkomerson, JVP’s executive director, referring to the broad coalition of blacks, women, churches, campus groups, and others making up the BDS movement. She highlighted the pioneering work of Jews of color—“Jews of Color and/or Sephardic/Mizrahi Jews” (JOCSM)—who held their own caucus on the JVP national meeting’s opening day.

Robin D.G. Kelley, author and professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of California, remarked that female-dominated JVP is “one of the groups to remind the movement” that the Palestine struggle “is a women’s issue.” Kelley then recalled Martin Luther King’s memorable speech against the Vietnam War, which he delivered at New York’s Riverside Church 50 years ago, on April 4, 1967. One sometimes is called upon “to be a traitor to a nation state in order to be loyal to humanity,” Kelley asserted.

Judith Butler, a University of California Berkeley professor who serves on the JVP advisory board and also on the international board of the Freedom Theatre in Jenin, shared her vision of JVP as “an organization of allies.” “We don’t spend a lot of time deciding who is Jewish,” she quipped. “What is Jewish? A kind of living joyously,” Butler continued, “an openness to many voices.” On the other hand, she asserted, “Zionism is ultimately anti-Semitic.…Ashkenazi rule [in Israel] wants to maintain itself at all costs.”

Describing Jewish Voice for Peace as “a cacophonous chorus,” Butler went on to note that JVP has grown to the point where it now numbers 250,000 constituents, with 12,000 financial supporters and 70 chapters coast-to-coast.

“We need to build power,” urged Palestinian organizer Fadi Quran, senior campaigner for Avaaz (a civic organization that promotes global activism) in Palestine. “Power is built on five pillars,” he stated, adding that it is “only through collective genius that we can achieve it.” Quran spoke of (1) military power versus nonviolent resistance, (2) economic power, (3) cohesiveness in the movement, (4) alliances, and (5) moral clarity—“a connection of spirituality” along with “a connection of action.” He modestly but forthrightly predicted, “We’re going to occupy the occupation.”

Rachel Gilmer, a black feminist organizer and author who co-directs the Florida-based youth movement The Dream Defenders, built the case for African-American action in the struggle for Palestinian liberation. Israel has been selling “counter-terrorism” training and equipment “to police around the world,” including U.S. police departments. G4S, the third-largest corporation in the world, has for years been supplying security equipment to Israeli prisons incarcerating Palestinians as well as U.S. prisons incarcerating African Americans and other minorities. “The fight for liberation of Palestinians is our fight—a global war for dignity and self-determination,” Gilmer concluded, addressing African Americans in the Black Lives Matter movement and throughout American society.

Kristian Davis Bailey described how “the Zionist military carries out its military campaigns against indigenous people.” He also examined the design of “settler colonies,” and Jewish settler violence against Palestinians.

Kalia Abiade, journalist and program director of the Pillars Fund, which focuses on Muslim civic engagement in the U.S., reminded the JVP audience of the “well-funded Islamophobiamovement in the United States.” For example, she said, “Act for America (AFA) is an explicitly anti-Muslim organization that claims 800-1,000 members” and is involved in “securing our borders,” supports Israel, and has “state legislators in their pockets.” It also harasses Muslim Student Associations and the leaders of mosques, she noted.

Tareq Baconi, a Palestinian with a Ph.D in international relations from Kings College London, castigated Israeli military tribunals for “the 98.7 percent conviction rate of Palestinians.” On the other hand, the policy fellow at the transnational Palestinian think tank Al-Shabaka condemned the Palestine Authority for acting “as a partner in the occupation.”

A stirring closing plenary provided inspiration and energy for “the fights and work ahead,” reminding national meeting participants that organizing for justice must be “All In!” in “our communities, in our families, in the streets, in our houses of [worship], in the courts, and of course in our hearts.”

Rabbi Alissa Wise, JVP’s current deputy director who co-founded the organization’s rabbinical council, regaled and inspired her audience, saying that JVP should engage “in deep rapid response to whatever crisis” it encounters concerning the Palestinians, in a “loving, intentional” way. “Many more will join” in the effort to build “the world to come!,” the rabbi concluded.

—Paul H. Verduin

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on “All In!” Jewish Voice for Peace Calls for Palestinian Liberation, Participation in BDS

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