Long time, no writing, I know. But I have since moved to Denver, started graduate school at the Josef Korbel School for International Studies for a masters in International Human Rights. On the side, I helped re-instate the local chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace amongst the Gaza siege last summer. Recently, a certain activist some of you may know, Gilad Atzmon, has been frequenting Denver. As a Jew, I am personally appalled by his claims that Jewish culture and “Jewishness” are inherently racist and the main problem behind Israel and the Diaspora. So he himself argues what Zionists do in the sense that Jews and Zionists are one in the same. So we made a statement condemning his anti-Semitism and that it distracts from the pro-Palestine movement in general. We got a huge amount of backlash on our Facebook page from Gilad himself and his following, mostly exposing themselves to be full of hate. I think our Jewish voices are very important in this movement to make sure people know that actions of the Israeli government are not representative of all Jews. Gilad wants to destroy this. Here is the statement for those interested:
“As Front Range Jewish Voice for Peace, we are aware of the presence of right-wing rhetoric and casual anti-Semitism amongst many groups who oppose Zionism and many policies of the state of Israel. Many of us in Denver have noticed the influence of intellectually lazy anti-Zionism, which points the finger at Jews for our role in perpetrating the Israeli occupation, as opposed to the wider problem of Zionism and settler colonialism. In Denver, many are captivated by rhetoric like that of Gilad Atzmon, whose alliance with prominent neo-Nazis such as David Duke, Trevor LaBonte, and Ken O’Keefe is often hidden behind the smokescreen of his opposition to the state of Israel. His targeting of our own allies in the Palestine solidarity community such as Ali Abunimah and Noam Chomsky are volatile and counter-productive to finding peace in Israel/Palestine.
This rhetoric and politics are not to be tolerated. When anti-Semitism infiltrates Palestine solidarity circles, it negatively impacts us as Jews. It is a clear form of racism that should be challenged at all times.
Atzmon and anti-Semitism in the Palestine solidarity community are a distraction from the issue at hand, namely the occupation of Palestine by Israel. We want to shift the conversation away from solely anti-Semitism. The more pressing conversation we want to have is one that recognizes that the anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia that sustains the occupation of Palestine comes from the same mindset as traditional anti-Semitism.
It is important for us to recognize as Jews that we are all affected by Israel’s actions. Israel falsely claims to represent us as Jews. The Israeli Law of Return gives us the right to move to Israel and live anywhere we want. Some of the same apartments that Diaspora Jews could be buying or renting in Palestine are built on top of the same land that is confiscated from the indigenous people of Palestine: in the Jerusalem area and the West Bank. Resentment of Diaspora Jews for the benefits we receive is warranted, and comes from a legitimate place of rage, because these benefits come at the expense of the Palestinian people.
Our leaders, and much of our community, have failed us by not speaking out against the injustices being done in our name. They often have a stronghold on Jewish public opinion. Whatever anti-Semitism we encounter within our movements obscures our role as ordinary Jews who oppose Zionism and the failures of these institutions. Given that Palestinians are always presumed to be anti-Semitic by US and Israeli propaganda, we do not need white Americans who claim to be members of our ranks reinforcing these false claims.
Ultimately, anti-Semitic rhetoric makes our movement hypocritical. It prevents us from standing up for those victimized by anti-black racism in the wake of the deaths of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, and far too many more. It prevents us from fighting for justice for poor people and people of color in Denver being pushed out by increasing gentrification. It prevents us from seeking justice for Ryan Ronquillo and Jessica Hernandez, who were killed by the police here in Denver. It prevents us from challenging the racism under which our world has been held captive for the last 500 years of human history. Therefore, we officially condemn statements of Gilad Atzmon and others that seek to portray Jews as an inherently flawed group of people.”