The Denial of Genocidal Intent: The Dangerous New Rhetoric of Jewish Voice for Peace

 

While Jewish Voice for Peace, a left-wing organization focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was spiraling through one of the worst weeks in its history earlier this month with a bitter public feud over its use of LGBT Jews for politics, many neglected to write about a far more disturbing talking point the organization tried to push with modest success: Israel provoked the Six Day War and was never under threat of annihilation.

The assertion was born out of two articles published in the first week of June to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the war. The first was published by “The Intercept,” an online left-wing news source. The second was in “Mondoweiss,” an extreme far-left website, whose sole purpose is to reframe any Israel-related news as tied to oppressing Palestinians.

The two articles’ respective headlines?

A 50-Year Occupation: Israel’s Six-Day War Started With a Lie

Israel provoked the Six-Day War in 1967, and it was not fighting for survival

Both of these articles were shared by Jewish Voice for Peace via its national Facebook page, local Facebook pages, and its members’ Twitter handles. The sole purpose of sharing these articles, which rely on scant evidence and are quite obviously trying to revise history, is to eliminate Arab leaders’ statements of intent and the original intent behind Israel’s June offensive: Self-Defense.

JewishVirtualLibrary.org.

Armies Surrounding Israel, May, 1967, Graphic: Jewish Virtual Library.

Three weeks before the war, Egypt closed shipping lanes in the Red Sea and Suez Canal to Israeli commerce, itself an act of war. Egypt’s president at the time, Gamil Abdul Nassir, ordered UN peacekeeping forces to leave the Sinai Peninsula, where they had been stationed as a buffer between the Israeli and Egyptian armies after the 1956 Suez War.

What followed was three weeks of threats to destroy the world’s only Jewish country – not just from Nassir, but other leaders in the Arab world who pledged to supply troops to a war of annihilation against Israel.

On May 20, 1967, Syrian Defense Minister Hafez al-Assad, who would launch a bloody coup for power in 1970 responsible for nearly 50 years of Assad dynastic rule in Syria, said very clearly, “Our forces are now entirely ready not only to repulse any aggression, but to initiate the act ourselves, and to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland of Palestine. The Syrian army, with its finger on the trigger, is united. I believe that the time has come to begin a battle of annihilation.”

On May 26, 1967, Nassir said an invasion of Israel using those Sinai-based troops would be for one central purpose: “The battle will be a general one and our basic objective will be to destroy Israel.”

On May 31, 1967, President Aref of Iraq minced no words about his army’s intent in a war by saying, “The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified. This is our opportunity to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948. Our goal is clear: to wipe Israel off the map.”

Jewish Voice for Peace is erasing history. None of these facts are addressed in the two articles cited above.

The “Intercept” piece was written by journalist Mehdi Hasan. His entire thesis is based on a single out-of-context quote attributed to General Matityahu Peled who said Israel was not in danger of genocide and that the notion was “born and bred after the war.”

The quote completely ignores the statements of intent from Arab leaders, which started decades before the crisis of 1967. The question here is not one of capability, but one of intent. While scholars debate the skills and preparedness of the two sides of the war, they are not debating what Nassir’s side claimed it would do if it got the upper-hand.

Jewish Voice for Peace’s tweet of article “A 50-Year Occupation: Israel’s Six-Day War Started With a Lie.”

Tweets like this one, from JVP Media Program Manager Naomi Dann, have one clear goal in mind: Delete the legitimacy of Israel’s self-defense and eliminate the major reason why the Six Day War occurred from the conversation. This further desensitizes people to revising Israel’s history and casting it as an imperial power.

The second article on “Mondoweiss” focuses on the theories of Norman Finkelstein, a known anti-Israel advocate who is not regarded as an objective source on the conflict.

Finkelstein applies the final result of the war as if it were Israel’s intent all along: Conquer territory and never relinquish it. That assumption relies on an impossible-to-plan chain of events to manifest Israel’s supposed and risky goal.

First, Egypt would have to block Israeli shipping and order UN peacekeepers out of the peninsula. Then Arab leaders from all countries, including a reluctant Jordan, would have to agree to a multinational alliance to invade Israel. Then those forces would have to NOT attack.

Jewish Voice for Peace’s Facebook post of article “Israel provoked the Six-Day War in 1967, and it was not fighting for survival.”

Finkelstein, precariously, claims Nassir had no intention of going to war with Israel. But the blockade of Israeli shipping was itself an act of war.

He then claims Israel’s masterful generals pulled the wool over the eyes of their own citizens. He then ignores Egypt’s deployment in the Sinai to say, “The leaders were culpable twice over; they provoked the crisis and then launched an unprovoked attack.”

This rehash of history intends to recast all the characters in the events leading up to Israel’s preemptive strike: Israel was the aggressor, not the threatened. Israel provoked the war, not Arab armies threatening destruction. Nassir was never serious about war, and pointing to Nassir’s literal acts of war is not relevant.

This is a clear denial of genocidal intent.

It is a rare thing in 20th century history to look at the crime of attempted genocide. The case more often, humanity had to look back and wonder why no one acted to save the Jews in World War II, the Armenians in World War I or the Tutsis in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. With 20/20 hindsight, we realize the murderous rhetoric of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s, the Young Turks in the 1910s, and the Hutu government in 1994.

But we have a case, in 1967, when Israel heard these threats, built on decades of rhetoric, to destroy its existence. Israel, through a combination of preparedness and fear, struck first and averted what many thought would be a second Holocaust.

Denying the intent of Arab leaders to wage genocide against Israelis is akin to denying genocides after they have happened. Trafficking in this level of historical revisionism is no different than white supremacist denials of the Holocaust and Turkish denials of the Armenian Genocide.

Jewish Voice of Peace should be ashamed of itself.

 

 

 

 

Anti-Israel Sentiment on Campus Goes Trendy

— by Joshua Berkman

With the arrival of Chanukah, a celebration of Jewish resilience, Jews on campuses across North America have evoked the Maccabee spirit in recent weeks to counter the increasingly loud calls from anti-Israel groups that have demanded boycotts of Israel, divestment from it and sanctions against it (BDS).

More after the jump.
The most recent round of anti-Israel activism, aimed at delegitimizing the Jewish State of Israel, was triggered by Israeli military strikes on terrorist infrastructure in Gaza. According to the Anti-Defamation League, there were more than 100 reported anti-Israel demonstrations on campus in November, attracting thousands of college students nationwide. In response, a cadre of 56 Jewish Agency Israel Fellows to Hillel, serving 70 campuses, successfully mobilized groups of Jewish students, many of whom were not previously vocal Israel advocates.

Jewish Agency Israel Fellows to Hillel are young Israelis in their twenties who, after serving in the army, come to the United States and spend up to three years on college campuses to rally support for Israel, foster discussion with other religious groups on campus, and recruit participants for overseas programs in Israel, such as Birthright Israel and Masa Israel Journey and help Jewish students fend off anti-Israel attacks,.  The Israel Fellows program is a partnership between Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life and The Jewish Agency.

Now, more than ever, Jewish Agency Israel Fellows play a critical role in maintaining a campus atmosphere that enables students from a range of different backgrounds to openly engage in civil dialogue about Israel, and support the United States’ closest ally in the Middle East, namely Israel. .Just as the Vietnam War became the principal cause around which campus radicals rallied in the 1960s, the existence of a sovereign and secure Jewish state — in the Jewish ancestral homeland — has increasingly offended the sensibilities of the campus Left. Leading figures in the Jewish community see the problem as growing.

“Anti-Israel student groups will likely seek to capitalize on the momentum surrounding the Gaza conflict by pushing with renewed intensity their anti-Israel tactics and campaigns,” ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said in a recent statement.

This has created an environment where many Jewish students, that have not been educated about Israel, feel social pressure to ‘play down’ their Judaism and Zionism rather than assert their identity proudly as their parents and grandparents did. In fact, prior to the latest round of violence in Gaza, the environment on a number of campuses – had become hostile for many Jewish students- especially those in coastal cities – The past year alone saw more than 700 anti-Israel protests on North American campuses. Some of the higher-profile anti-Israel campus episodes include:

At Columbia University, a Middle Eastern Studies professor told a Jewish student in front of a lecture hall full of students that she couldn’t have ancestral ties to Israel because of her green eyes. Also, a professor asked an Israeli student, “How many Palestinians have you killed?”

At UC-Berkeley, a group of faculty and students launched “Apartheid Week”, a program that has gained traction nationwide and which features students who dress in army fatigues, carry mock assault weapons and stage checkpoints to block and intimidate students on their way to class. In 2010 a female student reported that she was assaulted by an anti-Israel check-point demonstrator who rammed a shopping cart into her.

At Florida Atlantic University last year, local members of the group “Students for Justice in Palestine” posted mock eviction notices  on the doors of more than 200 students  in a dorm known for its high concentration of Jewish students.

At UC-Davis last month, a group of anti-Israel protesters took over an administration building and held discussion groups that linked Zionists with perpetrators of genocide.

At UC-Irvine — the same campus where Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. was aggressively and relentlessly taunted during a lecture — the Student Senate unanimously passed a BDS resolution Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, was aggressively and relentlessly taunted during a lecture.
From their time on campus, many Israel Fellows have found that Jewish students are uncomfortable planning and participating in visible, pro-Israel rallies and instead choose to engage in more substantive forms of activism. Last year, when the University of Pennsylvania hosted a conference for the national BDS movement, Jewish students took the opportunity to dramatically increase and deepen the pro-Israel campus coalition. Tactics involved thousands of students and a semester of programs and activities that increased pro-Israel sentiment on campus through deep and sophisticated conversations. At the University of Michigan, students lobbied influential professors to vocally support Israel and cosponsored an event to showcase Artists for Israel.  At Baruch College, a young woman responded to what was “a battle of fliers” on campus by organizing a discussion forum that was cosponsored by Muslim student groups.

“The Israel Fellows, other Hillel staff and student leadership took the opportunity to model a different kind of activism – one that dramatically helps Jews and non-Jews to help better understand Israel and communicate positive messages,” said Abi Dauber Sterne Hillel’s vice president for global Jewish experience.

According to Ronen Weiss, the Jewish Agency’s National emissary to Hillel, these types of nuanced pro-Israel activities can yield long-term value and are taken seriously by the community at large.  That said, as the pressure against Israel’s legitimacy mounts, Weiss sees an urgent need for more Israel Fellows on more college campuses to stem the tide.

“It is important that Jewish students show public solidarity, Israel Fellows are focused on the outcomes of connecting students with a deep and lasting relationship with the people, land and state of Israel, rather than on publicity stunts,” Weiss said. “We need to empower even more students nationwide to hold meaningful dialogues about Israel in dorms and cafeterias, and encourage pro-Israel representation in student governments and among campus speakers.”

Ultimately, what is at stake is securing the Jewish future and a strong Israel.  As the battle for Israel’s legitimacy heats up on college campuses, Israel Fellows are standing at the ready.