Tuesday, November 10, 2015

My actual response to Carol Sanders of Jewish Voice for Peace

After the BDS-sponsored theatre of the Berkeley Human Welfare Commission hearing several weeks ago, the Daily Cal newspaper at UC Berkeley printed an Op-Ed by Carol Sanders of Jewish Voice for Peace. As with anything produced by JVP, it was a mixture of cherrypicked facts, half-truths, and outright lies. 
Today, the Daily Cal published my response.  

Read Sanders' piece here. Note the inflammatory language directed against both Israel and the JCRC.
Read the published version of my response here.

Here is the final version that I submitted to them. I highlighted the sections that were deleted by the Daily Cal.
This was after I agreed to take out the word "extremist" when referring to JVP and Cheryl Davila. This was after I agreed that they could put the qualifier "by my count" in front of the factual information about the speakers. This was after I agreed to take out "this was a lie" when referring to JVP's claim that THEY represented the Jewish community.  (The editor at the Daily Cal did note that it was against their policy to print the final paragraph even after I took out a specific call for Sanders to debate me, so I have to respect that particular policy.)

Compare what Sanders was allowed to get into print and what was cut from my submission. Judge for yourself whether there is an editorial double standard in play here. 

Carol Sanders’ Op-Ed celebrates the fact that anti-Israel activists hijacked a Berkeley city commission into holding a hearing on an anti-Israel resolution that, according to Berkeley’s own rules, it had no business even considering.  Such “victories” are standard fare for the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement which, despite hiding behind a façade of “human rights” and “open debate,” is actually anti-peace, anti-dialogue, and anti-coexistence.
Sanders claims that it was somehow remarkable that the issue of “Palestinian rights” was discussed.  American policy for many years has been to support a just peace on the basis of two states for two peoples—the Jewish state of Israel and a future Arab state of Palestine.  The real problem here is that BDS insists that “human rights” and “justice” for the Palestinian Arabs require eliminating the right of the Jewish people to self-determination.  The central demand of the BDS movement-- the “right of return” for millions of descendants of Palestinian Arab refugees who fled in 1947-49 during the war launched by the Arabs to destroy Israel at its birth-- would turn the Jewish people into a stateless minority in their own homeland. And as Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement states, "I am not for a two-state solution." 
BDS also opposes any attempts at dialogue. PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, defines words such as “pro-peace”, “compromise”, “coexistence” “understanding” and “dialogue” as “buzzwords of normalizing projects” which are to be opposed in favor of “co-resistance.” 

 Former Commission member Cheryl Davila is not a heroic victim in this entire matter. Over the course of a year, she knowingly diverted the work of the commission, trying to fit the square peg of anti-Israel activism into the round hole of addressing poverty in Berkeley. As one example, she attended the recent Atlanta Conference of the US Campaign to End the Occupation when an award was given to Rasmea Odeh-- a convicted terrorist responsible for the death of 2 young Israelis. 

The hearing at the Human Welfare Commission itself was far from an enlightening debate.  Some anti-Israel speakers presented the usual canards, lies and even frankly racist statements such as the charge that the fate of the Palestinian population under Israel’s control is similar to the genocide of European Jewry in the Holocaust--factually wrong as the Palestinian population has grown four times larger since 1967. Letters sent to the commission in favor of the resolution bemoaned that Berkeley was "deeply influenced by the monied Jewish lobby" and tried to defend the diversion of the Commission's work as an issue of "free speech." While Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) claimed at the Commission’s September meeting that they represented the Jewish community, Jewish community members and leaders turned out to oppose the resolution. A letter to the Commission opposing the resolution was signed by many Jewish lay leaders and rabbis. In the end, almost two thirds of the speakers, Jews and non-Jews, urged the Commission to reject this deeply flawed and biased measure.

Further,  just as BDS activism on campuses and communities often leaves a trail of anti-Semitic incidents, several Jewish Berkeley residents described how they were targeted with hate speech in the few weeks leading up to this hearing.  This should not surprise anyone. While not every BDS advocate is an anti-Semite, the fundamental core of their movement—denying the same rights to the Jewish people that they demand for the Palestinians—is prima facie discrimination against the Jewish people.

In the end, despite the efforts of the Commission chair Praveen Sood to bully other commissioners into voting for his alternative divestment resolution, a majority voted down the entire topic. Some recognized that their commission should not have even considered this measure, as the Berkeley City Attorney had confirmed. They openly questioned why their commission spent so many hours on this measure, which took time and resources away from their mission of helping the poor in Berkeley. And one commissioner addressed the key question that BDS tries desperately to avoid, asking if measures such as this will truly bring peace to the region. The answer to that question, of course, is no—because BDS actually undermines efforts for a true peace in the region.

Sanders claims she supports open discussion of this issue. So do I. The UC community might be well served by a genuine debate about BDS.  Students of the Graduate School of Journalism could moderate it, and UCTV could film it. Let’s have a truly open discussion, to which people of good will and open minds can listen and make their own decisions.  

1 comment:

  1. In 1948, Israel was attacked by the armies of 5 Arab countries - NONE of which was the army of an existing "Palestine".