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Jewish Voice for Peace can’t seem to stay away from Alison Weir

Jewish Voice for Peace can’t seem to stay away from Alison Weir

Despite public split with notorious anti-Jewish conspiracy theorist, JVP co-sponsors event in Cleveland.

Last week on November 22, Al-Awda—the Palestine Right to Return Coalition—proudly announced on Twitter the co-hosting, with Jewish Voice for Peace and others, of Alison Weir at an event in Cleveland:

https://twitter.com/AlAwdaPRRC/status/668583974948741120

It isn’t surprising that Al-Awda would take the lead in promoting Weir and her group and website If Americans Knew (IAK). The two organizations are basically cut from the same cloth.

According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Al-Awda is a notorious anti-Israel campaigner that views Zionism as “inherently racist” and is unwilling to accept Israel’s existence.

Meanwhile, Weir’s criticism of Israel and Zionism over the last fifteen years so consistently “crosses the line into distortions customarily found in the literature of anti-Semites” that the ADL has issued a ten page comprehensive report on her work. The highlights include a nasty habit of modernizing anti-Jewish blood libels and characterizing Jews as conspiratorial groups of people who control America and the world.

So Al-Awda collaborating with Weir is exactly what we’d expect.

What’s really interesting here is Al-Awda’s mention of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) as one of the Cleveland event co-sponsors.

That’s because, as we noted in several prior posts (see here and here), JVP had supposedly decided some months ago to no longer work with Alison Weir.

JVP vs. Alison Weir

As we highlighted in our prior posts, JVP notified IAK of its intention to disassociate in a letter addressed from JVP’s Executive Director, Rebecca Vilkomerson, to Weir in May 2015 and in a subsequent widely publicized June “Statement on Our Relationship with Alison Weir”.

Rebecca Vilkomerson, March 2015

Rebecca Vilkomerson, March 2015

In our previous posts, we suggested that in rebuffing Weir, JVP’s leaders avoided speaking out against their ex-ally’s Jew-hating rhetoric even as they sought to distance their organization from her:

[JVP has] managed to carefully craft and disseminate a brand that draws on the appealing language of rights along with Jewish culture and values to justify vilifying the planet’s only Jewish state, expressing an utter hostility to the notion of Jewish peoplehood and self-determination, and lending support to Israel’s enemies. Now that JVP has a real shot at playing in the big leagues of American organizational life, it also has a strong incentive to clean up its act. Cavorting with obvious Jew-haters and being attacked for white-washing anti-Semitism is counterproductive. All it does is tarnish the brand”.

So cutting ties with Weir was really just another one of JVP’s savvy marketing ploys. JVP was less interested in condemning Weir’s “obvious anti-Semitic crackpottery” than in burnishing the JVP image as a champion of progressive causes and an organization committed to “love, justice, and equality for all people”.

Indeed, nowhere in JVP’s initial letter to Weir, or in its subsequent publicly released statement, is she herself labeled as anti-Semitic. JVP’s beef with Weir is solely associational—she spends too much time giving interviews to neo-Nazis and White supremacists.

Basically, from JVP’s perspective it’s OK for Weir to hate Israel. But since she’s not also willing to despise America’s “racist and white supremacist” power structures, Weir had become a liability and bad for business.

It was an entirely self-serving move. But, as we remarked in our posts, it was nevertheless great to learn that JVP, a self-styled “Jewish organization” which has long collaborated with virulently anti-Israel organizations, had finally decided to make a clean break from the likes of Alison Weir.

So much for that.

Backlash Against JVP: The “Open Letter”

JVP’s decision last spring to end its association with Alison Weir was supposed to fly under the radar and be handled “quietly and-behind-the-scenes”.

But JVP’s erstwhile ally wasn’t about to take the excommunication lightly. As we noted in our prior post, Weir immediately went public with JVP’s decision, eventually compelling it to also release a public statement.

Weir published a long and bitter rebuttal to JVP’s charges and encouraged her supporters to weigh in. Many did so, launching an aggressive campaign on her behalf.

As noted in a ‘roundtable’ symposium of essays published this August in the virulently anti-Israel Mondoweiss, the campaign has involved “harsh counterattacks against” JVP. Bizarrely, they’ve included accusations that it’s run by “ADL-style secret Zionists” working to undermine the BDS movement.

On July 21 an “Open Letter” castigating JVP was posted online.

It was also addressed to the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation (USCEIO)—an ADL-flagged umbrella organization for US-based pro-BDS groups, who’s policy director (Josh Ruebner) has a tendency to compare Israel to Nazi Germany and to label pro-Israel American-Jews as traitorous “Israel-firsters”.

Josh Ruebner

Joshn Ruebner, Israel Firster #2

USCEIO was the only other BDS group to join JVP against Weir. It asked IAK to leave its coalition in a statement released last summer on July 16.

The “Open Letter” admonishes JVP and USCEIO for their “recent unfounded attacks on one of the top organizations” working in the “struggle for justice for Palestinians” and its “dedicated leader, Alison Weir”.

As of November 9, 2015 when the “Open Letter” was last updated, it had garnered nearly 2000 signatures—the vast majority of them from people who didn’t self-identify as JVP members.

Of the initial signatories—38 bolded names, with their affiliations—only one is a member of JVP: Hedy Epstein, a 91 year old Holocaust survivor, founder of JVP’s St. Louis branch, and a member of the Free Gaza movement, a radical group which has organized flotillas to directly challenge Israel’s siege by initiating confrontations with its navy.

In 2011, Epstein participated to the Gaza Freedom Flotilla as a passenger on the U.S.-flagged ship, The Audacity of Hope.

Gaza Flotilla, 2011 | Credit: Information Dissemination

Gaza Flotilla, 2011 | Credit: Information Dissemination

Then in August 2014 she was arrested in downtown St. Louis during the unrest after Michael Brown’s death. She gave an interview about it to DemocracyNow! where she compared the situation on “the streets of Ferguson, Missouri” to the “Israeli assault on Gaza”.

Hedy Epstein arrest in St. Louis

The rest of the original signatories to the “Open Letter” are vehemently anti-Israel campaigners who have also consistently attacked Jews and Judaism. Among them are numerous leaders of Sabeel—FOSNA. Former Special Rapporteur on Occupied Palestine for the UN Human Rights Council and Israel-demonizer Richard Falk appears on the list too.

Even Bassem Tamimi’s name is on it. As we noted in numerous prior posts (see here and here), in addition to being an apologist for terrorism against innocent Jews and inciting his own children to violence in order to score propaganda victories, Tamimi has a penchant for disseminating anti-Jewish blood libels, among other canards.

Bassem Tamimi, blood libel

The pile-on to JVP has no doubt blindsided its steering committee and board, who probably didn’t see it coming. But as David Schraub (a “sometimes lawyer, sometimes law professor”) observes in a thoughtful blog post, that JVP’s non-Jewish friends would turn on it “with a vengeance” was in fact entirely predictable:

What makes this amusing…is that it shows the fundamentally untenable position the JVP finds itself in whenever it disagrees with its non-Jewish ideological cohorts…the JVP as a Jewish group is generally accepted by its non-Jewish ‘allies’ only as far as it remains in agreement with them, and no further…The folks [JVP] are appealing to often do trot them out as being the rare Jews you can trust; indeed, their status as Jews-who-criticize-other-Jews gives them superstanding and enhanced credibility. But superstanding is a fickle thing—it lasts only as long as the critic remains critical. Superstanding only applies as against the JVP’s fellow Jews; it does not come with any general grant of authority or deference. It is unsurprising that once the JVP tried to draw upon the ‘credibility’ they earned as ideological fellow-travelers to take a position not favored by their non-Jewish allies, they’d find that the well of goodwill suddenly went dry”.

So JVP’s national leadership didn’t anticipate the fast and furious backlash. They probably also didn’t expect so many of JVP’s rank and file to rally around Alison Weir, and to so readily dismiss their accusations against her. No doubt too they overestimated JVP’s appeal to its membership, and underestimated their members’ dedication to the anti-Israel movement as a whole.

Mutiny in the JVP Ranks

It turns out that for many JVP activists, stamping out anti-Semitism matters less than “galvanizing our collective political power” and protecting the “integrity” of the larger BDS movement.

As a self-described non-Zionist Jew and member of JVP Susan Landau notes in the Mondoweiss symposium:

As activists, public shaming is a time honored and effective toolkit of choice employed against our external enemies: war criminals, racist cops, greedy corporate bosses, and other unsavory characters. What culture do we create when we use similar tactics on each other? Is there another way?…It doesn’t bode well…when groups doing solidarity work can’t get along…”

So basically JVP’s central leadership “just can’t quit Alison Weir”. Mostly because a fair number of JVP’s members prefer not to.

By my count 126 JVP members affiliated with 25 local JVP chapters have now signed on to the “Open Letter”. Many of them self-identify as serving in leadership roles and more than a few note that they’ve resigned their position in protest “since the vilification of Alison Weir”.

Conclusion

JVP had been collaborating with the notorious Israel-hater Alison Weir on BDS programming for years—as late as March 2015, where the two organizations teamed up with a bunch of other radical organizations in a two pronged anti-Israel campaign to “Shut Down AIPAC” and “Skip the Speech” in Washington, DC.

#ShutDownAIPAC, March 2015

#ShutDownAIPAC, March 2015

But by May JVP’s central leadership wanted nothing more to do with her.

This wasn’t because of Weir’s own anti-Semitism. Rather the decision to break ties was made because, as David Schraub wryly put it last week, she didn’t “bother to hide the obvious fact that the totally-not-anti-Semitic positions she shares with the JVP are also widely beloved by neo-Nazis”.

Like the BDS movement as a whole, JVP is all about ‘othering’ and isolating Jews as white, privileged, and unworthy of the kind of restorative justice that a persecuted minority deserves.

So for JVP’s leaders, the main problem with Weir is that she isn’t willing to play ball and lump the United States into the same “fundamental political frame” as Israel—one in which both countries are seen as dominated by structures of white privilege and white settler colonialism.

As it happens, many JVP activists couldn’t care less about any of that. But in tolerating Weir—whose body of work represents an unambiguous, slam dunk example of anti-Jewish racism—they’re showing just how unwilling they actually are to rid JVP’s ranks of hateful anti-Semites.

Bottom line: the JVP-Weir kerfuffle is turning out to have been just a lot of hot air. Nothing has changed. JVP activists, the “Jewish swords and shields” of the anti-Israel movement, will go right on doing what they do best: using their privileged position “as Jews” to help safeguard BDS from allegations of anti-Semitism, and providing it with a veneer of legitimacy.

—————————-

Miriam F. Elman is an associate professor of political science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse University. She writes and teaches on international and national security, religion and politics in the Middle East, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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Comments

Call me crazy, but when you mention that the ADL has compiled a dossier on someone, that tells me that said person is sniffing very close to some dangerous truth. Time to read up on this Ms. Weir person, and if the ADL are trying to destroy her, buy a book out of sheer principle.

    Miriam Elman in reply to SeanInLI. | December 2, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    Please do read up on Alison Weir. In my earlier posts (linked in this one) I included citations to other analyses of Weir’s work, particularly with regard to her modernizing the blood libel with a series of articles on Israel’s murdering of Palestinians in order to harvest their organs of Palestinians. She has yet to retract these essays, which continue to be widely disseminated (see, for example, B. Tamimi’s FB share in this post). Not everyone has the time to read through a so-called scholar/journalist’s body of work, thus the ADL report is quite helpful.

    Martial in reply to SeanInLI. | December 2, 2015 at 8:36 pm

    Ms. Wier pushed the blood libel, ideas associated with the notion that Jews kill Christian children & use their blood to make Passover Matzos. There was a bizarre fellow name Toaff, an Isreali, who said the blood libel was true; nutcases can be Jewish as well as Christian, all would agree. An exchange between Ms. Alison Wier & Mr, Christopher Hitchens 9/26/09, Christopher Hitchens asks me about Ariel Toaff and Israel Shahak

    Dear Ms Weir,
    I must ask you to help me find the reference, in any of Israel Shahak’s books or articles or in any of the work he co-authored with Norton Mezvinsky, to any use by any Jews of any “Christian” blood in any ritual at any time. (Your assertion appears as the 26th citation of the relevant article in a recent Counterpunch.)
    I trust that there is nothing unclear in the way that I have phrased the above request. I imagine that I shall not have long to wait for a reply.
    On my side at least, the contents of this correspondence are not confidential.
    Sincerely
    Christopher Hitchens

    Dear Mr. Hitchens,
    It is unfortunate that you did not see my announcement, sent out widely, or my blog entry clearing up this misconception:
    http://alisonweir.org/journal/2009/9/1/israeli-organ-harvesting.html
    Below is the relevant section:
    Clarification on Israel Shahak
    “Finally, the original version of my article contained a sentence in a parentheses near the end of the piece that may have seemed to say that Israeli professor and author Israel Shahak also believed there was a basis to the blood libel accusations. In reality, the findings that were similar to Toaff’s were Shahak’s information on Talmudic texts emphasizing vengeance, the profound anti-Christian statements to be found in numerous religious texts, and the extreme religious violence within some medieval Jewish communities, sometimes ordered by Rabbis, eg cutting out tongues, chopping off noses, etc – and not that there had been ritual killings of Christians.
    “I urge people to read his book along with Toaff’s to discover for themselves the similarities and differences. Shahak’s book is also posted here. An excellent analysis of Toaff is here.
    “It is a shame that Professor Shahak is no longer alive. It would have been valuable to learn his views on Toaff’s original book, and on Bostrom’s article.”
    Please see the article as it appears on our website, which makes the above clear:
    http://www.ifamericansknew.org/cur_sit/sweden.html
    In regard to my article, you may wish to view short video interviews with me:
    http://www.ifamericansknew.org/cur_sit/aw-organs.html
    Please feel to share this email with others — but only in its entirety.
    Sincerely,
    Alison Weir

    The blood libel has been used for centuries as a means to rob & murder Jews. Vicious is Alison Weir; to support her is to support murder.

Great article! Very very good work! I wish I knew about the anti-Jewish Cleveland gig. I would show up wearing Zionist attire and cameras rolling.

    Miriam Elman in reply to Jabotinsky. | December 2, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    Thank you. When Weir was invited to speak in the town of Cazenovia, NY last spring (about 20 minutes drive from Syracuse) a group of us attended her lecture and offered up criticism. She spoke at the public library there. No one tried to prevent her from speaking, but we did exercise our own free speech rights to oppose and condemn the hate that she was peddling. We didn’t come dressed up though–that would have been fun!

Hedy Epstein survived the Holocaust in England. If she’s a Holocaust survivers so are my parents who survived the Holocaust in New York.
A Holocaust surviver should be someone who was in a concentration camp or a country occupied by nazis.

    Miriam Elman in reply to Julian. | December 2, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    It’s very sad that someone like Epstein would seek to align herself with people & organizations that are committed to Israel’s destruction and who put Jews in harms way.

    Martial in reply to Julian. | December 2, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    You are quite correct. The Kindertransport comprised persons who escaped all persecution; these persons were refugees from Germany.

The JVP seemed close to learning that, like all kapos, betraying their fellow Jews for a scrap of bread and approval from their savage masters only postpones their trip to the gas chambers. Apparently, by renewing it’s ties to this Weir and CAIR, the JVP voted for fantasy over reality.

As a voracious reader of history, I have bought, read, and enjoyed a number of Alison Weir’s English history books. Until now, I did not know about her views on this issue. Under our constitution, she is entitled to spout whatever views she wishes, however odious, and I support her right to speak though she is, in my view, totally wrong. But, one right I do have, which I will now exercise, is my equal right never to buy another Weir book. Pity. She writes history well but she should stay away from trying to judge the current world.

    Miriam Elman in reply to Cicero. | December 2, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    A good way to exercise your own free speech rights! Perhaps you will have an opportunity to write to Ms. Weir about your impressions, especially since you are familiar with her other work.

    Martial in reply to Cicero. | December 2, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    The fabulous British historian Alison Weir has the same name as the Jew baiting Realtor Alison Weir from Oregon. As you can imagine, this unhappy coincidence has plagued the historian for quite some time now. From her website:
    Alison Weir is the biggest-selling female historian (and the fifth best-selling historian) in the United Kingdom since records began in 1997. She has published twenty-one books and sold more than 2.7 million books – over a million in the UK and more than 1.7 million in the USA.

    IMPORTANT – Please note: **this is the website of Alison Weir, the British historian and author, not the American Alison Weir, founder of the organisation If Americans Knew.**

      Miriam Elman in reply to Martial. | December 2, 2015 at 9:37 pm

      Thank you for posting this comment. I now understand Cicero’s comment above. Truly an unfortunate coincidence. It no doubt helps IAK’s Alison Weir out a lot, as given how highly regarded the British historian is, people would gravitate to the IAK site thinking its the same person. I hope Cicero will continue to purchase the UK historian’s books!

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