The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) bid to oust the Union of Progressive Zionists (UPZ) from the Israel Campus Coalition (ICC) has failed. ZOA had launched the bid in protest against UPZ sponsorship of the Breaking the Silence group tour of U.S. campuses. ZOA later toned down their demands to a request that UPZ sever connections with Breaking the Silence.
Breaking the Silence is a group of Israeli soldiers, including some Orthodox soldiers apparently, who have been documenting instances of cruel behavior and violations of human rights by Israeli soldiers in the occupied territories. Some argue that the group is anti-Zionist. While their message is unpleasant, it is difficult to claim they are anti-Zionist in view of their service in the IDF. The American Jewish Congress left the ICC in protest over Breaking the Silence tour. The American Jewish Congress and the ZOA argued that taken out of the Israeli context, the images of Israeli soldiers brutalizing Palestinian Arabs for no reason add to the campaign of villification of Israel launched by anti-Zionist groups such as the notorious Palestine Solidarity Movement (PSM). Supporters of the tour argued that airing of the problems of the occupation by Zionist groups demonstrates that not all Zionists support the occupation and that Israelis are not indifferent to Palestinian suffering.
Examination of the UPZ Web site reveals some surprises. Their declaration of principles is laudable. For example, they write:
The Union of Progressive Zionists (UPZ) is a network of student activists organizing on campuses across North America for social justice and peace in Israel/Palestine. The UPZ was created to provide guidance, education and resources to students who seek to impart a progressive voice into the campus debate on Israel. Extremist voices pushing rigid “pro-Israel” and “pro-Palestinian” positions have come to dominate the discourse on many campuses across North America, obscuring the issues and alienating significant numbers of Jewish and moderate students.
Because of our connection to Israel, we believe it is our duty to create a new vision for the Jewish state. As campus activists and members of the Jewish community, our strength lies in our ability to be active and critical leaders. We are committed to creating an alternative approach to Israel advocacy that embraces open dialogue and constructive activism, and that warrants critical analysis of policies, whether Israeli, Palestinian, American or other.
.The problem is not in the principles, but in the implementation.
UPZ features an invitation to participate in the Birthright tour of Israel. However they offer among their Zionist speakers Yasser Abed Rabbo, who is a member of the Fatah and the PLO, and former member of the Palestinian Executive Committee. Likewise, featured among their Zionist speakers is Prof. Nazmi Al Ju'beh of Bir Zeit University and Ziad Asali and Rafi Dajani of the American Task Force for Palestine. We woud certainly be glad if Abed Rabbo and all these other gentleman have seen the light and decided to join the ranks of the Zionists, but that seems hardly likely. Yasser Abed Rabbo woud be an unlikely member of the "Israel lobby." All these gentlemen have in common that they support the Geneva accord and are apparently sincere in their quest for peace, from their point of view. They are worthy dialogue partners; if UPZ was a campus dialogue group they would be worthy speakers. But they are not speakers for the Zionist or Israeli cause. They cannot defend the Jewish right to self determination, or Jewish rights in Jerusalem. Nonetheless, they can play a constructive role in confronting advocates of one state "solutions" with a different alternative.
However, featured among the UPZ film offerings is a documentary about the noted "Zionist" Azmi Bishara. Bishara is an Arab Member of the Israeli Knesset. According to UPZ:
Citizen Bishara raises many provocative questions about Israeli society: is it possible for Israel to be a Jewish state and a democracy? Can it truly afford its Arab citizen's equal rights? What can a Jewish state expect from its non-Jewish citizens?
Bishara himself showed us what to expect from "Zionists" such as himself, when he showed up in Damascus to praise the Hezbollah for raining missiles on his constituents in the Galilee. He apparently forgot that if Mr. Nasrallah kills all of his voters, he will be out of a job. No doubt Bishara's advocacy of the Hezbollah terrorist organization is an egregious example of the "contructive activism" advocated by UPZ.
ZOA, for their part, oppose any peace moves by the Israeli government. In 1998, they published a sloppily fabricated and embarrassing whitewash of the 1948 Deir Yassin massacre, which featured, as a cover decoration, a photo of evil-looking eagerly glowering Arabs with rifles that had no relation to the contents.
Zionists at large look to these groups for leadership in defending Israel against anti-Zionist attacks, as well as education toward their varied points of view. The groups themselves seem to have different agenda. The quarrel between ZOA and UPZ was about playing to their constituencies rather than about Zionism or defending Israel. It got publicity for both groups. Any publicity is good publicity.
Instead of thinking about how to face the growing wave of criticism of Israel on campus, both groups are seeking to attract donors and support from among their relatively narrow constituencies. ZOA speaks for the extreme end of the revisionist movement, generating a message that alienates all but the most committed Zionists. The Zionist right in the US has struggled mightily to convince everyone that Zionism is synonymous with settlers and settlements and with the Greater Israel movement. That is exactly the point that the anti-Zionists are trying to make of course. The opposition score a goal every time Mort Klein and the ZOA come out against another peace initiative.
UPZ, despite their pledge to examine all issues critically, represents the Israeli left opposition and focuses exclusively on criticism of Israel, hoping to attract support from non-Zionist and anti-Zionist Jews, which they do to some extent. But they have abdicated the responsibility of defending Israel. The innocent undergraduate in Des Moines, Iowa, who has not been convinced by PSM propaganda that Israel is a racist, apartheid, brutal war monger state that must be destroyed, and that Hassan Nasrallah is a hero of the progressive struggle against Zionist colonialism, can go to an Azmi Bishara film sponsored by UPZ and get the same message. The complain of UPZ that shutting them out of campuses would suppress the Labor Zionist movement that built Israel rings hollow, because they aren't building Israel. Unlike the breaking the silence soldiers, and the Israeli peace now protestors, UPZ students didn't build Israel and they aren't defending Israel in its time of need. They didn't earn the right to criticize Israel and the Zionist movement from within, because they are abdicating the responsibility to defend Zionism and Israel against unfair criticism.
An Economist article focuses on the increasing disaffection of Diaspora Jews from Zionism. The Economist has a short memory. Compared to the heights of support for Israel by Diaspora Jews in 1967, there is no doubt that we have fallen on hard times, but we must remember that for a very long time many Diaspora Jews were at best apathetic to Zionism, and groups such as the reform movement, now supporters of the Zionist cause, were opposed to the notion of a Jewish people.
However, the Economist has a point. If the only people defending Israel abroad are extremists, whose publications brand Democrats as dangerous "leftists" Jewish people in the US, the majority of whom vote Democratic and have liberal views, are going to turn away from Zionism and support for Israel. As the Economist notes:
But the pro-Israel heavy guns still predominate. And their one-sided discourse risks turning young people off. It is often seen, Mr Cohen says, "as demanding loyalty to certain objectionable Israeli policies". In the long run, he predicts a polarisation in American Jewry: a small group growing more pious and attached to Israel, while a larger one drifts away.
"Love me, love Avigdor Lieberman" is not going to work.
Therefore we desperately do need UPZ on campus, and we desperately do need progressive Zionist voices. But we need them to defend the legitimacy of the Jewish state, to present a constructive vision of Zionism, and to teach people the basics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which we all take for granted. Breaking the Silence take it for granted that everyone knows that we are fighting terror, and that the brutality is an unhappy consequence of that struggle, and is not due to the demonic nature of Jews and Zionists. In Israel, people know. In Denver and Des Moines and Irvine, most people don't know. Large numbers of American voters cannot identify Hamas. They certainly never heard of the Nazi Grand Mufti of Jerusalem". These are the people to whom Breaking the Silence is showing their movies. These are the people to whom UPZ is showing their Azmi Bishara film.
If I were a freshman in New Mexico, it would enter my mind to ask UPZ, "If Israel is so bad, why do you support it?" and "If the occupation is ever ended, what do you want to build in Israel?" For that matter, ZOA supporters should start thinking of what they will do once the occupation is ended.
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Replies: 5 Comments
Everyone knows the original jews of the bible were the israelites. these were the members of the families of the twelve sons of Jacob. jacob had wrestled an angel and his grandfather was a friend of HASHEM and a promise was made to them that nations of the earth would bless themselves by means of his grandfather's seed. Geneology proves this seed to be the person JESUS; his works confirmed Torah predictions; his death was a rejection of God's spirit by extant Israelites; now they are gone.
These people in the holy land now claiming to be jews cannot be true blue jews. the reason once again - a true israelite is a member of the family mentioned above.
One unmentionable problem for those claiming to be fleshly jews - the birth records were all burned by the romans in the year 70, about 40 years after jesus' execution and amazing reappearance, but the extant jews of that day should not have done that to him because doing that triggered the scattering as they were warned in the Torah would happen if they did not obey and they did not obey on the prophet jesus big time so TANT PIS FOR THE ISRAELITES. Now the holy land must be shared with all and don't let any impostors claim the sole right, including fraudulent muslim arabs. a true muslim is a follower of jesus. Fleshly Israelites have been replaced with spiritual israelites. Jehovah's Witnesses claim to have membership of most of the spiritual israel who will now be bringing the blessings to mankind.
God is Great!
, Tuesday, January 23rd
You wrote "Breaking the Silence take it for granted that everyone knows that we are fighting terror, and that the brutality is an unhappy consequence of that struggle, and is not due to the demonic nature of Jews and Zionists. In Israel, people know."
I am not so sure. I think the extreme Left in Israel believes that the creation of the state was the Original Sin and terrorist attacks are Israel's just punishment. I think that BTS represents the extreme Left's pathological view.
The fact that they are from Israel and have been in the IDF give them great credibility in America, where people don't understand the mass craziness of the Israeli fringe.
Vic Rosenthal, Tuesday, January 23rd
Ami, I really think you understand the rold of UPZ on College Campuses. In fact, I think you understand them extremely well.
If one had to choose between the UPZ or the ZOA -- in my opinion, the ZOA wins hands down. The UPZ are politicized, and extremely dangerous right now. what they're doing is NOT good for Israel -- enough said.
J.S., Sunday, January 21st
My intelligent and constructive comments:God gave all Canaan from the River of Egypt to the Great River Euphrates eternally to the Jews-Period.I say bomb these idiots into the pits of Hell take back all your land and hold it till Hell freezes over.
, Sunday, January 21st
With all due respect Ami, I don't really think you understand the role of UPZ on College Campuses. A few select quotes from a website cannot fully define what a group stands for. As a person involved with UPZ I don't think you understand the context UPZ operates in. Perhaps you (or any other Israeli who claims they know how to advocate better for Israel on U.S. college campuses better than those who actually go to college on a U.S. college campus) should perhaps consider visiting a U.S. college campus meeting with a member of UPZ speaking and maybe even speaking with UPZ's Executive Director. If you are unable to do this perhaps you should send an email to UPZ's Executive Director with some of your concerns. I think this would be much more effective than just criticizing people from behind a computer screen.
Greg, Sunday, January 21st
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