Contrary to prevalent belief in some circles, there is a strong wave of opposition from many American Jewish organisations, as well as individuals, to Israel’s apartheid and blatantly racist policy against Palestinians. They reject the current Israeli expansion through terrorism, by targeting Palestinian children with bullets to achieve the aim of forcing Palestinians out of their own land.
Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is an American organisation inspired by fair Jewish tradition to work for the freedom, equality and dignity of all the people of Israel and Palestine. This organisation is increasingly alarmed at the escalation of violence directed at hapless Palestinians — particularly, when became obvious that Palestinian women and children were the primary targets of scores of assaults by Israeli forces.
Ari Wohlfeiler, a deputy director with JVP, was particularly alarmed when the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the influential American Zionist lobby, started its 2016 Policy Conference with Donald Trump, then a US presidential contender, as a keynote speaker. Wohlfeiler charges that AIPAC would then be off to “visit every member of Congress, pushing their legislative agenda”, which would essentially mean more illegal colonies and less chance for peace. Wohlfeiler says that “AIPAC has peddled Islamophobic and racist stereotypes for decades. It is fundamental to how they’ve built power and influence. It’s who they are. You probably know that many of Trump’s most appalling policy suggestions for the US are already law in Israel, celebrated by AIPAC. Israel already refuses to open its doors to refugees — Syrian, Ethiopian or Palestinian; it allows privileged immigration status for one religious group over others, is building highly militarised walls on all its borders and has elected and re-elected a demagogue leader who wins votes with blatant appeals to racism.”
He continues: “Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism are not a by-product of AIPAC’s policy agenda any more than they are a by-product of Israeli policy. They’re fundamental. And over and above, Jewish communal organisations have cosigned on that racism by ignoring, or just plain silencing, criticism of AIPAC’s demonisation of Muslims, Arabs and South Asians in order to secure unconditional US support and military aid for Israel.”
But there are rays of hope.
Even as some pro-Israel Jewish “leaders” try to muzzle them, intersectional movements are also rising — for Black lives, for economic justice, for Palestinians. From the halls of Chicago to the streets of Phoenix, people are standing up and speaking out. And it is that power that can beat back the dangerous slide that’s happening in the US and Israel. Referring to the rising number of Americans who are tiring of Israeli tactics, Wohlfeiler contends that recent polls show that 47 per cent of Democrats say they think Israel is a racist state, while 49 per cent support imposing economic sanctions or other punitive measures against Israel’s continued colony building. Less than one-third of American Jews believe Israel is a democracy.
Israel’s racist dehumanisation of Palestinians is falling outside the mainstream. The simple idea that Palestinian human rights are human rights is taking root. From churches, to major universities, to city councils, people are stepping up against racism in America and Israel. Wohlfeiler says that “AIPAC has to legislate hate against Palestinians because the rest of us aren’t buying it anymore. So we have to keep working. AIPAC’s power derives in large part from its history of threatening and bullying legislators, through a machine that extends from local school boards to the White House”.
Today, JVP is fighting hard against Israel’s plans to bulldoze Palestinian villages. Their efforts managed to put a pause on the destruction and displacement of the entire Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan Al Ahmar. A few months ago, 74 members of US Congress signed a letter asking Israel not to destroy it. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just waited for the storm to blow over and restarted Israel’s macabre grand design of annexation. When the US shines a spotlight, the bulldozers stop.
Since the Trump administration came into office, colonies have been growing at a record pace because Trump is greenlighting annexation. And Khan Al Ahmar is not just a humanitarian crisis, it’s a political one with enormous implications for peace in Israel and Palestine. The village is located between occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank — and if Israel destroys it, it will split the West Bank into two and make a contiguous Palestinian state impossible.
It is an incredibly cynical and callous move to displace an entire community and destroy their homes, and along with it a Palestinian state. That’s where this Jewish organisation comes in: To rustle up enough noise and votes to draw attention to such deceitful and racist practices.
It is time that peace-loving Arabs join hands with organisations such as JVP and other peace-loving American and Israeli Jews to promote the fading concept of peace in the region among the Israelis and Arabs. It is time that justice is meted out to the Palestinians and it is time to put old conflicts and deep-rooted hatred to rest.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena.