I was very pleased to see the article on J Street Policy Director Hadar Susskind’s visit to the Tucson Jewish Community Center. Acknowledgment of different voices within the Jewish community in regards to our relationship with Israel and Israel’s current policies is a breath of fresh air. Moreover, the article explains that J Street has a pro-Israel stance, yet is opposed to Israel’s settlement policies and calls for territorial compromises and a two-state solution.
I was disturbed, however, by the remark calling Jewish Voice for Peace “despicable” that was attributed to Mr. Gellman, who organized the event. Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is being criticized for supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns. A very broad coalition of Palestinian civil society put out a call for BDS in 2005 to try to bring about an end to the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. BDS is a non-violent tactic to try to effect change in Israeli policy, as opposed to terrorism, suicide bombings and missiles, which are morally wrong and do not work. The BDS movement is not a homogeneous organization and is comprised of and supported by a variety of groups with diverse opinions.
Jewish Voice for Peace is informed by the Jewish values of justice, fairness and dignity. We believe that both Israelis and Palestinians have a right to self-determination and need to be safe. We therefore support non-violent ways to fight against the occupation and for a fair and just solution to the conflict based on international and human rights law. JVP supports targeted BDS, meaning BDS of companies and organizations that profit from the occupation.
BDS, as any other aspect of this conflict, should be part of the discourse within the Jewish community. As J Street has shown by inviting JVP to its conference, we can disagree with one another and discuss issues on their merits. Vilifying and excluding JVP from the discussion based solely on one viewpoint and opinion is only deepening the split in our community. A few years ago, the mentioning of the words occupation or Palestinian state received the same treatment as BDS today. In the meantime, there is no longer an argument about the fact of the occupation, and the two-state solution is the stated policy goal of the Israeli government.
Calling certain opinions beyond the pale is a way of distracting from what we really need to talk about, namely what needs to happen to end the occupation and bring about a peaceful and just solution for Palestinians and Israelis alike.
As J Street emphasizes, calling for an end to the occupation and for change in Israel’s current policies is completely consistent with being pro-Israel. Supporting and advocating for non-violent ways to reach those goals is equally consistent.
—Dina Afek, JVP-Tucson