This article was originally published on July 5, 2017, and is presented here for Campus Week 2017.
I am a professor of Jewish history in North Carolina, and I find it very discouraging that so few young academics, particularly tenured ones, in Jewish studies are willing to speak out against Jewish Voice for Peace’s ideology and its increasingly vitriolic tactics. I am calling on my colleagues who believe that dialogue and justice are not incompatible with Zionism to recognize Jewish Voice for Peace’s demagoguery.
Taking a stand against JVP is not the same thing as saying the Occupation is OK.
Taking a stand against JVP does not mean you endorse the American right.
But not taking a stand against JVP—especially if you are one of the many who has taken a stand against the heinous treatment of minorities in America since the election—implies that:
You agree that Israel’s occupation of Palestine plays a crucial role in the oppression of Muslims, the deportation of Mexicans, and the shooting of black people.
You agree that the liberation of blacks, the LGBT community, and other oppressed groups in America is contingent upon eliminating Israel as a Jewish state.
You agree that Israel’s pro-LGBT policies are nothing but “pinkwashing,” a duplicitous tactic to make Israel look progressive and hide its oppression of the Palestinians.
You agree that shaming gay Jews is fine if they support a Jewish state because it is hypocritical to be part of an oppressed group while showing pride in Jewish self-determination.
You agree that there is no difference between Zionism and white supremacy.
You agree that it is OK to subject American Jews to a litmus test, and, if they see merit in a Jewish state, then they have failed; they have no business being part of the American left and should be removed, forcefully if necessary, from progressive causes.
You agree with a movement that rejects dialogue as a constructive approach to conflict resolution because dialogue is merely a smokescreen for the perpetuation of violence and oppression.
You do not believe that anti-Semitism on the left is a problem that needs to be taken seriously.
You do not have a problem with disrupting academic and cultural events based on the presenter’s Israeli citizenship—which is more often than not an accident of birth, not an ideological position.
You are OK with hindering scholarly access to Israeli institutions, archives, and faculty.
These are the positions articulated by Jewish Voice for Peace. And they have been the basis for its “interventions” and harassment of Jews in parades and at events on university campuses with increasing frequency.
It is not OK to speak out against the harassment and propagandistic assault of Jews when it comes from the right but not the left if your silence is a product of fear, discomfort, or indifference, as opposed to ideological conviction. And even if you agree with Jewish Voice for Peace’s ideology, you should be alarmed at its tactics.
Identifying and connecting with Israel is a legitimate form of expressing Jewishness in the Diaspora. Jews across the political spectrum should be able to do this without fear. Jewish Voice for Peace is intent on suppressing this connection by shaming, bullying, and disseminating inflammatory videos, acts that abet the proliferation of anti-Semitism. It believes that purging academia of Zionists is a laudable and achievable goal. To stop this process, Jewish studies faculty must no longer remain silent.
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Jarrod Tanny, an associate professor and Block Distinguished Scholar in Jewish History in the Department of History at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, is the author ofCity of Rogues and Schnorrers: Russia’s Jews and the Myth of Old Odessa.