Given that Muzzlewatch, a blog ostensibly created to remove barriers to conversation about the Middle East, no longer tolerates two-way dialog (after shutting down their comments section when the kitchen got too hot), this reply will have to suffice as a rejoinder to Cecilie Surasky’s (the Muzzlewatch/Jewish Voice for Peace point person) hysterical response to a recent decision by the San Francisco Jewish Federation to stop underwriting the demonization of Israel.
The irony-challenged Ms. Surasky has to perform some pretty heavy contortions in order to fit the San Francisco story into a JVP narrative, so allow me to untangle the tale.
As regular readers know, infiltration is a theme I come back to again and again in my anti-divestment writing. Whenever BDS has posted a brief-lived “success” (such as with the Presbyterian Church or the British Teacher’s Union), it’s been because a small group of single-issue partisans have been willing to join an organization and use any means necessary (moral blackmail, parliamentary maneuvering, etc.) to tie an institution’s “brand” to the BDS propaganda message of “Israel = Apartheid,” regardless of the damage it might cause a church or other group in the process.
While many institutions have managed to avoid this type of manipulation, several have not. And the most recent victim was the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival which was hijacked and turned into a propaganda fest where the victimhood of Rachel Corrrie was trumpeted in film and lecture, while supporters of Israel were booed and jeered.
Unsurprisingly, this caused mayhem within the Film Festival organization and opened up enormous rifts within the San Francisco Jewish community. Once Israel’s detractors (including Jewish Voices for Peace) got what they wanted (tying their message to a respected Jewish institution), they were – as usual – not the least bit concerned with the wreckages their reckless activities caused. But once the organized Jewish community (in the form of the local Federation) decided to respond to the matter, there was the same Jewish Voice for Peace using their Muzzlewatch mouthpiece to scream “foul!”
Now consider for a moment the argument being made in Surasky’s piece. JVP is at the forefront of the US boycott, sanctions and divestment movement, which has attached itself at the hip to the goals of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). In other words, their fondest dream is to see Israeli academics shunned by their international colleagues, their papers refused entry into journals, their invitations to conferences revoked, their students refused entry to US and European graduate programs.
Yet while JVP works tirelessly to see Israeli academics and artists censored, they also run Muzzlewatch which exists to accuse anyone of challenging JVP orthodoxy of censorship. In the case of San Francisco, Surasky’s problem is not that the Federation is dragging anyone into court to get them to shut up (as JVP did in Boston). Nor are they hiding from criticism for their decisions (as Muzzlewatch did when they shut down their comments section). Rather, she is furious that the Federation has decided that defamers of Israel no longer have an automatic right to the community’s money.
Normally, the wannabe censors of Muzzlewatch simply hurl their accusations of censorship at those who have the temerity to use their own free speech rights to criticize the political positions of Jewish Voice for Peace. But in this case, their rage rises to the highest pitch I’ve ever seen because another organization that does not share JVP’s opinions refuses to write them checks, and refuses to tolerate a local Jewish film festival being subverted in order to accuse the Jewish state of murder.
At first I thought Surasky’s piece could never sustain the hilarity it achieved when the author was comparing its heroes (Judith Butler the “true academic rock star,” Ronnie Gilbert the former Weaver, and Aurora Levins Morales – both Latina and Jewish!) with the top-hat wearing, moustache-twirling, evil-doers of the Federation. But then she got to the threat (once again: Bogga! Bogga! Bogga!).
For you see it is we (meaning the SF Federation and other supporters of Israel) that are driving good and decent people into the arms of the boycott movement (not the tireless efforts of Jewish Voice for Peace who have been pushing BDS for close to a decade). And if we don’t reconsider and start those checks coming again, we will only have ourselves to blame when JVP keeps doing what it was planning to do anyway.
It’s been a couple of weeks since Halloween, but I can’t help but conjure up the image of one of those ten year olds who decided to costume up by wearing their parents or grandparents clothes. (In this case, I’ve got an image stuck in my head of Surasky and her JVP colleagues dressed in oversize trenchcoats and fedoras, with beards drawn on their face in marker, pretending to be scary gangsters.) “You mind your place Mister Federation Fatcat,” comes the real voice of Jewish Voice for Peace “or you’ll be wearing concrete golashes!”
Fortunately this site still accepts comments, so any Muzzlewatchers are more than free to let me know if I missed anything.