Open Letter by Jewish Voice for Peace Twin Cities in response to the student resolution put forth by Students in Support of Israel at the University of Minnesota.
As Jews of conscience, we reject the assertion that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. We believe it is an act of love for our Jewish traditions, cultures and faith to hold Israel accountable for breaking international laws. It is in the interest of justice and peace that we support the non-violent tactics of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement to use economic pressure to persuade Israel to adhere to UN guidelines.
We are personally harmed by instances of anti-Semitism wherever they occur, be it on the steps of a synagogue or on campus. While violence against Jews is a very real problem that must be addressed, we take issue with the assertion that criticism against Israel is anti-Semitism. Criticism of a nation state is not condemnation of a people, and criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic. Israel is a nation state that was granted to Zionist Jews by colonial Britain, at the expense of the Jews and Arabs living side by side in post-Ottoman era Palestine. Just as we condemn the colonial settler methods used against Native Americans in North and South America, we condemn Israel’s abuses against Palestinians.
Our biblical traditions contain books named for prophets who spoke truth to power and condemned the ongoing abuses of the Jewish state of their times. They are described as calling out the immoral behavior of Kings and elites of their times. In that tradition we hold the Israeli government accountable for the illegal occupation, settlements and oppression of Palestinians today.
Just as the struggle for Palestinian human rights is seen as a threat to Israel and the U.S. today, so once was the struggle for human rights in South Africa. Not until 2008 was Nelson Mandela removed from the U.S. terrorism watch list. We believe that, as with the struggle against South African apartheid, the call for Palestinian rights will be recognized as a moral and justified struggle.
We oppose the resolution proposed by Students in Support of Israel, because its purpose is to silence diverse opinions. Instead, we stand with a message of justice and human dignity for all. We oppose the use of the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism because it is dangerously vague and thus conflates BDS and legitimate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. See the statement by the JVP Academic Advisory Council: Criticism of Israel is not Anti-Semitism. Like esteemed Jewish thinkers and leaders before us, such as Martin Buber and Hannah Arendt, we consider the violent occupation of Palestinian lands to be an affront to Jewish values. Jewish Voice for Peace – Twin Cities, together with Students for Justice in Palestine and others in the Minnesota Jewish community, join in the rising chorus of Jewish voices around the world, in defense of the right to disagree with any nation’s policies.