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A Jewish Voice For Peace

06 April 2016

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

Contrary to prevalent belief in some circles, there is a strong wave of opposition by many American Jewish organizations as well as individuals to Israel's apartheid policy against Palestinians. They reject the current expansion through terrorism measures undertaken more intensely in recent times using the targeting of Palestinian children with bullets to achieve that eventual aim.

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is an American national membership organization inspired by rational Jewish tradition to work for the freedom, equality and dignity of all the people of Israel and Palestine. They have been increasing alarmed at the escalation of violence directed against hapless Palestinians and particularly when it has become obvious that Palestinian women and children were the primary targets of scores of assaults by the IDF.

Ari Wohlfeiler, a deputy director in the JVP organization, was particularly alarmed when AIPAC, the influential American Zionist lobby, began its 2016 Policy Conference with Donald Trump, the US presidential contender, as a keynote speaker. Trump's bigotry enhances the grand designs of the current Israeli leadership. Ari charges that AIPAC would then be off to ''visit every member of Congress, pushing its legislative agenda,'' which would essentially mean more illegal settlements and less chance for peace.

Ari says that ''AIPAC has peddled Islamophobic and racist stereotypes for literally 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 and protected fiercely by AIPAC. Israel already refuses to open its doors to refugees Syrian, Ethiopian or Palestinian; allows privileged immigration status for one religious group over others; is building highly militarized walls on all of 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 byproduct of AIPAC's policy agenda any more than they are a byproduct of Israeli policy. They're fundamental.

And over and over, Jewish communal organizations have co-signed on that racism by ignoring, or just plain silencing, criticism of AIPAC's demonization 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 numbers of Americans who are tiring of Israeli tactics, Ari contends that recent polls show that 47 percent of Democrats say they think Israel is a racist state, and 49 percent support imposing economic sanctions or other punitive measures against Israel's continued settlement building. Less than one-third of American Jews believe Israel is a democracy.

Today JVP is fighting hard against AIPAC's agenda to make nonviolent advocacy for Palestinians illegal because they know they are starting to lose. AIPAC's racist dehumanization 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 the racism in America and Israel.

Ari 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.''

It is time that peace-loving Arabs join hands with organizations such as JVP and other peace-loving American Jews to promote the fading concept of peace in the region between Israelis and Arabs. It is time to put old conflicts and deep-rooted hatred to rest.

The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena


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