A Call to Our Communities to Stop the Character Assassinations and Attacks on Seekers of Justice

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Islamophobic and anti-Palestinian groups and individuals, including from Jewish communities, continue to spearhead or engage in assaults upon those who dare to criticize Israel or support Palestinian rights. Palestinians and Muslims are particularly targeted.
These attacks against supporters of justice come as Israel continues to escalate its violence and repressive tactics against the Palestinian people.In recent weeks, we have witnessed an intensification of Israeli violence against Palestinians at the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, and the people of Gaza are enduring unbearable brutality, forced tolive “in abject poverty under practically inhuman conditions unparalleled in the modern world,”B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights group hasrecentlysaid.
Yet, the attacks I refer to are not on those perpetrating these grave injustices, but, rather, on those challenging them. This is a plea to those of us from within Jewish communities to vigorously and unequivocally repudiate these persistent character assassinations and attacks, to call them out for what they are, to examine our complicity in what is happening, and to join the call for justice.
Although scurrilous attacks against critics of Israel’s behavior have a long history, they have been steadily increasing.These attacks typically follow a similar pattern of harassment.The tactics are as follows: Attack the messenger. Don’t respond to the message with rational argument. Attack the messenger (again). And again. And the attack must, at the least, hurl accusations against them of being anti-Semites and supporters of terrorism. This is Israeli (and American Jewish pro-Israel) hasbara (propaganda) 101.
The list of seekers of justice who have been falsely maligned and had vicious campaigns mounted against them by hard-line supporters of Israel is long. They are, like renowned Professor Steven Salaita, on college campuses; in social justice organizations, as well as the organizations themselves, like Students for Justice in Palestine; from Muslim and Palestinian communities, like community leader Linda Sarsour. Most recently, an ACLU staff member, Jamil Dakwar, was maligned as anti-Semitic for tweeting that Zionism is not the same as Judaism and that anti-Zionism is not the same as anti-Semitism. This attack was intended to discredit the ACLU’s opposition to the bill now in Congress that would criminalize support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. BDS calls on Israel to be accountable to basic principles of human rights and international law.
As thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people of conscience across the globe have joined forces with those insisting on justice for the Palestinian people, the Israeli government and its supporters haveintensifiedtheir attempts to punish and destroy the lives, careers, and reputations of people and movements. As someone who has been involved with these issues for more than 30 years, I have seen first-hand the increased intensity of these attacks, which I believe is, at least in part, a clear reaction to the rapidly growing strength and power of the global movement for Palestinian rights.
We need to stand with seekers of justice against this relentless harassment.Many within our communities have “normalized” such attacks, not only through our frequent silence, but also because these attacks don’t happen in isolation.
These assaults take place in the context of ongoing state-sponsored Islamophobia in the U.S. (like aggressive and discriminatory police surveillance of the Muslim community)Theytake place in the context of substantial funding coming from Israel and Israel’s advocates to silence the voices that support Palestinian rights and to oppose constitutionally protected forms of protest.And they take place in the context of U.S. support for Israel’s unjust system rooted in violence against Palestinians and the privileging of Jewish lives. Looking at our role within Jewish communities, in each of these cases, numbers ofAmerican Jewish organizationsare participants in supporting or promoting these injustices.
While responsibility extends well beyond members and groups within Jewish communities, we are obliged to look at where and how we are complicit. We need to stand firm for justice, and we cannot remain silent as Islamophobes and other racists and supporters of Israeli apartheid try to destroy the well-being, reputations, and safety of those whose only “crime” is being Muslim or Palestinian and who stand for Palestinian freedom as a social justice imperative. All of us need to forcefully and visibly condemn these smear campaigns and look deeply at how we participate in them even as we claim to oppose them.
The call for justice couldn’t be more urgent. We must hold our communities accountable for the ways we promote and perpetuate a climate and conditions that attempt to threaten, harm, and silence (and worse) Palestinians, Muslims, and all those challenging Israeli apartheid and standing for justice in Palestine.
Donna Nevel, a community psychologist and educator, is a founding member of the Network Against Islamophobia, Facing the Nakba, and Jews Say No!, and was a co-founder of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.