18 Aug, 2023


You ignore ‘apartheid’ — angry scholars’ letter to US Jews is signed by 750 including Benny Morris

Philip Weiss

August 8, 2023

U.S. Jews have long been at the forefront of progressive causes, but have paid insufficient attention to the elephant in the room — Israeli apartheid — say 750+ academics.

There is big news in the American discourse of apartheid. A letter to the American Jewish community, accusing it of supporting progressive causes while turning a blind eye to Israeli “apartheid” and ethnic cleansing, has gotten hundreds of signatures from leading figures, including mainstream voices in the Zionist world — Benny Morris, David Myers, Dov Waxman, Shaul Magid, and Daniel Levy.

The letter calls on American Jewish leaders to recognize “apartheid” and demand that U.S. leaders “restrict American military aid from being used in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and end Israeli impunity in the UN and other international organizations.”

The letter says that one democratic state is a legitimate outcome. “Without equal rights for all, whether in one state, two states, or in some other political framework, there is always a danger of dictatorship.”

The letter then calls on U.S. Jews “to embrace equality for Jews and Palestinians” inside Israel and in the occupied territories.

Several friends have emailed me about the importance of the letter. “I must say I never thought it would reach this point this fast,” writes one. “I think that Israel’s behavior is so egregious, so off the charts, that any decent human being can’t help but condemn it. I also think almost everyone who is now critical of Israel understands that this one only gets worse.”

Remember that Jimmy Carter was drummed out of Democratic Party gatherings for using the word apartheid 17 years ago.

According to co-sponsor Lior B. Sternfeld of Penn State University, about half the signatories are Israeli. The letter went live on Saturday August 5 and has gathered 200 signatures a day since. “Signatories include high-profile Palestinian and Bedouin scholars, such as Amal Jamal and Rawia Aburabia, and numerous influential non-Jewish scholars, such as Timothy Snyder and Stefanie Schüler-Springorum, director of the Center for Antisemitism Research in Berlin, signifying a general abhorrence of current Israeli actions.”

Some of the gut-punches:

Ethnic cleansing:

[T]he ultimate purpose of the judicial overhaul is to… ethnically cleanse all territories under Israeli rule of their Palestinian population

Killings of Palestinians:

Palestinian people lack almost all basic rights, including the right to vote and protest. They face constant violence: this year alone, Israeli forces have killed over 190 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and demolished over 590 structures. Settler vigilantes burn, loot, and  kill with impunity.

“Jewish supremacism”:

The problems did not start with the current radical government: Jewish supremacism has been growing for years and was enshrined in law by the 2018 Nation State Law.

The letter includes an attack on American Jewish political culture as Progressive Except Palestine, and worse among the donors:

American Jews have long been at the forefront of social justice causes, from racial equality to abortion rights, but have paid insufficient attention to the elephant in the room: Israel’s long-standing occupation that, we repeat, has yielded a regime of apartheid. As Israel has grown more right-wing and come under the spell of the current government’s messianic, homophobic, and misogynistic agenda, young American Jews have grown more and more alienated from it. Meanwhile, American Jewish billionaire funders help support the Israeli far right. 

The list of signatories, the overwhelming majority Jewish, is remarkable because they go from left to center-right, including many Israelis; and the letter itself could have been penned by Jewish Voice for Peace, the leading anti-Zionist organization in the Jewish community. Among the signers:

Ian Lustick, Sara Roy, Dov Waxman, Avi Shlaim, Timothy Snyder, Omer Bartov, Avrum Burg, Aaron Hahn Tapper, Nurit Peled Elhanan, Liora Halperin, Steven Zipperstein, Hasia Diner, Lawrence Davidson, Derek Penslar, Ilan Pappe, Antony Lerman, Irene Gendzier, David Biale, Peter Beinart, Lynn Gottlieb, Matthew Teller, Rosalind Petchesky, Juan Cole.

Here are the demands of the letter:

[W]e call on leaders of North American Jewry — foundation leaders, scholars, rabbis, educators — to

  1. Support the Israeli protest movement, yet call on it to embrace equality for Jews and Palestinians within the Green Line and in the OPT. 
  2. Support human rights organizations which defend Palestinians and provide real-time information on the lived reality of occupation and apartheid.
  3. Commit to overhaul educational norms and curricula for Jewish children and youth in order to provide a more honest appraisal of Israel’s past and present.
  4. Demand from elected leaders in the United States that they help end the occupation, restrict American military aid from being used in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and end Israeli impunity in the UN and other international organizations.

The letter’s demands could not be more different from Joe Biden’s marching orders to the Democratic establishment. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries is leading an AIPAC-funded tour of Israel with 22 members of Congress, including several progressives, one of them Becca Balint of Vermont. Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin threw a supporter at a San Francisco fundraiser under the bus when she learned the supporter has criticized Israeli “apartheid.”

h/t Michael Davis, Terry Weber.

You ignore ‘apartheid’ — angry scholars’ letter to US Jews is signed by 750 including Benny Morris – Mondoweiss

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