JVP’s summer of discontent: It’s time for Rebecca Vilkomerson to step down

One of Silicon Valley’s most influential CEOs bit the bullet a few months ago and stepped down after a whirlwind of controversy and acrimony.

By
October 31, 2017 20:47
4 minute read.
Gal Gadot attends Build Presents The Cast Of "Wonder Woman" at Build Studio on May 23, 2017 in New Y

Gal Gadot attends Build Presents The Cast Of "Wonder Woman" at Build Studio on May 23, 2017 in New York City. (Credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images/AFP). (photo credit: THEO WARGO/GETTY IMAGES/AFP)

One of Silicon Valley’s most influential CEOs bit the bullet a few months ago and stepped down after a whirlwind of controversy and acrimony. Travis Kalanick of Uber fought off pressure for months. But the board of directors could only tolerate so much: an avalanche of reports detailing a culture of sexual harassment, stolen Google Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, being recorded screaming at drivers over pay cuts. The list goes on. Kalanick finally stepped down on June 21.

Jewish Voice for Peace under the stewardship of Rebecca Vilkomerson and the staff she recruited finds itself in a similar situation after perhaps the worst month in the organization’s history. Already public enemy No. 1 for many right-wing Jews, now mainstream and many left-wing Jews have completely turned against the group.

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It was a long time coming. The summer of 2017 is only the culmination of years of ideological deterioration inside JVP. Having been involved on the local level, it was clear the national leadership was on the one hand not supportive enough and on the other sending the organization down a dark path. Looking at last month in retrospect, one can only conclude it was an unmitigated disaster for an NGO that once saw itself as bringing a voice of rationality to the Middle East.

Going back to late May, JVP joined a horrendous campaign to boycott Wonder Woman because of Gal Gadot’s starring role in the film. Why? Well, she posted her support for the IDF in a war against Hamas. JVP joined a gaggle of regressive writers and groups that used the post to smear the star more based on her simple heritage than anything substantial.

JVP members then infiltrated the LGBT portion of the annual Israel Day Parade, sparking an extremely public fight with the Orthodox LGBT organization Jewish Queer Youth (JQY). JQY pointed out JVP was not an explicitly gay organization but felt no compunction intimidating young marchers and preventing them from ever participating in an event as gay Jews again. Then JVP endorsed the Chicago Dyke March’s decision to kick Jews out of its pride parade because the Star of David on their rainbow flags was “triggering” and made people feel “unsafe.” Personally, it was gut wrecking for me to see this behavior and think about the trauma that young Jewish LGBT marchers went through, and Lesbian Jewish activists, for raising a flag with the Jewish star.

Then came the coup de grace, marked by the launch of a video marketing campaign called “Deadly Exchange.” The video tries desperately to connect American Jewish organizations to police shootings and racial profiling in the US, ignoring centuries of racial tension in American history completely unconnected to Jews, much less Israel.

“Deadly Exchange alleges a moneyed Jewish conspiracy to murder innocent Americans,” writes Andrew Bennett in Medium. Bennett methodically breaks down JVP’s sophisticated propaganda that attempts to causally link Israel to tear gas in Ferguson, Missouri, Islamophobic policing in New York City, and exaggerated talk of “arms,” “tactics” and “ideology.”

“There is no actual substance to any of this, no serious attempt at a causal connection. There is only the wink wink to tell you the Jews are sowing racial discord and violence in America. The only substantive connection that this has is to Nazi ideology, which viewed Jews as a poisonous race that works to subvert race relations between other racial groups.”

Prof. Mira Sucharov, a vocal Netanyahu critic who even agrees with some of JVP’s points, said flat out in Haaretz that JVP “crosses over into antisemitism.”

“For all my appreciation for tough messaging, saying that Jewish groups are the primary drivers of [US] aid to Israel and for the scourge of institutionalized racism in America makes me queasy,” Sucharov writes. “It makes me queasy in that the causal logic is so deeply implied but so empirically thin as to imply a secret conspiracy.”

“And it makes me queasy in thinking that just when Jews and People of Color [sic] should be standing shoulder to shoulder in fighting fascist impulses in America, the video implicitly suggests that one community might actually need to turn on the other for their own survival.”

Other sins, like the sharing of posts denying Israel’s existence was threatened by Arab countries before the Six Day War and articles that allege Israelis stole Eastern cuisine from their Arab neighbors (instead of, you know, inherited it from their – and my – Mizrahi ancestors) only deepen the problem.

These incidents demonstrate a callous disregard for Jewish identity, erasure of Jewish history and endorsement of undeniable antisemitism by progressives toward other left-wing Jews. JVP has demonized the Star of David, erased Sephardi Jewish history, and Israelis based simply on their country of origin.

Jewish Voice for Peace has taken a turn for the worse over the past couple of years, as has been made abundantly clear over the past few months. June 2017 was historic for JVP, not so much for the attention it got but for the negative attention it got. In a series of misfires, JVP alienated much of the Jewish Left.

After years at the helm, Rebecca Vilkomerson has had plenty of opportunity to lead JVP to becoming a leading voice in the Jewish community for “justice” and “peace.” Instead, the organization is plagued by adoption of antisemitic tactics that alienate Jews across America and relegate Jews to the background of intersectional discourse because they are simply “white allies” with no relevant concerns about the systematically growing antisemitism.

The author is a commentator, public speaker, writer and strategic communications consultant from Tel Aviv. Follow him on Twitter: @HenMazzig


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