The attempt to persuade the US Presbyterian Church to apply a policy of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel was led, among others, by a fringe, supposedly Jewish group called Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).

While a minuscule group in the Jewish world, as a result of being so exceptional, these Jews opposed to Israel attract a lot of media attention. Perhaps most astonishing is the insistence of anti-Israel Jews that they are being “courageous,” as though their actions were fraught with painful consequences.

In fact, while they are surely met with combative letters to the editor and verbal denunciation, their involvement in broader Jewish life is quite often limited to identifying with opponents of the Jewish state. Indeed, it has become all too clear that the self-awarded label of “courage” is little more than salve for the conscience and cover for their real function: to serve as a hechsher for non-Jewish anti-Israel activists.

Whether religious or secular, anti- Israel Jews are useful props for the BDS movement. To the superficial eye it passes muster. How could a movement, despite employing the language of historic anti-Semitism in its condemnation of Israel, be anti-Semitic since it contains Jews?

Neturei Karta

On the one hand, religious anti-Zionism is mainly the purview of an ultra- Orthodox fringe movement called Neturei Karta (“Guardians of the City” in Aramaic). Anyone who has had the pleasure of passing by an anti-Israel rally has no doubt seen these folks. I have no intention of explaining their theology – and their absurd engagement with the Holocaust-denying Iranian regime – in this column.

Left-wing anti-Zionism

Extreme Left anti-Zionism, even if it is also marginal, attracts attention because of its bizarre willingness to ally itself with groups whose values are the polar opposite of the Left’s own principles. They are willing to close their eyes to this fact as their hate – yes, hate – for Israel consumes them more than does their desire to defend the values they claim to hold dear.

In Canada, the group representing this ideology is Independent Jewish Voices (IJV). IJV served as a cheerleader for the United Church of Canada in its recent decision to boycott Israeli settlements, much like JVP backed the Presbyterian boycott in the United States.

The main founder of IJV is an Ottawa woman by the name of Diana Ralph, whose political opinions are very peculiar.

I myself have met Ralph a few times (the Ottawa/Gatineau Jewish community is small) and I can indeed confirm her radical outlook.

In an article titled “Islamophobia and the ‘war on terror’: The continuing pretext for imperial conquest” for the book The Hidden History of 9-11, Ralph says that the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington were not carried out by al-Qaida, but by American and Israeli conservatives in order to implement “a secret, strategic plan to position the US as a permanent unilateral super-power poised to seize control of Eurasia, and thereby the entire world.”

Of course, Israel is the one pulling the strings.

But that’s not all. The Federal Court of Canada, not once but twice commented unfavorably on Diana Ralph and her politics in the case of Almrei (2007), when she volunteered to be a surety for the alleged terrorist. The Court noted her complete lack of objectivity, that her judgment was clouded by her political beliefs and her lack of respect for the court.

In a meeting of the left-wing movement Peace Now, held in 2009 at the Reform synagogue Temple Israel in Ottawa, Ralph tried to distribute a text extolling the virtues of – wait for it – Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This so angered the genuine peace activists present that they forbade the distribution of Ralph’s text and clearly dissociated themselves from her outrageous and extreme views.

The ironic and sad thing is that if Ralph’s allies were ever in power, she, as an openly lesbian woman, would be one of their first victims.

Another star of this movement is Judy Rebick, well known in extreme Left circles of English Canada. Rebick uses her Jewish origins to bash Israel.

In fact, she even said in an address to IJV’s annual general assembly in Ottawa on June 12, 2009, that she had long ago broken with the Jewish community and that she self-identified as Jewish only when it served her political objectives; in other words, when she can use her Jewish origins to delegitimize, demonize and otherwise attack Israel.

IJV is against the very existence of the only Jewish state in the world. IJV opposes the two-state solution. IJV supports Israel Apartheid Week on Canadian campuses. IJV supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel (and only against Israel). IJV is aligned with extremist groups like the Canadian Arab Federation and Tadamon. IJV marched in demonstrations alongside activists yelling “Jews are our dogs,” and stood shoulder to shoulder with protesters carrying Khomeini placards at an anti-Israel rally instigated by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Why do these Jewish supporters of minority, women and gay rights ally themselves with people who are totally opposed to these values, in order to demonize the Middle East’s only democracy? I have been considering this for some time now and I am not sure I know the answer.

Could it be because Israel is a liberal democracy, with a market economy, and an ally of the US, whereas this far Left is anti-globalization, anti-capitalist and anti-American? But there is probably more at play here.

Anti-Zionist Jews and their relation to Jewish identity

British (and non-Jewish) author Robin Sheppard came to the following explanation, which makes sense to me:

...This also sheds different light on the status of that small but vocal group of secular Jews in the Diaspora who consider themselves anti-Zionist and who therefore oppose the existence of the Jewish State.

Since their secularism blocks their route to a sustainable Jewish identity through immersion in the religion and their anti- Zionism blocks their route to a sustainable Jewish identity via a deepseated identity with Israel, they are effectively positing for themselves a state of long-term conversion away from Judaism. Anti-Zionist Jews react to charges of this kind with a rejectionism bordering on bitterness. In a sense this is unsurprising. They are being presented with an edifice of argument to which they have serious responses and which they are likely to take personally.

They are therefore reduced to sophistry and denial centering on extremely vague and unconvincing definition of Judaism – Judaism as a set of ‘non-essential’ political- philosophical ideals, for example – whose weakness they themselves must be only too well aware of. ...They may or may not be self-hating Jews but they are certainly self-negating Jews. They have adopted a maxim which, if adopted by all Jews, would negate absolutely the possibility of Jewish identity itself as a long-term constituent of the human race (with the exception, I repeat, of ultra-religious, closed communities).

The secular, anti-Zionist Jew is a self-negating Jew because he and she lacks the ability to project a meaningful Jewish identity into the future.


French intellectual Pierre-André Taguieff goes in the same direction:

Those ‘alterjews,’ who systematically take the side of the Jews’ enemies, can they still be considered Jewish? Beside the fluke of their birth, in what way are they Jewish? Can we apply to them the old Talmudic formula according to which ‘the Jew who has sinned stays Jewish’? How can one tolerate the fact that they self-identify as Jews only to attack the Jews (the ‘Jewish Jews’). Deutscher’s ‘non- Jewish Jew’ was at once inside and outside (like Heine or Freud). The contemporary ‘alterjew’ is inside only to be against.

An amazing capacity for self-delusion

There are differences of opinion in the Jewish world regarding Israel’s future, its relationship with its Palestinian neighbors, and what kind of society Israel should strive to be. But there is immense consensus regarding the right of the Jewish people to have an independent state in our ancestral land in the Middle East.

Anybody who identifies as anti-Zionist, even if one professes to be Jewish, cannot be considered anything other than a representative of a very marginal group in the Jewish world.

That these people could also lay any claim to courage – an eminently Jewish trait exemplified by those who defended our people in history’s darkest hours – speaks only to their capacity for selfdelusion.

The writer is a lawyer working for Canada’s Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. He was a member of parliament from 1997 to 2006.


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