A spokesperson speaking for Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) expressed horror at the attack of Leonard Petlakh in the wake of a rally they sponsored at Barclays Center in Brooklyn where the New York Nets were holding a fundraiser for Friends of the IDF. The Forward reports here that protesters shouting “Free Palestine” and “Your people are murderers,” accosted Petlakh as he left the arena with his two children. One of them struck Petlakh in the face. The Daily News reported that the dispute started inside the arena when protesters unfurled a Palestinian flag near Petlakh. The argument continued outside when one member of Petlakh’s group tried to grab the flag, police told the News. For his part, Petlakh said that the protesters were yelling obscenities and that he had to ask them to move out of his way after the game. A protester filming the scene on his camera phone punched him in the face.
About the response by JVP to the episode, you can read the whole article here. While JVP did right to condemn the assault, the “horror” expressed by the group is not a little disingenuous. One notes as well that a spokesperson sought as well to distance the group from it. “If something happened after the game, which would have been several hours after the protest ended, it had nothing to do with us or the demonstration.” Perhaps JVP “protests too much.” I don’t think JVP is responsible in any direct way for the attack. But one can hardly be surprised when these events take an ugly turn. It’s my own sense that JVP contributes to events and partners with groups that contribute to the heating up of a climate that attracts violent reactions and counter-reactions. One might express “horror,” but there’s very little about which to be surprised.
Having said this, it’s incumbent to add that the micro-environment outside the Barclays Center forms but a part of a larger macro-climate fueled by the current Israeli government and the occupation of and settlements in the West Bank. Outside this atmosphere, groups like JVP and the anti-Israel groups with whom they partner would have no oxygen to breathe. No one’s innocent here. It’s sometimes the case that one gets the enemies one deserves. Israel under its current leadership deserves groups or “movements” like JVP and BDS as much as groups like JVP and BDS have more than earned the animus of the Jewish establishment. There has to be a better way to promote Israel and Palestine than the ones nowadays on view.
For JVP double speak, see thse comments by Andy Bachman.