At Jewish Voice For Peace, It Got a Little Violent in Brooklyn

jVP Protest NYC

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.


About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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12 Responses to At Jewish Voice For Peace, It Got a Little Violent in Brooklyn

  1. Nachum says:

    Wow, you call them disingenous and then turn right around and blame Israel for it anyway.

    “Those uppity Jews. If they weren’t assassinating German officials in Paris, maybe the Nazis wouldn’t have had the oxygen to burn all those synagogues.”

  2. Michael says:

    Punching a person because of his (alleged) political beliefs is terrorism pure and simple. And you’re saying Jews deserve terrorism because of a political stand of the Israeli government? What will the Chinese of NYC deserve then for China’s massive abuses of human rights? Or Moroccans in Europe for the crimes the Moroccan government commits in occupied Western Sahara?

    • zjb says:

      No, that’s not what I said, Michael. The only thing I said is that the occupation pours fuel onto the fire. I did not say that it created the fire or creates the fire. Without the occupation, there would be less traction to the kinds of protests that draw the kind of violence on view at the arena.

      • Michael says:

        But that kind of violence existed before the “occupation”, too, so the conclusion I draw is that there’s always some excuse to justify anti-Jewish violence, and “occupation” is just one of them.

      • zjb says:

        I agree.

      • Michael says:

        So there’s no need to drag “occupation” into every incident of anti-Jewish violence, as it somehow excuses the perpetrators of such violence in justifying their actions as “resistance” or “freedom fighters”, when in fact they are anti-Jewish thugs, who go around beating people regardless of actions of the Israeli government.

      • zjb says:

        I think you’re right. But I also think the anti-Semitism on view these days is viral. I also think there are a lot of groups that are responsible for the spread of its contagion, for creating the environment that makes it easier to spread rather than tamp down. These groups include the Israeli government and Hamas. In my opinion, BDS and JVP pour oil onto the fire, regardless of their professed intentions.

      • Michael says:

        Right. The Israeli government (aka the elected heads of the Jewish state, Jews themselves) are at least partially responsible for the rise in anti-Jewish violence. The wretched Jews deserve it, I guess. What’s next – you’ll claim its a black-flag operation designed to hasten WW3 and Judgement Day?

        Why is it so hard for you to condemn the violent conduct of anti-Jewish and/or anti-Israel persons, groups and organizations without bringing in reservations to justify their actions? You don’t seem to have that problem when condemning (alleged) right-wing violence like here:

      • zjb says:

        I think I have condemned the act and I’ve argued that groups like JVP bear some onus in the way they heat up the environment. Clearly I’m not saying they caused the anti-Semitism, and I’m not saying that about the occupation either.

      • Michael says:

        But you still drag the “occupation” by the ears to any discussion of anti-Jewish violence.

      • zjb says:

        it’s not that they are unrelated even if that relation is tricky –in my opinion.

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