Last year, the Scholars for Peace in the Middle East launched an online petition opposed to suicide terrorism that quickly garnered more than 327,000 signatures. These voices were not heard in a November meeting with an appointee of National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams, however. Jewish “leaders” from Brit Tzedek v'Shalom presented an open letter to President Bush (from only 8,300 signatories)—seeking an end to “vicious bloodletting”— as if both sides in the Arab Israeli war had committed crimes against humanity.
That Brit Tzedek earned an audience with a White House emissary should send ripples of concern among Americans who truly care about Israel. Executive director Aliza Becker grandly claims that the 23,000-member group founded in 2002 speaks for an increasing number of American Jews.
Who are these upstarts, and why should Americans of every religious persuasion care? Brit Tzedek v'shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Peace and Justice, likens itself to “peace groups that support Israel,” but “oppose the occupation—such as Americans for Peace Now, Meretz USA, and the Tikkun Community's Middle East Project.
The group appears far from the mainstream, however, and its self-described friends leave long and dirty anti-democratic, anti-American and anti-Zionist tracks. On December 4, for example, Brit Tzedek held a “Town Meeting” featuring Khalil Shikaki—live from Ramallah—to which 100 participants could send questions by email and phone. Billed as a peaceful and prominent pollster, the director of the Palestine Center for Policy and Survey Research is brother to the late Fathi Shikaki, the Islamic Jihad founder credited with the invention of suicide bombs. Shikaki's hour-long interview and Q&A period dealt primarily with the hope and despair of the Arab Palestinians and their support for elections, the PLO's dominant Fatah faction, Hamas, Islamic Jihad—and violence against Israel. Shikaki claimed that the post-Arafat period is hopeful, and offers a new opportunity for negotiation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The founders and members of Brit Tzedek should know, however, that this schpiel has the strong odor of taqiyyah, the Islamic practice of dissembling so as to gain political and military advantage. Moreover, there is reason to think that is exactly what it is.
Khalil Shikaki is not responsible for his brother's sins, of course, but Brit Tzedek should have recognized that he has himself participated in questionable activities. Shikaki was a board member of both World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE)—the University of South Florida institute of indicted terror conspirator Professor Sami al-Arian [i] —and the Islamic Committee for Palestine, which supports Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the U.S., according to Investigative Project director Steven Emerson. [ii]
During Shikaki's tenure, ICP published several journals and articles that quoted his brother and called for Israel's destruction. It organized annual conventions in Chicago, St. Louis, Cleveland and elsewhere that hosted Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and representatives of Hezbollah, Hamas, the Sudanese National Islamic Front and Lebanon's Tawheed. It raised funds for Islamic Jihad and other terrorist charities” and “foundations”—and overtly sought terror against Israeli, Egyptian, Tunisian, Algerian and U.S. targets.[iii]
One mistake like Khalil Shikaki might be understandable. But Brit Tzedek's docket and associations include many questionable ideas and individuals.
Brit Tzedek condemned the assassination of the Hamas killer Abdel Aziz Rantisi, and the destruction of terrorist command centers as if they were an escalation of hostilities, for example. The group worries more about inconvenience to Arab Palestinians of road blocks and check points than about the threat to Israeli and Arab life caused by human bombs, which figures seldom, if ever, in Brit Tzedek equations. In fact, Brit Tzedek defines “terrorist violence” as part of a pattern of Arab “resistance,” implying some measure of approval, or at best a lack of distaste.
Brit Tzedek also defends the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). In a 2003 press release still posted, Brit Tzedek describes ISM's terror sympathizers as if their “non-violent protests” against “human rights abuses” were somehow legitimate. After Rachel Corrie was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer, Brit Tzedek “deeply” regretted her death in the Gaza Strip, and whined that the “American from Olympia, Washington... was killed when she tried to prevent the bulldozer's demolition of a house in the Rafah refugee camp.” Forget the legitimate questions raised about Corrie, who died while blocking the destruction of gun smuggling tunnels. Never mind ISM assistance to terrorists or to British suicide killers who bombed Tel Aviv's Mikes Pub. [iv]
Several key advisers on Brit Tzedek's Israeli committee hail from far left corners like Women in Black, Other Israel and Ometz l'Seruv (Courage to Refuse), which collectively condemn Israel, but never the Arabist attacks against Israeli civilians. Brit Tzedek seeks negotiations, regardless of the level of violence on the Arab side. It puts a high priority on “justice” for Arab Palestinian “refugees,” but never mentions Jewish refugees from Arab lands.
Brit Tzedek maintains close ties to other anti-Zionist groups such as the Arabist group Gush-Shalom. Its “goal is to work for a just peace cooperatively and in coalition with diverse, national, Middle East peace initiatives.” Those “diverse” initiatives, however, include support for the Arabist financed “Geneva Initiative” which seeks either the colonization of Israel by Arabs or creation of a “secular” state of Palestine to replace Israel.
Its own actions and positions aside, Brit Tzedek also finds support from anti-Zionist groups both within and outside the Jewish community. The Jewish Friends of Palestine lists the group as a resource—along with the divestment campaigns at Cornell and the University of California, the Israel Communist forum and party, Jewish Voices Against Occupation in Wisconsin, the New Israel Fund, Naturei Karta, and Tikkun magazine. Brit Tzedek earns high esteem from the Palestine Monitor and International Answer.
The group gets financial support from other anti-American and anti-Zionist organizations, too, including Noam Chomsky's Resist, Inc. and the Ford Foundation. The board of Noam Chomsky’s group is littered with admitted socialists, anti-Zionist activists, and even includes Yasir Arafat’s former economic adviser Leila Farsakh.
The New York-based Ford Foundation supports far-ranging efforts in globalization, internationalism and other internationalist leftist programs. Founded by industrialist Henry Ford, an admirer and supporter of Adolf Hitler, the Ford Foundation today continues to display anti-Jewish bias. Ford funded anti-Jewish agitprop at the UN conference in Durban and supports Al Mezan, ISM, New Israel Fund, and other anti-Zionist groups.
Recently as a result of much public criticism, the Ford Foundation claims to have stopped directly funding Brit Tzedek and Palestinian NGO's. However, Brit Tzedek still appears to get direct support from Ford, which also finances the New Israel Fund, another source of Brit Tzedek funds.
Brit Tzedek also obtains financial support from several ‘clearing house’ trusts that aggregate donations from various sources. These include the hate-Israel Shefa Fund, and the more famous Tides Foundation, which grants funds to several other hate-America groups, including the Council for American Islamic Relations and such pillars of the radical legal establishment as the National Lawyers Guild and the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Ostensibly a “Muslim civil rights group,” CAIR is actually one of the leading purveyors of terrorism in America, with links to Hamas Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas. CAIR regularly demonizes America's war on terror. It claims, for instance, that Homeland Security measures are responsible for an undocumented surge in “hate crimes.” Similarly, the National Lawyers Guild takes pride in its beginnings as a Communist front organization. Its October 2004 convention was concluded by indicted attorney Lynne Stewart, who allegedly helped convicted 1993 World Trade Center bombing mastermind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman communicate with terror cells in Egypt.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, established by Sixties radical and Chicago 8 defender William Kunstler and “people's attorney” Arthur Kinoy. has since 9/11 contested every effective Homeland Security measure, including increased government sanctions to wiretap suspected Islamists. Detaining suspects at Guantanamo Bay, the CCR says, is an inexcusable form of “racial profiling” and CCR President Michael Ratner considers American soldiers guilty of 9/11, via U.S. Middle East policy, but defends Lynne Stewart's alleged aid to Sheikh Rahman’s Islamic Jihad.
Brit Tzedek lands on the list of “organizations concerned with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” published by the International Responsibilities Task Force of the American Library Association's Social Responsibilities Round Table. Others listed, with similar objectives, include Al-Awda (the Palestinian Right to Return Coalition), International Solidarity Movement (ISM), the terrorist Islamic Association of Palestine, and Jewish Friends of Palestine and Not in My Name, among others.
Brit Tzedek claims to be a Jewish pro-Zionist organization, but relies chiefly on UN, and leftist political to support its anti-Zionist views. It focuses on unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Jerusalem,Gaza, Golan, Judea and Samaria, and hopes for Arab promises (not concessions). The group even calls on the U.S. and the UN to force Israel to create a Palestinian state. It seeks Jewish evacuation from homes in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and the Golan and a limit to Jewish life in the Middle East to the area inside Israel's ‘Green Line’—either through bribery or force. Brit Tzedek does not accept historical facts concerning the Jewish ancestral homeland, nor does it care that these disputed lands initially belonged to Israel, and were conquered by the Ottoman Empire and in 1949 illegally annexed by Jordan.
Brit Tzedek's goals would only weaken Israel and bring about her destruction. But that seems to be the point.
Note: Jack Lauber and Andrew Gelbman contributed reporting to this article.
[ii] Emerson, Steven, ibid, pp. 111-123.
[iv] LaGuardia, Anton, Ghazzali, Said, Gozani, Ohad and O'Neill, Sean, “British bombers pose as peace activists,” The Independent, May 2, 2003; Milmo, Cahal, Huggler, Justin, Morris, Nigil and Akbar, Arifa, “The trail of death that led from Britain to Israel,” The Independent, May 2, 2003; Shuman, Ellis, “British bombers entered Israel disguised as ‘peace activists’,” IsraelInsider.com, May 2, 2003; “Bomb mars historic day for Palestinians,” Guardian, Apr. 30, 2003; “Brits who carried out Tel Aviv pub attack sent by Hamas,” Agence France Presse, Jun. 15, 2003; Susser, Leslie, “Israeli Defense Forces vs. the International Solidarity Movement,” FrontPageMag.com, Jun. 13, 2003; Harvey Tannenbaum, Memorial list of victims, May 1, 2003; “Suicide Bomber rewrites the script,” Middle East Web News Service, Apr. 30, 2003.