Hadar Susskind 0:09
Hello, good afternoon. Welcome, everybody. I am Hadar Susskind, President and CEO of Americans for Peace Now, before I introduce our wonderful guests, I do want to take just a minute to acknowledge what I'm sure we're all sitting with today, which is the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And it is not the core of our work, we're not going to spend our time talking about it. But you know, as an organization that literally has peace in its name. I think, you know, I know I and my colleagues, and I'm sure all of you have been watching, frankly, with, with sadness with, with horror, as this unfolds, and I think we are all just hoping, praying, if that's your thing, that you know that this that this comes to a hopefully peaceful conclusion as soon as possible.
So with that, I'm going to move on to the topic of our conversation today. And first, I am going to welcome our guest, Rabbi Jill Jacobs, the CEO of T'ruah. I am not going to read Jill's long and very impressive bio, because I'm sure that you all know, Jill, but I just want to say, on a personal note, you know, T'ruah, and, and Jill have are wonderful friends, and have been wonderful partners and allies in all of our work, but particularly in the work around addressing antisemitism, addressing the weaponization of antisemitism, and helping people, Jews and non-Jews, elected officials, everybody we work with, understand those lines and understand how to navigate what for a lot of people is really very tricky terrain and so Jill and her colleagues at T'ruah have just put out a wonderful new resource. I believe Ori just posted it in the chat to everyone the guide to T'ruah's very brief guide to antisemitism. So if you haven't seen it, you can, you can find it there. And one more housekeeping thing that I just remembered, before I hand it to Jill, is, as usual, we will be taking questions through the q&a function. So as we're talking, as you think of things, go ahead and post them in there. And we will of course, get to as many as you can.
So with that, I am going to turn it over to Jill to please you know, share with us a little more about this great resource you guys just put out.
Jill Jacobs 2:22
Thanks so much Hadar. I want to first of all, echo what Hadar said that we're all just watching the news with with horror and thinking about the people in Ukraine. And so even though we're talking about something else, for this moment, I know that's, that's for sure, in our minds and in our prayers, we do, you know, at T'ruah, we can unequivocally recommend prayer. So we'll do that. And also just to say that Hadar has been I mean, Hadar and I work together in different contexts for for many, many years. And it's really wonderful to work together with Hadar at Americans for Peace Now, which has been a partner for a long time and I think our relationship is even getting stronger so that's really wonderful. So let me say a word about this antisemitism booklet, thank you Ori for putting it in the in the chat, when you go to that, that link, you'll see that you can either download it for free, or you can also order packets. If you order the printed copy, it's very small, it's like a quarter of a page. So it's something you can literally stick in your pocket or your bag and hand it out and share it with people. So we created this booklet, because we recognize that there is a lot of confusion around antisemitism, maybe start with a story that I was talking to a reporter I think this was who was either not long after Charlottesville, or not long after the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue. And I was talking to this reporter from a secular publication, she herself wasn't Jewish. And she said to me something like 'well, I'm so confused, because I thought that antisemitism ended after the Holocaust.' And, and I said, and she said, 'Do you think that we could get Do you think antisemitism would could end like we can we end it in the next few years.' And as somebody who grew up in the Jewish community, very steeped in the history of antisemitism, I was kind of taken aback that she even had this question. And realized in that moment that for a lot of people, antisemitism begins and ends with the Holocaust. So for a lot of people who maybe aren't steeped in that history, there's a sense of everything was fine. And then there was a- the Holocaust, and now everything's fine again, which of course has nothing to do with the actual history of Jews and antisemitism. But there is a lot of misunderstanding about and lack of understanding about the history. And so we decided to put this out for a few reasons. So one is to give people a very easy-to-read, very short outline of Jewish history, you'll see that we just touch on multiple topics, each of which could be and in fact, are their own books or multiple books. So we talked about just the sistory of antisemitism from ancient times until the modern until modern times, and different countries in different places, we talk about some typical stereotypes of Jews, we talk about some images, you'll see that there's images in there that represent some of the stereotypes and antisemitic tropes. And so we give a very brief history. And then we talk about and then we talk specifically about the line between antisemitism and criticizing Israel, which is probably the most hotly debated topic. And I know, we're going to dive much more into this. So we talk about Israel and Zionism, again, very briefly, like one sentence where there are books and books, and then talk about where we see that line. And the other thing is that we, throughout the book, we situate this in the context of fighting, all kinds of bigotry. So it's not that antisemitism stands alone. But we want to fight antisemitism in the context of fighting white supremacy, in the context of fighting against racism and other kinds of bigotries, not to separate ourselves out, because we very much feel like, the way that we can create a better world for all of us is for all of us to be fighting against racism, antisemitism, and xenophobia, Islamophobia, et cetera, across lines of race, across rights, lines of ethnicity, nationality, etc. And then finally, we include some suggestions for dealing with antisemitism, when it emerges in our communities, particularly when we're trying to do work that crosses those boundaries. So how we can respond, how we can respond with emotional intelligence, how we can respond in a way that that recognizes the impact on different people in the community, and what some of our options are for moving forward. So that's the booklet like I said, it's very short, if you download it, it's just a full size paper. But I think only about 9 or 10 pages. If you buy the copies, then it's about 30ish pages, but like a quarter size, and the idea is that it's something that that you could put out, let's say if you're a part of a synagogue, it could be out on the table, when you walk in, for those of us who are going physically in person, to those places, it's something that the college students could use. And tabling, it's something that you could just have a few in your pocket to hand to your friend or your colleague, that rabbis can use it to share with clergy of other other religions, that it's something that's just very easy to just hand people. So you'll see also that there's options to to get the printed copies in groups of I think 20, because we do want people to not only have one for themselves, but also hand them out to others. So that's the overall introduction, we can talk more specifically about any of that.
Hadar Susskind 7:49
That's great. Thank you, Jill`. First of all, I just say, you know, when you're thinking about the list of people who they should be handed out to, I would include- and your Congressman. Because we know there are a lot of people on Capitol Hill who could use a little education around this subject, that's for sure. So yeah, you know, I spent some time looking through the the digital version. And I think it's just, it's really, I, first of all, I love the title, you know, "A Very Brief Guide to Antisemitism", because obviously, there are and will continue to be, you know, many, many books and long, long writings on the topic. And we know that not many people are going to get through those, unfortunately. And this guide, I think, is really, it's practical, and it helps people understand some of the questions that I think come up the most often. And, you know, I'm gonna, for the moment, skip past, although it is worth everyone's time to look at sort of the history and, you know, looking at religious antisemitism and political antisemitism and some of the background that you guys provide, which is important. But to get to the issue that is for us, I think, really the heart of the work, which is when questions around Israel come up and people being critical of Israeli policy, or I will include and I actually really want to apply, applaud you guys for addressing this critical of Israel itself, because one of the key questions is, okay, some people say, well, it's fine, you can be critical of what Israel says but if you're anti-Zionist, then that is explicitly in and of itself, antisemitic. So I think that's actually my first question I'd like you to talk about is, you know, that line of anti-Zionism and what do you think and how do you talk to people about that?
Jill Jacobs 9:32
Sure well, the question I always want to ask first is what do people mean by Zionism? Because people mean all sorts of different things by Zionism, so Zionism can mean that the movement to create the State of Israel in 1948 and of Zionism means that then the word actually should have been obsolete after 1948. Which, by the way, is what I think but
yes, yes. Well, that's that's a separate.
Hadar Susskind 9:59
Sorry, that was last week webinar you can catch the video.
Jill Jacobs 10:03
For some people, Zionism means that Jews have a right to live in our ancestral homeland. For some people, it means that the State of Israel has a right to exist. That's a complicated question about whether any state has a right to exist, because obviously states have gotten chopped up and recombined, even in our lifetimes, for some people.
Hadar Susskind 10:25
Yeah, this morning-
Jill Jacobs 10:25
Well, let's wait to see what what happens there. Yes. And so, Zionism and for some people, Zionism means that Jews can basically do whatever they want in the West Bank and kick out Palestinians and take over homes. And so Zionism as a means lots of different things. And we need to interrogate that. First of all, so I want to just not say, well, anti-Zionism always means one thing or another. For some people, it's about having the diasporas identity, it's, it's all sorts of things. But the question that always because like the, the temperature around Israel, of course, always gets very heated. And often when I talk about Israel and Palestine I start by saying, well, Israel is a country, which is perhaps an obvious statement, but not always an obvious statement, because we don't always act like Israel, the country. So for some of us, particularly in the Jewish community, Israel is so- we sometimes act like Israel is an extension of our own identity. And so anything that's about Israel we take personally. So it's maybe less than a real country where real people live and like go to work and go to school and eat breakfast, and more of an extension of some identity, kind of fantasy. For some people, the Israel takes on this, this is where you get into antisemitic territory, when Israel takes on this kind of greater power and, and absorb some of the antisemitic stereotypes about Jews as being this octopus or controlling the world. And, and so Israel also takes on more power than any country, perhaps has. So it's important to say, well, Israel is a country and the decision was made for once Israel, and the Jewish people made the decision that Israel would be an actual country and a member of the United Nations, then it's subject to all the other all the same laws as every other member of the United Nations, which means international law, including laws of occupation and, and other international law. And so when we, because our temperatures are always so elevated around Israel, it's helpful, I think, to try to substitute any other country. So when we think about the United States, which is the easiest country, probably for any of us to, to substitute, and we think about the United States, it was created on the genocide of Native Americans and it was created through enslaving people from Africa. And that is to use a Christian term, the original sin or the maybe dual original sins of the United States. And then of course, there have been, we just multiplied all that so Manifest Destiny, moving westward, and taking over Native American land. And so there's many really horrible events at the foundation of the United States in it the expansion of the United States and it's a fair question and a really important question, to ask how we're going to do Jewish terms, heshbon nephesh, or real soul searching about, about that history, and also how we're going to do reparations and how we can do real chuva that moves forward. Like those are really crucial questions for the United States to be asking. And, and it doesn't mean, if I'm asking those questions, it doesn't mean that I'm anti-American. And it doesn't mean that I think that everybody who's not Native American, in this country should get up and go to wherever their ancestors came from, as though that were even possible. And so also, when we talk about Israel, there were things that happened through in 1948 through the war that Palestinians called the Nakba, that Israelis call the War of Independence, that, you know, hundreds of 1000s of Palestinians lost their homes and became refugees. And Israel did lots of things to make sure that they couldn't come back. And about 1% of the Jewish population was killed during that war. The 1% of the Jewish population of the time was killed during that war. And so they're really horrible things that that happened and it is really important that Israel go back and do that kind of heshbon nephesh and think about what it means to do chuva hopefully moving forward into a long term peace agreement. And but ask-asking those questions asking basic questions about how and where you know, how Israel was created, what happened to the creation that is not inherently antisemitic just like asking basic questions about even posing the question 'Would it have been better if Europeans had never landed in what is now the United States', maybe? Right, like you can create a counterfactual. But the real question is, well, what do we do now? And, and so asking those questions is not antisemitic now, where you move into anti semitic territories, when you start to say, well, ever, all the Israeli-Jews should just go back to where they came from, which, first there's many Israeli-Jews who descend from me there was a Jewish community and in what is now Israel for forever, but also, most Israeli-Jews could not go back to Poland or Iraq, or wherever their families might have come from, and most Israeli-Jews have no other citizenship. So that so once you are proposing creating a refugee problem of 7 million Jews, now you're in antisemitic territory, but asking the historical counterfactual question, but what would have happened if it hadn't been created? And what kind of chuva Do we need to do? That is not. That's That's history, that's the same kind of history and chuva that we need to do with the United States. It's not antisemitic.
Hadar Susskind 16:02
Thank you. I think, you know, the one the one other tweak on that that comes up with folks that we're dealing with is people who, perhaps aren't asking aren't asking the historical question or are simply stating right now, you know, they're against the existence of the State of Israel. Right. They they think it's, you know, they think it's unjust to think it's bad. And again, my my answer to that is, you know, first and foremost, obviously, I disagree with that. But even that even someone who says, I don't think Israel should be there, they may be antisemitic, or maybe antisemitic reasonings behind that. But for instance, if you certainly if you look at somebody who is Palestinian of Palestinian descent, and they say, okay, my family lost their home in 1947. And they lost both homeland but literal home, you know, and have been refugees since then is, is that statement is that person saying? I wish that Israel didn't exist, that that didn't happen Again, I think it's problematic in a lot of ways, for the reasons you were just talking about a reality today. But I don't think it's, by definition, necessarily antisemetic. And, and that is, you know, there are a lot of folks in our community and in the political space, whoever draw their lines at different space, look different places, there are a lot of people who, again, are out there pushing the the perspective that really almost any criticism, you know, opposition to the occupation as antisemitism or any kind of criticism of Israel as antisemitism. And I think there's a different category of folks that say, 'No, that's okay,' and part of the challenge of this, and this is where we start to get into something that is also in your guide, you know, the IHRA definition versus the other definitions, is people, including the IHRA definition says it's okay to criticize Israel. But the question is, how is that implemented? Because many folks who rally around that and push for the consultation of that. I'm yet to see the criticism of Israeli policy that they think is okay. Is theoretically okay. What do you think, is important for folks to understand about the different definitions?
Jill Jacobs 18:07
Sure, well, the IHRA definition that the I'm going to get the initials wrong, but the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, is that right? All right. Definition was created, as a way of describing antisemitism was particularly created in Europe in order to describe and keep track of antisemitic incidents. And, and in particular, when there was what was even beyond criticism, but violence that was couched as a political disagreement with Israel, but became directed against Jews, for example, somebody firebombs a synagogue in Germany, because they're mad at Israel, that's not actually a legitimate expression of your anger at Israel that is now antisemitism and also violence.
Hadar Susskind 18:53
Jill Jacobs 18:54
So that was created as a description. It was never meant to be legislated. And even the one of the main framers of this definition, one of the main writers has said very clearly that this is not something that was ever meant to be put into legislation. And so the definition which you can take a look at it online, it's very short definition, but then it gives some examples. And the examples on the face of it are not necessarily problematic, except that the way that they've been implemented are problematic. So for example, there's one example that says, holding Israel to a different standard than other countries. So we can look at that and say, well, holding Israel to international human rights law is not actually holding it to a different standard than other countries. It's holding it to the same standard. But the way that it's been implemented is to say about pro Palestinian activists. Well, if you're just doing activism about Israel, and not about other countries, you're being anti semitic. So unless you're also campaigning for the Uighurs or now maybe for Ukraine, then then you're being antisemitic if you if you're just boycotting Israel, for example. So that's one of the human rights. I mean, in human rights, you always have to make decisions. I mean, you know, our organization, T'ruah only works on North America and Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territories. Because we can't do everything. And we'd rather do a few things well, and other other organizations work in other countries. So you always have to make choices. And I would also say that if I decided to devote my whole life to fighting for the Uighurs, then, as somebody who's never been to China has no relationship to China, it doesn't speak a word of Chinese, etc, etc. I don't think anybody would say to me, Well, you're being anti-Chinese. And because 'How dare you only focus on the issue of the Uighurs and not on any other issue?' Or tell me? You don't understand the security issues? Even though I don't know, I've never been to China. So it's, you're, you're always so you're always making decisions, but it's been used, for example, the IHRA definition has been used. There's an ongoing battle about Students for Justice in Palestine at Fordham University, they've been kicked off campus and back on and it's ongoing and lots of other places where there's been legal action against, usually it's against SJP Students for Justice in Palestine, which whether you agree with them or disagree with them, they're a student activist group, they have the right to activism, they the right to activism that one doesn't like. So that's just so the IHRA definition has been implemented in that way to go after pro-Palestinian activism, including and legal means particularly happening at universities.
Hadar Susskind 21:41
I will add, the Kansas State House passed a resolution endorsing the IHRA definition yesterday. So this is really real time work. And it's certainly been, you know, there's been a lot of focus on universities, but we're seeing an international effort with both the Government of Israel and frankly, many American Jewish organizations and other others, pushing for countries to adopt the definition, for states to adopt the definition for universities, for civic bodies, large global companies. So there's been a push, and it's, it's quite clear, I mean, some of them, some of those pushing that I think have been honest about it, that they're doing it as a way to address what they see as as anti-Israel sentiment. One of the things that has come out of this greater push around the IHRA definition and you address this in the booklet is two new definitions that people- that were that were created in response to the situation, let's say, can you tell us a little bit more about this?
Jill Jacobs 22:47
Sure. So there's two definitions that were created, published around the same time involving different groups of scholars or, in some cases, crossover groups of scholars. One is called the Nexus Declaration, or the Nexus Definition. And the other one is called the Jerusalem Declaration. It's called the Jerusalem Declaration because it was crafted through the family or center in Jerusalem, though virtually, but I think the idea was it to be in person originally. And both these definitions are much more- in these definitions are not also not meant to be legislated. They're also meant to be descriptive. But they are much clearer about what the difference is. I mean, they give a general definition of antisemitism and some general examples that don't have to do with Israel. But then they're just much clearer about what the difference is between criticizing Israel and antisemitism. And so something that can be used to say, for example, just to take one example of something that happens on college campuses, putting up a wall and having in the middle of campus and having apartheid week and standing in the middle of campus, and educating students about Palestine or doing activism about Palestine, whether you agree with it or disagree with it, I think all of us might agree or disagree with lots of campus activism that happened while we were on campus. So doing that is not antisemitism. That's criticism of Israel, going to Jewish students, dorm rooms and slipping fliers under the Jewish students dorm rooms, that says you've been evicted with something about as has happened in at least one campus now that's antisemitism because now you're targeting Jewish students, and you're making the assertion that Jewish students are somehow responsible for everything that's happening in Israel right so the so both these definitions Nexus and JD, they have some differences, but they're, they're very similar and they're both very, I think very good. You can also find the full language online or get the brief description in our booklet. They are just much clearer and allow for a wide range of criticizing Israel, including boycotting Israel boycotting is protected free speech. And for the possibility of being able to say, I don't agree with this, but it is protected. And it is a legitimate form of activism, even if I personally might not engage in it.
Hadar Susskind 25:10
Right, by the way, for everybody who's who's following along in the chat, Ori has just posted the IHRA definition and the Nexus and the Jerusalem definition, all in the chat. So you've got the links there.
Jill Jacobs 25:21
Amazing, thank you Ori
Hadar Susskind 25:23
Yeah, you know, I think one of the things that we see- this phenomenon, so that's sort of grown in the past few years that broadly, I put under the category of sort of the weaponization of antisemitism really speaks to what you were just talking about, which is the difference between 'I disagree with that,' or even, 'that's wrong,' and antisemitism. And, you know, like we said, the example earlier that I used, someone who is literally believes there shouldn't be a state of Israel, I think that's wrong. It isn't, by definition, I don't believe antisemitic. And that's very different. I mean, that's kind of the extreme. There are so many cases where people are faced with something that they don't like, because somebody said something about Israel. And I think this goes to what you were talking about before Jill, about, you know, Israel being central to the identity of so many American-Jews or others that they feel criticized and attacked, when somebody attacks Israel, regardless of whether what they're saying is true, is accurate, whether you like it, etc. And it's become a thing that is very different from what we used to see from official Jewish communal responses. Whereas you know, that any of those criticisms are deemed antisemitic, because they are uncomfortable, and they are unpleasant in in a variety of ways. And that may be uncomfortable and unpleasant because you agree, and you think it's true, and it's uncomfortable and unpleasant, because you don't want Israel to be doing that. Or maybe because you disagree, right. And again, those people may even be wrong. But one of the things that having been at this for a while now, you know, 10-15 years ago, we used to actually see American Jewish organizations really clearly delineating between this as antisemitism and should be fought against as antisemitism, versus these are people we disagree with on Israel issues. And I go back to, you know, issues around the Presbyterian Church and some of the Protestant churches where they started putting out statements critical of the occupation or other things and organizations. You know, we had a whole conference that an organization I worked at 15 years ago about that difference and proactively stating a different thing. You know, these folks over here, we disagree with what they're saying about Israel. But that's not antisemitism. And these people are partners and etc. And we've seen that flipped on its head. And we've seen it flipped on its head from sort of the highest levels of American Jewish organizational life and into our political discourse. And that's one of the questions that I want us to talk about a little bit more here is, is that weaponization and how we see that, how we see it showing up sort of in our political discourse, and frankly, how we address it.
Jill Jacobs 28:09
Yeah, I mean, I'm thinking about I'm not going to get the quote, right. But remember, when Donald Trump said something about how it was about the moving the embassy? And he said something like, 'Well, you know, I did this for the Christians, because American Jews like they're, and they're not really pro-Israel,' like it was something to the effect of like, American Jews are disloyal because they're not pro-Israel, meaning supporting the right wing, then government of Netanyahu and the settler agenda. And I think that that just the actual quote, was better than how I represented it. But that just sort of encapsulates where we've come where there's a sense that even Christian-Zionists who are hoping that we'll all go to Israel so that we can be, you know, swept up in the apocalypse. And there's just be basically tools for their end-times vision, that they're considered more pro-Israel than American-Jews who are actually fighting for, for there to be justice in Israel for both Israelis and Palestinians. So that's that's kind of a, you know, the the extreme that we've gotten into, but for sure, I mean, you didn't ask about BDS in particular, but let me just talk about BDS for for a second because that's a place in which the mainstream American-Jewish community, mainstream organizations have just basically all agreed the BDS is antisemitic and have been supporting BDS laws in many, many states. And I think more than 30 states at this point has passed some sort of BDS law, anti boycott have now Yeah, they've now been supporting. I mean, we saw this last summer, when Ben and Jerry's decided they weren't going to sell in-inside the settlements, they weren't even boycotting Israel, there was just almost a unified voice from mainstream Jewish organization saying that's antisemitism. And now there's a lot of support for the pension boards of different states that because of the BDS laws that already passed, now find out that they have to, that they have to divest from Unilever. So there's this sort of overwhelming voice from too much of the Jewish community saying that boycotting Israel or even the settlements, is antisemitism. And so first of all, again, remind everybody Israel is a country, if I were boycotting China, or I think we're all boycotting Russia at this point, right? There's major sanctions. That is not considered to be the S, in BDS. Yes, exactly. So that's not I don't think anybody's going to accuse me of being anti-Chinese or anti-Russian. Because if I if I'm carrying out those boycotts, because Israel is a country, so there's a difference between if I, as a Jew, walk into a store, and the owner says, 'Oh, I'm sorry, I can't serve you because you're Jewish,' that is against the law. And if an Israeli citizen walks into a store in the United States, and the owner says, 'I can't serve you, because you're Israeli,' that is also against the law, but for a company to decide that they're not going to sell in Israel or China or Russia or any other country that is protected free speech. And for an it certainly for an individual person to decide that they're going to boycott that that's legally constitutionally protected, free speech. And, and so we've seen situations in which because of these laws that are passed, like I said, they're all written different ways to apply in different cases. But we've had situations where somebody is invited to speak at a university and a public university and then they're disinvited. Because it turns out, they're boycotting Israel or somebody is hired as like an occupational therapist in a school. And then they're on hired because it turns out that they signed something saying they're boycotting Israel, or they're proactively- I mean, the case that T'ruah and J Street together have filed amicus briefs in a few different states around in Arkansas, Georgia and Texas, around around cases there, and the one in Arkansas, which is particularly egregious, and also the subject of a new movie called boycott, that you should all see. In that situation. There was a newspaper, the Arkansas times that writes about local Arkansas news, they are really not interested in foreign policy, they don't write about foreign policy. And they have they get a lot of their funding, a lot of their ad revenue comes from one of the university branches, one of the campuses of University of Arkansas. And they were told that once this law passed, they had to sign something, saying that they wouldn't support a boycott of Israel in order to continue getting this ad revenue. The publisher basically said, we don't talk about Israel, we don't care about Israel. We're a local Arkansas paper that reports in local news. But being a newspaper, we're not going to sign away our First Amendment rights. And so they now became the plaintiff in this lawsuit. And something that's very striking, to go back to the extremes. If you if you watch this movie Boycott, you'll see that one of our rabbis a T'ruah Rabbi who's been very vocal, and we've worked with a lot Rabbi Barry Block, talks about who's the Rabbi of not only the largest synagogue in Arkansas, but as he keeps telling me, it's bigger than all the other ones put together, in Little Rock's big reformed synagogue. And he talks about why the Jewish community supports the First Amendment, it's really important for us, it's what makes it possible for us to even be in this country, and to live as freely as Jews in this country. And he talks about why he doesn't support this law, and also that nobody from the legislature came to came to talk to him. And then throughout the movie, they're interviewing one of the legislators who helped to introduce this law. And this legislator, originally had said that he introduced the law because he really cares about Jews. And he really cares about Israel. And then they cut back to him after they've interviewed Barry. And he's the same legislator says, 'Well, I didn't see any reason to talk to a local community, Jewish community because we don't really agree on things' And then later on, he basically says, something like 'anyone who's not, you know, Jewish, Christian, whatever, who doesn't believe in Jesus is going to hell', So you can see those are the people who are supposedly our friends, but actually, actually not.And so T'ruah's Amicus that we did with J Street in these three states says, We personally don't support boycotts of Israel. And we also believe that free speech that boycotts are constitutionally protected free speech and part of supporting free speech means supporting speech that one doesn't agree with. And that is a really important line, I think, for us to draw as a Jewish community is there might be some criticism of Israel that is really hard to hear or like Hadar said that is just blatantly wrong. Like it could be, right? There's no law against being wrong. And people are wrong about history all the time in public all day long. And so you could say, 'You know what, that's wrong,' or 'I don't agree with you,' or 'let's argue about it.' But it doesn't mean that it's antisemitic. And just against the law, yeah, or against the law should be against the law. And I'll just add that. Now, there's a bunch of efforts by ALEC, the Republican law writing, Bill writing, organization to create bills, some of which have already been introduced, I think one that's already been passed in different states that are basically essentially the BDS Bill except instead of banning, and sort of saying the state can't do business with people who are boycotting or divesting from Israel. Instead, it talks about fossil fuels, or weapon manufacturers. So we see where- that it was kind of a testing ground for seeing how else we can push on free speech.
Hadar Susskind 36:04
Yeah. So I mean, there's just there's so much here. First of all, Ori shared the link to the to boycott the movie that Jill referenced in the chat, also, I would strongly encourage folks to see it when that's possible. Right now, it's out there in the sort of Film Festival world, it's going to be at South by Southwest soon. And we have partnered with, with Just Vision on a number of things. And when the time is right in a few months, and they get past some of these festivals are going to be doing some partnering and screenings, etc, of the movie as well. It's really powerful. And, you know, I started off by talking about how we APN and T'ruah are working together in some of these places. So these these anti boycott bills, as they're referred to, are in states all across the country, there are 34 that have some version, either a bill that passed through their legislature or an executive order, in some case, for instance, in Maryland, where I live, the legislature didn't pass it. So the governor instituted as an executive order. And that's happened in some in a number of states. And there are others that have it on- have it under consideration right now, you know, Alaska just had an anti boycott bill introduced, because obviously, you know, the top priority of the legislature of Alaska should be making sure that no one boycotts, and it's important to note, you know, it's not just what's required in various little state by state, but it's not that you signed something saying that you aren't boycotting Israel, or haven't boycotted Israel, it's that for any kind of state contract state employment, to sometimes it goes as far as to, you know, to speak on a panel to a state body, whatever it may be any interaction with the state, you have to sign something promising that you have not and never will, in any way, boycott Israel. So if you want and as has come up, you know, Jill talked about the case of somebody who was an occupational therapist, working with children, there- in Maryland was a case of somebody whose company literally wanted to have a contract to clean the carpets in public schools. What that has to do with Israel, Palestine, occupation or anything else, remains unclear to me, but they did not get that contract, because they refused to sign a document, saying that they would never boycott Israel. And, you know, there are institutional questions. But like Jill said, there, think about it on the personal level, I will tell you, myself, right now sitting here, if I go to a store, and I am buying wine, I am not buying wine that is produced grown, you know, from grapes grown and produced in the occupied territories, that's my personal choice. I personally have been called antisemitic because of that within this framework, more than once. And, you know, thankfully, I don't work, I don't work for a state. But if I wanted to get a contract for any one of those 34 states, if I was honest about that, I wouldn't be able to get it. And so we see this playing out on the multinational company, unilever, Ben and Jerry's level, but also down to the personal level. One of the questions that that somebody had posted that I think is interesting to think about, is it does that determination of whether a statement is antisemitic or not, of course, it depends on context, we always talk about context is one of those things that it depends on whether or not the person who makes the statement is Jewish or not? And again, I just gave my own example, I've, you know, I've been called antisemitic for my views or not buying West Bank wine, so, but what do you think, Jill? And how do you address that question?
Jill Jacobs 39:38
Yeah, I mean, antisemitism Sure. There's there's always context and I mean, Jews know that we poke fun at ourselves all the time, and it's probably one of the main contributors to our managing to survive through so much. And so, for sure, if I if I had a Jewish with a Jewish group make some comment about us or a poke fun at us or, or something like that it's very different than if a non-Jew says that. And that's that's always true in-group, out-group. Right? You always you always have different conversations in-group and out-group. No. And there's also, I mean, also people internal- there's always internalized prejudice. So as Jews, there's certain things that we've internalized for history, just like women have internalized sexism. And it's like, there's internalized racism. There's internalized every ism. That that there is, and, and so there might be cases in which Jews are joking around, but maybe it does cross the line. So it's very hard to give a blanket rule, but for sure, context is always important.
Hadar Susskind 40:47
Yeah, and I'm just, you know, add to that, of course, the context is important. And I think, to me, there are there's a, there are differences. Again, if someone is joking, if somebody is wrong, if someone is malicious. Again, a joke doesn't mean automatically make it okay. But it is different. I definitely have seen cases where I think, you know, there are Jewish people who do or say something that I do think is antisemitic or hold views, because it goes back to what those are, if there's somebody who is Jewish, who is, you know, blaming all Jews for the actions of government of Israel, or equating those two, I think that fact right equating equating Jews and actions the government Israel, I think, is at its core, antisemitic. And so I've seen Jewish people do that, too. So that's just my, my addition, my thought on that, um, another question that came up, it's a little bit of a different look is, you know, looking at some of what, what was called here, the less visible sort of strains of antisemitism. And you touched on this a little bit beginning, Jill, the belief in Jewish power, right that the shooter in the Pittsburgh Synagogue, you know, talked about that, obviously, the recent case in in Texas where the rabbi and others were taken hostage was because, you know, the person who did that did so because he thought the Jews would have power to make change, somehow. Basically blaming, you know, blaming Jews both aspiring to both ascribing too much power, but then blaming for the negatives. I guess the question, you know, that overlaps with Israel. To me, there's a clear core antisemitism there. But how is that different than some of the other ways you see it popping up?
Jill Jacobs 42:44
Yeah, so there's antisemitic conspiracy theories that date back to the protocols of the Elders of Zion, which is a early 20th century forgery, that anybody's not familiar, that suggests that it's the transcript of a meeting about by Jews who are controlling the world. And so unfortunately, that first of all continues to be a very popular book and is reprinted and unfortunately read and people believe it. But it's a- since then, there's a a unfortunately very popular antisemitic conspiracy theory that says that Jews are somehow the people behind all of the events in the world that Jews are somehow pulling the strings and particularly the great replacement theory, which we've seen come up a lot in white nationalism this idea that Jews are the ones who are like you said Hadar are moving refugees in in order to destroy white America or Jews are the ones who were behind the civil rights movement this is also very racist because how could Black people possibly be smart enough to run a a movement like that it must have been the Jews were somehow pulling the strings so you got to be antisemitic and racist at the same time? Yeah. So that that's that that the Jews are behind- the Jews are behind things and I really encourage people to read anything almost anything about white nationalism, but one book that I found very helpful is Talia Lavins' book its called cultural (Culture Warlords)- I'm sure Ori will find it in a second but it's basically Talia goes undercover in white nationalist chat groups and and just sees how they're talking about about not only Jews, I mean also Black people and immigrants, but like very much how antisemitism, undercurrents that whole that whole movement.
Hadar Susskind 44:41
Yeah, no, no, sorry. Go ahead.
Jill Jacobs 44:46
Yeah, so that is that is very, that is very terrifying, and, and it is one of the places in which criticism of Israel does cross the line into antisemitism. When you see sometimes very familiar antisemitic images like the octopus I mentioned before, you know with the tentacles over the world, and you'll see that instead of being a stereotypical image of a Jew, it'll be Israel or it'll be labeled Israel, or when you see suggestions that like, Zionism is behind, you know, like 9/11, for example, right, Israel, Zionism are behind these world events that are just giving Israel that kind of outsized power. That is, if you sub in Jewish, then you would hear the protocols right in your head.
Hadar Susskind 45:29
Yeah. One sort of quick question that I'll answer on the APN front. And then Jill, you can add, someone noted that there are repeal movements underway regarding those anti-boycott bills in several states and wanted to know, if we were involved. So I'll say, you know, for APN, we've been involved in a number of them. And again, they're there. There's an Umbrella movement that pushed them and we are pushing back collectively. But they're also really individual. Not only do they need to be dealt with in each legislature, but again, some of them are executive orders done by the governor. So they need to be dealt with differently. And the the bills and the orders themselves are not exactly the same, they all fall under the category of sort of, you know, criminalizing or making illegal I should say, BDS. So we are working very actively, I'll be really honest, spending a lot more time on it than I would have thought in number of states. And so for anybody who is interested in that who's involved, you know, involved or would like to be involved in that, please let me know. Jill, I don't know if you want to speak to the state efforts at all. Before I go to the next question.
Jill Jacobs 46:38
Yeah, so I mentioned that we have some amicus briefs in and the Arkansas case in particular is likely to go to the Supreme Court. So the status of that case is basically it was ruled unconstitutional, appealed, there's an expectation that the appeal that the was referred to the full appeals panel, and there's an expectation that that's not going to go well. So it probably will get the super important so then, for better or for worse, there will be a ruling on this. So far, there's been a number of these laws haven't been able to pass constitutional muster when they've been in so what's ended up actually happening is that the laws end up getting rewritten. So they don't apply to anybody, which is still bad precedent. So it's like it'll say, anybody who has $100,000 or more business with the state, like, there's a number that will exclude all the occupational therapists and the rug cleaners and the speakers. So it's like, practically, it doesn't actually apply to anybody, but it's still bad law and bad precedent.
Hadar Susskind 47:40
It is and you know, these anti BDS bills have been getting a lot of attention this last year, primarily around Ben and Jerry's and Unilever, but they're not new. You know, most of them were passed. The law was passed to the order was issued five years ago, six years ago, seven years ago. And it's a good lesson for all of us, because we saw Jewish Federation's JCRC, ADL, AJC, AIPAC, etc, pushing these right, those are the organizations along with it should be noted. You know, CUFI, Christians United for Israel and other right wing Christian groups who have played a very outsized role, again, to go back to the boycott movie, in some of these states. It was the Jewish Voice on this was really incidental, it was really Christian. But all of those Jewish organizations did support these and do support these. And people largely kind of, you know, scoffed at them ignored them said, okay, whatever, this isn't really, this isn't really important. It's not doing anything, it doesn't matter. And, you know, and now, you know, we're seeing them after the Ben and Jerry's statement, and we're seeing others Illinois is going after Morningstar. Now, you know, and so I think it's an important lesson to all of us that when there is bad policy being moved, even if they change it, even if they write it in a way you think it's not, you know, really practically going to matter, that it's important to address those. Okay, Jill, here comes the big one that we managed to not talk about yet, which is Amnesty International. And their report, which as you might have heard, uses the word apartheid as applied to Israel. So we we've got some questions in there about it. And, you know, noting the fact that obviously, for a lot of people who they see that they immediately equate it to South Africa, and they don't know beyond that. Don't read beyond that. What do you think, you know, what do you think about the report about the accusations of amnesty being antisemitic? And actually, let me rephrase that, feel free to tell us what you think about the report, but I don't want to go into the weeds of it. What I really want to talk about is the response by the Israeli government, which clearly called it antisemitic. The American government, frankly did not use thankfully did not use the word but did pretty much dismiss the report. And you know, many members of Congress and many right wing Jewish organizations, and frankly, not just right wing Jewish organizations. And so, you know, personally, and I'll hand it to you in one sec, I'll say, I think there were a lot of problems with the report, there are a lot of challenges with the report and, you know, that were important to address. And that's very different than saying no one should look at the report, because it's all just antisemitism. So take it away. Tell me about it.
Jill Jacobs 50:26
Yeah, I mean, the report, um, first of all, the report was 280 pages and like, eight point type, so? No, I don't think a lot of people actually read it. But I mean, that said, as a long human rights report, there are some things that I agreed with and that T'ruah agreed with, there's things that we didn't agree with, right? We don't think that all of this relevant is is apartheid, and has been since 1948. Right? So we can put- reasonable people can argue about that there is a legal definition of apartheid. It's not only about South Africa, and it grew out of South Africa. But now it has its own independent legal definition. So people can argue about 'is the West Bank apartheid' 'is all of Israel apartheid,' like you can have a legal argument about that on legal terms. It's not antisemitism. So to go back to, you can disagree with people, you can think that they're wrong. It's not anti semitism. And we did have that massive response by the American Jewish community that came from the Israeli government that was asking those specifically asking American Jewish organizations to put out a specific statement, there was a lot of pressure from there and from some of the bigger national Jewish organizations to put out specific statements. And it does, again, cloud, the, the field that, that it's very- it makes it harder to say, when criticism of Israel actually crosses over into antisemitism, if you have lots of people who are crying wolf all the time, and saying that it is, oh, is antisemitism are almost always antisemitism and who aren't able to say, I really disagree with that. And I think you're wrong, right? And we can argue about that. But it's not antisemitism. And that is that does make it harder to call out it antisemitism? Because when in situations where we do see it, then you have people who are just kind of burned by the weaponization of antisemitism, that they say, 'Oh, well, that can't possibly be antisemitism, because I was just talking about Israel,' but actually, sometimes it is antisemitism. And we can't call it out, because there's so many false accusations of antisemitism. I mean, we can call it out, but it's harder to be heard.
Hadar Susskind 52:34
Yeah. And I, you know, without putting any names on it, that goes up to really the, you know, high levels in government, I have had conversations with elected officials, you know, who have said things that I think are problematic, where I've said to them, you know, I think that's wrong. And they said, 'Well, what are you talking about, you know, we're being critical of this thing, or we're pushing back against this organization,' and needing to explain that that line, and it is it's unquestionable, I mean, somebody put a question in here on this around, you know, the sort of crying wolf frame, that when every statement that is critical of an Israeli policy or an Israeli action or etc, is, you know, attacked by the same set of organizations and people as antisemitism. It dulls that sense of, for people who don't live in this every moment, right, for people who are just trying to make a statement, it dulls that that line and, and it's the result that you see of folks on the right, who have been trying to erase the line between criticism of Israel and antisemitism. Unfortunately, sometimes they succeed and people who are trying to be critical of an Israeli policy without knowing stray into the antisemitism, because that line has been so so thoroughly blurred. One other thing I want to just note real quick, Elaine Rubin, thank you, posted in the comments that, you know, there's a Israel Strategic Affairs and ALEC and others who are pushing these laws, but that there are along along with things like the amicus that T'ruah and J Street and others have done, care and ACLU are pushing back against these anti boycott laws. Although I say this, again, they're, you know, I've been engaging with the ACLU you around this, they've done really good work in a number of states. It's an ongoing, again, it's an ongoing conversation kind of state by state to try to build these coalition's and to try to come to agreement about what what's the best strategy to address these. And again, it depends on exactly what's in that legislation. And it depends on whether it's a bill or an executive order. So, you know, we APN and T'ruah and other allies in the Jewish community are working with folks like ACLU or care or individuals who are leading some of these lawsuits to push back on these with that.
Jill Jacobs 54:55
Yeah, I'm just gonna say that we're that we're working closely with the ACLU on this and their voice is really important because of course, they're they believe in the First Amendment and they're totally agnostic about Israel. They don't care what it is that you're boycotting. It's, it's about the First Amendment right. So they're doing amazing work in many of these states.
Hadar Susskind 55:14
They are they are indeed and, and again, you know, they bring a different perspective to this. And they bring a very different expertise and capacity than then certainly we do as well. And so it's one of the things that is always an important part of our work is figuring out who are the who are the allies and who are the partners, and how can we fight back against these. So with that, Jill, I will say, again, thank you, thank you for joining us for this conversation. Even more importantly, thank you for the ongoing partnership and for all the great work that you are doing.
Jill Jacobs 55:47
Thank you so much, all of you. always wonderful to be with you all. So thanks. And we will see you all soon. Goodbye.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai