This year a bill is being proposed for the second time in the state of Missouri, which will prohibit the state from granting contracts to entities involved in a boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) movement against Israel. Last year, the bill failed to pass. The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR) wrote an article explaining why they believed the bill failed: “Citizens from across Missouri, representing Mid-Missourians for Justice in Palestine, Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation, St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee, Jewish Voice for Peace, American Muslims for Palestine, the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, and others in the Missouri Right to Boycott Coalition, lobbied lawmakers for months and testified against the bills during committee hearings.”
These groups celebrated themselves as heroes, but do these Missouri BDS leaders seek peace? For example, the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights is a national coalition that helps smaller anti-Israel groups organize campaigns. USCPR regularly accuses Israel of unfounded accusations of “colonialism,” “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing,” “war crimes,” and “genocide,” while defining all Palestinian aggression as rightful protests.
Last year, I wrote a blog supporting the Anti-BDS bill. I quoted Representative Peter Merideth (D), who explained his reasons for rejecting the bill: “We heard testimony from the Speaker and others arguing that the international movement to boycott Israel is a concerted effort to destroy the economy and existence of the state of Israel… but the reality of this boycott is that most participants do not share that goal, and nowhere is there any sort of ‘official’ goal of the boycott movement toward that end. We heard from countless folks that participate for sincere humanitarian reasons and objections to Israeli government’s policies.”
Rep. Merideth took his stand with people who were organized by the groups listed in the USCPR article. In this new article, I would like to list the people who Merideth heard from as well as quotes by them. Do they support what is called, “the two state solution,” which means that Israel would remain a Jewish state and an independent Palestinian State would be created next door to Israel? Or, do they express a desire to rid the world of Israel and simply use the Palestinian movement on a false pretext?
- American Muslims for Palestine (AMP): Neveen Ayesh, a St. Louis native, is the Executive Director of the Missouri chapter of AMP. Ayesh personally traveled to the capital to fight against the bill. Does Ayesh call for the destruction of Israel? Well, in 2014, Ayesh tweeted, “I want to set Israel on fire with my own hands & watch it burn to ashes along with every Israeli in it.”
- Mid-Missourians For Justice in Palestine (MJP) and Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation (Mid-Mo FOR): These two groups regularly co-host events and work together in Mid-Missouri. The leaders, Jalal El-Jayyousi, George Smith and Jeff Stack, organized carpools to the capital to meet with representatives. These two groups have hosted so many events calling for the destruction of Israel that it is safe to say that it is their official position. In fact, thirty-six organizations wrote a letter to The University of Missouri out of concern for anti-semitic events on campus and listed two events hosted by these groups which called for the annihilation of Israel. In 2017, MJP and Mid-Mo FOR co-wrote a letter specifically stating that they are opposed to two states for two people. They stated, “The two-state solution is dead. Nor is it a solution.”
Professor Emeritus George Smith is the most prominent spokesperson for the two groups. In 2014, Smith helped host a lecture called, “The Everyday Occupation of Palestine.” The guest speaker brazenly called for the destruction of Israel and asserted, “all that has to happen is to remove the borders.” In 2015, Smith hosted a lecture and proclaimed, “Zionism is doomed.” In 2016, they hosted Lebanese-Palestinian speaker, Amena Ashkar. In an interview Ashkar explained the purpose of her speaking tour, “I came here to say that Israel has no right to exist.” Smith was asked by the local news whether MJP and Mid-Mo FOR hold the same position. Instead of repudiating her claim, Smith openly admitted, “What I mean by ‘Israel doesn’t have a right to exist’ is that Israel doesn’t have the right to exist as a specifically Jewish state.”
El-Jayyousi, a Palestinian-American, wrote an opinion piece opposing the bill. Does Jayyousi call for the destruction of Israel? Well, more than just call for the destruction of Israel, he considers it immoral to even ask if Israel has the right to exist. When Amena Ashkar was asked if Israel has the right to exist and refused to answer, Jayyousi took the microphone and responded: “You don’t ask a rape victim if she recognizes the rights of her rapist.” According to Jayyousi, Israel is so evil that it is immoral to even ask the question of whether it has the right to exist.
3. St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee: Sandra Tamari led a social media campaign against the bill. Tamari co-wrote an article called, “A Decolonial Framework for Justice and Peace.” The article argued that Jews are foreigners in Palestine. The Jews came and stole the land from the indigenous Palestinians and established a “Jewish supremacy” – “settler colonial” state. Tamari argued that because Israel is a settler colonial state – and colonialism is immoral – then Israel must be decolonized, which is a fancy way of saying that Israel must be deconstructed.
Since, Jewish people stole the land, they are not entitled to the right of self-determination, “What does Jewish self‐determination mean on stolen land?” Hence, Tamari completely rejects the American Friends Service Committee position that, “affirms the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to live as sovereign peoples in their own homeland, a right that encompasses the possibility of choosing two separate states.”
The article also attacked the Quakers, because the “Quakers promote dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians as an avenue for reconciliation. As Palestinians, we are constantly invited into spaces to sit opposite Zionists to engage in ‘dialogue.’” Tamari is opposed to engaging in dialogue with Israelis, because Israel is a settler colonial state, and, “any logic which supports settler colonialism must also be rejected.” The problem is that, “Quakers do not acknowledge the settler colonial nature of Zionism.” Instead, “Quaker meetings and organizations focus on competing national narratives.” When the Quakers acknowledge, “competing national narratives,” then it gives the false impression that Jewish people might have the right to a nation. Quakers promote, “myths that surround the use of terms like ‘Holy Land’ and tropes like ‘two peoples for one land.’” According to Tamari, the idea of “two peoples” who both want to create a homeland is a myth. Rather the Palestinians are the sole owners of the land, and Israel must be decolonized which means dismantled.
4. Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP): Anna Baltzer is a leader in JVP and also the Director of Organizing and Advocacy for USCPR. Baltzer personally traveled to the capital as well as participated in a radio debate to fight against the bill. The truth is that it is difficult to find specific statements by Baltzer calling for the destruction of Israel. However, it is not hard to find quotes by her justifying Hamas and honoring Palestinian terrorists. Just one example is her support for a Palestinian terrorist named, Rasmea Odeh.
Odeh was a military member of a terrorist organization, called the, “Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.” In 1970, she was convicted in an Israeli court for bombing a supermarket in Jerusalem which killed two Jewish people. In 1979, Odeh was released in a prisoner exchange. Afterwards, Odeh falsified her identity and was allowed to enter the US. In 2014, she was found guilty of immigration fraud and sentenced to be deported.
Later, Odeh claimed that she confessed to the bombing because she was sexually tortured by the Israelis. Nonetheless, her story has changed as many times as her many aliases, and two of Odeh’s co-conspirators confirmed Odeh’s involvement. In response to the deportation judgment, a number of prominent leaders in the BDS movement led a campaign to allow her to remain in America. Baltzer joined in support of this campaign. Baltzer wrote, “Rasmea should be honored, not imprisoned.” And tweeted, “Israel tortures & sexually assaults Palestinians as means to facilitate colonization of #Palestine.” In other words, Baltzer does not just criticize Israel, instead she presents Israel as a terrorist state and the terrorists as the innocent victims.
These are the specific people who organized the carpools to the capital of Missouri. Can Merideth claim that these people do not call for the destruction of Israel, but rather are motivated by “sincere humanitarian reasons?” In all fairness, it is not completely Merideth’s fault; if it is advantageous, these speakers will sometimes pretend to be moderates. They are smart enough to realize that when they meet with representatives, it is better to explain that they are opposed to Israeli policies, rather than the existence of Israel. Currently, the Anti-BDS bill is being submitted for a second time. Once again, these same people are leading the fight against it. But, this time no one can claim that the leaders of the Missouri BDS movement promote peace.