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“Peace and Justice”?

At the beginning of Burlington’s Peace and Justice Center’s August News Letter is the following:

“As you read this edition of the Peace & Justice News, here are some assumptions that you, as the reader, can try on as a way to understand the important work that lies before the Peace & Justice Center community:
•• Not to accept the concept of an
•• To seek the values of the other
•• To seek the humanity in the other
•• Not to accept that being different
means being a threat
•• To look for common ground rather
than differences
•• To encourage aspirations to peace in
oneself and in the other.”

This was followed by a very impressive article by Michael Schaal, a local psychotherapist, elaborating on these assumptions, where he says:

“As a Jew, the son of Holocaust survivors, I believe
that the Jewish State of Israel is inextricably
linked to my welfare. I believe that the same is
true for Jews living in other parts of the world as
we witness the rise of anti-Semitism. Sometimes
that anti-Semitism takes the form of vitriolic
anti-Israel rhetoric.

This is then followed by another article by Mark Hage, of Vermonter’s for a “Just Peace” in Israel Palestine (my quotes around “Just Peace”) which is antithetical to every one of the assumptions outlined in the beginning of the Newsletter. It is a fairly long anti Israel rant, and I quote only a few paragraphs:

“Breaking Our Silence
Palestine, Dissent and Anti-Semitism

by Mark Hague

Have you protested Israel’s military
occupation of Palestine? There
has been no lack of opportunity.

Have you written that letter to the
editor yet, or to your Congressional
delegation, expressing outrage at the
ethnic cleansing of the West Bank, illegal
Jewish settlements, torture and house
demolitions, the strangulation of Gaza?
If not, why? What keeps you from
speaking out forcefully against the theft
and colonization of Palestinian land, the
destruction of Palestinian communities,
the murder of Palestinian children?

Palestine is the last taboo, the blood
on our hands we don’t see, even in the
company of our progressive friends. It is
the line we won’t cross, because we fear,
as sure as day follows night, we will be
slandered as Jew-haters or self-hating

The facts are clear, and the path before
us difficult. Palestine is being destroyed
to expand a racially exclusively state for
Jews that is antithetical to the principles
of true democracy, equality and justice.
We must stand with the oppressed. We
must end the occupation. And we must
resist those who exploit fears of anti-
Semitism and the memory of the Holocaust
to block a fully open and rational
debate on the future of Israel/Palestine.”

This from an organization (VTJP) which links, on their website, pictures which brand Israel and Jews as Nazis. This website does not mention Hamas led Palestinians in Gaza sending rockets into southern Israel, Hezbullah ruled Lebanon and the Iranian and Syrian regimes, all espousing in words and deeds their desire for the elimination of Israel and the Jews. No mention is made of suicide bombings and attacks by Palestinians on Israeli civilians.

So why does the Peace and Justice Center align themselves with, and have guest editorials from, a group which is antithetical to their assumptions at the beginning of the Newsletter?? Michael Schaal finds the Hage piece offensive. I hope many members of Peace and Justice do as well, and question their association with Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel. A quick look at their website makes it clear that it is primarily the kind of vitriolic anti Israel rhetoric that Michael Schaal, Ian Thal and many others might well consider anti-semitic.

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