Fresh from their disgusting tweet aimed against Israel’s wonder woman Gal Gadot, anti-Israel group Jewish Voice For Peace (JVP) has outdone themself, targeting for sabotage, bullying, and harassment at-risk LGBTQ Jewish youth at the Celebrate Israel Parade.
This past Sunday, over 80 people courageously marched in the LGBTQ cluster of the New York Celebrate Israel Parade. JQY believes it is an incredible act of bravery for LGBTQ youth to proudly and openly march through an audience of over 40,000 predominantly religious Jews. Marchers included teens who were kicked out of their homes, schools, and synagogues just for being who they are. These are teens who often struggle with self-harm, suicidal ideation, and internalized shame. Yet almost miraculously, they muster up the courage to face the communities that rejected them. Their message to the Jewish community is very simple: “We all belong.” As far as JQY is concerned, these youth are heroes.
However, in their moment of courage and pride, this most vulnerable cohort of the Celebrate Israel Parade was targeted for sabotage, bullying, and harassment by an organization called Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). Seven JVP “disrupters” secretly infiltrated the LGBTQ marching cluster. They pretended to be part of our group, marching side by side with our teens. As our contingent approached 72nd Street, one of the JVP disrupters lunged toward our speaker system, pulling out as many wires as she could until our music went silent. At that moment, five other disrupters removed their shirts to reveal red shirts brandished with the words “DEADLY EXCHANGE” in black. In the absence of our music, they began yelling to cause a disturbance. They proceeded to block our marching banners with their own anti-Israel signs. The disrupters had formed a human chain, aimed at preventing our group from moving forward. Efforts to move forward were met with physical resistance, intimidation, and screaming. Finally, police and security swarmed into our group creating more disarray and fear. People were pushed, trampled, and shoved. Our marchers were terrified and shocked. In this confusion, some in our cluster thought it was a terror attempt and immediately fled the parade route. Ultimately, five JVP members were arrested. Despite this sabotage attempt, our group managed to turn the music back on and completed the march with our heads held high.
According to Mordechai Levovitz, one of the organizers of the LGBT contingent as well as three others present, a female protester interrupted the sound system, causing it to go silent. Then, as seen in footage below, an estimated five protesters from Jewish Voice for Peace, a fringe group that advocates the total boycott of the state of Israel, disrupted the LGBT group. What many people described to me as a “whirlwind” ensued. Four of the five people that had been marching with the LGBT group took off the pride shirts that were given out to the marchers, revealing red shirts that said “Celebrate the end of apartheid all together.” They formed a barricade around the group, held up signs that read “Queer Jews for a free Palestine” and “No pride in apartheid,” which they also began chanting. The five were arrested.
Levovitz said the protesters had “infiltrated” the group by pretending to be a part of the march and then “sabotag[ed] us.”
Rebecca Vilkomerson, the Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace, said the LGBT marching contingent was “a carefully chosen target.” She explained that the protest was organized by “a group of queer Jews who feel strongly about gay rights not being used to pinkwash the occupation.”
Jewish Queer Youth (JQY) has issued this condemnation:
JQY condemns JVP for this heartless action against at-risk LGBTQ youth
1. This was an act of violence: Just as freedom of speech does not allow one to falsely shout “fire!” in a crowded room, we believe this action was reckless, dangerous, and irresponsible. The parade route is tense and lined with armed security as it is a target for terrorism. Vigilance resulting from the violence in London led to an atmosphere of extra apprehension. The teens in our group were even more on edge, given a predominantly religious crowd that is not LGBTQ competent. Two years ago, a 16-year-old girl named Shira Banky was killed by a religious fanatic while marching in the Jerusalem LGBTQ parade. In this context, the JVP hijack of the group caused chaos and alarm that could have easily resulted in someone getting shot or killed. In addition to this trauma, our equipment was vandalized, t-shirts were stolen, and our members were pushed, shoved and trampled.
2. This was an act of censorship: JVP’s action was not an act of free speech but rather an attempt to block, silence, and sabotage the expression of others.
3. This was an act of cowardice: Choosing the most vulnerable group in the parade to disrupt is nothing more than bullying. Even in extreme cases that justify non-violent disruption, basic activist values inform us never to target oppressed or at-risk populations. Going after LGBTQ people as they face the religious communities that so often are the source of their oppression, is needlessly cruel.
4. This was an act of antisemitism: Jews have been celebrating Israel for thousands of years before 1948 and the formation of the modern state of Israel. For many, the concept of Israel is central to religion, culture, and peoplehood. While protesting Israel or the parade is not necessarily an antisemitic act, we believe that preventing Jews from simply celebrating Israel is a basic threat to religious freedom. It would be akin to attacking Muslims from valuing Mecca simply because there are legitimate human rights issues with the Saudi Arabian Government. One can be proud of one’s heritage and nationality while resisting against offensive policies and leadership. Certainly, there are many patriotic Americans who celebrate the US on July 4th but wholeheartedly reject the current administration. We would consider it Islamophobic to judge all Muslims who celebrate Islam, by the actions of those who commit violence in its name; it is similarly antisemitic to incriminate all Jews who celebrate Israel with the actions of the Modern Israeli government. Jews deserve the same sensitivity, consideration, and respect.
5. This was an act of homophobia: According to Rebecca Vilkomerson, JVP’s executive director, “the LGBTQ contingent was a carefully chosen target”. Seth Morrison, a JVP board member told JQY, “We take pride in targeting the entire LGBTQ contingent”. The LGBTQ cluster was not targeted because of any organizational action, position or statement made; we were targeted because we had the audacity to march as an LGBTQ community. Had we not openly identified as LGBTQ this would likely not have happened. We were singled out for sabotage because of our sexual orientations and gender identities. There is a word for this kind of prejudice. Frankly, the idea that a non-LGBTQ protest organization is explicitly targeting and sabotaging LGBTQ people is unacceptable and terrifying. If a right wing organization admitted to doing the same we would call them a “Hate Group”. JVP must be held to the same scrutiny.
And Keshet this one:
We strongly object to JVP’s disrupting of the LGBTQ youth contingent of the Celebrate Israel Parade, which included teens from Keshet and other LGBTQ Jewish organizations. In this LGBTQ Pride month, we mark and remember that American queer people are part of a contemporary liberation movement born of protest. Protests are a natural outgrowth of the free exchange of ideas, and the ability to speak out is a vital part of a robust and just society. At Keshet, however, we object to the tactic of targeting for protest a contingent of LGBTQ youth – many celebrating openly their LGBTQ and Jewish identities together for the first time.
Our community is wide enough and strong enough to hold differences in politics and opinions. We welcome the opportunity to hear diverse opinions and perspectives. We also have responsibility as adults to create space for our youth to grow and flourish.
To our youth and teens: know that all of us at Keshet are here for you – to support you, to love you, and to continue to provide the spaces for you to grow into your full selves.
So vile was this latest act by JVP that even Naomi Pass of the New Israel Fund – hardly a friend of Israel themselves – expressed her disgust.
— Naomi Paiss (@NaomiPaiss) June 6, 2017
But JVP and their Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson are defiant in their disgrace.
— JewishVoiceForPeace (@jvplive) June 6, 2017
— Rebecca Vilkomerson (@RVilkomerson) June 6, 2017
— Rebecca Vilkomerson (@RVilkomerson) June 6, 2017
JVP has proven time and again that their motivation is hatred of Israel, not peace. This latest act just reinforces this.