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Pro-Israel Demonstrators at Odds with the American Public

Van Jones Calls for Peace at Pro-Israel Rally
Photo by Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Journalist/commentator Van Jones spoke before Pro-Israel demonstrators at a rally in Washington, DC. on Tuesday. Many who know him were bewildered why he would speak at such an event since he harbors pro-Palestinian sentiments. In his speech, he said he was there to show solidarity with the Jewish people, since they had stood with black Americans during the height of the civil rights struggle. That was all well and good with the crowd.

But when he expressed sympathy for the people of Gaza, and called for peace and to protect the children, he was met with chants of “No Ceasefire” from the crowd. Visibly shaken, Jones stumbled through the rest of the speech where he called for equal treatment for all, hardly radical.

He shouldn’t have been surprised at the response, however, if he truly understood his audience. While he came there to address Jews, he was really speaking to Zionists, which are not the same thing. You don’t have to be Jewish to be a Zionist, and vice versa. Sure, the crowd that day was mostly Jewish, but they were there in support of the state of Israel, which does not represent all Jews.

The meaning of Zionism has changed over the years, but today it basically means that the followers believe in, and advocate for a Jewish-only state. A state where the rights of Jews are superior to anyone who is not. Ideally, no one but Jews would live there at all. As this is practically impossible, non-Jews within Israel are subject to second-class citizenship instead. And those in the occupied territories are subject to humiliation, imprisonment, beatings and death in regular intervals.

Zionism Does Not Speak For All Jews

It is likely that if Jones had been speaking to a real cross-section of American Jews, rather than pro-Israel demonstrators, his message would have been received much better. The younger generation of Jews, with access to better information, are much less loyal to Israel. Many of them understand how horrible the Palestinians have been treated during several decades of occupation, and they do not want to be associated with it.

Likewise, Jones’ thinking is more in line with that of the American public overall. According to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, 68% of the respondents agreed with the statement: “Israel should call a ceasefire and try to negotiate.”

This is remarkable considering that the news coverage has been dominated by the Israeli hostages held by Hamas over the devastation in Gaza. It would appear that he images and stories coming out of Gaza are simply so horrific that they cannot be ignored. With cell phone cameras, there is no hiding, or denying genocide — we see it every day in living color.

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