The Mapping Project isn’t an attack on the Jewish community, it is a call to accountability

(Mapping Project - MW)

Philip Weiss & Adam Horowitz

Mondoweiss  /  June 16, 2022

We honor the Mapping Project’s work in a tradition of activist journalism, and holding the powerful to account.

Two weeks ago an activist group in Boston called the Mapping Project released an analysis of the extensive “local links between entities responsible for the colonization of Palestine… and for the economy of imperialism and war… policing… and displacement.”

Its map included scores of establishment institutions in the Boston area implicated in everything from gentrification to surveillance of housing rights activists to police brutality to the war on terror — and countless names you will recognize: Harvard University, Berklee College of Music, Raytheon, General Dynamics, as well as Governor Baker and Senators Markey and Warren. 

We publicized the project when it came out, and we honor its findings and method. It is a very traditional form of activism and journalism to map out the links in the establishment that support one injustice or another. 

After the report was published, all hell broke loose. Critics have called the map a dangerous conspiracy theory, one that could even incite violence against Jews. These critics don’t care about policing or counterterrorism or imperialism. Their focus is the fact that the Mapping Project includes many Jewish groups that advocate for Israeli impunity for its criminal behavior. Among those groups is the Anti-Defamation LeagueCombined Jewish PhilanthropiesRuderman Family FoundationKraft Family Philanthropies,  Seth Klarman, and the Klarman Family Foundation, as well as the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston.  

And the charge is a now familiar one: the Mapping Project is guilty of antisemitic targeting. In fact, the ADL says that the charts are as dangerous as white nationalist propaganda, and they will make Jews unsafe in the United States. 

The hysteria in the Boston case focuses on a small portion of the report. Of the project’s 483 entries, 162 deal with Zionism, and less than 45 of those deal with what can be broadly classified as “Jewish” institutions. But the hysteria has had a big effect. Prominent politicians are falling over one another to condemn this latest instance of “anti-Zionist antisemitism.”

Democratic senators and congress members are trying to gain points by parroting right-wing Zionist organizations and deploring the supposed anti-Jewish conspiracy theory, and columnists are hopping on the bandwagon. Newspapers call it a Jewish “hitlist.” And Zionist groups are using the outcry as a cudgel against the nonviolent BDS campaign.

The attacks on one element of this analysis demonstrate a truth of the report and a problem we have long pointed out here. Israel lobby institutions have considerable political and cultural power in dictating the discourse of Israel/Palestine, and the resultant policy. But they are unaccountable. That power can never be pointed out. Because it’s supposedly a form of Jew hatred. 

We reject that unaccountability as Americans (and Jews too). We think it is past time that Zionist Jewish institutions take responsibility for the mess they have helped create in Palestine. When Jonathan Greenblatt attacks the report by saying that only Jewish Zionist organizations are allowed to criticize Israel – his goody-two-shoes organizations are T’ruah and J Street – he is simply trying to reinforce Israel’s impunity for human rights atrocities that stems in large part from American Jewish advocacy. Greenblatt is saying that to be a good Jew you must support Israel, a unanimity other Israel advocates have also sought to enforce in the Jewish community. 

One of us has long argued that the Israeli occupation is an American Jewish achievement. That is one way to look at the story the Mapping Project tells – it outlines the material and political support the American Jewish community has provided Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

One of us has long argued that the Israeli occupation is an American Jewish achievement. That is one way to look at the story the Mapping Project tells – it outlines the material and political support the American Jewish community has provided Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

It charts the ways, in just one city, that for over 50 years Zionist organizations inside the Jewish community representing the overwhelming sentiments of American Jews have supported Israeli violations of international law in Gaza, the Golan, and the West Bank including of course East Jerusalem, and assured that those violations will never be the basis of punishment by international bodies, let alone cited by American politicians. 

This documentation of material support, such as raising funds for Israeli armed forces and the colonization of Palestinian land, or targeting any criticism of Israel in the American press, is an essential service. It is reminiscent of the documentation that Columbia students created of their faculty’s connections to the Vietnam war in 1968, and numerous other examples over the years. This documentation is also a call to accountability for the American Jewish community.

But as we’ve seen often, such calls are not allowed; the Jewish community is to only be thought of as forever innocent. The reaction to the Mapping Project echoes the reaction to Jewish Voice for Peace’s Deadly Exchange Campaign which challenges Jewish institutions’ complicity in police violence in the United States. That campaign was attacked by Israel’s supporters in a similar manner.

Beyond material support for occupation, the project forces the viewer to contend with the political power of the organized Jewish community. That is perhaps the most controversial aspect of the map, and a third rail in our politics. Speaking of Jewish power is something that only American Jews are allowed to do in celebration (see Alan Dershowitz– “We are entitled to use our power. We have contributed disproportionately to the success of this country.” Or Bari Weiss praising “Jewish power… Jewish success”). But as soon as this influence gets called out – that’s a conspiracy theory or reprise of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. 

Let us remind you of a few events that bear out that power. 

Jimmy Carter was a one-term president in part because he took on the Israel lobby over settlements. Stuart Eizenstat, Carter’s liaison to the Jewish community and later Hillary Clinton’s, wrote recently that Carter ascribed his loss to the opposition of “New York Jews” who had formerly supported him but were alarmed by his criticisms of Israel’s settlements. Eizenstat frankly described the political clout of the Jewish community: 

It is even clearer in the decades since, that progress on these same intractable issues with which Carter was struggling forty years ago can come only with a president willing to take enormous domestic political heat and plow ahead. None have done so since with the same combination of his grit and determination—indeed, perhaps because of the political wounds he suffered.

Even Tom Friedman has ascribed George H.W. Bush’s loss in 1992 in part to his hard line on the settlements. “Republicans post Bush I, and manifested most in his son Bush 2, took a strategic decision, they will never be out pro-Israel’d again. That they believe cost them electorally a lot.”

Indeed, in 1992, Bill Clinton won the presidency and ran to Bush’s right on Israel issues, and gained the blessings of the lead Israel lobby organization AIPAC

AIPAC had unfettered access to the White House under Barack Obama, too. Obama’s top foreign policy aide, Ben Rhodes, has said that he spent more time dealing with 10 to 20 Jewish groups than anyone else, and those groups were piping the Israeli government line. “It’s not a conspiracy, it is what it is.”

The number of people you meet from the organized pro-Israel community equals all the other meetings that you might do with kind of diaspora or constituency groups on all the other issues. It’s that degree of dwarfing. Over the eight years I met so many times with like the usual suspects from the organized American Jewish community… it’s kind of like 10 to 20 people that you find yourself meeting with all the time… It’s not a conspiracy, it is what it is. People are advocating a position. But it’s a common position. Whatever the tension point between us and the Israeli government was at a given time, they were usually coming in to represent what I knew to be the Israeli government’s view in that circumstance….Whenever there was an international incident like the Goldstone Report or the Turkish Flotilla, you have to make sure that you’re doing everything that you can at the U.N. to kind of block this from going forward.

We know how this power arose. The Jewish community has exhibited a remarkable unity in support for Israel since the 1967 and 1973 wars, at times a lockstep, and it has sought to punish dissenters. Even liberal Zionists like the group Breira, or the writer Leonard Fein, were crushed when they dared to cross Israel. Today we are thrilled to see a distinct movement of Jewish anti-Zionists, but it still represents a small minority who are subject to excommunication by establishment organizations.

Supporting the Israeli colonization of Palestine has become a communal project of the American Jewish community. And when Al Jazeera dared to produce a documentary on the Israel lobby, American advocates for Israel who could claim to have Trump’s ear flew to Qatar and worked to suppress the film.

What we are describing here is political clout at the highest levels of the American political system (surely having a lot to do with campaign contributions). It is in our country’s best democratic traditions to examine such corruption and give it sunlight. Pro-Israel Jewish groups want that sunlight to go away. 

Sadly, the slams keep coming. On Monday, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reported that the head of the FBI’s Boston Division told a Boston Jewish community event that the FBI has been looking into the Mapping Project, and “has not yet seen any related threats of violence.” To this we say, of course there hasn’t. This map isn’t a call to violence, it is a call to accountability. And given the Jewish community’s decades-long support for Israeli abuses and colonization, it is clear this is something that they want to avoid at all costs. 

Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006

Adam Horowitz is Executive Editor of Mondoweiss.net