OverviewNesha Ruther has expressed support for violent protesters, demonized Israel, spread hatred of Zionists and participated in the #returnthebirthright initiative launched by the anti-Israel Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) organization against the Birthright Jewish heritage tour.
As of October 2017 and 2018, Ruther was the President of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at the University of Wisconsin (UW), where she promoted the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS).
As of September 2017, Ruther was a sophomore at UW majoring in Jewish studies, gender and women’s studies and English. As of May 2019 Ruther was still a student at UW. As of 2019, Ruther is a contributor to New Voices
As of August, 2019, Ruther’s Facebook page said she was working at the JVN Project, a “Hip-Hop centered non-profit," instituted by UW-Madison students to develop programs and initiatives committed to literacy and modeling restorative justice principles.
Supporting Violent ProtestersOn March 30, 2018, Ruther tweeted: “Tonight at sundown Passover starts, it celebrates the Jewish people's exodus from slavery and is commonly thought of as a holiday rooted in justice and freedom. Right now thousands of people in Gaza are being injured and killed by Israeli forces for nonviolent protest."
She continued: “The #GreatReturnMarch is something that should be honored and uplifted by people everywhere but ESPECIALLY Jewish people today. We do not stand with Israel's violence and suppression. We stand with Palestinians pushing for justice and the return of their lands."
On March 30, 2018, some 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza approached Israel’s border to take part in “Land Day Protests" or the “March of Return." The March of Return was organized and funded by Hamas as a campaign of violent protests along Israel’s border to spotlight the demand of Palestinians to “return" to Israel.
The “right of return" is a Palestinian demand discredited as a means to eliminate Israel.
Media reports confirmed [00:00:20] the March of Return protesters’ breached and attempted breaches of Israel’s border fence, some by armed Palestinians. One Hamas leader declared [00:00:30]: “We will take down the border [with Israel] and we will tear out their hearts from their bodies."
Most of the Gazans who died between March 30, 2018 and April 6, 2018 were identified as terror operatives who were killed while rioting against IDF forces, carrying out terrorist attacks, or attempting to breach the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Demonizing IsraelOn August 9, 2016, Ruther tweeted: “yes Israel is an apartheid state."
On September 11, 2017, a letter Ruther wrote to the editor of her university’s newspaper, the Badger Herald, titled: “Speaking out against Israel cannot be conflated with ‘anti-Semitism,’" was published.
Ruther then claimed that “Zionism is rooted in colonialism" and wrote: “I can understand how it feels easier to combat ‘anti-Semitism’ when it comes from a Palestinian youth than when it comes from an older white man with the physical and systematic power to hurt us."
Ruther concluded with an address to pro-Israel Jews: “The violence done to the Jewish people should be the reason we support Palestinians, not the reason we defend Israel."
On January 7, 2018, Ruther tweeted: “Me: Israel is ethnically cleansing out an entire population and barring people who speak out from entering the country!"
On October 24, 2018, Ruther tweeted: “You’re absolutely right. I’m responding to particularly why many American Jews are Zionists, having grown up in a Zionist community myself. Not why Israel is committing genocide, that s**t has very little to do with anything but brutality and white supremacy."
Spreading Hatred of ZionistsOn April 22, 2018, Ruther tweeted: “My Jewish 5th grade students have a stronger moral compass and are able to see the brutality of the IDF against Protestors in Gaza with more maturity and clarity than any Zionist I have ever met and THEY ARE TEN."
On March 12, 2018, Ruther tweeted: “Equating Zionism with Judaism is after all, antisemitism."
On October 5, 2017, Ruther tweeted: “I was having a convo with a Zionist I'm trying to educate and he said ‘Israel is the only place I feel safe being Jewish’ I was F**KED UP."
On August 2, 2017, Ruther shared a photo of herself to Instagram holding a sign that said: “Long live Palestine" and commented: “Our God is Anti-Zionist."
On June 28, 2017, Ruther tweeted: “YES, HOLD ZIONISTS ACCOUNTABLE, QUESTION JEWS WHO SUPPORT ISRAEL'S VIOLENT POLICIES."
On May 16, 2017, Ruther tweeted: “It's May 15th so here's your friendly reminder that Zionism is rooted in colonialism and Israel is an apartheid government."
On March 8, 2017, Ruther posted on Facebook: “...Zionism has always been rooted in colonialism...A Jewish state at their [Palestinians’] expense is not a Jewish state, it is not what Judaism stands for and believes in, it is apartheid and it is colonialism. Support of a system that oppresses others is not a mitzvah... it is simply, fundamentally wrong."
Condemning Jewish Heritage TourOn December 3, 2017, Ruther participated a Return the Birthright protest outside the Taglit-Birthright offices in New York City. JVP members from all over the country assembled to chant anti-Birthright slogans outside the Birthright offices.
Ruther spoke to the assembled protesters and said [1:16:18] “Birthright is...propaganda designed to show perpetual support in the core of our Jewish identities for Israel’s occupation, unjust laws and denial of refugee rights...because by understanding Birthright to be a mechanism for oppression, exclusion and nationalism, we preserve the identity and culture of diaspora Jews that has existed for centuries."
Ruther held a sign during the protest that read: “Tell your Bubbe to stop funding Birthright."
Ruther tweeted photos from the protest with the caption: “I #ReturnTheBirthright because I'm proud to be in the diaspora, because Judaism makes home wherever we live, because we are not free without Palestinian liberation. Thank you JVP for a beautiful weekend ."
On October 10, 2017, Return the Birthright featured a photo of Ruther on Facebook holding a sign that read “I return the Birthright because everyone should be able to go HOME!"
The caption on the photo said, “We're beginning our photo campaign! Take a photo of yourself with a sign explaining why you #ReturnTheBirthright or want young Jews to do so. Leave it in the comments below or send it in a message to our page and you may see your photo posted!"
Return the Birthright CampaignIn September of 2017, JVP issued its #ReturntheBirthright campaign manifesto, calling on American Jews to boycott the Birthright Israel (Birthright) program. Birthright was founded by Jewish philanthropists “in 1999 to address the growing divide between young Diaspora Jewish adults and the land and people of Israel."
After decades of demographic decline in the American Jewish community, Birthright set out “to strengthen Jewish identity, build a lasting bond with the land and people of Israel, and reinforce the solidarity of Jewish people worldwide." The program offers “the gift of a life-changing, 10-day trip to Israel to young Jewish adults between the ages of 18 and 26."
JVP’s anti-Birthright campaign was launched precisely to coincide with “the very moment that college students across America are returning to campus and registration for Birthright winter visits are underway."
The #returnthebirthright manifesto accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing" and alleged “the modern state of Israel is predicated on the ongoing erasure of Palestinians."
The text claimed: “We reject the offer of a free trip to a state that does not represent us, a trip that is only ‘free’ because it has been paid for by the dispossession of Palestinians."
The manifesto concluded: “And as we reject this, we commit to promoting the right to return of Palestinian refugees… Israel is not our Birthright… Return the Birthright."
On June 22, 2017, just prior to the launch of JVP’s #returnthebirthright campaign, JVP received a $140,00 two-year grant for general support for its operations from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF).
Advocating for BDS at UW
In her testimony, Ruther accused [2:43:05] Israel of “heinous crimes" and “implementing an apartheid state." She also argued [2:43:15] that “Israel is anti-Semitic as well as racist and discriminatory down to its core.
On May 1, 2017, Ruther defended BDS in another opinion piece for the Badger Herald, titled: “Divestment isn’t anti-Semitic, but ignoring members of Jewish community is."
Ruther chastised Zionist Jews who oppose divestment saying: “...it is so hard for me to see my people openly support the state of Israel, and walk out of the ASM meeting as if they are the ones being victimized, rather than simply complicit in oppression."
She then declared: “I cannot support a government that violates the human rights of another group of people. Not only do I believe it to be morally wrong, but I believe it to be anti-Jewish."
Ruther concluded by insisting “Israel is not our home if we are taking it from someone else."
The Divestment vote at UW caused controversy, due to intimidation tactics used by BDS proponents, as well as the timing of its proposal.
The evening of the meeting was also the second night of Passover and many of the Jewish representatives who opposed the original legislation were absent in religious observance. When the proposal was brought to a vote, several members of council strongly opposed citing the inappropriate timing during the holiday.
On December 24, 2017, Ruther tweeted: “...while PA corruption may be true it is ludicrous to use that as a reason to not boycott Israel."
On December 21, 2017, Ruther tweeted to singer Lorde encouraging her to cancel her upcoming concert in Israel as part of BDS. Ruther tweeted: “@lorde part of what makes me admire and look up to you is your awareness, empathy and outspokenness. PLEASE read this and don't play Israel."
JVP was founded in Berkeley, California in 1996, as an activist group with an emphasis on the “Jewish tradition" of peace, social justice and human rights. The organization is currently led by Rebecca Vilkomerson and its board members include Israel critics Naomi Klein, Judith Butler, Noam Chomsky and Tony Kushner.
JVP, which generally employs civil disobedience tactics to disrupt pro-Israel speakers and events, consists of American Jews and non-Jewish “allies" highly critical of Israeli policies. A staunch supporter of the BDS movement, JVP claims to aim its campaigns at companies that either support the Israeli military (Hewlett-Packard) or are active in the West Bank (SodaStream).
Although several Jewish groups critical of Israeli policies, like J Street and Partners for a Progressive Israel, make efforts to operate within the mainstream American Jewish community, JVP functions outside. The group is often criticized for serving as a tokenized Jewish voice for the pro-Palestinian camp and is widely regarded as the BDS movement’s “Jewish wing."
JVP denies the notion of “Jewish peoplehood" and has even gone so far as to refer to its own Ashkenazi (Jews who spent the Diaspora in European countries) leadership as “white supremacy inside of JVP."
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has accused JVP of being “the largest and most influential Jewish anti-Zionist group in the United States," and said the group “exploits Jewish culture and rituals to reassure its own supporters that opposition to Israel not only does not contradict, but is actually consistent with, Jewish value."
The ADL also claimed that “JVP consistently co-sponsors rallies to oppose Israeli military policy that are marked by signs and slogans comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, demonizing Jews and voicing support for groups like Hamas and Hezbollah."
According to the ADL website, JVP “uses its Jewish identity to shield the anti-Israel movement from allegations of anti-Semitism and provide it with a greater degree of legitimacy and credibility."
SJP was co-founded in 2001 at the University of California at Berkeley (UC Berkeley) by Professors Hatem Bazian and Snehal Shingavi. Bazian served as president of the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) while studying at San Francisco State University (SFSU) and headed the Muslim Students Association (MSA) while earning his M.A. at UC Berkeley. In 2004, while the second intifada was already winding down in Israel, he called for an intifada in the United States.
Shingavi, an activist tied to the International Socialist Organization (ISO), has been criticized for using his literature course as a vehicle for promoting anti-Israel propaganda. SJP has grown to become the primary student movement advancing the Palestinian national agenda on North American campuses and is the primary force behind BDS campaigns at most schools.
SJP activists frequently intimidate and harass Jewish and pro-Israel students. SJP members have physically assaulted Jewish students, aggressively disrupted pro-Israel events and possibly vandalized communal property. SJP rallies regularly include hate-speech and chants such as “Long Live The Intifada" and “From the River to the Sea Palestine will be Free" — calls for violence and for the destruction of the Jewish state.
SJP chapters frequently run inflammatory campaigns against Israel, including BDS resolutions, rallies, Israel-Apartheid initiatives, propaganda comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, mock checkpoints and “die-ins."
The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement was founded by Omar Barghouti in 2005 as an allegedly “Palestinian-led movement" to challenge “international support for Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism."
In 2015, Barghouti was quoted saying that “BDS aims to turn Israel into a pariah state, as South Africa once was, and to isolate its regime of oppression in order to achieve our UN-stipulated rights."
The dominant organization in the BDS Movement is the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Campaign National Committee (BNC), founded by Barghouti in 2007, during the First Palestinian Conference for the Boycott of Israel.
The movement’s most notable achievement has been the infiltration of university campuses through lobbying for “BDS resolutions." In these cases, student governments, backed by anti-Israel affiliates, have proposed resolutions on some form of boycott of — or divestment from — Israel and Israeli-affiliated entities.
These boycott resolutions, although non-binding, have been passed by student governments on numerous North American campuses.
BDS activity is often aggressive and disruptive. It has been noted that universities that pass BDS resolutions see a marked increase in anti-Semitic incidents on campus. In 2013, when the student government of the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) debated a BDS resolution, reports emerged of violent threats and the spitting on a student wearing a Star of David necklace.
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