Sophie Hurwitz has demonized Israel on social media and promoted the #returnthebirthright initiative launched by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), against the Birthright Jewish heritage tour (Birthright). Hurwitz has also opposed the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act (AAA), a bipartisan bill, drafted in response to growing anti-Semitism in the United States.
Hurwitz whitewashed the banning of Jewish symbols at the 2019 D.C. Dyke March and opposed the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act (AAA), a bipartisan bill, drafted in response to growing anti-Semitism in the United States.
As of March 2018, Hurwitz was an activist with the Wellesley College (Wellesley) chapter of JVP.
Hurwitz was also a 2019-2020 New Voices Fellow for the Jewish Women’s Archive.
As of July 2019, Hurwitz’s LinkedIn page said that she was slated to graduate from Wellesley in 2021, with a degree in History. She is also a freelance writer, a News Editor at the Wellesley News and a correspondent at The Contemporary Group.
As of September 2019, her LinkedIn page said that from “Jun 2019 - Present," Hurwitz, Hurwitz worked as “Assistant to the Executive Director," of the Abraham Path Initiative.
Demonizing Israel and ZionistsOn March 30, 2019, Hurwitz tweeted: “a year ago, the Great March of Return began, as Palestinians protested to demand the return of the land that was stolen from them. Since then, 100s have been killed, & over 30,000 injured by IDF forces, who use live ammunition against peaceful protestors."
The “right of return" is a Palestinian demand discredited as a means to eliminate Israel.
March participants sent scores of kites bearing explosive devices across Israel’s border to burn Israeli crops and homes. Participants also attempted to breach the border fence, which caused the Israeli Defense Forces to respond with live fire.
Agitators threw Molotov cocktails, firebombs, shot firearms and threw rocks under the cover of smoke from burning tires.
On May 16, 2018, a Hamas senior official stated that 50 out of 62 protesters killed during a May 14 protest were Hamas operatives. Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) also claimed that three of its members were killed at the same protest.
On March 30, 2018, Hurwitz tweeted: “The IDF firing at, tear gassing, and killing civilians in Gaza who are (as far as I can tell) just demanding the freedoms they are owed, on the day of the Jewish FREEDOM CELEBRATION of Pesach, is something I think we should be condemning pretty loudly right now."
Hurwitz retweeted a June 30, 2018 tweet that said: “really thought i had died and gone to hell when i saw someone wearing a “celebrate israel" shirt at the anti-deportation rally but the cognitive dissonance really is That High, folks.
Opposing Anti Semitism Awareness ActIn April 3, 2019, Hurwitz signed a JVP-authored petition that opposed the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act (AAA) of 2019.
The AAA was introduced to the US Senate in March 2019 and directed the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to use the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism when evaluating hostile environment complaints.
JVP called the bill “the Silencing Students Act."
JVP’s petition asserted that the bill “serves to limit our freedom of expression around the vital issues of our time." The petition also claimed: “we recognize that criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights, including support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, is not inherently antisemitic" and lamented the AAA “conflates legitimate criticism of the policies of the Israeli government with antisemitism, using a problematic definition of antisemitism."
The petition urged the U.S. Senate to reject the bill and “instead to take meaningful action to combat anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, anti-immigrant sentiment, and other forms of bigotry."
Whitewashing the Banning of Jewish SymbolsOn June 17, 2019, Hurwitz published an article in the Jewish Women’s Archive, where she whitewashed the banning of Jewish symbols at the June 7, 2019 “D.C. Dyke March," which INN co-sponsored.
INN leaders, including activists Jill Raney, Sarah Beth Alcabes and Amanda Rae Gaines were “involved in organizing" the March.
Raney reportedly crafted the policy to ban the Jewish pride flag - a rainbow flag with the Star of David in the center and said [00:01:20] “We are allowing Palestinian flags," claiming [00:06:42] “the Palestinian flag is a symbol of a Peoples’ freedom - not a government."
In her article, titled: “Lessons from the D.C. Dyke March," Hurwitz said that “Judaism was yet again conflated with Israel—something I don’t imagine even Israel-supporting Jews particularly want."
Hurwitz also said: “I am tired of talking about Israel. My LGBT Jewish friends are too—we vent in our private group texts about how we wish we could exist in a Judaism that does not bind us to a settler-colonial state."
Hurwitz referred to Israel in her article as “an apartheid state" and said that “as long as atrocities are being done in my name as a Jew, it is my duty to stand publicly against them."
Hurwitz also said: “A conversation that was meant to center Palestinian suffering became a fight between Jews about whether or not a rainbow flag with a Star of David looked similar enough to a blue and white flag with a Star of David to be offensive."
The demonstrators were eventually permitted to join the Dyke March with their Jewish Pride flags.
Condemning Jewish Heritage TourOn April 15, 2018, Hurwitz participated in a Return the Birthright protest outside the Taglit Birthright Gala in New York City. The protest, titled; “Boycott Birthright: All Out for Gaza & Protest Sheldon Adelson," condemned pro-Israel philanthropist Sheldon Adelson who received an award from Taglit-Birthright for helping finance the program.
The Facebook event page said: “We'll be outside Birthright’s gala to say loud and clear- Boycott Birthright, end the Gaza massacres and let Palestinian refugees return home!
The event page also said: “As proud young Jews, we are outraged at Israel’s murder of nonviolent Palestinian protesters in Gaza."
Hurwitz spoke at the protest and said [01:03:48] “The reason I am rejecting the Birthright here, today, is because I am from St. Louis, Missouri, which is the home of Ferguson, home of the Black Lives Matter Movement - which is also a movement of oppressed peoples trying to gain rights within a society that does not believe they should have them."
Hurwitz went on to compare [01:04:04] the Ferguson police to an “occupying force" and said they were acting “like the army… like the IDF acts in Palestine."
Hurwitz then continued: “...One thing I remember is when the Palestinians reached out to us on Twitter, online, and said ‘this is how you deal with tear gas,’ they showed us solidarity and so if I believe in human rights in my own home...then I have to reject the Birthright."
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).
Since 2015, JVP has received $280,000 from RBF, which has a history of supporting anti-Jewish causes, including BDS campaigns and various organizations that promote BDS campaigns throughout the United States.
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."
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