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Gabriel Schivone: “NotaJew”

Here is Gabriel Schivone: a would-be Gaza flotilla participant:

In a Haaretz piece, Schovone ties his participation in the pro-Hamas flotilla stunt, to his very deep sense of ethical commitment, drawn from his faith and cultural identity:

We are committed to acting out of Jewish ethical traditions, while holding Israel to the same standard as any other state in the international system – no more, no less. Before JVP, there was nothing on my campus that was critical of Israel from an American Jewish perspective. Zero. The group’s success demonstrated that young Jews – moved by their cultural or religious values, which include a belief in universal human rights – have been on campus all the while, ready and willing to join a human rights-based cause for justice in Palestine/Israel. All it took to gain support on campus and elsewhere in the state was a potent sprinkling of opportunity, initiative and political will.

In Athens, as I write, waiting to board the Audacity of Hope, I am wearing a Star of David amulet around my neck, which was given to me the night before I left Arizona by a dear friend and fellow JVP organizer. She got it from a silversmith in Haifa while on a “Birthright” trip as an adolescent. For her, it had always been the reminder of the crude brainwashing she felt she had encountered on that trip. But when she came across the star recently, she decided it might be put to good use if I were to wear it on my journey. And so that’s what I’m doing.

I wear it as a symbol of the basic values of Judaism that I feel are not emphasized sufficiently today: the imperative to welcome the stranger as you would want to be welcomed; and of helping to free the slave from a bondage that you would not wish to suffer.

And so on.

Except that Gabriel Schivone is not Jewish.

He apparently has a distant Jewish relative, and according to a former friend, has cynically adopted a Jewish identity in order the more effectively to promote his politics. Valerie Saturen in Haaretz says:

In his editorial about joining the flotilla to Gaza, Gabriel Schivone represented himself as a Jewish college student. I feel I must point out that this not his true identity, but one he has created in order to generate insider credibility, shield himself from accusations of anti-Semitism, and resonate with a target audience.

Gabriel is not Jewish, whether in terms of ethnic ancestry, religious belief, or cultural identity. He has never identified as a Jew until it became useful in advancing his political agenda. During the High Holiday season of 2007, Gabriel told me that he discussed Israel with campus representatives of Chabad, identifying himself as a Jew. When asked why he did this, he explained that he has a distant Jewish relative and that “you use what you have.”

Schivone responds, with a fair bit of guff about “my most cherished sense of personal identity”, but doesn’t (for example) suggest that the charge is factually incorrect: specifically that his Jewish heritage consists of more than having a Jew on some distant limb of his family tree. Indeed, he suggests that the source of his Jewish identity is essentially a consequence of his politics.

As far as I’m concerned, people are perfectly entitled to identify themselves as whatever they want. But what Schivone has done, is akin to a straight man identifying himself as a lesbian woman, in order to support a homophobic politics.

In the video, Schivone says:

“I reject this claim of the State of Israel over me, as a person, as a human being, simply because I’m Jewish. “

He isn’t, and the State of Israel has no claim over him at all.

This is no different from blackface, to be frank.