By Benjamin Weinthal, The Jerusalem Post, August 10, 2011
Defending his participation in the latest flotilla operation in an attempt to break Israel’s naval blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza, Gabriel Matthew Schivone, an American university student, stressed in a late June Ha’aretz opinion piece that he is one of a growing number of young American Jews seeking to disassociate himself from Israel. There is, however, a rather large factual wrinkle with Schivone’s account – he appears to have falsified his Jewish identity.
Writing in an August letter to the editor in Ha’aretz,Valerie Saturen, a peace activist and acquaintance of Schivone, noted, “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 is 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. When asked why he did this, he explained that he has a distant Jewish relative and that ‘you use what you have.’” Schivone’s reported hoax was first analyzed on the website of CAMERA, a US-based media watchdog organization that tracks anti-Israel bias in the press. In his CAMERA article, Yishai Goldflam wrote, “Schivone emphasizes his Jewish identity no less than eight times, and repeatedly emphasizes the influence of his identity on his anti-Israel activity.
“As Saturen suggests in her letter, international anti-Israel activists place a premium on the participation of Jews in their activities. In this case, the flotilla organizers seemingly scored big – a Jewish participant, and writing in an Israeli media outlet, to boot. Claims of anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism are thus defused.” Responding to Saturen’s letter, Schivone wrote to The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, “Not only is it sorely inaccurate and frankly abusive in its attempts to deny someone their identity and humanity, it is a distraction from the main purpose of the public discussion initiated in the first place, namely to highlight – in order to resist – the brutalization of Palestinians and the ongoing destruction of Palestinian life under occupation by Israel, fully enabled by the United States.”
Schivone defines himself as a “Chicano Jew.” When asked specifically if he converted to Judaism or if his parents or grandparents are Jewish, Schivone told the Post “I mean that I foremost am a person of color -- a ‘Chicano’ simply means someone of Mexican heritage and ancestry, with cultural ties to Mexico and to the preceding indigenous lands, and with national ties to the United States... I am a first generation immigrant youth in the US. “At the same time I also retain Jewish heritage and ancestry, from parts of my family who are from Mexico.
My Jewishness is publicly relevant only on narrow issues [such as Israel’s claim that it is his state, which he regards as both a false and racist doctrine]; far more importantly my Jewishness is irrelevant on broader issues, such as when it comes to US support and participation in Israeli crimes against the Palestinians.” Schivone is listed as a member of the Arizona branch of “Jewish Voice for Peace” on the campus of University of Arizona in Tucson.
Schivone’s alleged use of a fake Jewish identity recalls the German case of Edith Lutz last year. Lutz, a former school teacher, claimed to have converted to Judaism, and proceeded to use her invented Jewish credentials to garner enormous attention in the German media to publicize her voyage to violate Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Lutz was a passenger aboard the Irene catamaran in 2010 during last year’s flotilla.
Many German newspapers, including the widely viewed television program ARD-Magazin Monitor, which featured a broadcast in which Lutz was named as a representative of “Jews from Germany,” devoted extensive coverage to Lutz. The dogged reporting of German Journalist Henryk M. Broder exposed Lutz as a fraud, prompting Broder to comment, “Edith Lutz is definitely a Jew, like a smoked pork chop is kosher.”
The ARD declined to concede at the time that its method of journalistic verification was flawed, and the message of German Jews against Israel spread across television sets in Germany.
Prof. Alvin H. Rosenfeld, Director of the Institute for the Study of Contemporary anti-Semitism at Indiana University, told the Post on Tuesday that “Israel’s defamers and delegitimizers include large numbers of misguided Jews, manipulative Jews, malevolent Jews, and other Jews of assorted bad faith. With Schivone, we now see phony Jews added to this notoriously disreputable bunch.”