Mitchell Plitnick is the former director of the U.S. Office of B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. (During his tenure there, he adopted the nom de plume Moshe Yaroni.) Prior to that, Plitnick served as director of education and policy for Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), where he also edited the group’s online publication, Jewish Peace News. In addition, Plitnick has been a regular contributor to Tikkun magazine (established by Michael Lerner).
Born in New York City, Plitnick claims to have been raised as an Orthodox Jew in an “extremist” pro-Israel environment. After graduating with honors from UC Berkeley with a degree in Middle Eastern studies, he joined JVP in 1999 and eventually became a board member as well as the lead spokesman for the organization.
In Plitnick’s view, the anti-terror efforts of the Israeli Defense Forces are no more legitimate than the suicide bombings of Palestinian terrorists. Said Plitnick in 2003: “The [Israeli] occupation, for all its violence, its murder, its degradation and dispossession, cannot justify such an act [a reference to an August 2003 Jerusalem suicide bombing aboard a crowded bus], any more than such acts justify the suffering Israel inflicts on the Palestinians.”
Notwithstanding the high position Plitnick attained in JVP’s hierarchy, his stance on Israel was not entirely harmonious with that of most JVP members. Indeed he described himself as being on the group’s “right-wing,” a position from which he sought to curb JVP’s boycott, divest, and sanction campaign against Israel, and also to “downplay the plank in JVP’s position about suspending U.S. aid to Israel.” Eventually Plitnick said his “moderate face” was incompatible with the organization as a whole, and this precipitated his departure from the group in 2008.
In 2010, Plitnick condemned Israel’s interception at sea of a flotilla of supply-laden ships that sought — without submitting their cargoes to inspection — to dock in Gaza, whose seaport was under an Israeli blockade aimed at keeping arms shipments (from Iran and elsewhere) out of the region. By Plitnick’s reckoning, that blockade — which culminated in nine deaths — was morally analagous to the 1970 shooting debacle at Kent State University in Ohio.
Plitnick characterizes as a myth the notion that Palestinians “teach their children to hate”; he suggests that Palestinian hatred of Israeli Jews, if it exists at all, stems solely from the way the latter have mistreated the former.
Although he does not favor cutting off U.S. aid to Israel, something JVP pursues, Plitnick does advocate an exclusive boycott of Israel’s “occupied” territories in principle. As such, he has served as a speaker on behalf of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. He admits, however that boycotting is not “very effective” because it “has increasingly polarized debate and diplomacy and increased Israel’s bunker mentality while affecting very little in the halls of power.
Plitnick is a proponent of the “two-state solution” to the Arab-Israeli conflict; he also supports a freeze on Israeli settlement construction.
Asserting that Hamas will always be a part of the Palestinian body politic, Plitnick maintains that Israel has “no choice” but to accept that organization as a negotiating partner. He has said, moreover, that the Israeli parties Yisrael Beiteinu, Habayit HaYehudi, and Shas are “just as offensive and frightening to Palestinians” as Hamas is to Israelis.
Plitnick has written a number of pieces for Z Mag and Z-Net, Internet publications of the far left.
Plitnick is president of ReThinking Foreign Policy.
At one time, Plitnick served as vice president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace.