05 April 2012

A Parade of Values

The Pro-Israel Parade caucus of the JCC Watch has begun it's campaign again to ban left-wing Zionist organizations from marching in the Israel Day Parade.  The main focus of their argument is against the New Israel Fund, a longtime supporter of progressive causes, democratic reforms and civil society for Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel.  Like Louis Brandeis, Henrietta Szold, Albert Einstein and countless other American Jews, the staff and supporters of the New Israel Fund believes that Israel is strongest when its democratic institutions are strong and all supporters of the Jewish, democratic state can engage in a meaningful discourse about the nature of a country we all love.

The NIF's mission states the following:  "The New Israel Fund is dedicated to the vision of the State of Israel as the sovereign expression of the right of self-determination of the Jewish people and as a democracy dedicated to the full equality of all its citizens and communities."

This idea is taken directly from Israel's Declaration of Independence, written as the guiding document for the state when it was established in 1948.  This is not a radical or dangerous idea as it is portrayed by the "Pro-Israel Parade" caucus of JCC Watch claims it be but in fact is, at it's core, a Zionist idea.

As I recently wrote in an editorial in the Jewish Week, Israel's strength, and the long-term resilience of the Jewish people, each depend upon a vibrant democracy, a civil exchange of ideas, and a healthy, respectful debate about Israel's future.  Vilification has no place in this debate and only damages our chances of working together to make the necessary compromises to safeguard Israel's future.

This past week in our synagogue, we hosted Hagit Ofran and Yariv Oppenheimer from Peace Now in Israel.  Zionists, veterans of the Israel Defense Forces, deeply committed Zionists, both Ofran and Oppenheimer have repeatedly received death-threats from right-wing activists, merely because they believe that Israeli settlements should not be expanded in the West Bank; because they litigate on behalf of Palestinians whose lands are taken to support such expansions; and continue to argue forcefully that the way forward is through negotiation and painful compromise.

To so many people, these are reasonable ideas; but unfortunately, we are living in an era of Jewish history when compromise and democratic values are portrayed as a threat to the Jewish state.  I cannot think of an  historical precedent where the radical constriction of rights, where the censoring of dissent, and where death-threats against democratic activists, has ended well.

It would serve well, however, if the leading voices of the New York and American Jewish community let it be known loud and clear that attempts to ban "left" or "liberal" Zionists from the Israel Day Parade will be a diminishment for our community and for the vision of Israel as well.




7 comments:

Richard Allen said...

No one is asking "Left or Liberal" Causes to be banned from the Israel Day Parade on June 3.

This foolish charge will only work with the uneducated who are swayed by slogans.

What we do ask is that groups that finance BDS not be allowed to hijack the Israel Day Parade. The New Israel Fund finances groups that work for BDS against Israel. This can be verified at www.NGO-Monitor.org a highly regarded watchdog group headed by Prof. Steinberg of Bar Ilan University.

Richard Allen
Our websites:
www.ProIsraelParade.org
www.JCCwatch.org

Andy Bachman said...

Richard. I don't accept the use of the term "hijack." NIF or Peace Now would march *together* with all Zionists, not to "hijack," which implies, God forbid, violent takeover against one's will.

If a non-profit funded by the NIF supports BDS (a view that NIF explicitly states it's against) that does not mean that NIF supports BDS any more than it means that when the citizens of South Carolina hang a flag which bears the symbol of the Confederacy that all citizens of South Carolina support slavery. Democratic institutions are complicated, no?

In the Israeli cabinet, there are paid government officials who endorse transfer of Arabs from the Land of Israel. Is this a view that ought to be represented in the Parade? If a member of Americans for Yisrael Beitaynu waves a banner, ought they to be banned for their views?

The Israel Parade is for those groups that support Israel, even when they disagree.

Shalom and Hag Sameach!

David said...

Richard Allen and NGO Monitor are right-wing agitators determined to "purify" the Jewish community of groups with which they disagree. They are far from respected watchdog groups.

What they claim about NIF is simply not true.

Not only does NIF oppose the BDS movement, it will not fund organizations with BDS programs. See the explicit policy here: http://www.nif.org/about/guidelines

Allen and NGOM know this, yet they persist in defaming NIF and the civil and human rights groups it supports.

By the way, Allen and the "JCC Watch" also claims that Hillel regularly sends students to programs run by the Muslim Brotherhood and that UJA-Federation head John Ruskay is a disciple of Noam Chomsky.

See his "community alert" about the parade here and decide if this is someone you think should decide policy for the Jewish community:

http://jccwatch.org/

The part about the Muslim Brotherhood, which originally appeared in the alert, was apparently too crazy even for Allen, since he seems to have removed it from the version now on his website. But here it is:

The Jewish Federation and Hillel BOTH support - financially and logistically - sending Jewish, Christian and Muslim students to Washington and Israel to meet with Muslim Brotherhood organizations like MPAC, Hamas terrorists and leaders, Hezbollah supporters and others who have pledged to annihilate Israel and kill Jews! Follow-up information finds that these programs successfully turn pro-Israel advocates into anti-Israel pro-Arab-Palestinian activists.

Are YOU funding this?

Richard Allen said...

Rabbi,

Let us get the New Israel Fund to stop financing BDS and we can all march together.

Why are they financing BDS groups? I am sure you agree that "Jews do not boycott Jews" and groups should nor work for sanctions against Israel in the EU.

The NIF states they do not support BDS, but why are they financing it?


Can you get them to correct themselves?

If not, I cannot support the hi-jacking of the Israel Day Parade to make these views acceptable to our community. BDS is wrong and has no place at the June 3 Israel day Parade.


Best Regards,

Richard Allen

Andy Bachman said...

Richard,

Sorry to repeat myself. NIF clearly opposes BDS. They have made numerous and clear statements in this regard. Nor do they fund it. If they support a group that supports it among the many things they do, that is the nature of democratic institutions.

BDS is an idea that you, NIF, and I agree is wrong. We also agree on a Jewish, democratic state of Israel with a Jewish majority.

Let's meet at the Parade and argue over coffee--just like good Zionists used to do!

Richard Allen said...

Rabbi,

Please answer the question:

Why is the New Israel Fund Financing BDS groups?

It is not OK to do so. The denial is not correct. The NIF cannot state it does not support BDS and then turn around and fund it.

It makes the first assertion false.

Democracy does not mean our brains have fallen out of our heads. If the NIF wishes to finance BDS, let them march in a BDS Parade, not the Israel Day Parade on June 3rd.

Regards,

Richard Allen

Joan Shapiro said...

I don't see how we can take any "verification" by the "highly reagarded" NGO Monitor seriously. They distort. They deceive. They're anything but credible.

Read what Israel's former deputy Attorney General had to say:

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-undisguised-agenda/

We can, and will, have disagreements within our community. But let's not let "our brains fall out" in terms of seeking reliable sources to inform our conversation.