Making Mischief Of The Parade
Wed, 04/09/2014

The annual Celebrate Israel parade, the largest of its kind anywhere, is intended to unify our community under the umbrella of pride in the Jewish state and send that message to Israel and the world. But life is not simple, certainly not Jewish life, and the fissures that create tensions within our community over Israel have come to the surface once again in the weeks leading up to parade, which this year will mark its 50th anniversary and be held in midtown on Sunday, June 1. (See story on page 16.)

In keeping with the old saw that “no good deed goes unpunished,” the leaders of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC), primary sponsor of the parade, and UJA-Federation of New York, its primary funder, have come under fire from a small group of critics who falsely claim that supporters of BDS (boycott, divestments and sanctions against Israel) are being permitted to march. That claim is made by conflating those who oppose Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state and those who see themselves as Zionists but oppose the West Bank settlements and the purchase of goods produced there on moral and/or security grounds.

Critics include JCC Watch, Americans for a Safe Israel, American Friends of Likud, the Zionist Organization of America and Rabbi Elie Abadie of the Edmond J. Safra Synagogue in Manhattan.

The JCRC, in a statement this week, asserted that it “carries the profound responsibility to bring together the widest possible spectrum of supporters of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” for an event that is celebratory, not political. While the JCRC notes that it “strongly disagrees” with those who support boycotting West Bank products, it affirms that they meet the criteria for inclusion in the parade, which is apolitical in its signs and slogans.

The effect of the small group of mischief-makers, who seek to exclude rather than include, is to undermine the celebration of the Israel they proclaim to love, and to sow dissonance and disagreement in a community that often feels sufficiently embattled already from outside enemies.

Particularly offensive is a JCC Watch flyer promoting a rally set for this past Tuesday in front of UJA-Federation headquarters, and urging the public to “say no to BDS groups” at the parade. It features a 1933 photo of Nazi storm troopers putting up a sign on a Berlin store that says, in German, “Do not buy from Jews.”

The JCC Watch tagline proclaims: “It starts with boycotts.”

The attempt to compare critics of Israel’s settlements policy with the Nazis is outrageous at best.

One of the threads that bind Jews together is a sense of peoplehood and collectivity, and a commitment to maintain the survival and growth of Jewish life. Yet those who call for disruption of the parade, claiming that enemies of Israel are being allowed to march, drive a wedge between groups who share a love for Israel, though they may express it in passionately differing political ways.

Notable figures like author Amos Oz and entertainer Theodore Bikel — not to mention a large percentage of Israelis who serve and protect the Jewish state — would be banned from marching by those who proclaim that if you don’t love all of Israel, including the West Bank settlements, you are anti-Israel.

What we need, as a people, is more reasons to come together, including opportunities to discuss these complex issues with civility. What the critics insist on, though, is the limited path to supporting Israel their way — or be marginalized and dismissed as an outsider, or enemy.

The Book of Ecclesiastes says there is “a season for everything,” including “a time for tearing down and a time for building up.” This June 1 should be a day set aside for “building up.”

By all means let us debate Israeli politics and security throughout the year. But for that one day we should put aside our differences to rejoice together in the miracle of a Jewish state in our lifetime.

Am Yisrael chai.


editor@jewishweek.org

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Comments

The New Israel Fund is mobbed up, as they say, with the BDS movement. They have no business marching in the parade.

Robert G. Silverman: The New Israel Fund is not associated with the BDS movement. See http://www.nif.org/about/selected-policies#14 :

The New Israel Fund is committed to strengthening democracy in Israel, supports freedom of speech and promotes non-violent means of expression of belief and conscience. We oppose any attempt to criminalize the legitimate expression of support for any non-violent strategy or tactic, including those we do not ourselves support.

The NIF opposes the global (or general) BDS movement, views its use of these tactics as counterproductive, and is concerned that segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the state of Israel.

NIF will not fund global BDS activities against Israel nor support organizations that have global BDS programs.

NIF opposes the occupation and subsequent settlement activities. NIF will not exclude support for organizations that discourage the purchase of goods or use of services from settlements.

The author makes a false distinction between boycotting Tel Aviv and boycotting East Jerusalem. Then, he makes a false comparison between boycotting and opposing. It's one falsehood after another. Unfortunately, the rules of the parade seem to allow for such splitting and conflation. If you asked an average individual whether boycotting part of Israel would be considered pro-Israel, I'm sure the answer would be "no" in the majority of cases. As in law, the rules of the parade should go by the average person's understanding of the meaning of "Israel supporter."

At least hundreds of thousands if not millions of American Jews, and at least hundreds of thousands if not millions of Israeli Jews see themselves as Zionists and oppose the West Bank settlements, and many of those oppose and the purchase of goods produced there on moral and/or security grounds. Many Americans boycotted entertainers who opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq; were these boycotters opponents of the United States?

The Editors of The Jewish Week characterize their endorsement of NY-JCRC's position (vis a vie' its critics) in the context of the spirit of the phrase "No good deed goes unpunished". I think a more accurate aphorism is "The road to hell is paved with good intentions". Sadly, given the editors‘ intentional misrepresentation of the nature of the criticism (“notable figures … not to mention a large percentage of Israelis … would be banned from marching by those who proclaim that if you don’t love all of Israel, including the West Bank settlements, you are anti-Israel.") I question your intentions as well. Attempting to demonize those who legitimately criticize NY-JCRC for empowering its enemies does not sit well with me. However, your position certainly is consistent with the disingenuous rationale given by NY-JCRC. They hide behind "Policy Guidelines" that mandate inclusion of Pro-BDS even though "...JCRC-NY has vigorously and persistently opposed and fought against the BDS movement and boycotts against Israel in any form, including boycotts against products from Judea and Samaria…” Sound good except they WROTE THE GUIDELINES THEY HIDE BEHIND! Pathetic!

Boycotting jews is a red line. Actually opposing settlements is maybe going too far. Can you imagine at the st patrick day parade a contingent of northern irish protestants? They support Ireland but at the same time believe that their part of the island remain british. At the gay pride parade can we have.supporters of gay rights who at the same time march under banners defending the sanctity of traditional marriage?

One very simple question that begs to be asked: Without suggesting that they are similar to the other organizations in question, should Jews for Jesus be allowed to march if they profess their support for the State of Israel? Nevermind, we know the answer...

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