The Full Story
Wed, 05/07/2014

I appreciate Steve Lipman’s comprehensive article on the controversy surrounding this year’s Israel Unity Parade and quoting my support for the parade (“Israel ‘Unity’ Parade Set For June 1 But Some Groups Seek To Ban Others,” April 11). That support is unqualified. But he falls short in expressing my concurrent views about the New Israel Fund (NIF) and the pro-BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) non-governmental organizations it funds. What follows is the full text of my statement to Steve Lipman:

“The NIF, despite what they say on their website, funds organizations that support BDS. They also fund NGOs who support the prosecution of IDF officers as war criminals, NGOs who aided Judge Goldstone’s libelous report against Israel, and many more anti-Israel causes. All of the above is ideological and political activity whose goal is to undermine the Jewish state.”

The Celebrate Israel parade is a feel-good, pro-Israel event that is neither ideological nor political. It is a great event with good spirit in which diverse people of differing persuasions come together to support Israel. It should be joined and endorsed by the Jewish community without controversy even if an NIF pro-BDS backed organization is marching.

Personally, I think that NIF and pro-BDS organizations belong with the Neturei Karta and other anti-Israel groups on the sidelines. However, I take exception to the call for a boycott of the parade by some individuals and groups. The venue to fight NIF and BDS is in the political arena and in their pocketbooks. But the parade is not the place. It is just a parade and its organizers (loyal servants of the Jewish people) have no political agenda except to support the Jewish State of Israel.

Woodmere, L.I.

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I think that the real problem with the Salute to Israel parade is declining attendance. Take away the students from day schools whose participation in the parade is mandatory, how many marchers would there actually be? If yeshivot start pulling out because NIF will be marching, or because gays will be marching, we are looking at an even smaller parade.

I am bemused by the flurry of attention given to the participation of groups such as the New Israel Fund in the upcoming Celebrate Israel Parade. I do endorse the exclusion of groups that directly support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). Further, I would agree that if a group is one step removed from BDS – that is, it does not directly support BDS, but it channels considerable financial aid to groups that do – a case may be made to likewise exclude that group. Whether the NIF and the other organizations in question fit either of these criteria is a matter worthy of examination. One possible distinction concerns groups that urge a boycott of products made in Judea and Samaria while opposing a boycott of items manufactured in Israel proper.

My bemusement, though, stems from the fact that a much greater threat to Israel, exposed last year, remains unresolved. I refer to the inclusion of an openly gay group, Jewish Queer Youth, in the parade the past several years. Last year, I was part of a campaign that called upon Orthodox institutions to boycott the parade unless JQY were prohibited from marching under its own banner. (We had no issue with gays and lesbians marching among other groups.) We noted that according to the Torah, homosexual practice can cause the Land of Israel to spit out its inhabitants. How, then, we asked, could Orthodox groups march alongside JQY? How would this benefit our beloved State of Israel?

Our campaign gained traction only after repeated attempts were made to alert yeshivos and other Orthodox groups that they were, in effect, legitimizing homosexual behavior by marching. Eventually a meeting was called at which the Jewish Community Relations Council, which administers the parade, was instructed to prevent JQY from displaying blatantly offensive banners. (The prior year, JQY had marched with banners stating: “We are in every yeshiva.”) While this was a victory for Torah morals, it was a partial one, because yeshivos refused to pull out of the parade, thus leaving the unfortunate impression that JQY represents a legitimate approach to Judaism. This inaction occurred despite the fact that many yeshiva principals privately agreed with our view that participating alongside an openly immoral group was wrong.

I have heard that this year, some of these same yeshivos may now leave the parade because NIF is marching. I firmly believe that if we are to question our participation, we should do so on moral grounds rather than on political ones. Whether or not the New Israel Fund marches is much less important than if Jewish Queer Youth marches.

In the interim, there is one group that has chosen to make a kiddush Hashem in this regard. I refer to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, whose Catholic organizers continue to take the principled stance that groups professing morals antithetical to the shared Judeo-Christian ethic must not march under their own banner.

Avi Goldstein

Far Rockaway, NY

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