The debate gripping the American Jewish community over how kosher it is for Jews to support a boycott of Israel is playing itself out in an unusual manner this weekend.
This Sunday, as supporters of Israel gather in New York City for the annual Celebrate Israel Parade, progressive groups known for their vocal criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and for their frequent support of Palestinian causes will contribute a delegation of marchers.
An ad hoc group of outraged Jewish community leaders has swiftly organized in response – calling itself the Committee for a Pro-Israel Parade – and is protesting the decision of the parade organizer, the UJA-Federation, for including the progressive groups. In an email to supporters provided to The Blaze, the group writes:
Attention, Israel Lovers!
We’re outraged that UJA-Federation is allowing New Israel Fund and other anti-Israel groups to march in the Celebrate Israel Parade. Groups that promote Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel should have no place in the parade!
In the email, the committee encourages viewers along the Fifth Avenue parade route to raise the poster seen here:
The Committee is also encouraging activists to: “Bring your Purim groggers and give New Israel Fund and their associated groups a big, loud Bronx cheer when they march by.” A grogger is a noisemaker Jews employ during the Purim holiday when the Book of Esther is read, specifically every time the name of the evil Haman is mentioned. Comparing the left-wing groups with the 5th century B.C. Persian king’s aide who harbored genocidal aims to exterminate the Jews is a strong statement to say the least.
So who are these groups that are eliciting such anger among their coreligionists? The progressive groups planning to march include the New Israel Fund, Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, B’Tselem USA, Partners for Progressive Israel, and Rabbis for Human Rights-North America. The New Israel Fund [NIF] in a statement says it’s “proud to be marching in the 2012 Celebrate Israel Parade in New York on Sunday, June 3rd as part of a progressive cluster…” It writes:
NIF finds it particularly appropriate to march in celebration of Israel’s “roots of justice, branches of peace” as expressed in its Declaration of Independence. Our cluster represents those who love Israel and celebrate its essential founding principles of democracy, justice, civil and human rights, freedom and peace. We march in solidarity with those segments of Israeli civil society working to protect and advance these values, as well as with the thousands of Israelis who inspired us last summer by taking to the streets and demanding social justice.
We also congratulate the Jewish Community Relations Council and the UJA-Federation of New York for holding fast to the vision of a parade where Jews of varied political and religious perspectives come together to celebrate Israel, each in our own way and with our own contribution to Israel’s future.
NIF says more than 100 activists will march and accuses its detractors of disseminating “misleading information”:
In response to our participation in the parade, some individuals have circulated misleading information about our beliefs and policies, including falsely alleging that NIF supports global BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions], and have insinuated that our work for a more just Israel is outside the parameters of the pro-Israel community. As progressives representing a broad segment of the American Jewish community, as well as our colleagues and sister organizations in Israel, we strongly support Israel as the Jewish homeland and reject efforts to question its fundamental right to exist.
While NIF’s statement claims to “reject efforts to question” Israel’s right to exist, at the same time, it puts its money behind groups that support efforts to de-legitimize Israel. Israel National News reports some groups the New Israel Fund bankrolls engage in what many would consider to be anti-Israel activities:
Machsom Watch, Coalition of Women for Peace, Women Against Violence, Social TV, and Mossawa, all of which are organizations funded by the NIF, signed a letter that was sent to the Norwegian Government Pension Fund, urging its divestment from the State of Israel.
Partners for Progressive Israel (Meretz USA), also funded by the NIF, has a section on its website, under the heading “boycott these Settlement products sold in the US,” which lists Israeli products it believes should be boycotted. The products include Ahava cosmetics, SodaStream products and wines from nine Israeli vineyards.
The board of B’Tselem has publicly called for “effective sanctions” against Israel and has produced a video that was shown on college and university campuses worldwide, as part of the annual “Israel Apartheid Week.”
NGO Monitor, a group that follows non-profits operating in Israel and their partner organizations overseas, published a report on NIF in April which said NIF provided $60,000 to +972mag, a website that publishes bloggers who use rhetoric comparing Israeli policies to those under South African apartheid. According to NGO-Monitor:
+972Mag published a cartoon (“The hater in the sky,” Eli Valley, May 14, 2012) depicting Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu raping President Barack Obama and eating his limbs.
NGO-Monitor’s report quoted NIF CEO Daniel Sokatch comparing Israel to Iran. Sokatch wrote “some of what [a long-time NIF donor] saw in Tehran was also happening in Jerusalem: gender segregated buses, the removal of women’s images from the public sphere, laws designed to limit freedom of expression.”
The New Israel Fund and its sister groups invest time and treasure sounding the alarm over the threat to democratic values in Israel as in this New York Times ad buy. Unlike in its neighboring countries, in Israel they are free to make their voices heard. And on Sunday in New York, they will add their controversial voice to the chorus of Israel’s supporters.
Update: A source close to parade organizers tells The Blaze that they made the point that groups favoring the boycott in any way would not be entitled to participate. Parade organizers believe that because the New Israel Fund’s official policy states it opposes and will not fund “global BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] activities against Israel,” it should be allowed to march and show its support for Israel. Additionally, according to the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv (Hebrew link), the NIF has stopped funding the boycott-supporting Coalition of Women for Peace.