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Thousands March in New York to Celebrate and Support Israel

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Children participate in the Celebrate Israel parade in New York, Sunday, June 3, 2012. Thousands of Israel boosters waved blue and white flags as they marched up Fifth Avenue on Sunday for the annual Celebrate Israel parade. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Thousands of Israel supporters took to Fifth Avenue Sunday for the annual Celebrate Israel Parade, marking Israel’s 64th anniversary, including New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Senator Charles Schumer. NY1 reports:

Organizers call the parade the world's largest public gathering to celebrate Israel, and many city and state officials took part.

"Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. We have the right to practice our religion and say what we want to say because young men and women have always answered the call, and that's true in Israel and true in America," said Bloomberg.

"Israel faces probably the greatest threat she has ever faced, which is a nuclear Iran," said Schumer. "And today we are urging all of the western powers, including our own government, not to budge on the sanctions until Iran fully gives up nuclear weapons."

Last week, The Blaze reported on complaints that progressive groups, including the New Israel Fund (NIF), who have in the past supported or funded organizations promoting boycott Israel efforts had planned to march in the parade. This is just the latest chapter in the larger debate within the Jewish community over what constitutes support of Israel, and how far one can go in criticizing the policies of Israel’s democratically elected government and still be considered an Israel supporter.

A source on site at the parade tells The Blaze that there was a very small group marching with the progressive contingent, which passed through without incident, despite a well-organized opposition to their inclusion in the parade.

A parade source says:

Every group that marched in the parade had previously publicly stated their opposition to the global BDS movement. And several very left groups had even denounced BDS in helping to defeat a boycott-Israel effort at a food co-op in Brooklyn [which The Blaze previously covered] - demonstrating a distinct move towards center (at least on one issue). There were no political signs allowed for any groups and that was enforced.

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 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, the New Israel Fund has stopped funding the boycott-supporting Coalition of Women for Peace. However, NIF's website states that while it will not support or fund any "global BDS" activities, it does not rule out grant applications from groups that support a boycott of goods made in Israeli settlements in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria).

Ben-Dror Yemini, a columnist for Ma'ariv lauded the New York parade’s inclusive spirit:

So even if the claims made against the NIF in New York relating to its activities in recent years are founded, there is no need to push the NIF out. Certainly not at a time when the fund is, at the very least, trying to be part of the camp that supports the State of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.

Despite the outcry of those protesting the controversial progressive groups’ participation, a wide spectrum of political opinion joined together in common cause. For one day at least.

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