It may come as a surprise to some, but until this past Friday, Jewish Voice For Peace was officially agnostic on the matter of the 2005 Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. This position was much more a reflection of the unfortunate political toxicity of BDS in Jewish American circles than it was of any firm ideological opposition to the movement. Indeed, most of the members that I met at the 2013 national convention seemed to think that BDS was an important tool in the struggle for justice in Israel/Palestine and many were impatient with the lack of official support. Well the wait is over. In a succinct post on their website, JVP made it official:
“Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) endorses the call from Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) as part of our work for freedom, justice and equality for all people. We believe that the time-honored, non-violent tools proposed by the BDS call provide powerful opportunities to make that vision real.
We join with communities of conscience around the world in supporting Palestinians, who call for BDS until the Israeli government:
Ends its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantles the Wall; recognizes the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respects, protects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
In the long and varied history of Jewish experience, we are inspired by those who have resisted injustice and fought for freedom. We strive to live up to those values and extend that history. By endorsing the call, we make our hope real and our love visible and we claim our own liberation as bound with the liberation of all.
JVP is committed to supporting and organizing all kinds of powerful and strategic campaigns to secure a common future where Palestinians, Israeli Jews, and all the people of Israel/Palestine may live with dignity, security, and peace.”
At a recent screening of my film, A People Without A Land, at the Pasadena International Film Festival, I was asked about the path to a just one-state solution. As this solution is given more attention in my film than in any documentary that has come before it, I get the question a lot and sometimes from people who are disturbed by the isolationist ethos of the BDS movement. How can I, as a supporter of the one-state solution which requires that Jewish-Israelis and Palestinians work together, support the BDS movement in its attempts to isolate Israel? It’s a fair question and my answer is quite simple. At some point in the future, the hard work of reconciliation which includes dialogue, intentional listening, education, and cooperation will need to begin. But the time for such efforts is not now.
I started the American Jewish Peace Archive in order for Israeli-Palestinian peace activists today to know on whose shoulders they stand. My project is to collect their moments of travail and triumph as lessons for us today. I’ll begin with one of the few women activists during this period.
You’ve likely never heard of Rosalie Riechman Pressman, whose work in the early 70s reverberates today. She worked professionally for two secular groups: as a Washington lobbyist for the 100 year-old Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (1968-72) and as Middle East Peace Education Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee (1973-75). Rosalie was also active in Washington, DC with Jews for Urban Justice and Tzedek Tzedek (1968-73) and served on the national board of Breira (1973-77). How many peace activists today even recognize those organizations? Read more »
It is hard to recall an election whose outcome was as predictable as is the one coming up in a month. Despite the pundits’ desperate attempts to create some suspense, the chance that the center-left will be able to form a government is almost non-existent. All the movement is within the electoral blocs, and between them there is a permanent and conspicuous majority for the right and the ultra-Orthodox parties allied with them. Why, however, is this the case? The common wisdom connects it to Netanyahu’s political wiles, to the lack of leadership on the left, to the inability to raise the socio-economic issues, about which the Likud has no message, and to Netanyahu’s success in keeping the focus on the “security” issues.
All these excuses, however, are about tactics. The truth is much simpler and more depressing. Read more »
This is Mercaz’ get out the vote video in the elections for the upcoming World Zionist Congress. This video makes clear what elections are about. As Rabbi David Golinkin says (2:15 and on in the above video) its about the money. The more delegates Mercaz (or any other party) has in the WZC, the larger piece of the pie they get. This divides the pie equitably, in a representative fashion, amongst all the citizen groups in Israel. Oh right. Unless you are not Jewish. Or Zionist.
The WZC which was established before the the creation of the State of Israel, has—as bureaucratic organizations tend to do—refused to die even though there is a State of Israel. It is now a quasi-governmental forum of the quasi-governmental body, The Jewish Agency. The Jewish Agency funds settlements in Israel and in Palestine, and decides who can live in those settlements.
So, in sum, voting in the World Zionist Congress elections means participating in an organization which makes decisions that effect the entire population of the State of Israel, but, by definition excludes the Palestinian-Israeli population.
Why would I want to do that?
There has been much discussion about PM Netanyahu’s comment that he is coming to Washington to speak representing “the Jewish people” about the dangers of a nuclear Iran. This discussion is appropriate as it raises some interesting issues about Israel-Diaspora relations that require periodic re-thinking. Below I address some of them.
One claim that has been made is that if one agrees with the Law of Return, essentially that all Jews in the Diaspora are virtual Israeli citizens, the elected Prime Minister of Israel indeed represents, and can thus speak for, the entire Jewish People. If believing in the Law of Return means that every Jew in the Diaspora is required to see the elected PM of Israel as representing them, then I do not believe in the Law of Return. The Law of Return was instituted so that Israel can be a safe-haven for Jews under persecution and that I agree with. But I do not think it should be used as a tool to advantage Jews in the Diaspora while creating, or perpetuating, disadvantages to those already living in Israel (Jew or non-Jew).
Another argument cites sources from TANAKH that the King of Israel represented all Israelites/Jews. First, this is likely not true. I do not think the inhabitants of the Northern Israelite Kingdom believed the King of Judah represented them, and vice versa. In terms of the rabbinic sources about the centrality of Erez Yisrael, they are principally about the land and not its (Jewish) polity (which in rabbinic times did not exist). (Perhaps still the most comprehensive work on Erez Yisrael in classical sources is R. Yoel Teitelbaum’s “Ma’amar ‘al Erez Yisrael’ in his Vayoel Moshe. Regrettably, Zionists do not read this because they disagree with its conclusions.) Read more »