I was marching as I do every year at the Celebrate Israel parade with the Progressive cluster. Despite a loud and nasty campaign to keep us out of the parade we marched proudly under the banner of New Israel Fund, T’ruah, Partners for Progressive Israel and Americans for Peace Now. Celebrating the inspiring Israeli human rights organizations and the fight in Israel for social and economic justice and the end of the occupation.
And with the exception of a few right wing zealots booing us along the way, we had a great day!
Anyone stumbling on this parade by chance could mistakenly confuse this parade as a peace march. The theme of the parade this year was “Israel imagines”. And so many chose to imagine peace. Many of the t-shirts and banners had doves and slogans of peace. Even right wing organizations like Stand With Us imagined peace.
But in today’s reality the word peace in Israel has become a dirty word. Those who are working to bring peace, and not just imagining it, are easily demonized and marginalized. In reality as Jane Eisner wrote in the Forward: “public display of Israel affection is increasingly the domain of the Orthodox.” In reality the American Jewish outcry against 47 years of occupation is faint.
The best example of this was the IAC Celebrate Israel Festival across town that happened on the same day. The Israeli American Council – IAC launched an unprecedented (long overdue) national effort to organize the Israeli-American community around education and culture. But it is doing so with Sheldon Adelson’s gambling money, so it has a strong political component. In the IAC national conference last year bashing our president was a dominant and popular theme.
Last week the CEO of the IAC found it appropriate to question liberal American Jews and their loyalty and commitment to Israel by telling The Jewish week: “we’re not fully convinced (J Street supporters) are pro-Israel.” Later he told Haaretz that “We are bipartisan, both left and right.”
Being a liberal and pro Israel is somehow questionable but being conservative is considered “bipartisan.” I hope this is not the future of the pro Israel community.
If the Israeli government won’t be challenged by the American Jewish community it will be impossible to even imagine peace in future parades.
Here are more of my photos from the parade: