Op-Ed: The Changing of the Guards at Celebrate Israel Parade
It is Israel who will decide whom she defines as a friend and whom she defines as an enemy,
The "Celebrate Israel Parade" known in the past as the "Israel Day Parade" will be marching June 1st for its 50th consecutive year, but it is now under the shadow of its allowing the participation of Jewish groups and Jewish organizations that assist and support the economic and political boycott of Israel.
Under the leadership of UJA Federation of NY, this event, which has always been solidly pro-Israel, has evolved into the latest ideological battleground between the classic Jewish liberal circles which have dominated American Jewry since the Holocaust and the growing coalition of secular and religious leaders, organizations and synagogues who refuse to support an unspoken and immoral policy of “selection” - a kind of “gentleman’s agreement” that has legitimized the division of the Jews of Israel and of Israel itself into two distinct groups, good Jews and bad Jews.
The raging debate between UJA-NY and this emerging coalition of Jewish groups centers on their demand for accountability, rejecting the insistence of UJA-NY to define organizations that support the boycott of Israel as pro-Israel.
At the core of this raging debate on the New York Jewish scene is the major shift underway in the historic relationship between the State of Israel and American Jewish leadership. It is also a consequence of Israel’s emerging role as the center of world Jewry and Jewish identity.
As a result of significant demographic changes in recent years, Jewry is in the process of a changing of the guards.
During Israel’s formative years, Israeli Prime Ministers were dependent on American Jewish leaders to open doors to the White House and to Capitol Hill, but those days are gone. With Israel now having the largest concentration of Jews in the world, and with Israel having become a military, economic, and technological powerhouse, it is Israel who will decide whom she defines as a friend and whom she defines as an enemy.
UJA-Federation NY can no longer impose policy decisions that are unacceptable to the democratically elected political leadership of Israel and to non-Federation affiliated agencies and organizations active in the New York scene, such as: Americans for Peace and Tolerance, the Endowment for Middle East Truth, JCC Watch, the National Conference on Jewish Affairs, The National Council of Young Israel, Coalition for Israel, Young Israel of Kew Gardens, Jewish Action Alliance, Never Again is Now and the Jewish Political Education Foundation.
UJA-NY leaders can no longer remain indifferent to the vocal and public call for calling a spade a spade and rejecting the inclusion of those organizations that support anti-Israel activities - such as the boycotting Israel - into their “big tent”.
When a group claims to be a supporter of Israel, yet adopts actions to boycott Israel and tries to force this opinion on other organizations, it should be considered completely unacceptable.
For the past decade and a half, the left-wing of the Israeli political map has consistently and repeatedly lost every election with Prime Minister Netanyahu becoming the dominant political leader and the Likud becoming the major governing political party over this period.
The leaders of UJA-Federation of NY seem to be ignoring these significant political changes and how they have altered the historic relationship between American Jewry and the State of Israel. It can no longer premised on a one-way relationship.
American Jewish leaders, powerful and influential as they are and despite having the close attention of the New York Times and the media industry, as a whole feed into the adoption of a viewpoint that supports the inclusion of organizations that support boycotts, divestments, and sanctions against the State of Israel, but can no longer impose their outdated ideological beliefs.
Furthermore, these same Jewish leaders are expressing and adopting a narrative that is driven by the Palestinian Arab side of the conflict, even though most of the Palestinian Arab narrative has been proven to be historically incorrect, ignoring Israel’s legitimate claims of sovereignty based on historical, political, and religious grounds.
They should be reminded that they do not represent American public opinion and equally do not represent American Jewish public opinion. What they do represent is a dismal attempt by the Liberal left to keep Jews in line and support ideas and policies that are no longer relevant to the changing and dynamic geo-strategic reality in today’s global environment.
We who oppose the inclusion of organizations that support the boycott of Israel believe in the need for a peace process, yet we also understand that most Jews who once enthusiastically backed the peace process have lost interest in chasing after the Palestinian Arabs and begging them to accept a two-state solution. The Palestinian Arabs, having turned down three offers of an independent state in 2000, 2001 and 2008, have been proven unwilling to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn.
In Israel, the public understands that boycotts, sanctions, and divestment are about mainstreaming and legitimizing the hatred of Israel no less than they are about economic strangulation. Yet UJA-NY leaders seem to be unwilling to understand what the public in Israel understands and to internalize the meaning of laws that the Knesset of Israel legislated in 2011.
The Knesset passed the anti-boycott law which allows all Israeli entities to sue groups calling for boycotts against them for civil damages, and bars such groups from participating in state tenders.
We have yet to hear the final word on UJA-NY's decision to invite organizations that support the boycott of Israel to the approaching parade. In the coming weeks, the Jewish Agency, the Minister of Diaspora Affairs, and the Foreign Ministry - who are at the forefront of the changing of the guards - are evaluating the issues raised concerning the Celebrate Israel Parade and are considering the adoption of guidelines and recommendations along the lines of the legislation passed by the Knesset of Israel.