Rabbi Fighting to Boot NIF from NYC Israel Parade

Rabbi David Algaze urges American Jews not to ignore the 'infiltration' of orgs like the New Israel Fund into Celebrate Israel Parade.

Ari Soffer,

Former MK Nissim Zeev, Rabbi David Algaze, Dr. Paul Brody
Former MK Nissim Zeev, Rabbi David Algaze, Dr. Paul Brody
Tamara Studios Today

The controversial decision by the Israeli Consulate in New York to allow the far-left New Israel Fund (NIF) - which favors boycotts of Jews living in Judea and Samaria - to participate in the upcoming NYC Celebrate Israel Parade has triggered a flurry of criticism from local Jewish and pro-Israel groups.

Prominent Manhattan Rabbi David Algaze branded the decision "a slap in the face" for activists and local supporters of Israel, and accused the Consulate of caving in to pressure.

The NIF funds a wide range of far-left and Arab groups, many of which are openly hostile to the State of Israel.

NIF gained notoriety during the one-sided 2009 Goldstone Report which attacked the IDF for its conduct during Operation Cast Lead against Gazan terrorists, while largely ignoring war crimes committed by Hamas and other Islamist groups. Shortly after the hyper-critical report was published, it was revealed that the vast majority of NGOs which had provided material to incriminate Israel were NIF grantees.

In an oped last year for the JTA, NIF's head of communications openly backed a boycott of Jewish goods from Judea and Samaria, leading many to insist her group was clearly beyond the pale.

But others have countered that the annual Celebrate Israel Parade should be an opportunity for unity without regard for political opinions, and that as such the NIF should be allowed to march.

Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Rabbi Algaze, who is leading a campaign to ban the radical group from the parade, explained why he felt such opinions "miss the point completely."

"Of course I welcome every group which supports Israel to march in the parade," regardless of their religious or political color, he said, "but no, I do not want groups which do not support Israel there."

"So the question is: Do these groups actually support Israel?"

The answer, he insisted, is a clear no.

Noting that the NIF and its affiliated groups "spend all their time attacking Israel publicly," he insisted that under any definition of "pro-Israel" they fall far short.

"There may be people who genuinely believe these groups support Israel in whatever they do - but support needs to be an objective thing, not some subjective opinion.

"A group which boycotts Israel at all - anywhere, limited or not - is giving support to the very concept that Israel needs to be disciplined or reprimanded or curbed, and forced to act in the way they want it to.

"They can say, and they do, that their actions are 'in the best interests of Israel' - but that is a matter of opinion. 

"But what is clear is that if you spend all your time attacking Israel that's not pro-Israel."

Rabbi Algaze emphasized that he wasn't at all opposed to left-wing groups taking part in the parade - but drew a clear distinction between internal, legitimate discussion about Israeli policy and turning to foreign, often hostile audiences to exert outside pressure on the democratically-elected Israeli government. 

In particular, attempting to pass off boycotts targeting Jewish Israelis as "pro-Israel" is "absurd," Rabbi Algaze fired.

"The boycott of Israel has degrees of one to one hundred," he said. "If you boycott Israel to degree one it might not be as bad as one hundred, but it's part of the same category.

"And then where do you draw the line?" he asked.

"At the end of the day, you are aiding and abetting the principle that Israel needs to be coerced, that Israel is a child that needs to be disciplined because it doesn't know what its doing - or worse, that Israel needs to be brought to its knees and destroyed."

So why does he think the Israeli Consulate decided to support the NIF's inclusion?

Rabbi Algaze admits he doesn't know for sure, but says he suspects it has a lot to do with the Israeli foreign ministry being wary of alienating wealthy Jewish leaders and organizations by taking sides in what it views - mistakenly, in his opinion - as a purely local Jewish dispute.

"My greatest pain in all this is that money is corrupting the minds of Jewish leaders in America, and we have to be aware of who's giving money and why.

"The Jewish community leaders are bought, and we don't know what financial pressure is being put on the parade's sponsors to make sure they don't 'malign' these groups that are acting against Israel. The Consul might just be taking their lead.

"But I am an independent person so I can say what I want."

Rabbi Algaze also lamented that "ignorance and indolence" on the part of many American Jews at a grassroots level was hindering any debate over extremist groups such as the NIF "infiltrating" the pro-Israel camp to further an "essentially anti-Israel" agenda.

"Although the silent majority are opposed to them taking part in the parade, they don't want to cause trouble so they try to ignore it and hope nobody else will see them," he lamented.

But Rabbi Algaze warned that ignoring such groups simply allowed them to further promote their discourse.

"They are trying to change the language in order to change the reality," he said of far-left groups such as the NIF and other similar organizations such as J Street. "They need to be confronted."

"When language is prostituted like this, we can't speak the same language. When boycotting Israel is supporting Israel we can't speak the same language.

"I don't want the parade to be cancelled - not at all! But we need an open and honest discussion about why we still call these people supporters of Israel given what they do.

"If you or the groups you are funding go around the world telling everyone how terrible Israel is that is not an act of support - it's an act of aggression!"