An American Jewish Revolution in the Fight Against BDS

The decision by the Celebrate Israel Parade to exclude groups supportive of BDS is a watershed moment for the American Jewish community. Now the New Israel Fund needs to stop playing dumb.

Matan Peleg

OpEds Matan Peleg
Matan Peleg
צילום: יח''צ

During an election period, which resembles a viral video competition on Facebook, it seems that the media’s radar in Israel gives up on stories that require even the slightest bit of analysis. When the message must be delivered in 90 seconds, you’re better off going with fast food.

And yet, a statement was released recently in New York that has the potential to affect and even to shape the entire Jewish community in the United States, now and in the future.

The statement I am referring to relates to the new general rules that were published by the organizers of the annual Celebrate Israel Parade. The statement declared that from now on any organization that supports the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, is involved in delegitimizing Israel, or does not recognize Israel as the Jewish state, will not be allowed to march in the parade. (See section 3 of the General Rules on page 2 of the registration form.)

To those of us sitting in Zion, this announcement doesn’t sound like any great earthshattering piece of news. But when it comes from a community that is fighting a daily battle against assimilation and increasing anti-Semitism, it isn’t a simple thing to expunge Jews from your own camp, regardless of what their opinions may be. This is even more true when the event being discussed is a parade that goes back over half a century (the first one was in 1964), and since its inception has been characterized as a meeting place for diverse political camps who have one thing in common: a love for Israel.

This time, it appears that something important has changed. The Zionist event’s organizers realized once and for all, that in the long term it is saving the entire Jewish community from assimilation, even if in the short term the parade loses several dozen participants who believe that promoting a boycott against Israel is in Israel’s best interests (which sounds an awful lot like mercy killing).

The State of Israel today is the ideological anchor and the physical embodiment of a people and a faith that are thousands of years old. Without the State of Israel, there will arguably be no more world Jewry. Without a Jewish identity, there will certainly be no State of Israel.

Just as man landing on the moon bought humanity at least another 1,000 years, the new rules of the Celebrate Israel Parade bought years of national Jewish existence to the US Jewish community and tied itself to the classic Zionist idea of the Jewish state.

There is no way to play dumb on this development and its implications.This entire process began due to the growing struggle regarding parade participation between Zionist groups, who have been vociferously speaking out against the New Israel Fund (NIF), and NIF-funded organizations.

Many have seen the NIF’s participation in the parade as the core essence of the dangerous threat the NIF poses to Israel – the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. On the one hand, the NIF cries that they “love Israel!” while on the other hand, millions of NIF dollars go toward supporting some of the most active and vociferous organizations that de-legitimize Israel, work toward increasing international pressure on Israel, persecute IDF soldiers all over the world, and strive to erase the Jewish identity of the State of Israel.

Of course, the New Israel Fund is playing dumb. They appear confused that some would make a connection between the NIF and the decision made by the event’s organizers, but their argument does not stand up. The fact is that more and more people in the United States now realize that supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, promoting de-legitimization efforts against Israel and objecting to Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, will eventually bring about that same result.

The stakes are therefore high, and this is the only real and important issue to be discussed. Once this is fully appreciated, the debate immediately strips all semblance of legitimacy from the New Israel Fund itself.

Now, all that is left is to wait and see, what will the New Israel Fund do when registration opens for the upcoming Zionist parade? Will the NIF state that it categorically supports Israel as a Jewish state? Perhaps the NIF will renounce its affiliation with B’Tselem, Adalah and Breaking the Silence? Will the leopard be able to change its spots?

The real story here, however, is not the New Israel Fund. It is the Jewish community in the United States. A community which perhaps realizes now more than ever that without a strong, Jewish identity, the State of Israel will cease to exist.

And anyone who doesn’t support this strong identity is not a Zionist, and is clearly not pro-Israel.