By Jesse Bacon
Zeek, the artsy hipstery Jewish journal, published two long pieces on BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) for what I assume is the first time. This bold move plants the movement squarely within the more creative portion of the Jewish establishment, at least as a topic of conversation. This suggests that the effort to make any discussion, as opposed to demonization, of BDS taboo has backfired. It is the BDS-demonizers who find themselves increasingly having a conversation with themselves.
Iff you saw my credit at the end of JVP Executive Director (and Forward 50 honoree!) Rebecca Vilkomerson’s piece, or if you have read any of my own work, it should be no surprise where my sympathies lie. The surprises are only that the New Israel Fund managed to make an anti-BDS case without the use of epithets or smears. This is not so surprising when you consider the record of the New Israel Fund, who we have extolled several time on these pages. But it is sadly the exception among Jewish organizations when discussing BDS, so much so that BDS supporters in Olympia felt compelled to issue an open letter to their opponents asking them to refrain from such tactics.
As for the New Israel Fund’s actual arguments I am, unsurprisingly, less impressed. While the invest in Peace initiatives are perhaps worthy on their own terms, it is hard to see how they will overturn the juggernaut that is the Israeli land grab. And then there’s this curious conclusion:
Not a Dead Armadillo
Recently, an NIF board member was invited to speak at a panel in a community whose food co-op was considering a boycott of all Israeli products. Literally positioned between Stand With Us and Code Pink, she described our work and the alternatives to global BDS offered by the New Israel Fund and other pro-Israel, progressive organizations. At the end of the night, she was literally embraced by several audience members, who were urgently looking for ways to live their progressive values without shunning Israel as a pariah state, beyond redemption.
While it is nice that their supporters hugged them for providing a “moderate” alternative, New Israel Fund owes its supporters, of which I am one, a program that is capable of actually achieving its goals. New Israel Fund’s grantees are the best hope for Israeli democracy, but without an internationally engaged BDS movement they are badly outgunned in a quite literal fashion. I hope that New Israel Fund will come to see that, but I welcome being friendly adversaries with them on this question. If only all groups were engaged in sucha good faith effort to determine the most ethical and effective way to support freedom and equality in Israel-Palestine.