To admit or not to admit to the community's representative umbrella organisation a bona fide Jewish organisation which happens to profess opinions that militate against the broadly accepted Jewish communal ethos?
That is the thorny question that's bedevilled more than one Western Jewish community in recent years.
Take, for example, the case of the Australian Jewish Democratic Society
(AJDS). which successfully applied for membership of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) –
formerly known as the Victorian Jewish Board of Deputies(VJBD) –
despite a radical leftist agenda unrepresentative of that of the Victorian Jewish community (and for that matter the Australian Jewish community) as a whole. Thus the AJDS is an affiliate of the JCCV, which is in its turn a constituent of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ).
The admission of the AJDS (slogan: "A progressive voice among Jews and a Jewish voice among progressives") was doubtless not without much soul searching and many misgivings on the part of JCCV delegates, but, so (as I understand the matter) the persuasive argument went, in a democratic, pluralistic community the AJDS could not be refused membership on any acceptable grounds.
The AJDS still remains an affiliate, despite ( to the ire and dismay of many in what remains a deeply Zionist community)
its avowed support
since August 2010 of a "selected BDS actions, a position taken subsequent to its initial admission to the JCCV:
'The resolution ... rejected the Palestinian civil society version of Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS):
“The AJDS is opposed to any Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign aimed at the breadth of Israeli economic, cultural or intellectual activity”. The AJDS only supports “selected BDS actions designed to bring about an end to the Israeli occupation, blockade and settlement on Palestinian lands lying outside of the June 1967 Israeli borders.”
Unlike the rejected Palestinian full BDS, the AJDS wants to concentrate on those who profit from this very occupation. An example given in the resolution is of boycotting “settlement products”. In this way the AJDS’s stance is similar to that taken recently by the National Council of Churches in Australia. Like the churches, the AJDS has not endorsed some of the other aims of the Palestinian BDS such as the Palestinian Right of Return.
While not reversing the AJDS’s long-term opposition to blanket academic boycotts, the AJDS envisages boycotting “specific Israeli academics openly supportive of the Occupation.” The organisation made it plain that nevertheless decision on any action would still need to be taken on a case-by-case basis.
The AJDS is opposed to any Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign aimed at the breadth of Israeli economic, cultural or intellectual activity. However, the AJDS does support selected BDS actions designed to bring about an end to the Israeli occupation, blockade and settlement on Palestinian lands lying outside of the June 1967 Israeli borders. Such limited and focused BDS support might include boycotts of settlement products and divestment from military Research and Development (R&D) and boycott of industrial/military activities unrelated to Israel’s defence and security. It might also include selected sanctions or boycotts against specific Israeli academics openly supportive of the Occupation.
The AJDS will make any decisions on these matters on a case-by-case basis, and exercise its judgement as to the political/social cost-benefits of any such actions before granting specific endorsement or approval....'
See the ADJS's latest mischief-making here
The question "to admit or not to admit" was faced by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations earlier this year, when the controversial, professedly Zionist, J Street', founded by Peter Beinart, was rejected
for admission to that body, J Street being widely seen as having an agenda that seriously undermines Israel.
Last Sunday (16 November) Britain's version of J Street, Yachad
, founded by Hannah Weisfeld, was admitted to membership of the British Board of Deputies by 135:61 votes, achieving the required two-thirds majority by the narrow margin of five votes. Apparently, of the five members of the Board execitive, only Board vice-president Jonathan Arkush, voted against admission.
Now, since the Board is officially described as “the voice of British Jewry: a
cross-communal, democratic, grassroots organization, and thus the
authoritative first port of call for Government, media and others seeking
to understand Jewish community interests and concerns” this result, like that admitting the AJDS to the JCCV, was a victory for communal pluralism.
But is it a wise and worthy decision?
Stalwart pro-Israel activist Jonathan Hoffman (pictured), who's both a member of the Board and of the Zionist Federation, has no doubt about the answer to that question.
I reproduce his speech to the Deputies in full:
'So the Constitution Committee thinks that Yachad is “beneficial to the interests of the community”. Nonsense. The welfare of Israel is at the heart of our interests. Indeed our Constitution requires us to "advance Israel's security, welfare and standing." Yachad is the very antithesis of this. Far from advancing Israel’s security, welfare and standing, it undermines it at every opportunity. Let me give you just four examples:
Example One: Yachad’s main activity in Israel is arranging trips into Judea and Samaria with a group called ‘Breaking the Silence’, which does nothing but denigrate and badmouth the IDF, without ever mentioning the terrorists that threaten Israel every day. Here is an account of one person who went on the trip:
"Our leader subjected us to a litany of accusations against Israel. I have studied the conflict and most of his accusations were new to me and did not ring true. Some of his statements I knew to be false. For example he said that the most aggressive act of the PA was in a speech at the UN – But I knew that Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigade – under the direct authority of the PA - had carried out acts of terrorism and that the PA has incited terrorism ever since it was created. Hannah Weisfeld mentioned further talks that Yachad is doing on "the legality of the occupation". Of course Israel’s presence on the West Bank is not illegal – but Weisfeld just wanted to put into our minds the thought that it is. She calls Yachad "pro-Israel pro-Peace" but her intention is to reduce the support of British Jews for Israel, and to get Israel out of the West Bank, even as the PA and all Palestinian movements call for Israel's destruction. If Israel withdrew, the level of violence would increase dramatically. It would also kill any chance of a two state solution. In my opinion she is committed to undermining support for Israel and her commitment to a two state solution is a sham. Her slogan "Pro Israel Pro Peace" is pure propaganda, as seen in George Orwell's 1984."
Not my words – The words of someone who went on a Yachad trip.
Example Two: Yachad supported the UN upgrade to Palestinian status – which was opposed by Israel and every other western country. Every truly pro-Israel organisation believes that negotiations are the only way forward. By wanting to give the Palestinians access to the International Court and to the UN with its inbuilt majority against Israel, Yachad’s action posed a threat to Israel’s security. So does Yachad’s support for the immediate creation of a Palestinian State. Can you imagine how much worse the summer bombardment of Israel would have been, if Yachad had its way, and Palestine was a country, no doubt governed by Hamas, with weapons still more threatening than the missiles which even now can reach Haifa? A month ago we were lobbying MPs to vote against a Palestinian State. To now admit an organisation wanting an immediate Palestinian State would be a complete nonsense.
Example Three: Yachad has never condemned a boycott of Israeli goods.
Example Four: Yachad makes no effort to explain how Hamas targets Israeli civilians. Yachad portrays the Security Fence only as something which harms the Palestinians. Yachad is silent when it comes to the number of Israeli lives the Fence has saved.
To those of you who say that “we need to embrace Jewish organisations with whom we might disagree”, I ask where are your red lines? Would you support membership for Jews for Justice for Palestinans? Or Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods? Surely those organisations are beyond the pale? Well so is Yachad.
No – it is not simply that we ‘might disagree’ with Yachad. It is much worse than that. Yachad blatantly violates our Constitutional obligation to support Israel.
To those who say that rejecting Yachad will damage the standing of the Board, I respond with the example of J-Street in the US. J-Street was rejected for membership of the US Conference of Presidents. Far from damaging the standing of the Conference, it enhanced it in the eyes of many. Here the ZF rejected Yachad’s membership. Has it damaged the ZF’s standing? Of course not. The ZF’s standing has never been higher. The ZF’s rally during the Gaza operation to support Israel attracted thousands.
I urge you to vote ‘no’ to Yachad membership of the Board. At this time – above all times – Israel needs support from the Diaspora. The last thing Israel needs is the vilification, denigration and falsehoods routinely seen from Yachad."
A powerful speech indeed!
But sadly not persuasive.
Perhaps Mr Hoffman should have reminded his listeners of the ancient proverb widely, though apparently erroneously, attributed to Euripides:
"Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad."
Meanwhile, against the backdrop of the evil attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem, involving an axe among other weapons, that has left four rabbis dead
, the following photo, proclaiming "This is the way from now on", is being widely distributed on Palestinian social media:
(Hat tip: M.Z.)
And then there's this: