Wednesday, July 04, 2012

J Street, APN Speak Out Against Divestment

Two left-leaning American pro-Israel groups -- J Street and Americans for Peace Now -- have spoken out against a proposed divestment resolution currently being debated by the PCUSA. This isn't surprising -- both groups have been quite consistent in opposing BDS. But it matters because J Street and APN probably have the largest constituency of liberal Jewish groups, and are unimpeachable members of the pro-peace camp. Their position here at the very least gives lie to the notion that to be an organization which cares about a just Israeli/Palestinian peace means to support BDS. Indeed, as leaders from both groups emphasize, to cooperate with the BDS movement runs orthogonal to pursuing a just peace, as the BDS movement has long presented itself in opposition to any solution which allows Israel to preserve itself as a site for Jewish self-determination. Here's APN:
“We believe that divestment campaigns such as this are misguided and counterproductive," said APN President and CEO Debra DeLee. “By targeting Israel rather than the occupation, this divestment campaign creates the impression that PC (USA) is making common cause with historically virulently anti-Israel organizations and individuals, who are often not interested in Israeli security concerns or Palestinian behavior but in Israel’s destruction. Divestment campaigns such as this therefore raise very real and understandable worries about global anti-Semitism and the perception that the campaigns are not truly (or only) about Israeli policies but rather reflect a deep-seated hatred for and rejection of Israel."

And here's J Street:
I would say to the Church’s leaders as they again consider joining forces with the BDS Movement, that the Movement’s rhetoric and tactics are not only a distraction, but a genuine threat to conflict resolution. Even the limited divestment approach under consideration by PCUSA falls under the rubric of larger BDS efforts to place blame entirely on one side of the conflict. Such an approach encourages not reconciliation, but polarization. Further, too many in and around the BDS movement refuse to acknowledge either the legitimacy of Israel or the right of the Jewish people as well as the Palestinian people to a state,

Well-spoken by both. Incidentally, I just skipped over to the front pages of the ADL, AJC, and AIPAC, none of whom have anything about the PCUSA debate on their sites. I don't know what to think about this -- on the one hand, their silence belies the idea that this all the Nefarious Israel Lobby squelching all dissent in its path. On the other hand, the fact that these groups simply registering an opinion is the only prerequisite for such accusations can be made is itself emblematic of the problem -- the definition of "silencing" is when a Jew decides to speak and someone doesn't like what she has to say. There is nothing insidious or wrongful about Jewish organizations having opinions -- even (and I know this shocks) having opinions that major Christian denominations disagree with, even (and I know this shocks even more) having those opinions reflected in American policy. Jews, having influence and power when there are Christians who disagree with them? What is the world coming to, I wonder.

But I digress. The point is that, for whatever reason, it is left-wing, pro-peace Jews who are the most vocal in the opposition to PCUSA divestment, and they deserve credit for that. It's demonstrative that the liberal Jewish community -- which is to say, the majority of the Jewish community -- is easily able to straddle together the need for Israel to make hard choices to bring about peace, and the recognition that Israel is not the only problem here (but people who think that about Israel are a huge problem). J Street and APN -- which have far more clout and influence than fringe posers like the JVP -- are the real face of what a progressive, empathetic, and motivated concern for the future of Israel and Palestine looks like.

1 comment:

rshams said...

I think the reason that mainstream pro-Israel/Jewish orgs like AIPAC, ADL, and AJC have not regularly addressed BDS is because BDS is not a mainstream movement and isn't really a threat to Israel. Members of these orgs are generally in contact with mainstream political and business leaders, none of whom support BDS. It would be like Barack Obama or some prominent Democratic Senator criticize the Communist Party. There's simply no need to address an irrelevant entity.

However, I would also put forth that the reason more left-wing groups like APN and J Street feel the need to address the BDSers is that some of their members personally know BDS proponents and may have weighed the merits of BDS themselves. I recall there was a controversy during J Street's first conference regarding pro-boycott supporters who were on a panel there. J Street has moved somewhat to the center after that, for which it deserves credit. But the fact that they are addressing this issue in the first place demonstrates that they feel it is an issue worth taking seriously. Obviously, the more mainstream groups differ.