How do you identify someone as pro- or anti-Israel? In the name of Klal Yisrael, mainstream organizations sometimes have tried to stretch the bounds of reason to include groups whose hostility to Israel seems unrelenting.
The organizers of the New York City Celebrate Israel Parade say that any group that supports Israel as a Jewish and democratic state can participate in the parade. That is its litmus test to fit within the pro-Israel tent. Is this the appropriate standard to define a philo-Israel organization or individual in the early 21st century? In America, where we cherish our right to free speech, we are reluctant to silence anyone. This is as it should be.
But does that mean that Jewish groups should provide a platform to those who want to delegitimize and boycott the democratic state of Israel? The debate rages from the campus to the halls of some of our most recognizable and important organizations.
The Council of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations is considering J Street, the self-described pro-Israel, pro-peace movement, for membership.
Some say they belong based on their growing membership numbers, while others say their actions and associations put them more in the pro-Palestinian camp. Can an organization be pro-Israel if it receives significant funding from George Soros, a lifetime vehement critic of the Zionist experiment who has said he wants no involvement with Israel? Is he within the tent because he supports J Street? Is there or should there be a litmus test for any person or organization to be considered pro-Israel? J Street has not joined the boycott movement in its name, but it does sponsor events with those who do support boycotting Israel.
Some of the groups that have been criticized for inclusion in the 2014 Celebrate Israel Parade are trying to have it both ways on the boycott issue.
The New Israel Fund says it will not fund global BDS, but then says it “will not exclude support for organizations that discourage the purchase of goods or use of services from settlements.” Is there a different definition of a “boycott”? Criticism of Israel is certainly not the litmus test to determine whether someone is pro-Israel. I don’t know a single Israeli or supporter of Israel who does not have many valid criticisms of the current Israeli government.
Nor does opposing occupation of the disputed territories put one outside the tent.
There is one clear-cut litmus test that should be non-objectionable: those who delegitimize or challenge Israel’s right to exist because they disagree with the current democratically elected government should be well outside the tent. Just as neither a Democrat who dislikes a Republican administration nor a Republican who dislikes a Democratic administration would challenge America’s right to exist because of political disagreements, a patriotic Israeli should never question Israel’s legitimacy as a sovereign state.
The issue of boycotts is not about communities over the Green Line.
Boycott supporters hide behind the false façade of justice and equal rights, but their real agenda is about delegitimizing Israel’s right to exist as the homeland of the Jewish people.
Would the boycotts end if Israel unilaterally withdrew from Judea and Samaria? No, they would continue in the name of Israeli-Arab rights, Beduin rights, or anti-colonialism. Those who champion boycotts really support returning every descendent of an original refugee to Israel. The endgame is to demographically destroy Zionism and the Jewish homeland.
Even harsh critics of Israel like Roger Cohen of The New York Times question the motives of BDS.
“I do not trust the BDS movement.
Its stated aim is to end the occupation, secure ‘full equality’ for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and fight for the right of return of all Palestinian refugees. The first objective is essential to Israel’s future. The second is laudable. The third, combined with the second, equals the end of Israel as a Jewish state. This is the hidden agenda of BDS, its unacceptable subterfuge: beguile, disguise and suffocate.”
Should a parade that celebrates Israel welcome organizations that financially support groups that support boycotts against Israel? What if that organization does work that benefits the minority citizens of the region? If the pro-Israel community in America allows supporters of boycotts into the tent, how can we then legitimately criticize Europeans or their governments who have joined the boycott movement? I suggest a new litmus test. If you can endorse this statement, you certainly may remain a critic of Israel while well within the wide pro-Israel tent: “Wherever we stand, we stand with Israel, wherever we stand, we won’t stand for boycotts.”
The author is the founder and director of MEPIN, the Middle East Political and Information Network.