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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Rally at UJA-Federation headquarters takes BDS issue to the door of the American Jewish establishment

There was a rally outside the UJA-Federation offices in New York on Tuesday to protest the scheduled presence of groups supporting the BDS (Boycott Divest Sanction) movement in the Salute to Israel Day Parade on June 1.

Here's a press release I received about the rally.
NEW YORK, April 8, 2014 – A rally held today at the headquarters of the UJA-Federation spoke truth to Jewish power in no uncertain terms.

Speaker after speaker called on the UJA and JCRC to disallow three BDS-supporting Jewish organizations to march in the upcoming Celebrate Israel Parade, and brought forth compelling evidence that the three offending organizations deserve not only to be barred from marching in the parade, but also deserve to be kept out of the “big tent” of Jewish communal life.

Organized by JCC Watch, National Conference on Jewish Affairs, and Americans for a Safe Israel, the days leading up to the event sparked discussion and controversy that has spread from New York to Los Angeles, London and Tel Aviv. Helen Freedman of Americans for a Safe Israel introduced many of the speakers.

She spoke about the fact that all of the protesters respect and admire the humanitarian and social service work of the UJA and JCRC, but that it is also vital to Israel's survival and the well-being of the Jewish People that the BDS issue -- including Jewish support for BDS -- be addressed publicly.

Mark Langfan spoke of his respect and admiration for the protesters who came out to the rally. He discussed many of the security concerns of Israel, and how the BDS movement harms the Jewish State and puts Jews in jeopardy.

Rabbi David Algaze spoke at length about the skewed values of those in the Jewish community supporting anti-Israel activities and the Hamas-backed BDS movement, and also strongly took to task those in major Jewish organizations who are not vocal enough to speak out publicly and clearly against the BDS movement. "The decision by the JCRC and UJA is neither democratic nor Jewish. It is not democratic because the organizers in allowing these boycotters to March they are ignoring the feelings of the predominant majority of those who participate and attend the Parade. It is not Jewish because Judaism has many values but suicide and self hatred are not among them."

Beth Gilinsky, president of Jewish Action Alliance and founder of the National Conference on Jewish Affairs, an umbrella of pro-Israel, pro-America Jewish leaders, gave a rousing speech about not just the parade controversy, but also about the BDS movement in general. She addressed the real-life impact of BDS here in the United States and England on college campuses, across Europe where Jews are being targeted in violent attacks, and in Israel.

She asserted that while some people believe BDS is just a grassroots effort of a few Arab activists who desire a Palestinian Arab state, in reality it is linked to and driven by radical Islamist organizations such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood that are bent on Israel’s destruction. After asserting that BDS attempts to denigrate and demonize Israel and is, in fact an anti-Semitic movement aimed at dehumanizing Jews, she addressed establishment accusations that opposition to Jewish BDS groups in the parade was pitting Jew vs. Jew, firing back with: “Jewish participation in the Hamas-backed BDS movement is the epitome of Jew vs. Jew! “

Responding to assertions that criticizing the establishment organizations creates “disunity” in the community and hurts Israel, Gilinsky stated: “In the name of unity, we are being asked to allow destructive forces to threaten our fellow Jews. NO, we are Jews FOR Jews. We are here to proclaim that we stand in solidarity with Israel, and that includes Judea and Samaria, and we are here to fight FOR the victims being targeted by BDS aggression.”

A Member of the Israeli Knesset was present, MK Nissim Zeev, and he spoke with full support for all of Yehuda and Shomron and spoke of the Yehuda and Shomron being the heart of the Jewish people and Eretz Yisrael.

Richard Allen, founder of JCC Watch, took on the UJA directly, calling out “DO NOT SUPPORT BDS!” to UJA-Federation employees and leaders as they left the building, and saving particular criticism for John Ruskay. “Under John Ruskay’s leadership of the UJA-Federation, the Celebrate Israel Day Parade has invited groups to march that actively call for a Boycott of Israeli Companies. Under front names like Partners for Progressive Israel, New Israel Fund and B'Tselem these groups organize and work against the Jewish State.

"It is shameful that the UJA Federation and the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) are supporting the New Israel Fund in their efforts to delegitimize and fund Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel," continued Allen, an active member of the Pro-Israel Parade Committee. "It's time the UJA Federation stop supporting radical groups that work for BDS against Israel. If the BDS supporting groups are allowed to march, we will call for posters and leaflets on the day of the parade.”

Coalition for Israel founder Howard Weber, spoke eloquently about BDS and the peace process. “For those passers by asking what "BDS" stands for, it means "Blind, Deaf and Stupid’--"Blind to the fact that the reason Mr. Kerry can't obtain a peace agreement has nothing to do with the Jews living on less than 3% of the West Bank, but rather, as Mr. Abbas bluntly put it, the non-recognition of Israel as a Jewish State. "Deaf" to the pleadings of the Palestinian Authority and Mr. Abbas who urge BDS not to boycott Israeli goods since the factories producing them employ West Bank Arabs who enjoy much higher wages and standard of living than their Arab brothers. And finally, "Stupid" because they have decided the best way to put forth their political ideology is by economically crippling Israel.

He continued: “Is this the ‘Celebrate Israel Parade’? or is it the ‘Denigrate Israel Parade’? ”

Dr. Paul Brody of the Great Neck-based Jewish Political Education Foundation (JPEF), said that there is a difference between "opinions and destruction." "Our group is opposed to Israel's relinquishing sovereignty over any of our Biblical Land. But, in terms of marching in the parade, there are individuals and groups who support all sorts of solutions with which we disagree. However, calling for boycotts, divestments and sanctions should be a redline."

Buddy Macy, a founder of Never Again is Now, spoke of his family’s involvement with raising funds for Federation, and stated, “It is called the Celebrate Israel Parade. However, 364 days a year, Partners for Progressive Israel, B’Tselem and the New Israel Fund not only do not celebrate Israel, they lambast and work against her by promoting the boycott of products produced by Israeli companies and/or fund organizations that boycott Israeli products. In other words, these three organizations embrace the narrative created by Israel’s enemies, who are intent on destroying the Jewish State.

What is equally absurd and potentially more dangerous, is that the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, under the watchful eye of the UJA-Federation of New York, provides a platform for those organizations to gain respect and esteem among the hundreds of thousands of parade goers. Make no mistake about it: we will not permit enemies of Israel to become role models for the Jewish people…especially, for our youth.

Julian Rapaport, from the Russian Jewish community, stated: “We are joining the voices of protest against the participation of BDS-connected groups in the Celebrate Israel Parade. We know from history that the Nazi Holocaust began with the boycotting of Jewish stores. Our group sticks tightly to the principle: NEVER AGAIN! We are calling on the UJA to modify and clarify its controversial policy and guidelines to make sure that participation in the Israel Day Parade, as expected, means to strengthen the State of Israel and the Jewish community, not weaken them.”

Rabbi Aryeh Spero, whose two hard-hitting articles in Jewish newspapers created a stir this past week, stated today in response to the rally: “Promoters of BDS do not love Israel, and through their boycotts wish to harm Israel and its people. And the acceptance by the establishment Jewish community of these groups reflects a perverse form of Jewish suicide. “

The rally organizers expressed special thanks to the National Council of Young Israel for their endorsement of the rally. A representative of Endowment for Middle East Truth addressed the crowd, emphasizing the importance of continued activism and pressure on the UJA and JCRC to do the right thing, as well as the importance of bringing the community’s attention to the truths about BDS in America and abroad.

Endorsing organizations of this rally were: JCC Watch, Jewish Action Alliance, AFSI, Z Street, National Conference on Jewish Affairs, Endowment for Middle East Truth, Americans for Peace and Tolerance, Ha-Emet, Coalition for Israel, National Council of Young Israel, International Committee for the Land of Israel, Jewish Political Education Foundation, IsraelLives.org, Amcha Initiative, and Never Again is Now.
I could not agree more. 

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