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Historic BDS debate in Zeek

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 demo-

nization, 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.

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Historic BDS debate in Zeek


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