A Letter to Detroit’s Walk for Israel Steering Committee [ssba]

A Letter to Detroit’s Walk for Israel Steering Committee

This is the letter Partners for Progressive Israel submitted along with our Petition to Detroit’s Walk for Israel organizers, Ms Orly Zinkow of AIPAC and Andre Douville, the Executive Director of Temple Shir Shalom.

The support we received was phenomenal. We want to thank everyone who signed. We were particularly touched by the comments. Your support means the world to us.  Read More »

Why Detroit’s “Walk for Israel” excludes progressives? [ssba]

Why Detroit’s “Walk for Israel” excludes progressives?

May is a celebratory month for supporters of Israel: Israel’s Independence Day, the Israel Day Parade in New York, and smaller Walks for Israel in cities all over the United States. Detroit is one such city poised to host its eleventh annual Walk for Israel.

We at Partners for Progressive Israel wished to join this year’s Walk for Israel in Detroit. But for the second consecutive year the Detroit Walk for Israel steering committee unilaterally decided to prevent us and Americans for Peace Now from participating. They say their mission is to “unite the metropolitan Detroit community to celebrate the establishment of the modern Jewish State of Israel and support its right to live in peace and security.” So why are they dividing the community by deeming who is and isn’t an adequate supporter of Israel’s “right to live in peace and security?” Read More »

If I am Not for Myself, etc. (Thoughts on AHA Vote) [ssba]

If I am Not for Myself, etc.  (Thoughts on AHA Vote)

Over the weekend, I attended the American Historical Association (AHA) annual convention in Atlanta.  Historians, as a rule, are not a particularly raucous bunch, and the 3,500 or so historians generally went about their business quietly, delivering papers, buying books, trying to cadge free food at various receptions, and the like. But there was one exciting moment.

At the business meeting, there was a vote on a resolution introduced by an organization called Historians Against the War (HAW) condemning Israeli interference with higher education and academic freedom on the West Bank and Gaza, and calling on the AHA to “monitor” Israel’s behavior.  This resolution was tailored to garner as much support as possible, and unlike earlier resolutions introduced by HAW, it did not explicitly call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.  Still, it was an attempt to get the AHA on record against Israel’s educational policies, and perhaps use it as a toehold from which to launch stronger BDS resolutions. Read More »

Chanukah, Trump and Refugees (Syrians and Jews) [ssba]

Chanukah, Trump and Refugees (Syrians and Jews)

Chanukah seems like a good time to reflect upon things that have been in the news lately — including phenomena that parallel Jewish experiences.  Whereas the Joseph story in this week’s Torah reading (Parshat Miketz) is clouded in Biblical legend — because its historical accuracy is unknown — Chanukah is based on real historical events; the Maccabees’ revolt against the Syrian-Greek Seleucid dynasty did happen.

But while we like to think of it as a struggle for freedom and religious liberty, this is only partly true. It was a national revolt that eventually created the Kingdom of Judea under the rule of the Hasmonean dynasty.  It was also a “clash of civilizations,” with traditional Jews triumphing over the Hellenists (Jews and Syrians) who ruled in Jerusalem; and so it was likewise a civil war among Jews. Read More »

Netanyahu Partitions Israel [ssba]

Netanyahu Partitions Israel

Yesterday, November 29, the world marked two events: the 68th anniversary of the UN Partition of Palestine decision and the International day of Solidarity with the people of Palestine. At a moment suspended between symbolism and irony, PM Netanyahu retaliated yesterday for the EU decision to mark products made in the Occupied Territories by announcing the suspension of EU role in peace process with Palestinians.

A senior official at the Foreign Ministry argued that the EU decision is “a discriminatory step that smells of a boycott” and added that “it is inconceivable that Israel will hold dialogue with EU institutions on how to advance a peace process while the EU simultaneously initiates measures against Israel.” Israel, the official said, “will examine each case individually with the guiding principle of making sure Israel’s interest vis-à-vis Europe and EU nations are not harmed.”

In wake of the Paris attacks, while the world raises its eyes to the Paris Climate talks, acknowledging that discussion and collaboration are the only ways forward, Israel does not. Instead, PM Netanyahu throws his toys at the EU and refuses to play.

Read More »

Avnery & Burg on terror; Israelis as ‘migrants into power’ [ssba]

Avnery & Burg on terror; Israelis as ‘migrants into power’

My thanks to Lilly Rivlin for sharing two interesting pieces (by Uri Avnery and Avraham Burg) on the current waves of terror hitting Europe and Israel. I begin with Avnery’s “The Reign of Absurdiocy.”

As usual, Avnery combines elements of sharp insight with some oversimplification and insensitivity.  Obviously, he is correct in criticizing the tendency of Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israeli’s right-wing to equate Palestinian attacks with the forces of international terror, but Avnery exaggerates the extent to which all resistance movements use terror tactics.  Mandela’s African National Conference engaged in sabotage, but was not known for attacking civilians.  The Irgun — mostly, but not entirely — targeted military personnel and the physical infrastructure of British rule.  Even the infamous bombing of the King David Hotel fits this pattern, because it was used as an administrative center for the British Mandate, and Menachem Begin always claimed that a warning was made by phone in advance (although incompetently delivered, because it was in Hebrew).

While I don’t condone them, Irgun terror attacks on Palestinian Arabs were mainly tit-for-tat responses to Arab attacks on Jews.  And the atrocities committed at Deir Yassin, although deplorable and criminal, were committed during and in the wake of battle.  Islamic-inspired terrorist movements attack people more broadly and with cold-blooded intent.  While Palestinian terrorists are generally motivated to resist oppression and foreign domination, ISIS combines the conventional military threat of a state (now with far-flung “provinces,” such as in Libya — as reported in the NY Times – and remote corners of western Africa) with an ideology of Jihad that lures recruits from around the world to join its cause on the ground, or to commit terror attacks in the cities of the West where they reside.  Avnery makes light of their ability to paralyze Brussels without firing a shot, but this is no joke.

Burg is somewhat overly harsh, especially at the end — because Israelis really are threatened as individuals — but he’s mostly on target; his “migrants into power” image seems very valid. This is from his article in Haaretz: “Very undemocratic, very non-Jewish – very Israeli“:

Read More »

It’s About Settlements, Not BDS [ssba]

It’s About Settlements, Not BDS

Hiam Simon (Ameinu’s COO) and I responded to a false assertion that PPI supports BDS.  Both Dr. Scott David Lippe’s charge and our response were  published in our local New Jersey community weekly, The Jewish Standard, as letters to the editor.  This is most of our letter:   

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement was established in July 2005 by 171 Palestinian organizations to promote the general boycott of Israeli companies and companies doing business with Israel, the general boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions, divestment from Israeli companies and companies doing business with Israel, and international sanctions against the State of Israel. For many years, Partners for Progressive Israel and its predecessor organizations have actively opposed this movement as a general attack on the Jewish state and the Israeli public.

But we don’t believe Dr. Lippe was particularly interested in investigating either our personal views in opposition to the BDS movement or those of Partners for Progressive Israel. He is interested in promoting a particular agenda in support of West Bank settlement activity. So let’s discuss this real agenda, and the substantive differences between us. Read More »

BDS on the Campus [ssba]

BDS on the Campus

A draft was submitted to the NY Jewish Week as entitled above. It was published as “BDS: The Legal Fights To Come.” Here’s a brief foretaste of this piece:

. . .  The hot spot of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, of course, is the college campus. BDS has been with us [for ten years], so why the sudden explosion of activism, especially on campuses?

. . .  One reason for what’s different in 2015 is that there is a right-wing Likud government in Israel, one that is tailor-made to exacerbate an already hot situation. Closer to home is the emergence on campuses of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which has become a vocal, well-organized, highly effective group on many campuses. SJP has focused much of its activity on attracting uninvolved students to BDS activism. The Anti-Defamation League reports that there are only 29 campuses on which there are unusually active SJP groups, but the number is growing. Almost every campus has some sort of BDS activity.

Yet at the same time, in terms of the impact of BDS activity, anti-Israel activity and anti-Semitism — always a complicated relationship — the overwhelming majority of Jewish students on campus feel, and indeed are, secure. It’s important to note that, with all the BDS activity and activism, not one university has adopted a divestment policy.  . . . Read More »

David Abraham on Al-Jazeera debating about BDS [ssba]

David Abraham on Al-Jazeera debating about BDS

PPI board member David Abraham was on Al-Jazeera’s The Stream discussing and debating the BDS movement, with a BDS supporter and a pro-Netanyahu Israeli. Here’s the video:

Economic Warfare and Economic Pressure [ssba]

Economic Warfare and Economic Pressure

This is the first of a series of articles dealing with the subject of BDS. The others will in turn be dedicated to boycotts, divestment, and sanctions as means of economic warfare and/or pressure. This article deals with the overall subject.

Economic warfare is largely a twentieth-century phenomenon invented alongside collective security as a means of keeping international peace and avoiding warfare by punishing international outlaws. Sanctions are governmental trade or financial restrictions imposed to coerce another government into changing an internal or external policy that is deemed objectionable. Often they are used to signal disapproval of another government’s policies short of going to war. They are the most effective when more comprehensive, both in terms of governments applying them and the number of measures implemented. It was with the creation of the League of Nations in 1920 that economic sanctions first had the potential to become effective as the League could impose them against violators of international peace, as it did against Italy in 1935 after Mussolini’s invasion of Abyssinia (Ethiopia). The sanctions failed to deter Italy because (inexplicably) they did not include a prohibition against oil sales. Read More »