Detroit Jews ask: Are targeted Israel boycotts the same as BDS? [ssba]

Detroit Jews ask: Are targeted Israel boycotts the same as BDS?

Our petition, Demand Detroit’s Walk for Israel include all supporters of Israel, promted Ron Kampeas to published following article in the the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 

(JTA) — For the second year in a row, the Detroit area’s Walk for Israel has rebuffed the sponsorship of left-wing pro-Israel groups because of their support for boycotting settlements.

At the heart of the dispute is a question of definitions: Is support of a boycott targeting Jewish enterprises beyond Israel’s 1967 borders the same as backing the blanket economic and cultural boycott of Israel called for by the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement? 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 »

Jewish Democracy at World Zionist Congress [ssba]

Jewish Democracy at World Zionist Congress

Phyllis Bernstein serves on the executive board of Partners for Progressive Israel and served as an alternative delegate at the 37th World Zionist Congress. Her opinion is her own:

The 37th World Zionist Congress has come to an end.  Can we talk about two Jews, three opinions?  First-time Diaspora delegates called it a disillusioning and frightening experience in Israeli incivility. Seasoned Congress attenders called it business as usual.

hatikva slate imageThe final morning began at 6:30 AM—before breakfast was open in our hotel–with my faction (Labor-Meretz-Reform-Ameinu-PPI-Habonim Dror-Hashomer Hatzair-Green) going painstakingly over 94 resolutions to be presented to the plenary.  This represented about half of all the resolutions originally submitted.  Some resolutions were defeated in committees but many were just never raised in their respective committees.

After about 2 1/2 hours of slogging through these resolutions and forming a faction position on each one them, we had our first plenum speech with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.   Interestingly, all wi-fi in the building was apparently blocked for his speech, but there were no extra physical screenings. I thought it was a glitch but someone who has heard him speak before said it happened then too. So I guess it was a feature.  He gave a very predictable speech.  I will give you the keywords (Iran, ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah, Gaza, wave of terror, security, only democracy in the middle east) and you can figure out for yourself what was said.  Then the main event began.
Read More »

Reflections on the World Zionist Congress [ssba]

Reflections on the World Zionist Congress

This article was contributed by Rachel Sandalow-Ash. Rachel is a co-founder of and national organizer for Open Hillel, a grassroots movement of Jewish students and young alumni working for pluralism and open discourse on Israel-Palestine in Jewish spaces on college campuses and beyond. She was a delegate to the 37th World Zionist Congress as part of the World Union of Meretz faction, having run on the Hatikvah Slate.  A 2015 Harvard College graduate, Rachel grew up in Brookline, MA and now lives in Philadelphia. The views presented here are Rachel’s own and do not represent the views of Open Hillel, Partners for Progressive Israel, or the World Union of Meretz.

October 22, 3:00PM, West Jerusalem. The large auditorium at the International Convention Center is in chaos. “We’ve run out of time,” says the chair of the meeting. “All further resolutions will go to the Zionist General Council.” Delegates left, right, and center are rushing the stage. But the chair won’t budge on the schedule. Lacking other options, we vote to conclude the 37th World Zionist Congress. Maybe 70% of our votes are processed by the electronic voting machine; the chair deems the vote good enough. Delegates, alternates, and party staff stream into out of the room, hugging each other goodbye and making plans for shabbat.

A few miles to the North, East, and South, East Jerusalem Palestinians wait behind blockades and checkpoints to reach their homes and neighborhoods; the “united city” is more divided than ever. Several people have already died when these checkpoints prevented them from getting to the hospital.


first world zionist congress

When Hatikvah, the US progressive Zionist slate first asked me to join their list for the World Zionist Congress, I was deeply confused (wait, wasn’t that Herzl’s thing from 1897? That’s still around?) and deeply conflicted. As a candidate, I would have to sign the Jerusalem Program, a Zionist loyalty oath of sorts, when I had spent the past two years leading a campaign against Jewish communal loyalty oaths. I would be required to donate to the Jewish National Fund, which maintains discriminatory land use policies in Israel and is instrumental in building settlements beyond the Green Line. And perhaps worst of all, I knew that the World Zionist Congress makes decisions involving Israeli government money (a large portion of the World Zionist Organization’s multi-million dollar budget comes directly from the government) and impacting Israeli society; yet non-Jewish citizens of Israel are not allowed to vote or participate in the WZC.  

And yet, in the end, political pragmatism won me over. The World Zionist Organization controlled over $50 million on its own; along with the Jewish Agency, it oversaw an additional $470 million or so.  That was real, tangible money that could be spent on building settlements and maintaining the Occupation — or, alternatively, on fighting poverty and promoting racial and economic justice. Not that many people voted for the World Zionist Congress. If I ran and got my friends to vote, we could make a real difference. At least so I hoped.

Read More »

The 37th World Zionist Congress: What’s It Good For? [ssba]

The 37th World Zionist Congress: What’s It Good For?

This post was contributed by Efrat Levy, who participated in the World Zionist Congress as a delegate on the Hatikvah slate:

In mid-October I joined others from Partners for Progressive Israel and Hashomer Hatzair as a delegate to the 37th World Zionist Congress, as part of the Hatikvah Slate. This slate, after some dealing with somhatikva slate imagee shenanigans during the elections and lead-up to the Congress (which were to be repeated in Israel) ended up with 8 delegates, including activists from J Street, J Street U, and Open Hillel. We joined together with Arza (Reform Zionists) and The Green Israel list to form the largest caucus at the Congress, 182 delegates. Together we took the lead on passing a number of meaningful resolutions during the final Congress plenary:

  • Reaffirming the Declaration of Independence’s vision of an Israel committed to the values of democracy and equal rights for all inhabitants, along with the development of educational programming in this area.
  • Condemnation of hate crimes committed in the name of Zionism in light of the “price tag” violence carried out by Jewish terrorists.
  • Support for the LGBT community, including enforcement of complete equality within the National Institutions.
  • Support for building of an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall.
  • Calling on the National Institutions to address their own carbon footprint and take other climate action plan steps.
  • Instructing our representatives in the JNF to prevent projects that negatively impact Israel’s water resource.
  • Support for Zionist youth movement shlichim (emissaries).
  • A call to transition contract workers to employees with full benefits in the national institutions.

All that sounds good. But what is it actually good for?  Read More »