Yes! San Francisco Jewish Federation does drive more into arms of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions

As we wrote earlier, the board of San Francisco’s Jewish Federation was set to vote on an odious McCarthyite resolution presented by a splinter group of right-wing Federation critics:

The S.F. Jewish Federation will not support events or organizations that demonize or defame Israel. Nor will it support organizations that partner in their events with individuals or groups that call for boycotts, divestment or sanctions (BDS) against Israel.”

Hedging their bets, the board wisely rejected the above formulation, but then embraced another pernicious one. (There are substantive and thoughtful arguments against BDS, but you won’t find them below. Only cartoon-like propaganda. Aside from the thoroughly insincere reference to the conditions of Palestinians, as if, the resolution below also may mean a sudden end to a lot of Jewish-Muslim and Jewish-Christian dialogue efforts. As BDS grows, progressive groups of all stripes may want to exercise their right to not use Federation-funded spaces anymore.)

The Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties became one of the first Federations in America to formally endorse a resolution approved on November 9, 2009, by the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America strongly opposing the Boycott/Sanctions/Divestment (BDS) movement against Israel.

At its November 19, 2009 Board meeting, the Federation unanimously approved the resolution committing to “mobilize against the BDS movement’s undermining of Israel’s legitimacy” and pledged to work with partners to “employ an active strategy to counter such BDS tactics in the Bay Area.”

“Our Federation, by endorsing the national resolution warning of the dangers of  the BDS movement and pledging to address them with the utmost urgency, has made absolutely clear the depth of its commitment to Israel,” said Jennifer Gorovitz, Acting CEO of the San Francisco Federation.

The BDS tactic is to draw an odious and spurious comparison between Apartheid and the Jewish state. Common to most BDS calls are distortions, outright fabrications of facts, misrepresentations of international law, and a false assertion that the proffered action somehow will improve the condition of Palestinians. Almost all BDS activists embrace, in some form, an end to Israel as a Jewish state.

There is no question that patience is wearing thin with the routine hurling of charges of anti-Semitism at critics of Israel, so the new litmus test for keeping out critics is support for BDS. This is a good sign because it shows the parameters for acceptable discourse have shifted quite radically in a relatively short period of time.

So now the institutional Jewish world is, well, institutionalizing the banning of groups (and for the time-being, not individuals) who support any form of BDS (which, by the way, could mean anything, including refusing to support the Hebron Fund), but it’s a day late and a dollar short. Just a few weeks ago, Time’s superstar writer Joe Klein suggested that the best way to get Israel to stop its settlement project and share Jerusalem is “by putting a hold on all economic and military aid to Israel.” Yup, sanctions. And as Adam Horowitz reported from the recent campus BDS conference:

It is clear that BDS, and Israel/Palestine more generally, is joining the progressive agenda. Students who had been working on anti-war issues or anti-sweatshops organizing, or farmworker solidarity work are now engaging this issue. They’re bringing their experience with them and taking the lessons from those other movements, especially how those movements have won victories, and are cutting them loose on the “tired debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” on campus.

To hammer home the obvious, again and again,  the Federation has absolutely nothing to say about an alternative approach to ending Israel’s universally acknowledged illegal settlement project. If they can’t provide a good alternative to ending the occupation, and they’re not even trying, then they might as well pack their bags and go home, because they just can’t win through old fashioned shunning of groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and, heaven forbid, the pacifist Quakers. People are too smart for that. Their own children, who understand pretty clearly the idea of equality, are too smart for that.

Bottom line: the Federation may be able to control what groups can go in and out of the campus Hillel, but they can’t stop people from meeting and debating and reading and visiting the West Bank, from talking to progressive Israelis and Palestinians, from thinking for themselves.

It is precisely this shutting down of doors, without any optional path for ending the occupation, which leads to more and more joining the BDS movement.

-Cecilie Surasky

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