San Francisco Jewish Federation officially excommunicates large swath of Jewish population

The San Francisco Bay Area’s Jewish Federation has made it official.

Here in one of the most cosmopolitan, diversity-friendly and culture-loving places on earth, there is a new litmus test for Jewish identity and it has absolutely nothing to do with religious practice, cultural expression, personal history or the values you embrace. Membership in the Jewish community has been officially reduced to one and only one question- do you UNCONDITIONALLY love Israel?

Do you love Israel so much that you are willing to stand by and do nothing as it destroys itself and everyone it controls by repeatedly violating international law, sending its youngest citizens to enforce the 43-year occupation of another people,  imprisoning them, killing them with impunity, denying them the right to health and education and work and claiming it’s all in the name of security while taking more Palestinian land and water and trees each day.

In other words, are you willing to love Israel to death?

If the answer is YES, you’re in! If the answer is NO, and you have the chutzpah to embrace the principled, creative, peaceful methods of Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, and Gandhi as a way to pressure Israel to  help provide true democracy for all Israelis and Palestinians, then you’re out!

Prompted by the controversy over the showing of the film Rachel at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, the federation just announced this stunning set of McCarthyite policy guidelines which seek to sever any public ties that ANY Bay area grantees -including progressive synagogues and arts and educational organizations-  have with groups that support Boycotts, Divestment or Sanctions in whole or part, or who “delegitimize Israel” (according to who exactly? The judges who hold the Federation purse strings, that’s who).

It’s meant primarily to banish one of the Bay Area’s largest Jewish organizations,  Jewish Voice for Peace, which supports divestment from companies that profit from the occupation, from the institutional Jewish world, but it will impact the ability of Jewish organizations to partner with Christian, Quaker or Muslim groups, many of which support some sort of BDS.

It is also specifically identifies groups or individuals, so that ideological dossiers will have to be developed to make sure panelists can be certified kosher before appearing on Jewish stages in the Bay Area.

Jewish filmmakers and thinkers like The Yes Men, Udi Aloni and Naomi Klein; poets like Adrienne Rich or playwrights like Tony Kushner and Wallace Shawn who, like Klein and Rich, sit on JVP’s advisory board; or even journalists like Time’s Joe Klein, are now banished from the institutional Jewish world here- unless they agree not to talk about Israel at all, then they’re fine.

Of course, it won’t matter in the end. Incredibly creative Jewish life forms are growing everywhere. In fact, an entire young generation of young Jews if growing up asking why Jewish institutions that seek to police free expression are even relevant to their lives? And supporters of various elements of nonviolent resistance, BDS, are already inside most major Jewish institutions.

In fact, it’s got to be a source of tremendous embarrassment that Dan Sokatch, the head of the New Israel Fund, was the head of the Federation until just a few months ago. The New Israel Fund would likely not be allowed to co-sponsor an event with a Federation grantee according to these guidelines because they serve as fiscal sponsor to the group that maintains the most important global database used for the BDS movement.

Here is the unintentionally humorous statement which begins by asserting the respect for diversity within Jewish life.

The Jewish Community Federation’s (JCF’s) core values include an abiding commitment to a secure Jewish community here and abroad, to the strong democratic Jewish State of Israel, and to mutual respect and diversity within Jewish life.   Consistent with its core values, the JCF funds a full spectrum of organizations that sustain and grow our community through pluralistic expressions and wide-ranging perspectives that affirm a broad and inclusive tent vital to a strong and dynamic Jewish community. This policy applies only to the grantor-grantee relationship between the JCF and other entities.

The JCF does not fund organizations that through their mission, activities or partnerships:

  1. endorse or promote anti-Semitism, other forms of bigotry, violence or other extremist views;
  2. actively seek to proselytize Jews away from Judaism; or
  3. advocate for, or endorse, undermining the legitimacy of Israel as a secure independent, democratic Jewish state, including through  participation in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, in whole or in part.

These principles also apply to grants from the JCF’s Endowment Fund.

In order to be eligible for funding, organizations that engage in Israel-related programming are required to produce documentation such as their policies, procedures, guidelines, and mission statement that demonstrate consistency with the JCF’s core values or – in the absence of such documentation – to abide by this policy and to initiate a process to develop organizational guidelines, policies and procedures consistent with it. There can be no uniform set of policies or procedures that is applicable to every organization.  Organizations are expected to adapt this policy to their unique circumstances.

This policy is not intended to discourage the presentation of a wide range of perspectives aimed at appealing to a broad cross-section of the community.    The JCF and our community are well-served by fostering diverse expressions through our cultural, educational, religious, social service and community relations institutions, and by promoting a strong commitment to civil discourse.

The JCF will review its policy and supporting guidelines with each grantee, address questions unique to that grantee, and explain how implementation of the policy and guidelines can be a benefit to the grantee and the community.  The JCF will also be bound by this policy in its own programming, partnerships and co-sponsorships.

ENFORCEMENT OF POLICY

In the event of a perceived violation by a grantee of the JCF policy, the CEO of the JCF  and its President and Officers will promptly review the situation, speak to the grantee, obtain the facts, understand the context, make a determination as to whether a grantee has violated the policy and – if it is determined that a grantee has violated the policy – take appropriate steps consistent with this policy. Where a grantee’s overall body of work has been consistent with the JCF’s core values, the grantee will be urged to swiftly address concerns that have been raised as a result of a specific program.

The JCF reserves the right to suspend funding and sponsorship, particularly in any case where it determines, in its sole discretion, that an egregious policy violation has occurred, there has been a sustained pattern of violating the policy, or insufficient remedial measures were implemented.

INTRODUCTION TO GUIDELINES

The Jewish Community Federation (JCF) has a long and proud history as a funder of arts and other diverse community organizations which seek to inspire and celebrate Judaism and Jewish life.  The JCF recognizes that art, by its very nature, may express a political statement, provoke a range of emotions, or promote ideas that are potentially controversial.  The JCF believes the community and our institutions will be well-served by establishing guideposts that help ensure consistency with the JCF’s core values and which are not aimed at squelching creativity, diverse expressions or critique around controversial topics.

Grantees are strongly encouraged to consult with the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) in advance of potentially controversial programs that could contain any of the elements described in the scenarios below.  Organizations ultimately make their own decisions, but broad consultation can help avoid conflicts with the policy, minimize surprise or polarization, and allow for the sharing of experiences before programs are set in stone.  To ensure broad consultation, when there is a question whether a particular program may violate the policy or on the interpretation of the policy, JCRC will consult with the JCF’s CEO, President and officers.

The following guidelines are intended to assist grantees with respect to programming as it relates to the policy statement.

GUIDELINES ON POTENTIALLY CONTROVERSIAL ISRAEL-RELATED PROGRAMMING

Programs Generally in Accord with JCF Policy

The following kinds of programs are generally in accord with the policy statement, but early JCRC consultation is strongly encouraged and the programming should be presented within an overall program strategy that is consistent with JCF’s core values:

  1. Dialogue groups (i.e. non-public exchanges)
  2. Private meetings
  3. Presentations on topics other than the Middle East and Israel, that are not used to promote a BDS agenda or provide a forum for leaders of groups that espouse views inconsistent with JCF’s core values
  4. Presentations by organizations or individuals that are critical of particular Israeli government policies but are supportive of Israel’s right  to exist as a secure independent Jewish democratic state and that do not espouse views inconsistent with this policy.
  5. Panel discussions, speaker series intended for the same audience, cultural presentations, or educational programs portraying a range of diverse perspectives that, on balance, are consistent with JCF’s core values
  6. Programs that are open to the community and welcome attendees regardless of their individual views
  7. Participation in broad-based community coalitions on non-Israel-related issues provided that the coalitions do not become vehicles for undermining the legitimacy of Israel
  8. Artistic presentations (displays, exhibits, films, performances) that may include critical perspectives of Jewish life or Israel and that, on balance, are consistent with JCF’s core values

Programs Not Consistent with JCF’s Policy

In addition to the specific areas covered by the policy statement, the following kinds of programs are not consistent with the policy statement:

  1. Panel discussions, speakers series, cultural, artistic or educational programs that as an overall experience – i.e. based on the entire body of work – endorse or prominently promote the BDS movement or positions that undermine the legitimacy of the State of Israel
  2. Individual programs that endorse the BDS movement or positions that undermine the legitimacy of the State of Israel
  3. Co-sponsorship or co-presentations of public programs on Middle East issues with supporters of the BDS movement or others who undermine the legitimacy of the State of Israel
  • endorse or promote anti-Semitism, other forms of bigotry, violence or other extremist views;
  • actively seek to proselytize Jews away from Judaism; or
  • advocate for, or endorse, undermining the legitimacy of Israel as a secure independent, democratic Jewish state, including through  participation in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, in whole or in part.