Jerry Silverman, president and chief executive officer of the Jewish Federations of North America, writes about the Jewish Federations’ work to turn the tide away from delegitimization of Israel and toward support for peace efforts through its Israel Action Network (IAN).
The globally coordinated delegitimization movement, started primarily by groups that do not support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, is becoming increasingly sophisticated. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) supporters are waging an economic, political and cultural battle on many fronts.
Many say that they support a two-state outcome and just want to apply political pressure to push Israel to improve its treatment of Palestinians. Yet the movement’s founders remain committed to an end of the State of Israel and have attracted many anti-Zionists, Israel-haters and downright anti-Semites to their campaign.
A dramatic example took place in January at a national LGBTQ conference in Chicago. Anti-Israel protesters shouting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” prevented participants from entering a reception hosted by A Wider Bridge, a U.S.-based group that builds connections to Israel. A Wider Bridge calls for a “time when Palestinians will live in dignity, free from occupation.” But that seemed meaningless to these protesters, who wanted to silence any supporter of Israel.
If these activists really cared about advancing the peace process and fostering self-determination to enable Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side, they would have advocated with A Wider Bridge activists instead of protesting against them. Time after time, loud, vocal, broad and sweeping animus toward Israel overshadows advocacy for peace and shuts down any possibility of dialogue.
We saw another example of animosity toward Israel early this month when the Movement for Black Lives released an extensive platform that raises important issues, including economic justice, voter rights and criminal justice system reforms. Unfortunately, the platform also includes provisions that demonize Israel, erroneously equating the experiences of African-Americans with Palestinians and outrageously calling Israel an “apartheid” state guilty of committing “genocide.”