Times are changing, Jewish neo-cons are furious and the long overdue conversation inside the American Jewish community is happening; do they back illegal colonies in the West Bank and if not what are they going to do about it?
As the Jewish community struggles to combat efforts to delegitimize Israel and still retain a “big-tent” strategy, a mainstream consensus appears to have taken shape in recent weeks that boils down to this: one can support a targeted boycott of Israeli settlements and even a cultural ban against the West Bank settlement of Ariel — as long as one also supports Israel as a democratic Jewish state.
Helping to crystallize the issue was the Oakland, Calif.-based organization Jewish Voice for Peace, which last week was rebuffed by the Hillel chapter at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. Hillel’s board voted to reject the group’s application to come under its umbrella of Jewish organizations because JVP’s support of a boycott of Israeli settlement goods runs counter to a position adopted by it and its parent, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.
Although the boycott issue was sufficient to place JVP beyond the pale for Hillel, that alone would not have been sufficient for most other Jewish groups, according to Martin Raffel, who is overseeing a multimillion-dollar Jewish communal effort (dubbed the Israel Action Network) to counter Israel delegitimization efforts.
Raffel’s thinking on the issue of “settlements-only” boycotts seems to have evolved since the Israel Action Network was formed in December. At the time, he told The Jewish Week, “I don’t know that a consensus has crystallized on this subject.
“If a person believes that Israel ought to do more to achieve peace based on a two-state formula, the question is, will boycotting a settlement advance the day that there will be peace? I’d argue that no, it will only harden positions and be counterproductive,” he said in December, “but being misguided in one’s policies doesn’t mean one necessarily has become part of the ranks of the delegitimizers.”
This week Raffel cited Meretz USA as a group that, though it might fit his earlier description of “misguided,” is safely in the tent, so to speak. The group supports the targeted boycott of Israeli settlement products and the cultural boycott of Ariel, but, Raffel said, “it is fully supportive of the Jewish state and it repudiates the BDS movement.”