State of debate - Page 4

What a controversial panel says about the nature of Jewish discourse about Israel in the Bay Area today

Rae Abileah, shown here protesting a product created in an illegal Israeli settlement

The programming has featured discussions on evolving relationships with Israel and questioned their nuances. But Fletcher says they haven't been able to venture into BDS territory.

"I would love it if we could get to a place where we could actually address that," Fletcher reflected. "And we would want to do it from a balanced perspective. But it's such an emotional issue."

There are practical concerns as well. According to Fletcher, the Federation gives a small amount of funding for scholarships for Sha'ar Zahav's religious school. The money that funded Fletcher's committee's programming came from Sha'ar Zahav's general fund, when there was enough of it. She says that the committee is now operating without a budget due to tight finances. Even so, if the committee's programming were to breech the Federation's funding guidelines, it might put the program in jeopardy.

"To me, that's what's so problematic about these guidelines," Fletcher said. "The guidelines are saying, if you want money from us, we have restrictions on what your organization can do. Even though our programming is not funded by the Federation, because it funds something completely unrelated, it could get cut."

Fletcher also questions that paradigm of "delegitimizing Israel."

"I think this is a term that people who defend Israel use to label people who criticize Israel in a certain way," she said. "Many of us would answer that it's Israel's own policies that are delegitimizing Israel in the eyes of the world. I don't find it a useful term."

Sha'ar Zahav will be hosting the Reclaiming Jewish Activism panel. Davey Shlasko, a member of the congregation who helped facilitate the new arrangement, thinks the concern about Abileah's associations were misplaced.

"I think it is unfortunate that the predicted objection to Rae's other work was enough of a concern to cancel an event that is actually about drawing inspiration from our ancestors," Shlasko told me via email.

But it's in looking back at history that the panel acquires so much meaning. "It is safe to say that living in the United States, Jews have never been more empowered, safe, and connected to the community they live in," mused one source, who wished to remain anonymous. "It is inevitable that with such success, the need to band together changed. The group identity changes. Sometimes it's that fight, that need to rally together, that keeps the group intact."

For Abileah, "the event will be Jewish activists talking about our ancestors." She's upset about the event's cancellation, but not surprised.

"For a lot of Jewish people it can be challenging to speak out against this issue because you don't know where your friends stand on this, or your synagogue or even your family," she said. "There are a lot of people who we say are PEP: progressive except Palestine. My family and community have been supportive, but I've gotten hate mail and threats of violence."

"It sounds like these Jewish institutions that are censoring have so much power, like they're the mainstream Jewish voice. But I think the majority of Jewish Americans want a resolution to the conflict and are opposed to the occupation," she said.

And how does she think Joseph Abileah would react to this situation? "I'd like to think that he would be shocked and hurt by it," she said. "It's sad to see so much fracture in the Jewish community over this issue."


I appreciate this thoughtful presentation of some of the issues Jews are grappling with in the Bay Area.

Our community, too, has it's 1%. Though this minority's Likud-like positions are increasingly discredited, it is fighting desperately to maintain its control over the discourse. The reflexive efforts to censor progressive views are examples of this desperation. (See the blog Muzzlewatch, devoted to reporting on these acts of censorship.)

Bend the Arc did not used to be called Jewish Voice for Peace (an admirable organization in its own right, very much alive and well, both in the Bay Area, where it was born, and now nationally). Bend the Arc used to be called the Progressive Jewish Alliance.

Posted by Lion of Judah on May. 23, 2012 @ 3:06 pm

=v= I don't know what to think on this issue until Eric Brooks lectures us on it.

Syria just massacred a bunch of children, time for a BDS movement against them?

Posted by Jym on May. 26, 2012 @ 3:05 pm

He got upset by all the jokes about the SF Green Party

Posted by Guest on May. 26, 2012 @ 4:25 pm

Unfortunately it's a lot more than that. But one definitely does get the sense that they're losing ground as more people begin to ask questions. And they're very afraid of the scrutiny, because in the end, Israel in it's current form is a mass of contradictions that doesn't withstand the scrutiny of logic and compassion.

As for Syria... I'm all for not supporting Syria. Let's stop all military aid to them as well. Oh wait... we don't give them any military aid!

Turth is, American intervention almost always makes things worse. Let Syria solve its own problems, and let Israel solve its own problems. If Israel "made the desert bloom," then I'm sure they're perfectly capable of getting by just fine without an American subsidy that works out to about $1000 per Israeli every year. Right?

Posted by Greg on May. 27, 2012 @ 8:03 am

about the middle-east.

Obsessed much, Greg?

Posted by Guest on May. 27, 2012 @ 8:31 am

What's with the whole "much" thing these days? It's the most idiotic hipster expression I've ever heard.

FYI, I was responding to another poster above who used used the term in reference to a minority of people in the Jewish community. I wasn't the one who "found a way" to insert the term. I just responded. But someone clearly decided to use any excuse, however thin, to criticize me.

Stalking much?

Posted by Greg on May. 27, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

Just couldn't resist, huh?

Whatever happened to Occupy anyway? And exactly when it did it degrade into a week-end playtime once a month or so? Wasn't it supposed to herald a revolution?

Posted by Guest on May. 27, 2012 @ 3:12 pm

After years of internal discussion, there is a pretty new consensus in the Jewish community that being critical of Israeli policies is welcome and needed. This is not our parents and grandparents Jewish community any more, but one which acknowledges how complicated the situation in the middle east is. Even young middle school children in Jewish day schools speak about their support for the Palestinians and the challenges faced by all sides.

Might there be some introspection needed by the progressives too? their idea that organizations and communities shouldn't work in their own interest seems strange. And isn't it in the interest of all of us to see this conflict resolved rather than support only one side or the other?

Posted by Guest Hannah on Jun. 05, 2012 @ 2:30 pm

The reporter didn't quite get the story of the presentation of "Rachel" by the SF Jewish Film Festival in 2009 quite right. Neither Cindy Corrie nor the film were booed. The booing and jeering were reserved for a speaker who gave a pro-Israel speech prior to the film being shown. I was that speaker, invited by the SFJFF because of community outcry about the invitation to Cindy Corrie who serves as a fundraiser for the International Solidarity Movement. You can see it for yourself at

The fact that the Jewish Film Festival had programmed an event which attracted an audience which had a distinctly anti-Israel audience (many not Jewish) is what led directly to the guidelines to prevent similar misuses of Jewish community funds.

Criticism of Israel is not the issue. Peter Beinart appeared at the SFJCC recently without any significant community protest. Jeremy Ben Ami has spoken at the Berkeley JCC and at least one Bay Area synagogue without any significant community protest.

The difference is that the BDS movement has at its core the goal of eliminating Israel entirely. It's not about the occupation, unless you also believe that Tel Aviv (founded on sand dunes in 1909) and Jerusalem (which has had a Jewish majority since 1900) is "occupied Arab land". Omar Barghouti, BDSer in chief, believes that his movement will be "euthanasia" for Zionism.

This is an important distinction. People can legitimately criticize Israel (Israelis, even Knesset members, do it all the time) without calling for its destruction. People legitimately criticized Bush for launching a war in Iraq without openly siding with al Qaeda. But when criticism of Israel is aimed at its destruction, then the Jewish community says such discussions can take place in venues outside our own institutions. After all, would an LGBT center host speakers claiming that gays can (and should) be "converted"? Did African-American cultural centers host programs defending apartheid South Africa? Of course not. So Jewish community centers aren't going to host Rae Abileah's activities that promote not peace between a Jewish state of Israel and an Arab state of Palestine, but rather ongoing war against Israel.

Posted by Michael Harris on Jun. 05, 2012 @ 4:27 pm

To Rae Abileach and so-called Jewish Voice for peace:
What does Rae and her fellow Jewish Voice for peace knows about Judaism? What do you know about Torah? Do you know how to read or chant the Torah? Do you know any Yiddish, Hebrew, Ladino or Arabic? Let me tell you what a Torah says. I suggest you to read the Book of Etz Hayim where it says that, if some body attack Israel then, Israel has the right for self defend. Torah says if some body attack me then, I have a right for self defend, The so-called Jewish Voice for peace policy are pro War and destruction of the State of Israel. Abileach and JVFP are self hate Jews. How dare can you be against yourself? Now, I took one quote from Hamas and Koran. Let see what it says. The Hamas Charter is Violent and Racist. Here what Hamas says: "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it".
When Israel left Gaza,Hamas was elected the new governing party. The founding document of Hamas calls for the destruction of Israel and murder of the Jews. It is disturb me very much.

Koran says,Oh Muslimi! There is a Jew behind that three, come and kill him. As long as this remains the guiding document for Hamas and Hezbollah or the Palestinian people, the dream of peace remains impossible. Now, the so-called Jewish Voice for peace, is a brain washed against Israel. How, can they claim to be peaceful if some one from this group attacked me on the bus stop in San Francisco and, this person is still attacking me every time he see me in the city or on the counter demonstration where I stand with Israel? I would fight if I were Palestinian. I would fight for the human rights and against Hamas and Hezbollah because, I would realize that those two organizations would deny me basic human rights as individual. I would never fight against Israel. I would continue to support and love Israel and, I would make a lot of friends from Israel. Hamas and Hezbollah would ask me or member of my family and friends to go and to blow our selves up among Israelis. Why would I do this? Why would I hate my life? I love my life and the life of my family members and friends. And, I love Israel. I will continue to support Israel as long as I live. The Code Pink, is truthfully the Code for War and destruction of the State of Israel. The Jewish Voice for peace, is truthfully the Jewish Voice for War and destruction of the State of Israel

Posted by paul shkuratov on Feb. 23, 2013 @ 11:08 am

Ok Difi.......

Posted by Guest on Feb. 23, 2013 @ 11:30 am

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