The Celebrate Israel Parade (formerly the Salute to Israel Parade), scheduled for June 1, has drawn extraordinary advance criticism this year. It seems parade organizers, ostensibly to be as inclusive as possible, have acceded to requests to participate from the New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel and B’Tselem.
Critics, however, maintain that the three groups are tied to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), which seeks to organize punitive action against Israel.
While some groups associated with BDS seek the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state and advocate boycotts against products produced on both sides of the Green Line, the three groups in question claim their interest is purely in seeing Israel change its policies vis-à-vis areas beyond the Green Line and that they therefore support boycotts only of products produced there.
This, these three groups say, is designed to strengthen Israeli democracy and Israel’s standing in the world, which makes them “pro-Israel” and therefore eminently qualified to participate in the parade. For us this is a distinction without a difference. To our mind anything outside the Israeli political process designed to force the elected government of Israel to change its policies cannot be deemed pro-Israel.
To be sure, parade organizers argue that “[t]here’s no BDS in the parade” and condemn BDS as a “clear and present danger to the future of Israel.” And in a statement they went on to say that while they “strongly disagree” with the three groups for their support of boycotts of products from over the Green Line, the groups “fit within the guidelines of the parade,” having signed a statement that says they “identify with Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”
While we would never question the parade organizers’ staunch support for Israel, they plainly do not agree with the notion that private organizations attempting to force Israel to change its policies is inconsistent with “pro-Israel” self-identification. Yet the actions of such groups serve to delegitimize Israel’s negotiating position and undermine any leverage it might have. Indeed, in this sense we cannot perceive any differences here with Mahmoud Abbas’s absolutist claims and adamant refusals to compromise on the major issues.
And what can Israel say to its critics who will gleefully trumpet the acceptance by the leading pro-Israel event in the United States of such vociferous opponents of Israel’s settlement policy?
Truth be told, these “limited” BDSers are hardly fanciful, philosophical moralists. They are savvy, presumptuous, hard-nosed zealots whose targets for economic and political demise only happen to be a couple hundred thousand Jews they consider dispensable.
Thus, Partners For Progressive Israel has this on its website:
In response to the recent passage of the Boycott Bill by the Knesset, a bill which blurs the Green line by making no distinction between Israel proper and the Settlements, we are reiterating our call to American Jews to “Buy Israel — Don’t Buy Settlements (They’re not the same)”…. The following is a list of products and produce made in West Bank Settlements and sold in the U.S. Please boycott these products and produce. It’s important to note that products made in Settlements bear the label “Made in Israel” but this is inaccurate. If you know of any other products or produce that are made or grown in West bank Settlements and sold in the U.S., e-mail us…and we will add them to the boycott list.
B’Tselem says this about itself:
Why Is B’Tselem bringing [its] work to the United States instead of keeping it in Israel?American foreign policy plays a vital role in shaping Israel’s policies in the Occupied Territories. The debate in the United States is often based on a false dichotomy between Israel’s legitimate security concerns on the one hand, and Palestinians’ basic rights on the other. As an Israeli human rights group, we are uniquely positioned to inform and enrich this debate, providing the facts necessary to evaluate Israeli policy in light of security needs and applicable legal standards. B’Tselem has established a presence in the United States to enable Americans to support a human rights agenda that will protect the rights of Israelis and Palestinians alike, while also strengthening Israel’s civil society and its democracy.
As for the New Israel Fund, despite its fervent denials it seems to have even closer ties to the BDS movement; as investigative journalist Edwin Black noted in the Huffington Post, “until 2011, generous NIF grants to the boycott vanguard were indispensable to establishing and fortifying the budding international boycott movement.”