The historically active socialist movement in Seattle also contributes to anti-Israel sentiment. There is a great deal of overlap between the radical socialist community and the radical anti-Israel community. Groups in this category with a strong presence here include the Palestine Solidarity Committee, Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign, International Solidarity Movement, ANSWER, Code Pink, and Jewish Voice for Peace.
There’s also the religious factor. Established Churches like St. Mark’s in Seattle have energetically promoted ongoing anti-Israel activities and educational programs, affiliating with anti-Israel groups like Sabeel, Voices of Palestine, Mideast Awareness Campaign, Community & Middle East Peace Builders, and North Puget Sound Israel-Palestine Mission Network among others.
Seattle’s Jewish community is somewhat isolated from the rest of the Jewish world. Seattle is also a politically liberal town and the information people process is received through that filter. By the early 1980’s new Jewish organizations began to form in Seattle under the rubric of “Social Justice” like Kadima, a Reconstructionist community. The Judaism of these groups is always in lockstep with the current standards of progressive dictates. This worldview has permeated most synagogues and communal service organizations in the NW with the exception of the Orthodox community.
During the First Intifada, daily images of Palestinians dying at the hands of Israelis were uncomfortable for Seattle’s progressive Jewish community to process compared to the old “Arab states attacking Israel” narrative. When the Oslo accords were implemented in the early 1990’s the Seattle Jewish community embraced the hope for peace.
The Rabbi of my Orthodox shul at the time celebrated Oslo, explaining that giving up Judea and Samaria was not a cause for alarm. In the modern world, he said, brains not turf determine success. Israel could be the new Hong Kong.
With peace at hand, the organized Jewish community turned inward, Israel advocacy organizations like The Jewish Federation lobbying local legislature for things like more funding for old age homes and agitating for forward movement on “social justice” issues.
Oslo, even with the terror that accompanied it, realigned the community and the Durban Conference of 2001 gave anti-Israel organizations the legitimacy to carry on. The atmosphere accompanying the two Iraq wars and the war on terror bred new left-wing organizations like ANSWER, CODE PINK and ancillary anti-Israel organizations like, Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign (SEAMAC) and Jewish Voice for Peace.
When the Second intifada exploded in 2000 an anti-Israel rally was scheduled. The Jewish Federation had no response planned. In the absence of any organized response to this libeling of Israel in my own town, I organized a pro-Israel counter rally.
A Jewish “peace” group also had plans to attend the rally. A friend of mine begged this group to join us in support of an Israel under siege. The group refused. With the help of the Northwest Yeshiva High School ours was the largest contingent.
This was my introduction to Jewish “peace groups.”
My next exposure to Jewish anti-Israel sentiment was during the 2006 Lebanon War, when the Jewish community held a rally in support of Israel in a suburban park. Making their debut was the Jewish Voice for Peace. They carried signs reading: “I believe Israel Aggression Threatens the Safety of All Jews.”
“How the heck could this war be blamed on Israel?” I thought.
Meantime, as print media becomes less consequential, the Seattle Federation-owned JTNews under Editor Joel Magalnick struggles to maintain relevance. The paper seems to think this can be achieved through promoting “controversial” positions, mistaking conformity for courage as it champions the latest progressive cause du jour.
About the Author: Blogger and mother of 12, Varda Meyers Epstein is a third-generation Pittsburgher who made aliyah at age 18 and never looked back. A proud settler who lives in the biblical Judean heartland, Varda serves as the communications writer for the nonprofit car donation program Kars4Kids, a Guidestar silver medal charity.
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