Photo Credit: JewishPress.com
What's happened to NYC's Celebrate Israel Parade?

PLEASE SEE AN UPDATE BENEATH THIS ARTICLE

This year’s New York City Celebrate Israel Parade is this Sunday, May 31, and the behind-the-scenes squabbling is reaching a fevered pitch. The fight centers on whether it is more important to maintain a show of supposed unity than it is to require consequences be meted out to those whose “pro-Israel” bona fides include public, pointed and unbalanced attacks on the Jewish State.

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The organizers of the event, New York City’s Jewish Community Relations Council and its financial big brother, New York City’s UJA-Federation, insist a show of unity is what matters. Their position, they claim, is also the position of the government of Israel.

These entities have refused to yield to demands that organizations such as the New Israel Fund, which financially supports entities that demonize and delegitimize Israel, and some of which support economic law fare against Israeli companies, not be included in a march celebrating Israel.

It’s a fight that has been going on for several years.

This year, however, the parade’s organizers did two things which seem to reveal a hollow core in their position.

First, the organizers revamped the application forms organizations need to fill out in order to qualify to be accepted in the parade. The new form explicitly states that any parade entrant must sign a pledge that it supports a Jewish and democratic Israel, and that they oppose the “global BDS movement.”

There was an initial flurry of excitement that the JCRC and the UJA had “seen the light” and finally recognized any efforts to boycott Israeli companies constitute an anti-Israel position. But it then became apparent that while support for boycotting companies located within Green Line Israel could disqualify an organization, those who promote economic law fare against certain Israeli companies – those with any footprint beyond the Apartheid (i.e. no Jews allowed) Green Line – would still be welcome in the parade.

The parade organizers have now apparently realized that their position is virtually unimpeachable if they could claim their position was at one with the government of Israel. After all, to mangle a paraphrase: “you can’t be more pro-Israel than Israel.”

And so, on at least one occasion which is preserved on tape, the parade organizers claimed their position is also that of the government of Israel.

Earlier this spring, on March 30, UJA-Federation’s president Eric Goldstein was asked by his host on the Zev Brenner Talkline Communications radio show to address the issue of politics in his ostensibly apolitical position. Brenner asked about the controversy of including proponents of the Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against Israel (BDS) movement in the Celebrate Israel Parade.

This is what Goldstein said in response:

We are in consultation with the Consul General’s office of the State of Israel, Ido Aharoni, we’ve been in frequent contact, and the State of Israel very emphatically believes that we should allow all of those who currently march to march, that it would cleave our community in half if we were to start excluding certain organizations, left or right, it is critically important that the parade not be the battleground for all of this vicious politics.

And just about a minute later, as Goldstein insists that the appearance of unity is vitally important and people have to learn how to respectfully disagree. He then says: “the State of Israel, the Consul General’s office, very much, emphatically, wants us to allow all of these groups to continue to march.”

The radio show host, Zev Brenner, then interjects a question: “And you say you are working in tandem with the Israeli government to make sure everything is in step with them?”

Goldstein’s response: “That is correct.”

Except that it isn’t, at least according to Israel’s Consul General’s office.

CONSUL GENERAL’S OFFICE ISSUES CATEGORICAL CONTRADICTION

Shimon Mercer Wood, the spokesperson for Israel’s Consul General in New York City, last week revealed the one gaping hole in the parade organizers new claim: the Consul General does not, and stated that neither he nor anyone acting on behalf of the consulate, has ever said, that the government of Israel “emphatically” or otherwise supports the inclusion of the New Israel Fund or any other organization in the Celebrate Israel Parade.

Quite the contrary.

What Mercer Wood confirmed to the JewishPress.com, is that “never, ever, did the Consul-General, or someone on his behalf, or any of the Consulate’s employees, say anything favoring the NIF’s participation, either explicitly or implicitly, in a hinted manner or in public, in secret or openly.”

“Any statement that may have been made by anyone, which presents a different reality from the above stated, is a false one,” according to the Consulate spokesperson.

UJA FEDERATION’S RESPONSE

When asked to comment on the flat contradiction of Goldstein’s March 30 remarks by the Consul General, the Lewis Carroll-worthy response to the JewishPress.com by the UJA Federation was: “There is no disagreement between UJA-Federation of New York and the office of the Consul-General.” The brief statement continued, “UJA-Federation has open channels of communication with Israel’s Consul-General and we agree that organizations that comply with the parade guidelines can march. It’s a day for supporters from across the spectrum of our community, including representatives from every party across Israel, to demonstrate their commitment to, and pride in, the Jewish, democratic state of Israel.”

This was a response that the JewishPress.com extended two deadlines in order to ensure the Federation had the opportunity to respond. And that was the best the Federation could come up with. The UJA-Federation agrees with its own position, but refuses to recognize the government of Israel’s categorical rejection that it shares that position.

Richard Allen, a New York City businessman and the driving force behind JCCWatch.org‘s effort to expose and to end the participation of those who seek to harm Israel in the Celebrate Israel Parade, had this response to the latest Federation statement: “It is sad that the UJA-Federation continues to connive and hoodwink the Jewish community as they  provide support to groups that work for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. Their current leadership has corrupted this once great charitable organization. They must remove those within their Board that support these anti-Israel groups.”

Suggesting that BDS proponents would be barred from the parade, when that was the exact opposite of what the “new” parade applications required, and then flatly but apparently falsely claiming the government of Israel is supportive of, and working in tandem with the UJA in insisting on the inclusion of all past marchers in the parade, suggests the UJA leadership realizes its position is seriously flawed. Now if it would take the next logical step – stop worrying about promoting the appearance of unity and instead promote the integrity of the parade – everyone would be better off.

This is the audio of the March 30 UJA Federation president’s radio interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnG6JGpPFFE

UPDATE: A spokesperson for the UJA-Federation requested that the full statement she supplied the JewishPress.com be provided to our readers. It follows below, just beneath the full question which was put to the UJA-Federation, in writing, prior to our receipt of her response.

First, the question sent to the UJA-Federation by the JewishPress.com:

Hi [UJA-Federation NYC media contact],
I’m just confirming by email that we spoke several times today as I sought to obtain a comment from UJA Federation-NYC president Eric Goldstein for an article I am writing about the inclusion of certain groups, specifically the New Israel Fund, in the NYC Celebrate Israel Day parade.
What I want Mr. Goldstein to comment on are statements attributed to the Israeli Consul General in New York, Ido Aharoni, regarding a radio interview Mr. Goldstein gave in late March, in which he said:
“We are in consultation with the Consul General’s office of the State of Israel, Ido Aharoni, we’ve been in frequent contact and the State of Israel very emphatically believes that we should allow all of those who currently march to march,” and “the state of Israel, the Consul General’s office, very much, emphatically wants us to allow all of these groups to continue to march.”
The statements attributed to CG Aharoni are that “never, ever, did the Consul General, or someone on his behalf, or any of the Consulate’s employees, say anything favoring the NIF’s participation, either explicitly or implicitly, in a hinted manner or in public, in secret or openly,” and that “any statement that may have been made by anyone, which presents a different reality from the above stated, is a false one.”
As I told you on the phone the last time we spoke today, at around 6:00 p.m., I will try to hold off on running the article about this issue until I have a statement from Mr. Goldstein, although the article was originally supposed to run this afternoon.
I am putting all of this into writing so that we are on the same page regarding expectations and parameters.
Thank you so much,
I hope to hear from you soon,
[JewishPress.com journalist]

And now, the UJA-Federation response:

Hi [JewishPress.com journalist],

Here is a statement from UJA-Federation of New York. Thanks so much for holding your deadline for us.

Best,
[UJA-Federation NYC media contact]

“There is no disagreement between UJA-Federation of New York and the office of the Consul-General. UJA-Federation has open channels of communication with Israel’s Consul-General and we agree that organizations that comply with the parade guidelines can march. It’s a day for supporters from across the spectrum of our community, including representatives from every party across Israel, to demonstrate their commitment to, and pride in, the Jewish, democratic state of Israel.”

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Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the JewishPress.com. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: Lori@JewishPressOnline.com

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