Latest update: March 1st, 2013
The Zionist Federation, the official representative body of Jewish organizations in England, this week rejected the membership application of Yachad UK, the leftist J Street-esque organization which was formed in England in 2011.
The vote took place on Monday, February 25, and was conducted as required by the ZF’s constitution: member organizations vote to decide whether an applicant organization’s mission and actions are consistent with the mission of the ZF.
According to a statement by the ZF, every constituent organization was given the opportunity to consider Yachad’s application, and representatives of those organizations consulted with their members in order to make a decision. This process began ten months ago. When the ZF met on Monday, the organization representatives voted on and rejected Yachad UK’s application.
Although ZF leadership members were unwilling to respond to media inquiries about the decision, they pointed to the deliberative process in which the ZF had engaged, which was consistent with prior membership decisions.
In response to the vote, Yachad, which is Hebrew for “together,” went on the offensive. It instituted an email campaign informing contacts that they are being discriminated against, along with a twitter attack with the hashtag “whatswrongwithmyzionism.”
Yachad’s first line of offense was to present themselves as innocent Zionist victims of overbearingly aggressive, right-wing Zionist Jews. They claimed at the top of their website that, “78% of Anglo Jewry favour a two state solution. Is their Zionism not good enough for the Zionist Federation?”
The Zionist Federation issued a public statement in response. “It is important to note that despite claims by Yachad’s statement, the ZF strongly supports peace in the Middle East and the two state solution. To say that we do not is factually incorrect.”
WHAT IS YACHAD UK?
Yachad UK is quite similar in orientation and mission to J Street in the U.S. The tagline for Yachad is “together for peace, together for Israel,” and it describes itself as “the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement for British Jews,” exactly the same claim J Street makes for U.S. Jews. About the only difference between the two organizations, as Hannah Weisfeld, Yachad’s director, said at its launch, is that Yachad will not engage in political lobbying.
And just as is the case with J Street, there are many Zionists who do not believe Yachad’s self-description is accurate. They instead claim that Yachad’s relentless criticism of Israel and refusal to make any demands on the Arab Palestinians reveals the true nature of Yachad, one that they believe is instead an anti-Zionist orientation.
DOES YACHAD PRESENT ITSELF AS A ZIONIST ORGANIZATION?
The pingpong match of public statements declaring either that Yachad is a Zionist organization that should be welcomed into the UK’s Zionist Federation, or that it is an anti-Zionist organization which has no place in the ZF is not especially helpful in determining the truth.
Rather than look at the public rhetoric, The Jewish Press decided it is most useful to see what Yachad really does and where Yachad really goes. The best way to do this is to peruse the activities posted on Yachad UK’s Facebook page.
This is what you will find there:
• November 11 and February 10, Yachad showed the movie “The Law in These Parts,” a movie that is “a compelling indictment of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza,” another shows a Yachad trip to Israel in which the participants join up with an Israeli leftist activist group, Ir Amim, to rally against Jews living in parts of Jerusalem.
• February 11th and 12th meetings with former Haaretz editor David Landau, who famously told U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice that the U.S. should “rape Israel,” and that it has always been a secret erotic dream of his to discuss this with her.”
• July 29, June 21, June 18, June 17 meetings with Nadav Greenberg of “Just Vision,” who recently completed a documentary, “Budrus and Home Front: Portraits from Sheikh Jarrah,” that presents four people, all of whom oppose the Israeli efforts to allow Jews to live in the Shimon Hatzadik neighborhood of Jerusalem, known to pro-Arab Palestinian activists as the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
Most of the more than 100 photos on Yachad’s page are of Yachad trips to Israel.
According to the photos it has posted, every Yachad trip to Israel includes only visits to “Hebron and East Jerusalem,” with the exception of its Pesach, 2011 trip. That trip was described as Yachad’s visit to “East Jerusalem and the West Bank.”
In the only pictures in which there is a country designation, the town of Hebron is described as “Hebron, Palestine.” That’s Chevron, to which the Jews have a deed recorded in the Book of Genesis.
Yachad UK has not posted a single picture of visits to any historic or important sites within Israel – Yachad’s trips are the inverse of the standard Israel trips of mainstream Jewish organizations, where few dare to venture beyond the 1967 Armistice Line. There is a single picture of a Yachad visit to an Israeli Jew’s grave. Whose grave is it? Baruch Goldstein’s.
It appears that, based upon its Facebook albums, Yachad believes the only important parts of Israel to see are those areas in which one of their guides will explain to students and other members how awful Israel is to the Arabs.
Of the dozens of photos Yachad posted, the only ones which reveal unequivocally pro-Israel support was one welcoming home Gilad Shalit, and two which criticize George Galloway for refusing to debate Israeli Oxford student Eylon Aslan-Levy at a debate last week. In the talkbacks to the Galloway post, however, Yachad posted that it retweets Galloway, but considers his specific refusal to debate with an Israeli unacceptable.
At least one ZF member has said he will call for a revote on whether to include Yachad in the Zionist Federation, but sources with contacts within the ZF say that its members will not deviate from the democratically made decision.
One long-time British pro-Israel activist, Clive Hyman, told The Jewish Press that “some people have apparently forgotten that ‘democratic’ does not mean everyone gets in.” It means, he said, “the enfranchised vote according to the procedure laid out in a governing document.”
The Movement for Reform Judaism disagreed with the decision to exclude Yachad. According to the MRJ, Yachad accurately “reflects the will of UK Jewry for a two state solution.”
UPDATE: Hannah Weisfeld, director of Yachad, wrote an op-ed published in The Daily Beast in which she is not only critical of Galloway’s refusal to debate an Israeli Brit at Oxford, but strongly criticizes his anti-Israel bigotry.Lori Lowenthal Marcus
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the U.S. correspondent for The Jewish Press. 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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