A new report was just released by If Not Now, an American organization that says it’s “building a vibrant and inclusive movement within the American Jewish community, across generations and organizational affiliations … to shift the American Jewish public away from the status quo that upholds the occupation.”
“Beyond Talk: Five Ways the American Jewish Establishment Supports the Occupation” is a short 35 pages with footnotes to back up the points made in the report. The pdf can be downloaded for free here.
Thankfully, more Americans are waking up to the insidious role of the U.S. involvement in the Israeli occupation. This report focuses on the Jewish organizations in America that support and enable the occupation despite the fact that there is a growing schism between these organizations and the younger American Jews who denounce the Israeli occupation.
Some major take-away points from the report:
#1 Directly fund organizations that uphold Israel’s military, economic, and political control over Palestinians’ daily lives.
- Between 2009 and 2013, 50 American 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations gave over $220 million in tax-deductible donations to settlements and other extreme right-wing organizations, according to an investigation of American and American Jewish organizations’ IRS tax forms by the Israeli daily Haaretz.
#2 Lobby American politicians to put unconditional support for the Israeli government and its policies above Palestinian human rights.
- The educational arm of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and organizations such as local Jewish Community Relation Councils send regular delegations of politicians to Israel to boost unequivocal support for the Jewish state while hiding the reality of the Occupation. The limited engagement with Palestinian perspectives on such trips was described by one participant, former U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, as “a sort of token process.”
- In addition to lobbying for Israel, the majority of Jewish institutions lobby against any and all criticism of Israel’s Occupation. Of all American Jewish organizations with large national memberships, only Americans for Peace Now, Jewish Voice for Peace, J Street, and the New Israel Fund supported the U.S. administration’s abstention in the December 2016 United Nations Security Council Resolution recognizing Israel’s settlements as illegal under international law. The mixture of condemnation and silence from every other national American Jewish organization demonstrates an investment in a status quo that benefits settlement expansion over Palestinian rights.
#3 Amplify prominent individuals and organizations responsible for deepening the Occupation.
#4 Promote a culture within the Jewish community that omits and denies the legitimacy of Palestinian narratives and rights.
- Many Jewish youth groups promote the state of Israel while barely acknowledging the existence of the Occupation. For example, many camps and Hebrew schools use maps of Israel without the Green Line in their educational materials.
- Hillel International, which oversees the largest network of centers for Jewish life on college campuses, maintains “standards of partnership” guidelines that prohibit Hillel-affiliated organizations and student groups from hosting or partnering with organizations or individuals that “support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel,” effectively barring engagement with Palestinians opposed to the Occupation.
#5 Silence and intimidate those who oppose the policies of the Israeli government, shutting dissent out of the mainstream Jewish community.
- In 2014, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which was founded in the 1950s to represent all major streams of American Jewry in national affairs, voted against J Street’s membership; vocal opponents said that it was not sufficiently pro-Israel because it opposed the Occupation.
- Mainstream Jewish organizations have refused to speak out against and even funded watchlists, like Canary Mission, that vilify individuals and organizations that speak out for Palestinian rights. Canary Mission is a database that catalogues the photos and names of Palestinian rights activists, encourages employers to blacklist them, and has been used as the basis to deny entry to Israel.
The report’s message is clear. American Jews who stand up for human rights and oppose Israel’s occupation must make their voices heard within these organizations that purport to represent them. They must use their influence and power to pushback against the Zionist behemoth that maintains the occupation.
“Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.” ―