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October 30, 2013 2

Is Jewish Voice for Peace Edging Toward a Full Boycott of Israel?

Narrow Bridge Candles screenshot

An image on Nar­row Bridge Can­dles’ web­site calls for the company’s can­dles to “fuel flames of resistance.”

The Boston chap­ter of Jew­ish Voice for Peace posted a mes­sage on its Face­book page on Octo­ber 28th urg­ing its fol­low­ers to buy Hanukkah can­dles from a candle-making project called “Nar­row Bridge Can­dles” that sup­ports the “full Pales­tin­ian call for Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions.” The com­pany, which is based in Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia, pro­duces dif­fer­ent kinds of can­dles needed for Jew­ish rit­u­als, includ­ing Shab­bat, Havadala and Hanukkah, so that Jews who are “in sol­i­dar­ity with Pales­tine” don’t have to pur­chase can­dles from Israel.

On its web­site, the project claims that Israel has a “monop­oly on Judaica.” In fact, many of the Hanukkah can­dles that are sold in the United States are pro­duced by two Jew­ish com­pa­nies in New York, Rite Lite in Brook­lyn and Ner Mitz­vah in New Square. Another pop­u­lar brand sold in the U.S. is actu­ally man­u­fac­tured in China. While we didn’t take the time to inves­ti­gate the mar­ket share for these com­pa­nies, suf­fice it to say that Israeli-made Hanukkah can­dles are not the only ones avail­able for purchase.

Hanukah candles Tel Aviv

Hanukkah can­dles made in Tel Aviv, Israel

More impor­tantly, JVP Boston’s sup­port for Nar­row Bridge Can­dles demon­strates the incon­sis­tency in JVP’s plat­form on BDS. In its 2011 state­ment regard­ing BDS, JVP-National, which was just named by ADL as a “Top Ten Anti-Israel Group,” stated clearly that the group “focuses our efforts on boy­cott and divest­ment cam­paigns that directly tar­get Israel’s occu­pa­tion of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and its block­ade of the Gaza Strip.” This sug­gests that JVP was restrict­ing its pro-BDS advo­cacy to prod­ucts made in Israeli set­tle­ments and to multi­na­tional com­pa­nies that profit from the occupation.

 But Nar­row Bridge Can­dles sup­ports a boy­cott of prod­ucts made in Israel in gen­eral; no men­tion is made on its web­site of boy­cotting can­dles only made in Israeli set­tle­ments in the West Bank. Indeed, two of the most pop­u­lar candle-making com­pa­nies in Israel are based in Tel Aviv and Safed, cities that are part of Israel’s pre-1967 borders.

Var­i­ous mem­bers of JVP’s lead­er­ship have indi­cated in the past that the group might con­sider shift­ing from tar­geted BDS to an adop­tion of the Pales­tin­ian call for BDS, which advo­cates for a com­plete boy­cott. In a 2011 inter­view, both Rebecca Vilkomer­son, JVP’s Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, and Brant Rosen, a founder of its Rab­bini­cal Coun­cil, indi­cated that the group might even­tu­ally sup­port a full boy­cott. It remains to be seen if JVP-Boston’s endorse­ment of Nar­row Bridge Can­dles is a har­bin­ger of that shift or an aber­ra­tion of JVP’s pol­icy.

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July 16, 2013 1

Jewish Group To Hold Anti-Israel Protests On Tisha B’Av

As many Jews around the world today observe Tisha B’Av – a fast day that marks the anniver­sary of the destruc­tion of both Tem­ples in Jerusalem and the Jew­ish people’s exile from the land of Israel – one Jew­ish group is spend­ing the day protest­ing Israel.jvp-tisha b’av-we-divest-day-action

Jew­ish Voice for Peace, a dri­ving force behind the Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions (BDS) cam­paign against Israel in the U.S., is help­ing orga­nize a “Day of Action” out­side the offices of TIAA-CREF, a major finan­cial ser­vices insti­tu­tion, across the coun­try. The protests are being held under the aus­pices of “We Divest,” a coali­tion founded and led by JVP. TIAA-CREF is being tar­geted because it has invest­ments in sev­eral multi­na­tional com­pa­nies that work with Israel.

The finan­cial giant is hold­ing its national share­hold­ers meet­ing today in Char­lotte, North Car­olina. Protests will be held there and out­side TIAA-CREF offices in Ann Arbor, Boston, Chicago, Den­ver, Detroit, Ithaca, Los Ange­les, New York, Philadel­phia, San Fran­cisco and Seattle.

Though today’s protest was not timed to coin­cide with Tisha B’Av, JVP’s activists have noted and appre­ci­ated the sig­nif­i­cance of the con­nec­tion else­where. Yes­ter­day, “The Pales­tin­ian Tal­mud,” a blog run by JVP’s Rab­bini­cal Coun­cil, fea­tured an entry about Tisha B’Av that pro­moted the “Day of Action” against Israel.

While the main­stream Jew­ish com­mu­nity views Tisha B’Av as an oppor­tu­nity to reded­i­cate its com­mit­ment to polit­i­cal sov­er­eignty and sup­port for the Jew­ish state, the blog post chal­lenged the notion that the Jew­ish peo­ple need a land of their own, say­ing: “More times than I can count I’ve heard that Jews will not be safe in the world with­out Israel to pro­tect us. My fam­ily and teach­ers and friends point to time after time of Jews being knocked down, kicked out, killed and say: it will hap­pen again, no mat­ter what. I look at that his­tory and say: it can be dif­fer­ent, it has to be.”

The author, a Recon­struc­tion­ist rab­bini­cal stu­dent named Jes­sica Rosen­berg, acknowl­edges that many Jews spend the day recit­ing prayers (known as Kinot) that mourn the destruc­tion of the Tem­ples, but notes that she will observe the fast by read­ing sto­ries and poems about “Pales­tini­ans who’ve been dis­pos­sessed and expelled from their land.” Rosen­berg acknowl­edges the dif­fi­culty of con­nect­ing mourn­ing about Jew­ish trauma with crit­i­cism of Israel (in her words, the “Pales­tin­ian his­tory and trauma that my com­mu­nity has to reckon with our part in caus­ing”), but com­mits to start­ing this “new ritual.”

This exploita­tion of Jew­ish tra­di­tion to pro­mote an anti-Israel agenda is clas­sic JVP. The group has even pre­vi­ously pub­lished a Passover Hag­gadah that reded­i­cates the 3rd cup of wine to BDS and adds an olive to the Seder Plate to mark the Pales­tin­ian struggle.

In advance of today’s meet­ing, TIAA-CREF was pre­sented with a BDS res­o­lu­tion sup­ported by some of its investors. The com­pany, how­ever, chose not to put the res­o­lu­tion on the bal­lot of res­o­lu­tions that will be con­sid­ered because, as they expressed, the occu­pa­tion isn’t a “sig­nif­i­cant social pol­icy issue.”

The “We Divest” cam­paign was ini­ti­ated in 2010 by JVP, which began cir­cu­lat­ing a peti­tion at the time call­ing on TIAA-CREF to divest. At present, the peti­tion has close to 21,000 sig­na­to­ries. In 2012, JVP announced that the “We Divest” cam­paign was being trans­formed into a coali­tion com­prised of JVP, the US Cam­paign to End the Israeli Occu­pa­tion, Adalah-NY, the US Pales­tin­ian Com­mu­nity Net­work, Grass­roots Inter­na­tional, and the Amer­i­can Friends Ser­vice Com­mit­tee. As part of its efforts to pres­sure TIAA-CREF to divest from the com­pa­nies that work with Israel, the “We Divest” coali­tion holds reg­u­lar protests and teach-ins and other events pro­mot­ing TIAA-CREF divestment.

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June 19, 2013 2

Anti-Israel Groups Organize Youth Summer Camps

As sum­mer nears for mil­lions of stu­dents across the coun­try, anti-Israel orga­ni­za­tions are recruit­ing them to spend some of their free time being indoc­tri­nated in anti-Israel advo­cacy and a one-sided nar­ra­tive of Pales­tin­ian his­tory and culture.boycott_divestment_sanctions

The Amer­i­can Friends Ser­vice Com­mit­tee, a Quaker orga­ni­za­tion that has long engaged in efforts to dele­git­imize Israel, has teamed up with the noto­ri­ously anti-Israel group Jew­ish Voice for Peace to hold a four-day-long “Sum­mer BDS Insti­tute” in late July for college-age stu­dents who are already involved in pro-BDS (Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions) cam­paign­ing on their col­lege cam­puses or are inter­ested in launch­ing a BDS cam­paign on cam­pus next year.

Pro­po­nents of BDS, an almost decade-old move­ment, seek to demo­nize Israel, dele­git­imize Israeli pol­icy and, in its most extreme forms, pro­mote the destruc­tion of the Jew­ish char­ac­ter of Israel in an effort to turn pub­lic opin­ion against the Jew­ish state.

The pro­gram will train stu­dents about orga­niz­ing and imple­ment­ing a cam­paign, deal­ing with media requests, “direct action” plan­ning and more. The pro­gram, which will take place in New York, is cyn­i­cally being pro­moted as “fun in a sum­mer camp-like envi­ron­ment!” on AFSC’s web­site. It is the lat­est effort by off-campus anti-Israel groups to pro­vide stu­dents with the tools to bet­ter orga­nize and ini­ti­ate pro­grams attack­ing Israel on campus.

JVP is one of the lead­ing pro-BDS orga­ni­za­tions in the United States and is the pri­mary group behind, thus far unsuc­cess­ful, efforts to pres­sure TIAA-CREF, a major finan­cial insti­tu­tion, to dis­in­vest from multi­na­tional com­pa­nies that work with Israel. AFSC has also, to a lesser extent, played a part in pro­mot­ing BDS in the U.S. and spon­sors dozens of anti-Israel events and pro­grams across the country.

In Sep­tem­ber 2008, AFSC mem­bers met with Iran­ian pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ahmadine­jad when he was vis­it­ing New York for the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly. AFSC was one of five reli­gious groups to spon­sor a din­ner and con­ver­sa­tion – billed as an “inter­na­tional dia­logue between reli­gious lead­ers and polit­i­cal fig­ures” – with the Iran­ian leader, one of the world’s most promi­nent anti-Semites. ADL force­fully con­demned the meet­ing as a “per­ver­sion of the search for peace.”

Sep­a­rately, Amer­i­can Mus­lims for Pales­tine, the lead­ing orga­ni­za­tion pro­vid­ing anti-Zionist train­ing and edu­ca­tion to stu­dents and Mus­lim com­mu­nity orga­ni­za­tions in the coun­try, plans to hold a sum­mer camp for youth aged 8–12 in Chicago on Sat­ur­days through­out the summer.

AMP, which had pre­vi­ously been in the busi­ness of train­ing high school and col­lege stu­dents and adults to engage in anti-Israel cam­paigns, has a highly polit­i­cal agenda and reg­u­larly demo­nizes Israel. At times, the group has also pro­vided a plat­form for anti-Semitism under the guise of edu­cat­ing Amer­i­cans about “the just cause of Pales­tine and the rights of self-determination.”

A descrip­tion for the camp notes that the chil­dren will be taught about “Pales­tine and its his­tory,” which will likely be a much dis­torted ver­sion of the his­tory of the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict. The descrip­tion also notes that the chil­dren will learn about Pales­tin­ian arts, cul­ture and his­tory and “par­tic­i­pate in fun activ­i­ties.”

ADL described the sum­mer camp pro­grams as venues to “indoc­tri­nate the next gen­er­a­tion of activists with biased mes­sages intended to sin­gle out Israel” and crit­i­cized AMP’s “cyn­i­cal cal­cu­la­tion that there is no such thing as being too young to start learn­ing how to hate Israel.”

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