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October 30, 2013

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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