AJDS and the JCCV

April 11, 2013 by  
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It doesn’t surprise me that the JCCV is considering disaffiliating AJDS. This possibility has been on the agenda for a while. Not surprisingly, I have mixed feelings about this course of action.

Historically, there is a world of difference between the politics and personnel of AJDS pre-2000 and post the Second Palestinian Intifada. The earlier AJDS from approximately 1985-2000 was the only organisation in the Melbourne Jewish community (as the sister organisation of the Sydney Jewish Left) that consistently supported a two state solution in what was then a very conservative Australian Jewry.

The exclusion of AJDS from the JCCV in 1987 at the behest of some very arrogant leaders of the Zionist movement at that time greatly embarrassed the Jewish community. I was not at that time a member of AJDS, but joined soon after at least in part because I was so appalled by that episode. The AJDS seemed to symbolize democratic and pluralist debate in the Jewish community as many non-Left commentators noted at the time.

Much changed after September 2000. The Jewish mainstream shifted sharply to adopt a two-state perspective. AJDS included new activists whose politics were primarily of the universalistic Left with very little interest in or respect for what the Jewish mainstream thought. There were a number of one-sided pro-Palestinian statements made by AJDS that seemed highly insensitive at the height of the Palestinian suicide bombings directed at Israeli civilians within the Green Line. A number of AJDS members who still considered themselves to represent a Jewish Left perspective, but thought that any Jewish-identifying organisation should have a basic position of solidarity with the Israeli Jewish people, were either directly driven out of the organisation (my experience), or more quietly discontinued their involvement.

The AJDS position seemed to revolve around what their allies in the pro-Palestinian Left thought mattered. They did not try to find a reasonable mid-way compromise between the Palestinian lobbyists and the Jewish mainstream. Rather, they tried to sit mid-way between the hardline Palestinian lobby and the slightly less extreme Palestinian lobby. This culminated in their August 2010 vote in favour of a BDS boycott of settlement goods. Their decision was praised by hardline pro-BDS boycott advocates all over the world as cited in David Landy’s pro-BDS book Jewish Identify and Palestinian Rights (pp.101 & 162).

I understand that successive JCCV Presidents since 2001 have attempted to communicate to AJDS that inclusion in the Jewish mainstream involves responsibilities as well as rights. And others on the Left have also tried to make the point that being a Jewish Left organisation sometimes means prioritizing particularist Jewish interests and concerns over other universalistic concerns. The AJDS response has not been positive, and has seemed to involve little more than a wall of silence.

I do not personally want to see any organisation excluded from the JCCV on political grounds. I suspect AJDS will wrongly proclaim themselves to be martyrs of free speech if that happens. I also suspect that it will send a very bad message to the Jewish and broader community about the apparent limits of acceptable opinion in the Jewish mainstream. But equally, ADJS need to understand that the community don’t have unlimited patience for those whose political loyalties always seem to lie with the pro-Palestinian Left rather than the Jewish community (i.e. as in AJDS’ notorious support for the anti-Zionist fundamentalists at Overland Magazine). If AJDS still want to be included then they need to stop excluding themselves.

Philip Mendes

Melbourne

Comments

7 Responses to “AJDS and the JCCV”
  1. Ann fFink says:

    Dear Gil,
    Despite our major differences of opinion I am still prepared to engage with you. I do not speak for the majority of Jews, Arabs or others in Israel. I can only report onwhat I see here in Israel and the occupied territories.

    On saturday night we attended a wonderful wedding in Jericho. The guests came from all over Israel and what may yet become Palestine. They came as we did from Tel Aviv, the Galil, from Nablus and from Jerusalem, East and West.

    They came unimpeded by checkpoints.. The only soldier we encountered was on our way back thru the outskirts of Jerusalem. A very bored young girl who waived us thru in our clearly marked hire car without even turning her head to give us a cursory glance. Too busy talking on her cell phone.

    The night before, at our Shabbat table ,our grandson a tank commander, told us that he was no longer on the Syrian border, from where shells had been fired only a day before, but was now serving in the shtechim, where he has to endure the settlers hostility to the IDF. They throw rocks at his unit and when not attacking the IDF, they hurl rocks at passing Palestinian cars. They carry out “price tag” attacks on the nearby Palestinian villages in full view of the IDF. When we asked what does his unit do, he replied,”we take photos of them and they take photos of us.”

    Does this seem to you, a state in existential crisis?

  2. Ann fFink says:

    Dear Gil,
    Despite our major differences of opinion I am still prepared to engage with you. I do not speak for the majority of Jews, Arabs or others in Israel. I can only report onwhat I see here in Israel and the occupied territories.

    On saturday night we attended a wonderful wedding in Jericho. The guests came from all over Israel and what may yet become Palestine. They came as we did from Tel Aviv, the Galil, from Nablus and from Jerusalem, East and West.

    They came unimpeded by checkpoints.. The only soldier we encountered was on our way back thru the outskirts of Jerusalem. A very boted young girl who waived us thru in our clearly marked hire car without even turning her head to give us a cursory glance. Top busy talking on her cell phone.

    The night before, at our Shabbat table ,our grandson a tank commander, told us that he was no longer on the Syrian border, from where shells had been fired only a day before, but was now serving in the shtechim, where he has to endure the settlers hostility to the IDF. They throw rocks at his unit and when not attacking the IDF, they hurl rocks at passing Palestinian cars. They carry out “price tag” attacks on the nearby Palestinian villages in full view of the IDF. When we asked what does his unit do, he replied,”we take photos of them and they take photos of us.”

    Does this seem to you, a state in existential crisis?

  3. Gil Solomon says:

    What foolish, if not insane people Jews have become in the course of a few decades. Once we were proudly united, now look at us.

    Who are these people in the AJDS who try to pass themselves off as Jews who care for the survival of Israel?

    On the other hand, what suicidal virus have infected those who align themselves with or try to rationalise why it is appropriate that groups like the AJDS have any right to be affiliated with mainstream Jewish organisations? Does anyone in their wildest dreams think that an anti Muslim or anti Palestinian group could ever be affiliated with a mainstream Islamic organisation?

    How the enemies of the Jewish people in general and Israel in particular must be laughing at the stupidity of Jews. The fact that within Israel itself there are those of the same political persuasion (especially the academic elite) as AJDS, does not make their policy sane.

    To Ann’s comment that BDS has had no effect on the Israeli economy, this does not mean that it won’t in the near future and does not justify the AJDS stance in any way. I believe, but am not sure, that it was an Israeli citizen who gave birth to the idea of BDS. No other country on the face of the earth, facing existential threats on a daily basis would tolerate its citizens giving aid and comfort to the enemy by advocating acts of treason, which is what the BDS is. Seems however when Jews are concerned, anything goes and anything is tolerated.
    And what a sad indictment on all of us when she states that: “Jews all over the world and especially
    in the USA are reconsidering their relationship with Israel AND HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO DO SO.” Vast numbers of American Jews may very well be the fools of the Diaspora but to come to this conclusion about the majority of Jews worldwide, one has to wonder how far is it that we have sunk.

    In spite of what Phillip Mendes may want, the JCCV should unceremoniously and publicly throw the AJDS out and end this controversy.

    Finally and sadly I will end with the thought that the Second Temple fell for various reasons but at a time when there was disunity among Jews. God help us and Israel if mainstream opinion does not prevail.

    • Ann says:

      Dear Gil,

      I do not know of any time when we “were proudly united”. Would you be so kind and give me your references. In the diaspora throughout the millenia there were constant disputes. Many historians would argue that it was this was the fire that tempered the very strong democratic nature of Jewish communities in the modern world. This is why, they argue, Jews feature so prominently in the struggles against dictatorship in South Africa, in the American civil rights movement etc.

      Since it’s foundation, Israeli democracy has been vibrant and disputive. The results of the last elections show how much can change so quickly. Even among the religious sects there are frequent and sometimes violent arguments. Gil, you write as a diaspora Jew. Israelis do not feel they are under existential threat. They are more concerned with the cost of living, their eroding pensions, education etc.

      In case you missed it, Israel now has to deal with the problem of the high value of the shekel which has been influenced by the large amount of investment pouring in from the outside world (due to its financial and banking stability) and to the massive natural gas discoveries which are about to come on line. Stanley Fisher advocates the establishment of a future fund to cover the costs of education, medical care etc. – sounds familiar?

      Gil, you should be proud of a strong and democratic Israel. Jewish communities in the Diaspora should follow its leadership and allow the same measures of democratic discussion. Israelis guard this freedom very jealously and attempts to limit it have met with opposition from all sides of the debate. Likud members, Ruby Rivlin and Benny Begin, being the best examples. AJDS follows in this tradition.

      Sincerely, Ann Fink

      • Gil Solomon says:

        Ann,

        You are obviously a very liberal Jew and a staunch supporter of AJDS so I won’t even bother to try to continue any serious dialogue with you re. why the affiliate status of the AJDS with the JCCV should be terminated.

        However, to your other points I will remind you that for all the support well meaning liberal Jews gave to ending the apartheid regime in South Africa together with being at the forefront of the American civil rights movement, there is more anti Semitism in South Africa now and as far as the USA is concerned, just in case you aren’t aware, anti Semitism is rampant within mainstream black organisations. So I wouldn’t hold this up as a great accomplishment. The lesson from this should be that if individual Jews want to be involved in political issues in general so be it, but as a community, Jews should concentrate on issues that benefit both the Jewish community and Israel and not like the AJDS whose policies openly side with the enemies of Israel.

        Lastly, who are you to speak for the majority opinion within Israel? I know Israelis living in Israel who MOST CERTAINLY feel thay are under constant existential threat on top of all the other issues concerning them, day to day.

  4. Ann says:

    I am genuinely curious about the position of JCCV vis a vis the Jewish community of Victoria. Being of a certain age, 74 years, I am very well aware of the divisions with this community over many years. In the immediate post war years, the Bund was a strong and vociferous force in this community. Many and fierce were the arguments between the Bundists and the Zionists. No-one ever dreamed of excluding the Bundists from the Jewish community of Victoria. Their institutions, such as Kadimah and indeed the Jewish Welfare Society were the backbone of this community.

    Prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, many of the “Anglo Jewish” community also argued fiercely against it’s establishment. My husband remembers Rabbi Danglow forbidding children at St. Kilda synagogue from waving Israeli flags on Simchat Torah!

    Much has changed over the years. The Bundists have reconciled themselves to Zionism, as have the congregants of St. Kilda Synagogue. However where is there any law or regulation which mandates that to be amember of the Jewsih community of Victoria , one must be a Zionist in the narrow sense defined by the JCCV.There are those of us who hold Israeli citizenship, pay Israeli taxes, have children and grandchildren in the IDF, AND still find our views quite compatible with those of the AJDS.

    There are some members of the AJDS who support BDS. There are others who don’t. Some support some sanctions, such as refusing to recognize the so called “University” of Ariel. Many thousands of Israeli academics, including the heads of all the Universities in Israel (except Bar Ilan) and the president of The Weizmann Institute have adopted this position. Many Israelis refuse to knowingly buy goods produced in the occupied territories
    because it undermines Israel’s own economy by paying lower wages to palestinian workers when the same goods were once manufactures in Israel.

    BDS has had no effect on the Israeli economy. Turkey has doubled the value of its imports over the last year. In a globally interconnected economic world, it is a futile protest. Not one BDS supporter will willingly give away his laptop, iPad or cellular phone, despite their high content of israeli produced hardware and software. BDS has only symbolic value.

    In a free and democratic country people have the right to express their views peacefully. Jews all over the world and especially in the USA, are reconsidering their relationship with Israel. They have every right to do so AND remain Jewish. For the JCCV to even contemplate excommunicating The AJDS because the organization doesn’t adhere to the rigid guidelines of what the JCCV accepts as” true Zionism” can only be described as anti -democratic.

  5. Paul Winter says:

    Completely wrong. The AJDS may have been the only supporters of the two-state solution, but it has now been attempted and found to be unfeasible; the Arabs are far more devoted to destroying the Jewish state than having a state of their own. Stary eyed intellectuals need get down from their ivory towers and confront reality.

    The AJDS issue is not political, but antisemitic. When a group calls for BDS against the Jewish state like the Nazis did, not for anything real, but for visceral Jew hatred, that is not politics. The AJDS call for BDS is based on lies as there is no apartheid in Israel, there is no occupation, there is no colonisation and there is no such thing as a Palestinian people.

    When halachicly Jewish people side with antisemites – and religion is the real basis for the mohammedan hostility to the Jewish state – they must not be permitted to remain within a community that they betray. The pretense that such a mob is taking a moral stance is risible; all they are doing is currying favour with their political allies, allies that are not only betraying a democracy, but who are betraying their socialist principles, much as they did in Spain decades ago.

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