Red Lines

I’m studying with some of the world’s foremost experts on the subject of subliminal messaging to convince the world to download the Divest This Guide and pass it on to those who need it (and maybe kick in a few bucks to get it printed for good measure).

But time does not stand still as I hock my wares, so let’s spend this week catching up on a few BDS stories that have come up as the number of New England daylight hours dwindles to single digits.

First off is this interesting piece written by the head of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) in Boston. For purposes of context, New England’s CJP and the associated Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) are the centerpieces of Jewish communal life in the region. Yes, Boston also contains some of the country’s most successful entrepreneurial Jewish groups (such as CAMERA and David Project), and yes other Jewish “alphabet soup” institutions (ADL, AJC, AIPAC – and that’s just some of the A’s) are also well represented here. But if there is an “official” line regarding what’s in and what’s out in terms of political organizations and stands, this line tends to get drawn by CJP.

Now this role is not without controversy. For these major coalition-based organizations have grown in size and influence by creating the largest tent possible, welcoming Jewish organizations and issues with which many already under the tent disagree. In general, peace is kept between Left and Right, between individuals and organizations with differing opinions on domestic and international issues, by avoiding the drawing of red lines, steering clear of absolutes that say who is “in” and who is “out” regarding the consensus of the community.

In fact, the only time I can recall such a red line being drawn is now with regard to the subject of BDS. I’ve mentioned the phenomenon of the mainstreaming of fight against BDS previously in a discussion of a resolution passed by the JCPA (the umbrella organization of Jewish Community Relations Councils around the country). Given that the state-of-the-nation vis-à-vis BDS is no different this year than last in terms of actual boycott or divestment success stories (i.e., unlike 2004-2006, BDS still has no institutional wins to speak of), it’s worth speculating why the fight against BDS seems to be going mainstream right now.

Now the BDSers themselves would no doubt tell you that it is because their “movement” has gained such unstoppable momentum that the Jews (I mean the Zionists) are massing against them in a panic. Now far be it for me to dis anyone else’s “narrative,” but such bloviating triumphalism would be easier to take seriously if I didn’t hear it after every BDS story hits the airwaves (even to announce their umpteenth defeat).

Which leaves us with a few other potential explanations, including:

* The notion of boycotts resonates historically with such force within the Jewish community that it has created a visceral reaction to fight back, regardless of how immediate the danger

* Having been caught by surprise when the BDS project swept through between 2001-2006, Jewish activists and activist organizations are committed to not being caught unprepared again

* BDS is part of a broader effort to challenge the legitimacy of the Jewish state, both its right to defend itself and its right to the same respect enjoyed by every other nation in the world. This “de-legitimization” effort is global (spearheaded by powerful states with the numbers and willingness to deny Israel any place of respect among world bodies, for example). As such, the resources being put to the fight against BDS are really being marshaled against this broader de-legitimization phenomenon.

This last point brings up an interesting connection with a theme discussed at length in the Divest This Guide (hint hint): that BDS is a bit of a loser. Given its inability to win any battles and the raft of Israel supporters it creates in its wake, perhaps an attack on BDS is hitting the whole de-legitimization project at its weakest point, creating a dynamic whereby the inherent weakness (and loathsomeness) of BDS gets reflected on the de-legitimization “movement” as a whole.

Something worth considering. Coming up next: Presbyterians playing badly

8 thoughts on “Red Lines”

  1. Jon: I hope you won't consider it regional chauvinism when I point out that our regional counterpart, the Jewish Commmunity Federation of San Francisco (and environs), produced new funding guidelines that were published in February. These guidelines explicitly exclude organizations which, “through their mission, activities or partnerships….advocate for, or endorse, undermining the legitimacy of Israel as a secure independent, democratic Jewish state, including through participation in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, in whole or in part.”

    Of course, JVP and its allies in the BDS movement immediately shrieked about being “muzzled”, as if the Federation decision not to fund any of their friends and supporters was a violation of their First Amendment rights.

    I'm not claiming that our local community institutions were more prescient in this matter than yours; it's just that, as one of the “hubs of delegitimization” identified by the Reut Institute, the toxic effluvium of BDS befouled our community earlier.

    More detailed commentary on this can be found at

  2. Oooops…Israel never fails ! Last year Bibi and Biden met in Israel and the result was the now infamous announcement of 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem, and now Bibi visits the US and with Biden and guess what: another announcement that Israel is planning 1,300 homes in East Jerusalem and beyond the green line.

    These assholes holding the reigns of power in Israel have no interest in peace and they do all of this with impunity and an “in your face” attitude (especially after the recent congressional elections). Problem is the world is changing surely but steadily, US's economic and political might is on the decline and Israel won't have sugar daddy US to protect its rogue and disgusting behavior. Actually, many Jews right here in the US are getting fed up with Israel's actions. These would be the progressive Jews that see the suicidal path Israel is on but who are “befouling” the community according to Dr(Zioblinders)Mike.

  3. Mike – No need to feel like you're dissing our region by celebrating yours. Point of fact, the Jewish community took a while to find its voice and understand that sometimes red lines are necessary, even if they are distasteful and run counter to the general welcoming nature of the community.

    This realization came a piece at a time, with different people making different decisions (including choosing to take risks) at different times, and your extremely out-front JCRC in SF was certainly a risk-taking leader that helped make it easier for others to see the sky wouldn't fall if they made certain tough choices.

  4. To the Anon who brought “Young, Jewish and Proud” to my attention, all I can say is it renders me speechless (well, almost). Either this is a parody (or an invitation to write one) or a direct channel into the dialog going on in the head of a member of the odious (and increasingly hilarious) Jewish Voice for Peacer.

    In either case, thanks for sharing.

  5. To the first Anon above (and why is there such reluctance to identify themselves by those who are peddling misinformation? oh, right):

    Did I miss the part where the BDS proponents said that if Israel withdrew to the Green Line that they would abandon BDS and accept the existence of a state of the Jewish people?

    Did I miss the part where the “progressive Jews” to whom you refer are supporting BDS out of an interest in preserving a Jewish state of Israel?

    (quick Google search)

    Nope, looks like I didn't miss anything new. They're still insisting on the end of Jewish statehood, while being quite at peace with the existence of Islamic states all over the world. Thanks for playing, Anon. Better luck next time.

    By the way, in the US, the largest organization of “progressive Jews” who do claim to speak out against settlements out of concern for the survival of a Jewish state of Israel is J Street. J Street opposes BDS:
    “J Street strongly opposes views and positions such as those captured at the Palestinian BDS National Committee’s website,, because, among other reasons, they fail explicitly to recognize Israel’s right to exist and they ignore or reject Israel’s role as a national home for the Jewish people. In addition, the promotion by some in the BDS Movement of the ‘return’ to Israel of Palestinian refugees from 1948 and their families indicates support for an outcome incompatible with our vision of Israel and incompatible with a two-state solution to the conflict.”

  6. An instructive parallel can be drawn between BDS and Hamas regarding how apologists for each try to make their pets look like something other than the Israel Destruction Societies that they are. BDS head and TAU student Omar Barghouti's clear statement that the BDS goal is to dismantle Israel and replace it with a single Palestinian state, just like Hamas' explicit genocide declarations in its Charter, are therefore angrily downplayed (the JVP's mealy-mouthed stance that they support BDS without TAKING a stance on two-state/one-state/red state blue state is a good example of this) because they know that most people do not support a zero-sum, mass murder resolution in the Middle East, and these inconvenient truths don't help their efforts to sell said resolution to the active world. At least armchair terrorists like our Anon friends have the honesty to admit that they want Israel gone one way or the other, and only regret that they aren't capable of making that happen right now. The bottom line is that a fair and balanced two-state resolution between Israelis and Palestinians is not what BDS wants any more than its what Hamas wants, and that's why people of consicence, Jewish or non-Jewish, won't buy into their snake-oil sales.

  7. Is JVP serious? The creators of “Muzzlewatch” are now taking pride in interupting people's free speech? Wow. I wish I could say the colossal hypocrisy of JVP surprises me, but no, I'm too well acquainted with their tactics.

    Sign me “Old, Jewish and Proud”

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