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May 7, 2012 12:33 pm

Why are Anti-Israel Groups Marching in New York’s Israel Parade?

avatar by Richard Allen / JointMedia News Service

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at the Celebrate Israel Parade. Photo: SF Sentinel.

The Celebrate Israel Parade on June 3 is a joyous event for the New York City-area Jewish community, when we demonstrate our love and support of Israel. So why are organizations dedicated to destroying Israel’s economy through boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) being given the privilege of marching?

One of these groups is openly organizing a boycott against targeted Israeli companies, including Ahava Cosmetics. Others have supported the infamous Goldstone Report, and funded organizations that urged Norway to divest from Israel.

At the center of the controversy is the New Israel Fund (NIF), which was granted permission to march in last year’s parade. Other extremist groups marched with NIF, displaying their individual banners, including B’Tselem, Partners for Progressive Israel and Rabbis for Human Rights. This year, NIF is slated to march again, and we expect B’Tselem and the other groups will once again join NIF, displaying their banners.

NIF has been exposed as receiving funds from the European Union, which seeks to influence internal Israeli politics through a front organization. NIF, in turn, funds numerous Israeli non-governmental organizations (NGOs), some of which promote boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

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For instance, five grantees of the New Israel Fund (Machsom Watch, Coalition of Women for Peace, Women Against Violence, Social TV, and Mossawa) signed a letter to the Norwegian Government Pension Fund, urging it to divest from Israel.

Partners for Progressive Israel (also known as Meretz USA) prominently displays on its website, under the heading “boycott these Settlement products sold in the U.S,” a list of Israeli products that it wants Jews to boycott. These products include Ahava cosmetics, SodaStream products, and wine from nine Israeli vineyards.

And the chair of B’Tselem’s board, Oren Yiftachel, has publicly called for “effective sanctions” against Israel. B’Tselem is a major grantee of the NIF.

As a result of public controversy, the NIF issued a statement in 2010 opposing BDS. However, despite this stated policy change, NIF continues to fund groups that have a history of working for anti-Israel global BDS campaigns.

We who count ourselves among Israel’s true supporters believe that Jewish groups that organize for the economic destruction of other Jews should not be given the honor of marching with our community. Furthermore, we must be mindful of the example we set for our children. Do we teach them that it’s acceptable to try to harm other Jews and weaken Israel?

In light of this unacceptable decision on the part of the parade organizers, I formed the Committee for a Pro-Israel Parade, along with several community-minded members. Our goal is to inform the parade organizers that the Jewish community rejects the participation of these groups and to ask them to withdraw their acceptance.

As word has spread about the participation of the NIF in the parade, many prominent leaders, rabbis, and organizations have added their names to our cause. When Jewish groups hear that organizations linked to BDS are permitted to march in the parade, they’re astounded and puzzled. Why would the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), which officially organizes the parade, permit such anti-Israel organizations to participate?

The issue is clear: Jews who actively work to sabotage Israel’s economy should not be included in the Celebrate Israel Parade.

Richard Allen is the founder of New York-based JCC Watch, an NGO established to monitor interaction between American Jewish organizations and groups that support boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel.

Editor’s note: This column originally appeared in the Jewish Voice of Brooklyn, NY, and is distributed with the permission of that newspaper.

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