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March 14, 2022 5:10 pm
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Environmental Group Sierra Club Scolded for ‘Caving’ to Anti-Zionist Pressure, Cancelling Israel Trips

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Yatir Forest, in Yatir District, on the southern Slopes of Mount Hebron in Israel. Photo: Okedem / Wikimedia Commons

A leading US Jewish organization condemned the Sierra Club on Monday for cancelling member trips to Israel after facing pressure from anti-Zionist groups.

The conservation group had previously organized trips to Israel to survey archaeological sites and learn about its biodiversity and environmental policies. According to a mass email obtained by the Jewish News of Northern California (J.), which first reported the story, Sierra Club official Mary Owens ascribed the group’s decision to an ultimatum issued by several anti-Zionist groups and “one Jewish American activist” to cancel the trips by March 7.

The email threatened “that if we did not cancel the upcoming trips within a week, they would go public that the organization violating the organizational values it recently rolled out,” Owens wrote, adding that the National Outings team did not want to accede to the demand.

According to J., groups behind the effort included the Adalah Justice Project, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the Sunrise Movement, among others. Ultimately, an ad hoc group convened by Sierra Club recommended that the trips be discontinued. A webpage with details of an upcoming Israel trip was later taken down, and references to past trips removed.

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The American Jewish Committee’s Bay Area regional director, Rabbi Serene Eisenberg, said Monday that the national environmental group had “squandered an opportunity to experience a country with a rich legacy of environmental innovation and water conservation.”

“It’s regrettable that the Sierra Club would cave into pressure based on biased and inaccurate reports that unfortunately foment the demonization of Israel,” Eisenberg said in a statement. “Israel has pioneered environmental stewardship methods and exported these technologies to benefit populations all over the world.”

“It speaks volumes that the Sierra Club is canceling a trip to the only democracy in the Middle East while moving forward with trips to nations with a well-documented record of human rights abuses,” she added. Programs still advertised on Sierra Club’s website include several hundred trips, with many in the US and destinations abroad including China and Malaysia.

“We urge the organization to reconsider this ill-advised decision,” Eisenberg said.

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