Posted by: Morton Klein and Elizabeth Berney, Esq.
May 26, 2015
Blogs Op-Ed

ZOA Op-ed in NY Jewish Week Criticizing Jewish BDS Groups

Ameinu’s inaccurate Opinion piece invokes the “straw man” of non-existent “murder charges” to distract readers from the real issue: namely, that Ameinu’s “Hatikvah” slate should have been removed from the World Zionist Congress (WZC) election because its members promote discriminatory anti-Israel anti-Jewish boycotts, divestment and/or sanctions (BDS).  

Ameinu falsely claims that “Hatikvah” slate groups combat the BDS movement – when, in fact, top “Hatikvah” slate member Partners for Progressive Israel (PPI) has been promoting discriminatory boycotts against close to 200 Israeli and Jewish-owned businesses and industries, as indicated on PPI’s website. PPI also promotes “cultural” anti-Israel anti-Jewish boycotts, including against the performing arts center in Ariel, a university community where 25,000 Jews live.  PPI has also been working to stopIllinois’ anti-boycott bill.

BDS against Jews and Israelis violates the World Zionist Organization Constitution’s anti-discrimination requirements, as well as the New York State Human Rights Law’s anti-boycott provisions, and Jewish law prohibiting interference with another’s livelihood.

Ameinu (which shares offices and more with fellow slate member PPI) has also found a new way to torment certain Israeli officials:  Through its The Third Narrative subsidiary, it promotes severe international sanctions, including travel restrictions and financial penalties, against Israeli officials with whom it disagrees. 

Ameinu’s article neglects to mention that its “Hatikvah” slate also includes the leaders of other groups that promote BDS, including: (1) Americans for Peace Now (APN), which openly (on its website), promotes boycotts against Jewish and Israeli-owned businesses that have any facility over the “Green Line,” including in eastern Jerusalem; (2) New Israel Fund (“NIF”), which funds BDS groups in Judea and Samaria, and funded the BDS infrastructure; (3) J Street, which promotes, honors, features and brings leading BDS speakers to conferences and college campuses; and (4) “Open Hillel,” which works together with the anti-Israel group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), to try to force campus Hillel chapters to host BDS events and BDS speakers  who call for Israel’s destruction.   

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) presented WZC election officials with over 100 documents and 10 videos proving ZOA’s claims that the “Hatikvah” slate’s constituent organizations promote BDS.  ZOA also demonstrated that the Hatikvah slate groups are interconnected; they share offices, directors, and referrals to each other’s websites.  For instance, Ameinu President Kenneth Bob doubles as J Street’s treasurer and as a J Street director.

The ZOA asked the WZC election officials to remove the Hatikvah slate from the WZC ballot because “Hatikvah” constituent groups’ promotion of BDS against Jews and Israelis violates the World Zionist Organization Constitution’s anti-discrimination requirements, as well as the New York State Human Rights Law’s anti-boycott provisions, and Jewish law prohibiting interference with another’s livelihood. 

 The recent excellent Israeli Supreme Court decision upholding Israel’s anti-boycott law also demonstrates the validity of ZOA’s petition.  The Israeli Supreme Court recognized that boycotts – even those boycotts restricted to Jews and Israelis in Judea and Samaria – endanger and delegitimize all of Israel, and held that it is appropriate to deny benefits to and penalize those seeking to undermine the State of Israel using BDS.  

During the WZC election hearing, the “Hatikvah” slate tried to justify its discriminatory, economically damaging boycotts against Jewish and Israeli businesses by claiming that such boycotts promote “peace and justice.”  Ameinu’s article again attempts to justify boycotts. Israeli Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melzer accurately described BDS as “political terrorism.”

Disappointingly and inexplicably, the WZC elections officials ignored the mountain of law and evidence that ZOA presented, and instead permitted the “Hatikvah” slate to continue running in the WZC election simply because the slate (as distinct from its members) filed a one-page platform statement (falsely) claiming that it combats the BDS movement.  This decision of course leaves ZOA with the option of bringing BDS claims against individual slate members, and the ZOA has begun this process. 

Ameinu’s article also attempts to justify so-called “targeted” BDS with canards about Israeli “occupation.”  There is no “occupation”:  Israel gave away all of Gaza and 42 percent of Judea/Samaria, where the Palestinian Arabs have their own parliament, schools, universities, TV and radio stations, newspapers and police force running all aspects of their lives except some Israeli security control necessitated by continuing Palestinian Arab terrorism.  The Jewish communities comprise less than two percent of Judea/Samaria.

Ameinu also falsely exaggerates ZOA’s involvement in a rally to protest allowing BDS groups to march in the Celebrate Israel Parade. ZOA accepted an invitation to speak and point out that having BDS groups march gives legitimacy and encouragement to the BDS movement whose goal is Israel’s destruction.

We wish that Ameinu and its allies would heed the Israeli Supreme Court’s warning that even limited BDS endangers and harms Jews and Israel.

Morton Klein is ZOA’s national president. Elizabeth Berney, Esq. is ZOA’s director of special projects and ZOA-Long Island-Queens executive director.

This article was published by NY Jewish Week and may be found here.