Seattle Jewish Federation Sponsors Promoter of Israel Boycott

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In a move sure to send shock waves through pro-Israel circles well beyond the Pacific Northwest, Seattle’s Jewish Federation announced today their sponsorship of a lecture this coming Thursday evening at Hillel UW featuring Israel critic, Peter Beinart. The controversial pundit created a firestorm back in 2012 with his proposal for limited BDS, or as he christened it in a New York Times piece,  “Zionist BDS”.

Prior to Beinart’s infamous New York Times op-ed the notion of targeting Jews for boycott conjured up for many, chilling images of 1930’s boycotts of Jewish businesses. With too many failing to appreciate the nuance of Beinart’s proposal – to only boycott those Jews who reside where he believes they should not -in one fell swoop Beinart helped catapult the BDS movement from the extremist fringe to mainstream consideration.

Local Israel supporter Nachshon Ben-Ami explained to The Mike Report that thanks to Beinart, in certain progressive circles “the conversation immediately shifted from should we or shouldn’t we boycott Israel to should we boycott all Israelis or just some Israelis?”

We should lobby to exclude settler-produced goods from America’s free-trade deal with Israel. We should push to end Internal Revenue Service policies that allow Americans to make tax-deductible gifts to settler charities. -Peter Beinart

In response to our inquiry, The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle’s CEO & President Keith Dvorchik (JFGS) provided The Mike Report with the agency’s Israel Speaker/Program Sponsorship Criteria. The policy precludes the Federation from sponsoring any event by any group or individual that fails to “reject boycott, divestment and sanction against Israel”. Dvorchik reiterated to The Mike Report the Federation’s position that “we support Israel, the 2 state solution, and are against BDS.”

If moderate settlers living near the green line resent being lumped in with their more ideologically driven counterparts deep in occupied territory, they should agitate for a two-state solution that would make possible their incorporation into democratic Israel. Or they should move. – Peter Beinart

"The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the story of a powerful state oppressing a stateless people." - Peter Beinart

“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the story of a powerful state oppressing a stateless people.” – Peter Beinart

Despite the Federation’s policy and Dvorchik’s stated rejection of BDS or boycott, divestment and sanction of Israel, the Federation is nevertheless sponsoring a speaker who is a chief advocate for boycotting, divesting and sanctioning Israel. That the boycott targets only those Israeli government and civilian entities situated beyond the green line (Beinart opposes full scale BDS) makes it no less a boycott of Israel. More troubling to many is the notion that the collective punishment of  314,132 Jewish souls who happen to reside in the biblical Jewish heartland is somehow, under any circumstances acceptable. 

Varda Epstein a resident of Efrat, one of the communities singled out by Beinart shared with The Mike Report the pain caused her family by the Seattle Jewish Federation’s embrace of  Beinart and his targeted BDS. Said Epstein “It’s hurtful to think that the Seattle Jewish community would work to deprive my family of a livelihood and think of me a fellow Jew, a mother and a grandmother as some kind of criminal.”

It’s hurtful to think that the Seattle Jewish community would work to deprive my family of a livelihood. -Efrat resident; Varda Epstein

Said Dvorchik regarding the Federation’s sponsorship guidelines “We created these guideline to be clear and transparent to the community that we are supporters of Israel and what would be required of other organizations or speakers who were interested in our sponsorship. There is no point in having these guidelines if we aren’t going to follow them.”

Also sponsoring the Beinart lecture at Hillel-UW in addition to the Jewish Federation and Hillel UW is the New Israel Fund, J Street, JTNews, Temple De Hirsch Sinai and Congregation Kol HaNeshamah.

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