The Federation Challenge
The justifications used by community organizations when promoting Israel’s harshest critics often revolve around the need for a “diversity of opinion” and having “difficult conversations”. But are the opinions offered really all that diverse?
Tonight Hillel UW, New Israel Fund and J Street have joined Seattle’s Jewish Federation in bringing out Peter Beinart, the proponent of the Boycott of over 300,000 Israeli Jews and their associated businesses and charities.
The Federation is making the claim that it is right and proper to promote certain marginal views, even those views with which they may disagree. The justification given is that there are Jews in Seattle who do support Beinart’s positions and their perspectives deserve an airing (as if they would not be aired without the Federation proffering the community’s stamp of approval).
The Federation’s assertion that the sponsoring of Beinart’s lecture does not connote approval of his positions would ring more true if they would in the same vein lend their name to programs by equally controversial advocates from the other side of the political spectrum. The Federation now has the opportunity to demonstrate that their devotion to diversity of opinion holds true for all rather than just some segments of our community.
On Wednesday, November 12th at Congregation Ezra Bessaroth there will be a Seattle screening of a documentary called The J Street Challenge. The film features the insights of esteemed Jewish figures such as Alan Dershowitz and Professor Ruth Wisse of Harvard.
The film while critical of J Street’s activities vis a vis Israel is by any standard more civil and less provocative than Beinart’s flaming critiques of legacy Jewish organizations like AIPAC, ADL and Birthright.
The film while critical of J Street’s activities vis a vis Israel is by any standard more civil and less provocative than Beinart’s flaming critiques of legacy Jewish organizations like AIPAC, ADL, and Birthright. Is the J Street Challenge controversial? Perhaps – but the film is minor league compared to Beinart who has in effect called for the sanction and boycott of hundreds of Jewish charities; charities like Karmey Chesed which is working to alleviate poverty in Israel and Yesodot; which promotes democratic values among Israel’s religious population. Nor is the J Street Challenge more extreme than Beinart’s claim made on CNN that the Gaza war may be blamed on Israel’s failings rather than Hamas’ violent provocations (see video below).
The Jewish Federation has been invited and subsequently declined to join other community organizations in co-sponsoring the local screening of The J Street Challenge. It is our hope that our Federation will reconsider that decision and hence demonstrate the same principled “bravery” they exhibited in sponsoring Mr. Beinart.
How the Federation responds will say volumes both about the evenhandedness of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and which of their Northwest constituencies they value and truly represent… and which they don’t.
The Seattle premiere of the J Street Challenge will be screened at Congregation Ezra Bessaroth on Wednesday, November 12th at 7:00 pm. There is no admission fee but a $10 donation to help defray costs would be welcome. You can register for the film online at this link.