Seattle Jewish Federation Sponsors Lecture Series Which Includes Supporter of Israel Boycott
As Seattle’s Jewish community becomes increasingly divided over the question of what constitutes support of Israel, the Stroum Center at UW has for the most part managed to remain above the fray, until now.
Of Seattle’s Jewish institutions, few are as revered as the University of Washington’s Stroum Center for Jewish Studies. For over forty years the center has been the primary conduit of Jewish and Judaism related academic studies and research at the UW. Since its inception the Center has maintained a robust and engaged relationship with the greater Seattle Jewish community, offering popular lectures, classes, programs and exhibits.
On Monday, October 26th the Stroum Center will host a lecture by Sayed Kashua, a controversial Arab-Israeli journalist and author. Kashua is best known for “Arab Labor”, a semi-biographical Israeli Television series based on his writings. Kashua’s provocative remarks and articles on the Arab Israel conflict have made him a highly sought after commodity on the lecture circuit, often being hosted by Israel-critical groups like J Street and New Israel Fund.
In line with anti-Israel organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, Kashua endorses the international boycott of Israel. Additionally Kashua has declared himself a supporter of a “one state solution”, that is the dismantling of Israel as the Jewish State.
FEDERATION VIOLATING OWN ISRAEL POLICY?
The upcoming Kashua lecture is part of the UW Stroum Center’s Mixed Media: New Expressions of Identity series “made possible in part by a grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle”. The Seattle Federation’s sponsorship of the series is troublesome as it appears to put the Federation in violation of its own “Israel Speaker/Program Sponsorship Criteria”. These guidelines preclude the Federation from sponsoring Israel related speakers unless the speakers believe “Israel must exist as a secure, democratic Jewish state”, that “the conflict can best be resolved through a two-state solution” and that they “reject boycott, divestment and sanction against Israel”.
Federation President Keith Dvorchik told The Mike Report that “The Federation Grant was not for this particular speaker, but was for supporting the program which included many speakers.”
Also sponsoring the Kashua event is UW Hillel; this sponsorship comes despite Hillel International’s similar guidelines confining partnership to those who support the existence of Israel as a Jewish state and are opposed to a boycott of Israel; both positions to which Kashua is opposed. In recent years Hillel at UW has increasingly embraced the anti-Israel fringe, co-hosting workshops with New Israel Fund and working with Jewish Voice for Peace.
For many in the Seattle Jewish community, the sponsorship of a speaker who supports the boycott of Israel, let alone the elimination of Israel as a Jewish democratic state comes as a disappointment. Jeffrey Solam a lifetime resident of the Pacific Northwest and himself a graduate of the UW told The Mike Report, “I am saddened to see the community I love, and the school I love offering legitimacy to such bigoted views”.
The Stroum Center is headed by Professor Noam Pianko, who also serves on the advisory board of New Israel Fund, an organization that has been criticized for its (association with and) funding of many groups hostile to Israel, including Breaking the Silence and Machsom Watch.