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Activists Confront Diaspora Conference in Tel Aviv


Before returning home to an American Jewish community reeling from the mass murder in Pittsburgh, the General Assembly of Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) — known as the GA and usually held in the United States — met for three days in Tel Aviv.  The Times of Israel article, “Diaspora activists protest at GA to force talk about Israel-Palestinian conflict,” reported on a handful of “All That’s Left” adherents attempting to influence delegates to frankly discuss Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.  (Photos are by the reporter, Steven Davidson.) 

Described as “not an organization, but a loose collective of Diaspora-born activists living in Israel,” All That’s Left numbers about a hundred individuals at any given time, reflecting the ebb and flow of Jews between the Diaspora and Israel.  The article emphasized that:

Though the symposium’s theme — “Let’s Talk” — was aimed at confronting the widening chasm between Israeli and Diaspora Jews, the subject that the protesters believed was most responsible for this trend was nowhere to be heard: the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank.  

A recent opinion piece in The Jerusalem Post by Rabbi Jill Jacobs, the director of T’ruah, describes this avoidance of the real issues:

THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY MUST DISCUSS THE WEST BANK“– Months ago, T’ruah, the organization I run, approached JFNA staff to offer a day trip to the West Bank, to take place right before or after the GA. The answer was no.

Ten or so activists, positioned outside the conference building, engaged with GA participants on Israel’s occupation of the post-June 1967 territories.  They unsuccessfully attempted to have materials included in delegates’ conference packets — such as booklets produced by T’ruah (“A Very Brief Introduction to the Occupation“) and one from If Not Now, “Beyond Talk: Five Ways the American Jewish Establishment Supports the Occupation.” 

Reactions of the delegates ranged from avoidance or denouncing their message as “fake news” to basic agreement that the issue of occupation should be part of their discussions.  Demonstrators seemed more earnest and engaged than confrontational in tone, but the article, which seemed fair, included a thoughtful critique of their message from Rabbi Shaul Judelson, a follower of the late settler-peace activist, Rabbi Menachem Froman:

“When you stand outside with the banner, ‘We need to talk about the occupation,’ it doesn’t leave a lot of room for your target to move,” said Judelman.

“It’s accusatory, and the phrasing of ‘occupation’ comes off as blaming one side… if your goal is to open a conversation, then that’s a very bad tactic,” he said.


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