Yachad's ZF application: A cynical publicity stunt


By Jonathan Hoffman
March 14, 2013
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At the age of about 10 I was addicted to the ‘Just William’ stories written by Richmal Crompton. William Brown is an eleven-year-old boy, eternally scruffy and frowning. William and his friends (Ginger, Henry and Douglas) call themselves “The Outlaws”, and meet at the old barn in Farmer Jenks' field, with William being the leader of the gang.

In those stories there’s a girl called Violet Elizabeth Bott. She’s the lisping, spoiled daughter of the local nouveau riche millionaire. She’s dying to be a member of the gang and William reluctantly endures her company in order to prevent her carrying out her constant threat of

"I'll thcream and thcream 'till I'm thick"

Yachad’s response to the ZF’s decision not to grant it membership represented the “Violet Elizabeth Bott” manoeuvre, except instead of "I'll thcream and thcream 'till I'm thick" we’ve had “I’ll thcream and I’ll tweet and I’ll blog and I’ll publicise ‘till I’m thick”. What seems increasingly obvious is that the application to join the ZF was a carefully calculated ‘win-win’ ploy, even though Yachad had little expectation that it would be accepted.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/03/01/why-the-u-k-zionist-fed...

Ms Weisfeld admits here that the application was a long shot: “it’s hardly a surprise” (she writes) that Yachad was rejected. If she thought that then why did she waste ZF volunteers’ time by applying, if it was not a PR stunt?

If it was rejected, she fully intended to use it as a hook to hang a publicity campaign on. Hence the full page adverts in Friday’s JC and Jewish News (which by the way don’t come cheap, my guess is north of £3500 in total). Hence the public meeting this week. Hence the ludicrous accusations that the ZF is acting as the “Zionist police” (!). The reality is that this publicity ploy was utterly cynical and self-serving. In order that Yachad should have publicity – and knowing the response would in all likelihood be “no” - Ms Weisfeld thought nothing of imposing significant extra work on ZF volunteers in assessing Yachad’s application.

Haaretz and JC journalist Anshel Pfeffer makes the same point in Haaretz:

…clever but cynical PR stunt by a start-up group …. I suspect that Yachad's shrewd director Hannah Weisfeld understood this, and applied for her organization to be recognized by the Zionist Federation assuming it would be turned down, and knowing it would provoke a long-overdue debate. A canny ploy and, judging from the publicity it has generated, a successful one. However, it has everything to do with communal politics and little to do with the lives and beliefs of Israelis and Zionists.

http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/jerusalem-babylon/the-empty-debate-on-zio...

The problem with “thcreaming and thcreaming” is that the noise drowns out the facts.

So we get the absurd suggestion (in her Daily Beast article, link above) from Ms Weisfeld that the ZF National Council was somehow trying to ensure that Yachad “kept quiet when it came to Israel”. Anyone who follows Twitter, reads the JC or attends meetings in London will know that if anything it is those who oppose the likes of Yachad who are drowned out by the incessant noise. Then Ms Weisfeld suggests that “it’s best the Zionist Federation does not purport to speak on behalf of the Jewish Community when it comes to matters relating to Israel”. Wrong again. The ZF does not purport to speak "on behalf of the Jewish Community" (maybe it did once - eg at the time the Balfour Declaration was addressed to it - but it certainly does not today). In fact on the Board of Deputies I have more than once heard the ZF referred to pejoratively as “a fringe organisation”. And Ms Weisfeld has clearly not been to many ZF meetings. If she had, she would realise that the ZF’s reach extends far beyond the Jewish Community. “Christian Friends of Israel”, for example, is a magnificent and always welcome supporter of the ZF.

Ms Weisfeld suggests that Yachad represents a ‘large number of Anglo-Jews’. She is over-egging her pudding. At Limmud – hardly noted for a preponderance of ‘hawks’ - the Jerusalem Post reported that Yachad’s arguments “drew critical remarks from a sceptical audience, with some listeners arguing such concessions would encourage terrorism.”

http://www.jpost.com/Headlines/Article.aspx?id=297128

What has been rather lost in all the brouhaha is the case against Yachad. According to the ZF Constitution,new applicants such as Yachad must be assessed for conformity with the Jerusalem Programme (JP).

Yachad CLAIMS to be “Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace”. Words are cheap – anyone can mouth platitudes. We had to decide if - by its daily deeds, not its strapline - Yachad really works to ensure Israel’s security and to foster the unity of the Jewish People – as the JP requires

I can only speak for myself. I looked at the evidence and concluded that the answer was ‘no’.

Example 1: Yachad supported the UN upgrade to Palestinian status which was opposed by Israel and other western countries (Canada, Czech Republic, United States; and Australia, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, UK abstained). Every truly pro-Israel organisation believes that negotiations between the two sides are the only way forward. By now giving the Palestinians a route to the International Court and by giving them increased access to the UN with its inbuilt majority against Israel, Yachad’s decision poses a threat to Israel’s security – as does its advocacy of the rapid creation of a Palestinian State.

Example 2: Yachad recently hosted the US columnist Peter Beinart by video. Beinart supports a boycott of goods from Judea and Samaria . The ZF would never host a speaker who advocates a boycott. This too poses an economic and political threat to Israel ’s security. Yachad's own position on boycotts is far from clear. In meetings (eg at SOAS) Ms Weisfeld has equivocated.

Example 3: Yachad organises tours of Judea and Samaria for young people visiting Israel. Reportedly the guides only tell one side of the story. Often the guides are from 'Breaking the Silence', a tiny group of dissident IDF veterans who never give their names when slandering the IDF.

Example 4: Yachad’s prevailing wisdom is that the settlements are 'illegal'. They are not. Yachad makes little or no effort to explain how Hamas targets Israeli civilians. They portray the Security Fence as something which harms the Palestinians. They are silent when it comes to the number of Israeli lives it has saved by stopping suicide bombers – lives of both Jews and others.

Example 5: Yachad supports separate labelling of goods from Judea/Samaria. The view of most if not all anti-boycott activists is to oppose separate labelling, as the slippery slope to a partial and a full boycott.

Example 6: Yachad protested about the eviction of an Arab family by the name of Sumarin from Silwan. Ms Weisfeld even tipped off a Guardian journalist about it via Twitter. Haaretz (13 May 2012) reported that

Officials in Zionist organisations and the Israeli Embassy were especially incensed by a tweet Yachad sent to foreign journalists, including the Guardian's correspondent in Jerusalem, Harriet Sherwood,drawing their attention to the eviction notice. The organisation was accused of "stoking anti-Israel feelings.

The Sumarin eviction was perfectly legal. To claim otherwise is to challenge the Israeli judicial system – another threat to the security of Israel.

http://blogs.jpost.com/content/aiding-enemy-yachad-uk-palestinian-embass...

As Samuel Hayek, chairman of the JNF noted:

We are disappointed that Yachad has thought it prudent to describe the outcome of this court case as proof of Israel's 'policy of Judaizing Jerusalem'. This is a lie that gives a great deal of legitimacy to those who seek to demonise the state of Israel and dehumanise the Jewish people. ... The actual facts of the case paint a rather different picture to the demagogic interpretation provided by Yachad.

Example 7: According to the blog of Richard Millett (who was present at JSoc event at UCL on 31 October 2011

She (Ms Weisfield) also fully endorsed two organisations which are major demonisers of Israel; Israeli human rights organisation Yesh Din and the website +972 Magazine.

Example 8: When Israel’s Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman came to London, Yachad was reportedly behind the protests against him. To treat a senior Israeli Minister in this manner is hardly the action of a “pro-Israel organisation”. In fact the ZF spoke out against this at the time.

Given this evidence, I concluded that Yachad did not conform to the JP and moreover that admitting it to the ZF would be divisive. The ZF’s tradition is to support Israel, not oppose it, and given the shrillness of the anti-Israel voices, that is challenging enough - without having to fight internal opposition as well.

If Yachad is genuine about wanting to join the ZF (as opposed to only seeking publicity from a refusal) then it will be willing to make the necessary policy changes. Let’s see Yachad defending Israel in the Guardian and writing to the BBC. Let’s see Yachad demonstrating to counter the hate when Israeli cultural groups come to London. Then their claim to be “Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace” might be somewhat less hollow. (Friday’s JC says Yachad is not prepared to ‘beg to be let in’ - which again suggests the application was merely a ploy to cynically exploit the ZF for publicity).

Postscript:

http://www.thejc.com/comment-and-debate/leader/102867/zf-damages-us-all

The JC Editorial last week was ludicrous and shameful. The ZF has never said either that Yachad is ‘not Zionist” or that it is. It’s simply not the relevant question. The relevant question is “does Yachad in deed as well as words support the Jerusalem Programme?” And to compare Galloway’s refusal to debate with an Israeli student with the ZF’s refusal to have Yachad as a member must rank as the worst example of false moral equivalence of the millennium. And far from “damaging its reputation”, the ZF’s decision has been universally applauded by the genuine Israel activists who have contacted me and others (the two members of the JLC quoted in the JC’s front page article last week are not in my book “genuine Israel activists”)

COMMENTS

happygoldfish

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 10:02

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2 points

Rich Armbach: How much thinker do you want to get?

rich , don't make fun of thinkers!

Jonathan Hoffman: According to the ZF Constitution,new applicants such as Yachad must be assessed for conformity with the Jerusalem Programme (JP).

jonathan, will you please quote the relevant paragraph of the zf constitution?

there's no copy of the zf constitution on the zf website, and i haven't found it on a google search (except that it's 16 pages long and available from booksellers)

nothing embarrassing in it, is there?

Jonathan Hoffman: The relevant question is “does Yachad in deed as well as words support the Jerusalem Programme?”

the jerusalem programme can be seen at http://prozion.org.uk/joinus.htm (but not, of course, on the zf website )

paul charney , chair of the zf, in his "ZF RESPONSE TO YACHAD" at http://zionistfederation.blogspot.co.uk/, said …

… in practice they do not comply with it, which lies at the very core of our Constitution.  The CC came to this conclusion after it found a number of examples where it was found lacking in its overall support for Israel.

but i don't see the words "support for israel" (or indeed, even the single word "support") anywhere in the jersualem programme

it says "The foundations of Zionism are:", and then lists 6 of them

jonathan, could you please clarify which paragraph of the jerusalem programme is yachad in breach of?

i ask because you seem to be the expert on this … the latest jewish news (7/3/2013) on page 4 says:

… former ZF co-chair Jonathan Hoffman was charged with compiling a report on Yachad last September, before which the majority of ZF national council members were in favour of considering Yachad's application.


joemillis1959

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 13:09

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0 points

As the blogger insists on reposting, I'm afraid I have to repost this

Here's the problem: the Israeli ambassador, Daniel Taub, has twice told packed out audiences at Limmud that members of the community who do not agree with its government polices (that's the majority) or do not like the traditional way of supporting Israel (such as the JNF or ZF), should support the state through organisations such as Yachad or the New Israel Fund. Israel, he rightly noted, is a building with many doors. If it suits people to support Israel through far right groups such as the ZF, Herut, Mizrachi etc then fine. But don't dismiss the progressives.

Does that make Mr Taub "not a genuine Israel activist" or Anti-Zionist/semitic? Of course not. He's a realist, but I suspect that he'll be in the far right's bad books now.

It's simple: if you want to demonstrate outside shops, disrupt meetings or read from Israeli government crib sheets, fine. If that works for you, great. But it doesn't work by dint of the simple reason that if you parrot Israeli government policies and support them uncritically, then you are giving the other side an easy ride - all they need to say is: "you would say that, wouldn't you". It's a failed way and very reminiscent of the doctrinaire support the old skool tankies gave to Moscow's policies.

The Progressive groups such as Reform, Masorti, the Liberals, their youth movements, Meretz and Habonim Dror should quit the ZF and set up a more in-touch alternative and let the ZF fade into oblivion. It proved this when it appointed an extreme right winger who shouldn't have been allowed within 20 miles of writing a report on Yachad and not to get everyone to the vote on the issue. Very shoddy and very undemocratic.

And those opposed to any Jewish criticism of Israel should read this by Sam Lebens, a British-born settler who lives in Gush Etzion.

He writes:

The argument that Diaspora Zionists should not publicly criticize Israel in the media is fundamentally flawed, for if it weren’t for rational critics – who at times give Israel a bad name – the Jewish state would fail to win the hearts of the ‘swinging’ public.

Then there's Rabbi Gideon Sylvester, also British born and now living in Israel, who wrote this:

Rather than excluding nonconformists from the Jewish community, we should acknowledge that their love for the State of Israel is what drives their challenging questions.

Are they anti-Zionist or not genuine Israel activists? I suppose that's up to the Zionist Federation as Zionist Police and its head of police.

The most recent poll of UK Jews' attitudes to Israel showed that a large majority thought settlements were and obstacle to peace, their expansion not conducive to peace and that a plurality was in favour of talks with Hamas. None of which is hardly Israeli government policy - and with another far right (Likud, Yisrael beiteinu/HaBayit Hayehudi)/fig leaf (Lapid, Tzippi and Shaul) government, that ain't gonna change.


Daniel A.

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 14:25

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2 points

Pardon me; I am coming rather late to this discussion(if this is in fact a discussion), but what do the opinions of British Jews have to do with anything?
Should Israel now yield to every passing whim from the "general, Jewish public"?
Regardless of what outsiders think, it is the Israeli populace that will be sitting in the bomb shelters; Not the Yitzas Gibers of Golders Green.


richmillett

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 16:06

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2 points

Well said, Daniel A.


joemillis1959

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 16:10

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0 points

Pardon us, Daniel, but As Israel is the national home of the Jewish people (copyright, Binyamin Netanyahu), we have as much right to a say in Israel's affairs as the Israelis, especially if those affairs affect us, the majority of Jews.

Of course, if some people think they are irrelevant, who am I to disagree with them?


Daniel A.

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 16:35

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1 point

"Affect [you]" how, exactly?
Yes, Israel is indeed the national home of the Jewish people; those Jews who have chosen to tie their fates to its own, and have moved to it(like myself).
Those who wish to have "a say", are welcome to take up Israeli citizenship; vote, and challenge the system from within.
Those however, whose goal it is to demagogically ply us with their opinions, fuelled by a heightened sense of self-importance, will no doubt continue to do so, from the (nowadays, relative) safety of their armchairs, thousands of miles away.
However they, as always, will bear no responsibility for the realisation of their dicta. They're here, after all, to adumbrate, to save us "from ourselves".


joemillis1959

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 16:39

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-3 points

Daniel, here's two, one of them who lives in Gush Etzion, who would disagree with you:

And those opposed to any Jewish criticism of Israel should read this by Sam Lebens, a British-born settler who lives in Gush Etzion.

He writes:

The argument that Diaspora Zionists should not publicly criticize Israel in the media is fundamentally flawed, for if it weren’t for rational critics – who at times give Israel a bad name – the Jewish state would fail to win the hearts of the ‘swinging’ public.

Then there's Rabbi Gideon Sylvester, also British born and now living in Israel, who wrote this:

Rather than excluding nonconformists from the Jewish community, we should acknowledge that their love for the State of Israel is what drives their challenging questions.


Daniel A.

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 16:58

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1 point

I don't see anywhere, in your examples, where "Meretz" or "Habonim Dror" are qualified as the only rational expression of Zionism(as you're trying to argue here).
This is the problem, partly, with your perception of things. You're free to 'criticise' whatever you like. Be sure however, if you're invoking specific action -- as you are -- to stand by it, and see it through.
Gush Etzion is not mandatory. Go ahead, live under a barrage of rockets in the south for a while, and see how enthusiastic you would feel about any sort of unilateral move by Israel, in the near future.
And let's expand the "Meretz" angle, if you please: Meretz obtained 4.5% percent of the vote in Israel, in the recent elections. Do you think these people are representative of anyone, but themselves(and perhaps, yourself)?
Why do you assume that the stance you hold -- other than due to some debilitating form of narcissism -- is necessarily the only right path to Israel's salubrity?
Finally, none of this(my inveighing) has to do with "criticism", as I've already said; you may say, and do as you will. But I am sure, and those people whom you cite would agree, that whatever you do, do not claim to do this/that out of the "wellness of your heart", or your "AsaJew" status.


joemillis1959

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 17:18

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-2 points

Daniel, it is you who are playing an "asa" card. I never have.
I suspect you have a problem with the Israeli ambassador to London, Daniel Taub, another ex-pat, who says that Yachad, and indeed the New Israel Fund, are ways to support the Israeli people. For that is indeed what we do; support the Israeli people if we don;t like what we think are the self-destructive and self-defeating policies of this Israeli government or that.
Israel can't have it both ways; it is either the national homeland of the Jewish people - and put up with criticism as well as praise from that Jewish people - or it is not.


Daniel A.

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 17:37

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1 point

I would appreciate some proof, that the Ambassador actually said that supporting "NIF" was a Zionist thing to do.
For more information on the NIF, I am sure you're familiar with Den-Dror Yemini.
For your benefit, here are the links:
http://www.nrg.co.il/app/index.php?do=blog&encr_id=f2b4c1b55be76d1e6d7b7...
http://www.ngo-monitor.org/article/nif_whistleblower_exposes_nif_s_role_...

Trying to twist this argument, to revolve around "stifling" criticism is not going to work, Joe. I've reiterated, too many times now, that no one is trying to deny you your pleasure of Israel-bashing. Sensible people would ask you however, to stop cloaking your diatribes in a Zionist mantle, if only in order to prevent false advertisement. It is you who's trying to tell us how Jews supposedly feel about Israel, and what Israel ought to do to curry their favour. This is not only asinine, but downright impossible.
And furthermore, what sort of ersatz Zionist conditions his support for Israel on her Politics? It is again the right and even duty of every Israeli citizen to shape his country's policies; The Jews of the diaspora are welcome to reform what they see as wanting, by relocating to Israel, and effecting the change -- and dealing with its consequences! -- there. They're not welcome, however, to substitute their judgement(however grandiloquently delivered, and by whatever pretence supported) for her, and her elected leaders' own.
They shouldn't moreover, expect Israel to take dangerous steps to placate loud-mouths whose Zionism is a function of the Weather.


Rich Armbach

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 18:05

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-2 points

In this relatively free country people are able to comment on anything they damn well please,and from whatever motives they may have.They don't need permission from Israel. Or even from Maale Adumim


joemillis1959

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 18:08

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-2 points

Who's Israel bashing? I love Israel. It's an awesome country. I don't condition my support on politics, I support the Israeli people. Not its government. I'm allowed to do that, I hope.

Jews outside Israel have just as much right to comment/praise/criticise/give advice to Israel as Israeli Jews because, well, if Israel describes itself as the national homeland of the Jewish people, then we have a stake in its future, too. And support and engage we will through any body/organisation that we feel comfortable with. Ambassador Daniel Taub twice told a packed audience at Limmud that Israel is a house with many doors, and those who do not agree with its government policies should engage and support through Yachad, the New Israel Fund or the UK Taskforce on discrimination against Israel's non-Jews.

As for Ben-Dror Yemini, while I have a huge amount of respect for his sincerity, he does have a bee in his bonnet about organisations he doesn't like.


Daniel A.

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 18:14

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1 point

"Who's Israel-bashing?", why you are, silly.
I am sure you "love" Israel. You might even to "love" it to death(literally). You clearly don't love it enough to move to it, but that's a different story.
Particularly, the "advice" you purport to mete out to Israel, is, with all due respect, meaningless piffle. You cannot presume to factor in conditions, or implications, which are intrinsic to Israel in your prescriptions. You cannot see the full breadth of the challenges it faces, or the derivatives of your counsel. At any rate, you won't face the backlash, or the consequence of its(your guidance's) failure.
I am pretty sure, judging by the obfuscating and circulatory nature of your response, that the Ambassador did not mention NIF specifically(by name).
As for rights -- I never negated them. Like I said, bash Israel as much as you want, but spare us the "it's for our own good" routine. And don't expect Israel to come a-runnin' to you, because you've soured and frowned on it. Israel has to deal with certain realities which I am sure do not afflict most Jews elsewhere in the world.
And you can only have "a stake" in Israel, if you make the very cogent, and moral choice of living there.
Hoping to turn it into some sort of resort, your pied-à-terre, is not "Zionism"; Israel cannot be transplanted to the moon, and moulded to the object of some immaculate fantasy. It's a country, like all others. It is, and will be imperfect.
And as for your feeble dismissal of Yemini, here we have a prime example of what I am referring to: You do not operate on the evidentiary, and factual basis Yemini does. And yet you presume to know more than him despite his documentation on the subject.


Rich Armbach

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 18:16

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-3 points

Daniel you are starting to come over as an awful cry baby. If you don't mind my saying.


joemillis1959

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 18:20

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-1 points

Yemini, in common with most other columnists, picks and chooses his "evidence" and "facts" as he wishes. More power to his elbow. But when all is said and done, he's just a columnist with a bee in his bonnet.

I was at the two Limmud talks where Taub did mention Yachad, the NIF and the UK Taskforce. Were you?

You and I are not going to agree about anything, from your allegations of Israel bashing to what Jews abroad can or cannot say or do, I suggest we wish each other Shabbat Shalom before we get into an unproductive and vicious cyclical argument. You are already on the verge of it and I'd like to spare you your anger. It really isn't healthy.


Mary in Brighton

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 18:20

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-1 points

How long has Finchley been in Israel ?


Daniel A.

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 18:30

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1 point

Well, how good of you to care for my health. Were it only not airy persiflage!
Frankly, I wasn't actually hoping you'd see the light. I can espy a dogmatist a mile away. But I needed to rebut your notion that only "Meretz", and some bumptious upstarts know what's good for Israel; especially if this, their beneficence, is spread from the comfort of London and its environs.
For this Passover, I only wish you, like the mythical Hebrews of yore, to be freed from your NIF bondage, and see the truth for once.
Yemini, likewise, belongs to the left-camp, to which you supposedly subscribe. But he has been illuminated. Perhaps you will be, too?


Rich Armbach

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 18:43

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-1 points

Thanks for all of that Daniel


joemillis1959

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 19:23

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-2 points

We each have our own views, Daniel. And you are getting angry again. Lo chaval al haz'man? Life's too short.

Maybe Meretz, doesn't have all the right answers. They probably don't. I'm not such a doctrinaire tankie to subscribe to the view that there's only one way, the way of the absolute truth. Not Meretz, not Yachad, not the Likud, not Yesh Atid, not Shas and not Habayit Hayehudi. And if I've missed anyone, I mean them too.

What was it Bertrand Russell said: "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser men so full of doubts.” I am full of doubts. Are you?

I wish you Shabbat Shalom, good health and a happy and kosher Pesach. And I do that as one fellow Jew to another.

And who is Percy Flage?


zaheerayin

Wed, 03/20/2013 - 16:13

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-1 points

Do the "genuine Israel activists include the Jewish Division of the EDL? or just your little gang of extremists who think the Zionist Federation is going to continue to represent Anglo Jewry through exclusion, propaganda, and militantism? Very attractive qualities. When counting your supporters, your relatives don't count, Jonathan.

Thank G-d for the JLC. With the decline and inevitable eventual demise of the ZF, some unifying entity is going to need to step up.

"A house divided against itself cannot stand."
~Abraham Lincoln

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