A very interesting clip attracted my attention yesterday, “Jews talk Justice.” It immediately captured me with the opening question: “Ever wonder why some of the brightest and most passionate Jews end up becoming Israel’s worst critics?” It pushed aside the knee-jerk answer that self-hatred and a desire to be accepted by the surrounding gentile society as explanations. Instead, it laid some of the blame on the pro-Israel establishment for failing to address young Jews’ concerns about justice, equality and oppression.
What does the pro-Israel camp emphasize? Except for narrow mindedly rejecting Palestinian grievances, pro-Israel movements push superficial slogans about Israeli hi-tech, drip irrigation and hot babes on Tel Aviv beaches. When pro-Israel movements do address the conflict, they often say things like Israel just wants peace – this is an empty slogan as it suggests the non violent version of today’s status quo to be ideal. But our young Jew was taught his entire life to think critically and to care about justice and human rights. So he weighs between the cases he has heard. When he does not hear a compelling story from the pro-Israel camp, he chooses the message that resonates best.
So far, I was entirely on board and intrigued. I too believe that the current status quo cannot and should not be sustained. I too think that pro-Israel organizations advocate shallow talking points that obscure reality rather than confront it. Yet I had never heard of the Alliance for a New Zionist Vision, asking for my vote for the World Zionist Congress, and targeting young Jewish college students. But something smelled fishy, and I started looking into what and who is behind this Alliance for a New Zionist Vision.
The Alliance’s election platform for the World Zionist Congress is entirely empty rhetoric. It says they “inspire Jewish teens and young adults to view themselves as participants in Jewish history and active characters in the story of their people.” Who could possibly disagree with that? Compare this empty fluff to the clear mission-oriented Hatikvah platform, which calls for refugee reform, a robust social safety net and freezing settlement activity, to give but a few examples. Who are these people? I couldn’t make sense of it.
Then I encountered a South Park-style clip entitled “Understanding the Tribe,” which told an imaginary story of an indigenous Alaskan tribe which was exiled from their land by “mean aliens” and “one day after many generations the Eskimos finally get to come home.” The clip reduces the conflict to a minor mishap – “Yeah, they might run into some problems learning to get along with some of the newer inhabitants of Alaska. Yeah, it might take a few generations, but eventually they’ll get it.”
And I finally got it — The Alliance for New Zionist Vision isn’t exactly an alliance of grassroots youth leaders. It was “brought together” by the heavily funded radical right wing movement Lavi-OIami. It adopts the language of justice to deceive young WZO voters. I say heavily funded because not only could they afford to hire good artists (who live in settlements) to work on their WZC campaign, but they regularly conduct leadership retreats in Barcelona, Santa Barbara, California and New York City.
I say deceive because fundamentally they speak the language of justice while undercutting its very meaning. Their justice is a zero-sum game. By shifting the discussion from justice to Palestinians to an understanding of the Zionist movement as justice for Jews, they erase the Palestinian claim to justice. But “our young Jew [who] was taught his entire life to think critically and to care about justice and human rights,” surely will see right through that.
Not necessarily. Take for example their advertised Israel trip to help students “Create a larger narrative inclusive enough to encompass both ostensibly rival narratives,” and allow them to “Participate in Jewish-Arab dialogue groups committed to achieving peace based on justice for both sides.” Really? If they think about the conflict merely as the result of the native Eskimos “learning to get along with some of the newer inhabitants of Alaska,” can they speak of justice for both sides?
And then consider their rejection of the status quo – according to their mission statement, recorded on the Israeli nonprofit certificate Lavi Olami’s mission is to:
intensity Jewish Zionist Education in Israel and the Diaspora. Encourage immigration of Jews to Israel. Strengthen ties between Diaspora Jews to Israel. And empower Jewish settlement in all regions of the land-of-Israel.
The man behind the parent organization Kumah, Yishai Fleisher wrote in the Jerusalem Post that
“Every generation has its Pharaoh. […] The two-state mantra has now become our mental bondage, our Pharaoh, and we keep returning to our two-state Pharaoh when our slavish minds refuse to come up with an alternative formula to the one to which we have been conditioned.”
So what is this Alliance for New Zionist Vision and its parent organizations Lavi Olami, Kumah and Doreinu? From what I have learned, they are front groups designed to answer the left threat on American college campuses by deceiving students to believe that they share their values. Their financial and legal status is difficult to discern. Lavi Olami is a registered Israeli nonprofit that in 2013 had expenses of 70,305 shekels, out of which 70,000 were covered by a short-term loan. Kumah is a registered 501(c)3, but strangely enough Guidestar offers only its 2005 990 report. It is almost impossible to find information about Doreinu, except for the fact that when you press the donate button on their website, you find yourself donating to Kumah. Kumah appears to be the personal operation of Yishai Fleisher.
One thing they state clearly – they are running for election to the World Zionist Congress, because the World Zionist Organization “controls a significant portion of the collective money and resources of the Jewish People. […] Indeed the World Zionist Congress is the Jewish People’s best kept secret.” Elsewhere they state their “plans to work within the World Zionist Organization to direct funds towards those grassroots efforts truly making an impact on the ground and away from the foreign-funded “peace industry,” “NGOs merely serving the political agendas of their donors.”