I’m monitoring my local Jewish weekly, The Jewish Week, for the New York City local chapter of J Street. This is what I’ve found in the latest issue:
There is an important article depicting the complexities of the BDS issue: “Culture Group Rebuffs Bid To Condemn Boycotts: Fight at Foundation for Jewish Culture over film content spotlights increasingly testy, and muddy, issue.” It features a photo and three paragraphs on the position of Theodore Bikel (not identified, alas, as the board chair of Meretz USA):
… Theodore Bikel, 86, a renowned Jewish actor, … said he is generally wary of cultural and academic boycotts on principle: like many artists and intellectuals, he thinks boycotts violate the principle of freedom of expression. …
But this fall he wrote a letter in the Israeli daily Haaretz supporting the Israeli-led boycott of the Ariel theater — a boycott that is unaffiliated with the BDS movement. …
The Ariel theater boycott has become a cause célèbre among many liberal Jewish artists, including Frank Gehry and Daniel Barenboim. And many say it accomplishes what the BDS boycotts do not: it specifically targets the occupation in the West Bank.
The article also mentions that the international BDS movement called for a boycott of New York’s “Other Israel Film Festival,” and this caused some people to withdraw their involvement:
“We believe they’re boycotting it because it’s a Jewish festival, an Israeli festival,” said Carole Zabar, the film festival’s director.
On its website last month, PACBI said that independent calls for a boycott would meet its criteria, though, on the grounds that the festival “endorsed the oxymoronic notion of a ‘democratic Jewish state,’” and because it took no official stance on the Israeli government’s treatment of Arabs and Palestinians. “Avoiding taking a position,” PACBI’s website states, “is a form of whitewashing Israel’s colonial and apartheid reality.”
In an op-ed, an Orthodox rabbi writes a nuanced piece appealing for a more thoughtful and authentically Jewish analysis, informed by moral considerations, regarding the requirements of Halacha (Jewish rabbinical law) on this matter: “The Rental Controversy In Israel: A Time For Bold, Ethical Halachic Decision-Making.” It bears mentioning that the recent anti-Arab Israeli rabbinical ruling has been almost universally condemned in mainstream Jewish media, both here and in Israel.
There’s also an op-ed worth reading by a UJA-Federation planner on “Israel and the Challenges of Peoplehood.”