|Stuart Appelbaum, JLC pres.|
The Jewish Labor Committee is an organization in which a number of our activists have played a leading role for many years. While being known as liberal and dovish, the JLC has until now tended to focus its attention on Israel-Arab issues by mostly defending Israel against one-sided condemnations and the international boycott movement.
This dovish pro-Israel perspective has not changed, but the JLC’s rhetoric did, last Thursday night, at its annual Human Rights Award dinner. A NY Jewish Week news article by Doug Chandler tells the tale, focusing upon the speech by JLC president Stuart Appelbaum (a member of the J St. and Ameinu boards) chastising Prime Minister Netanyahu, and prompting a walk-out by Israel’s deputy consul-general:
“Israeli Official Leaves JLC Dinner After Criticism of Netanyahu”
Labor Committee’s president calls Israel’s current government a ‘curse,’ but couples his criticism with condemnations of the BDS movement and Hamas.
…. Appelbaum condemned what he called “new expressions of contempt for Israel within the Arab world,” a reference to the movement to delegitimize Israel. That contempt, he said, is at least partly rooted “in the conviction that Israel will never accept the right of the Palestinians to an independent state.”
But Appelbaum added that Israel was “cursed with a right-wing coalition government that’s regularly giving credence” to that point of view. While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “talks a good game about a two-state solution,” he said, his administration “shamelessly” promotes “the construction of illegal settlements on the West Bank” — a policy that “severely impedes negotiations.” It’s a situation that Appelbaum likened to the employer “who comes to the bargaining table, telling us he wants a contract that’s a win-win for both sides, while, at the same time,” instructing his lawyers to work on petitions that would decertify the union.
…. Appelbaum told The Jewish Week after his speech that he’s always considered himself a keen supporter of Israel and “its right to exist as a Jewish state within secure borders. Nothing has changed. But I’m concerned, as many people are, about Netanyahu’s policies on building new settlements,” which he believes are obstacles to the peace process.
Neither has anything changed at the JLC, which has supported a two-state solution for decades and has voiced criticism of Israeli actions in the past, he said. “The difference is not in our position,” he added, “but in how loudly we’ve articulated it” — at an annual dinner, rather than just in press releases and written statements. Appelbaum said he believes that Mahmoud Abbas and other leaders of the Palestinian Authority also deserve blame for the failure of peace talks — not just Israel alone — and that he’s criticized them, as well, “perhaps in stronger terms.”…