The Zionist Organization of America has accused several candidates running for seats in the Zionist Congress of supporting boycotts against Israel. According to the right-wing group, members of the left-wing Hatikvah Slate have falsely claimed to combat the BDS movement, while instead actively supporting its aims.
Elections determining the composition of the upcoming 37th Zionist Congress are currently under way across the Diaspora and will conclude in April.
“We filed a complaint against their false advertising,” ZOA president Morton Klein told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, referring to an action taken by his organization within the framework of the World Zionist Organization against the opposing slate.
“To say they fight BDS is an outrageous falsehood, but more importantly this is a very serious issue that is harming Israel’s image in the world. Here you have Jewish groups running in a Zionist Congress promoting boycotting and divesting from Jewish businesses and sanctioning Israeli officials.”
Hatikvah, which is running on a platform of, among other things, calling for greater transparency in the WZO’s settlement division and the recognition of non-Orthodox denominations, is comprised of Ameinu, Habonim Dror, Hashomer Hatzair, and Partners for Progressive Israel. Candidates affiliated with Americans for Peace Now, Open Hillel, J Street U, and the New Israel Fund, among others, are also running on the list, although their organizations are not officially part of the slate.
A previous attempt by the ZOA to have Hatikvah banned was turned down by WZO officials. It’s new election fraud charges are currently pending, Klein said.
According to a spokeswoman for J Street, the lobbying group is not an official part of the slate and is “not sponsoring or endorsing any one party in these elections.”
“We have leaders, activists, and staff running on a number of slates,” she said, adding that J Street’s opposition to BDS is clear and unchanged.
Americans for Peace Now likewise said it opposes the BDS movement, calling such campaigns “misguided and counterproductive.”
Despite opposition to boycotts of the Jewish state, he continued, APN joins “many Israeli citizens, including our Israeli sister-organization, Peace Now, in protesting against the occupation and the settlements by boycotting products made in West Bank settlements, outside the sovereign borders of the State of Israel,” while encouraging people to buy goods “made in Israel,” said director of communications and public engagement Ori Nir.
Theodore Bikel, the board chairman of Partners for Progressive Israel, has also come out in favor of settlement boycotts and his organization’s website has stated that, while Israel is a legitimate state, “this legitimacy does not extend to the settlements created in the occupied territories.”
Diaspora Jews “must stand in support of Israelis who boycott the settlements, both in word and in deed,” the group asserted in a 2011 press release.
The issue of settlement boycotts has split Jewish organizations with some, like World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder condemning them as beyond the pale.
A spokeswoman for the New Israel Fund, whose president, Daniel Sokatch, is currently running on the Hatikvah slate, told the Post that her organization “supports the right of participation by its staff and board in volunteer activities directed at asserting Israel’s democracy and progressive values in general.” While it is not directly involved in the election, “we certainly endorse the values and goals of the Hatikvah slate and urge our supporters to participate by voting in the election.”
Klein’s complaint, she continued, “features outright lies and misinterpretations.”
The ZOA had complained of BDS activities undertaken by the Adalah NY group, but there is no connection between it and the and Israeli Adalah organizations, which is an NIF grantee, said the NIF’s Naomi Paiss.
“NIF has had a strict policy against funding organizations with global BDS programs for several years and I’ve personally written several op-eds against it.”
Michael Jankelowitz, the former spokesman to the international media at the Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization, said “Hatikvah is an Alliance of left wing Zionists who have signed the Jerusalem Program of the World Zionist Organization, which recognizes the centrality of Israel in Jewish life and Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
The ZOA-Hatikvah controversy is giving the 37th Zionist Congress a lot of free publicity, but in the big picture this attracts very few voters. The vast majority will likely be voting for the Zionist arms of the three main religious streams: Orthodox, Reform, and Conservative.”