As GA ends, heckling of Netanyahu leaves bitter taste

The majority of people interviewed by the 'Post,' from the Left and Right, disagreed with the protesters method of delivering their message.

November 10, 2010 04:36
3 minute read.
VOLUNTEERS FROM the Federations’ General Assembly

GA 311. (photo credit: Courtesy Repair the World)

NEW ORLEANS – The Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in New Orleans came to a close on Tuesday, wrapping up an intensive five days of debate about Jewish communal life, past, present and future, Jewish philanthropy and Israel-Diaspora relations.

New Orleans was chosen as the venue to highlight efforts by the Jewish community to revitalize the city which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and is still licking its wounds.

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In all, 1,700 volunteers rolled up their sleeves in various service projects throughout the city to get New Orleans back on its feet on Monday. The efforts on that day were orchestrated by Repair the World, a JFNA-affiliated organization.

For the Jewish Agency for Israel, the gathering was of particular importance. It was the first time it officially presented its new strategic plan to US Jewry, who, through money raised by the Federation system, is the source of much of its budget.

“The plan was received very well,” a JAFI source said.

“A lot of Federation leaders were in the know on the development plans so nobody was shocked. It was received very well. Federations believe we’re on the ball.”

Still, a lot of issues – especially regarding the restructuring that redefining the mission objective would require – are “up in the air,” the JAFI source admits.

For instance, MK Sofa Landver of Israel Beiteinu was quoted as saying JAFI should fold if it shutters its aliya department. Some voices within JAFI feel strongly that input by Israeli politicians, which they say aren’t as well-versed with the Diaspora as they are, isn’t unhelpful.

“She doesn’t have an idea on how to bring aliya, and if she has one then she’s invited to come tell us,” the source put it bluntly.

The protest by Jewish Voices for Peace, whose members heckled Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during his speech Sunday, left a bitter taste for many.

When the five leftist protesters got up one after the other and interrupted Netanyahu it gave an unexpected twist to the conference. To an extent, the protest was successful, because it made headlines in Israeli and international media outlets.

The bigger question which emerged was, how much the action by the five individuals resonated among the other 4,000 or so participants of the GA? In other words, was this the manifestation of Peter Beinart’s prophecy that Zionism and liberalism are drifting apart? The answer depends on who you ask. According to a quick sampling of people immediately after the fact, most of whom are devoted Jewish professionals and activists, the protest didn’t resonate at all.

Later, several secular and liberal participants said that in many ways they agreed with the two messages JVP chose to highlight: Ending Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and opposing the controversial loyalty oath.

They expressed their opinion that they would like such issues that weren’t aligned with the policies of the Israeli government to be discussed at Jewish events.

However, the large majority of people interviewed by The Jerusalem Post, from the Left and Right, disagreed with the JVP’s method of delivering their message.

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