Washington JCC draws a red line

February 12, 2014

The story of David Harris-Gershon goes a bit of the way toward answering the perennial question of whether a tree makes a sound if it falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it. In 2012, Harris-Gershon, a Pittsburgh Jewish day school teacher, “came out” about his support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions, or BDS, movement by writing a blog post about it for Tikkun magazine.

Harris-Gershon expected some blowback, but none came. He then went around the country to synagogues and JCCs to speak about his moving memoir, What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife? The “no reaction” all  changed last month when Hillel at the University of California at Santa Barbara canceled an appearance by Harris-Gershon because of his support of BDS.

The resulting publicity got the attention of the District of Columbia Jewish Community Center. Having heard the sound of the BDS tree falling, albeit belatedly, the agency’s leadership acted on its policy against hosting BDS supporters and canceled the author’s planned March appearance to discuss his book.

The BDS movement includes advocates who are working to delegitimize the State of Israel on the world stage, who reject the notion of Israel as a Jewish state and who reject the idea of a two-state solution. These opponents do not wish Israel well. And even though Harris-Gershon says he is motivated by Zionist and pro-Israel impulses, he has thrown in his lot with the BDS bunch and so finds himself on the other side of the principled red line.

The DCJCC’s “red line” against hosting BDS supporters is not a new policy. And it is one followed by all agency beneficiaries of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. Having committed to this position in the past, the DCJCC has now lived up to the promise. This is similar to the line drawn by Hillel with its Swarthmore affiliate. We support these difficult but principled decisions.

Debate about Israel and how the state handles its presence in the West Bank is welcome. BDS and its undifferentiated discrimination against the Jewish state are not.

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