Boston’s chapter of the Workman’s Circle (WC) recently signed a public statement of the ardently pro-Palestinian group JVP or Jewish Voice for Peace. That statement, without any reservation, defended (thus promoted) the international BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement against Israel. (Anybody who does even a little research knows that the BDS movement is not simply against companies that do business in the West Bank/aka Judea and Samaria; its goal is to undermine and ostracize Israel tout court, i.e., totally.)
In reaction, Boston’s Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) essentially said to the local WC: You’ve crossed a non-negotiable red line, because a Jewish organization espousing anti-Zionism is by our definition anti-Jewish and cannot be a member of the JCRC. After much discussion, the JCRC voted to expel the local WC.
Then the New York WC stepped in, saying essentially, no, you can’t do that! You’re a mean bully, Boston JCRC; you’re suppressing free speech and behaving like a fascist. The national WC also engaged in some double talk: First it said it’s perfectly legitimate for a local WC to defend the anti-Zionist BDS movement and still be part of the JCRC; then it said that the national WC opposes the BDS movement.
The situation remains murky, but two things are apparent: Boston’s JCRC acted correctly in expelling the WC chapter, thus standing strong for Israel and Zion; and its director Jeremy Burton must be given proper credit.
But the fact that the poison of the BDS movement could seep into the mindset of Jewish members of the Workman’s Circle, especially in these perilous, anti-Semitic times and when Israel still faces daunting existential threats from Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah, is surely cause for concern.
Pinchas Baram, Brookline