Official Statement on Park Slope Food Coop, Israel and the BDS Discussion
Statement by Rabbi Andy Bachman
Senior Rabbi, Congregation Beth Elohim, Brooklyn, NY
As a diverse community in Brooklyn for nearly 150 years, the membership of Congregation Beth Elohim represents a variety of views and opinions about the State of Israel. In its more than sixty-three years of existence, there has been as diverse an expression of visions for what kind of state and which territorial boundaries Israel ought to represent. While it’s true that the attempt to create a Jewish nation in the historic homeland of the Jewish people has always faced both acceptance and opposition from the family of nations, Israel’s existence as a modern nation after two thousand years represents a remarkable achievement virtually unprecedented in human history and is therefore an incredible source of pride for Jews and others around the world.
Israel’s contemporary reality, as can be expected, continues to generate excitement and debate. Reflecting these realities each year at CBE, we offer programs, discussion groups, book groups, forums for political activism related to Israel and Palestine, and study trips for youth and adults that are open to and welcome everyone. Some voices support; some voices criticize. Nonetheless, to be clear, our community is united in the belief that the State of Israel has the right to exist.
In light of the upcoming discussion and debate at the Park Slope Food Co-op with regard to considering a referendum on the BDS movement, I wanted to take the opportunity to briefly share why the Clergy and leadership at Congregation Beth Elohim are united in their opposition to this movement.
A closer look at the BDS movement reveals that the basic assumption of Israel’s right to exist is not shared and in fact even a cursory look into BDS rhetoric reveals that the ultimate goal of the majority of its supporters is a dissolution of Israel as a Jewish state. This is simply untenable and unjust.
The BDS movement singles out Israel as the sole offender in this painful and protracted conflict. Moreover, the BDS movement ignores the broader regional context and glaring human rights abuses in surrounding states that destructively impact the dynamics between Israel and the Palestinians. Finally, the BDS movement ignores the tremendous efforts being made on the ground, on a daily basis, to strengthen the hands of those in Israel and Palestine who daily work for peace.
As a synagogue in America, Congregation Beth Elohim cherishes the democratic process afforded to us by the U.S. Constitution. And in that spirit, we welcome the Park Slope Food Coop as a valued community institution to hold its meeting to discuss this painful issue in our Temple House; it is a given that open discussion and debate is essential to the experience of democratic communities expressing their ideas and values. But in the end, we oppose the idea of a boycott of Israel for three simple reasons. One, it singles out Israel at the exclusion of an equal accounting of Palestinians and other Arab states for their own abuses and contributions to this conflict. Two, it is clear to us that the long-term goal of the BDS movement is to delegitimize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. And three, a PSFC boycott of Israel will greatly divide the delicate fabric of a community institution with as diverse a membership as any democratic community organization in the United States.
On a personal note, I write this from Jerusalem where I teach each summer. My friendships with Israelis and Palestinians are long and deep and I detect this summer in particular an urgency and determination, despite the seeming intractability of the conflict, to find a way forward to peace. I believe our greatest chance of success is found not in singling out one side or another for blame but in strengthening the hands of those on both sides of the conflict in building relationships of mutuality and cooperation; dialogue and understanding. From this perspective, the Land continues to inspire great acts of reconciliation and love that, if strengthened through our own help, can bring about a resolution of this issue for Israelis and Palestinians so that both peoples can live in peace.