Reconstructionists face internal backlash for supporting anti-BDS resolution
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Reconstructionists face internal backlash for supporting anti-BDS resolution

Rabbis and rabbinical students say backing congressional efforts against Israel boycotters ‘undermine[s] a legitimate non-violent Palestinian-led movement’

Illustrative: A Palestinian man walks past graffiti calling for a boycott of Israel on a street in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on February 11, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash 90)
Illustrative: A Palestinian man walks past graffiti calling for a boycott of Israel on a street in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on February 11, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash 90)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Over 60 Reconstructionist rabbis and rabbinical students said they were disappointed in the movement for backing a congressional resolution that would condemn the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel.

Reconstructing Judaism, an umbrella body for Reconstructionist groups, on April 3 joined another four progressive groups in backing a bipartisan anti-BDS resolution introduced during the previous week’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee annual conference. An additional two progressive groups joined a number of mainstream pro-Israel groups in a separate letter backing the resolution.

The resolution would condemn the boycott Israel movement and reaffirm the two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, although unlike a Senate bill, S. 1 that passed in February would not make it easier to punish those who support BDS.

“These resolutions are designed to undermine a legitimate non-violent Palestinian-led movement calling for freedom and equality,” said the letter sent last week signed by a group of rabbis and students that spans the breadth of attitudes toward BDS, including support, support only for boycotting settlements, and opposition.

Rabbi Deborah Waxman, the president of Reconstructing Judaism. (Courtesy of Reconstructing Judaism via JTA)

In response to the protest letter, Rabbi Deborah Waxman, the president of Reconstructing Judaism, and Seth Rosen, the chairman of its board of governors, said in a letter that they knew that backing the resolution would be “controversial” within the movement and that they are “learning from the experience,” but that they nonetheless stand by the decision.

Waxman and Rosen noted that the resolution in question is nonbinding, as opposed to the other bills that would exact penalties on Israel boycotters, and that Republicans are using those bills to depict Democrats as “anti-Israel.” Additionally, the congressional resolution favored by the progressive groups and initiated by Reps. Jerry Nadler, (Democrat-New York) Brad Schneider, (Democrat-Illinois) and Lee Zeldin (Republican-New York) affirms support for the two-state solution whereas the other bills do not.

Waxman and Rosen referred particularly to S. 1, saying the resolution would counteract its punitive effects, which critics say include limiting free speech.

“We believed that our silence on this issue, and that of other progressive Jewish groups, would fuel the narrative that ‘the Jews’ support S.1, and in particular that the failure of progressive politicians to support S.1 is itself somehow anti-Jewish,” Waxman and Rosen wrote in their letter.

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