In the effort to win the growing political war against those seeking to delegitimize Israel, unity and coordination among diverse groups is essential — just as in a shooting war involving guns, tanks, missiles, and terror. On university campuses, among church groups (the Presbyterians are voting on an anti-Israel divestment resolution in June), labor unions, and other venues, these attacks are multiplying. A divided Jewish community, fighting over the definition of “pro-Israel,” is not what we need now.
But divided we are. The New York community, for example, is dedicating a great deal of energy to debates over who should be allowed to march in the annual Celebrate Israel Parade (June 1), organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council, and funded, in part, by the Israeli government. All sides agree that in order to march, an organization must be “pro-Israel” but disputes over the definition and limits of the “Zionist big tent” are intense. For some protestors, groups that support different forms of boycotts, including against “settlement products,” are considered over the line. But for others, criticism and protest are seen as vital in helping Israel in the long run.
In debates like this taking place in many communities, the need for clear definitions is increasingly important. Adopting the label of “pro-Israel” is not enough – it is too easy to present different faces to different audiences, or to remain silent on critical issues.
The obvious and most basic condition is the acceptance of the legitimacy of Israel as the independent state of the Jewish people, with status equal to the other 191members of the United Nations. Jewish sovereign equality in the Land of Israel is the fundamental underpinning of Zionism, and rejection or hesitation regarding any part of this formulation invalidates the claim to the label “pro-Israel.” Thus, groups that are allied with or promote the BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] campaigns that seek the destruction of Israel and promote a “one-state” formula — meaning the end of Jewish national sovereignty — cannot be considered “pro-Israel.”
Recognition of pro-Israel status is not simply a matter of packaging; it is very much an issue of substance. The designation must be earned and displayed with pride.