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Searching for Justice In Church and On Campus

By       Message James Wall     Permalink
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"...a divestment to examine [the U of W's] financial assets to identify its investments in companies that provide equipment or services used to directly maintain, support, or profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land" and 'instruct its investment managers to divest from those companies meeting such criteria within the bounds of their fiduciary duties.'

"This was a rather modest proposal, not calling for divestment from Israel companies per se, only divestment from companies that profit from the Occupation.

"One would have thought, one would have hoped that J Street U would have linked arms with over fifty Palestinian civil society organizations on this one point, despite its disagreements with them on other points.

A group calling itself J Street U in a campus BDS debate? Where did that come from? It came, of course, from that parental liberal Zionist lobby group which calls itself J Street and goes by the slogan, "Pro Israel, pro peace," without any reference to Palestinians.

J Street has sold itself as the anti-AIPAC liberal Jewish alternative, reaching out to moderate and progressive Jewish voters, organizations and funders.

Now we find that J Street has formed campus chapters, J Street U, with the same orientation. Hasbara is an operation run from Israel and the U.S. It is highly sophisticated and extremely knowledgeable about American culture, religion and politics.

As Haber notes, despite its parentage, "One would have expected that J Street U would stand with the oppressed, even if it meant being barred from the communal tent."

That did not happen. The recently-born J Street U at the University of Washington went straight home to the communal tent. It joined, as Haber writes, "not with the oppressed, not even with Jewish organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace, but rather with AIPAC and with StandWithUS."

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In a remarkable show of Jewish unity, J Street U combined with the other "pro-Israel" forces."

"To the cheers of the right-wingers, another BDS battle had been won by Israel, and now, certainly, J Street U had earned its place at the Jewish communal table. 'Mazal tov, J Street U at U Wash!'"

To those who are keeping score, the final student Senate vote was 59 to 8 with 11 abstentions.

Haber records in dismay,

"Just like their parents and their grandparents generations, the progressive Zionists of J Street U wimped out, preferring tribal loyalty to fighting for justice, preferring it even to their own principles. Or perhaps tribal loyalty is their principle."

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After the campus vote, Jerusalem-based Ha'aretz reported from the U.S. campus battle front:

"In marked contrast to the seemingly intractable Israeli policy-related divisions that have plagued internal debates at Hillel and Jewish organizations throughout the United States and Canada in recent years, the University of Washington's pro-Israel community was able to overcome disagreements among its students due to a combination of preplanning, student-driven activism and open dialogue.

"'The campaign to defeat divestment had to be student-driven. I was not going to take part in a response that positioned students as puppets of outside Jewish organizations,' said University of Washington Hillel rabbi and executive director Oren J. Hayon."

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James Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Many sources have influenced Jim's writings over (more...)

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