Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston and The Israel Lobby

I read something today about the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston and it reminded me of a project I was involved in about 12 years ago.


I was active with the Jewish Federation of the North Shore (of Massachusetts) in the mid 90’s. In 1994 I helped form and co-chaired its Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council based on the belief that many pressing social issues needed to be address by the Jewish community. The council was a branch of the national organization now known as the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA).

At that time and continuing at least until 2001, the JCPA stated the extensive and broad issues that were the focus of its concerns. Here in its Agenda for Public Affairs 2000-2001 are some of them:

Poverty, Children and Families, healthcare, Race and Ethnicity, Public Education, Immigrants and Refugees, Right to Reproductive Choice, Combatting Bias-Motivated Hatred in American, Stemming Violence in America, Religion in America, Protective Free Exercise, Air Pollution, Global Warming and Energy Policy, Urban Sprawl, Environmental Health and Justice, Biological Diversity and Israel and other International Concerns.

Even today on its website the JCPA says “The work of the JCPA, especially in matters relating to democratic pluralism and social justice, reflects the profound Jewish commitment to tikkun olam, the repair of the world. It expresses the conviction of the organized Jewish community that it must be active in the effort to build a just society."

While noting the subjects of its Press Releases does not give anywhere near a complete picture of its priorities, it seems to me to be an indicator of what it wants the public to know about the organization. Public relations is certainly an important department of any organization. Here is a list of the press releases from January 5, 2006, to August 1, 2007, as found on its website:

*JCPA Implores World Leaders To Expedite Enforcement of UN Resolution 1769
*JCPA Welcomes UCC Resolution Calling for a "Balanced" Approach to the Middle East Conflict
*JCPA Congratulates Shimon Peres On His Election To Israel’s Presidency
*JCPA Applauds Reintroduction of Hate Crime Legislation in House of Representatives.
*JCPA Demands Freeze in Aid to Palestinian Gov't Until Quartet Requirements are Met
*JCPA reaffirms its Commitment to Combat Iran's Quest for Nuclear Weapons.
*JCPA Praises Au for Rejecting Sudan's bid to lead the Alliance
*JCPA Condemns Suicide Bombing in Eilat, Urges Continued Quest for Peace Despite Violence.
*JCPA applauds Argentinean Leader for Refusing to Meet with Iranian President
*JCPA Welcomes Cease-Fire Agreement by Sudanese Government and Rebel Groups
*JCPA Condemns Rep. Goode's Letter Expressing Anti-Immigrant, Anti-Muslim Sentiment
*JCPA Expresses Concern over Religious Violations by Military Leadership
*UJC/JCPA Israel Institute Brings Protestant Leaders to Israel
*JCPA Praises Secretary General Kofi Annan For Urging Human Rights Council To Focus Attention on Darfur
*Commending Kofi Annan’s Statements on UN Human Rights Council
*JCPA Praises President Bush’s Decision to Appoint a Special Envoy to Darfur
*JCPA Welcomes a Clarification of a Presbyterian Church Publication
*JCPA Hails Passage of U.N. Resolution Authorizing Force in Darfur
*JCPA Calls For International Community to Enforce UN Resolutions; Push for Disarmament of Hezbollah
*Jewish Community Leaders Press for Continued U.S. Support for Israel at White House, State Dept., Capitol
*JCPA Supports Israel's Right to Defend Against Recent Terrorist Attacks
*JCPA Helps Collect One Million Postcards Urging Bush to Play Leadership Role in Ending Darfur
*Joint Statement post PC GA 2006
*JCPA Condemns Sudanese President For Rejecting United Nations Peacekeepers
*JCPA Praises Presbyterian Church for More Balanced Investments Policy
*JCPA Praises Darfur Peace Agreement
*Applauds President Bush and Deputy Secretary of State for their Efforts
*JCPA Expresses Outrage Over Today’s Terrorist Attack In Tel Aviv
*JCPA Responds To Immigration Reform Controversy
*JCPA Congratulates Olmert on Election Win
*JCPA Applauds U.S. Treasury Department’s Decision Designating Al-Manar A Global Terrorist Entity
*JCPA Condemns Recent Anti-Semitic Attacks In France
*Jewish Council for Public Affairs Applauds European Union s Decision to Refer Iran to U.N. Security Council
*Jewish Council for Public Affairs Prays for the Health of Prime Minister Sharon

Even though I am quite certain that the JCPA is actively involved in areas such as poverty and the environment, one could hardly be faulted for assuming that the JCPA’s agenda is Israel and Darfur.


During the same period when I was involved with the North Shore Jewish Community Relations Advisory council, we would look to the efforts of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston (JCRC) for ideas about programs to develop to combat the personal plight issues facing our community. We were aware that the leaders of that organization were actively involved at the national level in pursuing social justice in many of the areas listed in the agenda of the JCPA which, the last I read, lists the JCRC as a “Constituent Organization.”

From its website "JCRC promotes a society that reflects the best of American and Jewish values—in Greater Boston, Israel and around the world—by convening and mobilizing the Jewish community. Through advocacy, organizing, service and partnerships, JCRC pursues social justice, ensures a vibrant Jewish community, and builds a network of support for Israel."

What follows are excerpts from its focus areas:
PURSUING SOCIAL JUSTICE - pursues social justice by taking action to raise awareness, build coalitions, develop leaders, and promote volunteer service to effect change in the broader community, encourages investment in urban economic development, engages volunteers to promote childhood literacy, social justice in Israel through the Haifa Social Justice and Civil Society Initiatives, efforts to end family homelessness,
STRENGTHENING COMMUNITY - advocates for the needs of vulnerable Jews, in Greater Boston, Ukraine, Israel, and Ethiopia, links to Haifa and Dnepropetrovsk, shares the universal lessons of the holocaust, organizes leadership development opportunities, mobilizes teens, college students and young adults to engage in community service
SUPPORTING ISRAEL - builds a broad network of support for Israel in its quest for a secure and lasting peace, convenes the Jewish community in times of celebration and crisis, involves college students in pro-Israel initiatives through the Israel Campus Roundtable, facilitates educational opportunities for Jews and non-Jews to visit Israel, builds grassroots support through community and synagogue-based efforts, educates Jews, opinion leaders and the general public about challenges facing Israel.

The JCRC still appears to be involved in good works in such areas as literacy, education and the environment.

But I just reviewed the page titled “JCRC In The News” for the last six months and found about 72 entries of which only ten (10) did NOT relate to Israel, Darfur or the Holocaust.

Here are the most recent 36 from September 7, 2007 to October 15, 2007.
JCRC In the News
*Religious tensions flare as Mideast conference nears
*JPost writer visits Boston
*Iran shuts border with north Iraq
*MetroWest Israel Town Hall Meeting in Natick on October 2
*Sudan divestment bill passes in Massachusetts legislature
*US dismantling nuclear warheads ahead of schedule
*Anger at Iran leader's NY speech
*Ahmadinejad: Why do we need a bomb?
*U.S.: Iran is arming Iraq
*Lines harden over Iran leader's visit to US
*France warning of war with Iran
*Iran convinced West will not attack
*Iran scorns French warning of war
*EU ministers duck Iran nuclear issue for now
*Rudy: No nukes in Iran
*Syria-Iran weapons project is reported
*Iran has plans to strike Israel in case of war, general says
*Newton to drop out of ADL program
*French diplomat tones down talk of war with Iran
*New France gets tough with Iran
*Gates: US favors diplomacy with Iran
*Iranian FM Mottaki claims Russian fuel ready for Iran
*ElBaradei warns against striking Iran
*600 Iranian missiles said to be pointed at targets in Israel
*JCRC prepares for a new year
*Iran denies plans to build atomic bomb
*Teamsters make an excellent move

Again, this is not meant to detract from the worthwhile efforts of the JCRC in areas that directly affect the lives of those in this country BUT I do believe that even though the JCRC is not mentioned in many of these press releases, the choice of what to place in the section entitled “JCRC In the News” seems to provide a picture of the priority issues the organization wants its members and supporters to be aware of .


These organizations, I believe, are highly respected – the JCPA nationally and the JCRC locally. The choice of both to heavily showcase articles about Israel, Iran, Darfur, the Holocaust, etc., (and, most likely, although I have to admit that I have not read all the material, not critical of the Government of Israel) is further evidence of the extent to which organizations like the ADL and others made a transition from a priority of issues here in the diaspora, by either willingly participating in the efforts of or by being pressured and intimidated by that large group of individuals and organizations known as The Israel Lobby, to a new priority involving support of any actions of the Government of Israel.

Our Community Relations Advisory Council had taken its lead in developing our mission statement from a statement in the JCPA 1993-1994 Program Plan which read “The fundamental premise of the field of Jewish community relations is to foster conditions conducive to Jewish security and creative Jewish living in a free society. Such conditions require a society committed to equal rights, justice and opportunity … The state of the American Jewish community in a strong, democratic society is reinforced by the moral imperative on the Jewish community to pursue social justice.”

With that in mind, we found the most pressing issues of Jewish members of the North Shore of Massachusetts were; family and divorce, senior citizens, children, alcohol and drugs, the economy, education, women’s issues, health, isolation, self-esteem and materialism.

Sadly, I must add, as usual, that the stark inappropriateness and inconsistency of a Jewish organization that states as a primary mission the pursuit of justice and supports the Government of Israel as it maintains the illegal and immoral occupation, builds illegal settlements which are an obstacle to peace and treats Palestinians cruelly, unjustly and brutally is no longer shocking to me.

I wonder whether either the JCRC or the JCPA has ever held a serious discussion about whether the Government of Israel may be jeopardizing the security of its country when it withholds from Palestinians those “equal rights, justice and opportunity" which are the fundamental conditions for Jewish living in a free society?

1 comment:

Dan Booth said...

A number of years ago, I had lunch with the Director of a local chapter of a major American Jewish organization. We spoke at length about our mutual concern about the failure of the Israeli government and the U.S. Jewish community to promote a just peace in Israel/Palestine.

When I mentioned that his public statements never reflected these feelings, he said, "If I ever utter one public statement that diverges in the least from national policy, I'll be fired the next day."

This may seem a bit dramatic, but consider that this is exactly what happened to Andrew Tarsy, the head of the New England chapter of the ADL. He took one step out of line and was fired the next day.

Jewish leadership pays lip service to spiritual values. The leaders of the US community supported Israeli militarism for 50 years. Then they led the charge in the US invasion of Iraq. Now the likes of Norman Podhoretz, Daniel Pipes, Henry Kissinger, et al. are the leading voices supporting a military attack on Iran.

The JCRC operates as a mouthpiece for the Israeli government in Boston. Note that they are mobilizing in opposition to Bishop Tutu's upcoming visit to Boston at the Sabeel conference.

When the American Jewish community uses its influence to unleash nuclear weapons to defend Israel, we Jews will have lost all spiritual claims to Tikkun Olam.

There is so much that could be done to promote peace in Israel. Our leadership won't stand for it.