JCC vs. JCC Watch
By Alan Manheim
A controversy concerning the relationship of the Jewish Community Center (JCC) of Manhattan and its association with various other groups has erupted. An organization, headed by Richard Allen, called the JCC Watch has accused the JCC of partnering with groups that support Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel. This so called BDS movement is global in scale and is recognized by most Jewish groups as a genuine threat to the State of Israel.
The Jewish Community Center of the Upper Westside of Manhattan has been providing services for the community for ten years. The mission of The Jewish Community Center in Manhattan is to foster an inclusive, engaged and informed community that embraces diversity and is rooted in Jewish values. Rabbi Joy Levitt, the Executive Director of the JCC provided this statement. "The JCC does not support BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel), and we do not partner with organizations that support BDS. We stand with Israel against de-legitimization and support open and respectful dialogue within our community."
So that should be the end of this controversy. However, in a lengthy phone interview with the Jewish Post, Richard Allen, has stated that specifically The New Israel Fund (NIF) and B�Tselem, both listed as partners of the JCC in their sponsorship of the Other Israel Film Festival, support the BDS movement. Allen cites a report issued by NGO Monitor, an organization that closely watches Non Governmental Organizations, and their actions toward Israel. The NGO Monitor stated that the NIF has sponsored groups that supported the BDS movement.
The NIF has openly stated in September of 2010, that groups working to "deny the right of Jewish people to sovereign self-determination within Israel, or to deny the rights of Palestinian or other non-Jewish citizens to full equality within a democratic Israel will no longer be eligible for funding." The NGO Monitor also reported that the NIF issued statements against BDS.
So again the controversy should be moot. However, the same NGO Monitor organization, reported that in 2010, NIF still gave funds to those same groups advocating BDS against Israel, even after their own new guidelines were stated. The New Israel Fund in its own web site states that it is dedicated to the vision of the State of Israel as the sovereign expression of the right of self-determination of the Jewish people and as a democracy dedicated to the full equality of all its citizens and communities.
B�Tselem, the other JCC partner cited by Allen to support the BDS movement has its own mission statement which says that it "acts primarily to change Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories and ensure that its government, which rules the Occupied Territories, protects the human rights of residents there and complies with its obligations under international law. Richard Allen alleges that the JCC in allowing the NIF and B�Tselem to partner with them gives them access to the membership of JCC, via information tables at the Other Israel Film Festival held at the JCC. These tables are provided by the JCC at no cost. Allen states " I am a proud Zionist and I don�t think that JCC monies should be misspent giving subsidies to groups that work against the Democratic Jewish State of Israel." He went on to say that "The JCC and Rabbi Levitt do not have a problem with me but with the actual facts."
Allen alleges that another JCC partner in the Other Israel film Festival, called Partners for a Progressive Israel (formerly known as Meretz) advocates a boycott of Israeli products. In examining their web site, the Jewish Post discovered that it promotes a boycott directed at products produced in settlements on the West Bank, and it urges the buying of Israeli products. The JCC Watch, as expressed by Richard Allen, is opposed to these partners having access to the JCC facilities free of charge, which he implies is a subsidy and a misuse of JCC funds.
The Other Israel Film Festival will be held at the JCC on November 10-17 2011. The JCC is located in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave @ 76th Street. In conjunction with the film Festival the JCC has something called The Speakeasy Cafe', which provides non-stop intimate conversations and in-depth discussions with filmmakers, scholars and experts. On Monday, November 14 at 6:00pm an open forum for dialogue with guests presented by New Israel Fund will be featured. The JCC and JCC Watch would provide great insight if they were to debate their points directly at the JCC venue.