(JNS.org) Isaac Zablocki, director of film programs and the Israel Film Center for the JCC in Manhattan, in an August 15 blog post for the Huffington Post stressed what he called the importance of using boycotts to pressure Israel in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Zablocki later clarified that he does not support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. In his post, Zablocki opposed a BDS movement letter asking Iranian film director Moshen Makhmalbaf to boycott the Jerusalem Film Festival. Zablocki also criticized calls for Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri to boycott the festival. In his opposition to those efforts, however, Zablocki seemed to support the broader concept of boycotting Israel.
“In the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nonviolence is a welcome form of protest for the region, and the importance of the use of boycott to get international attention towards pressuring Israel to end the occupation is unquestionable,” Zablocki wrote. “However, the protest of art, culture and education brings up dangers in the realm of freedom and evolution of thought. Artists and educators have an important impact on changing society.”
To clarify his blog post, Zablocki later stated, “I do not support BDS as has been claimed. I oppose it in all forms. In my article, I only intended to assert the obvious, which is that while people have the right to boycott, I do not support it when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Richard Allen, head of the pro-Israel group JCC Watch, told JNS.org that Zablocki’s blog post is “not shocking,” in light of the JCC in Manhattan hosting events promoting groups such as B’Tselem, Partners for Progressive Israel, and the New Israel Fund. Those groups have been accused of funding and promoting BDS, but all deny that they support the movement. Rabbi Joy Levitt, executive director of the JCC in Manhattan, said the organization “does not support BDS.”
The JCC in Manhattan, according to the most recent Internal Revenue Service Form 990 available, received $571,000 from the UJA-Federation of New York in 2011. JCC Watch, which has been calling for new guidelines that prevent the UJA-Federation of New York’s funding of activities that provide for platform to BDS activists, arranged for three protests over the last three months outside of New York City’s 92nd Street Y. The protests were in response to the Y’s invitation of anti-Israel activists Roger Waters (the Pink Floyd band member) and Alice Walker (the author of The Color Purple). The Y is also funded by the UJA-Federation.