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Bringing BDS to the communal table

By Cindy Mindell

BRIDGEPORT – On the heels of the first-ever anti-BDS conference held in UN chambers, ADL Connecticut Regional Office brought the subject to a statewide meeting-table on August 3.

Representatives from 19 organizations based in or working in Connecticut gathered at the new Jewish Senior Services campus to discuss how their respective organizations confront the BDS movement and how they can create a statewide network to share knowledge and resources.

Stephanie Hausner, director of Community Strategy at Israel Action Network, an initiative of The Jewish Federations of North America in partnership with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, reported on the current focus and approach of the BDS movement. Leaders in church communities and on a growing number of college campuses now support a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and are promoting their cause via especially emotional messaging akin to Save the Children’s awareness campaigns. More and more graduate-student associations, bolstered by their membership in labor unions, are passing pro-BDS resolutions on campuses. BDS supporters like Students for Justice in Palestine are creating coalitions with other activist movements like Black Lives Matter, which released a policy platform last month calling for divestment from Israel, the only foreign country addressed in the document.

In response, the Israel Action Network focuses on relationship-building with faith communities, human-rights advocates, political and civic leaders, and campus organizations.

ADL has intensified its BDS-related work on a national level under the new leadership of national director Jonathan Greenblatt, who succeeded founding director Abe Foxman last summer. Earlier this year, ADL and the Reut Institute announced a new research initiative to better understand the BDS movement in order to help Jewish communities and the State of Israel confront the mounting global effort at delegitimization.

“We laid great groundwork,” says Regional Director Steve Ginsburg. “The important part is that we follow up and get into deeper and longer conversations about these issues. The BDS movement is organized and dedicated to their cause. In order to oppose this reductive and destructive movement, we must organize as a community and commit to opposing it.”

The organizations working with ADL Connecticut Region include AIPAC, AJC (American Jewish Committee) of Westchester/Fairfield, the Israel Action Network, the Israeli Consulate in Boston, Hillel International on several Connecticut college campuses, JFACT (Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut), the seven Jewish Federations in Connecticut, the Jewish Labor Committee, and StandWithUs.

Based on discussions at the August 3 meeting, ADL Connecticut Region is creating a statewide toolkit for individuals and groups confronting BDS. Ginsburg notes that the meeting was the kick-off to what will be a long process, with follow-up meetings, calls, and working groups in the works. “The next step for us is convening a meeting that more specifically focuses on issues on campus with regards to the BDS movement and working with Hillels and organizations like StandWithUs, who have sizable campus presence.”

For more information: connecticut.adl.org or (203) 288-6500.

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