Here’s a brain-teaser: If Mordechai Anielewicz, commander of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, had survived the war and ended up in New York, could he march in the Israel Day Parade?
Answer: Not if certain self-appointed guardians of Zionist purity had a say. Anielewicz led the Warsaw chapter of Hashomer Hatzair, the socialist-Zionist youth movement that spearheaded the ghetto’s Jewish Fighters Organization. Had he landed in America, he surely would have plunged back into his movement, as other ghetto fighters did, and gone on to lead its parent organization, known today as Partners for Progressive Israel.
Partners for Progressive Israel, it so happens, is one of three organizations our watchdogs tried to ban from the June 1 parade. The other two are the New Israel Fund, which finances various social justice causes in Israel, and B’Tselem, Israel’s main human-rights monitor. B’Tselem wasn’t actually planning on marching in the parade this year, but these watchdogs aren’t very good with facts.
In a way it’s the latest chapter in an ongoing fight to purge the Jewish community of dissenters and undesirables. For several years Orthodox groups fought to prevent gay Jewish groups from the parade. Now it’s conservatives against liberals.
The rap against the three suspect organizations is that they support BDS, the international campaign to isolate Israel through boycotts, divestment and sanctions. It’s not true, but as I said, go argue.
For starters, consider Partners for Progressive Israel. Originally known as Americans for Progressive Israel, it was formed after World War II as the American affiliate of the Hashomer Hatzair Workers Party in pre-state Israel. Hashomer Hatzair itself began in Austro-Hungary in 1916, established its first kibbutz at Beit Alfa in 1922 and helped create the Palmach, the elite strike force of the Haganah, in 1941. After independence it joined with another labor faction to form Mapam, which became Israel’s second-largest party.
The American branch was never large, but it’s played an outsize role in the broader Zionist movement. Among other things, it helped launch New York’s Israel Day parade in 1964. In 1997 it took the name Meretz USA, following its Israeli arm. In 2011 it changed again, since nobody here knew what Meretz was. Now it’s Partners. Basically, though, it’s still Hashomer Hatzair.
In short, this movement is one of Israel’s founding institutions. So how did it become Public Enemy No. 1?
There are two ways to answer that. One is to describe the sequence of events. The other is to step back and look at the larger picture.