Turning Israel Day Parade Into Right-Wing Echo Chamber Rolling Down Fifth Ave.

First Gays Were Outcasts — Now Progressive Zionists Purged

Shrinking the Tent: The Israel Day Parade has had a powerful impact over the years because of its diversity and wide appeal. Now, a group of right-wing ideologues want to bar perceived dissenters, like progressive Zionists.
getty images
Shrinking the Tent: The Israel Day Parade has had a powerful impact over the years because of its diversity and wide appeal. Now, a group of right-wing ideologues want to bar perceived dissenters, like progressive Zionists.

By J.J. Goldberg

Published May 29, 2014, issue of June 06, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

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.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • "If Netanyahu re-opens the settlement floodgates, he will recklessly bolster the argument of Hamas that the only language Israel understands is violence."
  • Would an ultra-Orthodox leader do a better job of running the Met Council?
  • So, who won the war — Israel or Hamas?
  • 300 Holocaust survivors spoke out against Israel. Did they play right into Hitler's hands?
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen. http://jd.fo/d4unE
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.