For Boycotts That Hurt Israel, Nobody Beats the Zionist Organization of America

For the ZOA, it's all a win-win. The more the ZOA alienates progressive U.S. Jews, the more they're likely to turn to BDS. ZOA can then tell its donors that boycott is a growing threat. Boycotts can pay. Just ask the ZOA.

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An Airbus A320-200 aircraft, operated by Deutsche Lufthansa AG, takes off from Tegel airport, operated by Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH, in Berlin, Germany, Oct. 30, 2013.
ZOA identified this month's pressing threat to Israel and the Jews: Lufthansa.Credit: Bloomberg
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

Here in Israel, murder-bent terrorism and violent, often overkill response, are a daily occurrence. ISIS is encroaching on borders north and south. Israel's relations with its crucial ally Washington are at the lowest point in memory. And if that were not enough, Israel's critical ties with the U.S. Jewish community, already in nose-dive, are likely to decline further with a Tuesday statement by Netanyahu government's Religious Services Minister David Azoulay, regarding Reform Jews:

 "I can't allow myself to say that such a person is a Jew."

Meanwhile, back there in the 'States, the Zionist Organization of America has identified this month's pressing threat to Israel and the Jews. And it's none of the above.

Last week, the group issued an Action Alert headed "Don't fly Lufthansa German Airlines," decreeing  that the carrier "discriminates against the Jewish State of Israel and travelers to Israel."

Why the call for a blanket boycott against Lufthansa? The ZOA noted that Lufthansa allows its Economy Class passengers traveling to Israel a free allowance of one bag weighing up to 23 kg.

Lufthansa's free baggage allowance to a number of other countries, including many in the Middle East the ZOA continued, is two 23 kg. bags.

Then the ZOA Action Alert goes directly to the Doomsday Weapon of possible explanations. "We hope that Israel’s omission was merely an oversight and was not done intentionally. If it was intentional, it would clearly constitute anti-Semitism."

Raising the stakes, the ZOA warns in closing that "A German airline should be especially sensitive to discriminating against Jews and the Jewish State.”

The organization neglected to mention that among the other carriers whose free baggage allowance to Israel is limited to one 23 kg. bag, is El Al Israel Airlines.

The ZOA could also have mentioned the same baggage limitations in place on the North America-Israel routes of all U.S. and Canadian carriers, Air Canada, American, Delta, and United.

But that's not the way the ZOA rolls.

Yes, the Zionist Organization of America, the largest and most vocal of the U.S. groups supporting the settlement enterprise and other hardline underpinnings of the Netanyahu administration, does spend much of its time and money on boycotts which relate to, and may have the effect of harming, the state of Israel.

What is noteworthy, however, is the extent to which many of these boycotts are at the initiative of the ZOA itself.

To put it simply, the ZOA prospers by making new enemies for Israel.

All too often, in fact, the ZOA prospers by taking friends of Israel, and making them into enemies.

To the relish of hard right donors, the organization demonizes, antagonizes, and alienates the left and liberal Jews – Democratic-voting, settlement-opposing, two-state-advocating, Israel-supporting but not blindly so – who make up the bulk of the North American Jewish community.

The ZOA's Enemies List of groups and individuals is long, and includes many who describe themselves explicitly as pro-Israel.

Among them are J Street, the New Israel Fund, Open Hillel, Americans for Peace Now, Ameinu, J Street U, Partners for Progressive Israel (formerly Meretz USA), the Habonim Dror and Hashomer Hatzair youth movements, and even, by associationUnion for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs.

Now, the ZOA has taken a new boycott tack – targeting the largest airline in Europe, a German firm which is doing business with Israel, and which presumably wants to continue doing so.

Over the past year and a half alone, the ZOA has twice spearheaded mean-spirited, ugly, and ultimately unsuccessful efforts to blackball large numbers of progressive Jews who describe themselves as pro-Israel, from participation in New York's annual "Celebrate Israel" parade.

During the same period, the ZOA succeeded in undermining support for Israel and alienating American Jews in a number of other ways, notably leading an effort to exclude the liberal, self-described pro-Israel organization J Street and its thousands of supporters from membership in American Jewry's intentionally broad-based umbrella organization, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

For the ZOA, it's all a win-win. The more the ZOA alienates younger, progressive American Jews, the more they are likely to turn to BDS as an alternative. They more they do, the more the ZOA will tell its donors that boycott is a growing threat.

Boycotts can pay. Just ask the ZOA.

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