Sunday, 2 March 2014

Why I won't sign on the Green Line

Before you read this blogpost, you should check something first:

Have I signed on the Green Line?

Because no doubt that before you read whatever I am going to post, you'll want to know whether I do or don't subscribe to the Green Line being drawn on all maps of Israel. Once you know this, you can place me in one of the two camps, which a new campaign started by 16 young British Jews is trying to create.

Well, I haven't signed on the Green Line and I'm not planning to. I don't have a problem with drawing the Green Line on a map, and my decision not to sign has nothing to do with my political views about the peace process.

It's that this campaign is aiming to divide the community. Organisations that are "yet to sign up" are held hostage by this campaign by being named and shamed publicly - all this assuming that not signing up to the campaign is something to be ashamed of.

This is an extremely dangerous precedent. It is true that Jewish organisations are sometimes forced into making yes or no choices which have public ramifications. Shuls either do or don't say the Prayer for the State of Israel, and I for one strongly disagree with those who don't. However I don't believe we need to name and shame them, thus creating unnecessary division. If unchecked, this type of campaign could be repeated for any divisive issue in the community, pitting half the community against another.

However it goes further than that. Just because such decisions are made does not mean that the reasons behind them are uniform. By listing all non-signed up organisations in one 'wanted list', assumes that whatever reasoning they may have for not signing up, it's not worth noting. Not only do we not know their reasons, we do not care either - because they have all been listed as 'yet to sign up', which suggests that once they have seen the light, they will.

But what if we say that the campaign, despite its questionable tactics, is ultimately right, and there is never a situation where it is acceptable to omit the Green Line from a map? The answer is - that's not the point. Whether the organisers intended it or not, the decision to sign or not will be viewed as whether one's views on the peace process are left-wing or right-wing. People will be judged before their views have been heard on the subject, and that does nothing to facilitate an "honest, well-informed discussion on Israel", as the campaign wishes.

Furthermore, one of the claims of the campaign is that it is not political, and that their quest is to bring balance to Israel education. However if one signs up to the campaign, they may notice that there is a tickbox which allows you to find out more information about the work of Yachad, who are supporting the campaign. Yachad are a political organisation with political objectives - notably a two-state solution and the division of Jerusalem. The box is automatically ticked. The fact that this campaign is being backed to that extent by a left-wing political lobbying group undermines its supposedly apolitical stance.

So, if you've managed to read this far, well done. You've hopefully realised that in all of my above points, I have not indicated whatsoever what my political leanings are. And no simplistic campaign will ever force me to reveal them.