Over 200 rabbis publicly oppose Israel’s ban on BDS activists.
By Laurie Zimmerman / Cleveland Jewish News
August 29, 2017
For me, the issue is not about Rabbi Wise herself, nor is it about the BDS movement. While the image of a rabbi being prevented from boarding an airplane to Israel is disturbing, and the Jewish community’s hysteria about the BDS movement is frustrating, the incident reflects something even more distressing: the suppression of dissent in our community.
For a community that prides itself on a tradition that honors varied and opposing ideas and upholds a strong commitment to debate, I am disgusted by its refusal to tolerate divergent voices.
In March, the Israeli Knesset passed a law that denies entry to foreigners who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS.
At the time, the law felt so insidious because it introduced a political litmus test designed to exclude those who object to Israel’s policies. It served to stifle legitimate political debate. But it was all so theoretical.
Until last month, that is, when Rabbi Alissa Shira Wise, who was part of an interfaith delegation that had planned to meet with Israeli and Palestinian peace activists, was banned at Washington’s Dulles Airport. I was stunned.
After speaking with a few colleagues who shared my alarm, we decided to craft a rabbinic letter that would oppose Israel’s travel ban. We were concerned, however, that we would not be able to convince even 50 rabbis to sign it. We thought that too many rabbis would not publicly stand with Rabbi Wise, the deputy director of Jewish Voice for Peace, because of her support for the BDS movement. We thought it was a professional risk that too many rabbis, even if they did agree with the letter, would choose not to take.
Our colleagues proved us wrong: Over 230 rabbis, cantors and rabbinical students have now signed on, and the list continues to grow. The signers are diverse in their perspectives: Some are adamantly opposed to the BDS movement, others advocate boycotting and divesting from the settlements only, and some support BDS in full. We are united, however, in our belief that banning Rabbi Wise from entering Israel “desecrates our vision of a diverse Jewish community that holds multiple perspectives.”