Yachad needs a new direction or it will be redundant

When Yachad was founded in 2011, they were trail-blazers in the world of Anglo-Jewry.

From within the murmurings of discontent, Yachad were among the first Jews to criticise the State of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank while unapologetically remaining involved in Jewish organisations.

They not only refused to be silenced or kicked out of the Jewish world (as is the fate of organisations such as Jews for Justice for Palestinians) but they made it their mission to work within Jewish organisations and to shift the Anglo-Jewish establishment’s conversation around Israel.

Yachad has undoubtedly been highly successful.

Leaders of almost all Jewish denominations and organisations now have no qualms in openly objecting to the West Bank occupation and criticising aspects of the State of Israel’s foreign and internal policy.

Even the Union of Jewish students took it upon themselves this month to send an open letter to the Israeli embassy expressing their dismay at Israel’s deportation of migrants.

Only a few years ago, it would have been unthinkable for a UK Jewish group to publicly condemn the State of Israel. Now it’s inevitable.

For Yachad, there is little ambiguity in the meaning of their tagline: ‘to mobilise British Jews in support of a political resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict’.

They want us to criticise the West Bank occupation while always qualifying that criticism with a declaration of our love for Israel and confirmation that we believe in the need for a Jewish nation-state.

For Yachad, ‘mobilisation of British Jews’ translates to encouraging Jewish individuals and organisations to speak out.

But under no circumstances would Yachad begin to condone anything more than verbal criticism.

Boycotts and protests constitute a red-line which Yachad will not cross.

Such has been the success of Yachad, it’s difficult to see what its role is now.

Anglo-Jewish institutions are regularly speaking out, unprompted by Yachad, against the West Bank occupation, but naturally having relatively little influence on Israel’s policies.

Bounded by self-imposed red lines in both their ideology and methods, Yachad has become redundant.

The most recent Yachad Youth campaign frames itself as a radical new opposition to housing demolitions in the West Bank, but on close inspection the actual demands of the campaign are simply to arrange meetings with powerful leaders and to ascertain what those people are doing to ‘end the demolitions’.

However given Yachad’s clear and absolute opposition to any form of boycott, divestment or sanction of the State of Israel – all it can ask those leaders to do, is to verbally condemn and pressurise the Israeli government over its demolition policy. And it hasn’t even asked them to do that.

When Yachad was founded in 2011, it was radical and exciting.

They took a risk that paid off.

And now is the time for Yachad to take another risk.

For Yachad to remain relevant it either needs to change its ideology or its methods.

That is to say that it could speak out against the presumed necessity of a Jewish state and for a Palestinian right of return.

Or Yachad could move beyond verbal condemnation, and mobilise Jews in support of BDS – a move which would indicate the seriousness and urgency of our objections to the occupation.

Both of these options constitute a big gamble for Yachad, but what’s guaranteed is that if they don’t gamble they will become redundant.

About the Author
Joely is student organiser for Jewdents, a left-wing student group
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