Emily Newman, Administrative Assistant, ADL
This past spring, ADL Regional Director Dr. Mary-Beth Muskin had the opportunity to attend and represent both Nebraska and the ADL-CRC Plains States Region at the Consulate General of Israel at Chicago’s Jewish Leadership conference. There were several other states represented at the conference, including Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Michigan, and Wisconsin – and the delegates from these states came from varying Jewish organizations, such as Jewish Federations, ADL and Jewish Committees. The conference itself was, meant to update the leaders of Midwest Jewish communities on the current issues facing Israel today, population demographics within the country and more. There were a variety of topics discussed and presented within the two short conference days. Some of the topics included the Gay Rights Movement within Israel, Evangelical relations with Jews and Israel, the current relationship between Israel and Iran and the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
An update was given regarding Iran, as we are soon coming upon the one year anniversary of the Iranian nuclear deal’s initial announcement. These updates do not paint a clear picture of the deal’s effectiveness, nor Iran’s behavior. One such update was the reduction of the “break-out” period of Iran going nuclear – since the deal’s implementation. It was stated that there is a vital need to establish new sanctions on Iran. There is also still work to be done regarding Iranian financial and military support of Hezbollah in Iran. There was concern over the need for Iran to be held accountable for the agreement they struck and it was expressed that this accountability must be established sooner rather than later.
Other topics discussed at the conference included Israel’s relationship with Egypt and the Sinai region, radical Islam and extremism, and updates were given regarding Israeli demographics, political ideology and recent polling data. Data showed that 63% of the Jewish population within Israel desires peace but doesn’t think it is possible or realistic under current circumstances, especially regarding security.
The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement was extensively reviewed, as it has had a significant impact on Jewish university students, and there is now an attempt to spread this initiative to churches and statehouses. This movement has been in existence for approximately 15 years and has deep historical roots in the desire for the elimination of Israel. Today, not all involved in the BDS movement have the elimination of Israel as a reason for involvement but instead are looking at this as a possible Human Rights movement. Often, there is a lack of understanding of the complexity of issues in the Middle East. There was a panel discussion on available approaches and research on BDS. The ADL’s “Words to Action” program was highlighted as an active way to support and educate our Jewish high school and college students and their families about the BDS issue, anti-Semitism and the Jewish response. The ADL-CRC is in the planning stage of rolling out the “Words to Action” program which will start late summer. Additionally, a new trend has come from Israel and American Jewish Allies in the form of legislation to deal with BDS. So far 20 states and two local governments have legislated that agencies under their control stop doing business with any company or agency that is aligned with the BDS movement.
The conference was sponsored by the Israeli Consul General Roey Gilad, as a way to bring Midwest Jewish leadership together. This was an excellent opportunity to expand knowledge and understanding on many important issues facing Israel, as well as Jewish communities in the United States. There was additionally an opportunity to explore what was currently being done and work together to share solutions. Roey Gilad returns to Israel in August but his leadership here in the Midwest will be remembered.
As we say a fond farewell to Roey, we look forward to welcoming a new Consul.