Please see below for important information and resources regarding the upcoming Council Resolution vote
FROM RECENT JCVT EMAIL:
ACTION NEEDED: Write Burlington City Council before vote on pro-BDS, anti-Israel resolution September 13
On Monday night, September 13, the Burlington City Council will be voting on a pro-BDS, strongly anti-Israel resolution. This would make Burlington the first municipality in New England to endorse BDS. The resolution also calls for an end to U.S. security assistance to Israel, our only democratic ally in the Middle East.
We understand and respect that our community members throughout the State hold a wide range of views concerning Israel. Synagogues and other Jewish organizations have offered many educational programs in recent years concerning the history and reality of Israel and the region today. Discussion and positions regarding Israel do not belong at the Burlington City Council, whose role is to govern Burlington. With all the issues facing the city today, that the Council will use its precious resources to debate an extremely complex, contentious, divisive issue of international politics is a tip-off to its real intent: to bring harm to Israel and the Jewish community through opposition to the one and only Jewish state, Israel. BDS is not a constructive movement to bring peace, it is a hateful initiative to target Israel alone for the failed peace process. The resolution being presented to City Council is not presented in the interest of knowledge or respectful sharing. The language and tones of this resolution and of the BDS movement have one goal – to delegitimize Israel. BDS uses many classic tropes to reduce the Mideast conflict to a way to blame only the Jews.
Senator Sanders, Senator Leahy, Congressman Welch, President Biden, former President Obama, 50 governors and every major mainstream Jewish organization opposes BDS. Even when Jewish organizations are critical of Israel, there is a shared understanding that this is in the context of concern and love for the Jewish people.
We need all Vermonters to express their opposition to this resolution:· Write or send an email to the Burlington City Council and urge them to vote NO on this harmful and divisive resolution. We need to send as many emails as possible, so forward this information to any Vermonters you know that would support it. You can email all 12 City Councilors at once at email@example.com. ·
Attend the Burlington City Council meeting on September 13, at 7:00pm. Please consider being ready to speak directly to the Council during the public forum, which begins a 7:30pm. Your presence will serve as show of support for those who speak in opposition to this resolution. (Please note that speakers are provided 2 to 3 minutes to speak – so be prepared to get your points across in as little as 2 minutes. Please be sure to sign up to speak when you enter.)
Share this with friends and family in Vermont, and especially in Burlington.
Ted Molnar, JCVT President
Rabbi Tobie Weisman, JCVT Director
FROM HAVURAH LEADERSHIP-
|Dear members of the Burlington City Council, The Havurah of Addison County is a member-led Jewish community and congregation based in Middlebury. While most of our members reside in Addison County, we also have members who are your constituents. Our members have strong and diverse views on the Israel-Palestine conflict; many may have reached out to you individually, but we are not writing today to oppose or support the resolution before the Council. We do, however, wish to object to the timing of the vote and urge you to postpone it. This year, September 13 falls during the High Holidays, the “Days of Awe,” which begin with between Rosh Hashanah (September 7 – 9) and end with Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement (September 15 – 16.) The impact of your bringing this resolution to a vote in this period is that the Jewish community, already struggling to host and attend High Holiday services during the confusion of COVID, is less able to participate and make our voices heard on either side of the issue. For some of us, it is hard not to interpret the timing of your vote as intentionally inconvenient for a group likely to have deeply held and diverse opinions on the issue under discussion. If the timing was merely thoughtless, that thoughtlessness stings. We urge you to rethink the timing of the vote to better afford all of your constituents an opportunity to make their voices heard.|
Matthew Utterback on behalf of the Leadership Committee
Havurah of Addison County
|FROM OUR MEMBERS…|
As longtime Vermonters who hope for eventual peace and a two-state solution in Israel/Palestine, we urge the Burlington City Council not to pass a resolution endorsing the BDS campaign against Israel. A proxy battle between US states which have outlawed support for BDS (which we agree is an unconstitutional infringement of individual rights) and Americans who advocate BDS (which has no chance of success but will certainly intensify animosities) will help neither side. Please ask yourselves honestly whether your objective is to work toward the very difficult but eventually reachable goal of Israeli-Palestinian peace or to achieve the “feel-good” but meaningless satisfaction of denouncing Israel.
We agree that the continuing Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the construction of new Jewish settlements there are illegal and immoral. We hope that international pressure, including from the US along with internal pressure from concerned Israelis, will help end the occupation and restore Palestinian rights, sooner rather than later. But a doomed push for BDS will only lead to protracted bitterness and hostility. Everywhere, including in our beloved blue Vermont, manifestations of anti-Semitism are increasing alarmingly. The council’s advocacy of action against Israel, even in the economic form of BDS, is far more likely to encourage local attacks on Jewish Americans and to heighten tension between Jewish and Muslim students on college campuses than to benefit Palestinians or promote peace or justice anywhere.
If we were being cynical we would ask why you aren’t calling for a boycott of your fellow Americans in states like Texas, who are denying voting rights to citizens of color and trampling women’s right to reproductive freedom. That is a boycott most Vermonters would probably support and, with determined national effort, it might stand a chance of success, like the threatened boycott of North Carolina. Why not start with injustice in your own country, which in many instances deserves condemnation more than Israel’s (as does, alas, oppression in China, Russia, Myanmar, some Arab states and a long, sad list of other places.)
Judy and Michael Olinick
Dear City Council Members,
I am a Jewish resident of Vermont and a frequent visitor and supporter of Burlington businesses and restaurants. I view with alarm the subject resolution soon to appear before the council. The BDS movement has been widely rejected both in our nation and internationally as one sided and in practice being unhelpful and counterproductive to achieving peace and progress for the Palestinian people. Further, an underlying current of anti-semitism exists in many of the policies that the movement advocates. It is apparent that the goal of many BDS supporters is to marginalize and destroy Israel as a nation.
The fallout from BDS campaigns, especially on college campuses has been a marked increase of anti-semitism and the vilification and ostracism of Jewish student organizations. Burlington is the home of UVM and Champlain College and a neighbor of St. Mikes. Consider the possible negative impact of the resolution in those institutions.
Please also consider supporting one or more of the organizations working to encourage a peaceful and positive path forward for the integration of the Jewish and Palestinian communities.
Four rabbis: A joint letter to Burlington City Council about BDS vote
This commentary is by Rabbi Amy Small, Ohavi Zedek Synagogue, Burlington; Rabbi Jan Salzman, Ruach haMaqom, Burlington; Rabbi David Edleson, Temple Sinai, South Burlington; and Rabbi Yitzchok Raskin, Chabad of Burlington.
As rabbis, we represent the four synagogues in the Burlington area that serve more than 1,000 Greater Burlington residents.
While we plan to share our thoughts in person at the upcoming council meeting, we also feel compelled to immediately show our solidarity as religious leaders in strongly opposing the upcoming resolution that is misleading, supports the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement, desires to delegitimize Israel and will result in further divisiveness in our small community and state.
We invite you to reach out to any one of us to discuss this further.
While the resolution title, “Calling for Justice and a Peaceful End to the Palestine and Israel Conflict,” appears to be productive and one which we support, the content of the resolution indicates a one-sided effort to position Israel as the sole impediment to peace and security in the region. This we cannot support.
The resolution’s answer to the false accusations being made is for the city of Burlington to support the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement. An organization with one guiding purpose — the elimination of the state of Israel.
Sen. Sanders, Sen. Leahy, Congressman Welch, President Biden, former President Obama, governors from all 50 states, and every mainstream Jewish organization have rejected BDS. According to the Anti-Defamation League, “BDS promotes a biased and simplistic approach to a complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict and presents this dispute over territorial and nationalist claims as the fault of only one party — Israel. The BDS campaign does not support Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and rejects a two-state solution to the conflict.”
Why would Burlington support such a movement? Why would Burlington choose to be the only city in the country that demonizes Israel? We recommend focusing on the many ways to positively influence the region by supporting organizations comprised of Palestinians and Jews working together, neighborhood by neighborhood, community by community, to create the solutions that we all want.
While we are deeply concerned about the misleading context of this resolution, our primary concern is the negative impact it will have on our city and our region. This resolution serves as a flash point that divides us further, rather than advancing an agenda of peace. As well, such a divisive resolution creates an unsafe environment for Jewish students in our public schools, Jewish students at UVM and other area colleges, and heightens fear for many in our community.
We are now at the beginning of the most important Holy Days in the Jewish calendar — a period filled with reflections, forgiveness, learning and new beginnings. We encourage the city council to join us during this time of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur to thoughtfully reflect on whether this is the best action in support of the citizens of Burlington and our statewide community.
We encourage you to oppose this resolution which divides us, and consider creating a more productive path forward.