Youth tackling the tough questions
He noted that it was dangerous to make such a comparison and that by doing so, any common ground or negotiation with the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement would be thwarted.
Another, from Betar, was vehement that the BDS shouldn’t be entertained and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.
Clearly the debate among the youth in Jewish youth movement – including Habonim Dror, South African Union of Jewish Students, Netzer, Bnei Akiva and Betar – was no holds-barred and heated at the Beit Ha’am debates organised by the World Zionist Organisation (WZO) at the seminar in Johannesburg.
Questions raised included whether the BDS movement was legitimate and whether it was right for Jews in the Diaspora to support the movement. Another issue discussed was whether there was a difference between the boycott of Israeli products and the boycott of products from settlements.
“I guess the youth needed to clarify what paths we all take together and which paths we won’t take together,” says Gusti Yehoshua-Braverman, head of Diaspora Activities at the World Zionist Organisation. “We have to determine whether our shared historical destiny necessarily leads us to a future of mutual responsibility and commitment.”
Yehoshua-Braverman notes that Jewish people have been conducting a loving, painful, challenging and complex dialogue with one another. “It’s a continuous and winding dialogue that is unparalleled among other peoples.”
The WZO, South African Zionist Federation and Israel Centre, arranged this event with the aim of bringing South African Jewish youth to debate the meaning of Zionism and to find ways to connect in their common Jewry and history. The last such event in South Africa was four years ago.
The event centred on the debate of four topics: The right of Diaspora Jewry to exert their influence on policy in Israel; the decision to put a freeze on the Western Wall plan; the Diaspora Jewry’s commitment to the State of Israel and; the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
Yehoshua-Braverman explains that debates about Jewish identity and Zionism with youth movements are rare. “We find that many Jews in the Diaspora, especially among the younger generation, choose to ignore or sever the connection between their Jewish ancestry and the Jewish state – the State of Israel.
“This concerning phenomenon requires from us an in-depth examination where we try to clarify for ourselves what the future between Israel and the Diaspora Jewry is.”
Holding such discussions is a way for the WZO to foster common ground among youth movements, where every voice and philosophy is heard and acknowledged.
“This was an opportunity for each and every one of us to reflect on issues and discuss the meaning of Zionism in the 21st century and the degree of relevance to our lives,” noted Yehoshua-Braverman.