I was recently asked by a few friends and colleagues for my opinion on studying at an Ein Prat program within the Green Line. The questions came to me as a followup to the post I’d written a few years back, calling on progressives not to attend Ein Prat’s Jewish Learning programs in the Occupied Territories. My piece had convinced them as to why someone opposed to the occupation should think twice about signing up for an Ein Prat program in the settlements. With that, they were wondering how I would recommend engaging Ein Prat’s programs on the pre-1967 side of the Green Line. Here is my response:
After thinking this over, I have decided that the best way for me to sift out an answer would be through analogy- of course they are imperfect and perhaps sloppy, but analogies are one of the best ways I have found in navigating tangled, complex parts of the world.
Let’s take three cases:
(1) The Hebron Fund
(2) A religious study group from Bat Ayin
(3) Ein Prat
(1) Would I attend a seminar put on by the Hebron Fund, in Tel Aviv, that dealt with Jewish history and didn’t explicitly advocate for settlement in Hebron?
No. The reason being that the Hebron Fund, as an organization, is actively seeking to maintain the occupation and dispossess Palestinians, and I am unwilling to give legitimacy of any sort to such an organization, even if the content and location of said seminar is not Hebron-based or -oriented.
(2) Would I attend a similar seminar run, in Tel Aviv, by Jewish educators from Bat Ayin?
It would not be without hesitation and some skepticism, but the answer here is yes, ultimately I would. A primary factor would be the fact that the teachers, while living in a place whose existence troubles me deeply, would, presumably, be teaching as individuals and not as the Bat Ayin Teachers Guild- and my struggle is against the occupation and settlements and not against settlers as individuals. Never.
(3) And so, this brings us to Ein Prat: is Ein Prat more like the Hebron Fund or a group of teachers that happen to live in the settlements?
Ein Prat is more like the Hebron Fund. While some might see this analogy as extreme –Kfar Adumim is not as volatile as Hebron and Ein Prat’s organizers do not spew the same sort of vitriol shown in the above link about Hebron Fund– I would argue, in fact, that it is precisely Ein Prat’s image as gentle, harmless, liberal and “like us” that makes it as dangerous as the Hebron Fund. Ein Prat, and its supporters at the Tikvah Fund, enjoy the benefits of support from many, many liberal, openminded, progressive people who would never support the Hebron Fund, but Ein Prat, like the Hebron Fund, actively benefits from the continuation of a regime of inequity.
As such, my stance is that Ein Prat- until the day in which it ceases activities in the occupied territories (or Palestinians are granted full equal rights in the region)- is an illegitimate organization (again: which is not to say that the people affiliated with Ein Prat aren’t wonderful people- so, too, the people of the Hebron Fund, perhaps, and of Goldman Sachs and of the Tea Party. We’re talking politics, here). Its programs, based in the settlements and with roaming satellites throughout Israel, do not deserve a stamp of approval from those truly committed to building a just and equal future in this region.
Might this be something of a polemical response? It might. But I think that the situation here has reached such an extreme that polemics (against institutions and never individuals) might well be the most appropriate way to navigate this tangled reality.
Looking forward to continuing the conversation, and truly open to be challenged.
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