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Navigating Intersectional Landscapes

Rules for Jewish Community Professionals

Executive Summary

The Challenge of Intersectionality

  1. The application of the theory of intersectionality is generally understood as a method to encourage different minority groups - based on culture, gender, religion or race - to collaborate in forming ‘intersectional coalitions’ against the dominant power structure.

  2. Within intersectional circles, seeking to transform traditional power structures, the Jewish community is often portrayed as a white and privileged group ‘holding’ onto power.

  3. The ‘challenge of intersectionality’ for the Jewish community emerges when anti-Israel groups utilize intersectional social circles by drawing parallels with their causes. This is most notably seen through conflating the struggles of Black Americans and Palestinians under the hashtag, #PALESTINE2FERGUSON. This trend undermines Jewish communities’ agendas, including support for the State of Israel.

  4. The 2014 Ferguson Uprising marked the mainstreaming of anti-Israel campaigns within intersectional circles and subsequent adoption of BDS within internal domestic causes.

  5. The challenge of intersectionality is structural, intellectual and organizational. 

    • Structurally, as a bottom-up challenge, anti-Israel activity is predominantly grassroots while the organized Jewish community tends to be more 'top-down.’ As such, Jewish communal organizations often prioritize formal relationship building with established names and organizations.

    • Intellectually, intersectional coalitions extensively leverage academic theories, requiring an adequate intellectual and theoretical response.

    • Organizational attempts to counteract intersectionality by the Jewish community are weak. Anti-Israel intersectional coalitions require an effective response through programming and activities that are both within the Jewish community and utilize non-Jewish entities.

  6. The challenge of intersectionality is exacerbated by a number of compounding and powerful trends:

    • The ‘Corbynization’ of progressive politics, which is mainstreaming new-anti-Semitism. UK-based anti-Israel groups, particularly British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, have made significant contributions to the global erosion of cultural norms that once protected against the normalization of such harmful trends.

    • The growing identification between Israel and the political right matched with Israel’s eroding bi-partisan status contribute to the severity of this challenge. With long-standing U.S. support for Israel now being questioned in mainstream political venues, freshly elected ‘social Democratic progressives’ are boldly positioning anti-Israel agendas as a fashionable mode of breaking taboos.

    • The polarization of American Jewry impedes the ability of Jewish communal organizations to take joint action against anti-Israel activity within intersectional circles.



The Four Tribes of American Jewry

  1. The Four Tribes of American Jewry is a typology capturing a spectrum of outlooks regarding Jewish communal organizations and their support for Israel. Such a typology is essential for effectively responding to the challenge of intersectionality.

    • Aligners consider Israel to be an integral part of their Jewish identity and generally support the State of Israel. They generally play an active role in the pro-Israel and Jewish community and often refrain from publicly critiquing Israel.

    • Moderate Critics, while pro-Israel, tend to oppose the Jewish Establishment’s traditional, unconditional support for Israel. They experience tension between their liberal values and the policies of the Government of Israel. Moderate Critics can function both inside and outside the Jewish establishment.

    • Harsh Critics hold highly critical views on Israel’s policies, most often with regards to Israel’s continued control of the Palestinians. Their aversion towards Israeli policies alienates them from taking part in the traditional Jewish enterprise.

    • Radicals are anti-Zionists who denounce Israel. They often serve as the ‘Kosher stamp’ for ‘legitimizing’ anti-Zionist campaigns.

  2. Anti-Israel groups use intersectional platforms to polarize the Jewish community by driving a wedge between the establishment and both harsh and moderate critics. At the 2018 Women’s March, for example, anti-Israel groups used the platform to spread their anti-Israel ideology.


The Temptation to Disengage from Israel is a Honey Trap

  1. Disengagement from Israel is an emerging trend within a number of Jewish communities. While many communities still celebrate Israel as a central theme, others abandon what has now become a divisive topic. This trend is driven by the conflict, the right-wing Israeli government and the ongoing polarization of American politics.

  2. Israel’s central place in the American Jewish psyche is often replaced by the narrative of Tikkun Olam.

  3. Rather than quelling the issue, disengagement from Israel is likely to exacerbate the identity crisis of American Jewry and further erode communal cohesion. This argument holds that:

    • Disengagement means the implosion of the ideal of Jewish Peoplehood, which has been a cornerstone of the formation, mobilization, and continuation of American Jewish identity in recent decades. Evidently, the idea of Jewish Peoplehood will not hold water without a strong connection to the Jewish State, the home of 7 million Jews.

    • Disengaging from Israel sends the wrong message to young Jews regarding core Jewish values, primarily solidarity (Arvut Hadadit), which helped the Jewish people survive hardship across generations.

  4. Disengaging from Israel will not aid Jewish organizations in gaining increased relevance, but instead, deepen internal fissures. Disengagement may be a symptom of increasing mistrust of centralized representation. This global trend may act as a primary driver for the declining relevance of Jewish organizations among young generations.

It Takes Intersectionality to Fight Intersectionality

  1. The challenge of intersectionality is dynamic and evolving. It is structural, political, organizational and intellectual, and requires a systemic response that strives to drive two wedges:

    • Internally, between Jewish Radicals and Harsh Critics; and

    • Externally, between Israel’s delegitimizers (“ideological adversaries”) and their intersectional solidarity supporters.

  2. This document presents several “rules” aimed at tackling the challenges of intersectionality via two main foci:

    • Internal focus on communal cohesion;

    • External focus on an intra-communal engagement strategy.


Rules to Rebuild Communal Cohesion

  1. Fighting the delegitimization of Israel within intersectional circles requires driving a wedge between the engageable Harsh Critics and Radicals. Relevant rules to apply are:

    • Rule 1. Double-down on Israel engagement.  As intersectionality contributes to polarizing views on Israel, the tendency to disassociate from Israel increases. However, such disengagement will only further weaken community cohesion and exacerbate the identity crisis of American Jews.

    • Rule 2. A broad tent approach based on a narrow definition of ‘delegitimization’. Unite broad coalitions around 1) a narrow definition of delegitimization; 2) red lines that establish agreed-upon boundaries; 3) an approach of ‘constructive ambiguity’ regarding polarizing issues; and 4) continuous internal civil discourse.

    • Rule 3. Engage young Jews where they stand. Successful engagement with Harsh Critics should not seek to transform them into Israel advocates, but to make them less susceptible to anti-Israel influence.

    • Rule 4. Educate and empower young people to have tough conversations on Israel. Once exposed to differing views on campus, many young Jews who were educated about Israel in their local communities feel deceived because Jewish organizations provided them only a simplistic view of the conflict.

    • Rule 5. Cultivate constructive alternatives to hate campaigns. Jewish communities should proactively reframe the context through which young Jews engage with Israel.


Rules for Mass Engagement

  1. Anti-Israel groups often frame their views in the context of social justice, thus enabling them to garner solidarity, even from those in centerfield.

    • Rule 6. Prioritize a relationship-based approach. Decentralized and diverse in nature, the community relations field is the Jewish community’s best platform and option to meet these decentralized challenges.

    • Rule 7. Intellectually reframe the focus on Israel. Intersectionality requires that the pro-Israel community develop a counter-intellectual narrative, by partnering with key intersectional theorists to break the focus on Israel and restore the concept to its original meaning.

    • Rule 8. Drive a wedge between ideological adversaries and their solidarity supporters. Confront ideological adversaries within intersectional spaces, while adopting a nuanced approach towards contextual adversaries or those who are less committed to anti-Israel views.

    • Rule 9. Create your own intersectional alliances. Expanding and diversifying allies and alliances should be accomplished by engaging organizations who hold complex views on Israel as well as by expanding inclusiveness within the Jewish community, for example, with Jews of color.

    • Rule 10. Kick-start joint Israeli-Diaspora Tikkun Olam. Projects and platforms for Jews to work together to improve the world and strengthen communal bonds and generate positive impact. These outcomes can bypass intersectional and identity politics in order to unite around a larger cause.

Navigating Intersectional Landscapes


Conceptual Framework

National Security

Delegitimization of Israel

קראו את הגרסה בעברית

Intersectionality, American Jews, Israel, BDS, Anti-Israel, Social Justice, Progressive, Civil Rights, LGBTQ, Feminism, Racism, Palestinian

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