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Dear AJDS members & supporters,

Open discussion is an important aspect of any community. When the AJDS launched its ‘Don’t Buy from the Settlements’ Campaign at Pesach this year, we did so with the intention of engaging in an ongoing, world-wide discussion about the ways that everyone who cares about Israel/Palestine can take part in helping shape a new future for that part of the world and its inhabitants. 

But there has also been a lot of confusion about what the campaign is and what it means. In particular, many people have been confused about what distinguishes this campaign from BDS, and there are many within the Jewish communities in Melbourne that have criticised the campaign because of that. The different members of the AJDS executive have had a range of experiences since the campaign was launched, and have many opinions regarding the different issues involved.

In this regard, we have compiled a range of responses from four members of our Executive Committee - Jordy Silverstein, Larry StillmanDennis Martin and Jemima Light - that we hope sheds light on some differing viewpoints. Please view them in the open spirit in which they were intended: to tease out some of the difficulties and the ambivalences, as well as some of the certainties, in grappling with these contentious issues. 

Many thanks,

The Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS)

The AJDS - 'Don't Buy Settlement Products' Campaign

The AJDS, BDS & JCCV - A Response

What are the possibilities of Jewish/Palestinian solidarity?

By Jordy Silverstein

“My contention is that being able to depart from those communitarian moorings as they have been historically formed is a difficult and necessary struggle and that some aspects of Jewish ethics require us to depart from a concern only with the vulnerability and fate of the Jewish people.”
- Judith Butler, Parting Ways, 2012, p. 27.
Philip Mendes, in part of his letter published in the Australian Jewish News on May 30, called on the AJDS to demonstrate “loyalty” to his idea of the acceptable politics of the Jewish community and what he terms “Jewish concerns”. His letter exists as merely one instance in the flurry of writing and conversations that followed the AJDS’ launch of its ‘Don’t Buy Settlement Products’ campaign at Pesach this year. I write this response to him - as well as to others who share his perspective, or parts of it - as a member of the AJDS executive, but not on behalf of what is a diverse executive.

Continue reading here.

BDS: Yes, No, Maybe, but what is it?

By Larry Stillman
The Jewish Community Council’s condemnation of the AJDS for alleged sins and crimes brings forth the big question - so just what is BDS?  What the bulls, bullies and others in the Lobby present is something far different from the reality. It is hard at times to know what is fact, impression, or interpretation. This is what makes it difficult for a number of us at an Executive level to come to a consensus position because we all see the BDS movement differently.
In my opinion, any analysis of the BDS movement inevitably brings to account beliefs (or prejudice) on a whole range of issues, such as Zionism, Israel as the State of the Jews, the Right of Return and so on. These are views I have written a lot about over the year in places like Galus Australis (search under my name).

BDS is not so much movement or clear platform as a loose and leaderless coalition that has grown from an original statement (the Palestinian BDS National Committee call in 2005 by a host of organisations that has a sort of canonical status), resulting in many different tendencies.  

Continue reading here.

Same Experience, Different Response

By Dennis Martin

At a recent plenum meeting of the JCCV the policy of the AJDS calling for a boycott of goods manufactured in the West Bank was strongly condemned by a large majority of the attending delegates. This response did not come as a surprise as I fully understand the fierce commitment to Israel by the majority of the Melbourne Jewish community and their equally fierce opposition to anything that they consider a challenge to the security of Israel or anti-Semitic.

Unfortunately, many of the delegates equated the specific campaign to avoid buying Israeli products produced on the West Bank with the global BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement which supports a blanket economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. Some of the opinions expressed about the AJDS at the plenum meeting were quite robust and emotional. Listening to these opinions I was struck by how shared experiences can result in quite different responses. I would like to consider two of these experiences.

Continue reading here.

Cannot Remain Silent

By Jemima Light

Recently, the Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS) was condemned by the JCCV in a motion moved by the State Zionist Council of Victoria. The motion ‘deplores and condemns the [Don’t Buy from the Settlements Campaign] policy on the basis that it is repugnant to the basic policies and principles of the JCCV and the Executive Council of the Australian Jewry.’ I want to respond to this as an independent voice within the Executive Committee of the AJDS. My opinions are my own. The Executive is made up of a range of voices and opinions, a quality that drew me to the AJDS and lead to my joining the executive last year.
I am writing in direct response to the motion passed in the plenum meeting – both to the content and function of the condemnation. I want to affirm my support for the Don’t Buy from Settlement campaign and in doing so show that I will not be silenced. I believe that the JCCV condemnation policy was enacted primarily for the purpose of silencing this perspective within the Victorian Jewish community
Continue reading here
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