Yesterday morning I discussed the troubling emergence of BDS sympathizing at major New York City Jewish organizations, namely the JCC in Manhattan and the 92nd Street Y. The post revolved around a recent editorial by Isaac Zablocki, a JCC employee, in the Huffington Post on the dangers of BDS on the Israeli artistic community. The original piece made clear that while Zablocki abhors artistic boycotts, he believes that other forms of boycott are of crucial importance. The line I quoted from the original Huffington Post piece read as follows:
In the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nonviolence is a welcome form of protest for the region, and the importance of the use of boycott to get international attention towards pressuring Israel to end the occupation is unquestionable. However, the protest of art, culture and education brings up dangers in the realm of freedom and evolution of thought.
If you visit the piece on the Huffington Post website right now, however, that paragraph has been altered considerably. The paragraph currently begins with:
In the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nonviolence is a welcome form of protest for the region. However, the protest of art, culture and education brings up dangers in the realm of freedom and evolution of thought.
The most egregious line, which I quoted in my post yesterday, has now disappeared with a note from the Huffington Post explaining the deletion: “This post has been revised by the blogger since it’s (sic) original publication. It previously included a line referring to the importance of BDS.” Despite the JCC in Manhattan executive director Rabbi Joy Levitt’s claim to the JNS news service that “Mr. Zablocki’s intention with his Huffington Post article was the exact opposite of its perception and was written to reject BDS as insidious,” even the Huffington Post recognizes that the most egregious line made clear that Zablocki found that BDS was important. Levitt’s statement is laughable to anyone who read Zablocki’s original post, which clearly was an implicit endorsement of some forms of BDS, as long as they weren’t against the artistic community in Israel.
While this quiet deletion five days later is troubling from a journalistic standpoint, it highlights that even while Levitt was defending Zablocki there was a recognition from someone in power at the JCC that Zablocki’s comments were beyond the pale. The alteration in no way excuses the original statements, nor does it make them actually disappear, but it does give a glimmer of hope that within the walls of the JCC in Manhattan there are still lines that cannot be crossed. What needs to come next before both donors and supporters can be comfortable with the situation is an open acknowledgement that a wrong has been committed as well as an explanation on why the post was published in its original form. Was it approved by a JCC staff member? If it was, that person’s judgement should also be called into question, and if not, protocols need to be established before staff members publish items as potentially explosive as Zablocki’s.
With these acknowledgements and explanations, an apology not just from Zablocki but also from Levitt is also of vital importance. The outrage surrounding this situation won’t disappear as easily as a sentence from a blog post without it.