Sunday, November 24, 2013

Women of the Wall Leadership Linked to Anti-Israel Groups

Women of the Wall Leadership Linked to Anti-Israel Groups 

Women of the Wall Vice Chair Batya Kallus serves as an adviser to Sikkuy, a signatory to the Haifa Declaration calling for the abolishing of the State of Israel. 

By: Rachel Avraham

Women of the Wall Vice Chair Batya Kallus and WOW Chair Anat Hoffman, advise and support a hefty list of anti-Israeli NGOs. 

While Women of the Wall has built up a name for themselves as a feminist organization promoting women’s rights in Israel, their leadership in fact have links to anti-Israel groups that not many people know about. 

In Israel, Women of the Wall is often presented as a feminist organization seeking to conduct egalitarian prayer services with women wearing tallits at the Western Wall, the last remnant of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, the holiest site within the Jewish faith. Regardless of whether one views their actions as provocative publicity stunts that disturb the peace at the Western Wall or as noble deeds designed to promote women’s rights within the Jewish religion, the Israeli public is generally not aware that the Women of the Wall leadership possesses links to anti-Israel groups. 

The Jewish Press has learned that Women of the Wall Vice Chair Batya Kallus serves as an adviser to Sikkuy. This NGO is a signatory to the Haifa Declaration, which calls for the abolishing of the State of Israel, praises violent resistance, and accuses Israel of manipulating the memory of the Holocaust for political purposes. 

Furthermore, Kallus has facilitated funding for anti-Israel groups Adalah, Ir Amin, Yesh Din, and Mossawa, as part of her position as programs officer for the Moria Fund. Though outwardly presented as human rights groups, these organizations contribute towards the delegitimization of Israel in the world. 

Adalah is opposed to Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, views Israel to be a colonial state, and has participated in anti-Israel activism via Israel Apartheid Weeks and the Goldstone Report, which until its arguments were retracted by its main author caused Israel significant diplomatic damage. Adalah is mentioned by name 38 times in the Goldstone Report. 

Ir Amim supports the division of Jerusalem, has asserted that Israel’s archaeological digs within the city are a “tool in the fight for control” over the city, that Israeli governmental powers are being handed over to “settler organizations,” and that the Security Barrier is not motivated primarily by security concerns. They run highly politicized anti-Israel tours of the holy city, which indoctrinate internationals into holding anti-Israel views. In the Huffington Post, Ir Amim appealed to the US Government to “threaten Israel with severing diplomatic ties. Threaten us with cutting back on, or even cutting off, the annual support package. Bludgeon us over the head and force us to wise up.”

Yesh Din views Israel to be an apartheid state and demonstrated support for Turkey after the Gaza Flotilla incident, even though the Turkish sailors on board the Mavi Marmara ship chanted jihadi slogans and attacked IDF soldiers. They routinely indoctrinate foreign diplomats to hold anti-Israel views, petition the Israeli Supreme Court to rule more in favor of the Palestinian side, and encourage Palestinians to demand more from Israel. 

Mossawa is based on the premise that “the State of Israel was established on the ruins of the Palestinian people, for whom the event was a national tragedy – the Nakba.” Mossawa, like Adalah, explicitly has stated that they refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. They publish an annual racism report that makes outrageous claims, such as labeling an indictment against Hadash Chairman MK Muhammad Barakeh for assaulting a police officer as a violation of the Arab MK’s political freedom. This listing just represents a sample of the types of organizations that Kallus facilitated funding for. 

Woman of the Wall Chair Anat Hoffman also happens to be the chair of the Domari Society of Gypsies in Jerusalem. Her association partners include Yonathan Mizrahi and Dafna Strauss from the Emek Shaveh organization, which calls for an international committee to investigate Israeli archaeological work in Jerusalem and runs archaeology-based anti-Israel tours of the city. The 

Domari Society of Gypsies is also part of Al Aqsa Grassroots, an anti-Israel network that supports “resistance to the occupation” and is against the “Judaization of Jerusalem,” in addition to supporting the Palestinian right of return to Israel proper. 

Additionally, prior to the 1993 Oslo Accords, Hoffman was the chairwoman of Women in Black, a group that advocates giving all of Judea and Samaria, as well as East Jerusalem which includes the area of the Kotel, to the Palestinian Authority. Interestingly, the Women of the Wall organization do not deny these accusations in regards to their leadership. Women of the Wall spokeswoman Shira Pruce stated, “Our participants and supporters come from all walks of life, political opinions, and Jewish denominations.” 

While Women of the Wall spokesmen claim that the political opinions of their leadership have nothing to do with their organization and that their organization is non-partisan, consisting of individuals with many different viewpoints and that they don’t deal with issues that have nothing to do with “egalitarian” worship at the Kotel, I personally believe that if the leadership is associated with anti-Israel groups, then the organization itself has a hidden anti-Israel agenda. 

In my viewpoint, they seek to portray Israel as a fundamentalist anti-feminist country that forbids freedom of worship, thus driving a wedge between the State of Israel and the largely Reform-dominated Jewish American community that does prefer to pray with men and women together, with the women wearing tallits. This has the effect of pushing many American Jews away from Israel, thus forcing Israel into a wall, diplomatically speaking. 

My opinions are reinforced by the fact that Women of the Wall have accepted funding from the New Israel Fund in order to “research Israeli public opinion on imposed gender segregation at the Western Wall, as well as other issues related to pluralism and equality.” Additionally, the New Israel Fund processes all donations made to Women of the Wall. The New Israel Fund has given over $200 million to over 800 organizations in Israel, many of which have been identified as anti-Israel according to the NGO Monitor organization. 

NGO Monitor has reported that a confidential US government cable (February 2010), released by Wikileaks, contained comments by NIF Associate Director in Israel Hedva Radanovitz stating that “she believed that in 100 years Israel would be majority Arab and that the disappearance of a Jewish state would not be the tragedy that Israelis fear since it would become more democratic.”  In February 2010, the Im Tirtzu organization launched a public campaign criticizing NIF for its grantees role in promoting the Goldstone Report and their involvement in “lawfare” cases in foreign courts. 

While Women of the Wall might deny this makes them anti-Israel, these connections are enough by many people to make them viewed as an anti-Israel organization. For this reason, Women of the Wall continues’ to threaten news publications that have the audacity to present these facts to the public. However, as journalists, we are committed to share with the Israeli public the truth about political groups operating within our country. There are many well-meaning feminists who support Women of the Wall without being informed of the fact that the organization is led by individuals tied to anti-Israel groups. These women have the right to know the truth before they sign up for such a cause.

About the Author: Rachel Avraham is a news editor and political analyst for Jerusalem Online News, the English language internet edition of Israel's Channel 2 News. She completed her masters degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University. The subject of her MA thesis was: "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media."
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