There was strong criticism this week of an initiative by Jewish students asking British Jews to only use Israeli maps showing the Green Line with one senior leader branding it “as silly as it comes” and a help to boycotters.
The campaign, called ‘Sign on the Green Line,’ was launched on Tuesday by a selection of students. It was supported by Liberal Judaism, Movement for Reform Judaism and Yachad, who bore the brunt of the criticism.
“This is as silly as it gets,” said one community leader. “Whilst I’m not in favour of settlements, there are other ways of doing something about that. But this is going in exactly the direction we didn’t want to go in. It will only give succour and support to those who want to boycott Israel.”
The idea proved immediately divisive, with journalist Jonathan Freedland tweeting: “Good initiative by UK Jewish students, demanding Jewish organisations only use maps of Israel that show 1967 borders.”
But both the Zionist Federation and the Board of Deputies expressed reservations, the ZF’s Paul Charney saying: “It would be naïve in the extreme to think that the disputed territories were not at the heart of the issue.”
He continued: “We welcome debate, but the final borders must be mutually and democratically agreed upon by the Israelis and Palestinians, rather than imposed by an external organisation.”
Several communal organisations, such as BICOM, already use maps showing the Green Line, which marks a temporary boundary between Israel and the Palestinian territories captured during the Six Day War.
World leaders have repeatedly said that any final peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians would take the ’67 border as its basis, with “mutually agreed swaps” allowing for the changed landscape since.
Yet many Israelis, including right-wing cabinet members, do not recognise the legitimacy of the Green Line, something British figures recognised this week.
“It disappoints me,” said Prof. Eric Moonman, a former president of Hillel and the Union of Jewish Students (UJS). “We need to talk to these students, to inject some sanity and understanding into the debate and to discuss how this initiative may affect not only our enemies but also our friends.”
Students behind the campaign were unrepentant, however. Graham Carpenter from LJY-Netzer said: “We are engaging with the big political issues facing us as British, liberal Zionist Jews, and enacting social change. That’s why we pledged to only use maps of Israel with the correct state lines. Working from the same map will enable us to further the conversation about our future vision of Israel.”
Orthodox student Noam Roth said: “For several years I’ve been concerned that Jewish schools and youth movements were misrepresenting Israel to children, by not marking the West Bank on maps. This can have implications on the mental pictures children grow up with and how they see the world.”
On the divisive nature of the campaign, Roth added: “It strikes me as incredibly uncontroversial.”