The shocking cancellation of an environmental tour in Israel | Jenni Frazer


It’s a morality tale, but I’m afraid it doesn’t have a good ending.

Gabe Stutman, journalist at J Weeklywhich serves the San Francisco community, wrote an astonishing story: how an anonymous Jewish activist, along with a group of “woke” climate activists and anti-Zionist groups, managed to prevent the American Sierra Club from organizing its regular tours in Israel .

If you don’t know anything about the Sierra Club, and I didn’t, it’s a national environmental group that for years has offered trips to Israel, among many other global destinations. The trips aren’t cheap — $5,000 per person — but they’re said to be wonderfully rewarding. They offer the opportunity for two weeks to explore the geographic diversity and wildlife of Israel. Last year’s trip, Stutman says, included “bird watching, snorkeling at sea, a visit to the Dead Sea and evenings at a kibbutz,” taking participants across the country.

But, according to Stutman’s disturbingly detailed story, this innocuous state of affairs was permanently disrupted because activists accused the Sierra Club of “greening the conflict” and “giving legitimacy to the Israeli state, which is engaged in apartheid against the Palestinian people”.

“Greenwashing”, in case you don’t know, is a term used to describe Israel using its “good” behavior on environmental issues to disguise its “bad” behavior on the Palestinian issue.

Mary Owens, chair of the Sierra Club’s National Outings Team, broke the news of the cancellation in an email to the hundreds of volunteers who regularly lead the trips around the world. She told them the first approach came from “an American Jewish activist” in late January.

He is the one who brought the accusation of greenwashing. The Sierra Club told him to take a hike: he hasn’t, he says, “restricted our travels because of regional disputes or politics.” Among her more than 250 upcoming tours are planned trips to China, Malaysia and Nepal.

But that wasn’t enough for the activist, who said he was unhappy and planned to involve other activist groups.

“On February 22, the Board received an email from a coalition of activist organizations… threatening that if we did not cancel upcoming trips within the week, they would publicly say that the organization was violating organizational values ​​she recently deployed,” Owens wrote.

One can only imagine the discussions within the Sierra Club upon receipt of this second email. Its leaders sought to meet with the activists, now identified as “the pro-Palestinian justice project Adalah, the indigenous rights group the NDN collective, the campaign for the boycott of Israel, the Jewish voice for peace, the Sunrise Movement and the Black Movement”. Lives”.

This charming group told the Sierra Club, which did not want to cancel the trips, that “there was no room for compromise”. After a few days of discussions, the Sierra Club capitulated. Israel – even reports of his previous trips – no longer exist on the organization’s website.

In her email to volunteers, Mary Owens, who said she and the Outings team were “very disappointed with the decision”, added: “a terrible precedent has been set which has the potential to jeopardize other international and national journeys to be subject to the same treatment.

Among the most repugnant aspects of this story, the one that repulses me the most is that none of these fabulously progressive people were prepared to defend their actions for JWeekly. We still don’t know the name of the solo activist who set the Sierra Club’s metaphorical feet on fire with his test of ideological purity.

But in any case, this story has a worrying lesson for us here in the UK. The domino effect of a few e-mails and an aggressive meeting saw Israel stricken from environmental club history. You think it could not happen here? Think again.

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist.


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