The Sierra Club, a non-profit environmental protection organization headquartered in California, has wisely reinstated its trips to Israel after having cancelled them under pressure from anti-Zionist groups.
Palestinian and progressive activists, having accused the club of “greenwashing” Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians, pressured it to boycott Israel in what can only be described as a hasty and foolish decision.
The club, founded by the American environmentalist John Muir in 1892, should never have allowed itself to be used to defame and delegitimize Israel, one of the very few democracies in the Middle East and the United States’ most important ally in the region.
Israel appears to have been the first country boycotted by the club, which in recent years has melded racial justice concerns with its original mission of preserving the environment. Why the club chose to ostracize Israel and give autocracies like China and Russia a pass is beyond understanding.
It is true that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in the West Bank leaves much to be desired, but is that reason enough to shun Israel?
More to the point, is there a country in this crazy world without imperfections?
Unfortunately, the club rushed to judgment in delisting Israel from its foreign travel destinations. In its eagerness to be politically correct, it joined the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) bandwagon, whose ultimate objective is to convert Israel, the only Jewish state, into a binational state.
To no one’s surprise, Jewish organizations pushed back, forcing the club to reconsider its intrinsically untenable position.
Ross MacFarlane, its vice-president, issued an apology, denounced the BDS movement and disclosing that trips to Israel would be restored in the near future.
The club’s acting executive director, Dan Chu, issued a formal statement that spoke to the arbitrary and unjust process that culminated with its ostracization of Israel.
“Recently, the Sierra Club hastily made a decision, without consulting a robust set of stakeholders, to postpone two planned outings to Israel. The process that a led to this was done in ways that created confusion, anger and frustration. We do not take positions on foreign policy matters that are beyond that scope. We do not have a deep understanding or knowledge necessary to do so, nor is it our place to do so.”
In closing, Chu acknowledged that the club had caused “deep pain on a personal and spiritual level” to a range of allies.
To their credit, MacFarland and Chu were gracious enough to acknowledge the club’s mistake. Let this misbegotten episode be a lesson to non-political organizations that stick their noses into complicated international conflicts that should be resolved by the parties themselves.