Yachad have been an element of my research for two years. There is discomfort in writing about them, because they are, on the surface, representing a legitimate position. Despite my opposition to their core political argument, I focus on exposing Israel’s enemies, not criticising Zionists I disagree with.
As Yachad’s Director Hannah Weisfeld just showed us all, with her astonishingly hypocritical attack on ‘Im Tirtzu’s’ right to be heard, when you blur the lines, you can lose all your integrity. So even though I comment on them here, I am still going to try to maintain balance and insight.
Following my recent article, three Yachad activists visited my blog to argue the case. In all honesty, I didn’t believe there was much to argue. What they did was awful. I had hoped there would be some recognition of that, perhaps a belated ‘it was wrong’ shrug, acknowledging the blatant hypocrisy of their position.
Instead I faced an ‘across the board’ wave of self-righteous, elitism. Free speech and open platforms it appears, are only inherent rights on ‘their side’ of the argument. Once they turn up to defend their own group’s attempt at stifling open discussion, they justify their actions with lengthy and extremely acrobatic theoretical discussions.
What’s more, I was surprised by those who turned up to fight Yachad’s corner. And in truth, it was the discussion that unfolded, the identity of the participants and some of the strange positions that were put forward, that led to this piece being finished.
This research has been split into three parts.
The first deals with the limited power of the group and the way they take moral ownership of an entire political block that does not even identify with them.
The second part will be released in a few days. It will look at the funding and core politics of Yachad. Reinforce the description of an astroturf group and then explain how Yachad have disengaged from the real left wing of Israeli politics and have entered a ‘post-democratic’ stage built on a ficticious ‘end of days’ scenario within Israel.
The last section will discuss the difference between Yachad’s anti-Zionism and Zionism, analyse some of Yachad’s ‘anti-Zionist’ actions and look at some of the long term effects on those who participated in Yachad’s tours.
Yachad are an astroturf organisation. Unlike the natural core ‘grassroots’ strength of activist organisations such as ‘Sussex Friends of Israel’, Yachad exist solely because of a small number of wealthy benefactors. Don’t read this wrong. Everyone needs donors. But if SFoI had no donors, they’d still have followers, and if they didn’t have funds to get to Brighton to demonstrate, they’d walk there. With grassroots movements ‘the cause is the thing’.
Beginning as an astroturf group, doesn’t automatically mean you cannot succeed, but Yachad, whether they wish to admit it or not, will never overcome the sheer indifference of their target constituency. With Yachad, ‘the self is the thing’.
There will be a handful of activists who gain exposure by being at the front of the group.
There will be several virtue signalers, who are passive but make themselves feel better or look better by public identification with the group. Generally, those in the public domain, (teachers may be a good example of this).
You will also have some that can use affiliation as a personal stepping stone.
You will see short term activity where people are personally and directly confronted (university space would be a good example). Such political activity looks good on a CV. You get titles like ‘student leader’ and so on. Rarely will this self-centered activism continue after university.
And that’s about it. The actions of the group will seem large because it is well funded. The research they conduct (more on this shortly) is a good example of this. Yachad will fill halls at events because it can afford to bring in speakers that will attract Zionists like me. It will also punch well above its weight because some of the core elements will be well educated, affluent and in positions of relative clout.
But on the ground it will always lack the fighting power of a real grassroots movement. In theory an astroturf movement like this could create a momentum but for Yachad the problem remains the natural indifference of the potential recruits. Yachad cannot organise a public protest. If they held a Yachad conference, consisting only of Yachad’s leadership, nobody would show up.
All they can do is what they did here, use connections to get publicity (the Jewish News article), use their core activists to write two or three letters (which because of their individual clout gets listened to), point to their research (to suggest they speak for a silent majority) and use their general polished look (the funding) to give the appearance of a legitimate fighting force.
These people wouldn’t walk to Brighton. It’s unlikely they’d go unless they could take a taxi. There is little point arguing against what is blatantly obvious.
Yachad’s so called ‘silent majority’
So let us look at Yachad’s constituency. In short, it doesn’t really exist, and where it does it is insignificant. What they do is rely on a trick fit for a magician. Let me explain.
The first person who attempted to defend Yachad’s position after my article was the Chairman Gideon Smith. The second, unbelievably, was one of the main architects of Yachad’s recent ‘independent’ research, Stephen Miller. Stephen, an academic, informed me that he was “one of the HGSS members who wrote to our shul arguing that Im Tirtzu should be banned”.
Yet the real highlight of the exchange came later. After I had suggested Yachad had no following, Stephen responded thus:
At least three major surveys (and yes, I was involved with other professional researchers in all of them) demonstrate that very dovish positions on settlements, recognition, Palestinian rights, Israeli tactics are shared by a clear majority of British Jews (who incidentally also express overwhelming attachment to, and pride in Israel).
And here is the magicians trick. Yachad take ownership of everyone who has ‘dovish’ views. They even took ownership of me. As I stated at the time, the design of the survey occurred within a ‘left leaning’ paradigm. Stephen’s clear identification with Yachad’s ideology drives this home even further. But even then, I found I was in the ludicrous position of arguing against Stephen Miller over Yachad’s actions just as Stephen dared to imply my own vote is part of Yachad’s constituency.
I am a ‘dovish’ Zionist. Most Israelis are ‘dovish’. As most Zionists are aware, Israel’s inability to find peace is not due to Israel’s actions, but rather the rejectionist attitudes of the Arabs. I am part of the Oslo generation, I lost friends to the waves of terror, I saw the results of too many explosions, had friends who lost family and walked the streets hearing the explosions, in cafes, in clubs, in discos and on buses. Like many of Israel’s wavering voters, I switched allegiance not because I didn’t want to give up any land, but because there was nobody there to safely give it up to.
As I explained to Stephen Miller, Israeli politics is split mainly on the lines of ‘who is responsible’ and ‘what can be done’. Almost none of this of course is represented in Yachad’s survey, which is the underlying flaw in the entire exercise. Had I been questioned for the survey, my own answers, would allow Hannah Weisfeld to take ‘ownership’ of my political stance. As someone who considers Yachad teetering on the edge of the anti-Zionist cliff (and stepping over sometimes), nothing could be further from the truth.
Yachad is not Zionist Union, nor does it represent the majority of Zionists who would grab peace with both hands if it were available. So when I slam Yachad’s tiny constituency, and in response one of the architects of the research uses the results to indicate that Yachad’s constituency is large, I have just witnessed an enormous con. The sleight of hand of the magician. Yachad’s own research does not support that suggestion at all.
On page 22, part of the discussion over ‘obstacles to peace’ takes place (see image on left). This is the counter-argument to the reported headlines of ‘settlements’. This is the section on what Zionists believe the Arabs need to do for peace. And it is on these core issues, that the divisions on the left wing of Israel emerge.
The research shows that 70% believe recognition of Israel as the Jewish state is a must. 63% say the same over the incitement in the schools. 60% don’t believe there is a partner at all.
So as Yachad engages with elements that are even to the left of Meretz on the Israeli spectrum, these numbers represent a constituency that appears to align somewhere from the midst of the Zionist Union, through the centre parties and into the more dovish elements of the Likud. This image does not reflect Yachad’s position at all. For Yachad, Israel is the one with it (almost) all to do.
So Yachad are picking and choosing which elements of the survey they wish to discuss and ignoring those parts that absolutely reject Yachad’s platform. If you are a left leaning, dovish Zionist, who has problems with some of Israel’s actions, would happily give up land and dismantle some settlements, but feel Oslo and Hamas in Gaza have shown us how problematic and dangerous peace making is, then you, like most Israelis, are very much in the centre. Yachad have *absolutely no right* to claim you as their own. Remember, it is not me making the statement on the back of these figures, but one of the academics involved in the study, who used the numbers to imply that ‘a clear majority’ sit with Yachad.
As someone who intimately understands the nuances of Israeli politics, I can honestly say I have rarely heard such nonsense. It is self-righteous, elitist, hogwash.
The second piece in this series, looking at the funding and core politics of Yachad, will follow in a few days. You can get a notification when the second piece is released by subscribing to the blog using the link on the page.
Follow, like, donate
Follow the FB page for this blog: and follow me on Twitter. Please if you can, also consider making a small donation. Research is expensive and time consuming. Simply producing just one of these piece does take days, sometimes weeks, and whilst I do what I can, there are serious constraints that impact on what is possible.