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Politicizing The YMCA

Politicizing The YMCA

Barbed wire and a dove are two images used by the East Jerusalem YMCA/YWCA in a new brochure, part of a "Free Palestine" campaign, that is highly critical of Israel.
But the Y might not be able to bank on a more tangible resource, the American dollar sign, for long. The YMCA of the USA, a national umbrella organization that has provided financial support for the East Jerusalem Y, has dropped a broad hint that it will cut off funds unless the anti-Israel agitating ends.
"We have very clearly indicated where our energies and resources are going to go," during conversations with the East Jerusalem Y leadership and with executives of the World Alliance of YMCAs, says Ken Gladish, national executive director of the YMCA of the USA.
Gladish says the "Free Palestine" campaign ó its goals are to end "the Israeli occupation" and establish "an independent, sovereign and viable Palestinian state": contradicts the "non-partisan, non-political, non-ideological" nature of the 158-year-old Y movement.
The East Jerusalem Y, Palestinian-supported, serves an overwhelmingly Palestinian membership. West Jerusalem’s Y, across the street from the King David Hotel, is an arm of the YMCA of the USA, and has an equal number of Jews, Muslims and Christians among its members, Gladish says in a telephone interview from his Chicago office.
According to a B’nai B’rith report, the Y brochure compares the treatment of the Palestinians in Israel to the crucifixion of Jesus by the Romans, and ads for the "Free Palestine" campaign are carried in Palestinian publications.
The campaign, though independent of the World Alliance, represents another action of the international Y movement against Israel, says Susan Heller Pinto, director of Middle East Affairs at the Anti-Defamation League. "Unfortunately, this is not out of character … especially for the East Jerusalem Y. There is long history of them pushing an anti-Israel agenda."
She says the ADL will contact the American Y group. The brochure, she says, "is adding to the literature of misinformation. Some kid who is doing research on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict … is going to look at it."
On the World Alliance’s Web site are reports on East Jerusalem Y staff members arrested by Israel, and a statement that "YMCA and YWCA staff are confronted with numerous obstacles every day in their encounters with the Israeli occupation forces."
The World Alliance did not respond to requests by The Jewish Week for comment.
Gladish says he advised the East Jerusalem Y to focus its efforts on more traditional Y activities such as training volunteer leaders and running youth programs.
The Y brochure is not known to be available at any Ys in this country, Gladish says. "This would never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, be in our locations, in our publications, in our Web site. We have a much more balanced view" of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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