A copy of minutes from a 2016 Jewish United Fund (JUF) board meeting detail an anti-BDS presentation in which the increasing number of U.S. Muslims was identified something to “watch and worry about.” The presentation also expressed concern that the message of pro-Palestine organizations was resonating because Arab and Muslim immigrants were becoming “more sophisticated and integrated into America.”
The JUF (which is also referred to as The Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago) is part of the Jewish Federation, a philanthropic organization whose work extends into Israel. Starting in 2017, the minutes of their meetings do not provide much detail (2018, 2019), but the meeting notes from 2011-2016 are lengthy documents which summarize the remarks of each speaker. It’s unclear whether or not they intended for the earlier minutes to become public.
During the board meeting which occurred on January 21, 2016, attendees apparently were given a “confidential report” on “anti-Israel groups” in Chicago by the group’s Executive Vice President, Jay Tcath. Tcatch explains that the group “scoured IRS Forms 990s, websites, JUF’s files” to compile a database of pro-Palestine groups and their finances.
The groups were broken into tiers, based on their potential impact. Tier One included American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Electronic Intifada, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Palestine Legal, Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP), The U.S. Palestinian Community Network, The Chicago Coalition for Justice in Palestine, Chicago Faith Coalition on Middle East Policy, and Mondoweiss.
Tcatch admits that these groups have had major successes, including campus BDS votes and increasing the popularity of a one-state solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict. He also lists some of the challenges that these groups face, including their lack of connections to either of the two political parties. It’s worth noting that this presentation was given before the election of congress members like Rep. Ilhan Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Rep. Betty McCollum’s historic bill promoting the human rights of Palestinian children, or Bernie Sanders’s most recent campaign for President.
The document declares that “There are four trends to watch and worry about“:
1. American Jewish and Arab/Muslim demographics and passions (our numbers are decreasing while theirs are increasing).
2. Support for Israel becoming ever more polarizing within American politics and our own Jewish community.
3. More and more anti-Israel groups are being led by 2nd and 3rd generation Arab/Muslim immigrants. This cohort is more sophisticated and integrated into America, allowing their messages to become more relevant and impactful. In this context, we should acknowledge that part of the success of our pro-Israel agenda was due to it not being robustly contested.
4. Inevitably, despite challenges, the anti-Israel movement will enter and enjoy some success in the political process.
The report concludes by admitting that pro-Israel groups in Chicago are being challenged more successfully than ever before and cautioning against supporters becoming complacent. “We must understand how best to oppose the increasing activities of our opponents, but must not be overly impressed, intimidated, or paralyzed by them. We are on the side of justice. It, and we, and Israel, shall prevail,” read the notes.
Tcatch also apparently encouraged people to report any pro-Palestine campaign or organization to the staff, so that they could be added to the database.
A 2017 JVP report on JUF’s 2011-2014 tax filings found that the organization had helped fund anti-Muslim hate groups and called on them to sever all such connections. According to the report, the JUF gave $683,750 to groups identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “anti-Muslim fear-mongers.”