SWJC talks F-35s, BDS at annual meeting

Pulman speaks about perils of BDS with jet presentation in tow

By Aaron

Submitted photo Charles Pulman discusses the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement at the recent Southwest Jewish Congress annual meeting.
Submitted photo
Charles Pulman discusses the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement at the recent Southwest Jewish Congress annual meeting.

Special to the TJP

ADDISON — Charles Pulman took the role of bearer of bad news in stride at the Southwest Jewish Congress’ 2017 Annual Meeting on March 6 at Venue Forty50.
That’s because Pulman and his audience were already excited for the uplifting presentation to follow, by Lockheed Martin’s Eric V. Fox regarding the F-35 fighter plane.
But Pulman’s message — about Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions — was an essential half of the duo’s picture of what he called “the threat to and strength of Israel.”
“(BDS) seeks the destruction of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people,” the attorney and activist told attendees.
Pulman recently took four legislators from Texas and one from South Carolina to Israel to educate them on the reality of the situation and the potential impact of BDS. Israelis don’t see it as a major immediate threat, but rather as a huge long-term danger, Pulman said.
“They are worried about the effect of BDS on Millennials, when they are leaders of corporations and state government; that’s what Israel is concerned about,” Pulman said.
Pulman is one of many pro-Israel advocates actively pushing for anti-BDS legislation, such as the pending Texas House Bill 89 and Senate Bill 29.
While the BDS movement claims it is trying to right a wrong through economic pressure, Pulman warned that it does not seek peace and does not aim to help Palestinians. Instead, he said, it is bent on delegitimizing Israel through demonization. This can be seen in U.N. resolutions, such as those targeting Israeli businesses. There’s no corresponding action being taken against nations with worse human rights records.
He showed a video by influential British Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. Sacks pointed out that there have been successive efforts to destroy Israel militarily, then economically, then politically, then psychologically. The latest version is the BDS movement, attacking it under a moral guise.
In singling out Israel and ignoring actions by other nations or the Palestinians, Sacks says, BDS is undermining its own moral argument.
“The BDS campaign will delay, defer, and endanger the Palestinian state,” Sacks said. “Rights are universal or they are nothing.”
Pulman took the legislators on a visit to a candy factory in the West Bank where 500 Palestinians worry they could lose their jobs if BDS is effective.
“They don’t want their company to turn into another SodaStream,” he said, citing a company that moved a factory from the West Bank to the Beersheba area after being targeted.
“Who got hurt? SodaStream?” he asked. “No. The Palestinians.”
Pulman stressed that while the anti-BDS legislation won’t end the problem, it is of vital importance because it will shine a light on the true aims of the BDS movement to destroy the Jewish state.
“Because the BDS campaign is a discriminatory campaign targeting Israel,” he told the TJP, “it is an anathema to the morals of the state of Texas. The state has no obligation to spend taxpayer dollars to support discrimination.”
To date, 16 states have passed anti-BDS legislation, and New York’s governor used an executive order.

One of two F-35 fighter jets in Israeli service Submitted photo
One of two F-35 fighter jets in Israeli service
Submitted photo

“When all the states pass this legislation, it’ll be a resounding message,” Pulman said. “BDS is not seeking peace. If individuals are seeking peace, what I pray for, and 95 percent of Israelis hope for, there are other ways to make your voices heard.”
The F-35 Lightning II has been in the news quite a bit recently over the cost of the program and estimates for the latest round of orders. But Fox’ lively presentation about what the fighter plane can do for the U.S. and allies like Israel won over the room.
First off, Fox noted that the costs continue to come down due to economy of scale, so that shouldn’t be a surprise. Secondly, many countries — particularly Great Britain — have paid substantial amounts into the development of the fifth-generation jets. The U.S. sells planes like the F-35 to close allies, including Israel.
The British contribution is $2 billion, part of $5 billion from American allies “that you, the American taxpayer, don’t have to pay,” Fox said.
But what really left an impression was his discussion of the plane’s capabilities. Fox compared it to the upgrade from a rotary phone to a smartphone. The stealth planes can detect enemy aircraft far quicker than they themselves can be detected, and include cutting-edge helmets designed by Israel’s Elbit Systems.
“The F-35 is a leap in technology — not just a generational leap, but a monumental leap forward in capability,” Fox told the TJP.
The wider role for the fighter planes also brings down the cost by requiring fewer other planes and allowing that manpower to be used in other ways.
Israel has 33 planes currently contracted, and a few have arrived already. It’s been named Adir — “Mighty One.” With more than 100 F-16s that will eventually need to be replaced, Fox sees the likelihood of more orders. He and Pulman saw the first planes arrive in Israel, and both talked about how impressive it was, and Israelis’ gratitude.
The night also marked a transition with Susie Salfield Avnery taking the role of president and Jonathan Spigel stepping down as chair after serving since 2009. The other officers are Harry Ploss, founding chair; Nelda Golden, vice president programming; Cindy Ray and Keo Strull, vice presidents fundraising; Rose Stromberg, vice president community relations; Marla Greenberg Janco, secretary; and Alan Tolmas, treasurer.
Dr. Catalina Garcia, Brenda Jackson, and Michelle Shriro joined the board of directors, with Bruce Bernstien and Mel Meyers as outgoing officers, and Lauren Cohen and Jenny Walters as outgoing board members.
“As the president of SWJC, I want to see the organization continue to build bridges in the community by providing quality educational programming,” Avnery said. “I appreciate that we are an organization of varied voices, liberals and conservatives, Jews and non-Jews.”
Spigel helped guide SWJC to self-sufficiency during his tenure, overseeing its development of educational programming and legislative efforts, including a successful bill signed by Gov. Rick Perry to create American Indian Heritage Day.
Pulman and Fox will give their presentations again March 23 at Congregation Ahavath Sholom in Fort Worth. SWJC has a number of other upcoming programs, including Israel and the Middle East Briefings with Gil Elan via Skype at the Aaron Family JCC in Dallas April 5 and May 3 and Ahavath Sholom April 6 and May 11, all from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The Latin American Jewish Experience will be offered April 9 at UTD’s Davidson Auditorium at 2 p.m., featuring Eli Davidsohn and Debra Polsky.

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