And, as in so many things JFNA, the call for the meeting was deceptive:
"The Board will be asked to authorize this change in policy for IAN missions including the upcoming mission scheduled to depart New York on October 30, 2016. The Board will also be asked to authorize the entry of JFNA missions, including federation community missions planned through JFNA, into Israeli-controlled territories beyond the Green Line (e.g., Ariel or Gush Etzion, etc.)"That Mission leaving 4 days after the meeting? Its Itinerary, prepared long before the Board meeting, includes a visit to Ramallah the "capitol" of "Palestine" not a "Jewish settlement" at all. "Oh, maybe we forgot to mention it." But the reality is that JFNA's gaggle of leaders just buried that headline -- "we're going to Ramallah" -- out of their constant fear that telling the truth, the whole truth, about anything, would be too much for federation leaders to contemplate. It's an insulting and deprecating attitude of unearned superiority -- and a constant one. So, an entire elected Board of Jewish communal leaders was summoned to a conference call meeting to discuss missions "...into Israeli-controlled territories beyond the Green Line" only to learn that they had somehow approved a Mission going to the claimed capitol of "Palestine."
And, after the meeting, JFNA issued a press release that stated:
At the end of the day, the JFNA Board was summoned to a secret meeting that had only to do with Israel Action Network Missions but not those of the communities or JFNA itself? This all makes so little sense. Perhaps, Richard Sandler, putting on his kippah as By-Laws Chair, would like to revisit the importance of having an Executive Committee -- then Honorary Trustees wouldn't have to be excluded and 155 federations need not be called to a Board meeting. But, as we know, JFNA never looks back...just as it never looks forward.“Today the JFNA Board of Trustees approved a number of appropriate and necessary protocols to support the advocacy and education trips of the IAN. This vote ensures that IAN will continue to travel to Israel and the surrounding areas, not historically visited by JFNA staff. We are pleased the board reaffirmed the ability of IAN to continue this mission-critical work.” (emphasis added)read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.749409?=&ts=_1477563383011
And why were "Honorary Trustees" excluded from the meeting? As the Memo stated:
"Only voting trustees will be invited to participate as the issues under discussion are deemed privileged information."Indeed..."deemed" by whom, exactly? And by what criteria? And what are the criteria for whom is to be excluded and when?
Now Nussbam Cohen has written her story the day after the "secretive meeting," as she described it in Haaretz, In Historic Shift, Jewish Federation Representatives To Now Visit Israeli Settlements. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.749409 The veil of attempted secrecy has been lifted and revealed...mirabile dictu, there was no reason for secrecy in the first place. The secrecy attached to the meeting was dictated by fear of small controversies; the same reason, it appears, that the purpose and parties to the Klarman/JFNA/SS+K conduit contract was hidden.
The entire discussion must have appealed to JFNA's false sense of self-importance. After all, today, unlike pre-merger, far more communities are sending their Missions without any input from JFNA than with it -- in fact, it's fair to say, JFNA neither knows how many Israel Missions are in the country from North American Communities nor what their itineraries are.
I tried to answer Debra's questions about the substance of the Board call, since revealed* -- whether JFNA-sponsored community missions and JFNA-arranged tours should visit settlement towns and areas in Judea and Samaria, and Palestinian cities as it turns out -- but I was admittedly distracted by this reality:
JFNA is more and more transitioning from public charity to secret society. Sunlight is being shut out on an ad hoc basis at the whim of its CEO and Board ChairsA public charity doesn't execute secret contracts, it doesn't exclude from meetings for any reason, let alone no reason, those mandated by governance (elected or honorary, it makes no difference) to attend (and who are, by governance, required to get notice of meetings). I believe that the operative words her are: secret, whim and ad hoc. Were I not an Honorary Board Member but an elected one I would be pondering, "if they've excluded, e.g., Wexler, when are they going to exclude me?" But, of course, they already have, haven't they -- secret contracts, secret consultant fees, secrets small and large. In point of fact, secrecy in the work of a public charity is no more becoming JFNA than has been the secrecy insisted upon by President-elect Hillary Clinton (and the Clinton Foundation appears to understand the openness required of a public charity better than does JFNA).
And, in the instance of this secret Board meeting, perhaps there was concern that, inasmuch as those of us being excluded are among the few who participated and even led Missions that incorporated visits to settlement developments in Judea and Samaria. Perhaps there was fear that we would have opinions (and, certainly, more knowledge) on the subject that might conflict with those who proposed this agenda item's narrative (G-d forbid) and might express those informed opinions. I know that I believe that I was a better-educated and informed leader after being exposed to the passion and religious fervor in some instances of the settlers back in the day (or exposed to the cynicism of some who settled in those regions because they were so heavily subsidized by a succession of Israeli governments to do so). How does a leader who is denied access to the arguments in situ respond to the claims that "settlements are an obstacle to peace" unless one has listened to the arguments of those who are there, digested them and sorted through them to form one's own opinion. JFNA appears to place no value...none...on leaders' "own opinions."
But, I digress. As I told the senior JFNA Officer who called me after I wrote Richard Sandler the following: "I just received a call from a reporter who informed me of tomorrow's meeting for 'voting Trustees only.' This doesn't strike me as an action that grown ups would take" -- this is not the action that a mature organization would take. I reminded him of LBJ's mantra: "I want this guy on the inside pissing out; not on the outside pissing in." But I also lamented the fact that JFNA has become an organization so lacking in a belief in the rectitude of its own acts that it conducts them in either absolute -- consultant contracts, employment contracts -- or relative secrecy; and that's just impermissible...PERIOD, FULL STOP.
JFNA is more and more transitioning from public charity to secret society. Sunlight is being shut out on an ad hoc basis at the whim of its CEO and Board Chair.Is this the kind of organization the federations really wish to continue to throw good/bad money after bad? Really?
* Ironic is it not that Debra Nussbaum Cohen's unnamed source was an elected JFNA Trustee?