The Boston chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace posted a message on its Facebook page on October 28th urging its followers to buy Hanukkah candles from a candle-making project called "Narrow Bridge Candles" that supports the "full Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions." The company, which is based in Oakland, California, produces different kinds of candles needed for Jewish rituals, including Shabbat, Havadala and Hanukkah, so that Jews who are "in solidarity with Palestine" don't have to purchase candles from Israel.
An image on Narrow Bridge Candles' website calls for the company's candles to "fuel flames of resistance."
On its website, the project claims that Israel has a "monopoly on Judaica." In fact, many of the Hanukkah candles that are sold in the United States are produced by two Jewish companies in New York, Rite Lite in Brooklyn and Ner Mitzvah in New Square. Another popular brand sold in the U.S. is actually manufactured in China. While we didn't take the time to investigate the market share for these companies, suffice it to say that Israeli-made Hanukkah candles are not the only ones available for purchase.
What the ADL blog doesn't mention is that Narrow Bridge Candles is run by Jonah Aline Daniel, an anti-Israel activist from IJAN- the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, and that the JVP recommendation comes straight from an IJAN mailing.
"While most Hanukah and other ritual candles are made in Israel, Narrow Bridge Candles is a Jewish ritual candle making project in support of the full Palestinian Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). Profits go to support the Stop the JNF Campaign."
Jonah Aline Daniel (aka Joanna Aline Daniel) is a member of the Sick collective , and prefers a collective plural pronoun, describing themself as
" gender variant, white, jewish, chronically ill, amphibious body worker, energetic herbalist, organizer, candlemaker, anti-zionist, radical, spiritual, intuitive, introvert. I am committed to decolonization, embodiment, consent, radical liberatory Judaism, the ocean, ending capitalism, white supremacy, christian dominance and patriarchy, affordable accessible culturally relevant health and healing, earth and environmental justice, plant communication, growing food and medicine, safety for all bodies, mushrooms, bees, home. I am falling more in love with plants and plant medicine every day, deepening in my respect for the wisdom and power of the body, building herbalism and craniosacral therapy practices, studying somatics and trauma, excavating family history, mapping landscapes of pain and memory, singing, resisting christian hegemony, meditating, remembering dreams, riding my own waves, organizing everything, grieving, reckoning, building home inside my body, surrendering to water, learning how to surf, sweating, shedding skin."
The ADL blog continues:
More importantly, JVP Boston's support for Narrow Bridge Candles demonstrates the inconsistency in JVP's platform on BDS. In its 2011 statement regarding BDS, JVP-National, which was just named by ADL as a "Top Ten Anti-Israel Group," stated clearly that the group "focuses our efforts on boycott and divestment campaigns that directly target Israel's occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and its blockade of the Gaza Strip." This suggests that JVP was restricting its pro-BDS advocacy to products made in Israeli settlements and to multinational companies that profit from the occupation.
But Narrow Bridge Candles supports a boycott of products made in Israel in general; no mention is made on its website of boycotting candles only made in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Indeed, two of the most popular candle-making companies in Israel are based in Tel Aviv and Safed, cities that are part of Israel's pre-1967 borders.
Various members of JVP's leadership have indicated in the past that the group might consider shifting from targeted BDS to an adoption of the Palestinian call for BDS, which advocates for a complete boycott. In a 2011 interview, both Rebecca Vilkomerson, JVP's Executive Director, and Brant Rosen, a founder of its Rabbinical Council, indicated that the group might eventually support a full boycott. It remains to be seen if JVP-Boston's endorsement of Narrow Bridge Candles is a harbinger of that shift or an aberration of JVP's policy.
You know what to do. This Hanukkah, make a point of buying made in Israel candles. If you are local, check out Afikomen, for a wide selection of beautiful tapers from S'fat and elsewhere.