As we wrote earlier, the board of San Francisco’s Jewish Federation was set to vote on an odious McCarthyite resolution presented by a splinter group of right-wing Federation critics:
The S.F. Jewish Federation will not support events or organizations that demonize or defame Israel. Nor will it support organizations that partner in their events with individuals or groups that call for boycotts, divestment or sanctions (BDS) against Israel.”
Hedging their bets, the board wisely rejected the above formulation, but then embraced another pernicious one. (There are substantive and thoughtful arguments against BDS, but you won’t find them below. Only cartoon-like propaganda. Aside from the thoroughly insincere reference to the conditions of Palestinians, as if, the resolution below also may mean a sudden end to a lot of Jewish-Muslim and Jewish-Christian dialogue efforts. As BDS grows, progressive groups of all stripes may want to exercise their right to not use Federation-funded spaces anymore.)
The Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties became one of the first Federations in America to formally endorse a resolution approved on November 9, 2009, by the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America strongly opposing the Boycott/Sanctions/Divestment (BDS) movement against Israel.
At its November 19, 2009 Board meeting, the Federation unanimously approved the resolution committing to “mobilize against the BDS movement’s undermining of Israel’s legitimacy” and pledged to work with partners to “employ an active strategy to counter such BDS tactics in the Bay Area.”
“Our Federation, by endorsing the national resolution warning of the dangers of the BDS movement and pledging to address them with the utmost urgency, has made absolutely clear the depth of its commitment to Israel,” said Jennifer Gorovitz, Acting CEO of the San Francisco Federation.
The BDS tactic is to draw an odious and spurious comparison between Apartheid and the Jewish state. Common to most BDS calls are distortions, outright fabrications of facts, misrepresentations of international law, and a false assertion that the proffered action somehow will improve the condition of Palestinians. Almost all BDS activists embrace, in some form, an end to Israel as a Jewish state.
In an interview with The Quindecim, Goucher President Sanford J. Ungar defended his decision, citing a history of anti-Israel speakers on campus, several of which have resulted in complaints from students, alumni, and parents. “We don’t want Goucher to end up on a list of schools with a reputation of bringing vehemently pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli speakers to campus,” said Ungar. “I don’t think it would be good for enrollment.”
What makes this more notable than usual is that Sanford Ungar, Goucher’s president, and a former journalist and All Things Considered host, actually teaches a course this semester called, natch, Free Speech, in which Ungar promises to “examine constraints on free speech in our daily lives, and the debate in this country over what it means to be patriotic and whether patriotism requires us to, or prohibits us from, saying certain things.”
It will be really interesting to see exactly what conclusions Ungar plans on drawing from this sequence of events and his role in them.
Asked about Mr. Eitam’s racist remarks, a JNF leader did not even bat an eye. Mr. Eitam, so it turns, ’speaks the truth’:
Eitam, known for controversial political views, made headlines in 2006 when he called for the expulsion of Arabs from the West Bank and the Knesset. “We will have to expel most of the Judea and Samaria Arabs from here. We cannot live with all these Arabs. We will have… to remove the Israeli Arabs from the political system,” Eitam said during a memorial service for a soldier killed in fighting with Hizbullah in southern Lebanon.
Eric Lankin, chief of institutional advancement and education at JNF, said the organization was not concerned those statements would compromise his effectiveness as an advocate for Israel. “What really unites all of our speakers is that they speak the truth,” he said. “We had no specific concerns because we depend on the will of the Israel voters” who elected him to office.
Criticism of the events, he said, had nothing to do with Eitam but the broader challenge of anti-Israeli rhetoric and activities on college campuses.
Boycotting Halper is only half of the controversy, however. That very same week, Hillel-Philaldelphia invited to speak none other than Effi Eitam, a retired brigadier general and former Knesset member, notorious because of his racist statements. Eitam has called Palestinian citizens of Israel a “ticking bomb” and “a cancer”, and has stated on Israeli Army Radio that,
‘we cannot be with all these Arabs, we’ll have to expel the overwhelming majority of West Bank Arabs from here and remove Israeli Arabs from political system.’
Eitam is now an adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on infrastructure and energy issues, and has been chosen by the Jewish National Fund to represent Israel on American campuses. Alpert explained that while he encouraged students to challenge Eitam, “we are not going to reject spokespersons chosen by the government.”
JNF is an American organization that is not part of the Israeli government, but Alpert said that Eitam was representing Netanyahu’s government because of his current positi
Now you know how Hillel interprets its pro-Israel mandate. Any racist qualifies, as long as it gets the seal of approval from the Israeli government.
Given this standard, maybe Hillel should do a speaking tour for Yitzchak Shapira, the rabbi that wrote a long treatise stating that according to Jewish law it is permitted to kill non-Jews, and even babies. After all, Shapira’s yeshiva enjoys Israeli government’s funding. Hmmm… does this make him pro-Israel?
Effie Eitam is an Israeli War Hero, a devout Jew and an unabashed supporter of the right of the Jewish people to their own homeland. He is a former leader of the National Religious Party and more recently the Ahi party, which became a part of Likud in 2009.
His bio goes on and on about how wonderful this man is. The closest you will get to any mention of his racism is this:
He presents a refreshingly different and candid insight into the problems and opportunities facing Israel.
Dr. Miri Weingarten of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel was booted from not one but two scheduled talks at UK-based hospitals. The British Medical Journal reports:
The Jewish Chronicle criticised the Zionist Central Councilfor attempting to stifle free speech rather than attending thelectures and challenging the speaker. Its editorial concluded:“The sound of shot feet resonates throughout north-west England”(Jewish Chronicle, 30 Oct, p 30).
Karen Solomon of the Zionist Central Council said, “Miri Weingartenis known in Israeli circles as anti-Israel. Originally we hadno intention of stopping the meeting, but we believe that anythingpolitical should not be held on NHS premises.”
Asad Khan, a consultant physician at Fairfield General Hospitaland organiser of Ms Weingarten’s lecture tour, said, “Thewhole idea that PHRI [Physicians for Human Rights-Israel] isantisemitic or even anti-Israel is ludicrous, given that theorganisation is overwhelmingly comprised of Jewish Israelis,of whom Miri is one. This was a medical meeting by invitationonly in a hospital and was no business of the general public.”
At least half of the shadow cabinet are members of the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI), according to a Dispatches programme being screened on Channel 4. The programme-makers describe the CFI as “beyond doubt the most well- connected and probably the best funded of all Westminster lobbying groups”.
Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby claims that donations to the Conservative party “from all CFI members and their businesses add up to well over £10m over the last eight years”. CFI has disputed the figure and called the film “deeply flawed”.
The program also delves into other unsurprising-for-American facts like the connection between at least one influential billionaire donor and West Bank interests, and the conflict of interest with media outlets.
Here is an embarrassingly McCarthyite response to the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival’s decision to a) screen the film Rachel by Jewish-Israeli filmmaker Simone Bitton, b) invite Cindy Corrie to speak and c) ask Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and the American Friends Service Committee to co-sponsor (as they have for many years).
A full-page ad complete with billowing Israeli flag and blue skies appeared this week in the San Francisco Bay Area’s Jewish newspaper, J, urging the SF Jewish Federation to pass this resolution at their November 19, 2009 board meeting:
“The S.F. Jewish Federation will not support events or organizations that demonize or defame Israel. Nor will it support organizations that partner in their events with individuals or groups that call for boycotts, divestment or sanctions (BDS) against Israel.”
Exemplifying the disproportionate role that big money plays in the institutional Jewish world, the first signer in a list of 36 is real estate investor Sanford Diller, know for his record-breaking $35 million donation to The University of California at San Francisco (UCSF). He is also a funder of well-known Islamophobe, Daniel Pipes, the Taube/Diller distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. Diller signed a prior letter in the J which he and another real estate investor, Israel 21C chair Zvi Alon, and the Hoover Institute’s Abraham Sofaer, claimed the right to determine who, essentially, is Jewish and who is not.
This is a remarkable resolution which may very well pass, even though clearly none of its authors have stopped to consider its implications. The resolution would bar Jewish Federation funding recipients from partnering not just with groups, but with individuals, who support any form of boycotts, divestment or sanctions.
Given its vague wording, if the Jewish Community Center or a campus Hillel invites anyone from Adrienne Rich to Joe Klein to Howard Zinn or Naomi Klein, or any number of Jewish and Palestinian Israelis to speak, they will lose Federation funding. It means the Jewish Film Festival can’t show any more Yes Men or Udi Aloni films. And it certainly will categorically bar countless Palestinians from ever setting foot on the stage of a Bay Area Jewish institution, lest that institution lose its funding.
In July, the ($400 million) Koret-Taube foundations wrote this error-riddled missive critical of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival:
“It is partnering with Jewish Voice for Peace and the American Friends Service Committee, two virulently anti-Israel, anti-Semitic groups that support boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. Both are closely associated with the International Solidarity Movement and other groups that aid and abet terror against the Jewish State. These groups cross the line for inclusion in the Jewish community. ”
In a different statement, billionaire investor Warren Hellman also said the Federation would pressure the film festival to adopt new policies regarding co-presenters and guests.
So far the festival has lost 5 board members and tens of thousands of dollars in funding.
Emblematic of how the battle lines are being drawn, 3 major Jewish thinkers and artists have responded to these efforts. Judith Butler is a true academic rock star, one of the world’s sharpest thinkers on gender, power and identity. A grand dame of political folk music, Ronnie Gilbert is something of an expert on McCarthyism: she was blacklisted, along with Pete Seeger, when they were part of the bestselling singing group, The Weavers. And finally, Aurora Levins Morales, who is Latina and Jewish, is one of the most artful and wise voices anywhere on plural identities in the Jewish world. They also happen to be on the Advisory Board of Jewish Voice for Peace (sponsors of Muzzlewatch), the Jewish group that is the primary target of these efforts to ban Jews (and Quakers) from the community.
By Judith Butler, Ronnie Gilbert and Aurora Levins Morales
The San Francisco Jewish Community Federation ran an ad entitled “Setting the Record Straight“ in the October 16 edition of j. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California. The next week, j. printed another op-ed entitled “To heal post-‘Rachel’ rift, Federation needs a new policy.”As members of the Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) Advisory Board, we must respond to both of these statements.
Like the Federation, we value the contributions of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival over the past 29 years.JVP has been proud to support the Festival by co-presenting several films in recent years. The Festival has been an important cultural force in the Bay Area Jewish community precisely because of its commitment to presenting a wide variety of ideas and perspectives and its willingness to explore controversial issues.As such, it is critical that the Festival’s programming choices not be subject to undue pressure from funders.
We are therefore dismayed that the Federation is attempting to put constraints on the Festival’s choice of speakers and co-presenters, in order to stop them from choosing Jewish Voice for Peace and the pacifist Quaker group, the American Friends Service Committee, as co-presenters in the future.
Furthermore, in the October 23 j. op-ed, three individuals set themselves up as a Jewish community version of the House Un-American Activities Committee, demanding a blacklist for alleged “anti-Israel” organizations.
Jewish Voice for Peace is an organization of Jews working for peace, security, justice, and human rights for both Israelis and Palestinians.We believe that ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is the only way to achieve a just peace and is in the best interests of Israelis and Jews everywhere.These beliefs are shared by thousands of Bay Area Jews, and hundreds of thousands of Jews across the U.S and around the globe. It is unacceptable for the Federation, an organization that claims to promote “mutual respect and accommodation of diversity within Jewish life,” to attempt to shut out our organization and the large and growing segment of the Bay Area Jewish community that JVP represents.
Netanyahu has thumbed his nose at Obama’s request for a settlement freeze, and his foreign minister, a West Bank settler, refuses to participate in the peace process. It is not realistic to expect this government to make any meaningful moves toward peace without outside pressure.The boycott/divestment/sanctions movement (BDS) encompasses a variety of tactics and targets, and people of good will do disagree about their use. We at JVP are not of one mind about this movement. But we all agree that boycott/divestment/sanctions is a non-violent approach to applying pressure on the Israeli government. And we believe that no one should be demonized for using nonviolent forms of protest in the effort to change policy, especially policy as deadly serious as this.
For too long, our community institutions such as the Federation have remained silent in the face of ever-growing Israeli settlement expansion, human rights abuses and other policies which have created major obstacles to peace. For too long, their “support for Israel” has in practice meant tacit support for policies that undermine the cause of peace and security, endangering both Israelis and Palestinians.
JVP’s 90,000 supporters include countless individuals of all ages who play vital roles in upholding and strengthening a diverse and dynamic Jewish community through their participation in religious life, culture, academia and politics. And our numbers are growing. We reject this attempt to isolate and silence the growing number of U.S. Jews who see our work as an important expression of Jewish values. We invite members of the Jewish community who believe in full equality for all people to join us. We urge all those who disagree with our beliefs or our tactics to recognize that ethical debate is part of our tradition, and to embrace the full breadth and diversity of Jewish identity, thinking and expression. Finally, we invite all Jews, whether or not you agree with us, to defend freedom of expression in our community as an essential part of any lasting solution.
Judith Butler is Professor of Comparative Literature and Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley.
Ronnie Gilbert is an American folk singer and writer, and was a member of the singing group the Weavers with Pete Seeger. The Weavers were blacklisted in the 50s.
Aurora Levins Morales is a poet, essayist, community historian and activist.
A small number of wealthy machers can use their economic clout to try to determine Jewish morality, but in the end they will fail, and they will have no one to blame but themselves. This McCarthyite behavior is exactly what radicalizes Jews, young and old alike, and send us screaming into the arms of the comparatively more thoughtful, moral and nuanced promoters of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.
When institutional Jewry’s so-called leaders stand so brazenly against the entire human rights world, as they have time and time again; when they plug their ears while singing “nah nah nah nah” as more and more land and lives are taken; when they fight every mild effort to get Israel to stop its settlement expansion and repression of Palestinians and, increasingly, Israeli human rights activists, what exactly do they expect?
That good, decent, compassionate people who care deeply about equality and justice for both Palestinians and Israelis, will shut up and go away? No, we will escalate our nonviolent methods.
You, Jewish leaders, have left us no choice. You started the BDS movement. Only you can stop it. Trying to ban free speech and free thought; trying to ignore Israel’s continued egregious violations of human rights and its march towards the right; trying to fight any and all forms of criticism and truth-telling only sends more people to the other side. When will you understand that? Instead, consider choosing to build a world in which both Palestinians and Israelis have the same rights and opportunities. That would be, without doubt, good for the Jews.
Jewish Voice for Peace, Muzzlewatch
Here’s isi Leibler, now in Haaretz, all shocked that people are upset by his call to exorcise and excommunicate Jews that disagree with him. This is how he reports in Haaretz what he had previously said:
I observed that self loathing Jews are not a new phenomenon in Jewish history. During the Middle Ages, Jewish apostates were exploited by the church to promote the most obscene libels against their kinsman. That paved the way for subsequent pogroms and massacres. I noted that during that period, such renegades were excommunicated. To suggest as did Burston and Strenger that I seek to reintroduce “excommunication” to deal with “doves” or critics of Israeli policy is an unconscionable misrepresentation of what I wrote.
The exploitation of Judge Goldstone’s Jewish background by our enemies intensifies our obligation to confront the enemy within - renegade Jews - including Israelis who stand at the vanguard of global efforts to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state. Such odious Jews can be traced back to apostates during the Middle Ages who fabricated blood libels and vile distortions of Jewish religious practice for Christian anti-Semites to incite hatred which culminated in massacres. It was in response to these renegades that the herem (excommunication) was introduced.
Sorry if you got us all confused, Mr. Leibler. This renegade Jew still reads the original paragraph as a call to excommunicate Judge Goldstone and other Jews that do not agree with your point of view.
Let’s try again, this time going forward, from the J Post to Haaretz.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is currently riding a wave after his superb United Nations address. He should summon a global Jewish solidarity conference encompassing Jewish leaders, opinion makers, philanthropists and activists similar to that organized in 1989 under the auspices of then prime minister Yitzhak Shamir and then defense minister Yitzhak Rabin in order to demonstrate the unity of the Jewish people.
At a time when we desperately seek allies, in addition to encouraging millions of Jews in the Diaspora who remain committed to Israel to become more actively engaged in our struggle, such a gathering would also provide an opportunity to exorcise the renegades from our midst.
I have no doubt that had Rabin been alive, he too would have endeavored to “exorcise” (Thesaurus “disentangle” or “remove”) from the mainstream, those Israelis and Jews who actively seek to demonize the state, defame the IDF, lobby foreign governments against Israel or oppose a Jewish democratic state.
Isn’t nice and clever? Let me give you synonyms of ‘exorcise’ even as I talk about ‘demonizing’ the state. Very nice juxtaposition, Mr. Leibler.
Even with this neat clarification, some questions remain: Disentangle from where? Remove to where?
J Street whose principal objective was to persuade their president to exercise “tough love” on Israel because they decided that the Jewish state needed to be treated like a parent who treats a drug addicted child.
If only that description of J Street were true!
Now, if Mr. Leibler does not believe that Israel should be treated like is a drug addicted child, he should — under risk of excommunication and exorcism — join the call to suspend, or at least condition, the 3 billion dollars a year that Israel receives, no strings attached. That’s quite a drug right there.
Really… where to start? From Martin Buber to Daniel Boyarin to Naomi Klein to Yeshayahu Leibowitz…. Uzi Silber writes in Ha’aretz that they’ve all got an incurable disease, “the Jew flu”, which generates “a malignant emotional and moral identification with people committed to (one’s) annihilation,” …kind of like ‘abused children.’
It’s funny, because it’s so ridiculous, especially as he tries to explain how people who happily identify as Jews are literally diseased for no other reason than their opposition to Israeli policy.
But mostly, it’s sad. Even heart-breaking. Why? Because it is precisely the people that Leibowitz et al stand in opposition to (and their friends) who seem most absolutely, ferociously, and effectively committed to Jewish annihilation. And sad because people like Silber might just figure that out when it’s already too late.
The 1930s Labor Zionist leader Berl Katznelson asked “Is there another People on Earth so emotionally twisted that they consider everything their nation does despicable and hateful, while every murder, rape, robbery committed by their enemies fill their hearts with admiration and awe?”
This is Jew Flu - the virus of Jewish Anti-Semitism, and its Jewish Anti- and Post-Zionist mutations, afflicting a small but inordinately loud minority of Hebrews.
Its modern symptoms are a rejection of Israel’s identity as a Jewish state and a dismissal of its right to defend itself militarily, while embracing the goals of its nihilistic Arab enemies. Those infected with the virus wildly inflate Israeli sins real or imagined, while excusing or rationalizing Palestinian anti-semitism and outrages against Jews.
Those afflicted with Jew Flu often view the notion of Peoplehood as an artifice, which implies a rejection of Jewish national self-determination and acceptance of the 90-year-old Palestinian Arab contention that Jews are not a nation but merely members of a religion, and as such don’t merit a national home of their own.
Is Jew Flu a bona-fide illness? Michael Welner, a psychiatrist at New York University, suggests that Jewish Anti-Semitism is akin to a personality disorder, enabling a person to “derive some psychological benefit from this pathological thinking.”
What causes Jew Flu? Harvard psychiatrist Kenneth Levin argues for twin culprits: so-called ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, where “population segments under chronic siege commonly embrace the indictments of their besiegers however bigoted and outrageous”, as well as “the psychodynamics of abused children who blame themselves for their situation and believe they could mollify their tormenters if they were ‘good’.”
U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich lasted less than 24 hours as headliner for the Palm Beach County Democratic Party’s annual fundraising dinner after some of the party’s elected officials blasted the Ohio Democrat’s stance on Israel and threatened to skip the event.
Kucinich, who has a history of criticizing the actions of the Israeli government and opposing congressional resolutions in support of Israel, withdrew Friday as the keynote speaker for next week’s dinner after being announced Thursday.
The liberal former presidential candidate had been called in as a last-minute replacement for moderate Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu. Landrieu was dropped as keynoter this week because party activists were upset by her refusal to commit to blocking a Republican filibuster of health care overhaul legislation.
While Landrieu was the target of behind-the-scenes grumbling, Kucinich sparked public revolt.
State Rep. Kevin Rader, D-Delray Beach, said Friday he was withdrawing his pledge to buy a $1,500 table for the dinner and would encourage other Democrats to boycott the event because of Kucinich’s record on Israel.
State Sen. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, who’s running for the seat that U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler is vacating, called Kucinich “someone whose position on Israel stands in total opposition to the conscience of this community.”
County Commissioner Burt Aaronson called the selection of Kucinich “an absolute horror” and said he would refuse to share the podium with him. (more…)
I was planning to add to the blog an audio recording of the event, just so that people could hear for themselves what the controversy was all about. I am glad I did not. Why? In the meanwhile, Josh produced video recordings instead.
They are absolutely worth a watch. I did not arrive in time to DC to be at the original performance. I confess that watching the videos replenished my soul after a hard Congress Goldstone-bashing week.
Here’s how Josh described the value of Kevin’s poetry:
I know that listening to Kevin provokes a lot in me. Listening to Kevin … makes me want to speak, makes me want to yell, makes me want to cry. It brings out a lot. It brings out more than just reading the newspaper or just reading the BBC — and it brings it out in a way that hopefully we can see more, more in common with each other, more in common with each other’s humanity while recognizing that we are not all the same but we can have the same goals, so for me it is creating a space that is a safe space to maybe not leave the conversation in the same place that you started it.
After you watch these short videos, I hope you will agree that this applies to both Kevin and Josh.
First off, the context:
Josh’s poem that got Michael Goldfarb’s right-wing panties in a bunch:
Since the Second Intifada I have thought, wrote, and spoke about these issues, but over the course of these last several weeks, I have arrived at a new beginning. Prior to now, I muddled this issue in complexity. But I have come to realize it is actually simple and clear. I am a Jewish-American man in solidarity with Palestinian people. I am in solidarity with Israeli and American and all people who work and risk their lives and livelihood for justice. I am not restricted to working within the confines of the Jewish-American community. Justice and the resistance to imperialism is a global, human concern for all people down to struggle. For Jews, yes, but not Jews alone. For Palestinians, yes, but not Palestinians alone.
OK, if you still you want to listen to the full audio (no video), here it is.
This is a Jewish Voice for Peace (www.jvp.org) blog. JVP is dedicated to achieving a lasting peace that recognizes the aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians for security and self-determination. Our core principles are justice and equality.