Monthly Archives: January 2007

NYT reports furor over American Jewish Committee’s attack on “liberal” Jews

I guess one person’s liberal is another person’s self-hating, anti-Zionist, anti-Semite. Guess which definition is most favored by the American Jewish Committee to describe groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, and people like (JVP advisory board members) Tony Kushner and Adrienne Rich? In Essay Linking Liberal Jews and Anti-Semitism Sparks a Furor, Times writer Patricia Cohen writes about a new AJC report, Progressive Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism by Alvin Rosenfeld, with preface by AJC’s David Harris.

Over the telephone, the dinner table and the Internet, people who follow Jewish issues have been buzzing over Mr. Rosenfeld’s article. Alan Wolfe, a political scientist and the director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College, said, “I’m almost in a state of shock” at the verbal assaults directed at liberal Jews.

On H-Antisemitism (, an Internet forum for scholarly discussions of the subject, Michael Posluns, a political scientist at the University of Toronto, wrote, “Sad and misbegotten missives of the sort below make me wonder if it is not the purpose of mainstream Jewish organizations to foster anti-Jewishness by calling down all who take from their Jewish experience and Jewish thought a different ethos and different ways of being as feeding anti-Semitism.”

Others have praised Mr. Rosenfeld’s indictment and joined the fray. Shulamit Reinharz, a sociologist who is also the wife of Jehuda Reinharz, the president of Brandeis University, wrote in a column for The Jewish Advocate in Boston: “Most would say that they are simply anti-Zionists, not anti-Semites. But I disagree, because in a world where there is only one Jewish state, to oppose it vehemently is to endanger Jews.”

Muzzlewatch breaks Beinin story, ADL gets busted by the media

A collective gasp of disbelief could be heard some weeks back in the Bay Area progressive community when it was discovered that the ADL was putting on a conference – by and for progressives – on anti-Semitism on the left.

I say discovered because nowhere on the registration page did it actually say who was organizing the event. The only contact information was a gmail address. Also conspicuous was the fact that of the 50 or so co-sponsors, the Bay Area’s most prominent progressive Jewish groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, Tikkun and Progressive Jewish Alliance were nowhere to be seen. AIPAC and BlueStar PR, however, were.
Was this really a conference to address anti-Semitism on the left? Or was it a blatant ADL ploy to silence dissent by appropriating the “progressive” label and calling all criticism of Israel anti-Semitic?

The truth probably is somewhere in between. In fact, many excellent, thoughtful people did participate, and we think anti-Semitism on the left is a real issue that needs to be addressed. (So, by the way, is Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism. We’re waiting for the ADL to put on that conference.) But a quick glance at the program left no doubt that there would be ample discussion about things like fighting divestment and “emphasizing what’s right in Israel” from BlueStarPR, the folks who have perfected the art of promoting Israel by simply dissing the entire Middle East.
What was remarkable about this conference was that virtually none of the media outlets were buying just the ADL’s take on the “new anti-Semitism”. Check out these more thoughtful stories on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle and in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

And this archive of a 1 hour show on San Francisco’s KALW that we did with Rabbi Jane Litman, the rabbi the ADL brought in to organize the conference. After the conference, we were contacted by even more reporters from both the Jewish and corporate press.

This San Jose Mercury News article is notable not only for delving into the complexities of the issue, but for mentioning Muzzlewatch. In fact, it mentions the story we reported earlier about Professor Joel Beinin being booted at the last minute from a Harker School speaking engagement due to pressure from a parents group, with some kind of involvement by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Silicon Valley (though they have not responded to a request for a statement), that was no doubt, fulfilling its mission as a “protector of Israel.”

(Here at Muzzlewatch, we reject the term “pro-Israel” because many of the groups who proudly use that moniker are blindly marching Israel down the path of self-destruction. Further, it insinuates that if you care about Israelis, you don’t care about Palestinians. At Muzzlewatch, and Jewish Voice for Peace, we take the sadly radical position that you can and should care equally about both. We’re pro-humanity.)

George Bisharat gets it right in the Houston Chronicle

Read this op-ed about silencing from Palestinian American law professor George Bisharat from today’s Houston Chronicle.

The fact is that “Jews” are not suppressing speech. Michael Himovitz certainly didn’t suppress my father’s attempts to explain the Palestinian perspective to his fellow citizens. Many American Jews hold views not dissimilar to my father’s supporting peace, reconciliation and equal rights for Palestinians and Jews.

Yet, a minority of Jews, backed by some non-Jewish supporters, stridently protests any unflattering portrayal of Israel, often with unfounded accusations of anti-Semitism. Indeed, insinuations of anti-Jewish bias are now being unfairly raised against Carter. And some supporters of Israel, apparently, are willing to exploit economic clout to punish those who, like my father, buck the trend and defend Palestinian rights.

Cracking down on refuseniks, US Jewish peace groups

Israel’s Ynet reports that an internal Israeli Foreign Ministry document sent to Israel’s representatives across the US urges putting a stop to the embarrassing refusenik (conscientious objector) tours sponsored by US Jewish peace groups like Brit Tzedek.

“The willingness of Jewish communities in the United States to host these organizations, and even sponsor them, is unfortunate. This is a phenomenon that must not be ignored,” the report said. The report urged for action to be taken against the refuseniks and their organizations, saying “their negative effect on Israel’s image must by stopped”.

Wow. What part of “Western-style democracy” don’t they understand? Well, come to think of it, actively working to thwart the free speech of advocacy groups seems perfectly within the definition of Bush-Cheney style Western democracy. Our refusenik friends are reportedly outraged, saying their message, far from being anti-Israel, is one of co-existence and diplomacy.

Opposing the ADL in Andover, MA

In a letter to the editor of the Arlington Advocate, longtime Jewish peace activist Hilda Bernstein Silverman says why she supports a program that says Arlington is no place for hate, but not one sponsored by the ADL:

The ADL was hugely instrumental in trying to stop presentations at Andover High School about conditions of life for Palestinians, an effort that has been presented in detail in Andover-area papers. In a guest commentary, in rather typical ADL fashion, New England Regional Director Andrew Tarsy charged that anyone who complained that Jewish groups and Jewish individuals “are stereotypically flexing their muscles to stifle debate,” is engaged in a “naked appeal to the insidious anti-Semitic canard of Jewish control.” All I could think of was the old story of the person who murders his father and mother and then pleads for mercy based on the fact that he’s an orphan.

In the same paper, professor Elaine Hagopian also talks about the ADL’s ways of suppressing dissent:

The methods used are: pressuring institutions and organizations not to allow critics of Israel to speak in their venues; defaming and demonizing legitimate critics by claiming they are anti-Semites and stating falsely they hold positions calling for the destruction of Israel when those claims are indeed false; monitoring critics of Israel (and various progressive groups); and other techniques.


The latest Carter smear and Anti-Arab racism

Not content to just call him an anti-Semite, a plagiarist or a liar, now the shockCarter National Review troops of the necon revolution are accusing our most favorite former president of selling himself to — who else? — the Arabs.

Did Jimmy Carter do it for the money? That’s the question making the rounds about Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, an anti-Israeli screed recently written by the ex-president whose Carter Center has accepted millions in Arab funding.

So begins Claudia Rosett in the outrageous The Question of Carter’s Cash in the latest National Review. Who is Claudia Rosett? And why does she shamelessly use anti-Arab racism to make her attack? (They use the photo above to make you afraid. Very afraid.)
Rosett is a paid “journalist” for the prominent Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. The group’s friends and advisors read like a who’s who of the neconservative universe, with everyone from Newt Gingrich, James Woolsey and Jeanne Kirkpatrick (now deceased) to William Kristol, Richard Perle and Gary Bauer.

According to Sourcewatch, FDD started out as Emet: An Educational Initiative, Inc., “to offer Israel the kind of PR that the Israeli government seemed unable to provide itself.” (As though one more hasbara group could really solve Israel’s image problems.) But they fell apart, and after 9/11 were reborn as the FDD, with a new identity but a similar more covert mission. Rightweb has even more in-depth information.

It’s one thing to defend Israel…

Wesley Clark an anti-Semite!

Wesley ClarkWe knew Wesley Clark was in for it when he opened his mouth about the push to war on Iran and mentioned the Jews. Clark, whose father was Jewish, offered Arianna Huffington this response when asked why he was worried about an impending attack on Iran– “You just have to read what’s in the Israeli press. The Jewish community is divided but there is so much pressure being channeled from the New York money people to the office seekers.”

American Prospect’s Yglesias has written a terrific analysis of what happened to Clark, and why it’s so difficult to ever talk about Israel and the US if you want to get elected.

[What Clark said], of course, is true. I’m Jewish and I don’t think the United States should bomb Iran, but Thursday night I was talking to a Jewish friend and she does think the United States should bomb Iran. The Jewish community, in short, is divided on the issue. It’s also true that most major American Jewish organizations cater to the views of extremely wealthy major donors whose political views are well to the right of the bulk of American Jews, one of the most liberal ethnic groups in the country.

JVP’s Mitchell Plitnick adds (check out his great blog here)

Clark may have really meant that it was Jews pushing the US toward war. Clark is certainly right that major Jewish organizations as well as major forces in Israel (far beyond Netanyahu) are pushing this war. That’s a far cry from saying that they’ll get it, or if they do get it, that these pushes are the reason for that war. The Iraq war was caused by far more than Israel and its Lobby, though both played their part. I continue to doubt that the US will attack Iran, but if it does, it will be because of a wide array of forces, of which Israel and its Lobby are only one, and not the leading one.

The bottom line is that American Jews are extremely ambivalent about Jewish power. Amongst ourselves, we kvel over the myriad ways Jews have attained real power, but we get very nervous when anyone else talks about it. In part, there’s a good reason for that. Classical anti-Semitism typically scapegoats Jews as a powerful minority that runs the world. But that hyper-sensitivity can also make us hypocrites, unable to let anyone get a word in edgewise.

Good for Brandeis, Brandeis “first lady” promotes muzzling.

Carter’s long-awaited talk at Brandeis didn’t result in the end of Western civilization, as many predicted, but instead two standing ovations at the beginning and end of his talk. The Boston Globe’s Eileen McNamara wrote

It is a delicate balance for the academy, trying to promote civility without stifling speech. Until President Jimmy Carter’s actual appearance at Brandeis yesterday, I had been prepared to write that for the second time in a year, the university had leaned too far in the wrong direction.

But something happened on the way to that column: Events proved me wrong.

ShulamitOn the other hand, in the same issue, Globe columnist Alex Beam takes on the columns of Shulamit Reinharz, wife of Brandeis’ president, and director of Brandeis’ Women’s Studies Research Center. In one piece, she mocks Carter’s Christianty, and in another, she encourages people to sue “anti-Semitic Jews.” Beam writes:

Just prior to the Carter column, Reinharz attacked “anti-Semitic Jews,” including poet Adrienne Rich, Noam Chomsky, Tony Kushner (recipient of an honorary degree from Brandeis, by the way), and Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen. “Most would say that they are simply anti-Zionist, not anti-Semites,” Reinharz writes. “But I disagree, because in a world where there is only one Jewish state, to oppose it vehemently is to endanger Jews.” Reinharz goes on to say, “Let all Jews who are truly progressive, liberal, not self-hating, and not anti-Zionist develop a clear set of ideas to address these individuals specifically. Address the books and lecture head on. . . . Sue for libel.”