Monthly Archives: January 2007

San Francisco Jewish Community Center Still Bans JVP


JCCSF singlehandedly solves the “who is a Jew question”! Not, apparently, JVP!
In May 2005, Jewish Voice for Peace held a sold-out fundraiser at the JCC of San Francisco, the crown jewel of the Jewish community here in the city. Turns out that in February, shortly after it became public that we’d be holding our shindig there, but before the event was actually held, they rewrote their rental agreement to keep us out. It wasn’t until a year later when we went back to rent a room that they told us we might first want to check out the, ahem, new agreement. (Reportedly, at least one board member who was in the room when the change was pushed through was appalled, but no one has gone on record about what happened.)

Now, sandwiched in between minor contractual details about things like cleaning or leaving a deposit, there is a paragraph which states:

It is the right and responsibility of the JCCSF to determine eligibility, in part, based on a group’s mission and activities. Groups that…engage in Israel-related activities without an explicit commitment to Israel’s right to exist as an independent Jewish State would fall outside of the JCCSF’s rental eligibility requirements.

It wasn’t that long ago that a majority of Jews were opposed to Zionism. Many still oppose the idea of a Jewish state for a multitude of reasons.
The funny thing is, JVP is not even anti-Zionist. But our crime is that we’re not Zionist either. We have members who span the spectrum. We support the rights of Israelis and Palestinians to self-determination, and keep our focus on international human rights and ending the occupation. You can read why we don’t endorse either a one or two-state solution–it’s up to Israelis and Palestinians, not us, to negotiate what will work for them. So, we don’t pass the new litmus test.

Oh yeah, and we’re Jewish. We’re very Jewish. Many of our supporters are members of the JCCSF. But apparently, we’re not Jewish enough.

In a few days, I’ll post the words of poet Adrienne Rich at a recent Hannukah reading, sitting on the very stage that we can never return to, calling out the JCCSF for making us “unwelcome”.

B’nai Brith:Motion to debate Israel brings ‘hate into the classroom’

Canada flagThanks to a reader who sent us this article about a big dust-up in Toronto where two teachers asked the union to debate Israel’s human rights record and consider creating curriculum materials and supporting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel (download entire text of motion here). In fact, the motion did not pass. It’s clear why B’nai Brith and others got involved. Critics said the effort was unbalanced, and it was. But some see little difference between unbalanced, and hate crime.

“The level of discourse has been just incredibly low and vile,” district union president Doug Jolliffe told the Canadian Press about approving the debate. “But to turn and say we cannot have any kind of discussions on this…. It’s not Holocaust denial, where there is no argument to be made.”

Even B’nai Brith referenced bad feelings about their lobbying efforts in their own press release:

OSSTF has claimed that our informational alerts to CUPE teachers and interested community members in advance of the vote constitute ‘bullying’. We have to wonder why this organization sees the factual information we circulated on the issues being discussed as so threatening. By bringing the issue to the forefront, and providing the necessary contextual information, we helped teachers make an informed decision on this attempt to co-opt them by default to an overtly anti-Israel agenda.

Saying the H word–in the Jerusalem Post

Comparing Israeli treatment of Palestinians to the Holocaust is a line thatHebron few in the US dare cross, for reasons both good and bad. It’s interesting to note that the conservative Jerusalem Post printed a piece that did just that- Stop the Jewish Barbarians in Hebron by (the bigoted) former Shinui party leader Tommy Lapid, a Holocaust survivor. Hebron, as the Christian Peacemaker Teams and Breaking the Silence have long documented, is its own special spot of evil.
So where’s Foxman now? Hmm…
Read Boston-based Jewish educator Marty Federman’s heartfelt description of his reaction to Hebron, which will resonate for any feeling Jew who has been there.

I have heard the comparisons, made by those furious at the Israelis and their policies, with the Holocaust. I have railed against these comparisons, and I still do. This is not the Holocaust: there is no genocide, there is no mass killing, the situation is qualitatively different, and the comparison does harm to both experiences. But here, in Hebron, I cannot avoid the dark images created by my own people. How can we, who resisted and died in European ghettos, enforce this kind of curfew on a whole people? How can we, who survived the pogroms of Russia, assuage our grief by capriciously attacking an overwhelmingly innocent population? How can we, who saw the ancient symbol of our people painted by the oppressors on the windows of our stores and the walls of our synagogues, profane it on the shutters of others? I want desperately for these questions to go away, but I cannot purge them. I need to hold them in order to tell this story, yet I resist them with all my strength. A certain balance in my universe has been shattered here in Hebron. I’m not sure how it can ever be restored.

Does Amazon have it out for Carter’s book?

CarterAlmost 17,000 people think so. That’s how many signatures have been collected so far on this petition stating that Amazon has taken the unusual step of “running [a] complete, 20-paragraph, 1,636-word text of a review unabashedly hostile to Carter’s viewpoint” at the top of the sales page for Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. The petition says

Accordingly, if you do not, by Jan. 22, remove the Goldberg review, move it to the more appropriate “See all Editorial Reviews” page, or restore a semblance of balance by giving comparable space and prominence to a more positive evaluation of Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, we the undersigned pledge to:

1. Stop shopping at;

2. Completely close our accounts on your service; and

3. Encourage our friends, family, and associates to do likewise.

These charges about unfair treatment may be true, but I have to admit I still need to be convinced. I’m not a big Amazon user, but my colleague Mitchell Plitnick is. He randomly selected Bill Clinton’s memoir, and found a negative review (thought it wasn’t 1,636 words) on the page. Plus, given the fact that Muzzlewatch promotes free and open debate, it doesn’t make sense to encourage people to quit Amazon for posting a positive review and following it up with a negative one. (Yeah, the negative review is longer-but in the world of the web, that just means less people will read it.)

Interestingly, they now start with a rather sycophantic and certainly unusual Amazon interview with President Carter. Maybe the petition and letter campaign got through. And maybe Bill O’Reilly will start demanding that he get a soft-touch interview above his book reviews too.

One thing is certain, if this is part of Amazon’s plan to slow down sales of Carter’s book, they’ve done a terrible job. This hour, it’s #25.

Festering sore indeed

Presbyterian Church USAIt doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the hyperbolic, Chicken Little approach to anti-Semitism is bad for Jews, and can fuel bitterness and resentment than can morph into actual anti-Semitism. Here’s a remarkably vivid description of that resentment from the December, 2006 edition of the very respectable Middle East Policy Journal. In his lengthy article, Presbyterians, Jews and Divestment: The Church Steps Back, University of Michigan political science professor Ronald Stockton details the airing of grievances at the Presbyterian General Assembly:

A third issue was the strong sense of pain and grievance among those who had supported the engagement process in 2004. They felt they had been ill-treated by their Jewish critics. Their motives had been questioned and their character impugned in a most egregious way. They had been called antisemites, supporters of terrorism, supporters of murder, enemies of Israel, and even supporters of potential genocide through the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel. They had heard no words of regret from the Jewish side for these excesses, which at times seemed to them to border on hate speech. They felt they had acted on behalf of their faith and out of positive motives. Continue reading

Harker’s official response to Beinin cancellation

A spokesperson for the Harker School just sent us this statement. Make of it what you will:

The purpose of Harker’s Distinguished Speaker Series is to present our upper school students with topics from leading experts to inform and stimulate debate. We addressed the same viewpoint as Beinin’s earlier this year, and realized, albeit belatedly, that two speakers from the same viewpoint – out of only 4 to 5 speakers all year – didn’t represent the balance and variety we’re seeking in the speaker series.

Joel Beinin talk gets cancelled at last minute….again

Professor Joel BeininJoel Beinin is a tenured Middle East history professor who is on leave from Stanford while he serves as the head of Middle East Studies at the American University in Cairo. Just today Beinin, who used to be the president of the Middle East Studies Association and is an outspoken critic of Israeli policies, was unceremoniously dumped as a speaker at an event tomorrow at San Jose’s elite Harker School, apparently due to pressure from a group of parents and an outside advocacy organization. We’ve written to Harker for their statement on the incident and will keep you posted as we learn the facts. Meanwhile, Beinin writes:

I suppose I should feel like I am very powerful if people are so convinced that I have to be prevented from speaking. But really, it just adds to my shame that this is what American Jewish identity has come to.

Last time this happened to Beinin was when the admirably “bipartisan” Israel Action Committee of Marin’s Rodef Sholom decided to invite Beinin to talk about his area of expertise, Egyptian Jews. When the rabbi of Rodef Sholom found out, she and the executive director went over the heads of the committee and revoked the invitation, causing the longtime committee organizer Roy Mash to quit in disgust.

Read Roy Mash’s extraordinary open letter:

Continue reading

Does Abe Foxman Have an Anti-Semite Problem?

Abe Foxman, NYT

That’s what James Traub asked in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine about the ubiquitous head of the Anti-Defamation League. Traub portrays Foxman as something of a dinosaur, out of touch with an entire generation of Jews who just don’t buy his sky-is-falling approach to anti-Semitism. His accurate description of the ADL’s rightward drift could equally be said about a whole host of mainstream Jewish organizations.

With anti-Semitism apparently waning, the A.D.L. might well have moved away from its original identity in favor of either promoting tolerance and diversity or leading the nonsectarian fight against extremism. But for Foxman, fighting anti-Semitism was always the core of the mission. The A.D.L.’s world became increasingly binary — “good for the Jews,” “bad for the Jews.” This change had the effect of moving the organization, as it had other mainstream Jewish bodies, to the right. Foxman upset many of his colleagues by extending a welcome to Christian conservatives, whose leaders tended to be strongly pro-Israel even as they spoke in disturbing terms of America’s “Christian” identity. Foxman was willing to cut them some slack on issues of social justice, and even of church-state relations, in the name of solidarity toward Israel.

The other question is to what extent is the ADL willing to go to enforce it’s “you’re either with us or against us” view of the world? We at Jewish Voice for Peace have had more than our share of entanglements.

For example, last year, in one week the ADL told two separate organizations in different states that they refused to appear in debates alongside JVP representatives. In one case, JVP member Racheli Gai, an Israeli army veteran and peace activist, was actually disinvited to a panel on divestment so that 3 ADL reps could appear alone without having to debate either pro-peace Israelis or Palestinians. So much for ADL’s stated mission to protect the rights of Jews. That would be some Jews.

Wheels of Justice Tour backlash at Andover, MA high school

Andover studentsIt’s hard not to feel sorry for the social studies teachers who invited the Wheels of Justice to speak to their students, and who may not have anticipated the backlash this would cause. Wheels of Justice travels the country educating people about human rights abuses in the Occupied Territories, and many parents and community-members called them propagandists and made it clear they were not wanted in Andover (many also made it clear they were wanted.)

Saying this is about propaganda is a straw man issue.
When it comes to Middle East issues in particular, accusations of propagandist are hurled at speakers no matter what they say. But they still have every right to speak at Andover–whether its the ADL on one side, or Wheels of Justice on the other.