Jewish institutional chickens coming home to roost

Decades of determined silence, or aiding and abetting both illegal settlement expansion and vicious attacks on dissenting critics of Israeli state policy have created a kind of “blowback” in the institutional Jewish world.

The new targets of the settlers’ linguistic paramilitary forces, aka the rightwing pro-Israel punditocracy and their followers, aren’t just the usual suspects like Jimmy Carter or Archbishop Tutu. They’re now mainstream, moderate, demonstrably Israel-loving institutional Jews. This is a moment of truth for many of these targets. Faced with new pressure from their right-wing flank, some will fold and adapt to a more McCarthyite environment, especially if loss of funding is threatened. Others will stand strong and even be radicalized.

So, who are the new targets of occupation-supporters like Caroline Glick (Whither American Jewry?) and Isi Liebler (Candidly Speaking: Marginalize the renegades) of the Jerusalem Post and Walter Bingham (Expose the Renegades) in Arutz Sheva? For starters, there’s former Jewish Council for Public Affairs director Hannah Rosenthal, whose principled concern for the Jewish community and  for Israel is undeniable. She is the newly appointed head of the US Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism:

Shortly after the announcement of Rosenthal’s nomination, conservative Jewish web sites began to attack her, some of them declaring that Obama appointed an anti-Israeli to fight anti-Semitism. Rumors brewed that she had accused Israel of systemically strengthening anti-Semitism. Bloggers argued that her appointment would cause Jews and Israelis to cast doubt on Obama and his relationship with Israel.

Then there’s the the popular San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, known for its diverse approach to programming, and the Jewish Federation in San Francisco, which (lightly) funds the Festival. Not used to getting hate mail from Jews, and being called anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli, the Federation has been under tremendous pressure to cave in to calls for excessively McCarthyite control over funding recipients; the Film Festival has already lost tens of thousands of dollars and half its board, with no sign of the campaign dying any time soon.

The Federation board wisely said no to an absurd proposal to bar partnerships with any individuals or groups who “defame Israel” (good luck defining that), but they did support a resolution passed by the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America barring partnerships with groups that support Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions.

(Presumably, Time’s Joe Klein, who recently came out in support of a suspension of aid as a way to get the Israelis to actually freeze settlements, could still speak at a Federation-supported venue. Jewish Voice for Peace, however, which promotes selective divestment and sanctions as a way to end Israel’s occupation, would continue to get no funds or support from the Federation. In fact, the Federation would be duty-bound to oppose JVP, according to the resolution. As more mainstream Jewish groups openly advocate against support for 501c3s that support extremist settlers, it’s not clear how this resolution will play out.) Of course, there is the unprecedented smear campaign against Richard Goldstone, including coordinated condemnation of his report in Conservative synagogues across America, and yet he has continued to hold strong and defend his work with tremendous integrity. And then, there are the ongoing attacks on the new moderate AIPAC alternative, J Street, which puts forth an agenda not entirely different from what Netanyahu himself at least says he wants – two states that preserve as they call it, “a Jewish democracy”. Finally, there is the very surprising Glenn Beck (pictured above) attack on the Anti-Defamation League for their new report “Rage Grows in America: Anti-Government Conspiracies,” which calls out Beck in particular in a wide-ranging condemnation of hate-mongers. Surprising because the ADL can typically be counted on to overlook hate-mongering and Holocaust-abuse in the service of a rightwing “pro-Israel” agenda, but in this case has done the right thing in identifying this truly scary trend for which Beck has become the figurehead. As MJ Rosenberg writes in his new column at Media Matters

:

Glenn Beck is, not surprisingly, in a state of rage about the ADL report. He defends himself by asking the ADL to “name the person who has been more friendly to Israel” (the predictable defense). This, of course, is utterly irrelevant.  The issue here is not Israel but the United States.  It is here where Beck spreads his hate, not Israel. And then Beck turns on the ADL itself.  Beck said that the Anti-Defamation League itself has “much to do with the plight of the Jewish people.”  I don’t know what plight Beck is referring to, perhaps the Holocaust which so often pops into his head and out of his mouth.  But, obviously, the ADL fought for the victims of the Holocaust, not its perpetrators.  The Holocaust was the product of professional hate mongers, the mob who listened to them, and politicians who came to power on their backs. That is precisely the combination the ADL is worried about now.

It’s tempting to sit back and say, “I told you so.” As Israel is learning all too well regarding increasing numbers of intransigent settlers  and religious fanatics who profess open contempt for their own country, you can’t help create a monster and then expect it not to try to devour you. But one hopes that all of the targets of these nasty charges will a) put into perspective the war of words versus the war of lives and homes being waged, for example, in Sheikh Jarakh in East Jerusalem right now and that b) they’ll resist efforts at intimidation precisely because Jews who love Israel should care about the rights of  Palestinian Israelis getting evicted from Sheikh Jarakh, as well as the rights of their peace-loving Jewish neighbors. There is only one logical conclusion after reading Rabbi Arik Ascherman’s moving and terrifying account of what’s happening in East Jerusalem:  justice for Palestinians is justice, and peace, for Jews. Supporting the ongoing evictions and terrorization of Palestinians is the last way in the world to show love of Israel.

-Cecilie Surasky

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