Category Archives: ADL

It’s Official: Abe Foxman has lost his mind on Tutu

Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League is urging Michigan State University and the University of North Carolina to deny Nobel Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu a spot at the podium:

“Desmond Tutu is a poor choice for commencement speaker. His statements about Israel have time and again conveyed outright bigotry against the Jewish homeland and the Jewish people, and his deepening involvement in the anti-Israel boycott effort should have raised a red flag. This is not someone to be held up as a model or awarded an honorary degree, given his history of bombastic rhetoric and unceasing support for the anti-Israel boycott effort.”

Yes, the exact same Abe Foxman, who less than 2 years earlier, under pressure from national media coverage and Jewish Voice for Peace’s campaign, defended Tutu’s right to speak at a university.

NEW YORK (JTA) – The Anti-Defamation League is urging the president of a Minnesota university to invite Archbishop Desmond Tutu to speak just days after it was revealed that he had been disinvited because of fears he might offend Jews.

Tutu had been slated to visit the University of St. Thomas next spring as part of a program that brings Nobel laureates to teach youth about peace and justice. But university administrators, after consulting with Minnesota Jewish leaders, concluded that Tutu has made hurtful comments about Israel and the Jewish people that rendered him inappropriate as a speaker.

“Tutu has certainly been an outspoken, sometimes very harsh critic of Israel and Israeli policies, and has sometimes also used examples which may cross the line,” said Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director. But, he added, Tutu “certainly is not an anti-Semite and should not be so characterized and therefore refused a platform.”

And the difference, Abe, would be???

The good news? Two years ago, the Minnesota university banned Tutu, but then reversed the decision under immense pressure. This time, both Michigan and North Carolina have told the ADL, “thanks but no thanks. Tutu is our man.” It’s a good time to revisit South African journalist Tony Karon’s piece, My Favorite ‘Anti-Semite’.

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Newspaper targeted, Foxman says Zionism is racism

The editors and publishers of The Berkeley Daily Planet, Berkeley, California’s daily paper,  took the unusual step of writing their first joint statement to address pressure on advertisers. They write about a lot of issues- it being Berkeley and all- but…

The most controversial topic is by far the Israel-Palestine conflict. The vast majority of our submissions on the topic include some criticism of Israel. This leads some, like Mr. Sinkinson—who has been pressuring our advertisers to withdraw their support—to accuse the paper of anti-Semitism. This is an all-too-common technique by Israel’s more conservative partisans to stifle debate on the topic and to marginalize those who express even the mildest criticism of Israel.

Here’s the interesting thing, in a city purported to have one of the highest Jewish populations per capita on the West Coast, or maybe anywhere in the US:

The fact is that we receive almost no submissions that make a positive, proactive case for Israel. The only letters we receive from Israel supporters are in reaction to critics—letters that accuse those critics of bias and anti-Semitism. And we have printed many of these accusations over the years.

Meanwhile, intrepid reporter and analyst Phil Weiss sat through a lengthy panel on “Why Zionism has Become a Dirty Word” to bring us all this priceless quote from the Anti-Defemation League’s spokesmodel-from-another-era Abe Foxman:

“Can you be anti-Zionist and not be an anti-Semite? Almost never. Unless you can prove to me you’re against nationalism. If you’re one of those unique individuals in this world that’s opposed to American nationalism, French nationalism, Palestinian nationalism, then you can be opposed to Jewish nationalism. Is it racist? You bet it is. Every nationalism is racist. It sets its laws of citizenship, it sets its own capital… It sets its songs, it sets its values. It is, if you will, exclusive, and you can even call it racist. But if the only nationalism in the world that is racist is Jewish nationalism, then you’re an anti-Semite.. I don’t want to make any apologies for it. ”

Wow Abe. If this is how you defend Zionism….

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Media Circus: Bill Moyers, 60 Minutes’ Bob Simon and the backlash

Bill Moyers My sister recently stumbled on a blog post by a far right pseudo-journalist that accused me, her peace-love-and-justice baby sister and the keeper of our family’s terrible Holocaust history archives, of being a Nazi sympathizer. Her reaction was a mix of horror at the viciousness of the post, and amusement at its unintentional camp hilarity. My response to her was, “Welcome to my world. This is what it’s like to work on Israel-Palestine issues. Every day.” (I am on staff with Jewish Voice for Peace, which works to end Israel’s 41-year occupation.)

Most journalists don’t cover Israel-Palestine every day, and so they are unaccustomed to the inevitable tsunami of hyperbolic nastiness sure to come their way should they dare to touch the topic.

Bill Moyers, however, one of America’s most respected journalists and moral voices, could not have been surprised by the response last week to his powerful video commentary in which he condemned Hamas and asserted Israel’s right to defend itself, but also said,

Brute force can turn self defense into state terrorism. It’s what the US did in Vietnam with B-52s and napalm, and again in Iraq with shock and awe. By killing indiscriminately, the elderly, kids, entire families… Israel did exactly what terrorists do and exactly what Hamas wanted. It spilled the blood that turns the wheel of retribution.

He presciently went on to describe exactly the muzzled world in which we live here in the U.S.

Our political elites show neither independence nor courage by challenging the consensus that Israel can do no wrong.  Although one recent poll found Democratic voters overwhelmingly oppose the Israeli offensive by a 24 point margin, Democratic party leaders in Congress nonetheless march in lockstep to the hardliners in Israel and the White House. Rarely does our mainstream media depart from the montonous monologue of the party line. Many American Jews know, as Aaron David Miller writes in the current edition of Newsweek, that the destruction in Gaza won’t do much to address Israel’s longer term needs. But those who raise questions are accused by a prominent reform rabbi of being “morally deficient“. One Jewish American activist told me this week, that never in 30 years has he seen such blind and binding conformity in his community. You’d never know, he says, that it is the Gazans who are doing most of the suffering.

Moyers’ analysis, it turned out, was prescient because the backlash of calls and letters calling him a rabid anti-Semite, and one would presume Nazi-sympathizer, was so strong–even good old Abe Foxman of the ADL got into the fight– forced him to take the rather unusual step of addressing the onslaught of criticism at the top of his next show. (Sorry Bill, welcome to my world.)

A satirical columnist for the SF Chronicle learned a similar lesson this week an off-hand reference about “recalcitrant Israelis,” part of a humorous litany.

I knew I’d hear from American supporters of Israel, because that’s what happens. Any journalist can tell you that – pro-Israeli journalists, Jewish journalists, any writer who says anything that might be taken by somebody as a criticism of Israel or its current policies is gonna get reamed out. Dead babies are frequently mentioned, and crazed Palestinian fanatics – these folks go right for the top of the rhetorical ladder.

Finally, we can only imagine what awaits 60 Minutes’ Bob Simon for this generally fantastic and in the U.S, downright courageous piece of journalism,  Time Running Out for a Two-State Solution? (I say generally, because at times it erroneously gives the impression that “reasonable” voices like Tzipi “there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza” Livni are drowned out by the extremist settlers. In fact, Likud, Labor and Kadima have all been deeply complicit in the settlement project and the violation of human rights of Palestinians.)

Send your support to Bob Simon by commenting here. Bill Moyers might like to hear from you as well. Comment here.

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VIDEO: CNN’s Rick Sanchez and going for the scared-Jewish vote.

In a follow-up to yesterday’s amusing yet scary interview with McCain spokesman Mike Goldfarb, CNN’s Rick Sanchez parried at length today with right-wing radio host Ben Ferguson about Obama pal and mysterious “anti-Semite” #2, Jeremiah Wright.

This is part of McCain strategy #273, painting Obama as a Jew-hater.

Sanchez asked, “Why is being against Israel’s policies being against Jews when in fact there there are Jews who live in Israel who are against Israel’s policies?” He went on to say, “The question is, isn’t it a huge deductive leap to think those people who think of…Israel and criticize their policies…are anti-Semites? It means they hate Jews!”

After showing Ferguson the equivalent of a papal dispensation for Wright, a statement from the Anti-Defamation League saying that they do “not consider Reverend Wright anti-Semitic,” Ferguson responded, “Those people [Obama's close friends] do not like Israel, and they have very bad things to say about Jewish people in general.”

Meanwhile, an entertaining new video from the National Jewish Democratic Council assures voters that Obama has “a perfect voting reord” on Israel.

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Taboo-breaking books look at Israeli occupation and the Holocaust

A Time to Speak Out: Independent Jewish Voices on Israel, Zionism and Jewish Identity is a must-read new book featuring thought-provoking essays on a range of topics.

In “The ‘Arab Nazi’ and the ‘Nazi Jew’”, British sociologist Anne Karpf has written a nuanced exploration and condemnation of the ways in which the terms “The Holocaust” and “Nazis” have been nearly emptied of meaning through their political exploitation in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Glenn Greewald has written about the freewheeling use of these images on Fox News to condemn liberals.) While Karpf documents the myriad ways in which Jewish and Israeli leaders have invoked this imagery to characterize Arabs and Palestinians, Karpf also looks at how Arab and Muslim leaders have characterized Israelis as Nazis and Palestinians as Jews, wondering how this comports with a policy Holocaust denial.

While Karpf largely considers the issue of name-calling and explosive imagery, we should also ask if there is a place for a thoughtful historical, political and even personal consideration of the relationship between the dehumanization practiced by the National Socialists, and that which is practiced by the Israeli military? In this country, self appointed thought police like the Anti-Defamation League would say no.

Hajo Meyer, a Dutch physicist from Germany who survived 10 months in Auschwitz in 1944, has answered this question with a resounding YES in his absolutely captivating memoir: The End of Judaism. An Ethical Tradition Betrayed. With tremendous love for the Jewish tradition he knew as a child, Meyer’s morally challenging and well documented book is not the kind that makes hyperbolic charges of equivalency between the gas chambers and Israel’s occupation that we have come to expect from the fringes. Far from it.

Rather, he poignantly describes the many years, prior to the mass murder of some 6 million Jews and 5 million others, of his own family’s experiences of dehumanization and humiliation at the hands of other Germans. He is fearless about making the connection to the callousness he sees displayed by many Israeli soldiers in the territories:

We are all too familiar with photographs of Germans in their immaculate uniforms making fun of destitute and frightened Jews. Jews in Germany could count on such humiliation at the hands of the authorities and their fellow citizens. The intimidation and harassment at Israeli checkpoints is not much different from what I experienced in my youth. I will never forget what I went through in this regard, even though it is no longer particularly painful. What I do find painful, however, is the knowledge that the Jews, who are my own people, are involved in similar humiliation of Palestinians.

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Back from break: The issue that dare not speak its name in presidential debates

Hat tip to Philip Weiss for uncovering Mother Jones’ documentation of the obvious: feeling subject to a settler-mentality lobby that is firmly planted in the US, the media and politicians collude in their own “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to US foreign policy in Israel-Palestine. It’s hard not to envision candidates and major league media outlets as the infamous can’t hear-can’t speak-can’t talk monkeys.

Remember back when Howard Dean, running for president with a former president of AIPAC, no less, as his campaign co-chair, had the audacity to suggest a more “evenhanded” policy regarding Israel and Palestine. Within seconds, 34 Democratic members of Congress (and Abe Foxman) rushed to admonish him a warning letter affirming our unique, and anything but even-handed friendship with Israel. How DARE you suggest, well, balance?

Well, now we’ve got a parade of debates between presidential hopefuls, the perfect opportunity to once and for all get some clarity on candidates’ positions on the occupation, on Gaza, on Sderot, on peace negotiations. Right?

Wrong.

Justin Elliott at Mother Jones reports on 11 Democratic debates:

In nine of the 11 debates, the terms Israel, Palestinians, and Gaza were either never uttered or were mentioned once or twice peripherally. For instance, Joe Biden said at the October 30 NBC debate that Pakistan has missiles that can reach Israel. The two exceptions were the November 15 Democratic debate in Las Vegas, where Bill Richardson, unprompted, briefly outlined his ideas for a two-state solution, and the December 4 Democratic radio debate on NPR, in which moderator Robert Siegel posed the single question about Israel of the past 11 debates. Unfortunately, the query was effectively avoided.

What is shocking and new is that any reporter even dared to ask a candidate about these things at all. Even then, NPR’s Robert Siegal hedged his bets, affirming the “rationality” of supporting illegal settlement growth and land grabs in a question presented first to John Edwards:

“When we do things that policymakers in Washington may think are rational, like very strong support of Israel, that also upsets a lot of those 1 billion Muslims you’ve described. How would you, Senator Edwards … answer the complaint that the U.S., in its support of Israel, is so pro-Israeli, it can’t be an evenhanded, honest broker of matters and is anti-Muslim?”

And still, Justin Elliott at Mother Jones writes:

Edwards proceeds to ignore the question, makes a point about Ahmadinejad and says to improve relations with Muslims we must “help make education available to fight global poverty.” He makes no mention of Israel/Palestine. Siegel then turns to Obama. The senator says we need to close Guantanamo and talk not just to our friends but to our enemies. He, like Edwards, doesn’t touch the Israel issue. To their credit, Dodd and Kucinich do a much better job at engaging.

So in the past 11 debates the grand total of references to the Gaza Strip is zero. Considering that Israel is our biggest ally in the Middle East and the biggest recipient of U.S. aid in the world, isn’t it about time the candidates were asked what they think of our ally’s destructive policies in Gaza? Will any moderator have the courage to pose the question?

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ADL: “a false veneer of moral authority”

American Jewish Life magazine, which seeks to be the “Jewish Rolling Stone”, printed Bradley Pilcher’s extraordinary take-down of Abe Foxman for turning the ADL away from the important work of fighting anti-Semitism and bigotry, and into a group that deploys Holocaust remembrance and Armenian genocide denial in its overarching quest to “support” Israel. In The Day the Holocaust Died, Pilcher writes that the well-documented fact of Armenian genocide

…hasn’t stopped Foxman – and other Jewish leaders – from acting like nothing ever happened. When he was asked in July if the Armenian slaughter was genocide, his answer was a short, “I don’t know.” The ADL has joined other Jewish groups, such as the American Jewish Committee, in opposing efforts at recognizing the Armenian genocide.

Stop for a moment and think about the reaction of the Jewish community to Holocaust deniers. Every time the Iranian president spouts off about the “myth” of the Holocaust, Jewish groups – the Anti-Defamation League at the front of the line – roundly condemns him. So why would an organization that fights so hard against those who would deny the Holocaust, become an adamant denier of another genocide? The answer is simple, if ugly. They didn’t want to offend Turkey, a major ally of Israel in the Middle East.

Pilcher, former editor of the Jewish book blog TribeWrite, is done with Holocaust remembrance and the immoral use of moral authority by Foxman et al.

This is why the Holocaust no longer matters to me, why I’d just as soon we forget about it, if this is what we’re going to do with it. By this, I mean put it in museums, memorialize it to the point of irrelevance, and use it as a platform for moral authoritarianism. By this, I mean use it as a cudgel to silence critics we don’t want to hear from, all the while ignoring the crimes of people who support us – or support Israel, which isn’t necessarily the same as supporting us. By this, I mean render the Holocaust from a disaster of human action and inaction to be learned from into some kind of memorial flame, too hot to touch and too fragile to light the way to a better tomorrow.

I’m not hopeless about this. Abe Foxman and his ilk can’t occupy the stage forever. At the very least, perhaps he could get laryngitis. But I’m not particularly hopeful either. We’ve made a civic religion, eagerly adopted by plenty of Jews who can’t be bothered to meander into a synagogue more than a couple times a year, out of Holocaust remembrance. We’ve replaced a wandering Diaspora of Torah scholars with an affluent American populace of Jews holding up the flame for the Holocaust without bothering to ask ourselves what moral imperatives that memory requires of us.

If we’re not going to ask those questions, and listen to the difficult answers, then we’re probably better off not remembering at all. After all, a false veneer of moral authority in the absence of moral action may be the most immoral thing of all.

Over at Jewschool, where he observes that he’s only gotten positive feedback for his piece, he asks:

Now, what does that [fighting bigotry] have to do with Israel? Seriously. Im asking. Exactly what in the ADLs mandate or organizational mission gives it a reason to speak up as a proponent of Israel?


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Amazing! End of Tutu smear! St Thomas reverses position and invites Tutu!

So much good news to report for a change.
We had a back and forth with folks at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency about the false Tutu quote after they used it in a release. Well, these guys are good and went to the source, the Zionist Organization of America, and finally put to bed this terrible smear against Tutu.

They also broke the story that Abe Foxman came out in support of Tutu speaking. (We’re in the piece as well.) The extreme rightwing ZOA still insists Tutu is an anti-Semite.
Mitchell Plitnick and I wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Minneapolis/St Paul Star Tribune today suggesting that silencing Tutu and silencing debate is not the best way to be a friend to Jews.
Best of all — and the timing is no coincidence — this afternoon, the University of St Thomas announced a reversal of their decision.

I’ll leave you with a link to Tony Karon’s piece, My Favorite ‘Anti-Semite’, which I’ve been wanting to highlight since he write it about Archbishop Tutu when the story broke. Karon, a Time.com senior editor, is Jewish and a former anti-apartheid activist from south Africa.

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Tutu: Anatomy of a smear, the appalling double-standards of the thought police

All roads lead to Minnesota today. First, we wrote recently about the country’s first Muslim Congressman, Minnesota’s Keith Ellison, who got publicly whacked at the knees by the ADL’s Abe Foxman for comparing 9/11 to the burning of the Reichstag, Bush to Hitler. (In a despicable move, after hours of negotiations with Ellison, the ADL still released a press release excoriating him. The ADL apparently owns the trademark to “Hitler” and even “Reichstag”)

Now in Salon, best-selling author Glenn Greenwald documents in detail the appalling frequency of right-wing attacks on liberal groups, using, yes, words like Holocaust, Nazi, Gestapo and Hitler. The juicy part? The almost daily barrage of Nazi language is coming from many Fox News personalities. And who appears frequently at ADL events and got the highest award possible from the Simon Wiesenthal Center? Fox News owner, Rupert Murdoch. (Meanwhile Ted Turner of CNN got an Abe Foxman letter for comparing Murdoch to Hitler.) Gee, think there’s anything political here?

Now – the disgusting anatomy of a smear against Tutu, who, as we reported, was banned from Minnesota’s U. of St Thomas because of criticism of Israeli human rights violations.
My colleague Mitchell Plitnick has written about this and the reprehensible charges of anti-Semitism in his blog, The Third Way.

(As I was finishing this, I also got an email alert on an article of the same name by Richard Silverstein at Tikun Olam, about the same story. Let’s hope others pick this up and we can put an end to this disgusting lie about Archbishop Tutu. Digg these articles, Stumble them, Reddit- whatever you can.)

First: the lie, the Zionist Organization of America, and its circulation in the right-wing echo chamber

In defending the decision to bar Tutu from speaking, Doug Hennes of St Thomas said:

“But hes compared the state of Israel to Hitler and our feeling was that making moral equivalencies like that are hurtful to some members of the Jewish community.

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Agreement reached over San Francisco mural: changes to image of Israel’s wall

The San Francisco Examiner reports:

An emotional battle over a new mural in San Franciscos Mission district that depicts the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been squelched after the supporting organization had its funding stalled and agreed to alter the controversial image.

The San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) and the SF office of the Anti-Defamation League pressed the SF Arts Commission to change what they deemed offensive imagery in a new mural made by some 200 residents of San Francisco’s diverse Mission district under the auspices of HOMEY-Homies Organizing the Mission to Empower Youth.

JCRC’s Abby Porth said, The imagery took a radical position on a complex geopolitical issue that was out of touch with the international community, San Francisco and the overwhelming majority of Jews.

HOMEY mural

In fact, a number of Jews in the Bay Area took issue with either any efforts to change the mural, or the range of objections to the mural presented by opponents, and testified to that effect at the recent Arts Commission hearing. Members of Jewish Voice for Peace also wrote in a letter to the Arts Commission:

As Jews living in San Francisco and other parts of the Bay Area, we wish you to know that the complaints of the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Anti-Defamation League do not reflect our views, nor do they reflect the consensus of the Jewish community in San Francisco, or in the Bay Area. We ask you not to accept the opinions of the JCRC and ADL uncritically, and ask you to listen to the concerns of others in the community, including both Jews and others, who do not share a negative interpretation of the mural.

In the end, the Examiner reports:

HOMEY and [artist] Norberg, however, have agreed to alter the images that some called divisive and hostile. The group has agreed to change the shape of the crack so it does not resemble a silhouette of Israel, add blue sky where the wall towered to reflect a brighter future, add an olive tree to symbolize peace, and remove the headscarf from the womans face. The Arts Commission approved the revisions Wednesday.

Our intention was to draw parallels between the issues at the U.S.-Mexico border and the Israeli-Palestinian security barrier, said Nancy Hernandez, youth program coordinator at HOMEY. We consider this section to be a statement of solidarity between the residents of the San Francisco Mission district and global movements for oppressed peoples to gain self-determination.

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