Briefly: Playwright and cultural icon Tony Kushner was kicked off the list of honorees and John Jay College because Jeffrey Weisenfeld is Captain McWitchHunt. Fascinating. Here’s hoping someone throws water on JW so that he melts into a steaming puddle of vindictive intolerance. (h/t MondoWeiss )
c/o Heat & Light Co., Inc.
cc: President Jeremy Travis
The faculty and students of John Jay College of Criminal Justice
899 Tenth Avenue New York, NY, 10019
May 4, 2011
To Chairperson Benno Schmidt and the Board of Trustees:
At the May 2 public meeting of the CUNY Board of Trustees, which was broadcast on CUNY television and radio, Trustee Jeffrey S. Weisenfeld delivered a grotesque caricature of my political beliefs regarding the state of Israel, concocted out of three carefully cropped, contextless quotes taken from interviews I’ve given, the mention of my name on the blog of someone with whom I have no connection whatsoever, and the fact that I serve on the advisory board of a political organization with which Mr. Weisenfeld strongly disagrees. As far as I’m able to conclude from the podcast of this meeting, Mr. Weisenfeld spoke for about four minutes, the first half of which was a devoted to a recounting of the politics of former President of Ireland and UN Human Rights High Commissioner Mary Robinson that was as false as his description of mine.
Ms. Robinson, however, was not on public trial; I was, apparently, and at the conclusion of Mr. Weisenfeld’s vicious attack on me, eight members voted to approve all the honorary degree candidates, including me, and four voted to oppose the slate if my name remained on it. Lacking the requisite nine votes to approve the entire slate, the Board, in what sounds on the podcast like a scramble to dispense with the whole business, tabled my nomination, approved the other candidates, and adjourned. Not a word was spoken in my defense. More »
And now we know. The real reason that we are not permitted to change any policy in a way that might discourage violence. I feel at ease, now that I know. It’s because its all part of our mission as the suffering servant of Isaiah.
Gotcher money quote right here:
There is an untold, sad reason for Israel’s ability to offer such help. For the Jewish State, terrorism has always been an involuntary master of speed, precision and caring. There is an amazing quantity of research, inventions and new techniques for helping the disabled and the paralyzed return to normal life after terrorist destruction.
Now we know. It’s for the good of the world. The right wants Israel to continue to be attacked by terrorists so that we can lovingly give of ourselves our scientific inventions that save everyone else. What a bunch of loving people! Generously sacrificing us for the benefit of the world!
First of all, let’s just set aside for a moment the ridiculousness of mentioning Islamic extremists in every other breath – really, I have to say (I never thought I’d defend Beck in any way whatsoever) that really, his comments weren’t about Reform Jews being terrorists. While his comments were completely inane, his point was that Reform Jews are primarily a political organization rather than a religious one. How many ways this is a stupid comment leaves me gasping, but it’s not what most people seem to have taken it as – i.e. a claim that Reform Jews are terrorists.
However, the level of stupidity remains pretty high: More »
I will not twist Mr. Beck’s brilliance to say anything besides what he said:
“Reformed rabbis are generally political in nature. It’s almost like Islam, radicalized Islam in a way, to where it is just — radicalized Islam is less about religion than it is about politics. When you look at the reform Judaism, it is more about politics. I’m not saying that they’re the same on … and they’re going to take it at that, but — stand in line.”
I will not take it “that way”…I will take it at face value. My religious experience is all about politics. Nothing to do with God, Israel (people and land) or Torah. Nope, nothing what-so-ever. More »
So some of us have been waiting to see our favourite recent addition to the Texas rabbi-ing scene* (yeah, such a thing exists) on the Daily Show for a week now. Seems there’s something happening in Egypt that kept bumping the segment?
John Oliver was in Texas to investigate a clash between the Christians and Jews, Republican style:
Richard Allen, a member of the JCC, is peddling small-minded paranoia in calling the Other Israel Film Festival a participant in the boycott, divestment and sanctions (“BDS”) movement and has called on the board to McCarthyize their community.
Allen is joined by Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf, who told the paper, “At this time when Israel’s very life may be at stake it’s especially important not to patronize anyone who doesn’t stand with the State of Israel. … Stop claiming you are a Jewish community center, because there is no place there for centrist people.”
This is preposterous. The hysteria behind such a claim would be funny if the merits of this case weren’t downright offensive. Liberal-minded members of the community need to put this laughable accusation where it belongs: the garbage bin. The JCC in Manhattan, under the leadership of Rabbi Joy Levitt, is one of — if not the — most pluralistic institutions in the New York Jewish community. It hosts thoughtful, intelligent, quality programs satisfying so much of the communal spectrum.
On the same night, the welcoming rooms of that building hosted a Shabbat dinner of the Other Israel Film Festival (no event of which Mr. Allen ever attended) and the annual dinner of CAMERA. At the OIFF dinner, two Israeli Arab TV stars spoke eloquently against efforts like Mr. Allen’s — from the Palestinian side. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel contacted all the filmmakers, producers and actors flying in from Israel to boycott the Other Israel Film Festival. Panelist Mira Awad, Arab pop singer-songwriter, answered the question about why she still came, and she did so with inspirational personal authority:
This morning Simon Greer, head of Jewish FundS for Justice, delivered 10,000 signatures and a giant pink slip to Fox News’ corporate headquarters in New York calling for Glenn Beck to be fired. Beck reneged on a pledge against twisting Holocaust history to his political ends, which was originally personally signed and sent to Greer after JFSJ brought fourteen representatives of Jewish organizations to meet with Beck’s superiours..
When Beck then ran a series called “The Puppet Master,” charging Jewish mega-philanthropist George Soros with complicity with killing other Jews during the Holocaust (despite the fact that he was a child at the time). The ADL’s Abe Foxman stepped in to condemn the language: “For a political commentator or entertainer to have the audacity to say, there’s a Jewish boy sending Jews to death camps, that’s horrific. It’s totally off limits and over the top.” (Then of course Foxman demurred and backtracked because Beck says nice things about Israel.) Of course, this was all an excuse to demonize Soros as one of the largest funders of progressive causes in America and around the world. Which is, obviously, Beck’s real target: social justice.
At today’s impromptu press conference outside the offices of News Corp., Greer and company brought the 10,000 names and unveiled Beck’s top ten most disturbing quotes of 2010 (below). Video of the press conference to come. More »
Palestinians are hurt frequently in unarmed protests, even killed. But it took Israeli Jewish activists to get one tragic death any Western attention or the IDF’s admission of fault.
Jawaher Abu Rahmah, a 36-year-old kindergarten teacher from the West Bank village of Bil’in, died after inhaling tear gas shot by IDF soldiers trying to disperse a weekly protest. Her brother was killed two years ago after being hit by a tear gas canister to the chest. The family’s account and that of dozens of witnesses were quickly dismissed by the IDF through off-the-record tips to sympathetic blogs, and without a formal investigation.
Dogged Israeli activists have forced right-wing blogger, news media and the IDF to walk back misinformation aimed to exonerate the IDF, like whether Abu Rahmah even attended the protest, whether she participated, and (incredulously) whether she died quietly of cancer. The activists chronicling their work through the portal +972 Magazine deserve the bulk of the credit for being at the protest, debunking the rumors started by the IDF, and taking on the right-wing conspiracy machine.
Since the earliest vouchings of IDF’s innocence have proved hollow, the Israel-can-do-no-wrong voices have switched to a new line: “the Israelis killed her, so what?” Christian Zionist magazine Israel Today opined, “The point is that even if Abu Rahma died from inhaling tear gas, it is a non-story.”
Quite the contrary. Even while losing the proxy war on Abu Rahmah’s death, Israel boosters seem to miss the greater points: More »
Today the Fox published an oped in the JTA calling on us to fight anti-Muslim bigotry. I don’t know if this is an honest change of heart, or just too little too late in the wake of his opposition to the Cordoba House.
Reading the statement, I could not help thinking that the distinction he wants to make between “good” Islam and “bad” Islam parallels the common distinction between Jews and Zionists, a distinction which is often read as disingenuous and antisemitic.
So, will the ADL go back to its mission fighting bigotry rather than acting as a shill for Israel (see the flap over the Armenian Genocide), or is the Fox still trying to play both sides?
My rabbi made a bold move during his d’var Torah on the first day of Rosh Hashanah services this year. After a brief word on Park 51 earlier in the service, in which he condemned the bigoted opposition in the strongest terms I could have imagined, I wasn’t expecting too much more fire and brimstone, especially on Israel-Palestine. And he looked sort of nervous to me – who wouldn’t, facing such a large crowd (this is Rosh Hashanah, mind you, so we’re talking every Jew in town) that was by and large far more conservative than you. Yet he called for an end to the Gaza blockade and asked congregants to write a letter to Netanyahu’s office urging him to fully engage in the peace talks and bring home results. Strong stuff.
Nine years after the attacks of 9/11, I want to stop and think about framing. How we frame conflicts, both in our mind and externally, has a lot to do with more concrete things like foreign policy, or the nature of the domestic discourse on an issue. 9/11 was an attack on the core of Americanism, and not only because of the physical spectacle of the WTC being leveled by a bunch of reclusive angry dudes. It represents the clash of two worldviews – an American constitutionalist perspective in which personal freedom is of the highest importance, and a religious fundamentalist one (which religion it is is completely irrelevant) in which those who think wrong, believe wrong, act wrong, are to be punished by those who know better. It’s disgusting no matter who it comes from.
In that bin Laden most likely knew what the U.S.’ response to 9/11 would be (“We have raced to Afghanistan and Iraq, and more recently to Yemen and Somalia; we have created a swollen national security apparatus; and we are so absorbed in our own fury and so oblivious to our enemy’s intentions that we inflate the building of an Islamic center in Lower Manhattan into a national debate and watch, helpless, while a minister in Florida outrages even our friends in the Islamic world by threatening to burn copies of the Koran,” says Ted Koppel), he made a masterful calculation in goading us into it. But I can’t help but think that he also gave us the greatest opportunity ever to definitively rise above the war-on-terror paradigm. It’s not too late to change course and stop trampling on the mangled remains of the constitutional freedoms (see above links, courtesy of Koppel) bin Laden sought to demonstrate the inferiority of, an effort for which we’ve done far more than he ever could have. This would take a reframing at the national level, something Obama did a bit of in his Cairo speech, but, more importantly, it would also take people of conscience standing up to bigotry at every level. Park 51 is the starkest example we’ve seen so far that this society has yet to move past the paralyzing ethos of American vs. un-American. Or, in simpler terms, a lot of people in this country are still racist.
And so, G()d’s children are still drowning. And until we end the war on terror abroad and the war on Islam at home, and until we, as my rabbi urged, truly walk in the other’s shoes and know their pain as we do our own, the water rises higher. May the memories of the 3000 innocents who died on 9/11, and the thousands more who have died since in Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza, and more, not be forgotten.
This week brought with it more attempts to vilify Women of the Wall and protect the Western Wall as accessible for ultra-Orthodox prayer exclusively. The Jerusalem Police recommended this week that the Ministry of Justice press charges against Anat Hoffman for the felony of “gravely obstructing a police officer in the performance of his duties”, in regards to her July arrest while holding a Torah at the Western Wall. The sentence for such a conviction is up to 3 years in prison. Members and supporters of Women of the Wall in Israel and abroad stand behind Hoffman, and have been busy sending hundreds of letters and pictures of women holding the Torah to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Head of the Opposition Tzipi Livni, Chairman of the Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky, and Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi in charge of the holy places. In these letters, women from all over the world ask Israeli leaders, “How is it that as Jewish women, we are free in Berlin, in Rome, and in Chicago, while in Jerusalem it is illegal and profane for us to read from the Torah?” Supporters are encouraged to continue to send letters and pictures from the website, womenofthewall.org.il/solidarity/take-a-stand, conveying a clear message to Israel’s leaders that Women of the Wall will not be intimidated or silenced.
In response to Women of the Wall’s twenty year battle to read Torah on the women’s side of the Western Wall, Rabbi Rabinowitz issued a new regulation, giving him sole and complete control over who is permitted to enter the Western Wall Plaza with a Torah. This new dictatorial procedure extends the blockade against entering to the holy site with a Torah to not only women, but also men who might be determined unfit to carry a Torah by the extremist Rabinowitz. Adv. Nira Azriel is preparing a statement on behalf of Women of the Wall to the authorities regarding the unreasonable strictness of the new regulations, which promise to worsen conditions for women even further.
Around the country, yesterday, many cheered and many booed as Chief US District Judge Vaughn Walker declared Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California, as unconstitutional and in contradiction of the due process clause.
While a seeming majority of US Jews are clearly supportive of overturning the ballot proposition, known in many circles in California as “Prop H8,” the Orthodox Union made this bizarre statement, according to the JTA:
“In addition to our religious values — which we do not seek to impose on anyone — we fear legal recognition of same-sex ‘marriage’ poses a grave threat to the fundamental civil right of religious freedom.
“Forcing a choice between faith and the law benefits no one,” it added, concluding that the OU looked forward to the appeals process.
In what world does the OU live? Apparently one where they will be forced by US law to officiate at same-sex marriages? Yes, that’s right, here in America practices and beliefs are forced upon religious organizations all the time. That’s why every synagogue has to have a nativity scene or a giant set of Ten Commandment plaques…
The full statement, which can be read here, goes on to say:
Already, in states with same-sex civil unions and similar laws, religious institutions, including churches, social service providers and youth groups have been penalized by authorities for their beliefs. Forcing a choice between faith and the law benefits no one.
We look forward to the appeals process which will bring these critical issues to America’s highest courts.
Oh! Now I get it! They are against being told what to do or believe because it impedes the religious freedoms of a sliver of a tiny minority population in the US (which I really don’t understand how their freedoms are impeded at all)… What they are NOT against is taking away the constitutional rights of at least 10% of the US population who have been relegated to second-class citizen status and forced to stand by as the sacred institution of marriage is maintained for adulterers and wife-beaters… Good ol’ fashioned sense and reasoning from the OU.
Foxmanides on Twitter begs some consistency from the man purportedly voicing anti-bigotted conscience. Top tweets:
Ceding our perennial demand that Palestinians remove anti-Semitism from their school textbooks. Their anguish entitles them to bigotry.
@BernieMadoff Need a Presidential pardon? DM me your price. Over a mil and we’ll throw in a benefit dinner. Fish or steak?
@OliverStone I want a worldwide telecast w/you on your knees screaming “JEWS HAVE NO POWER” or no dice. And I want you dressed as a chicken.
Oh wait, Israel’s friends with Turkey again? Armenian geno-wha?
The joke’s on Abe because he’s shocked at the blowback. He and his are losing moral authority, especially among the younger folks. I’m sure he has little clue that his reticence against consistently fighting bigotry (instead of selectively) is entrenching the ADL’s reputation as prejudiced by omission if not commission. We would be hard pressed to justify anti-Semitism if it were delivered in a “nuanced” press release trumpeting “sensitivity.” Oh wait, that was just done.
Let us rewrite the ADL’s anti-mosque statement with “the Jewish right to self-determination in their historic homeland” instead of “Islamic center” and “colonization of the Middle East” as “9/11″. Let it culminate as theirs did in the final paragraph: “It’s not about rights, it’s about what is right.” Meaning, the Jews have a right to build their state, but not in the Middle East, where sensitivities are raw. I doubt Foxman would reply to such with nuance.
Regardless, Foxmanides has been unleashed. Even The Onion knows no safety now:
Now, you could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, way of life, cult whatever you want to call it.
…Now, you know, I’m all about freedom of religion. I value the First Amendment as much as I value the Second Amendment as much as I value the Tenth Amendment and on and on and on. But you cross the line when they try to start bringing Sharia Law here to the state of Tennessee — to the United States. We live under our Constitution and they live under our Constitution.
Someone should tell him what those Jews have been doing in their yeshivas in America all these years and then get him on the record about that.
Peter Beinart is still on his (incredibly polite but) hard-hitting crusade against the Jewish establishment’s lockstep on Israel. First on the NY Review of Books, then bloggingheads.tv, now NPR with Brooke Gladstone. In this 12-minute clip, he politely brushes aside the “self-perpetuating victimization” of Steven Rosen, a 23-year AIPAC senior staffer, and the charge of being anti-Israel for criticizing the Jewish state. Full transcript at NPR, but worth listening to all 12 minutes.
Attentive as always to the sentiment of my peers who obsess less about this issue than I do, the past weekend’s flotilla events have only confirmed what Peter Beinart wrote. His words confirm what I and others on Jewschool have long prophesied: young Jews are refusing “to check their liberalism” at Israel’s door.
All week, the reticence of my peers — actively engaged Jews in their 20s and 30s — to have “the Israel conversation” with me has been collapsing. Amazingly, friends who long avoided it. The sudden burst of awareness about Israel’s prohibition of cooking ingredients, toys and minor life amenities in Gaza has undermined sympathy for confroting even rebar-wielding provacateurs. Israel’s international disregard sours in their mouths. The severity of Israel’s recent behavior has shaken so many loose from the inhibitions to say openly and angrily, “What the fuck? How could Israel do that?”
“This has given me so much guilt. What is it about this that is different from what normally goes on there?” asked one friend over brunch.
“It’s like Israel tries to solve every problem with the military,” mourned another friend the night before. An organizer by profession, she smartly asked, “Where can we put political pressure to make this stop?”
“I am giving up on Israel. They can’t ask me to defend this policy,” said another the day before that. More »
I’m writing this post because Peter Beinart took my song and dance of the past five years and dropped it like a non-existant Israeli nuke on the Ahmadinejad-like belligerence of the Jewish establishment. He said what I say, and I’m happy to watch its effects burn across the intertubes. Amen, hallelujah, selah.
Let me get this straight: the land-holding authority of Israel, ostensibly marketed in the Diaspora as a guardian of Israeli environmentalism (hyuk), has a high school advocacy program? Why? First, this is obvious mission creep. The JNF offers no core competancy to the field of education or advocacy. Second, this program is horribly redundant. As if every other federation and major Jewish youth group doesn’t already have campus-focused activism training.
Indeed, this is what Peter Beinart wrote about: the community’s “don’t question Israel” message so poorly prepared young Jews for the reality of the conflict that their heads explode when they encounter the Palestinian side. Despite anti-Semitism on the left and real threats of Ahmadinejad, there is yet a core of blame to the Israeli-Palestinian that lies with Israel, Jews and American support. This core of truth, small as the right-wing thinks it is, so disrupts the spoon-fed comfort with the occupation that the result is ingrained distrust, distaste, and disinterest. Goodbye, organized Jewish community.
But this JNF clue offers us the bigger subtext of the Beinart peice, if you care to look. The establishment isn’t just right-wing and morally pegged to odious Israeli policies. It’s lost. It has no moral compass, no calling, no grand mission statement. Raising money to feed a bloated infrastructure dedicated to fighting yesterday’s battles is the only motivation it seems to offer us.
I regard the organized Jewish community with distrust, distaste and disinterest because I have values. Powerful, commanding, universal values that I feel come from Judaism, via my family. It’s a shame those universal values aren’t shared by the previous Jewish leadership.