Names have been changed to protect the decent, but here’s a short story of how one local faith-based organization self-capitulated to potential threats and demands.
We asked Alfred, head of the social justice organization in his local church, to have his group host a panel of Vigilers. Alfred brought up our request at the committee’s next meeting, and wrote back that, after careful consideration, the committee had denied our request.
Lest any reader feel this is an attack on Alfred or his social justice committee, let’s set the record straight: It is not. What makes this event report-worthy, is that it showcases an all-too-familiar fear of community groups and leaders to feature peace groups like JWPF, which openly challenge the status quo.
Alfred wrote that the committee feared a backlash from some members of his church that would curtail the committee’s efforts to reach out to other members. We harbor no doubt Alfred is right: Jewish and non-Jewish members of the church and the outlying community would play the “Guilt by Association” card, and then feel justified in shunning Alfred’s committee.
We’ve seen this before. Peace groups who somehow “know” that standing in front of a synagogue is strategically wrong, will allow the opinion of others to stop them from doing what in their hearts they know is right. There is no logic to the charge that because group A grants venue to group B, that the ideas of group B are supported, or endorsed by the hosting group. As Vigiler M. observes: “It’s gotten so bad that if Jesus himself came back, he wouldn’t be allowed to speak in most churches. There’s that whole Temple incident and then there’s Jesus calling the Pharisees a bunch of snakes. ‘Forget about it, we can’t have Jesus in our church, what would people think?'”
Alfred is known and respected within our ranks, and it is our Christmas wish that he and leaders like him focus on the crimes of the Jewish state, and place the feelings of a small but vocal minority second. What further crime must Israel commit before good people will rise up and hold those who support these crimes accountable? Or, at least, to grant us the ability to take our message to engaged congregations?
What a Free Press Really Means
Last week we reported on Helen Thomas’ struggle with her alma mater, Abe Foxman’s Arab Defamation League, and Robert Cohen’s Jewish Community Reprisal Council. We held our new sign announcing “Helen Thomas Fan Club”. This week, however, we recognize that no article has appeared in the local mainstream paper since December 9th. A few letters to the editor followed, but even they have dried up.
Perhaps the smearing of Helen Thomas generated too much heat for the Jewish community, and she has now been “dynamically silenced” as author Benjamin Ginsberg describes the phenomenon. Our definition of a free press is: once you own or control one, you’re free to report or ignore anything you want.
A Call for Honesty
Our newest Vigil supporter was excited to view “Occupation 101” with this writer, and though the film speaks truth in some parts, vast and obvious omissions loom. And the majority of speakers in this documentary are Jewish. No problem, right?
Wrong. For instance, which ethno/religious group is Phyllis Bennis protecting when she proclaims that “This is an American issue”? Why are we listening to admitted Zionists like Rabbis Erik Ascherman, Michael Lerner and Rebecca Lillian? They think that Zionism is a national liberation movement for Jews. That must really set well with dehumanized Palestinians. And why can’t why can’t Jews like Noam Chomsky honestly state: “Hello, my name is Noam Chomsky, and I have never recanted my Zionist past, nor my active participation in the Zionist Kibbutz movement?” Why doesn’t Jeff Halper say: “Hi, my name is Jeff Halper and I support Israel’s claimed right to exist as a Jewish state, and my right to live there as an American-born Jew.” Gila Svirsky could chime in: “I support Zionist goals, I always have”.
These Jewish activists seem to protect the Jewish state. In spite of their criticism of settler crimes in the West Bank and Gaza, Israel’s legitimacy is never discussed. Certainly Jewish responsibility for support of this criminal state is likewise nixed.
The answers to these questions are pretty obvious to us. We would not trust a German peace activist in 1942 who would not denounce Nazism. Why do folks give rapt attention to Jews who do not denounce Zionism?
Zionists Out of the Peace Movement
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friend