The Deir Yassin Remembered Blog

Report on Beth Israel vigil 06-19-10

Posted on June 27th, 2010 at 10:02 pm by

IJAN Will Protect Jewish Sensibilities

Strike One: For about six weeks, JWPF had been asking Sara Kershnar, “international organizer” for the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, to distribute an invitation to join our anti-Zionist vigils at Beth Israel in Ann Arbor on June 19th, just preceding the start of the 2010 US Assembly of Jews: Confronting Racism and Israeli Apartheid. With only three days left, we received the following reply:

Henry Herskovitz,
The purpose of the Assembly is to build long term anti-Zionist Jewish
organizing; we are not gathering for the purposes of demonstration. The
Assembly is not endorsing, promoting or supporting any events outside of
those we have coordinated together, and will not support participation in
your event.
We hope that this clarifies,
The U.S. Assembly

We immediately wrote back, explaining that we were not asking for endorsements or promotions, we just wanted individual members of IJAN to have the opportunity to choose for themselves whether they wanted to stand with us. IJAN’s response was … no response.

Strike Two: At one of the presentations, lecturer Barry Trachtenberg, associate professor of Jewish studies at the University of Albany, raised the topics of Tsar Nicholas II, and of European anti-Semitism. When I asked whether the Jewish-led execution of the Tsar and his family produced fear in Germany, which could have led to anti-Semitic feelings there, Ms. Kershnar rose and claimed “I must interrupt here, because I don’t think the question is in line with the goals of this workshop.” I pointed out that Barry had brought up both the Czar and the issue of anti-Semitism. She reiterated her statement, explained a little more, and said “With the approval of the group, I’d like to re-track this back to soft Zionism”

At this point, an audible “Oh, Please!” came from a woman in the audience, as in “Please do get us back on track. Save us from yet more persecutory questions.” There was general agreement; almost everyone, it seemed, wanted to push on, and get rid of pesky questions like the last one that might have helped interrogate the narrative of innocent Jewish victimhood that Zionists of all stripes have used to great effect.

Strike Three: This m.o. of gate-keeping ran into the US Social Forum. After the umpteenth time of hearing that “Zionism is a political movement”, I raised the fact that in 1942 over 800 Rabbis opined that “Zionism is the Affirmation of Judaism”, and that people should realize the huge component of Zionism that was religious in nature. Not only was I again told that this comment was out of line, but Sara said “Henry, we all know you have an agenda”. Too taken aback to reply that we all have agendas and mine included open debate and the pursuit of truth, I merely reiterated that we should take the rebbes seriously.

But the real strike three occurred when our friend Muhammed* from Ohio asked why IJAN would prefer to separate Jews from the 60+ year old Arab struggle against the colonial, racist movement that is Zionism. Why wouldn’t IJAN show true solidarity with Palestinians by joining an existing movement, rather than leading one of their own? For this, he was told that his question was disruptive, and was invited to leave the room. He left and a delightful woman from Ethiopia also took her leave, commenting on the rigid structure of this IJAN group.

A new friend from the UK sends some comfort with his analysis:

This is so familiar, Henry. If you are not hounded out for saying the kind of things you said, you are excluded by that ‘for God sake let’s get back to discussing nothing’ syndrome. Discussing nothing, in all sorts of interesting ways, is a great pastime. Discussing something is threatening, so you dismiss it as boring! Almost all the discussions within Jewish circles, and Jewish-loving circles, are an endless recycling of myths, from which a warm glow of superiority and self-righteousness is derived.

We suggest that IJAN consider changing its name to International Jewish Network, and get on with it …

JWPF Presents at the US Social Forum

Eight people attended our presentation, “Synagogue Vigils: Six Years of Challenging Judaic Zionism” on Friday. A lengthy Q&A followed and was marked by a noteworthy openness. Two Jewish men aired their concerns, and we listened. The younger one expressed how he was very new to anti-Zionist views, and appeared to be in full-learning mode, thankful for our views. The other man was a member of JVP (Bay area), and maybe he’ll think about later what he heard on Friday. The same Ethiopian woman whom we met Wednesday gushed praises for JWPF, and was absolutely floored by the revelation that Jews have to be taught how to “advocate” for Israel. She was told how to get her own copy of the Hasbara Handbook.

Seven vigilers
Zionists (and many “anti-Zionists”) Out of the Peace Movement
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends
Comment on our Reports at
* – name changed to protect the innocent

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