Monday, October 15, 2007

The Israel Lobby Attacks the Sabeel Conference - Just As I Predicted

From this previous post, The Distinct Odour of Panic in The Israel Lobby,

“Herewith a bold prediction - timedated by me as 1:45pm on Thursday, October 11, 2007. Based on "The Distinct Odour of Panic"- within the next fortnight (using the term for 14 days to be consistent with the word "odour") there will be a quote from a "leader" (as proclaimed by the media) of the Jewish community labeling the Sabeel conference as either or both "Anti-Semitic" and "giving aid and comfort to Anti-Semites".


Herewith from today’s Boston Globe Sunday, October 14, 2007 - " ‘Anyone who uses apartheid as an accusation is really employing old anti-Zionist arguments - that's really what it is - and is really applying a double standard of judgment to Israel which can be traced to historic anti-Semitic rhetoric, that all things Jews do are evil, including their nationalism,’ Kaufman (the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston) said…. The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) … describes Sabeel as ‘an anti-Zionist organization that traffics in anti-Judaic themes.”

Message to CAMERA:
I went to the website of Sabeel and here is an excerpt from its purposes statement: “Sabeel strives to develop a spirituality based on love, justice, peace, nonviolence, liberation and reconciliation for the different national and faith communities.”
Which of these spiritual foundations do you believe to be anti-Judaic? If these are not Judaic, which themes are the core values of your vision of Judaism. How about this one: “You shall wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Germany.”

I noticed what I consider to be a significant, though subtle, change in reporting of the tension about the conference . The reporter writes that: the Sabeel Conference is rapidly becoming another source of tension between the “leadership of the Jewish community and mainline Protestant denominations”; “The major Jewish community organizations say”; “Tensions between mainline Protestants and Jews, largely at the level of organizational leaders”; and “Organizers say that the conference will be attended by a number of Jewish participants.”

The reporter, the long-time religion writer for the Boston Globe, seems to recognize that the conflict may not be between the Jewish community and the Protestant denominations but perhaps a few leaders of a few Jewish institutions and that these individuals are not speaking for the Jewish people but just for the boards of their institutions.

May we soon see the day when no credible journalist ever again takes seriously a statement from anyone that begins “the entire Jewish community thinks” or “area Jewish people all firmly support the policies of the Government of Israel”

I just received this comment from Marty Federman, the Co-Chairperson of the Boston Chapter of the Jewish Voice for Peace:

You're absolutely right in picking up the (maybe not so) subtle movement reflected in Paulson's reporting. The only thing I'm uncomfortable about is that the "Mainline Protestants" aren't the problem nor are their leaders. The Christians have really been very open. The problem is that JCRC et. al. aggressively pass themselves off as the Jewish voices (as the JCRC did in their attack on Bishop Tom Shaw and the Episcopal bishops a couple of years ago * ). When discussions were set up after that brouhaha, Bishop Shaw sent out an open invitation through the Mass Council of Churches inviting all those who felt they had an interest to be part of the Christian "delegation" - the JCRC hand-picked a group of Rabbis and lay leaders that covered the spectrum from barely middle to (a heavily weighted) very extreme right-wing/pro Israel policy group. The fact is that some in the Jewish community, such as members of groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and Tikkun, have had positive and productive relations with the leaders of many Protestant denominations. (There are a lot of "pro-Israel" Christians - Protestant and Catholic - but they are significantly part of the "Christian Zionist" and related movement, and not predominantly leaders or even semi-leaders of Main Stream denominations. And, even among evangelicals there are strong voices - like Jim Wallace, of Sojourner Magazine - that are outspoken supporters of human and civil rights, including for Palestinians, and an end to the Israeli Occupation.)

* Boston Globe - July 12, 2006 “Bishop M. Thomas Shaw of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, who five years ago jolted local Christian-Jewish relations by joining a pro-Palestinian demonstration in front of the Israeli Consulate in Boston, plans to reprise his performance today with another protest at the same location. Saying that his Christian faith does not allow him to remain silent in the face of Israel's incursions into Gaza, Shaw said he feels a moral obligation to call attention to the plight of Palestinians, both Christian and Muslim, and especially to an Episcopal hospital in Gaza, Al Ahli Arab, that he said is operating on a generator and is days from running out of electricity to care for its patients. . .. The Jewish community is planning a counter-demonstration today, said Nancy K. Kaufman, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council. Kaufman said Shaw's concerns ``are not a reason to demonstrate. They're a reason for us to have a meeting and to talk to the Israeli consul general," she said. … Shaw's decision to protest in front of the consulate in October 2001 shocked and angered the local Jewish community, which had been largely unaware of the depth of Protestant concern about Israeli government conduct.” (Blogger’s note – that’s totally unbelievable!!)”
Michael Paulson Boston Globe, July 12, 2006

I am so upset by the brutality, cruelty and injustice of the Government of Israel (duh!!) Day after day I pen (or is it pound) tirades describing, often more emotionally than well written, how what that government does is contrary to my view of Judaic themes. And yet, it seems that those who raise this subject can easily be referred to in the press as anti-Zionist, an anti-Semite, anti-Israel or, at least, a giver of aid to anti-Semites. (I assume that being an anti-Zionist or anti-Israel implies that the person is in favor of the destruction of the State of Israel.) Why would a reporter allow something that smacks of hate speech into a newspaper column without doing extensive research for evidence of proof? I can imagine being referred to as anti-Ohmert or anti-the Ohmert administration of Israel, the same way so many (including myself) would be proud to be referred to as anti-Bush or anti-the Bush administration. However, the good citizens of this country are quite hesitant to refer to the latter as anti-American. It is sad and inexcusable that The Israel Lobby has no such qualms about throwing around the phrases anti-Israel and anti-Semite.

MORE ASTOUNDING PREDICTIONS – 10:30am, Monday, October 15, 2007
With a record of 1 for 1, I herewith go out on a limb with three more:

1) I predict that the Boston Globe will give extensive coverage to tonight’s Boston Red Sox playoff game with the Cleveland Indians.

2) I predict that at the program tonight at the temple in Brookline sponsored by The Israel Lobby, the speaker, Former (Israeli) Ambassador Itamar Rabinovich, will NOT devote a significant amount of time reviewing the categories of brutal treatment of the Palestinians by the Government of Israel.

3) I predict that Secretary of the United States Rice in her “intense” effort to effect a meaningful peace conference involving Israel and the Palestinians will NOT threaten the Government of Israel by demanding that either it participate in good faith rather than “pressing for a vaguely worded document that would give it more room to maneuver” or the United States will suspend ALL military aid.

Speaking of the upcoming Sabeel Conference; here is one of the quotes from the handout I posted previously - a 2002 statement of Archbishop Desmond Tutu about the settlements in the West Bank and the occupation. (I apologize for not being able to cite the source.):

“In a region where repressive governments and unjust policies are the norm, Israel is certainly more democratic that most of its neighbors. This does not make dismantling the settlements any less of a priority. . Over 35 new settlements have been constructed this year. Each one is a step away from the safety deserved by the Israelis and two steps away from the justice owed to the Palestinians. If apartheid ended, so can the occupation, but the moral force and international pressure will have to be just as determined.”

A conference about applying the term Apartheid to the conflict between the Israels and the Palestinians is appropriate but we should not lose sight of the fact that the underlying primary cause of the plight of the Palestinians is not just the treatment of the Palestinians by the government of Israel but the 40 year occupation and that the FIRST step towards a just peace is that the government of Israel must

End the Occupation
End the Occupation
End the Occupation

Strangely enough, I do not think that this is an appropriate subject of negotiations at the peace conference. I believe that the occupation is such a violation - of international law, of UN resolutions, and the values of Judaism – that it should be UNILATERALLY ended by the Government of Israel. When you are committing a heinous wrong, you do not continue to do it and wait to discuss whether you might stop. If you do not, it is an obligation of all those individuals and governments who seek peace and justice to demand that you cease and desist.

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