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Martin Federman: Bullies on the Block

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    The Jewish community loses credibility when we attack certain churches. Bullies on the block By Martin R. Federman
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 5, 2007
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      The Jewish community loses credibility when we attack certain

      Bullies on the block
      By Martin R. Federman

      I grew up in ethnically diverse Queens, N.Y. Still, one day the
      Rexall gang stopped Sheldon, Lloyd and me after Hebrew School,
      pushing us around. Our supposed insult was what they expected from a
      bunch of "little Yids." Unexpectedly, Lloyd dropped his books,
      stomped toward the shul muttering "I'm calling the cops." After some
      more shoves and unpleasant language, they took off.

      I remembered this recently when reading the Dec. 22 front-page story
      in the Advocate of "Jewish activists" targeting Cambridge churches
      because of space given or rented to people who question Israeli
      policies. These "activists" certainly have the right to disagree
      with anyone. There is, however, irony inherent in the belief that
      they are protected by free speech, yet the same protection is not
      available to others. The rationale usually given (as quoted in the
      Advocate's coverage) is that those using the facilities are "hotbeds
      of anti-Semitism."

      Let's be clear - there are some vicious anti-Semites out there, and
      some do use anti-Israel and anti-Zionist rhetoric to cover it. The
      targeted churches, however, have warm relations with the Jewish
      community and even a history of support for Israel. Nevertheless,
      the "activists" cannot abide anyone criticizing any of Israel's
      policies. Since they cannot simply silence these voices (freedom of
      speech, you know), they use the one indefensible accusation: anti-
      Semitism. Since this is rightly a heinous accusation, old friends
      are intimidated into doing anything to insulate themselves from it.
      Consequently, these churches are frightened into second-guessing any
      connection with voices possibly unacceptable to Jews.

      A pernicious aspect of these tactics is that they target groups like
      Sabeel and its director, the Rev. Naim Ateek. Despite Ateek's
      frequent recognition of Israel and his wish to interact with it and
      to promote a non-violent strategy within the Palestinian resistance
      movement, he has been slandered, his words taken out of context. In
      reality, voices like Ateek's are the ultimate threat to those who
      claim there are no Palestinian "moderates," lest the lie that "there
      is no partner for peace" be exposed. The contemptible strategy
      of "activists" like The David Project has been to attack Ateek and
      now our Christian neighbors with that label "anti-Semite."

      I'm not so worried about the individual "activists." Like the Rexall
      bullies of my childhood, we need Lloyds to tell them that we won't
      be intimidated. I'm more concerned by The David Projects and CAMERAs
      out there with immense resources to disseminate misinformation
      dressed as fact. But most frightening is the realization that, as
      quoted in the Advocate, these bullies are supported by our
      institutional agencies. If the Jewish Community Relations Council,
      an agency with a well-deserved history of defending civil rights, is
      intervening in conversations with our Christian allies on the side
      of our short-sighted Jewish bullies, we are in trouble.
      Rather than attacking Christians who have proven to be our allies,
      we should be working with them. Only then will we have the
      credibility to address the threat of the real anti-Semites.

      Martin R. Federman, a Jewish educator, is co-chair of the Boston
      Chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace.



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