"Israel's Jewish Defamers" Conference
- Right-wing media watch dog group's conference on "Israel's Jewish
Defamers." "The CAMERA people are losing and they know it."
Philip Weiss and Tony Karon both chime in and Ben Harris at the Jewish
Telegraphic Agency provides excellent coverage, while I offer my own
personal observation below.
We told you about the CAMERA Israel's Defamers conference.
Enemy number one? The respected Israeli paper Ha'aretz. Harris reports:
In her opening remarks, [CAMERA director Andrea] Levin insisted
that it is not criticism that is at issue, but defamation, which, when
coming from Jews, is afforded added potency. She singled out Israel's
Ha'aretz newspaper, one of the country's most respected news sources
and through its English-language edition and Web site a chief
source of media perspective on Israel abroad. Levin accused the paper
of printing outright lies and failing to issue corrections, even when
the mistakes are pointed out.
David Landau, Ha'aretz's editor-in-chief, refused "as a matter
of policy and principle" to respond to the substance of Levin's
criticisms because they came from CAMERA, an organization that he
dismissed as "Mcarthyite."
"I advise your readers to relate to CAMERA's tendentious
statements and comments with the same measure of skepticism," Landau
said, "and to read Ha'aretz.com and draw their own conclusions as to
the veracity of our reporting and the contribution of our op-ed
columns to honest and caring debate within Israel and the Jewish world."
The most important statement Levin made was that she gets the
brushoff from Amos Schocken, the Haaretz publisher, but with the
American media, "there is an unwritten contract between them and us."
(Verbatim transcript to come later, when I have a little time ) An
unwritten contract: to be fair to Israel, to print CAMERA members'
letters, to pick up the phone.
Isn't that amazing and scandalous? Levin is explaining why there
is a free debate in Israel and not here. Because of the lobby and its
"unwritten contract." Because U.S. support is crucial to Israel's
existence. And so Americans, who supposedly so love the Middle East
democracy that they support it out of the goodness of their hearts,
must not read the news from Israel.
Enemy number 2? Rabbi Michael Lerner. Harris continues:
The real heat at the conference came later, with a tour de force
from celebrated author Cynthia Ozick, whose presentation, "Reflections
on Apostasy," vilified Jews who appear to identify with the enemies of
the Jewish people. Ozick reserved particular vitriol for Rabbi Michael
Lerner, editor of the left-wing journal Tikkun and a frequent critic
After ridiculing him as a "garrulous mime," questioning the
validity of his rabbinical ordination, and slapping him with a flurry
of unflattering adjectives chaotic, disorganized,
self-contradictory, puerile, and unbearably long-winded, to name but a
few Ozick accused the yarmulke-wearing rabbi of providing Jewish
sanction to some of Israel's most implacable foes.
"Only imagine Karl Marx davening and you will comprehend the
dazzlement of Rabbi Lerner's current achievement," Ozick said.
Lerner is "one of a growing band of ambitious, self-touting Jews
whose hostility to the State of Israel more and more takes on the
character of the spite that kills," she said. "The noise they make
they call a silencing. The debate they attract they call a censoring."
And who is losing? Philip Weiss, who went and discovered a largely
older and in many ways sympathetic crowd of familiar Jews who still
saw the world was against them, wrote:
The CAMERA people are losing and they know it. Near the end
Cynthia Ozick was asked how we should go about delegitimizing the
delegitimizers of the Jewish state and she sighed and said, "It's
hopeless." Alvin Rosenfeld, the author of the disgraceful report on
Jewish anti-Semitism put out by the American Jewish Committee, was
mildly more optimistic. He said exactly what I say: "We are in a
furious intellectual struggle. There is a war of ideas going on it
won't end quickly . It is steady work." And it is "serious and
worrisome" inasmuch as these ideas may now "enter the mainstream." Amen.
Tony Karon weighed in on the whole question of the decline of support
for Jewish nationalism.
One reader (thanks, Sasha!) pointed out this glum editorial by
arch-Zionist and neocon Daniel Pipes, warning that even if it
overcomes all the mortal threats that neocons like to see all around
Israel, that won't help it cope with what he calls Israel's ultimate
challenge "a Jewish population increasingly disenchanted with, even
embarrassed by, the country's founding ideology, Zionism, the Jewish
national movement." (Actually, Daniel, I'd call it the Jewish
nationalist movement, but let's not quibble here.)
It's worth quoting at lenght from Pipes' piece:
"Worse for Israel, Jewish nationalism has lost the near-automatic
support it once had among secular Jews, many of whom find this
nineteenth-century ideology out of date. Some accept arguments that a
Jewish state represents racism or ethnic supremacism, others find
universalist and multi-cultural alternatives compelling. Consider some
signs of the changes underway:
* Young Israelis are avoiding the military in record numbers,
with 26 percent of enlistment-age Jewish males and 43 percent of
females not drafted in 2006. An alarmed Israel Defense Forces has
requested legislation to deny state-provided benefits to Jewish
Israelis who do not serve.
* Israel's Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has up-ended the
work of the Jewish National Fund, one of the pioneer Zionist
institutions (founded in 1901) by determining that its role of
acquiring land specifically for Jews cannot continue in the future
with state assistance.
* Prominent Israeli historians focus on showing how Israel was
conceived in sin and has been a force for evil. Israel's ministry of
education has approved school books for third-grade Arab students that
present the creation of Israel in 1948 as a `catastrophe' (Arabic: nakba).
* Avraham Burg, scion of a leading Zionist household and
himself a prominent Labor Party figure, has published a book comparing
Israel with 1930s Germany.
* A 2004 poll found only 17 percent of American Jews call
themselves `Zionist.' "
On a personal note, I (Cecilie) was moved by Philip Weiss's report
that the attendees, largely older NY Jews, fearful, felt like his
people. Some of them literally could have been my people.
The truth is that I could never have enough compassion for my elderly
relative who still lives with the trauma of barely surviving the 900
day siege of Leningrad, who watched her uncle starve to death in front
of her, (actually, well over 1 million people starved to death in
front of her), whose parents sent her there for safety but who
disappeared forever into the inferno of war and gas chambers. That she
is alive is a miracle. And that she thinks I'm one of Israel's
defamers for drawing attention to what the Israeli government is doing
that is simply wrong on every level, is understandable. What I do
makes her feel less safe. If there is no mythical fortress Israel,
then what could ever save us?
We are a traumatized people. Many of our elders are deeply
traumatized, still. I didn't see my father express any emotion at all
about what happened to his aunts, uncles, cousins and grandmother
until he was 80 years old and completely lost all composure in one
moment. Most of my life, he has brushed off the topic by deflecting
I have compassion for the elders like those who attend CAMERA
conferences - feeling reaffirmed in their sense that the world is
against them. It is virtually impossible for them to open their eyes
and ears to all the ways that groups like CAMERA are actually
diminishing any possibility of a future that is safe for Jews in
Israel. They are too scared, too damaged.
I do not have that same compassion for our so-called Jewish leaders
who "lead" with demonization and fear. And who insist that the way to
support and love the Jews is to insure that all of us be protected
from reality, and to insist that we enable unspeakable acts that
ultimately and ironically, make all of us less safe.
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