Friday, May 7, 2010

Tikkun Daily Blog � Blog Archive � A Right-Wing Zionist Threat: Vandals Strike Tikkun Editor’s Home

The phones have been ringing off the hook here as word spreads of the threatening intrusion upon our editor’s home. It’s heartening to hear some empathetic voices after weathering the days of hate mail that followed Tikkun’s decision topresent an award to Judge Goldstone for standing up for human rights in Israel/Palestine.

Sometime late last night or in the wee hours of the morning, vandals glued threatening posters to Rabbi Lerner’s door and around his home. Some posters attacked Lerner personally; others targeted liberals and progressives more generally, accusing them of supporting terrorism and “Islamo-fascism.” Here’s an excerpt from the statement that he and his assistant Will Pasley sent out via email this afternoon:

They posted a printed bumper sticker saying “fight terror — support Israel” next to a caricature of Judge Goldstone whose UN report on Israel’s human rights violations in its attack on Gaza last year has been denounced as anti-Semitic and pro-terror by right wingers in Israel and the U.S. The caricature has Goldstone talking about his being kept from his grandson’s bar mitzvah, and the caricature of Rabbi Lerner responds by saying “any enemy of Israel is a friend of mine” …

In the 24 years of Tikkun’s operation, we have received many death threats and vicious hate mail, including phone calls to our office announcing that “Rabbi Lerner is dead” and others saying “We will kill all of you.” This particular attack has two worrisome elements not previously there: 1. They attack Rabbi Lerner’s home. As law enforcement people told us, this is a way of conveying the message to Lerner: “We know where you live, we know your house is vulnerable, so don’t ignore our threats.” 2. By linking Lerner to alleged terrorism, they provide for themselves and other extremists a “right-wing justification” to use violence against Lerner, even though Lerner has been a prominent advocate of non-violence. He regularly critiques Palestinian acts of violence when they occur, including the shelling of Israeli towns by Hamas, just as he critiques the violence of the Israeli occupation, and as he critiques the U.S. war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the occupation of Chechnya by Russia, the occupation of Tibet by China, the human rights violations against their own people by the rulers of Iran, the acts of violence of those resisting the U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, the violence against women and homosexuals in many Arab and African countries (and in the U.S. and Israel as well), the genocide in Darfur, the violence against Jews in some parts of Europe, and the list goes on.

Needless to say, this latest attack, on Lerner’s home, has caused great concern to his family.

The full statement about the threatening intrusion on Rabbi Lerner’s home includes more information about Tikkun’s engagement with Judge Goldstone and the vitriolic reaction it has provoked from hate-filled critics. For background context it’s also worth reading the editorial on the Goldstone Report from Tikkun’s November/December 2009 issue, ourQ&A with Judge Goldstone, and Dave Belden’s post on this topic.

The vitriol has been particularly intense since April 29, when Alan Dershowitz published a hyperbolic screed against Lerner and the other rabbis who showed support for Goldstone. Dershowitz accused the rabbis of using the occasion of the controversy over Goldstone’s grandson’s bar mitzvah “to make virulently anti-Israel claims, including the blood libel that Israel deliberately targeted innocent Palestinian civilians without any military purpose” (as if the claim of a “military purpose” could ever justify attacks on innocent civilians). He went on to call them “bigoted … rabbis for Hamas,” building up to this ludicrous attack:

Not surprisingly, the worst of these rabbis (and that’s saying a lot), Michael Lerner, after attempting to politicize the bar mitzvah by offering his anti-Israel synagogue for the event, has decided to honor Richard Goldstone with Tikkun Magazine’s “Ethics Award.” I guess all it takes to be honored by Tikkun is to pass Lerner’s litmus test of lying about Israel. That’s Lerner’s definition of “ethics.”

It’s deeply saddening that the defensiveness around Israel has grown so great that any allegations of Israeli war crimes — even those bolstered by reports from respected human rights groups such as Amnesty International, B’Tselem,Breaking the Silence, Human Rights Watch, and Physicians for Human Rights — are dismissed in a kneejerk fashion as lies.

Michelle Goldberg, a senior correspondent at The American Prospect, wrote an incisive piece about the unfounded hysteria surrounding the Goldstone Report last fall:

Even given the extreme defensiveness typical of Israel’s government and its apologists, the reaction to Goldstone’s investigation has been astonishing in its hyperbolic fury…. [The critics'] ideology depends on Israel being the blameless victim. To criticize how Israel fights is to try to deny Israel the right to fight at all, since Israel is by definition a moral paragon. In this view, nothing Israel has done could invite Goldstone’s conclusions, so Goldstone must be driven by existential hostility to the Jewish people. Israel’s finance minister went so far as to call Goldstone an anti-Semite.

This takes more than a little chutzpah. In fact, those who wanted a fair hearing for Israel couldn’t have asked for a more honorable investigator. Goldstone is a Jew and a Zionist with an impeccable record as a defender of human rights. When he was appointed, Yuval Shany, the director of the Minerva Center for Human Rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, expressed happy surprise. “Richard Goldstone is a fair-minded jurist, and I don’t think anyone can say he’s hostile to Israel in any way,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

Tony Klug’s article in the May/June issue of Tikkun raises similar concerns about how instrumental claims of anti-Semitism are being leveled against legitimate (Jewish and non-Jewish) critics of Israeli policy in order to silence them. He writes:

It now seems that it is the stance that groups and individuals take toward the Israeli state and the policies of its government of the day, that is becoming, bit by bit, the standard by which anti-Semitism is measured and assessed, steadily replacing the former gold standard of enmity toward the Jews qua Jews.

Many of the people who have called in today have asked what they can do to be supportive. Here’s our answer: please try to raise awareness in your communities that this sort of thing is happening in the Jewish world to people who critique Israeli policies.

Tikkun Daily Blog � Blog Archive � A Right-Wing Zionist Threat: Vandals Strike Tikkun Editor’s Home

The ASEM Dialogue: Opportunities For Southeast Asia?

Indonesia’s participation in the sixth Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) interfaith dialog held in Madrid, Spain from 7-9 April, themed as "Consolidation of Religious Freedom and of Mutual Knowledge of Societies through Inter-religious and Intercultural Dialogue" sent across the message of a gradually strengthening Europe-Southeast Asia bilateral relations. The three-day meeting brought together 200 delegates from ASEM partners, and was co-hosted by Spain and Pakistan and sponsored by 14 ASEM partners, including Austria, The Netherlands, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, Britain, Germany, Italy, China, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, and Thailand. It becomes imperative to analyse this dialogue for political and economic connotations, specifically for Indonesia which is the largest Muslim, pluralistic country among the initiators of the dialogue.

The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) is an informal get-together that addresses political, economic, and cultural issues with the objective of strengthening the relationship between the two regions in a spirit of informality and equal partnership. Recently, these issues have been further broadened to include human rights, rule of law, global health threats, sustainable development, and intercultural and interfaith dialogues. Apolitical and cultural dialogues become important as they hold the prospect of improving bilateral relations between countries.

To begin with, there is a need to explore the various facets of this dialogue and its working. The key characteristics of ASEM include four main pillars. First is the ‘informality’ which provides an open forum for policy makers and officials to discuss any political, economic, and social issue of common interest rather than duplicate the work already being carried out in the bilateral and multilateral forums. Second is the ‘multi-dimensionality’ which covers the full spectrum of relations between the two regions and devotes equal weight to political, economic, and cultural issues. Third is the ‘emphasis on equal partnership’ which eschews any aid-based relationship. Last, is the ‘Dual focus’ on high-level and people-to-people contact which provides a platform for a meeting of the heads of the states, and an increasing focus on fostering contacts between societies in all sectors of the two regions.

Although it creates a multilateral forum for a much encompassing cooperation in terms of issues among the members, a critical assessment of the ASEM Dialogue exhibits a rather dismal picture of its role and existence. First, the only permanent physical institution of ASEM, the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) established in the year 1997 has never been in the limelight or used as a concrete platform for discussions on serious issues.

Second, Interfaith Dialogue is a tricky and consequently rarely tackled subject in Europe. European countries are diversely populated and some of them – like France, Germany, Denmark or Belgium – currently question their relation with their Muslim populations and its links with immigration, unemployment, and extremism issues. Therefore, it becomes imperative for Europe to develop some kind of an intra-European dialogue simultaneously to provide a platform for the religious, ethnic, and cultural issues of people within the region rather than imparting all the attention to a multilateral dialogue with Asian nations. Could the ASEM Interfaith Dialogue, if taken seriously by all participants, be a first step towards a better understanding within Europe? Does Asia serve as a role model on that matter? And what can Indonesia specifically bring to the Dialogue?

The inter-religious organization, ASEM fails to shed any light on this. The dialogue does discuss issue of economic cooperation and transaction of meagre grants from Europe to Asian nations. This is very nominal taking into account the lump sum deals among European Union and Indonesia or with any other Asian member. Therefore, ASEM needs to prioritize and choose issues of relevance rather than expanding the list with human rights, rule of law as they are purely political in character.

It is important to remember that ASEM is not a substitute for existing bilateral or multilateral forums between Asia and Europe. However, through the ASEM dialogue, Indonesia can garner collaborative synergies and optimally utilize them as a catalyst for enhancing overall Southeast Asia-Europe relations. It is evident from the past ASEM dialogues that this level of informal engagement with Europe holds great significance for the Indonesian Foreign Policy. It acts as a bridge to reduce the existing economic gap between the two regions. ASEM can also be utilized by Indonesia as a medium to strengthen its position among the Asian countries.

ASEM has definitely helped Europe and Asia in having a more global vision and promoted the overall Asia-Europe relations on international and inter-regional issues of common interest. By bringing together different cultures and civilizations, ASEM fosters common understanding and dialogue and this should be encouraged.

The ASEM Dialogue: Opportunities For Southeast Asia?