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.