Category Archives: Adalah

THE TWO SIDES OF JFREJ

 

THE TWO SIDES OF JFREF

1.  I now renounce the State of Israel, disavow any political connection or emotional obligation to it, and declare myself its enemy.”  Henry Schwarzschild, 1982, Winner of JFREJ’s Meyer Award, 1995.

2.“We partner with community organizations that are led by low-income folks, people of color, and immigrant communities, working on campaigns to make changes in the lives of individuals and result in the long-term systemic changes that are about overcoming systems of oppression.,,,People ask, ‘Why don’t you work on national or international issues? Why just New York?’ We follow a tradition called doykayt, which can be translated as here-ness. It’s about working where you are, that where you are is home. That’s the place where you can and should work–where you can make the most impact. Staying local is very key to the work that we do.” Marjorie Dove Kent, JFREJ Executive Director July 2013

As background for a discussion of New York’s Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) some words about political groups in general.  At the risk of oversimplification, we may broadly categorize political thought as either fringe (which I shall call esoteric) or  conventional (which I shall call exoteric). The hallmark of the esoteric, of course, is that it is based on presumed special illumination and is thus accessible only to the initiated. Exoteric thought, on the other hand, acknowledges rational argument and is thus, at least in principle, publicly accessible.  Esoteric movements include the various Marxist sects, extreme right-wing groups like the Ku Klux Klan, and religious movements like Jehovah’s Witnesses and some of the branches of the Disciples of Christ.

JFREJ — New York’s own Jews for Racial and Economic Justice — has a problem.  On the one hand it has an esoteric (hidden to all but the initiates) core ideology (1. above) which few would accept, viz. fanatic enmity toward Israel.  On the other hand the group seeks to influence the larger Jewish community.  What to do ?  Well, there is an answer, fashioned some ninety years ago by the group’s Stalinist forebears:  create exoteric (publicly accessible and publicly acceptable) “front” activities (see 2. above) that will serve to veil its esoteric aims and, at the same time, serve to drag in the “innocents.”  The (exoteric) lure consists of a seemingly benign program for “democracy,” for “justice,” against “racism,” against “Islamophobia.”

[Please see my previous posting in which I have given more detail about the JFREJ’s dynamics and have shown numerous instances in which the group lets slip its veil of normalcy and reveals its esoteric core.  And click here to read an excerpt from Hannah Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism concerning the function of Communist and Nazi front organizations. This excerpt is, in fact, an indispensable text for the understanding of JFREJ.  As I see it, JFREJ’s  basic similarity to the totalitarian movements of the last century lies in having an esoteric ideology coupled with techniques of transmitting this doctrine in exoteric forms.]

But there is a dilemma.  If there is a an esoteric aim that is completely hidden behind the exoteric day-to-day work, how can that aim ever be realized ?  In other words:  if your true aim is to abolish Israel but you never say this to your followers, you cannot  expect these followers to take the necessary steps to accomplish the aim.  In actual fact, the dilemma is unsolvable as long as the inner cadre refrains from pushing the esoteric program. Of course if it were to practice such restraint, it would, in its own eyes, betray its holy mission.  This it will not do;  this it has not done. So we see, over and over again, that the generally hidden aim becomes revealed, albeit with some discretion.  Here we can see the difference between a deep-cover organization like an espionage ring, which can consistently hide its aims to the public, and an esoteric political movement, which must reveal its inner core from time to time in order to accomplish its  proselytizing mission.

In addition to the extensive evidence of its anti-Israel work that I have shown previously, it is revealing to look at the list of its leadership and, perhaps even more important, the list of those to whom it has awarded its annual “Meyer” awards. As I have noted in my previous posting, these recipients include Tony Kushner, Debbie Almontaser, Adam Shapiro, and Henry Schwarzschild, among others.  Adam Shapiro, honored by JFREJ with a special award in 2003, is among the few anti-Israel activists who does not shy away from actually urging, rather than just winking at,  Arab violence against Israel.  But the tone-setting annual JFREJ award was the first one, in 1995, to Henry Schwarzschild, who died a year later (see above).

When we look at the current list of JFREJ leadership, we find, for instance, the board member Daniel Rosza Lang/Levitsky, who is described as “a puppeteer, designer, organizer and agitator based at Brooklyn’s Glitter House. 3rd-generation radical; 2nd-generation queer. Active in JFREJ since 1999, on the Board since 2010. Co-founder of Jews Against the Occupation/NYC, Palestine Activist Forum (now Adalah-NY).”  Of those on the “Rabbinic Council,” it is hard to find a single one who lacks an extensive hate-Israel background, but a man identified as Michael Feinberg, even in this lamentable group, stands out for the violence of his expressed hatred for the Jewish state.   Feinberg sits on the “Rabbinic Council” not only of JFREJ but also on that of Jewish Voice for Peace, one of the most notorious hate-Israel groups in the United States.   (See the ADL description of JVP here.)

Another link of JFREJ to JVP is the married couple Donna Nevel/Alan Levine.  Both are members of JVP.  Nevel is a founding member of JFREJ, and Levine is the 2013 recipient of JFREJ’s Meyer Award.  Nevel, an anti-Israel activist, has written a revealing account  of JFREJ’s esoteric-exoteric tension from her own perspective.

Overall, by looking at all the personalities that are publicly associated with JFREJ, we find that almost all are also engaged in the anti-Israel work of related organizations.  This, as I have shown, is particularly true of Marjorie Dove Kent, JFREJ’s Executive Director.

JFREJ is currently involved in “partnerships” with at least two mainline Brooklyn synagogues, one Reform, one Conservative.  I have written to the rabbi and lay leadership of one of these, pointing to the hate-Israel nature of the group.  I have not yet received a reply.  Another mainline rabbi of my acquaintance has commented that JFREJ does “very good work” in inter-racial activity and is not, as far as he knows, involved in anything to do with Israel.  None are so blind as those who will not see. These are the “useful innocents” that the Stalinist core cadre has always relied on as “transmission belts” to a larger audience.

Well, does it matter ?  Indeed it does.  I have seen more than one impressionable young person become radicalized by the allure of the exoteric veneer of such groups, only to be consequently initiated into the esoteric hard core. There are families that have been torn.  Hint to mainline Jewish congregations:  do we really need to “partner” with this kind of outfit ?

 

The Radical Chic of Ms. Naomi Chazan; or Pride Precedeth the Fall

Ms. Naomi Chazan
President, New Israel Fund

Mada al Carmel, another group funded by the NIF, authored the “Haifa Declaration.” Here are a few gems from that document: “Towards the end of the 19th century, the Zionist movement initiated its colonial-settler project in Palestine. Subsequently, in concert with world imperialism … it succeeded in carrying out its project, which aimed at occupying our homeland … The Zionist movement committed massacres against our people … the State of Israel enacted racist land, immigration, and citizenship laws [a reference to the Law of Return] … Israel carried out policies of subjugation and oppression in excess of those of the apartheid regime in South Africa.Israel Harel, Haaretz correspondent

Old Leonard Bernstein had a funny thing going — a spot of radical chic — with muscled Black anti-Semitism. More recently, a Jewish American university and a Jewish American college president did it with an anti-Israel Palestinian group in Jerusalem.

But now a new radical chic scandal has exploded in the Israeli press. It seems that the New Israel Fund , an ostensible pro-Israel charitable group, has diverted substantial funds to a number of radical anti-Israel groups. The details are given in a long, detailed, sober Report issued by the Zionist organization Im Tirtzu. (The IT report includes only groupings that contributed to the notorious Goldstone Report but does not mention other anti-Israel groups supported by NIF, for instance Mada al Carmel.) In turn, Im Tirtzu is being denounced, almost comically, by the NIF and its political supporters: McCarthyism !Fascism !

[OK — I cannot resist a small aside on the idiocy of these two epithets. 1) Those who use “McCarthyism” today, generally ignorant of the historical context of 1950’s Soviet espionage and the crude backlash against it, imagine that the “victims of McCarthyism” had been totally innocent, totally loyal Americans. 2) Those who use the term “Fascism” here: what in fact do they think ? That right-wing Israelis today, like the Italian confederates of Hitler in WWII, are out to destroy democratic government ? It is true that some criticism of NIF has crossed the borders of good taste, but this hardly amounts to the capital crimes alleged by the extreme Left ]

Pride goes before ruin, arrogance before failure… (Prov. 16:18, new JPS translation)

But back to the NIF and Ms. Naomi Chazan, its current president. Some ten years ago I sat in an audience of American Jews whom she addressed in Jerusalem. Her message, as I recall it, was that Israel alone is to be blamed for the failure to achieve peace with the Arabs. She was impatient with us. At one time she explained that she is a political science professor and that therefore she can tell us a thing or two about how things really are. Nobody was much impressed with that argument, but the academics in the audience could hardly keep from laughing out loud.

Now, after much criticism of her handling of NIF funding, the consequent cancellation of her visit to Australia, and her dismissal from the Jerusalem Post, she again insists on her professorial authority: “As a politics professor, I know how to read reports,” she says to Haaretz, denouncing the IT study. But in the same interview she also makes an assertion that completely destroys her credibility, as it destroys the credibility of those of her supporters who make the same argument: “We really don’t support every single thing these organizations say, but we support their right to say it.”

The reference here is to Voltaire, who is often thought to have said, but apparently never did, that
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Voltaire or not, this is a noble sentiment which is more often quoted than followed. And it is sometimes used disingenuously, as it was by Chomsky in his connection with the Holocaust-deniers. It is used disingenuously here by Ms. Chazan:

1) There is nothing in the tradition of Voltaire, nor in that of the First Amendment, that suggests an inherent right to be financed by those who disagree with you. Does the right to free speech involve a right to receive money from your opponents ? Surely a professor of political science knows the answer to that one ? The Voltaire principle, in other words, cannot explain NIF financing of kooks.

2) If the Voltaire principle demands, as Ms. Chazan tells us she believes it does, the financing of unpopular viewpoints, she would be obligated to finance right-wing viewpoints as well. But where in the list of NIF recipients are there groups of right-wing settlers on the West Bank ? Where are the followers of the late Rabbi Kahane on NIF lists ? Again, it is obvious that the Voltaire principle, pace Ms. Chazan, cannot in fact be what motivates her or her followers.

Then there is the business of NIF financing by the Ford Foundation. Millions go from the FF to NIF each year, five million in 2008 alone. Part of this money is (indirectly) US taxpayer money, which the FF receives in great quantities through a variety of tax benefits. It is obvious to me that without such US-based funding, many of these far-left groups in Israel could not exist at all.

Ms. Chazan won’t like me for this, but I do think that old Henry Ford, wherever he may be up (or down) there, might not be altogether unhappy to see where his money is going today. Long before Adolf Hitler was heard from, old Henry published “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in his Dearborn Independent.

UPDATE (Feb. 17, 2010) The Organization “NGO Monitor” calls on the New Israel Fund to draw “red lines” to prevent the financing of anti-Israel propaganda. See the NGOM request HERE

UPDATE (February 24): Read the comprehensive report by David Bedein in the Jewish Week on the NIF scandal. Click HERE

READ: Professor Gerald M. Steinberg’s analysis: NIF And the Addiction to Power