Judeo-Fascists Attack Jews for Justice
Posted May 7, 2010

Judeo-Fascists Attack Jews for Justice

by Dr. Robert D. Crane

Founding Chairman of the Center for Understanding Islam

  Right after 9/11 almost a decade ago, when the campaign against Muslims went into high gear, one of the most forthright supporters of Islam as a religion of compassionate justice was Rabbi Michael Lerner.  He joined the Center for Understanding Islam as a member of its five-person Board of Advisers, together with Karen Armstrong and Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, to help explain the distinction between the essence of Islam as a religion and the extremists who claimed to represent it. 

  Now the shoe is on the other foot with Jewish extremists attacking Rabbi Lerner for defending the essence of the Jewish religion in his Network of Spiritual Progressives and in his magazine, Tikkun, which means “to heal and transform the world”.  Before her husband was elected President of the United States, Rabbi Lerner was a spiritual adviser of Hillary Clinton.

  Death threats to Rabbi Lerner have been a standard response for years to his critique of Israeli policies toward the Muslims and Christians in the Holy Land.  Phone calls carried such threats as “Rabbi Lerner is dead” and “We will kill all of you.”
During the night of May 2-3, 2010, terrorists escalated the threat by attacking his home in Berkeley, California.  Posters glued to his door and around his property branded him as a terrorist and a supporter of Islamo-Fascism. 

  “By linking Lerner to terrorism,” according to the Tikkun statement of May 4th, “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 as they occur, including the shelling of Israeli towns by Hamas, just as he critiques the violence of 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 in many Arab and African countries (and in the United states and Israel as well), the genocide in Darfur, the violence against Jews in some parts of Europe, and the list goes on”.

    The occasion for the attack earlier this week was Rabbi Michael Lerner’s support for Judge Goldstone who chaired the official U.N. investigation of the crimes against humanity perpetrated by Israel’s attack in January 2009 on the people of Gaza.  His report called on the Israeli government to do its own independent, public and credibly objective investigation, punish those responsible for the crimes or show that they did not happen, and thereby show that these actions were not government policy but the mistakes or evil choices by people in the IDF who were acting as rogue elements and not as a manifestation of the people of Israel.

  Rabbi Lerner had announced that next year in 2011 Tikkun will celebrate its 25th anniversary by awarding Judge Goldstone its prestigious Tikkun award.  Next to a caricature of Judge Goldstone on Rabbi Lerner’s lawn was a printed bumper sticker that read “Fight Terror - Support Israel”, to which a caricature of Rabbi Lerner responded “An enemy of Israel is a friend of mine”.

  Unfortunately, the police say that this attack was not a hate crime, because the attack was on Lerner for his politics, not for his religion. 

  The new labeling of Rabbi Lerner and his Network of Spiritual Progressives as “anti-Semitic” and “Islamo-Fascist” lumps the majority of Jews who oppose Israeli policies with Muslims who oppose these policies for the same reasons, thus strategically turning both of them into an alleged common threat to America.

  As yet, no major newspaper or TV station has covered this threat to free speech.  It is important that Muslims, Jews, Christians, and everyone who cares about justice and freedom contact the news media about this case and also urge the officials of the U.S. Government to launch a full-field investigation to show that such efforts to silence non-violent activism will not be tolerated.  For media addresses, the simplest source is http://www.spiritualprogressives.org/article.php/media.

  For further comment on Judeo-fascist attacks on Jews for justice the best so far is Peter Marmorek’s article (from Tikkun magazine) below, “Adolf Hitler, Michael Lerner, and I”, as well Gabe Epstein’s comment on this article, both from May 5th, 2010.

  Remember Martin Niemoller’s famous statement in Nazi Germany:

“They came first for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

Adolf Hitler, Michael Lerner, and I
by: Peter Marmorek

This is a story I have always known, a story I grew up with. It is the story of how in Germany on Kristallnacht, Nov 9th, 1938 the mob which was destroying the houses of all the Jews in Mainz came to the house in which my Jewish grandparents lived. There they were met by Maria, my family’s Catholic cook, who faced the mob and said, “Why are you here? You know these people and you know they have done nothing to harm you.” And the people left the house untouched.

Nor was this the only story my grandmother told me of such kindnesses. I heard of their gardener, who had to be let go because Jews were not allowed to keep Christian servants, and who became Hitler’s gardener, and managed to get vegetables to my grandparents during the first two years of the war before they were able to escape. And when they did leave, the butcher gave them a smoked beef tongue, which they ate while riding the trans-Siberian railroad till they got to Vladivostok, where they took a ship which got through Japan before Pearl Harbor, and eventually landed in Seattle, where they were able to tell me these stories as I grew up. My grandmother told me the stories to teach me that not all Germans were bad. I remember that she said the Holocaust could happen anywhere; it could happen in Canada, or in the United States. And with that absolute sense of certainty about the world that teenagers have, I claimed that it could never happen here. Now, forty plus years later, I believe she was right and I was wrong. But sadly, I cannot tell her that in person. I can only show her that through what I do in the world.

Michael Lerner and Tikkun Magazine led directly to my involvement in Tikkun Toronto, and to Tikkunista, the weekly magazine I edit and publish online. Recently he has supported Judge Goldstone (author of the report critical of many Israeli actions during “Operation Cast Lead”) against those who threatened to disrupt his grandson’s bar mitzvah. Two nights ago Rabbi Lerner’s house was vandalized, with posters accusing him of being an Islamo-fascist. Phone calls to Tikkun Magazine have said, “Rabbi Lerner is dead”, and “We will kill all of you”.

I wish I could say I were as surprised as I am horrified. But increasingly those Jews who do not support the actions of the Israeli government are being demonized, called anti-Semitic, or self-hating Jews. And as the number of Jews critical of Israel continues to grow, the vehemence with which they are attacked increases. In some ways, this is a positive sign: I think of Gandhi’s saying, “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win .” We have clearly moved up to the third stage.

I drifted into this debate by chance. On Sept. 6th, 2001, as I was starting into the landing approach that would take me out of teaching high school, two young women persuaded me to become the staff advisor for the Muslim Student association at my school, explaining that all I had to do was find classrooms for Friday prayers, and explain to other staff what that was about. I was the only Jewish teacher in the school, but I taught World Religions, and they knew I knew about Islam and was unbiased. I accepted the next day, and four days later it was September 11th, and everything changed. I helped to put on school wide presentations about what Islam was and was not. I helped organize a presentation on the history of the Middle East, with Muslim, Christian, and Jewish speakers. I helped put on an Iftar, a dinner to break the Ramadan Fast that drew 500 students, 250 not Muslim. And as I did this, I learned a lot about my own prejudices along the way. (The marvellous thing about teaching is that if you’re doing it right, you learn more teaching than your students do.) A year later, when I was told about Tikkun Toronto, and its political actions to build a bridge between Jews and Muslims and to try and heal wounds, I realized that as a Jew my voice mattered in this discussion more than in so many other worthy fights for justice.

It is hard, and dangerous to speak truth to power. Power doesn’t like those people who stand in its way. Sometimes they get run over by a steam roller; more often they are made to recognize the cost that they will have to pay to continue to speak out. I am not Muslim; I am not Palestinian, so why should I speak out? Perhaps because I grew up hearing Martin Niemöller’s famous statement:

“They came first for the communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

Perhaps because I remember Edmund Burke’s, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Perhaps I should speak out because I remember hearing about Maria standing up against her people, and knowing that may have been why my grandparents survived the Holocaust. It would be a lie to say I don’t feel personal fear when I hear of Lerner’s house being attacked. But it would be worse than a lie if I let that fear silence me. I owe it to my history to speak out.

Comment:  Excellent piece, Peter! Exactly my sentiments. Thanks.

Having grown up (white and Jewish) in Apartheid South Africa, I witnessed brave souls from many backgrounds and diverse walks of life step out of their fear and their comfort zones, in one way or another, to confront evil. (I did some of that too, before and after I left.) I have spent much of my life (and my teaching and community activism) working with others, speaking out for truth and justice — and I believe we need / the world needs a lot of that these days, in so many arenas.

One arena that springs to mind is the horrendous drift towards authoritarianism and the legalization of bigotry in the form of restrictions on what one can or cannot wear in public (Quebec, Belgium, France, Italy, etc.), on the public display of religious symbols (France), on how one builds one’s place of worship (no minarets in Switzerland), etc. I believe it’s time not only for speaking out against such laws, but for direct action / civil disobedience (in Belgium, say) in the form of vast numbers of people donning forbidden garb and getting themselves arrested (and refusing to pay any fines levied against them).

The struggle may be long (and get nasty) but:

“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.
Do justly, now.
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly, now.
You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
(The Talmud)


A Hate Crime with a Religious Motive, Becky O’Malley http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2010-05-04/article/35230?headline=A-Hate-Crime-with-a-Religious-Motive 
An Outbreak of Civility, Rabbi Amy Eilberg http://www.startribune.com/yourvoices/92912089.html?elr=KArks:DCiUMEaPc:UiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUU
Dershowitz’ Lies: There He Goes Again, Richard Silverstein http://www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun_olam/2010/05/04/dershowitz-lies-there-he-goes-again/
Jewish groups denounce attack on Lerner http://www.jta.org/news/article/2010/05/05/2394674/jewish-groups-denounce-attack-on-lerner
Pro-Israel Hooligans Vandalize Michael Lerner’s Home, Richard Silverstein http://www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun_olam/2010/05/03/dershowitz-and-the-climate-of-incitement-pro-israel-hooligans-vandalize-michael-lerners-home/
Rabbinic Letter to Goldstone http://mondoweiss.net/2010/04/rabbinic-letter-to-goldstone-your-report-is-a-clarion-call-to-israel-and-the-jewish-people-to-awaken-from-the-slumber-of-denial-and-return-to-the-path-of-peace.html
Rabbi Lerner’s Home Attacked by Right-Wing Zionists http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/rabbi_lerners_home_attacked_by_right-wing_zionists/0018051 
Rabbi Michael Lerner: Polemics and Distortions Are Anti-Peace, Suzette Standring http://www.huffingtonpost.com/suzette-standring/rabbi-michael-lerner-pole_b_565326.html
Spiritual and Religious Progressives Invite Secular Progressives to Join in a United Strategy http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/spiritual_and_religious_progressives_invite_secular_progressives_to_join_in/0018052
Vandalism anywhere is not tolerable http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/57974/vandalism-anywhere-is-not-tolerable/