Wednesday, August 1, 2012

NGO Monitor Coins an Anti-Semitic Slur: "Jew-Washing"

It's perfectly kosher for a rightwing Jewish organization like NGO Monitor to disagree vigorously with a leftwing organization like Jewish Voice for Peace. But in a recent op-ed in the New York Jewish Week,  Yiktzak Santis and Gerald Steinberg use the trademark tools of their organization --lies, half-truths, and insinuations -- to smear an organization they don't like. 

Still, something that is worth noting is their invention of a new anti-Semitic slur: "Jew-washing."

Before I get to that, let's start with the facts. 1. The Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to boycott settlement goods by a whopping 71% of the general assembly's membership. 2. A decision to divest from companies that profit from the occupation was narrowly defeated (by two votes). 3. The assembly voted to accept a recommendation that would allow individual pension holders to invest their pensions in companies that do not profit from the occupation.

Now let's move on to the Santis and Steinberg lies and half-truths. They begin their op-ed as follows:

At the Pittsburgh General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) earlier this month, a motion to adopt a boycott of three companies for doing business with Israel was hotly debated and narrowly defeated.  At this Christian gathering, a group of “young Jewish activists” provided important “testimony” supporting the motion to isolate and demonize Israel 

Lie.  There was no motion to boycott any company for doing business with Israel. As reported in the JTA, the motion was to divest from companies doing business with Israeli security forces in the West Bank, i.e., that directly benefit from the occupation. Santis and Steinberg knew this, and one can assume that they wrote what they do in order to defame those who supported the motion.

Even if JVP supported a total boycott of Israel, which it does not, that would be entirely irrelevant to the authors' misreporting of the motion. (And while we are on the subject of "lies," JVP is not  an "anti-Zionist group." It  includes Zionists, non-Zionists, anti-Zionists, two-staters, one-staters, no-staters, etc.)

Slur. The authors have the right to believe that this the motion isolates and defames Israel. But there was no "motion to isolate and demonize Israel." 

Half-truth.  Note that Santis and Steinberg referred to the defeat of the divestment motion. They did not mention the approval of the settlement boycott or providing their members with a way to divest personally. That would have made Jewish Voice for Peace less "fringe" like.

And now for "Jew-washing":

These were the “Jew-washers” – very visible actors in many such political attacks on Israel, particularly in Christian frameworks.  They are influential beyond their actual numbers, providing a convenient means for cleansing such actions from the stains of double standards, demonization and sometimes anti-Semitism against the Jewish state of Israel, and even Judaism itself.

"Jew-washers"? I guess what the authors mean is that JVP and other Jewish groups presents a veneer of Jewish respectability, a hekhsher, for the anti-Israel activities of the BDS'ers. And this is the first slur of what I shall call the "Nu, anti-Semitism!" 

What is the "Nu,  anti-Semitism!"? It is saying to Jews, "Nu, you have no right to say or act upon what you think. because that aids and abets  the anti-Semites” (defined as "people who provide criticisms of Israel that  we at NGO Monitor consider to be unfair.")

The "Nu, anti-Semitism!" is occasionally charitable enough to believe that the Jews in question are self-hating, or naive, or have unreasonable expectations of Israel, etc., etc. As the authors say, their intentions are irrelevant (in other words, such Jews lack the basic human right to be judged on the basis of their intentions.) But by hanging out the dirty laundry of the tribe for all to see, and, worse, by joining with the tribe's enemies (e.g., Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, etc.), they are "Jew-washing."

And the "evidence" for "Jew-washing" provided by Steinberg and Santis?

In many cases (sic) Jew-washing is also used to whitewash the blatant theological anti-Semitism that accompanies the church-based BDS attacks on Israel.  One example is Sabeel, a Palestinian Christian group that is very influential in those mainline churches active in the BDS wars.  Its theology includes supercessionism – a reading of the New Testament that considers the Church to have superseded the Jewish people in God’s promises – and deicide – the charge that “the Jews” killed Jesus – that served as the basis for centuries of anti-Jewish persecution.

Giving Sabeel a thorough Jew-wash is JVP’s Rabbinical Council, which in its “Statement of Support for the Sabeel Institute” acknowledges “the more radical incarnations (sic) of some of [Sabeel’s] theological images.”

Yet, Sabeel’s frequent denigration of Judaism as “tribal” and “primitive” and comparisons of Palestinians to Jesus on the cross put there by the Israeli government’s “crucifixion machine,” does not seem to affect JVP’s rabbis, who assert that it is “a mistake to dismiss Palestinian Christian theology wholesale.”

Now, if I said that an organization "whitewashes the blatant theological anti-Semitism that accompanies the church-based BDS attacks on Israel' (Note that Steinberg and Santis just called a bit under half of the Presbyterian General Assembly "blatant theological anti-Semites" ), I would be prepared to show how Jewish Voice for Peace gives some Jewish cover for this.  Instead, the authors refer to a JVP statement that says as follows:

We are aware that many Jews point to the more radical incarnations of some of Ateek's theological images. We believe, however, that it is a mistake to dismiss Palestinian Christian theology wholesale. As Jews, we are much more troubled by the “End of Days” theologies of fundamentalist Zionist Christians such as Pastor John Hagee, who believe that Jews will either convert or go to hell when we've fulfilled our theological purpose. This is anti-semitism par excellence. 

In other words, JVP's rabbinical council, while not endorsing Ateek's theological images, say that they have to be understood in light of the ongoing suffering of Palestinian Christians at the hand of Israelis. One may consider this too forgiving on the part of JVP, but the point is that they are not excusing or whitewashing such images, but saying that they should not be allowed to get in way of the bigger picture.

Should we accuse rightwing groups of "Jew-washing" because they form coalitions with John Hagee's ministry? Or "Christians United for Israel"? Of course not.

For all I know, Christian Zionists  who eagerly await the mass conversion of Jews have contributed to NGO Monitor. 

I say, "for all I know" because the trademark smear of NGO Monitor has yet to come. Of JVP they write,

Their motivations, like their financing, are unclear and irrelevant – the fact that they provide a useful cover for non-Jews to justify gratuitous. Israel-bashing is what counts.

If their financing is irrelevant to the author's argument then why make the remark  that it is "unclear"? Oh, that's an easy one: This is NGO Monitor, which has made a career of insinuations about the "unclear sources of financing" of the organization it "monitors." In fact, even when the source of funding is entirely transparent, they either use the sources to delegitimize the organization or  raise the specter of secret funding.

In NGO Monitor-ese, "unclear funding" means "funding by donors whose identity we cannot discover, and therefore smear through association, no matter how much our staff Googles.”

This wouldn't be so bad were it not that NGO Monitor's own funding is no less "unclear" than that of Jewish Voice for Peace. Last spring  Haaretz published an expose showing how NGO Monitor hides the identity of its donors. That is in Hebrew, but a good account of it in English is here. NGO Monitor's funding is a lot more unclear than that of the NGOs the organization purports to monitor, whose transparency is mandated by law.

But rest assured, NGO monitor, most of JVP's budget is made up of individual donations. They lack the heavy guns that you have, but they would not demean themselves by saying that you provide cover for the anti-Semites.

The "Nu, anti-Semitism!" slur of “Jew-washing” demonizes, and in general, impugns the character of Jewish critics of Israel.  If you think that leftwing Jewish groups are not allowed to join coalitions with non-Jewish groups that criticize Israel's  existence as a Jewish state; then you target leftwing Jews  as Jews. If you believe that Jews are not allowed to make certain arguments or take certain actions because they are Jewish, then you claim that Jews are not allowed to possess the basic human right of expressing their opinions and acting on them in a responsible, non-violent manner.

That’s what makes "Jew-washing" an anti-Semitic slur. It unfairly singles out Jews by judging them by a double standard. And it denies them fundamental human rights.

 

15 comments:

Tom P. said...

Santis' previous incitement against the "jew-killers" and the "jew-washers" went unnoticed

I don’t understand the diaspora Jew who joins with our enemies, who makes common cause with those who are no doubt today cheering the terrorists who deliberately killed Israeli civilians.

Any Jew who “Jew-washes” the likes of Al-Awda, AROC (the Arab Resource and Organizing Center), Students for Justice in Palestine, American Muslims for Palestine, Sabeel, etc. is — in light of the Jewish blood spilled last week — a deeply tragic figure who deserves pity, but not ire. I find it difficult to be angry with them; I just pity them.

Yet for all their internal torment that takes them to a place of support for Jew-killers, they do, in fact, endanger me as they give succor to those who would gladly kill me and my family.

http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/62676/up-close-and-all-too-personal-terror-attacks-bombs-in-israel/

needless to say, none of these organizations ever expressed support for murder.

Tom P. said...

Santis' previous incitement against the "jew-killers" and the "jew-washers" went unnoticed

I don’t understand the diaspora Jew who joins with our enemies, who makes common cause with those who are no doubt today cheering the terrorists who deliberately killed Israeli civilians.

Any Jew who “Jew-washes” the likes of Al-Awda, AROC (the Arab Resource and Organizing Center), Students for Justice in Palestine, American Muslims for Palestine, Sabeel, etc. is — in light of the Jewish blood spilled last week — a deeply tragic figure who deserves pity, but not ire. I find it difficult to be angry with them; I just pity them.

Yet for all their internal torment that takes them to a place of support for Jew-killers, they do, in fact, endanger me as they give succor to those who would gladly kill me and my family.

http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/62676/up-close-and-all-too-personal-terror-attacks-bombs-in-israel/

needless to say, none of these organizations ever expressed support for murder.

Levi9909 said...

This misrepresentation of what precisely it is that BDSrs want to boycott has a long history. Back in 2006 the General Synod of the Church of England decided to divest from Caterpillar because of its supply of militarised bulldozers to Israel. This was entirely consistent with the C of E's refusal to invest in the arms industry and yet this is how the UK's Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks described the decision in a Jewish Chronicle article:

Locally there was the vote of the synod of the Church of England to heed a call to divest from companies associated with Israel.

http://jewssansfrontieres2.blogspot.co.uk/2006_02_01_archive.html#114026122536696082

Unknown said...

"Jew-washing" is done by Jewish organizations who equate "Zionism" with Judaism and who politicize Jewish identity by linking it to support for Israel.

Lewis said...

The odd thing to me is that if you read the prophets, I have in mind Ezekiel, they can barely take a breath without criticizing Israel.

Misha said...

I'm pleased Jerry finally found a term he considers antisemitic. Normally, he's not willing to credit anything to antisemitic--even calls to murder Jews.
No prizes for guessing why this time it's different!

sylvia4444 said...

"If you think that leftwing Jewish groups are not allowed to join coalitions with non-Jewish groups that criticize Israel's existence as a Jewish state; then you target leftwing Jews as Jews."

No, you only criticize their inability to foresee the consequences of their actions.
When Solomon of Montpellier and his loyalists allied with the Dominicans to ban the Guide for the Perplexed, they didn't consider that they'll get an autodafe.


When clueless Ashkenazis started fisking the Rambam, they jumped to the false conclusion - without a shred of evidence - that he must have converted to Islam.
Consequence: Maimonides is now listed by Unesco as a Muslim scholar.

That's what is criticized: an inherent inability to carry the thought process through to completion.

sylvia4444 said...

Lewis
"The odd thing to me is that if you read the prophets, I have in mind Ezekiel, they can barely take a breath without criticizing Israel."

In Judaism, only Moses is a prophet. Those we call prophets -such as Ezekiel, are more like preachers and visionaries of high standing denouncing moral turpitude and threatening with consequences if...
Which is what preachers do.

sylvia4444 said...

To unknown:
"Jew-washing" is done by Jewish organizations who equate "Zionism" with Judaism"

I don't know aqbout "Jew-washing, but equating "Zionism" with Judaism has nothing to do with organizations.

The centrality of Israel in Judaism is considered to be one of the 613 commands by traditional Judaism. So it is not a matter of equating, but rather that establishing the land is certainly one important element of normative Judaism. It is true that to some, it is perhaps the only element, but it is nonetheless part of it.

Jerry Haber said...

sylvia444

Many scholars, including Joel Kraemer of Chicago, Sara Stroumsa of Hebrew University, and yours truly, feel that there is good reason to believe that Maimonides converted to Islam, i.e., that the Maimonides family outwardly professed Islam after the invasion of the Almohads in al-Andalus until they were able to live as Jews openly.

For the evidence you may want to read Kraemer's book on Maimonides.

On the other hand, Herbert Davidson of UCLA has expressed skepticism, and there is now way to decide the question conclusively.

In any event, this is old news; Maimonides' conversion has been debated since the 19th century, when the evidence of the Arab historiographer, al-Kifti, who was a close friend of Maimonides' student, Joseph, was studied by scholars. al-Kifti tells a great story. You can read about it in Kraemer.

Jerry Haber said...

Sorry, there is "no" way to decide the question conclusively.

By the way, which clueless Ashkenazis were you referring to?

sylvia4444 said...

"By the way, which clueless Ashkenazis were you referring to?"

Kraemer

Old Bit-fiddler said...

"Supercessionism" is not peculiar to Sabeel or Naim Ateek. It is in the main-line or orthodox christianity, from the New Testament book of "Hebrews" down to the battles in Elizbethan/Jacobean England, when English Calvinists insisted that God had chosen England out of all other lands to turn back "the triple-tiara'd whore of Babylon"...meaning the "miraculous" defeat of the Spanish Armada. New England "puritans" carried that idea to Massachusetts Bay, their refuge in the wilderness, their city upon a hill that would show un-reformed England the right way [this bit is all through Perry Miller].

I suspect that some echoes of this have seeped into the Republican / Southern Baptist obsession with demonstrating that many signers of the Declaration of Independence went to church(es), meaning, to modern Baptists, that the US is a christian nation.

It probably sits somewhere at the bottom of the Republican insistance on "American Exceptionalism", which they take to mean that God has chosen the US from all the nations. We're Number One.

[None seem to remember that the phrase was coined by Jay Lovestone, leader of the CPUSA in the late '20s, to explain to European Marxists that socialism might come to the US through voting.]

Incidentally, Methodists and Presbyterians tend to step away from the traditional use of "Hebrews". See the recent "Wesley Study Bible", which picks out core terms like "faith" and "going on to perfection", rather than the old claim that "Hebrews" transfers the God-franchise to us.

More important: I've read Ateek, and he is among those, like tghe authors of the Palestinian Kairos document, calling for non-violent direct action against the occupation. BDS is, as mentioned above, directed at companies that profit from the occupation: Caterpilllar, which makes the armored bulldozers used in collective reprisals against Palestinians; HP, which sells snooper/spy technology...just for two.

For peace and in The Resistance, as I learned from the Quakers,

John

Roadie in Vancouver said...

NGO Monitor was being too kind when referring to JVP. as the son of an Auchwitz survivor and a former combat soldier in the IDF, I call them KAPOS

pabelmont said...

Sylvia4444: you write: "The centrality of Israel in Judaism is considered to be one of the 613 commands by traditional Judaism." Be that as it may, Rabbinic Judaism (perhaps a more modern form than "traditional", you tell me) taught that the return of Jews to Zion was a project that must be left to divine accomplishment, and was not the business of mankind (Jewish mankind) to accomplish. See Neturei Karta on this. So, the land of Israel may have been central to Judaism, OK, but Zionism (considered as a human effort to bring about a Jewish return to the land) was/is "illegal". At least according to the older Jewish Fatwas.