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VIDEO: Boston Jews divided on Saudi/UAE anti-Israel materials in public schools

Last weekend, we posted on Facebook the background of controversial anti-Semitic vandalism in the Boston suburb of Newton, Massachusetts.  The topic at the core of a heated public meeting convened by Mayor Setti Warren.  A video produced by the team at Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT) provided background on the rancorous public meeting in Newton. The Facebook post of the APT video garnered over 60 shares from FB pages across the U.S., Europe and Israel.  It provided documented evidence of the use of Saudi and UAE funded anti-Semitic texts and Arab World Studies notebook laced with pro-Palestinian propaganda materials and maps.  We noted that APT had been in the forefront of uncovering the use of these materials by the Newton public schools since discovery in 2011.  They contended their removal has yet to be independently confirmed. Watch it here:

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Newton, Massachusetts Mayor Setti Warren.

A second FB post contained a Wicked Local Newton report noted the acrimony at the Newton public meeting:

Emotions were running high at a community discussion organized by Mayor Setti Warren Thursday night in response to several incidents of anti-Semitism and racism in the schools, with some in the overflowing audience apparently frustrated with the city’s response to the incidents as well as with the event’s tone.

A panel of speakers, including the mayor, a civil rights law expert, a child psychiatrist, teachers and students, spoke of the need for dialogue around discrimination in Newton, addressing issues of racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and discrimination against people with disabilities.

But some Jewish residents, including many with direct familial or personal ties to the Holocaust, wished the forum was more focused on recognizing and denouncing the anti-Semitic graffiti in particular. There was also a group of activists upset about “anti-Israel” teaching materials they feel contributed to the anti-Semitic incidents.

“The idea that we’re supposed to have a dialogue with people who put swastikas up after the Holocaust is absurd,” said resident Steven Katz, a professor of Jewish Holocaust Studies at Boston University. “And this evening is not supposed to be about liberal values. It’s supposed to be about anti-Semitism.”

Tina Glik, a resident and parent, said she was concerned that “as clearly as the message was written, ‘Burn the Jews,’ we came here to listen to: let’s be nice, let’s talk about racism, let’s talk about discrimination against gay people, let’s talk about anything else but anti-Semitism.”

Warren reiterated that he took any instances of anti-Semitism “very seriously,” calling anti-Semitic graffiti found at F. A. Day Middle School “despicable” and “horrible.” He pledged that all potential hate crimes would be investigated, with the perpetrators punished. Anti-Semitic graffiti was also discovered at Newton North High School multiple times during the past several months.

 The Boston Globe  initial report of the acrimonious meeting  alleged that the  protesters at the public  meeting had ‘disrespected’  an articulate African American woman who drew attention to her son’s isolation at the Newton High school as evidence of racism, “Activists disrupt Newton forum on prejudice:

The group of activists was led by Newton resident Charles Jacobs, who has had a longtime grievance with the city’s schools about what he says are pro-Palestinian and anti-Semitic text books.

[…]

Newton resident Janet Yassen said it was her first time attending this type of community meeting, and she came because she was interested in hearing what Warren had to say.

But what she saw from some members of the crowd “disgusted” her, she said.

“It was embarrassing, it was awful,” she said.

After hearing the students, who at the end of the evening mingled with some of the most vocal in the crowd, Yassen said she was heartened.

“The young people were phenomenal,” she said. “For them to confront the disrespect shown by some of the adults was really courageous.”

Following the ‘rowdy’ meeting two Boston Jewish community groups, the Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the Boston Jewish Federation’s affiliate, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) and the local chapter of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) seized upon the Globe  report that an African American woman had been ‘heckled’ by protesters at the public meeting.  The joint AJC/JCRC news release, while noting the persistent problems of anti-Semitic materials in school programs, wrongly criticized  the protesters:

To our dismay, a group of activists – who have been identified in the media as members of the Jewish community – disrupted the proceedings. An African-American mother was heckled while discussing her own child’s experience of racism. There were loud contentions that the only concern worthy of discussion was anti-Semitism. The overall affect was to shift the focus of the meeting from concerns about anti-Semitism, as well as racism and homophobia to the conduct of the meeting itself.

The escalation and obfuscation was amped up by The Boston Globe that seized upon the joint JCRC/AJC news release  in an article that went viral via the AP and  internet outlets like Yahoo news and other social media,  “Jewish groups condemn ‘disrespect’ at Newton forum:”

Leaders of two Jewish organizations on Monday condemned the behavior of a group of activists at a community meeting in Newton last week, saying the struggle against anti-Semitism must be part of a larger effort to build “respectful tolerant communities.”

In a joint statement, the American Jewish Committee Boston and the Jewish Community Relations Council said the activities of those who disrupted a meeting at City Hall on Thursday night “do not represent the broader sentiments of the Jewish community.”

This time, Jacobs of APT was able to fire back at both the Globe and AJC/JCRC accusations in the latest Globe article:

Charles Jacobs, the leader of the activists, said in an e-mail to the Globe that he was “quite surprised” by the statement.

Jacobs, founder of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, has had a longtime grievance with the city’s schools about what he says are pro-Palestinian and anti-Semitic textbooks.

“Given that Jews in Europe and in the Middle East are hunted, hounded and murdered because of an anti-Semitism which falsely portrays the world’s only Jewish state as among the cruelest of nations . . . and given that the Saudis and United Arab Emirates have been caught funding ‘lessons’ that taught these things in the Newton schools . . . and given that (Newton) School Superintendent David Fleishman was forced to remove some of this material and yet told the people at the meeting that he knew nothing about it, I think the meeting was, under these circumstance, quite civil,” Jacobs wrote.

However, the AJC/JCRC with the complicity of this second Globe article continued to convey the false information by School Superintendent Fleischman that the woman at the Newton public meeting had been ‘disrespected:’

“Moreover, it is hardly a secret that pernicious elements exist that are seeking to import anti-Israel and anti-Jewish bias into American school curriculums. We share this concern. However, it does not justify conduct that was manifest at this meeting or the disrespect that was shown to neighbors, who also had difficult experiences of their own to discuss.”

Fleischman, who was booed at last Thursday’s meeting and required a police escort to leave, retorted in an email on April 11, 2016 cited by The Globe saying:

In an interview Friday, Fleishman said that Jacobs’s complaints about the Newton curriculum being biased against Israel “are issues from the past,” which were resolved in 2013.

“They have our entire curriculum, our faculty at both high schools spent hours putting together all the material, unit by unit, in response to freedom of information requests,” Fleishman said of Jacobs’s group.

Fleishman sent an e-mail to faculty on Monday discussing the events of the forum.

“What was intended to be a community discussion to ensure Newton is a welcoming and inclusive place for all turned into a display of disrespectful and uncivil behavior,” Fleishman wrote. “Some in the audience were particularly insensitive toward a Newton parent who courageously shared a story of racism faced by her son.”

Jacobs and APT responded to Fleischman’s allegation, Tuesday with video documentation suggesting that both Fleishman and The AJC/JCRC were wrong about the alleged “heckling”. The Globe proceeded to soft pedal it:

On Tuesday afternoon, Jacobs’s organization issued a statement denying that the woman had been heckled.

In a video of the community meeting posted on the city’s website, the woman talks about her son’s experiences with racism. Twice she is interrupted, prompting someone in the crowd to call out, “Let her speak.”

The JCRC/AJC and The Globe were upended by the APT cell phone video that captured evidence that the woman had been, if anything, respected by attendees at the public hearing.  Watch the You tube video of the woman’s presentation at the Newton public meeting.

Problem is that the JCRC/AJC and The Globe reports have not been challenged on the lack of credibility, let alone credulity.

Jacobs has been warning for years that establishment Jewish organizations have failed to shift to the new situation Jews face: anti-Israelism, the new anti-Semitism. Now Jews are hated for their “apartheid state,” Israel.   The radical left/radical Muslim alliance, the red-green alliance is hunting and killing Jews in Israel and Europe. They intimidate Jews on American college campuses with eviction notices, fake Apartheid walls, simulated border checks and die –ins, especially during Israel Apartheid Weeks. The Jewish establishment Jacobs contends fled from this new anti-Semitic alliance. They still want to fight the old anti-Semitism, neo- Nazis, White Aryan nation and KKK racists. They cower and are confused in the face of a leftist anti-Zionism and patently Islamist anti-Semitism that Jews in Europe fear will cause them to leave, a second time. Jacobs has been hounded by what passes for the Jewish Establishment for years because of his position. This latest episode in Newton he thinks may be their push-back

We asked Jacobs for his views on the dispute. Here is what we wrote us:

Why would the Boston Jewish leadership not insist on seeing the curriculum, after Newton School Superintendent Fleishman was forced to remove a Saudi funded anti-Semitic lesson that taught students that Jews in Israel murder Arab women in jail? After they have all seen the video which shows those libels.

It should not be forgotten that the Jews of Europe are hounded, hunted and murdered because of anti-Israelism.  American Jewish students are harassed and intimidated on campuses because of the same ideology that is being taught in the Newton schools. Newton has security at its synagogues for the very same reason: anti-Israelism. Yet some of Newton’s top Jewish leaders prefer to circle the wagons, defend their friends and deny the truth.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Newton, Massachusetts Mayor Setti Warren faces Dr. Charles Jacobs of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, taken on April 7, 2016. Source: Katherine Taylor, Boston Globe

Dissected: President Obama’s Anti-Israelism

This past Memorial Day Weekend Jews observed  the Festival of  Shavuot (spring harvest festival) celebrating the giving of the law by Moses (Moshe rabbenu “Moses our teacher”) to the assembly of ancient Hebrews and others in the exodus multitude gathered under the mountain. Just prior to Shavuot President Obama gave his ‘drash’ (commentary) on relationships with Israel its existential enemies and the Jewish people in two pre-holiday events. The first was his interview with Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg on Israel, ISIS and Iran while the second was his appearance last Friday morning at Washington Conservative synagogue, Adas Israel  Congregation ,where  he spoke to a  gathering 1,200 progressive Jews, including Goldberg. He suggested in his synagogue remarks that some in the progressive American Jewish community consider him perhaps the first “Jewish President”. That would likely support the opinion of Obama by redoubtable NER colleague, Dr. Richard L. Rubenstein, noted theologian, scholar and author of Jihad and Genocide and other  noted  post Holocaust works. Rubenstein took the measure of Obama early on in our June 2010 NER interview posted on YouTube calling Obama, “the most radical President ever”. Watch it here.

Both Vic Rosenthal’s Abu Yehuda  blog post, “For Obama it’s a Moral Crusade” and Brett Stephens’ Tuesday Wall Street Journal column, “The Rational Ayatollah Hypothesis” suggest that the President’s comments sinuously convey anti-Israelism.

Rosenthal gives the following evidence:

Some of the reasons I and others find Obama anti-Israel are these:

  1. His stubborn attempts to force Israel into a suicidal agreement with the Palestinians.
  2. His acceptance (regardless of his words) of a nuclear-armed Iran, and his efforts to stop Israel from acting against it.
  3. His open contempt for our Prime Minister.
  4. His taking the Turkish president’s side in the Mavi Marmara affair, and forcing PM Netanyahu to apologize to the Turks.
  5. His acceptance of Hamas claims that the IDF acted ‘disproportionally’ in Gaza (as shown by his demand for an immediate cease-fire and imposition of an arms embargo during the recent war).
  6. The aforementioned leaks about Israeli actions in Syria and elsewhere.
  7. His acceptance of the anti-Israel narrative that Israel’s right to exist rests on the Holocaust and that it must be balanced against the rights of the ‘deserving’ Palestinians (as expressed in his 2009 Cairo speech).
  8. His attempts to interfere in Israeli politics, including trying to defeat Netanyahu at the polls. It’s ironic that American money was used to help get out the presumably anti-Netanyahu Arab vote — and then Obama bitterly criticized Netanyahu for telling his supporters that they should get out and vote because the Arabs were!
  9. The double standard he displays: compare his condemnation of the PM for his election-day remark with his lack of response to the daily barrage of Israel-hatred and veneration of terrorists coming from the official Palestinian media. Or look at his expressed concern for Palestinians suffering the indignities of checkpoints against his failure to mention the almost daily Jewish victims of Palestinian terrorism.

I could go on, but this should be enough to show that the belief that Obama is anti-Israel is substantive, not simply a political reflex as he suggests.

Stephens provides additional evidence:

Can there be a rational, negotiable, relatively reasonable bigot? Barack Obama thinks so.

So we learn from the president’s interview last week with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg—the same interview in which Mr. Obama called Islamic State’s capture of Ramadi a “tactical setback.” Mr. Goldberg asked the president to reconcile his view of an Iranian regime steeped in “venomous anti-Semitism” with his claims that the same regime “is practical, and is responsive to incentive, and shows signs of rationality.”

The president didn’t miss a beat. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s strategic objectives, he said, were not dictated by prejudice alone. Sure, the Iranians could make irrational decisions “with respect to trying to use anti-Semitic rhetoric as an organizing tool.” They might also pursue hate-based policies “where the costs are low.” But the regime has larger goals: “maintaining power, having some semblance of legitimacy inside their country,” and getting “out of the deep economic rut that we’ve put them in.”

Also, Mr. Obama reminded Mr. Goldberg, “there were deep strains of anti-Semitism in this country,” to say nothing of Europe. If the president can forgive us our trespasses, he can forgive the aAatollah’s, too.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that a man with an undergraduate’s enthusiasm for moral equivalency (Islamic State now, the Crusades and Inquisition then) would have sophomoric ideas about the nature and history of anti-Semitism. So let’s recall some basic facts.

Iran has no border, and no territorial dispute, with Israel. The two countries have a common enemy in Islamic State and other radical Sunni groups. Historically and religiously, Jews have always felt a special debt to Persia. Tehran and Jerusalem were de facto allies until 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini came to power and 100,000 Jews still lived in Iran. Today, no more than 10,000 Jews are left.

So on the basis of what self-interest does Iran arm and subsidize Hamas, probably devoting more than $1 billion of (scarce) dollars to the effort? What’s the economic rationale for hosting conferences of Holocaust deniers in Tehran, thereby gratuitously damaging ties to otherwise eager economic partners such as Germany and France? What was the political logic to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s calls to wipe Israel off the map, which made it so much easier for the U.S. and Europe to impose sanctions? How does the regime shore up its domestic legitimacy by preaching a state ideology that makes the country a global pariah?

Rosenthal concluded his column:

Obama does not actually love Israel. Possibly he loves some kind of idealized version of Israel, in which Israelis behave like good Christians, turning the other cheek at terrorism and “taking risks” to the point of sainthood. Of course, such an Israel wouldn’t last two weeks in this Middle East.

What he does seem to believe is that the Palestinian Arabs, like American blacks, are denied civil rights. He believes that this is due to the racism of the Israeli government and Prime Minister; that this is a special case of Western colonialism a la Edward Said; and that Barack Obama ought to use his power to right this ‘wrong’.

For Obama, like Said, the Palestinian Cause is a moral crusade.

Stephens ended his column:

Whether the Ayatollah Khamenei gets to act on his wishes, as Eichmann did, is another question. Mr. Obama thinks he won’t, because the ayatollah only pursues his Jew-hating hobby “at the margins,” as he told Mr. Goldberg, where it isn’t at the expense of his “self-interest.” Does it occur to Mr. Obama that Mr. Khamenei might operate according to a different set of principles than political or economic self-interest? What if Mr. Khamenei believes that some things in life are, in fact, worth fighting for, the elimination of Zionism above all?

In November 2013 the president said at a fundraising event that he was “not a particularly ideological person.” Maybe Mr. Obama doesn’t understand the compelling power of ideology. Or maybe he doesn’t know himself. Either way, the tissue of assumptions on which his Iran diplomacy rests looks thinner all the time.

We will more to say about this in a forthcoming review in the NER of Manfred Gerstenfeld’s latest book on the subject of anti-Israelism as political warfare, A War of a Million Cuts.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of President Barack Obama and Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg in Oval Office.