Reflections after My Home Was Vandalized: Stop the Assault by Right-Wing Extremists on Israel's Critics

By Lerner, Michael | Tikkun, July/August 2010 | Go to article overview

Reflections after My Home Was Vandalized: Stop the Assault by Right-Wing Extremists on Israel's Critics


Lerner, Michael, Tikkun


YOU MAY HAVE READ THAT A GROUP OF ZIONIST extremists plastered the outside of my home with signs identifying me with Judge Richard Goldstone, who put together the UN report on Israeli human rights violations during the war in Gaza (it also pointed to human rights violations on the part of Hamas). The vandals' signs called Goldstone and me "extreme leftists" and "Islamofascists," accusing us of supporting terrorism. The police said the point of the vandalism was to show us that we are vulnerable to personal physical attack even in our own home, and to scare us. And in fact, to this day my wife and family remain very concerned.

If only my personal safety were at stake, I wouldn't take this space in Tikkun to discuss the incident. But the truth is that hundreds of thousands of Jews in the United States and around the world face this same problem: many of the most vocal defenders of Israel in the Jewish community personally assail anyone who criticizes Israeli policies toward Palestinians, declining to answer the actual criticisms and instead labeling the critics as "self-hating Jews" or "anti-Semites" or, as you'll read below, worse. You can hear these attacks in the pews of not only Orthodox but also Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist synagogues. And you can hear this among both secular and religious Jews. The resort to assaulting the integrity and decency of critics of Israeli policy, instead of answering their criticisms, is a move by frightened people who cannot really understand why Israel treats Palestinians so harshly, who really can't provide a rational defense. To protect themselves from the horrible realization that the Jewish State is acting immorally and self-destructively, they react by denouncing the people who call this reality to their attention.

The long-term effect of this intimidation of dissenters is a weakening of global support for Israel. These defensive attempts to silence critics also drive people away from the Jewish community and provide aid and comfort to the real anti-Semites, whose hatred of Jews becomes easier to hide behind criticisms of Israel. But in the short term, it is an effective technique for suppressing dissent and ensuring that people in the Jewish world rarely get to hear the ideas and nuanced strategies for Israel's security from those who share our pro-Israel/pro-Palestine "progressive middle path." And it's not just Tikkun that faces this- J Street, the New Israel Fund, Rabbis for Human Rights, and the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem now also face the same attacks that Tikkun and I have endured for two decades.

The most recent phase of the political assault on dissenters began this way: in mid-April we learned that leaders of the Jewish community of South Africa were telling South African Justice Richard Goldstone that he should not attend his grandson's bar mitzvah because right-wing Zionists had threatened to disrupt the event. Jewish community leaders told Goldstone they could not guarantee his safety. We at Tikkun were outraged at this capitulation to threats of violence.

Let's remember that Goldstone was an honored jurist whothough he served under the apartheid regime and apparently upheld its laws- was selected by Nelson Mandela to continue in office under the new regime; Goldstone played a role in legitimizing the Truth and Reconciliation process in South Africa that had headed off the feared civil war between Blacks and whites after the apartheid system was dismantled. The UN later selected Goldstone to head investigatory commissions into the genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia. It was with this background, and as a proud Zionist and former member of the board of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, that Goldstone accepted the UN task of investigating the large number of deaths of Palestinian civilians, particularly children, during the Israeli assault on Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009.

Goldstone sought Israel's collaboration in this investigation. …

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