Beinart Berkeley Talk Cancelled- McCarthyism in Jewish World
Jewish Voice for Peace Media Release
Contact: Cecilie Surasky, email@example.com
East Bay won’t get to hear Daily Beast writer Peter Beinart on the “Crisis of Zionism” thanks to McCarthyite atmosphere in Jewish institutional world:
Event moderator deemed too controversial because of affiliation
with Jewish peace group.
[Oakland, March 27, 2012] The national organization Jewish Voice for Peace is profoundly disappointed by the sudden cancellation of the upcoming Berkeley talk on “the Crisis of Zionism” by Daily Beast political writer Peter Beinart. Beinart withdrew yesterday following the Friday announcement by the East Bay Jewish Community Center (see statement below) that they were withdrawing sponsorship, they said, after realizing that Dr. Penny Rosenwasser, the agreed-upon moderator of the talk, was a founding board member of Jewish Voice for Peace. The Bay Area chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace and the East Bay Jewish Community Center had been the planned co-sponsors of the April 17 talk organized by local Pacifica affiliate KPFA Radio.
While many Bay Area supporters of Jewish Voice for Peace have been or are also supporters of the East Bay JCC, we recognize that withdrawing sponsorship at this late date is likely one more result of an increasingly McCarthyite atmosphere in the Jewish institutional world. In the Bay Area especially, more and more, Jewish institutions are required to police speakers and events based on the narrow requirements of a handful of influential funders.
Dr. Penny Rosenwasser, author of several books including Voices from a 'Promised Land': Palestinian & Israeli Peace Activists Speak Their Hearts" and co-instructor of San Francisco City College course “Anti-Semitism/Anti-Arabism” said:
It’s exactly this guilt by association accusation that I think is one of the most destructive aspects of these kinds of guidelines. They try to keep disparate Jewish groups from joining together to present events that allow us to examine huge ethical and social justice issues. I’m proud to be an active Jewish Voice for Peace member, I’m proud of our advocacy for human rights and justice for all the peoples of the Middle East: including Israelis, including Palestinians.
In 2010, an ad in the Jewish Daily Forward warned about new, vaguely written funding guidelines instituted by the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation which said that the Federation would not fund groups that “advocate for, or endorse, undermining the legitimacy of Israel… including through participation in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement,” nor would they support programming that is co-sponsored or co-presented by such organizations.
The Forward ad, signed by 73 rabbis, professors and other Jewish leaders in the Bay Area, warned that these guidelines, which were preceded by similar ones implemented by the highly influential Koret/Taube Foundation, would “…curtail freedom of speech and artistic expression by declaring certain opinions and organizations out of bounds. This policy does grave damage to the vibrancy of the American Jewish community. The language that describes excluded organizations is vague and open-ended—those that “advocate for or endorse undermining the legitimacy of Israel as a democratic Jewish state.”
Jewish Voice for Peace’s current Advisory Board members include luminaries such as Tony Kushner, Adrienne Rich, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein and Eve Ensler. JVP actively supports nonviolent efforts to pressure Israel to be accountable to international law through the We Divest campaign which demands that retirement giant TIAA-CREF divest from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Because of this, we presume that our Advisory Board members would also be ineligible as participants in a talk sponsored by the East Bay JCC, other Bay Area JCCs, and other Federation and Koret/Taube grantees.
Liberal mainstays like the New Israel Fund and Meretz USA are also targets of similar campaigns to keep them out of New York’s Israel Day parade. Ironically, Peter Beinart’s recent op-ed in the NYT calling for boycott of goods made in the settlements, which he calls Zionist BDS, raises the specter that eventually he too may be boycotted by Jewish institutions due to the pressure by a handful of funding sources.
This dynamic of policing by funders, especially acute during times of economic difficulty, has already had a destructive impact on Jewish institutions that would otherwise be committed to open dialogue.
Just last week, the Jewish Federations of North America rescinded authorization for our youth-led wing, Young Jewish & Proud (YJP), to operate an exhibition table at Tribefest, the Jewish Federations’ annual youth gathering. In response, YJP circulated an open letter to JFNA’s CEO and President Jerry Silverman urging him to rethink his locking of the gates:
It is disheartening to see an increasing number of Jewish institutions, including those serving Jewish young people, like Hillel, and the Jewish Federations of North America, implement polices that explicitly cut off honest conversation and critical thinking.
…To our Jewish communal institutions and leaders we say: End your polices of exclusion. Let the next generation of young Jews Go & Learn.
To create space for open dialogue and education about Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) In Jewish communities, YJP has initiated “Go & Learn: BDS Education in Jewish communities”. Go & Learn events are spaces for Jews no matter their perspectives on BDS to learn and discuss the issues. Go & Learn events are taking place this spring across the United States including in the Bay Area, Chicago, Boston, Olympia, Philadelphia and in New York City at the 14th Street Y.
With offices in New York, Seattle, and Oakland, and over 30 chapters nationwide, Jewish Voice for Peace is the country’s largest Jewish organization dedicated to a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians built on democracy, human rights and equality.
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Statement from the JCC of the East Bay March 21, 2012
We have withdrawn our sponsorship of the Peter Beinart lecture on April 17 at the Hillside Club in Berkeley. Organized by KPFA, we initially committed to co- sponsoring this lecture as we are interested in facilitating intelligent dialogue about democracy in Israel. We think Peter Beinart’s provocative and informed perspective was a natural one to explore in our Jewish and broader community, particularly here in Berkeley.
We made a programming error. KPFA selected a moderator for the evening to speak with Peter Beinart whose organizational affiliations were not disclosed to us proactively. We do not support the activist platform of an organization on which the moderator serves as a board member, and it is for this reason we are withdrawing our sponsorship. We believe everyone should rightly have their say and participate in debate and decisions about how to best support democracy in Israel. However, we will not sponsor a speaking platform for a representative of an organization that calls for withdrawal of economic support for Israel.
We are reviewing our internal processes to ensure a more thorough vetting of our sponsorship and other programming due diligence is more robust in the future. We apologize for any confusion. We welcome your comments and feedback and look forward to continuing to serve our community.
JCC of the East Bay
1414 Walnut Street Berkeley CA 94709
(510) 848-0237 firstname.lastname@example.org