The alluring black and gay faces used by the Israel lobby
Richard Silverstein’s post is followed by Judith Butler’s letter on her withdrawal from an invitation to speak at the Jewish Museum published in Inside Higher Education.
Jew York’s Jewish Museum: no space for Judith Butler
By Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam
February 23, 2014
Over the past few days, two New York Jewish museums made some serious blunders in disinviting two different academic speakers from making presentations. A few days ago, Prof. Judith Butler’s invitation to speak at a conference about Franz Kafka was rescinded after the Algemeiner and other Islamophobic Jewish groups began a BDS campaign to expel her from the premises. It didn’t matter that Butler is a leading expert on Kafka in the academic world or that she wasn’t speaking at all about Israel. The fact that Butler is a supporter of BDS and an anti-Zionist was enough to earn her the wrath of the Jewish far-right.
Then something even worse happened: the Museum of Jewish Heritage had invited John Judis, longtime editor at the New Republic who wrote the groundbreaking book about Harry Truman and the founding of Israel called Genesis, to speak about the subject of his book. The work has received glowing reviews in both progressive and centrist publications which credit him with opening new avenues in understanding Pres. Truman’s eventual support for the creation of Israel. This topic too was deemed too sensitive. He too was disinvited. The Jewish community can’t handle the least whisper of dissidence, even from those at its heart.
But the Museum didn’t even have ideological impurity as a reason for BDSing Judis. He’s written for decades for the center-right New Republic. He’s hardly taken any positions on the Israeli-Arab conflict. He opposes BDS and is a liberal Zionist. But apparently, just as Peter Beinart, a former New Republic colleague, stirred up a hornet’s nest by breaking from the Israel Lobby consensus, so Judis has betrayed the tribe and deserved excommunication. This presumably will help sales of the book and bring thousands of new readers to it and the ideas it espouses. Entirely counter-productive to the pro-Israel enterprise, one would think.
It’s all part of what I’ve called the closing of the American Jewish mind (to borrow a phrase from the neocon academic, Allan Bloom). American Jewry is incresingly closing the wagons. The circle of acceptable discourse grows narrower and narrower. Pretty soon you’ll have Abe Foxman, David Harris and Howard Kohr sitting around a campfire singing the Likud’s golden oldie Hebrew folk songs.
Chloe Valdary; as a Christian evangelist – spreading the message of love and forgiveness – she feels entitled to call Jewish Judith Butler ‘a vile anti-Semite’. Has she let herself be propelled to prominence by the unscrupulous Jewish right?
Yesterday, I noted that a young African-American Hagee-style Christian Zionist, Chloe Valdary, took up the cudgels against Butler on Israel’s behalf in the pages of the Seth Klarfeld-funded Times of Israel (TOI). There she began by calling this distinguished academic and Jewish activist a “vile anti-Semite.” Apparently, Valdary isn’t aware that given our history, Jews are a bit sensitive about non-Jews determining for us who’s a good or bad Jew. I as a Jew much prefer to make those decisions myself, rather than be spoonfed by someone with only the faintest awareness, let alone experience of real Jew-killing anti-Semitism.
There is also an elemental sense of identity-confusion in Valdary’s writing about Israel and Jews. Though she’s a devout Christian evangelical, she keeps referring to herself in connection with Jews as “us.” Glowing articles about her written by other pro-Israel authors (also in TOI) note that she observes some Jewish laws, holidays and rituals. This confusion perfectly illustrates the growing conflation of Israeli ultra-nationalism with Christian Zionism. Settlerism has so few friends that the Israeli right embraces them wherever it can find them; whether from the heart of a Christian messianic movement that sees Jews as useful props to bring the Second Coming; or from neo-Nazi movements which have been welcomed with open arms by Israeli far-right MKs into the halls of the Knesset.
Valdary began her campus pro-Israel activism by founding a group called Allies of Israel. It is funded by CAMERA on Campus, the college affiliate of the Islamophobic Israel Lobby group. Though its Facebook page seems to recognize that there is such a thing as “legitimate critique of Israeli policies,” you won’t find any acknowledgement of this in any public statement she’s made. As far as she’s concerned, all criticism of Israel is “of the Devil.”
Valdary works for the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel, which was founded by Dumisani Washington, a Christian Zionist preacher with a Stockton congregation. His biography tips the hat to John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel (CUFI) as the inspiration for his pro-Israel efforts. He credits the group with encouraging his “evangelical” hasbara efforts on Israel’s behalf among Black college students, which is presumably how he met Valdary.
Perhaps she should visit the Saharonim camp [above] where the Israeli state deposits most of its wannabee black immigrants.
Among other things, Valdary conflates Butler’s views with Nazism. She begins by claiming that Butler has called Hamas “progressive.” In fact, Butler said that Hamas’ mission as a social movement was progressive. It has an extensive network of social services within Gaza that help virtually all its citizens in one way or another. She has never endorsed the group’s military wing nor its past terror activities. In fact, this is her real view of Hamas:
…”It has always seemed absurd to me that my comments were taken to mean that I support or endorse Hamas and Hezbollah! I have never taken a stand on either organization.”
Once Valdary’s “established” that Butler views Hamas as progressive, she can proceed to claim that Butler views Hitler as progressive as well. Another lie.
She does so using this incredibly bizarre analogy which criticizes the Jewish Museum’s original defense of Butler’s appearance (before it disinvited her):
The museum claimed that her politics were “not a factor” but that “debates about her politics have become a distraction.” By that standard, a Jewish culinary center should be perfectly comfortable with inviting a pseudo-intellectual who viewed Hitler as “progressive” but who was simultaneously skilled in whipping up various flavors of ice cream. His politics would not matter.
She does this as well in the YouTube video I’ve featured above. There she juxtaposes ominous words about the anti-Semitic nature of the BDS movement with shots of Nazi boycotts of German Jews. The clear message is that the success of BDS would lead to another Holocaust. It shouldn’t surprise you that the video was produced and hosted by an Islamophobic group founded by Charles Jacobs. He also founded the David Project, which led a decade-long acrimonious campaign against the Roxbury mosque.
Other elements of Valdary’s biography also shouldn’t surprise us. She’s been willingly exploited by a number of far-right Israel lobby groups for their own political purposes. Her first trip to Israel was funded by Aipac, which regularly takes American minority campus leaders on Israel junkets where they read from the pro-Israel hymn book. Her second trip was funded by CAMERA on Campus as well.
Valdary is the Ayan Hirsi Ali of the American Jewish right. She’s a convenient foil that the Israel Lobby can use to rebut the raging popularity of BDS and other human rights activism among minority students on U.S. college campuses. She wraps herself in the mantle of Old School civil rights giants like Martin Luther King, who endorsed Israel before the 1967 war as a beacon of democracy. Certainly, if King were alive today he wouldn’t be caught dead holding the views he held fifty years ago. But these hoary old sentiments are convenient for Valdary to hang her pro-Israel hat on.
For this reason, in a tweet last night I wrote that Valdary was a “Negro” who was acting like an “Uncle Tom” in betraying progressive values regarding Israel. The entire far-right Twittersphere erupted in fireworks of righteous indignation. Pro-Israel tweeps who’ve never said or written a word about civil rights or social justice for American minorities were heaving with righteous indignation. They refuse to understand that there’s nothing racist about those two terms. On the contrary, Uncle Tom was a literary character created by abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe to represent African-Americans who betrayed their own through collaboration with the white master. Similarly, “Negro” was meant to convey how much of a betrayal Valdary’s views are towards a real civil right and social justice agenda.
The progressive activist community has coined terms like greenwashing to highlight exploitation of the environment for political gain. Pinkwashing highlights exploitation of sexual preference to promote Israel’s interests. Chloe Valdary is part of a phenomenon that may be called “blackwashing” since she and the Lobby are exploiting race and color on Israel’s behalf.
For my trouble, hasbara tweeps labelled my parents as “Kapos in Europe” whose “family would have gladly sacrificed Jews to
#nazis during holocaust for a few coins…” The fact that this was a perfect example of Jew-hatred seemed lost on the tweep. And I was called a “pedophile” (not for the first time). Twitter of course, cares nothing about such abuse and filing a complaint about it is useless.
They are like wolves baying for blood or sharks who smell blood in the water. But there’s no prey and no blood, only the rather pathetic attempts by the Israel Lobby to exploit the disempowered for their own interests.
One of those shreying “racist” was none other than StandWithUs’ token Arab gay Jew, Hen Mazzig. He is yet another example of the Israel Lobby gladly embracing gays for the sake of taking the pro-Israel message into the heart of yet another oppressed minority community. Lest anyone think I’m exploiting homophobic impulses, Mazzig himself used the terms above to describe himself in publicly promoting his talk hosted by my synagogue (see above link). In fact, his boss, Rob Jacobs blamed me for “outing” Mazzig when in fact he’d already outed himself repeatedly in public settings. In fact, his SWU website bio notes that he was an “out” IDF soldier. After I pointed that out to him he stopped threatening me with a lawsuit.
The problem isn’t that gays (or African-Americans or any minority) support Israel. It’s that Israel Lobby groups exploit gays in order to make inroads on Israel’s behalf in the gay community. The goal is to diminish any sympathy that such groups might have with Palestinians, another minority suffering under the injustice and oppression of Israeli Occupation.
The sad truth is that the Israel Lobby exploits race as a tool in the propaganda war for Israel. Instead of making a geschrei about my language, they should examine the abuse of ethnicity by the Lobby and its minions. Charles Jacobs and Seth Klarman (who is a major funder of Jacob’s Islamophobic efforts) don’t care a jot for African-American civil rights. They care about the threat of Islam and about maintaining Jewish superiority in the Land of Israel. They’ll use anybody in that effort, even willing accomplices like Chloe Valdary.
The truth of the matter is that Valdary doesn’t embrace Israel because of any notions of civil rights or empowering Black folk. She embraces Israel theologically as a precursor to Jesus’ Return. She is an ordinary run of the mill Christian evangelical Islamophobe. She sees Muslims as the enemy of Christianity, as Nazis, and likely future Jew-killers. She is an ally of Israel because the enemy of her enemy is her friend. It’s really that simple. Everything else is window-dressing.
There is very little difference between Chloe Valdary and Pam Geller. Valdary’s ideas are a tad more sophisticated, but not much more than that. Yet Geller has been denounced with Good Housekeeping anti-Semitism seals of approval from the ADL and Southern Poverty Law Center. Valdary is insulated from such criticism because she has her own Israel Lobby seal of approval.
Judith Butler Withdraws From Talk at Jewish Museum
Inside Higher Education
February 24, 2014
Judith Butler, a noted literary theorist who is the Wun Tsun Tam Mellon Visiting Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University, has called off a talk she was supposed to give at the Jewish Museum in New York City, amid criticism of her support for the boycott of Israel. Butler’s talk was not to have been about her views on the Middle East, but on Franz Kafka, who died well before the State of Israel was created. A statement from the museum said: “She was chosen on the basis of her expertise on the subject matter to be discussed. While her political views were not a factor in her participation, the debates about her politics have become a distraction making it impossible to present the conversation about Kafka as intended.”
In an email to Inside Higher Ed, Butler said: “I did decide to withdraw when it became clear to me that the uproar over my political views (actually, a serious distortion of my political views) would overtake the days ahead and the event itself. As I understand it, the Jewish Museum also felt that it could not handle the political storm, and we were in complete agreement that the event should be canceled as a result.”
She continued: “What is most important now, in my view, is for both educational and cultural institutions such as these to recommit themselves to open debate, not to become vehicles for censorship and slander, and not to become party to forms of blacklisting. It certainly should not be the case that any of us are forced to give up speaking in public on scholarly topics that have no bearing on the political issues that are so controversial. It constitutes discrimination against a person on the basis of political viewpoint, implying that the speaker ought not to be allowed to speak on any topic given the political viewpoint in question.
“It is one thing to disagree, say, with my political viewpoint and to give reasons why one disagrees, even to call for an open debate on that disagreement, and to ask the Jewish Museum to exercise its authority and commit its resources to such an open debate. It is quite another to say that anyone with my political viewpoint (itself badly distorted in this case) should not be able to speak at a Jewish cultural organization…. Whether one is for or against [the boycott movement], it seems important to recognize that boycotts are constitutionally recognized forms of political expression, affirmed by international law as well. That means that one cannot exactly outlaw a boycott, even if one opposes it with great vehemence, without trampling on a constitutionally protected right.
“We are seeing several efforts now to curtail speech, to exercise censorship, and so cultural institutions like the Jewish Museum will now have to decide whether they will allow their choices of speakers and artworks to be coerced, whether they will have the courage and the principle to stand for freedom of expression, refusing to impose a political litmus speakers on speakers and artists who have every reason to be part of the broader community they serve and have ideas on many other topics to share.”