Israeli flag

For the second time in a year, The Lens has published an anti-Israel/anti-Semitic opinion piece. The first article was published April 8, 2016, entitled “Jim Crow is alive and well — and shaping Israeli policy toward Palestinians,” by Tabitha Mustafa, a community organizer with New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee and Peace by Piece New Orleans.

The more recent anti-American/anti-Semitic/anti-Israel rant, entitled With a Bigot like Bannon at Trump’s side, ‘Never Again’ is Happening Right Now,was co-authored by Rachel Lee and Hannah Wolfman-Arent, on behalf of an organization called Jewish Voice for Peace.

As a Jewish woman who has suffered a direct connection to the Holocaust, I am well aware that putting the word “Jewish” in one’s organization’s name is sometimes a cover for an anti-Semitic agenda. Further, posing as “Jewish” does not mean that you are in any way informed about the Holocaust, World War II or the National Socialist government of Germany at that time; nor does it mean that you are knowledgeable about events in the Middle East or Israel.  It definitely does not mean that you are immune from generating vicious propaganda for your own purposes.

As to the more recent article, oddly enough despite its title, Bannon does not take center stage in this malicious outburst. The real uber-villain of this hit piece is Israel, followed closely by the American Jewish community and American Jews.

Talk about fascism and fascists! They propose murky programs based on smears and intimidation that can only make a bona fide fascist proud.

The authors present a series of unsupported allegations together with smears aimed at trashing the Jewish community. The authors open with, “And so in the past few weeks, as we process the election of a man who has promised mass deportation and religious bans while rising to power on a juggernaut of white nationalist propaganda, we recommit to never again letting fascism rule.”  They go on to declare that “we have learned the warning signs of fascism all our lives.”

Now the authors set the stage to blame the Jews and be disgusted by them:

“The very same Jewish institutions that taught us about our genocide are utterly failing to take a stand, opting instead to normalize dangerous choices, stifle dissent and, in the process, expose their own hypocrisy. When the Jewish Federations of North America told Donald Trump in an open letter that ‘we very much look forward to working closely with you and your administration,’ we were disgusted — but not surprised. Many of the repressive approaches to governing that we fear in a Trump presidency have long been tacitly accepted by Jewish institutions that promote a defend-Israel-at-all-costs philosophy.”

Yes, there are warning signs of fascism, but they emanate from groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, starting with the disinformation this organization generates. This is the group that invites Rasmea Odeh, a convicted terrorist killer, to serve as a guest speaker at its national conference recently held in Chicago. Odeh, who was freed by the Israelis in a prisoner exchange and who then lied to gain entrance into the United States, was subsequently convicted of immigration fraud and ordered deported. Odeh received a standing ovation in Chicago. Is this how Jewish Voice for Peace purports to instruct us on keeping America free of fascists?

In their article, those signs of fascism that so frighten the authors are difficult to dig out from the pile of clichés/canards that they had built up, but we can try to discern them from the following bullet points that highlight their primary message:

  • It is time to end our unconditional support for Israel, a state that routinely violates human rights — incarcerating and murdering Palestinians, while occupying and demolishing their homes.
  • It is time for us to see that the State of Israel engages in the same militaristic and racist practices that Bannon’s rhetoric encourages in the United States.
  • It is time for American Jews to recognize the systemic racism practiced in OUR  name by the state of Israel and by OUR own leaders.

So here we are, two sides of the same coin: American Jews, Jewish Federations and Israel on one side of the coin and racism, militarism, murder, incarceration, fascism on the other.  What is to be done, according to the authors? First and foremost, American Jews must reform, especially all Jewish Federations, especially the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans. Talk about fascism and fascists! They propose murky programs based on smears and intimidation that can only make a bona fide fascist proud.

The authors are not finished with shaming American Jews. Several months ago, Congress by unanimous consent passed the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act in response to the surging numbers of campus discrimination cases and actual violence against Jewish students —  in some incidents for supporting Israel, but in many others for simply being Jewish.  These cases are too numerous to list here, but can found on any search engine under “Anti-Semitism on Campus.”

The Jewish community, according to these authors, had the effrontery to support the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act and, according to the authors, should be ashamed of themselves since this act “aims to suppress pro-Palestinian campus activism.” Here the authors resort to an outright lie, and again, provide no evidence or support of any kind that peaceful activities and constitutionally protected activities of Palestinian students and/or their supporters have been hampered.  The authors’ lack of concern for Jewish students subjected to bigotry, harassment and physical violence speaks to the agenda of Jewish Voice for Peace.

One must wonder about The Lens’ pattern of selective outrage against one country, Israel and against one people, the Jews, when there are daily well-documented and proven human rights atrocities committed by Syria, North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, Hamas and numerous others.

The Lens’ editors I am sure would agree that we all have  a responsibility to check sources and evaluate conclusions before presenting opinions that are little more than disinformation campaigns.

Marsha Halteman
Marsha Halteman

Marsha Halteman  grew up in New Orleans. In 1990 she left the city to work for a pro-democracy think tank  in Washington, DC, The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  She returned to New Orleans in 2014.

The Lens Opinion section is offered as a forum for vigorous community debate. Including this one, readers have contributed four columns on the Israeli/Palestine issue in the past year or so. Not mentioned above, the column by Tabitha Mustafa inspired a rebuttal from Allison Padilla-Goodman, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. It ran under the headline, “Dialogue and compromise — not boycotts — key to easing Israel-Palestine torment.”

Views expressed in the Opinion section are not necessarily those of The Lens or its staff. To propose an idea for a column, contact Lens founder Karen Gadbois.