Trending Topics:

In Philly, rightwing Zionists call Dershowitz anti-Semitic for opposing settlements

Israel/Palestine
on 30 Comments
(Photo: Sun Sentinel)

(Photo: Sun Sentinel)

Matt Berkman has a great piece up at the Cairo Review of Global Affairs, reporting on the screening last week in Philadelphia of a right-wing documentary attack on J Street, the liberal Zionist organization. Nearly 700 people went to the screening of The J Street Challenge at the University of Pennsylvania; Alan Dershowitz was the headliner.

It was widely expected that the battle that night would be between liberal Zionists and rightwingers over the fact that Jewish community organizations (the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and the Hillel Foundation for Jewish Campus Life) were sponsoring an event trashing liberal Zionism.

But as it turned out, the main attacks that night were on Dershowitz, from the right, because he opposes some settlements in the West Bank.

Berkman writes that traditionally Zionist forces in US life were able to sustain a coalition between right and left wings, epitomized by Dershowitz himself. But that old coalition is falling apart, and Dershowitz is now in a middle ground, assaulted by the rightwing donor base. And J Street may also be marooned in the middle, Berkman says, as young Jews abandon Zionism altogether.

Some of his report on the screening: 

The film in question, “The J Street Challenge,” is a slickly produced far-right assault on the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization. Produced by Americans for Peace and Tolerance, one of a growing number of right-wing Zionist groups with Orwellian names, the film mostly showcases the perspectives of hardcore Jewish ethno-nationalists….

What transpired—the intermittent pandemonium and racist hysteria of the Q&A session, the evident tensions between Dershowitz and his co-panelist [presumably Charles Jacobs], and the fact that it all went down under the auspices of mainstream Jewish community groups—is the best evidence yet that an increasingly panicked and isolated right-wing donor base is waging a scorched earth campaign against the very foundations of contemporary American Zionism….

Speaker after speaker stepped to the mic to lambaste Dershowitz, often in the most abusive terms, for a wide variety of crimes: for referring to the “West Bank” instead of “Judea and Samaria”; for Dershowitz’s anti-Semitic denial of the right of Jews to colonize the Palestinian city of Hebron; for encouraging his followers to vote for the Jew-hater Barack Obama; and, of course, for his failure to comprehend the savage, homicidal nature of Islam. Dershowitz attempted to defend himself, comparing his assailants to Meir Kahane and denouncing their racism. But his appeals were barely audible over the shouted cross talk and frenzied cheers of the audience.

“If you don’t want people like me defending Israel,” he told them, “then you’re in serious trouble.”

To anyone not hermetically ensconced in the far-right moral universe engineered by wealthy activists like Jacobs and billionaire Republican financier Sheldon Adelson (and few of the hundreds in attendance were not), the whole scene was insane. It was a topsy-turvy world where Alan Dershowitz and young AIPAC devotees represent the despised far left wing of the “official” Jewish conversation about Israel. But this was not the meeting of some fringe group in a synagogue basement. It was a big, Federation-sponsored production at a prestigious university.

Young American Jews are getting off the pro-Israel bus, and the fury of the right-wing donor base—its uncalculated reaction to the sudden loss of control—is poised to further erode the historic bargain between Zionism and liberalism that kept the wheels in motion for so many years. As J Street members move further to the left and the Jewish world turns bimodal—pure universalism vs. pure ethno-nationalism—we’re likely to see more of these insurgent encroachments by the far right into mainstream spaces. With the Dershowitzian compromise on life support, the internal dynamics of Jewish institutional life are about to get very, very interesting.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

Other posts by .


Posted In:

30 Responses

  1. James Canning
    April 2, 2014, 2:29 pm

    Fascinating. Great piece, too.

    • Krauss
      April 2, 2014, 10:39 pm

      Yeah. Jewish journalism(honest journalism) still lives, but it is confined to non-Jewish publications like that one or it is done by Op-Eds by non-reporters like that student who sent in his article/letter from Michigan for publication in the Forward.

      Most other Jewish journalists who are writing about the Jewish world must watch their words, for they are heavily dependent upon the same hard-right donors who they are supposed to be covering. And that’s never a good recipe for good journalism, whether it is Jewish journalism or general journalism.

  2. mikeo
    April 2, 2014, 2:36 pm

    Ha Ha Ha

    F**cking love it!

    Couldn’t of happened to a nicer guy ;)

    • Krauss
      April 2, 2014, 10:37 pm

      I think a part of the Dersh enjoys it. He seems to have a penchant of going into far-right crowds and just riling them up, he likes the heat. He’s that kind of guy. If you ever see him on TV, he can’t wait to get into a fight with someone.

  3. seafoid
    April 2, 2014, 2:48 pm

    I’m having problems locating Finkelstein’s nemesis on the left wing. Delighted that the Dersh lived to see this moment.

    • ziusudra
      April 3, 2014, 7:40 am

      Greetings seafoid,
      ….the desh. on de left……
      We remember that Gov. Wallace became very mellow in old age.
      Es geschehen zeichen und wunder!
      ziusudra
      PS Could he be an opportunist, what with BDS on de rise?
      Who knows, he may even convert to Evangelicalism?

  4. kalithea
    April 2, 2014, 2:49 pm

    So that low-life is getting a taste of his own medecine? And by his smile; I see he’s really pained over it. Zionists can pretend to disagree all they want; but at the end of the day they all shake hands, toast to another day of screwing everyone and lust after even more Palestinian land.

  5. Annie Robbins
    April 2, 2014, 3:00 pm

    great article by Berkman. hats off.

    • LeaNder
      April 3, 2014, 8:01 am

      Annie, I absolutely agree about Matt Berkman. Great writer and analyst. What a pity his PhD project isn’t yet finished. After reading the article one wishes one could read more of the man:

      For decades prior to the establishment of J Street, the Zionist right lived in a marriage of convenience with liberalism, embodied by no one better than Alan Dershowitz. The bargain was this: the far-right ethno-nationalists would cede public leadership of the pro-Israel movement to “liberals” like Dershowitz on the condition that those liberals did nothing of any real consequence to challenge the far right’s expansionist designs on a Greater Israel. Until the emergence of J Street as a credible counterforce (courted by the Obama administration and making slow headway in Congress), the liberals were safely contained. Movement figures like Dershowitz—a famous civil liberties lawyer, never mind his endorsement of “torture warrants” and collective punishment—could be trusted to brandish their own commitment to liberal values, impart Israel with a veneer of progressivism by association, all while never breaking publicly with the official line of right-wing Israeli governments.

  6. kalithea
    April 2, 2014, 3:05 pm

    If we’re supposed to construe this as more young Jews abandoning Zionism instead of more Jews young and old in general going nuclear to justify Zionist expansion then Jesus does appear on pieces of toast.

  7. RoHa
    April 2, 2014, 3:09 pm

    Tee-hee!

  8. German Lefty
    April 2, 2014, 3:16 pm

    Oh, it’s so great when Zionists tear each other apart! Now, Dershowitz knows how anti-Zionists feel when they are called names by crazy Zios.

    • seafoid
      April 3, 2014, 7:08 am

      It’s very like French Algeria late 50s where former hardliners were called pussies for advocating reality based policies.

  9. K Renner
    April 2, 2014, 6:29 pm

    So it’s a matter of the Dersh, who’s just an aggravating jackass, versus the “lunatic fringe” of contemporary Zionism that’s actually somewhat more considerable then just a fringe?

    They guy who blames the Palestinians for the 1948-49 war versus the people who don’t believe in Palestinians, so to speak?

    That does sound like an interesting event. I wouldn’t want to be there by any means, mind you.

  10. LanceThruster
    April 2, 2014, 7:32 pm

    Frahnkenshteen’s monster.

    xD

  11. Real Jew
    April 2, 2014, 8:03 pm

    Kalithea- youre hilarious :)

    Very interesting indeed. When the Dersh is being lambasted for not being pro israel enough the paradigm is truly shifting. I think the rightwingers are beginning to realize that the pro israel movement is reaching a breaking point. An increasing amount of people from the jewish and gentile community do not unconditionally support their ideology and they are helpless to stop it. So their reaction is to reject anybody displaying even a miniscule amount of moderation. Perfect. Lets see how crazy they will get. Should be amusing

    • talknic
      April 5, 2014, 4:42 am

      @ Real Jew April 2, 2014 at 8:03 pm “So their reaction is to reject anybody displaying even a miniscule amount of moderation. Perfect. Lets see how crazy they will get. Should be amusing”

      When it infects a state and it did Israel long ago http://wp.me/pDB7k-l5#israels-intentions , it’s far from amusing! When it doesn’t get its way the little red heifer has in the past, as it threatened, kicked the sh*t out of the china shop with ever increasing violence and advanced weaponry

  12. a blah chick
    April 2, 2014, 8:28 pm

    “It was a topsy-turvy world where Alan Dershowitz and young AIPAC devotees represent the despised far left wing of the “official” Jewish conversation about Israel.”

    I think the Dersh and his friends should form a breakaway group, The Judean Peoples’ Front, to distinguish themselves from the more rightwing The Peoples’ Front of Judea. This should help avoid any confusion about where they stand on the issues.

    • Yitzgood
      April 3, 2014, 2:30 am

      I think the Dersh and his friends should form a breakaway group, The Judean Peoples’ Front, to distinguish themselves from the more rightwing The Peoples’ Front of Judea. This should help avoid any confusion about where they stand on the issues.

      I always assumed these names satirized names like PFLP and DFLP. Did the Mondoweissniks all get mad when Life of Brian came out?

      • a blah chick
        April 3, 2014, 6:04 pm

        Probably not, lefties don’t mind laughing at themselves.

    • RoHa
      April 3, 2014, 4:06 am

      Splitter!

  13. Hostage
    April 2, 2014, 9:48 pm

    Bradley Burston had an article about the film in Haaretz that says it all: “J-Streetophobia, and the U.S. Jewish right’s hatred for American Jews”: A new film was meant to be an expose of J Street. Instead, it sheds light on a message that marquee names on the U.S. Jewish right have for the vast majority of their fellow American Jews: You’re stupid. We hate you.

    • LeaNder
      April 3, 2014, 7:55 am

      Great article:

      But you get the idea.

      Leaving the screening, I was grateful to have seen the film, if only to learn a little more about the American Jewish right. But I was still left to wonder if the donors who funded the film got their money’s worth. Why would you want to insult the very people you need to convince? After all, I thought: I’ve never met anyone who likes to be called stupid.

      I don’t know a soul who appreciates being called harmfully naïve.

      I’ve yet to encounter the person who is grateful for being informed that, when it comes to what they openly and sincerely love – they are the enemy.

      Richard Landes is a very peculiar academic too. A couple of years ago, I bought a book he edited since it contained a contribution from one of my absolute favorites on the subject. I had a hard time reading his introduction.

      What a pity we can’t watch it too.

  14. Citizen
    April 2, 2014, 10:29 pm

    Patterns seems to be the richer a Jewish American guy gets, the more fanatically far, far right Zionist he becomes? It’s like to the really big end millionaires and the billionaires, Israel is their dreamy salvation, their salvation from what? How they accomplished what they have in their life? How many of them move there to live? I’m not talking a second home, a vacation home, or anything like that. Zero?

  15. Kay24
    April 2, 2014, 10:52 pm

    It is good to know, that even for a few minutes, Dershowitz felt like many others do, when inappropriately accused of anti-semitism, now a very worn out card, that apologists seem to overuse, that does not have the intimidation factor it once had, and the only method of stifling any criticism of Israel.
    It seems Israeli firsters in the US are getting desperate, and frustrated. They are now turning on their own, for the most trivial reasons, a sign that things are unravelling perhaps in zioland?

  16. Daniel Rich
    April 3, 2014, 4:30 am

    Liberal zionism doesn’t exist. It’s on par with ‘administrative detention’ or the west’s ‘rendition flights.’

    It’s like calling bulls ‘cows with a d**ks.’ Moohoohoo…

    Zionism has reared its ugly head [don’t look at me, Adelson] and more and more individuals seem to realize they’re dealing with a pig with lipstick, not a pretty, gay/lesbian embracing, bi-sexual Apartheid State.

  17. eljay
    April 3, 2014, 8:50 am

    Speaker after speaker stepped to the mic to lambaste Dershowitz, often in the most abusive terms, for a wide variety of crimes: for referring to the “West Bank” instead of “Judea and Samaria”; for Dershowitz’s anti-Semitic denial of the right of Jews to colonize the Palestinian city of Hebron; for encouraging his followers to vote for the Jew-hater Barack Obama; and, of course, for his failure to comprehend the savage, homicidal nature of Islam. Dershowitz attempted to defend himself, comparing his assailants to Meir Kahane and denouncing their racism. But his appeals were barely audible over the shouted cross talk and frenzied cheers of the audience.

    Wow, I never realized just how much of an anti-Semite and a self-loathing Jew Dershowitz actually was!

    It’s quite something when a supremacist and hate-monger like Dershowitz is taken to task not for being hateful and immoral, but for being insufficiently hateful and immoral.

    Zio-supremacism is truly ugly stuff…

  18. genesto
    April 3, 2014, 12:15 pm

    Just more evidence that ‘liberal Zionism’ (kind of like ‘kinder, gentler conservatism’, i.e. an oxymoron) is dead. Good riddance! Nothing has contributed more to preserving and expanding the Occupation than ‘liberal Zionism’. With its death, now we can see Zionism for what it really is, and the two sides of the issue will become much more clearly defined. Oh, and this will hasten Zionism’s ultimate demise. The world will be a much better place once that happens.

  19. Talkback
    April 5, 2014, 4:22 am

    … rightwing Zionists call Dershowitz anti-Semitic …

    There’s always a bigger moron, Dershy. :p

Leave a Reply