We keep a close eye on the breakup of the American Jewish consensus on Israel, with young Jews announcing their “resistance” to the Jewish establishment over the 50th year of occupation. Well, here is the counter-narrative: in which rightwing Jewish “thugs” in suburban Detroit shut down an Israeli concert at a leading Conservative synagogue by issuing threats.
The singer is Achinoam “Noa” Nini, an outspoken Israeli liberal. The concert was to take place at Adat Shalom synagogue on May 18. In a statement issued by the New Israel Fund, whose board she is on, Noa warned that Israeli extremism is making its way to the States:
“I’m saddened and outraged to see that this aggressive campaign of silencing, which we know too well from the extremist fringe in Israel, has made its way to the American Jewish community as well. But I am not afraid. Fear and silence stand in the way of democracy, equality, peace, and our Jewish value of standing with the weak among us. I look forward to many more events with the American Jewish community of courage and conscience I know so well.”
Daniel Sokatch, the head of the New Israel Fund, makes a similar point, decrying “bullies and bigots” and “thugs” in the Jewish community, led by Benjamin Netanyahu; and says the synagogue shouldn’t have caved.
“Bullies and bigots have threatened one of Israel’s most prominent artists because she has the audacity to call for peace, democracy, and equality for Israelis and Palestinians, and I’m disappointed that a Jewish community would cave to intimidation from thugs. Noa’s voice will not be silenced. We will not be able to confront the occupation and build Israel’s future if we fall in line with the campaign of silencing and intimidation led by Prime Minister Netanyahu and his allies. This is a wake-up call and an opportunity for Jewish communities to refuse to cower to political persecution, and to welcome progressive voices and difficult but necessary conversations.”
The Detroit Jewish News has only a vague description of the threats. But notice how it describes Noa’s support for the two-state solution as “leftwing.”
In a May 4 letter to it members, synagogue leadership stated: “Several credible threats of protest and demonstration have been planned in response to the appearance of Achinoam “Noa” Nini at Adat Shalom on Thursday, May 18. We have been working closely with law enforcement and our security advisers and have concluded that based on these threats there was a high potential for disruption to the concert. As a result, and in keeping the safety of our community, our congregation, and the performers as our highest priority, we have made the decision to cancel the concert.”…
Noa’s left-wing political positions, including her support of a two-state resolution, of the “peace camp” in Israel and of groups support coexistence with Palestinians, are known here and in Israel. The vocal minority that pushed hard to cancel her May 18 concert are Jews from the right-wing camp that hold opposing viewpoints.
The Jerusalem Post reports that Noa was falsely linked to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement a year ago, leading to cancellations then; but she spoke out saying she doesn’t like BDS at all.
The whole story is a reminder of how reactionary the US Jewish community is on the Palestine question, how convulsive the breakup that’s going on is. NIF official Eyal Yerushalmi sent out a letter saying that “other venues on [Noa’s] U.S. tour are under similar pressure” to cancel, and this has grave political consequences.
She sang at the fateful 1995 Peace Rally where Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was murdered. Soon after, she declared her refusal to perform in the occupied territories until both sides agreed on their status…
What happened with this performance was not an isolated incident. It is part of an ongoing effort to silence critics of the occupation in Israel and also here in the United States, and to push this problem out of view. It is a worrying sign that the Jewish community is failing to stand up to the hardliners and allowing them to dictate who can appear at our events.
The right wing is dictating who can speak out at American Jewish events. Right! That’s been happening for a while. I do wonder what the NIF will do to try to counter this political trend. Certainly it has given a lot of support to the young Jews of IfNotNow. But liberal Zionists are falling between two stools right now; their opposition to the occupation has been feckless for 50 years, and the left has moved on to support BDS, which is actually putting pressure on Israel to end the occupation.