We missed this. The Washington, D.C., JCC, has canceled an appearance by an author who is a Jewish day-school teacher in Pittsburgh, because he has supported boycott of Israel. And the Washington Post has picked the story up. File this one under, the self-inflicted stupidity of the Jewish community.
Last week in Haaretz, author David Harris-Gershon wrote about the cancellation. He said Washington JCC ceo Carole Zawatsky called him just before his fourth-grade class to tell him he was a “mensch” and
that my political views are so untenable that the DCJCC could no longer host my “Authors Out Loud” book event, at which I was to talk about the power of reconciliation and dialogue embedded in my memoir, What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?
The event was cancelled because, apparently, I had crossed a red line for Zawatsky.
Harris-Gershon doesn’t say what day the event was to take place. But journalist Sharon Jacobs has opined about the matter in the Washington Post, February 7: “A voice the JCC doesn’t think we should hear.” Notice how she speaks of American Jewish privilege:
On Tuesday, I got an e-mail from the Washington DC Jewish Community Center: The JCC was refunding me for a ticket I had purchased to an event in its “Authors Out Loud” series. I had paid to hear David Harris-Gershon, whose memoir, “What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?,” traces his emotional journey following his wife’s serious injury in a Jerusalem bombing….
I wanted to ask whether Harris-Gershon’s mind-set about Palestinian society had changed gradually or all at once. I wanted to hear about what sort of resistance he encountered from his Jewish community as his perspective changed and he began to seek reconciliation with the perpetrator of such a bloody attack…
Thanks to the JCC, I know what Jewish resistance to Harris-Gershon looks like. And it’s ostensibly unrelated to his memoir. Instead, the resistance focuses on a blog post Harris-Gershon wrote advocating boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
When I called the JCC to ask why I was getting a refund, I was told Harris-Gershon’s talk had been canceled. “The DC JCC has a policy that we do not do events with people who have endorsed BDS,” associate executive director Joshua Ford told me. Apparently the JCC had wanted to hear about Harris-Gershon’s harrowing experience in Israel — until it found out that he had drawn the wrong conclusions from it.
The University of California at Santa Barbara’s chapter of the Jewish campus organization Hillel also canceled a talk by Harris-Gershon last month because of his political views….
I don’t think American Jews — privileged to be able to reflect on Harris-Gershon’s experience and to think about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from afar — can take our privilege and then hide our heads in the sand, refusing to look at the ugly mechanics of conflict and resistance…
We need writers like Harris-Gershon at our Jewish community centers to tell us what life is like beyond the Green Line, in the areas Israel controls but doesn’t quite claim as its own. We also need to discuss how we might fix the problems inherent in such a situation. The D.C. JCC has an obligation to me, to my peers and to my entire community to let all kinds of Jews in, especially those who challenge us with informed perspectives.
Harris-Gershon was featured on NPR last weekend. He is a liberal Zionist who supports a form of BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) in an effort to save the Israel he loves. Inspired in part by Israeli journalist Noam Sheizaf, he wrote a blogpost in favor of BDS in 2012, at Tikkun magazine:
Israel’s internal process alone will not end the occupation….
as an American Jew invested deeply in Israel’s success and survival — which in turn drives my investment in stopping one of the greatest moral challenges of my generation: the occupation — I have no choice but to formally endorse and embrace BDS…
As it is, I have long been uncertain about supporting such measures, afraid of the long-term damage a sustained BDS movement might do to Israel, and concerned about the anti-Israel motivations of segments who push to sanction Israel.
However, I know this for a fact: those who claim in Israel that there is no occupation have only one goal in mind: a single-state solution, a Jewishly-controlled Israel stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.
In Haaretz last week, Harris-Gershon writes about the damage that the JCC is doing to the Jewish community:
If someone like me should be placed outside the Jewish communal tent, consider the hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of liberal or progressive Jews who would similarly be exiled, since they too would be standing “outside the bounds of legitimate discourse.”
I want to be clear: This is not an issue of free speech. The DCJCC has a right to host whomever it likes. The issue is the communal damage being done by Jewish institutions that, out of misplaced or irrational fear, are refusing to engage with some of our most difficult and pressing issues, content to cast valuable members from the communal tent rather than expand that tent.
At its site, the JCC has a very defensive mission statement:
The Washington DCJCC stands firmly in support of Israel as an independent Jewish state. We support open, balanced and respectful dialogue that engages a broad community in meaningful conversation. We choose our partners and affiliations to ensure that all programming supports the DCJCC’s mission to preserve and strengthen Jewish identity, heritage, tradition and values. We oppose “Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions” of Israel (BDS) and all efforts to delegitimize the right of the State of Israel to exist.
Methinks you doth protest too much, JCC!
But then, the JCC is taking the radical step (irony alert) of staging a play that touches on the Nakba later this year: The Admission. I am told that a lot of its pro-Israel programming, including an event with the liberal Zionist journalist Dahlia Lithwick and the Zionist-revivalist Ari Shavit, are efforts to cover its hinder against criticism for even mentioning Palestinian dispossession.
P.S. The Post also ran a letter