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‘Bullies, bigots and thugs led by Netanyahu’ shut down synagogue event– in suburban Detroit

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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.

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9 Responses

  1. German Lefty
    German Lefty
    May 9, 2017, 4:19 pm

    I first saw Noa at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2009. Together with Mira Awad, she sang “There Must Be Another Way”:

    Noa: “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.”

    Really strange statement!
    The extremist fringe in Israel? The extremists are not a fringe in Israel. They have been the majority since Israel’s founding.
    This aggressive campaign of silencing has made its way to the American Jewish community? Huh? The USA is the enabler of Israel’s crimes. The USA has been silencing the UN for a long time so that Israel can get away with its crimes.

    • YoniFalic
      May 9, 2017, 4:31 pm

      I consider Noa to be one of the extremist thugs.

      Of course, at the time so was I.

      • German Lefty
        German Lefty
        May 10, 2017, 7:04 am

        “I consider Noa to be one of the extremist thugs.”
        -> She seems to be a Zionist. So, yes. I am not a fan of Hamas either, but blaming the situation in Gaza on Hamas is ridiculous. Also, collaboration with the Zionist regime just leads to more illegal settlements on your land, not to fewer. Hamas does a better job than Fatah.

        “Of course, at the time so was I.”
        -> Please, stop castigating yourself. You have punished yourself enough already. It is time to forgive yourself. You were a victim of the system and its propaganda. You know, a decision can only be as good as the information that it is based on. In the past, you didn’t have that information.
        Also, you can support the Palestinians better when you are at peace with yourself.

      • YoniFalic
        May 13, 2017, 9:41 am

        When I start berating myself, my medications probably need adjustment.

        BTW, I had to look up “castigate”, I think “berate” is closer to my behavior when I verge on an episode of depression.

    • pabelmont
      May 10, 2017, 9:51 am

      Extremist “fringe”? Well, whether or not a “fringe”, it has been around for a very long time. read the famous Einstein letter to the New York Times:

      It begins this way:


      Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our times is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the “Freedom Party” (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.

      The current visit of Menachem Begin, leader of this party, to the United States is obviously calculated to give the impression of American support for his party in the coming Israeli elections, and to cement political ties with conservative Zionist elements in the United States. Several Americans of national repute have lent their names to welcome his visit. It is inconceivable that those who oppose fascism throughout the world, if correctly informed as to Mr. Begin’s political record and perspectives, could add their names and support to the movement he represents.

      Before irreparable damage is done by way of financial contributions, public manifestations in Begin’s behalf, and the creation in Palestine of the impression that a large segment of America supports Fascist elements in Israel, the American public must be informed as to the record and objectives of Mr. Begin and his movement.

      ETC ETC ETC.

  2. JLewisDickerson
    May 10, 2017, 3:27 am

    RE: “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.” ~ Achinoam “Noa” Nini

    Ilan Pappe: “Timidity and Intimidation; Researching Palestine in Britain”

  3. JosephA
    May 10, 2017, 8:53 am

    Those who make such threats should be prosecuted, to the fullest extent of the law.

  4. Ossinev
    May 10, 2017, 12:37 pm

    “Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine”

    This of course was led by that lifelong Zionist peacenik Menachim Begin and he devoted his life to “peace” when not too busy planning the bombings of hotels etc.

    The signatories to the letter referred to would now of course be referred to variously as “self loathing” Jews,”self denying” Jews or simply “lefties”. Yes you heard it first here on Mondoweiss – that world renowned theoretical physicist who gave us the the theory of relativity was little more in fact than a self loathing Jewish leftie. Oh wait a minute that`s not quite right(pause Hasbara check) True he didn`t get round to inventing the cherry tomato but he is right up there as a shining example of the intellectual superiority of the Chosen People so despite this letter we still very much consider him to be one of ours.

    As for cuddly little M Begin well being a heroic resistance fighter and not an ugly murderous little Fascist terrorist it was perfectly in order for a street to be named after him. In fact he was such a glorious peacenik the Zios decided to name a whole highway after him. And in deference to his towering Zio intellect they even elected him as Prime Minister.

  5. Atlantaiconoclast
    May 10, 2017, 2:38 pm

    I sure all Mondoweiss readers use that Buycot app on their phone when out shopping. If we can’t do something that basic, there really is no hope for BDS.

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