‘Israel-related censorship’ on Upper West Side is deplored by 40 Jews, including Beinart, Hirschmann, Peratis, Zellner

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This ad appeared in this week’s West Side Spirit, published in New York, under the headline, “A Cloud Hangs Over Our Neighborhood.” The 44 signatories are listed below. –Editor.

We are your Jewish neighbors, and write to tell you that something unacceptable is happening on the Upper West Side.

Once upon a time, if you said you lived on the Upper West Side, people would immediately nod their heads in recognition: Oh yes, the UWS is a neighborhood where diverse peoples, diverse cultures, and diverse opinions are welcome.

West Sider ad deploring Israel-related censorship, signed by over 40 Jews

Is this still the case? Apparently not when it comes to Israel.

Just look at what happened recently when one of our Upper West Side bookstores, Book Culture, promoted and sold a children’s book, P is for Palestine. Book Culture had been invited to participate in a book fair at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue when it received an email from the synagogue’s chief rabbi warning the bookstore that the invitation would be withdrawn unless it publicly rescinded its support of the book.

Are Upper West Siders proud—or repulsed—that Book Culture felt it necessary to issue a statement that “Israel has a right to exist” and that it is against BDS, both issues that are not mentioned in the book?

This is the most recent—and shameful—instance of Israel-related censorship in our neighborhood. There are others. In years past, at least two rabbis at synagogues on the Upper West Side cancelled events because they learned that Jewish speakers were going to criticize Israel. And an UWS church was warned by another rabbi that its discussions of Israeli human rights violations might be interpreted by their Jewish neighbors as anti-semitic.

Dorothy Zellner

It was not always so. Ironically, the former chief rabbi of Stephen Wise, the late Balfour Brickner, in the belief that rabbis were teachers, not censors, welcomed both critics and defenders of Israel into his synagogue.

Don’t be silent. If you belong to an institution in our neighborhood to which speakers are invited to share their perspectives about Israel and Palestine, speak up. Make sure that the Upper West Side continues its tradition of free and open inquiry into the moral issues of the day.

Nic Abramson
Martha Ackelsberg
Anita Altman
Peter Beinart
Jeannie Blaustein
Renate Bridenthal
Shifra Bronznick
Esther Cohen
Sandi Cooper
Barbara Dobkin
Sascha Altman Dubrul
Laurel Eisner
Nina Felshin
Sherry Gorelick
Sally Gottesman
Kathryn Grody
Jenny Heinz
Jane Hirschmann
Barbara Kane
Marion Kaplan
Gil Kulick
Gail Lerner
Alan Levine
Lauren Levine
Richard Levy
Julie Livingston
Helaine Meisler
James I. Meyerson
Gail Miller
Susan Miller
Donna Nevel
Kathleen Peratis
Rosalind Petchesky
Judith Plaskow
Letty Cottin Pogrebin
Lynn Povich
Lana Dee Povitz
Gordon Rogoff
Anne Roiphe
Deborah Sagner
James Schamus
Judith Solomon
Andrea Wolkenberg
Dorothy Zellner

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Talking about silence, how about this from the “only real democracy” in the Middle East? Israel takes steps to Criminalize Criticisms of Israeli Military “The only way to stop us is to end the occupation,” said the group being targeted, Breaking the Silence. The Israeli Knesset approved the first reading of a bill that would prohibit organizations from being critical of the Israeli Army Monday. The bill, which passed by 35-23 votes, was proposed by… Read more »

But the book promotes the Intifadas (the letter “I” stands for Intifada) read the hasbara if you have the stomach for it – We can’t have young Palestinians shaking off their oppressors – that might lead to liberation and then what? The letter “I” should stand for Illegal for the occupation or Illegitimate for Jewish claims to historic Palestine or Inequality to describe Israeli apartheid or Inhuman to describe Zionists or Invaders to describe… Read more »

One has to make some allowance for the synagogue management. After all, it is absolutely impossible to believe that a place named for Rabbi Freakin Wise, one of the chief malignant politicians who designed and implemented the invasion and rape of Palestine and the rejection of refugee quotas, can be a place of religious worship. Not to mention free speech.

Did Book Culture withdraw the book from its shelves? The attempt at censorship has not fully succeeded otherwise.

“I’m MHughes, you know, not McHughes – not Scottish.”

Scottish is with a small “c”. “Keith” was addressing you as a rapmaster.