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

on 15 Comments

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Synagogue when it received an email from the synagogue’s chief rabbi warning the bookstore that the invitation would be withdrawn unless it publicly rescinded its support of the book.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

Mondoweiss Editors

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15 Responses

  1. Kay24 on March 1, 2018, 7:41 pm

    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 Education Minister Naftali Bennett. Bennett is the chairman of the right-wing Jewish Home party, a party seeking to criminalize any criticisms of the Israeli occupation.”

    So unlike those Arab nations eh?


  2. on March 1, 2018, 10:50 pm

    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 Zionists or Immoral to describe Zionists or Infestation to describe Zionist migration or Icky to describe Israeli hummous or how about Ignore to describe what decent people should do when Zionists request the removal of a children’s alphabet book.

    How fragile are these NY Jewish Zionists of the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue – Israeli nukes do not provide enough comfort? Unfuckingbelievable!!!!!!

    • jackal on March 4, 2018, 6:08 pm

      You missed:
      Ignorant, as it pertains to the lack of knowledge of most Israelis about their history

  3. echinococcus on March 2, 2018, 2:02 pm

    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.

  4. MHughes976 on March 2, 2018, 2:57 pm

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

    • Keith on March 3, 2018, 3:10 pm

      MCHUGHES976- “The attempt at censorship has not fully succeeded otherwise.”

      Perhaps not fully succeeded, however, the tactic of intimidation may continue for quite some time. In 2000, French academic Pascal Boniface authored an internal memo for a small working group in the Parti Socialiste which questioned ongoing support for Israel. The memo was leaked and thus began 16 years of unprincipled harassment and demonization by French Jewish Zionists, including the CRIF and Bernard-Henri Levy. The campaign was characterized by extreme Zionist solidarity and total dishonesty. It was a demonstration of what happens when someone dares to criticize Israel. Below are a brief quote and link to this must-read article.

      “In 2000, Alain Chenal, heading the Middle East/Mediterranean sector of the PS’ secretariat, establishes a small group to reflect on what the position of the PS should be regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was not expected to make waves.

      In this context, Boniface wrote an internal 1300 word note in April 2001 regarding the PS’ de facto position on the Israel-Palestinian question. He suggested that the position – tacit support for Israeli governments (Ariel Sharon had become Prime Minister in March) that continue to flout international law – was driven by realpolitik rather than principle. The position deserved re-examination. The note is reproduced in L’Antisémite.4

      The note was disseminated by supporters of Israel within the PS. He was flooded with messages of criticism and abuse (including from Israel). There were some supportive responses.” (Evan Jones)

      • RoHa on March 3, 2018, 6:13 pm

        “The campaign was characterized by extreme Zionist solidarity and total dishonesty. ”

        Business as usual, then.

      • MHughes976 on March 4, 2018, 9:13 am

        I see that Book Culture may face years of intimidation but I would still like to know whether the book is withdrawn. If not the threat of long term intimidation is not succeeding.
        I’m MHughes, you know, not McHughes – not Scottish.

    • on March 5, 2018, 8:24 am

      It appears you can still purchase the book through Book Culture book store. I’ve read somewhere it is no longer prominently displayed but copies are available at the store if you ask.

  5. Mooser on March 4, 2018, 5:46 pm

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

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

  6. Scott on March 5, 2018, 8:34 am

    Good to see Ann Roiphe’s name. She has an occasional reactionary or conservative side to her, I recall from years ago. And isn’t it her daughter under fire for opposing some intersectionality nonsense?

  7. Krendall Mist on March 6, 2018, 8:50 pm

    Dont understand why the pre-67 Zionists for Palestinian rights phonies always decry their liberal brethren’s disclaimer that “Israel has a right to exist” every time they throw some sop toward the Arabushim.

    Even tape worms have a “right” to exist.

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