I don’t use that term lightly because it’s thrown around all too easily by those with extreme ideological agendas. In order to understand why I’ve used it hear you must read Larry Cohler Esses’ second in a series on the efforts to open the Khalil Gibran Academy, a New York public school dedicated to teaching Arab language and culture. Larry’s first piece focussed on the involvement of Campus Watch in the successful campaign to unseat Debbie Almontaser as school principal; and its overall efforts to destroy the school.
In his second article he focuses on the Brooklyn group, Stop the Madrassa, behind the local campaign to derail the school. The erstwhile leader of the group is not a Brooklyn local and not even a New Yorker. In fact, he was originally a Ukrainian Jew who emigrated to the U.S. in the 1980s. [UPDATE: David Yerushalmi was NOT born in the Ukraine. His ancestors were. He was born in the U.S. and did not emigrate here. My error was due to a misunderstanding of something my informant wrote to me about Yerushalmi’s background.] He ended up in Los Angeles where he worked as a junior associate for my friend, Dean Hansell. Dean, who is an extremely mild and decent man not known to speak ill of many, knew Yerushalmi then as David Beychok and called him “very conservative.” If anything, this was an understatement as Larry makes clear:
A key leader of the group opposing a new, Arab-focused public school in Brooklyn is a virulent opponent of a democratic Jewish state who denounces “Zionist Israel” and calls on it to “cast off the yoke of liberal democracy.”
Stop the Madrassa leader David Yerushalmi also condemns democracy in the United States and, in comments that evoke classical anti-Semitic stereotypes, says he finds truth in the view that Jews “destroy their host nations like a fatal parasite.”
Stop the Madrassa and other critics seeking to derail the opening of the Khalil Gibran school, set for next month, have charged that the school’s advisory board includes radical Islamists.
Now, Yerushalmi’s comments have raised concerns about Stop the Madrassa’s own leadership by some of its own advisory members.
Yerushalmi, a national advisory board member, counsel and de facto treasurer for Stop the Madrassa, wrote regarding conservative criticism of Israel, Zionism and Jews: “Much of what drives it is true and accurate.” Conservatives’ primary “critique,” he said, “is that the Jews of the modern age are the most radical, aggressive and effective of the liberal Elite.”
“One must admit readily that the radical liberal Jew is a fact of the West and a destructive one,” he wrote. “Indeed, Jews in the main have turned their backs on the belief in G-d and His commandments as a book of laws for a particular and chosen people.”
In Israel, he said, other than the ultra-Orthodox, “Most Israelis are raging Leftists, and this includes the so-called nationalists who found a home in the ‘right-wing’ Likud political bloc or one of the other smaller and more marginal right wing parties.”
In a message to a pro-Israel rally last June he asked: “What interest does America have in a strong Israel? If your answer is democracy in a liberal or western sense, know you have sided with the Palestinians of Hamas.”
You tell me…is this guy a fascist or what? This may be one of the rare times when using that term is actually totally accurate and apt.
So how does Daniel Pipes feel about getting into bed with reptiles like Yerushalmi. Oh, he’s terribly concerned with how it might look:
Asked if, in light of Yerushalmi’s background, Stop the Madrassa might be harboring extremists among its own leadership, Daniel Pipes, another member of its national advisory board, said “These are troubling statements and raise questions about my serving on the same board as Mr. Yerushalmi. I shall be looking into the matter.”
We await with bated breath Pipes’ decision on whether he will continue being associated with someone who is actually even more extreme, racist and hateful than he himself is (and that’s tough to do).
Another Stop the Madrassa board member wasn’t put off by Yerushalmi’s overt racism:
Jeff Wiesenfeld, a former aide to ex-Gov. Pataki, who also serves on the group’s advisory board…also drew a distinction between Yerushalmi’s views and the outlook of some of the school’s supporters. Yerushalmi, he said, had expressed “a Jewish supremacist type of thought” — one he rejects — “but nowhere in those quotes did I hear him advocating violence or harm to anyone,” as words like intifada and jihad do.
I see. Yerushalmi renounces democracy, embraces Jewish supremacism (that’s a nice way of saying Kahanism or Jewish racism) but he’s still OK unless he puts an axe in some Arab’s head. But Debbie Almontaser, who has been a devout student of the ADL’s multicultural programming and worked tirelessly at reaching out to New York’s Jewish community in building support for the school–she’s the one who espouses violence because she explained the meaning of a word on a T-shirt. Is this feeble-minded rhetoric of what.
I originally heard about Yerushalmi from a law partner of Dean’s in Washington, D.C. who was involved in interfaith work with Arabs, Jews and Christians. A Falls Church imam discovered that Yerushalmi had sent people to “infiltrate” his mosque in order to prove that it supported radical jihad. Dean’s colleague asked me what I knew about him and sent me to Yerushalmi’s website, SANE. I thought I’d heard of many of the Jewish right-wing extremists out there. But I hadn’t heard of this one. At his site, I learned some wonderful things: That Bill O’Reilly is a “secular progressive” and Sean Hannity “”participates in the destruction of America’s national existence.” That worship of Islam in the U.S. should be illegal.
Crackpot? Sure. Harmless? No. Daniel Pipes and David Yerushalmi have hijacked Jewish-Arab relations in New York City and made a huge splash in the media. They are not ineffectual extremists with no following. They are a force to be reckoned with and the fact that the organized Jewish community does not recognize this and combat it speaks volumes about its own lack of leadership in this area.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.