Brad Greenberg, who writes the GodBlog for the L.A. Jewish Journal wrote to me today about the strange case of local Jewish philanthropist and Clinton bundler, Daphna Ziman, who has taken to the airwaves to denounce the Obama campaign as “a movement that will destroy us [the Jews].” It all starts innocently enough with an African American fraternity dinner at which Ziman was honored for her work supporting African-American foster children.
The keynote was delivered by Rev. Eric Lee, director of the local Southern Christian Leadership Conference chapter. That’s when all hell broke loose. Here’s how Ziman characterized the speech in an e mail which became a viral sensation thanks to its dissemination via the 50,000 member e mail list of militantly pro-Israel group Stand With Us:
I have to tell you of an experience I had last night that was so anti semitic [sic] and frightening:
…He [Rev. Lee] began his speech by thanking Jesus for Obama, who is going to be the leader of the world. He continued by referring to other leaders Like Dr. King, being that this was the moment of celebrating Dr. King’s spirit on the anniversary of his assasination [sic], and Malcolm X.
It was right after the mention of Malcolm X that he looked right at me and started talking about the African American children who are suffering because of the JEWS [in the entertainment industry] that have featured them as rapists and murderers.
He spoke of a Jewish Rabbi, and then corrected himself to say “What other kind of Rabbis are there, but JEWS”. He told how this Rabbi came to him to say that he would like to bring the AA community and the Jewish community together. ” NO, NO, NO,!!!!” he shouted into the crowd, we are not going to come together. “The Jews have made money on us in the music business and we are the entertainers, and they are economically enslaving us.”
…He continued as to how now the salvation has come and the gates have open for African Americans to come together behind Barack Obama, because now is the time to show them.(meaning thejews). He continued to speak about ‘ White supremecy’ [sic] vs the talents and visionaries in the core of African Americans. He demeaned being given freedom, by saying “To what?” to a country that kills women and children.
I could no longer be polite and sit in front of the crowd, so I walked out.
I cried for me and my family, who have tried so hard to help the African American community, because we adopted children from the same realities and wanted to give back to other children and people. We have been completely color blind, for us it was only helping those children in need.
I cried for our beloved country and the division that Barack Obama has caused with his Rev. Wright opening the gates to ‘hate’ against the Jews and whites. I grew up so looking at America as the land of Freedom.
I was honored to receive my citizenship accompanied by members of the Kennedy family. Now, I’m afraid for Israel because Barack sat there for 20 years listening and not standing up for what’s right, why would he standup for Israel?
I cried for the Jewish community who are so blind that they can’t see that there’s a movement here that will destroy us. I cried because for the first time in my life I was afraid of the future.
I cried for our world that is moving backwards and not forward. Everyday, I see children so lost, and so deserving of hope and love. I look into their eyes, knowing that it is their lives that are in our hands. I’m crying now, so I’m going to stop writing because it is so painful.
I don’t know Daphna Ziman. I wasn’t at the dinner. But judging by the histrionics in her account it sounds to me like an extremely emotional, overwrought person who perhaps unconsciously, perhaps unintentionally sees her opportunity to create another Rev. Wright moment for the Obama campaign. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. She’s a true believer in the Clinton cause. She truly sees Obama as a mortal danger to America and Israel. She feels she’s doing her duty by bringing this incident to the attention of a few hundred thousand of her Jewish best friends.
Unfortunately, what we have here are the Obamaphobic Jewish gremlins again let loose to wreak havoc on a presidential campaign. I hate to use such a Christian motif but for the love of God someone’s got to drive a stake through the heart of such nonsense. Forget about the impact it has on the Obama campaign. It’s even worse for the Clinton campaign. Here you have one of her major California bundlers practically on the warpath over an event with no direct connection at all to Obama. To call this a stretch is to use utmost understatement.
To make matters even worse, Ziman has chosen to publicize her charges in an interview with neo-con Pajamas Media blogger Roger Simon. I should add that Pajamas Media’s chief funder, Aubrey Chernick, is a major supporter of Stand With Us, the group which put the “V” in viral in promoting Ziman’s assault on Obama.
One of the more laughably self-serving statements in Ziman’s video is:
“This is not about politics for me. This was not about anything else. This is about my people.
The odd thing about this is she probably does sincerely believe it’s not about politics. But just because she believes it, doesn’t mean it’s true. Does she think that Pajamas Media wants to promote her story out of pure love for the Jewish people?? ‘Course not. It’s political, baby. You better believe it.
I just came across this from the Wilshire & Washington blog which blows the lid off Ziman’s protestations of disinterest in politics. She has written an “essay” called The Road to the White House is Paved by a Distorted Media in which she writes the following:
Well, I have many questions that I dare ask Barack (must not mention middle name or else) Obama.
1. Were you born Barry Dunham or Barack Hussein Obama?
2. Did you change your name? When? Where? And Why?
3. Was there a naming ceremony? Where? Under what circumstances?
4 .Why are we not allowed to mention your middle name?
It occurred to me that the identity of a potential Commander and Chief is rather important…
What we have here is a loose cannon. And this isn’t the first or even second time she’s done something similar as Newsweek reported one of her earlier forays into smearing Obama for being soft on Israel.
Returning to the speech, Rev. Lee emphatically denies Ziman’s charges:
“None of those words are what I said. Not a single word. My goodness,” Lee said. “I look at the Jewish community as allies in our quest for advancement. For me, it doesn’t do any good to indict anybody. I just need help in changing the characterization of African Americans through the entertainment industry, and whoever can help me is fine. And without question there are a lot of influential members of the Jewish community that may be able to help us with that.”
…In fact, disputing her description, Lee noted that he and members of the SCLC are scheduled to take part in a black-Jewish seder organized by the American Jewish Committee on April 17 at Wilshire Boulevard Temple. Eli Lipmen, the AJC’s L.A. spokesman, said Lee has been a friend of the Jewish community.
“Absolutely,” Lipmen said. “SCLC is a respected organization in the community and we have worked with them in the past.”
Lee said his speech began by faulting the black community for its own failings: “I indicted the African American community more so for spending $930 billion and not having control of any industries and for having such a high dropout rate and having 40 percent of our children in foster care.”
Lee said he referenced a conversation he had with an unidentified rabbi, during which he said the two communities needed to address the negative characterization of blacks on TV and in movies “for a genuine collaboration to take place.”
“Black leaders have gone to black entertainment leaders and said, ‘Take the “n” word out of your music and take the “b” word out of your music,'” Lee said in an interview. “And so, my thinking is — in building a relationship, and reconnecting, as it were, like when Dr. King was alive in the civil rights movement — is that our friends and allies in the Jewish community who have influence in the entertainment community can help us in changing the depiction of African Americans.”
In case any of you have been under a bushel for the past few decades, I must tell you that we Jews can get very touchy about certain subjects. We’re petrified about anti-Semitism because we endured so much suffering at the hands of evil ones like Hitler. We sometimes see enemies even where they aren’t because our antennae are so focused on nuances of words, phrases and thoughts that might be anti-Semitic. We have had so many enemies we tend to see them even where they may not be.
Further, Israel is a nation under siege. That makes some of us even more sensitive to such issues. Daphna Ziman has a very extreme case of anti-Semitism-itis. Such a condition does neither Jews nor anyone we come into contact with any good. It turns us into cartoon versions of Jews like Abe Foxman. And it can really hurt presidential candidates we support when we call their opponents racists and anti-Semites.
In fairness, I should add that Rev. Lee released a public statement in response to Ziman’s charges and it doesn’t do him any favors:
…The Black Power Movement emerged after the assassination of Dr. King and it was a direct response to the negative characterizations of African Americans through the silver screen, TV and the music industry, industries that are perceived to be influenced by many in the Jewish community. I then stated to the Rabbis that the Black Power Movement was our effort to define for ourselves our own identity rather than be defined by anyone else. I then indicated in my presentation that I told the Rabbis’ that before a genuine coalition could be rebuilt between our communities, there would have to be dialogue and efforts made to deal with the negative characterizations of African Americans.
It appears to me that Lee is a tone-deaf African-American minister who hasn’t yet learned how to speak in a nuanced fashion about the issues he wants to address. He verges on anti-Semitism without quite coming right out and saying anything that is explicitly so. Slightly troubling? Maybe.
But to take offense in the ‘chewing the scenery’ way Ziman did indicates a person who herself has some problem negotiating life’s byways with a sense of balance and proportion.
Lee’s allies must’ve told him that his “explanation” was less than satisfying, which is why he released a more forthright apology which stated in part:
I unequivocally denounce any anti-Semitic sentiments, statements and behavior and assure you that such hatred is not reflective of my character and my work. Specifically, I do not believe, and the SCLC does not subscribe to the belief, that Jews control the entertainment industries or are responsible for negative characterizations of African Americans.
The fact is that Lee did in fact get very close to saying what he claims he doesn’t believe. Let this be a lesson to him that sentiments perhaps widely accepted in certain segments of the African-American community will get him into deep doo-doo once they see the light of day in the outside world.
Finally, I think that Hillary Clinton has been done a deep disservice by Daphna Ziman. The latter’s attack on Obama was deeply offensive and not something the Clinton campaign should countenance. If Rev. Lee can be big enough to apologize to Ziman for any comments he made that might be construed as offensive, then the Clinton campaign should direct Ziman to apologize for any comments she made about Obama that could be construed as counter-productive. If Ziman is not willing to make such an apology then Clinton should distance herself from her. No senior Clinton Jewish supporter should have the right to claim that the Obama campaign will destroy the Jewish community or hurt Israel. This should be treif