Finally, I have secured the full Seattle Jewish federation letter attacking Kadima just before it hosted Palestinian anti-Occupation cleric, Canon Naim Ateek here in Seattle earlier this month. Here it is:
Rainer Adkins [sic]
Seattle, WA xxxxx
It has come to our attention that Kadima will be hosting Naim Ateek, founder of Sabeel on July 18th. We are greatly concerned about this choice of speakers. Ateek does not present the facts of the Arab/Israeli conflict in a balanced or even-handed manner, nor does he promote peace and justice. His writings and speeches are filled with factual errors, misrepresentations, material omissions and distortions, and he portrays Jews and Israelis in the harshest light possible.
To be clear, we are not arguing your own stance on Israel’s policies. We are writing because we believe that hosting this “wolf in sheep’s clothing“ goes too far. Kadima is the first Jewish agency in over 30 years to sponsor a forum for his ideas.
Ateek reveals his own bias and racist attitudes with overt stereotyping of Jews and Israelis as inherently immoral, racist, violent, and conspiratorial. It does a disservice to members of your own organization and the community supporting Israel to lend legitimacy, to his words by providing a platform for Ateek’s inherent anti-Jewish and anti-Israel message.
On your own website, you suggest that bringing Ateek reflects Kadima’s “commitment to building bridges for understanding and dialogue, whether in agreement or disagreement.” We, the undersigned, do not understand why you would want to build a bridge with someone who espouses such flawed and racist anti-Israel and anti-Jewish positions, and we vehemently oppose any support for this pretext of “bridge building.”
Richard Fruchter, Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle
Carolyn Hathaway, Hadassah, Immediate Past President
Daniel Weiner, Temple De Hirsch Sinai
David Brumer, Director of Social Services, Kline Galland Home, Executive Committee member of SWU/NW & AJC/Seattle Chapter
Rob Jacobs, StandWithUs
Jordan R. Assouline
I have further learned that the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, a national Israel advocacy organization which heavily monitors Christian divestment campaigns and other allegedly anti-Israel activity, organized a national effort to shadow Naim Ateek on his tour of the U.S. Representatives from the Seattle community participated in the JCPA outreach effort. By the way, you’ll find no reference to JCPA’s anti-Ateek campaign on its website, a typical stealth effort. At this point, the federation Israel committee only knew Ateek would be hosted by Christian congregations while here. This resulted in a follow-up effort by members of the Federation’s Israel Programming Committee.
On a separate, but related matter, local community leaders became exercised at what they perceived as the anti-Israel line of local groups like Kadima and Brit Tzedek. They contemplated rewriting the Israel Accord that had been formulated after two community leaders, Rob Jacobs and Rick Harkavy, played instrumental roles in the arrest of then Kadima Rabbi Drora Setel at an Israel Day rally. [CORRECTION: Jacobs’ predecessor as ADL director, Brian Goldberg was responsible for this and not Jacobs; and the Israel Accord I refer to above was written in 2004 in the context of the Gaza withdrawal, and not in the aftermath of the 2001 arrest of Setel and Jonathan Rosenblum] The purpose of the reformulation would be to define a ”kosher” communal organization in such a way that Kadima and Brit Tzedek could be excluded from the committee and local activities around Israel.
Then when committee members heard Kadima planned to host Ateek at a Shabbat service, they decided to focus their efforts on this letter.
I have long wondered who spearheaded the letter. While JTNews was technically correct in saying it emanated from the Israel Program Committee. It actually was spurred by one particular member of the committee. And interestingly, his name isn’t even listed as a signatory. Apparently this individual, along with the group he represents, prefers to lurk in the netherworld and wield his hatchet behind the scenes, erasing any fingerprints before the blow falls. You could call this cowardice or not having the courage of one’s convictions. You could call this an attempt to preserve plausible deniability so you can tell the world in clear conscience that you and your group would never have anything to do with actions like this. At any rate, we have one chicken-shit communal leader here in Seattle.
I mistakenly accused Rob Jacobs of being the spearhead of the letter and he wasn’t. But Rob was involved in the letter from the beginning and enthusiastically endorsed it as did his capo di tutti, David Brumer.
Further, I note that there is no demurral on this letter indicating the individuals who list organizational affiliation do so without claiming to represent their organizations. This could lead us to believe that these signatories are speaking for their organizations in signing it. I would specifically address the Kline Galland Home and ask why David Brumer is using the organization’s name to denounce a group within the community on a subject that has nothing to do with Kline Galland’s mission. Does a Jewish retirement home need or want a senior staff member to weigh in on an internal communal dispute of this sort?
I have it on good authority that there were communal leaders who refused to endorse this letter. To those who were solicited to sign and replied that the letter was a bad idea–you are a profile in Jewish courage.
I would ask the other leaders of this community who didn’t sign this letter–is this the kind of Jewish community you want here in Seattle? Do you want to allow members of Stand With Us and other right-wing pro-Israel groups define ‘who is a Jew’ on this issue? Or do you stand for diversity of opinion and viewpoint? If the Israel committee speaks for most affiliated Seattle Jews then perhaps we progressive Jews who dissent from the Israel lobby standard line are the disenfrancised being told to go elsewhere?
Regarding the actual argument in this anti-Ateek letter, I have already critiqued much of its rhetorical garbage .
My final comment about the letter: you’d think if you wanted to attack a fellow leader of the community you’d bother to address them by their proper name: Rainer Waldman-Adkins and not Rainer Adkins. Perhaps a small error (though Selma Waldman, Rainer’s mother, would not think so were she alive to read this), but a sign of the sloppiness of the entire endeavor.
I also want to take Kadima to task for its totally inadequate response to this affair. Some of the key leaders of the community are prepared to put you in herem and what do you do? You roll over and play dead. You need to re-examine the decision-making that led to your silence in the face of this attack. If I didn’t feel you were allies, I’d say your behavior was shameful. But since you’ve only hurt yourselves and your agenda within the community all I can say is how deeply pained I am at the inadequacy of your response.
I have not mentioned the source of all this information and will not to protect confidentiality. Suffice to say, this is someone who knows what they’re talking about.