It is absolutely no accident that Alan Dershowitz singled Rabbi Michael Lerner out for special opprobrium in his most recent Jerusalem Post and Huffington Post columns and that local Bay Area Jewish pogromists decided shortly thereafter to “party” at Lerner’s home. They defaced it with the slogans and themes they could’ve learned at Dersh’s knee:
Berkeley police today confirmed that the attack on Rabbi Lerner’s home late Sunday June 2nd or early morning Sunday July 3rd [the correct dates were May 2d or May 3rd] was in fact a crime and was being investigated.
The attackers used a powerful form of glue to attach posters to his door and around the property of his home attacking Lerner personally, and attacking liberals and progressives as being supporters of terrorism and “Islamo-fascism.” They posted a printed bumper sticker saying “fight terror–support Israel” next to a caricature of Judge Goldstone whose UN report on Israel’s human rights violations in its attack on Gaza last year has been denounced as anti-Semitic and pro-terror by right wingers in Israel and the U.S.. The caricature has Goldstone talking about his being kept from his grandson’s bar mitzvah, and the caricature of Rabbi Lerner responds by saying “any enemy of Israel is a friend of mine.”
…In the 24 years of Tikkun’s operation, we have received many death threats and vicious hate mail, including phone calls to our office announcing that “Rabbi Lerner is dead” and others saying “We will kill all of you.” This particular attack has two worrisome elements not previously there:
1. They attack Rabbi Lerner’s home. As law enforcement people told us, this is a way of conveying the message to Lerner: “We know where you live, we know your house is vulnerable, so don’t ignore our threats.”
2. By linking Lerner to alleged terrorism, they provide for themselves and other extremists a “right-wing justification” to use violence against Lerner
Here are some of the salient passages of Dershowitz’ recent rave, which denounced a group of rabbis, including Lerner, who I had urged to make a Jewish moral statement supporting Richard Goldstone in response to his treatment at the hands of the South African Jewish community. Note the terms of incitement therein and think how they might impact the type of deranged, violent mind that carried out the mini-pogrom at Lerner’s home:
A group of rabbis, many of whom have long records of anti-Israel activism, authored a “Rabbinic letter” to Goldstone congratulating him on his grandson’s bar mitzvah and using the occasion to make virulently anti-Israel claims, including the blood libel that Israel deliberately targeted innocent Palestinian civilians without any military purpose. These ignorant rabbis…
These bigoted rabbis…
These “rabbis for Hamas” have no shame and no credibility. They exploit their rabbinical status to support any conclusion that undercuts self defense Israeli actions…
…The worst of these rabbis (and that’s saying a lot), Michael Lerner, after attempting to politicize the bar mitzvah by offering his anti-Israel synagogue for the event, has decided to honor Richard Goldstone with Tikkun Magazine‘s “Ethics Award.” I guess all it takes to be honored by Tikkun is to pass Lerner’s litmus test of lying about Israel. That’s Lerner’s definition of “ethics.” There are some good people on the advisory board of Tikkun Magazine. They now have an obligation to reconsider their membership unless they wish to be associated with a rabbi who is prepared to accuse Israel, in the absence of any evidence, of deliberately setting out to murder Palestinian civilians without any military purpose.
Someone ought to summon this intellectual hooligan to a beyt din for the use of such odious language. I have no problem with anyone disagreeing with the sentiments in the rabbinic letter and saying so. But to use the language above is to beg for the sociopathic among us to take action. In effect, Dershowitz’s words here are the equivalent of “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” Of course, there are those willing to act upon Dershowitz’s rhetoric. He, of course is too slick to be caught anywhere near a real act of violence. He would rather use rhetorical violence to impugn the morals of his enemies and gin up real violence by others.
I am younger than Alan Dershowitz, but when I was younger no Jew I knew would dare speak of any rabbi, whether they agreed with them politically or not, in the terms Dersh uses here. Rabbis deserved and received respect because of their learning and their service to the Jewish people. There are many rabbis who I don’t like either personally or politically. But I would never go anywhere near using the terms Dershowitz does.
To be clear, there are Orthodox settler rabbis who have advocated actual acts of violence and murder against fellow Jews and Palestinians. For them, I reserve no respect and have written about them in very strong language. But there is no possible way the Harvard professor can argue the rabbis signing the Goldstone letter are anywhere near such status.
This is not the first time he has incited against a respected Jewish figure: on Israeli radio he called Richard Goldstone a moser, a betrayer of Jews, someone whom the tradition finds worthy of death for such a crime.
So what Alan Dershowitz does is to poison Jewish discourse, to debase the values of our community which show honor to rabbinic leaders, to spread calumny and plants the seeds of violence. He’s this generation’s Roy Cohn, a scummy, truculent, trash-talking hater. Mazel tov, Alan. Your ancestors are hopefully spinning in their graves unless they too had no moral compass.
There is one other troubling aspect of this case outlined here by Tikkun staff:
The police say that this is not a “hate crime” because the attackers were not attacking Rabbi Lerner for his religion, but for his politics.
What the police do not understand is that for these rightist Jews their brand of Zionism IS a religion. This is not stam politics. This is bloody fratricidal civil war inside the Jewish body politic. Make no mistake, this is a hate crime. I’d like someone to tell me whether the assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane was a hate crime. If it was, this is too. The only difference is that a Muslim killed Kahane and a Jew vandalized Lerner’s home. These Jews hate Lerner no less than Kahane’s assassin hated him.
Finally, I should say that Alan Dershowitz isn’t the only person who hates Michael Lerner. There are other sterling representatives of the Jewish spirit like Victor Vancier who runs the Masada2000 site who has actually physically threatened Lerner:
In May …Masada2000 listed Lerner as one of “the five most dangerous Jewish enemies of the Jewish people,” and posted detailed driving directions to his home address. Draped in guillotines, nooses and racist language, the site repeatedly stated: “If you’re ever in the San Francisco area, drop in on him at his home.”
Predictably, the death threats and hate e-mails started pouring in–more than 60 to date. Late-night calls also drastically increased. “Both my wife and I were extremely scared,” Lerner says.
So if it wasn’t Dershowitz it could be someone else. The difference is that Alan Dershowitz has a respected platform from which to launch his hate. Others have dark, dank websites no one ever visits. Speaking of respected platforms, can anyone tell me why Dersh is given such a perch at HuffPo? I can understand JPost since they’re a Jewish neocon publication. But HuffPo? Is Arianna chummy with the guy? Otherwise, I don’t get it. You’d think now with Dersh using the website to preach hate that results directly or indirectly in violence they might reconsider.
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.