Rabbi Michael Lerner is the editor of the progressive Zionist outlet, Tikkun magazine, and the rabbi of the Beyt Tikkun synagogue in Berkeley, California. Lerner has long been a progressive-left gadfly in the American Jewish community who began his advocacy as a graduate student at the University of California writing about how the Jewish organizations needed to stand up against the war in Vietnam.
According to his Wikipedia page:
Lerner describes some of his views as “very controversial,” particularly his views about building peace between Israel and Palestine. In 2003, the San Diego Jewish Journal described Lerner as “the most controversial Jew in America,” writing that “He is relentlessly critical of Israel. He eulogizes Rachel Corrie. And he’s done more for peace than any conservative we know.” That same year, the executive editor of The Jewish Exponent wrote that Lerner “supports every measure against Israel short of its immediate destruction and often makes common cause with those who do plot the eradication of Israel’s Jews.”
As it happens, one of Tikkun’s writers, David Harris Gershon, is associated with a progressive-left political blog, Daily Kos, that I once considered my political home. On Daily Kos Gershon makes it a regular habit to defame Israel which he describes as an “apartheid” state. In a recent hit piece entitled, WITNESS: The Brutal Asymmetry of the Israeli Occupation as Soldiers Pepper Spray Seated Villagers, also published at Lerner’s Tikkun, Gershon writes the following:
This is why people who characterize the reality of life for Palestinians in the West Bank as apartheid are correct. For the two-tired justice system applied in the West Bank – military rule for Palestinians and democratic rule for Israeli Jews – is exactly that.
Gershon claims to be a supporter of Israel, yet the only people who use the apartheid smear against Israel are those who wish to see the country fold as the national homeland of the Jewish people. The only purpose for falsely accusing Israel of apartheid is to turn people against the small Jewish state for the purpose of bringing about its eventual demise. Anyone who calls Israel “apartheid” is trying to murder that country.
Aside from being a false charge it is also a deeply malicious charge with an intent that can only lead to war. After all, if Israel is an apartheid state then, like the apartheid regime in South Africa, the world community must come together to bring about it destruction. Calling Israel apartheid is akin to calling Israel a “Nazi” state and everyone knows what must be done to right-wing fascist regimes of the sort that Germany represented in the early-mid twentieth century.
This is what Gershon is suggesting when he suggests that Israel is an apartheid regime. In this way Gershon is hateful toward his fellow Jews in Israel and if you look at the many comments under that piece you will see an enormous amount of vitriol spit at the Jewish State and thus, inevitably, spit at the Jewish people. Michael Lerner is an individual with some measure of prominence in the American Jewish community and he hired Gershon to write for Tikkun, yet Gershon spends his time doing little more than kicking his fellow Jews in the face with these kinds of unjust and malicious charges.
In another piece, published just yesterday, February 4, entitled, This Is Why We MUST Talk About Israel, we read:
But when the hawkish, “pro-Israel” lobby in America can influence our representatives to sound as if they – well – are representing Israel’s citizens more than our own?
We have a problem. A problem that must be discussed openly and honestly.
What Gershon is suggesting is that Jewish Americans who care about Israel control the United States Congress. Does that not sound familiar? This is the classic anti-Semitic canard that behind the scenes the Jews are pulling the strings and forcing other governments to do Jewish bidding. In truth, this is no different from what the Nazis thought after World War I when they accused the Jews of the famous “stab in the back.” This guy is telling the world that the “pro-Israel lobby” controls the U.S. Congress, a false and malicious charge that can only lead to a backlash against both American Jews and the Jewish State of Israel.
The reason that he makes this insidious claim is because during the Hagel nomination hearings for U.S. Secretary of Defense there was considerably more concern about Hagel’s disdain for Israel, particularly among Republicans, than there was discussion around the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Thus Gershon can say:
For what we just witnessed is our top representatives in the Senate, charged with questioning Hagel for the Secretary of Defense position, expressing infinitely more concern for Israel than for our own troops.
Infinitely? Infinitely more concern? This is pure hogwash, of course. It is rhetoric designed to maximize the hatred.
In this way Gershon projects Hagel’s own view that the “Jewish lobby” or the “pro-Israel lobby” controls the U.S. Congress without any consideration of the fact that the reason Congress favors Israel is because the American people favor Israel and it is the American people who elect their Congressional representatives.
These kinds of anti-Semitic sentiments represent a clear and present danger to the Jewish people. No actual supporter of Israel would promote such a classic anti-Jewish racist trope, because it is precisely these kinds of lies that have encouraged massive violence against the Jewish people throughout history.
When I was a student at San Francisco State University in the late 1990s, Michael Lerner applied for a teaching position there. As part of the interview process he gave a lecture in a Jewish history course offered by the excellent Professor of Jewish Studies, Fred Astren, and I was a member of that class. Lerner spoke of Tikkun Olam and he very much impressed me with the idea that Jewish values and the Jewish religion are very much tied up with notions of “repairing the world,” which is to say, of social justice and universal human rights. After his lecture my fellow students and I were asked for our recommendations and I recommended that the university hire the man, which they did not.
I would never make any such recommendation today because Lerner, whatever his intention, is promoting an anti-Semite in the pages of his journal.
What a shame.
Mike Lumish is the editor of the pro-Israel blog, Israel Thrives.