Two Apologies from Rabbi Lerner
Two apologies from Rabbi Lerner a minor one and a major one
1) The minor apology is that the mailing of the Summer issue of Tikkun was delayed by something going wrong at the printers. That issue should have been mailed in mid-July and instead is coming sometime in mid-August. So sorry. As you probably know, the print issue of the magazine is only available to subscribers and members of the Network of Spiritual Progressives and is not the same as the articles you find on line at tikkun.org or the Tikkun Daily blog. If you haven’t subscribed yet, please do so now at that website.
2) The second apology is for the drawing that accompanies my Summer 2015 editorial “War With Iran: The Disastrous Aim of Israel and the Republicans” in which I critique the Netanyahu forces in Israel and in the American Jewish community who are opposing the nuclear deal with Iran. The drawing depicts the US and Iran negotiating while under the platform on which the negotiators sit a figure representing Congress is sawing away and likely to soon succeed in defeating the attempt to find a peaceful way to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. All fine. But then in the hands of that figure representing Congress is a sack of money with a Jewish star on it. I can’t remember seeing that when I was shown a much smaller version of this drawing and approved it–I believe my computer did not show me the entire picture–a dysfunction that has happened before, plus my cataract in my eye sometimes makes me miss parts of what people normally see, and then I never saw the layed out version of my editorial because I was out of town when in would normally have been giving it a final approval –but when I saw it next to my editorial in the printed form I received a few days ago, I was shocked and deeply upset. Even outraged. And ashamed that I had not caught the problem earlier in time to have stopped the publication of that drawing.
The implication of that drawing is that somehow it is Jewish money that is bribing the Congress to oppose the deal, and a little figure on the side looking like a duck says “The best Congress that money can buy” which in the context of the money bag with a Jewish star seems to be saying that Jewish money is behind the whole problem. To me, this is reviving an ancient and distorted anti-Semitic trope that I detest: that Jews have all the money and that they use it for nefarious purposes.
In this very same issue of Tikkun, placed in one of the most highly visible places (the inside front cover) I wrote a statement saying “Anti-Semitism is Always Wrong” and showing why criticism of Israeli policies and policies of right-wing American Jews are appropriate, but it is inappropriate to blame the entire Jewish people for these ethical errors, and doing so is racist and unacceptable. So imagine my upset when I saw this drawing–it evokes for me the Nazi propaganda against Jews in the past.
To set the facts straight: yes, AIPAC has effectively energized a series of other organizations and large donors to donate money to defeat candidates that have been labeled “anti-Israel.” For all I know, that might have been a factor in the political calculations that led New York’s Jewish U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer to announce his opposition to the nuclear deal, though I believe Schumer to be a gut-level militarist hawk even if he had not had political calculations to make. But the overwhelming political and financial support for candidates who give blind support to right-wing Israeli policies comes from the Christian Zionists and other right-wing Christians, not from Jews (there are an estimated 30 million Christian Zionists, and they play an important role in shaping the dynamics of the Republican Party and the Christian Right). It is these forces that help elect a right-wing-dominated Congress, not Jewish voters who mostly vote for candidates who support liberal measures to help the poor, oppose racism, and fight for human rights and civil liberties (and voted overwhelmingly for Democrats in the 2014 elections). There are several Jewish organizations and groups of rabbis supporting the nuclear deal with Iran, even though it is also true that many Jews and Jewish organizations are working against it–but the drawing in question seems to suggest that it is not just some Jews but Jews as a whole who are supporting the militarist position of Netanyahu and the militarist wings of both major US political parties, and that is simply a distortion.
As you know, we at Tikkun raised money to buy a full page ad in the NY Times in which we proudly spoke on behalf of many American Jews and our non-Jewish allies in saying “No, Mr. Netanyahu, you do not speak for American Jews–and no, we don’t support the path you suggest which would lead to a war with Iran.” So I’m deeply sorry that I didn’t catch this part of the drawing earlier and insist that the star of David on the money bag be eliminated. I do not suggest that the artist who drew the picture intended any anti-Semitic reference there–but as a Jew I am particularly sensitive to the way those kinds of hateful messages have been communicated in art as well as in speech, and would have eliminated that element from the drawing had I noticed it. Moreover, one of the many reasons that I have for supporting this nuclear deal is that I worry that Jews would get the blame should the Congress be seen as responding to Netanyahu and the right-wing versions of “pro-Israel” lobbies, blocking the nuclear deal, and then that eventually leading to the US drawn into a war with Iran. This drawing does precisely what I’d feared someone would do–and so you imagine my shame and sorrow that we should have allowed this distorted message to be mistakenly seen as our message, when our message is just the opposite of this. I am so very sorry!