Museum of Jewish Heritage Bans Discussion Of Truman & Israel: Too Controversial!


Credit: Creative Commons

It is almost laughable. The organized Jewish community, which claims to be worried about young Jews defecting in droves, just cannot help itself from doing things that drive Jews (not just young ones) away. Between supporting Netanyahu, advocating for war with Iran and maintaining the occupation, and keeping silent as Israel evolves into a theocracy, it also is in the business of preventing debate on all these things and more.
The latest is this. Phil Weiss reports that the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York has banned an appearance by New Republic journalist, John Judis, who has written a book challenging the conventional wisdom about why President Truman recognized Israel. The book argues that Truman recognized Israel in 1948 not because he was a fervent Zionist but because it was May of an election year, he was trailing in the polls and he was heavily lobbied by Zionists to do so. Shocking, right. Who would think that politics would enter into a decision like that?
The museum (a museum, for heaven’s sake) has decided that this kind of talk will not be permitted in its historically sacred halls. After scheduling a talk by Judis, it cancelled it. (Obviously, after heavy pressure from its donors who, like most organizational donors, are great scholars who own many books).
Weiss asked the museum’s official spokesperson why the event was cancelled. She said (this is not a joke): “I looked into the situation and here is our comment: We were interested in the book. We considered it, but were concerned that the controversy would overshadow the content. Therefore, we decided not to move forward with the event.”
The controversy? What controversy. The book is brand new and has barely been reviewed yet. The spokesperson means that some donor called and complained or, worse, the museum anticipates that some donor will complain.
This is a museum banning historical discussion.
Of course, we are all accustomed to bans on free discussion at Jewish venues. Peter Beinart ended up giving talks at local delicatessens and the like because the censors kept him out of synagogues and Jewish centers, His book became a huge seller and a major force anyway. But still. It’s the principle.
The organized Jewish community has lost its mind. Pretty soon, any institution under any kind of Jewish auspices will have to abide by speech limits set by the Jewish 1%. The 92nd Street Y already does. (It will not allow any Palestinian to speak unless balanced by a Jew). Brandeis wouldn’t permit President Carter to speak without a simultaneous rebuttal by Dershowitz. Pretty soon, Mount Sinai hospital will check what books patients are sneaking into their sick rooms.
Here is the craziest irony. Most of the censors are liberals. They welcome discussions on U.S. racism, imperialism, unjust wars and the like. They love panel discussions criticizing U.S. indifference to the Holocaust. In fact, I never heard of a Jewish institution banning a discussion on any matter relating to the United States because it is controversial.
But Israel! Oh Lord no. Because the government of the State of Israel, its policies and its official history is our Holy of Holies. Okay, I shouldn’t say “our” because there is no “our” anymore. By “our” I mean the millionaires and billionaires who run the community.
No wonder the organized community is going down the tubes. Soon we will need a museum just to remind us what it was. And that is probably a good thing.

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