A Letter of Apology


Dear Friends of Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives,
I apologize for the drawing that accompanies my editorial “War With Iran: The Disastrous Aim of Israel and the Republicans” in which I critique Netanyahu and his allies in Israel and in the American Jewish community, who are opposing the nuclear deal with Iran. The drawing depicts U.S. and Iranian diplomats negotiating at a table. Under the platform on which the negotiators sit, a figure representing Congress is sawing away and will likely soon succeed in defeating the attempt to find a peaceful way to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. All fine and appropriate. 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, but when I saw it next to my editorial I was shocked and deeply upset.
The implication of that drawing is that somehow it is Jewish money that is bribing the Congress to oppose the deal: 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 indicate 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 ofTikkun, placed in one of the most highly visible places (inside the front cover), I wrote a statement saying, “Anti-Semitism is Always Wrong.” There, I explain why criticism of Israeli policies and policies of right-wing American Jews is 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 dismay when I saw this drawing – for me it evokes Nazi propaganda against Jews.

To set the facts straight: yes, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has condemned the nuclear deal with Iran, and Jewish Community Relations Councils (supported by charitable donations to the Jewish Federations) and the American Jewish Committee have mobilized against this nuclear agreement. AIPAC has effectively energized a series of other organizations and large donors to build a massive media campaign against the deal. In the past, some U.S. congressional candidates identified as “anti-Israel’ have been defeated (thereby intimidating others in Congress), so there will be those in Congress who oppose this deal for fear they would otherwise be described as anti-Israel.
But the overwhelming political and financial support for candidates who give blind support to Israel’s West Bank settlements or militarist 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 Christian forces that help elect a right-wing-dominated Congress, not Jewish voters who mostly vote for candidates that support liberal measures to help the poor, oppose racism, and fight for human rights and civil liberties (and who voted overwhelmingly for Democrats in the 2014 elections – if other groups voted like Jews we’d have an overwhelmingly liberal Democratic Congress).
Moreover, there are several Jewish organizations and groups of rabbis supporting the nuclear deal with Iran. AIPAC and sections of the leadership of the organized Jewish community and Christian Zionist groups and non-Jewish hawks must together share the blame for unethical U.S.-Israeli policies in Palestine and for their campaign to reject the nuclear deal – not the Jewish people as a whole.
We atTikkunraised money and bought a full-page ad in the New York 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.” Tikkun and the NSP, our educational and consciousness-raising arm, are the voice of progressive Jews and progressive Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and secular humanists who seek “the Caring Society – Caring for Each Other, Caring for the Earth.” The NSP is encouraging Jews and our non-Jewish allies to contact their elected representatives to urge them to support the nuclear disarmament that the U.S. and others have negotiated with Iran. To do so, go to: tikkun.org/IranDeal. If you haven’t joined the NSP yet, please do so at www.spiritualprogressives.org.
So I’m deeply sorry that I didn’t insist that the Star of David on the moneybag in this editorial cartoon 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. As we enter the Jewish month of Elul and begin our repentance process preparatory to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, my failure to catch this sooner will be high on the agenda of items for my personal repentance!
Thank you again for your patience, your support for a world based on generosity and nonviolence, and happy reading.
Rabbi Michael Lerner
Editor of Tikkun magazine
Please feel invited to send me a “Letter to the Editor” either critiquing or praising articles in the magazine or on our website www.tikkun.org. Send to: RabbiLerner.tikkun@gmail.com (if we publish them, we may edit them for length).

2 thoughts on “A Letter of Apology

  1. Rabbi Lerner, are you aware that the greatest danger to Jews in Israel and the Diaspora is not the settler movement – when there is peace one day between Jews and Arabs not all settlements will remain – but the staggering growth of Haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews) because of their huge birthrate.
    Three fundamentals of Haredism are 1) fierce hostility towards goyim (read their religious books in non-Zionist Hebrew, 2) contempt for secular education and culture, 3) denigration of women. The intense hostility of Haredim towards goyim is manifest in Halacha (Jewish law) and in their medieval, peculiar clothing, based on a ruling by Maimonides.
    “One does not follow the laws of the idolaters, nor does one imitate them: not in clothing, not in hairstyle, and not in other things, for the Torah states ‘And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nations’ (Leviticus 20:23) ….” (Maimonides, Laws on Idolaters 11:1).
    Since Tikkunites want to build a more humane world, why aren’t they condemning Haredism?
    Jacob Mendlovic

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