Thursday, May 06, 2010

Tikkun Twits and Tenured Traitors

1.   Apostasy, Pablo Christiani and Michael Lerner

By Cynthia Ozick

CAMERA - Apostasy among Jews has a long tradition. In its most literal

expression under the hegemony of the medieval Church, apostasy meant

conversion to Christianity — and something more. The apostate felt obliged

to confirm, and to prove, his new commitment by initiating even harsher

persecutions than those already customary. And of course the apostate was

in one respect far better credentialed and equipped for perfidious Jewish

inventions than his Christian compatriots.


Even as a former Jew, even

having repudiated his old identity, it was explicitly as a Jew that he was

called upon to be useful, since it was by virtue of his being a Jew that he

could be regarded as authoritative, and his views as authentic. As an

authentic and authoritative Jew, clearly he was privy to the inmost heart of

Jewish arcana, and uniquely positioned to expose it for what it was, for the

wickedness and blasphemy it harbored. Franciscans and Dominicans might

intuit that the Talmud was the source of enmity to Christianity and mockery

of the Saviour, but with no access to its literature, they were helpless to

produce the evidence. With Jewish apostasy zealously in its service, all

clerical doubt vanished, and the miscreant Jews could be authentically and

authoritatively punished by all the merciless means at the disposal of

Christian piety according to the principle of divine supersessionism.


The apostate prevaricated; the clerisy believed. Who benefited from

this collusion? The holy friars certainly, since their religious convictions,

requiring the suffering of Jews in recompense for the Crucifixion, were

further stimulated and fed; and also the local monarchs: influenced by the


friars, they regularly profited from pressure on the Jews, whether through

impoverishing taxation or, more directly, through confiscation and pillage.

And for ordinary folk witnessing a mammoth bonfire of Torah scrolls and

volumes of Talmud sending their flames into the sky, where the angels

dwell, there was the holiday elation and uplift of soul a communal festivity

always ignites.


But what of the apostates themselves? How did such impressive

figures as Nicholas Donin and Pablo Christiani fare? From being despised as

societal pariahs they were instantly elevated to honored public pundits. They

were intelligent men — they were, in fact, sophisticated intellectuals. Were

they cynical political opportunists with an instinct for where the power lies?


Were they thoughtful pragmatists who for the sake of quotidian ease simply

determined that it is prudent to belong to the safe majority rather than to a

harassed minority? Or were they genuine believers who had been persuaded

of the higher truth of Christianity? An apostate in those times may have been

any of these — but whatever his motivation, the apostate had to recognize,

in full awareness, that he was entering into a virulent bargain: the price for

his acceptance, and his ascent, was to increase the anguish of the Jews he

was leaving behind.


As with the apostasy of individuals, so with the mega-apostasies of

world history. When developing Christianity, whatever its motivations and

convictions, departed from Judaism, it was the Jews who were made to

suffer. When developing Islam, whatever its motivations and convictions,

departed from Judaism and Christianity, it was again the Jews who were

made to suffer. Christianity belatedly reformed itself, latterly through shame

in the face of the Holocaust, initially through loss of the temporal power to

enforce the old theologically instigated crimes. Islam, its Islamist branches


notoriously supported and succored by states, awaits its own reformation.

But perhaps these huge collective movements, evolving through the

centuries with all their internal divisions and kaleidoscopic complexities, can

no longer be defined as apostasies. Christianity, while not forsaking its

central messianic creed, has come to regard itself, in the words of Pope John

XXIII, as Judaism's younger brother. Islam, by contrast, far from seeing

itself as derivative or fraternal, points to both Judaism and Christianity as

apostasies willfully broken away from the original — hence the purest —

source of God's word, the Koran.


How, then, should we look at this word apostate today? That it has

mostly fallen into disuse we know; yet its freight has been put to many uses,

especially under the noose of successive creedal tyrannies. Inevitably, in

contemporary terms, it returns us to the theme of defamation. The apostate is

one who defames — if not his origins explicitly, then his living counterparts,

the people to whom he was born. In the Soviet Union, for instance, the

Yevsektsia, the "Jew section" of the Communist Party, composed of avowed

Communists "of Jewish descent," was an instrument of the oppression of

Jews. As for the present moment, though the medieval Church is no more

than a literary memory in the mind of the largely secular West, and the

Soviet Union is gone, the notion of apostasy, as applied to the individual,

still holds. But its meaning has been curiously reversed. The Nicholas

Donins and Pablo Christianis of ages past ran to abandon their Jewish ties

even as they subverted them. The Nicholas Donins and Pablo Christianis of

our own time run to embrace their Jewish ties even as they besmirch them.

So it is as self-declared Jews, as loyal and honorable Jews, as Jews in

the line of the prophets, as Jews who speak out for the sake of the integrity

of Jews and Judaism, that we nowadays hear arguments against the survival,


or the necessity, or the legitimacy, of the State of Israel. These negating

Jewish voices can be lyrical, as from the poets; or nimble, as from the

novelists; or transcendent, as from the philosophers; or dour, as from the

revisionist historians; or pragmatic, as from the realists; or apoplectically

apocalyptical, as from the unregenerate Marxists; or Houdinishly knotted, as

from the theologians; or self-referential, as from all of the above. They

include, among innumerable well-known others, Adrienne Rich and Irena

Klepfisz and Jacqueline Rose and Judith Butler and Tony Judt and Marc

Ellis — and, most engagingly, Michael Lerner.


I am compelled to call Lerner engaging, even entertaining, because

there is something of the mime about him — a very garrulous mime. Yet he

can, like the late Marcel Marceau, assume a particular pose with lifelike

effect, and then instantly go on to contort into a wondrously different

persona. His latest role is that of rabbi. Despite his history as a dropout from

the Jewish Theological Seminary's rabbinical school, Rabbi Lerner, as we

must now call him, was belatedly eased into the rabbinate through a "private

ordination" at the hands of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, holder of the

Chair in World Wisdom at the Naropa Institute in Colorado, the Buddhist

center beloved by Allen Ginsberg; and if you should wish to cast doubt on

Lerner's rabbinic validity or the competence of his rabbinic learning, you

may see the proof of it in the little white knitted yarmulke he sports while

discoursing with Bill Moyers on television, speaking in one breath both of

the perniciousness of the "Israel lobby" and of the urgency of universal love.

In addition to his prestigious clerical status, Rabbi Lerner is renowned

as the founder and editor of Tikkun, a magazine specifically designed to

counter the influence of Commentary. Tikkun's political affinities lie with

the Nation, though in the writing of English it is radically inferior to almost


every other journal intended for grownups, especially when it is Rabbi

Lerner who is doing the writing. As a journalist, as a polemicist, as a

putative philosopher, Rabbi Lerner is chaotic, disorganized, frequently

ungrammatical, self-contradictory, puerile, and unbearably long-winded.

Nevertheless, his central point always comes through with radiant repetitive

clarity: Israel is culpable, Israel is wicked, Israel is an oppressor, and so on.

By now nearly everyone understands that tikkun means "repair of the

world"; it is one of those many noble terms, like "peace," "justice," and

"human rights," that have been despoiled and betrayed by Orwellian

political chicanery.

To create a new magazine — even if inspired by envy and spite — is

impressive enough. But Rabbi Lerner is also the founder of at least two

aspiring social movements. Decades ago, when — still in the bloom of youth

and declaring that "the synagogue as currently established will have to be

smashed" — he headed the Seattle Liberation Front, an enterprise as

pugnacious as its name. After a dustup with the police, he was arrested and

tried as one of the honored Seattle Seven. According to Rabbi Lerner, the

violence was not of the Front's making, and his sentence of several months

in jail was unjustly imposed. But the world has since moved on; except for

creaky old Cuba and vim-and-virulence Venezuela, Liberation Fronts are no

longer in fashion, having been replaced by the softer urgencies of

Spirituality. By now the time had surely come for the founding of a front

more in conformity with the present — hence Rabbi Lerner's most recent

coinage: the NSP, the Network of Spiritual Progressives. Never mind the

treacly oxymoronic rubric. It is a curiosity in itself that "progressive" has

lately been resuscitated in common parlance. An amnesiac generation has

forgotten that this term, as embraced by Stalin's Western cadres, was once


so steeped in earned opprobrium and shame that it seemed likely to vanish

forever, along with that other lost political ideal, Kinder, Küche, Kirche.

"Progressive," however, has turned out to be a boomerang: it goes away

only to return, its threadbare mantras intact. Those old progressives, aka

fellow travelers, were, like Stalin himself, hard-headed, hard-hearted

atheists: not for them this gossamer vapid wingèd thing, composed of

vaporous rainbows and spun sugar, called Spirituality.

With consummate ingenuity, Rabbi Lerner's Network of Spiritual

Progressives manages to link scurrility with sentimental religiosity: only

imagine Karl Marx davening, and you will comprehend the dazzlement of

Rabbi Lerner's current achievement. Lately, as it happens, he has added yet

another element to his mix: perhaps the NSP will soon morph into the

NSPR, the Network of Spiritual Progressive Realists. Should this come to

pass, it will be because Rabbi Lerner, mentor to many, has acquired two

celebrated mentors of his own: John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt,

academics noted for political realism, and co-authors of the problematic The

Israel Lobby and U. S. Foreign Policy. In an article typically prolix and

moistly dedicated to the common good, Rabbi Lerner, with some minuscule

demurrals, strides in lockstep with these eminent representatives of the

realist school. Not only does he parallel and support their conclusions, but he

is able to go beyond their limited analysis. After all, as a faithful Jew, and

certainly as a rabbi, he is in possession of a privileged intimacy with internal

American Jewish society, which the two professors naturally lack, and can

only surmise and invent. Besides, Mearsheimer and Walt, in their scrupulous

civility, while condemning what they take to be large public conspiracies,

are careful not to intrude on the individual practices of synagogues and



Not so Rabbi Lerner. "First," he writes, "the Israel lobby cannot be

understood apart from the vast number of Jewish institutions and even

individual communities, synagogues, and families that impose on their

members a certain discipline that goes well beyond any normal political

party or force, challenging the human, ethical, and Jewish identities of

anyone who disagrees with its fundamental assumptions." Let us interrupt

for a moment to reprise one brief passage: a certain discipline that goes well

beyond any normal political party or force. Of what notorious nineteenthcentury

czarist fabrication, the favorite of neo-Nazis and their admirers, do

these words remind us? Who and where are those sinister Jewish families,

including teens and toddlers, whose lives are devoted to the machinations of

this amorphous lobby? As for the synagogues, when a shul is discovered

openly raising funds to purchase an ambulance for an Israeli town daily

attacked by rockets, is that shul an active branch of the Israel lobby? And

what precisely is the nature of this "discipline," and on whom is it exerted? I

will readily testify that I was not knowingly under the imposition of a

discipline, or compelled by any party or mysterious force, when of my own

free will I once had the pleasure, in public, of dubbing the pre-rabbinic

Lerner an "intellectual wimp." Is it possible that this rude ad hominem, and

several other rudenesses herein, will qualify me as a member in good

standing of the Israel lobby?

The answer is plainly yes, and Rabbi Lerner has already fingered me

in print. "I am sure," he goes on, "that the instinctive reaction of a large

section of the American Jewish community affiliated with the Jewish lobby

will be the predictable assault on Mearsheimer and Walt and on Tikkun and

on anyone else who speaks up in criticism of the Israel lobby." And having

praised "the often careful and thoughtful work of Mearsheimer and Walt,"


while also conceding that he has been "referring frequently with their

permission" to their book, he offers this comment: "The Israel lobby has

become a major perpetrator of the fear orientation in politics that the NSP

believes to be at the heart of the many problems facing the world. The Israel

lobby sees threats everywhere."

Rabbi Lerner and his reality instructors perhaps do not see threats? Of

course they do — the multiple threats that flow from American policies

toward Israel, controlled and manipulated by the Israel lobby; and it is the

Israel lobby that stands in the way of world peace and serenity by inciting

the enmity of Ahmadinejad and all other jihadists determined to annihilate

the Jewish state. Rabbi Lerner emphasizes in a headline: "AIPAC Has

Democratic Congresspeople Scared." In fact, so scared of the Israel lobby

are Democrats and Republicans alike, that — as Rabbi Lerner writes

elsewhere — he "would not be surprised to learn that some branch of our

government conspired either actively to promote or passively to allow" the

agony of the Towers. Ah, and who scares and influences and virtually runs

the government? The Israel lobby. Here Rabbi Lerner joins unclean hands

with Amiri Baraka and Rosie O'Donnell.

As a scholar (he claims two doctorates), Rabbi Lerner has not troubled

so much as to glance at the masses of serious analytic criticism exposing his

mentors' unprofessional methods, reliance on secondary and tertiary

journalism, errors of fact, errors of recent history, and promulgation of

shameless ancient charges; instead, he repeats their vilifications and lauds

their "careful and thoughtful work."

It is easy to dismiss, even to lampoon, Michael Lerner. His magazine

is negligible; his Network of Spiritual Progressives is risible. But he is one

of a growing band of vocal and ambitious self-touting Jews whose hostility


to the State of Israel more and more takes on the character of the spite that

kills. The noise they make they call a silencing. The debate they attract they

call a censoring. Some despise nationalism and the nation-state on principle,

while at the same time arguing for Palestinian national rights. The insouciant

Tony Judt flicks off Israel as an "anachronism." Jacqueline Rose, feverishly

psychoanalytical, weaves eros into murder, seeing in suicide bombing an

"unbearable intimacy . . . an act of passionate identification . . . a deadly

embrace." Adrienne Rich asks Zionism, the term and its history, "to dissolve

before twenty-first century realities": the malevolent siege of Israel, to be

sure, is not such a reality. Judith Butler desires her status as a Jew not to be

embarrassed by confusing it with the Zionist project, the disappearance of

which she longs to accomplish. And in a didactic work of fiction, the lofty

George Steiner taints the establishment of Israel with the ultimate taint: he

credits Hitler with the invention of Zionism, and Judaism with the invention

of Hitler.

Nicholas Donin and Pablo Christiani, those clever old friars much

experienced in crushing Jewish cultural and political expression, would feel

right at home in this company, as clever as themselves: they would

sympathize with the familiar sensibility of Jews eager to join the dominating

class in a period when the dominating class is hurtful to Jews. But how

puzzled they might be by this newfangled modern apostasy, whereby the

apostates declare how profoundly Jewish they are! And what they might

make of the sight of Rabbi Michael Lerner in his yarmulke as he recites the

recognizable medieval canards of Mearsheimer and Walt, only God in his

heaven can tell.


     May 4, 2010
by Alan M. Dershowitz

"Rabbi" Michael Lerner & Tikkun Magazine


3.   I plan to be in Berkeley this coming summer.  Can anyone send me some stickers and boxes of super glue?


4.   The Moonbats and Traitors are now targeting the Technion:,7340,L-3886094,00.html



5.   Yitzhak Klein Interviewed on the Academic Fifth Column


More information here:




Terra Incognita: Israel's democracy wars

04/05/2010 20:27



7.  You might have noticed that in reporting on the "attack" on the home of Michael Lerner in Berkeley, the "Jewish" Telegraphic Agency kept referring to him as "Rabbi" Lerner.   I can think of no better reason for closing down the JTA.



8.  Skeletons in the Goldstone closet:,7340,L-3885999,00.html



9.  Professor Mearsheimer and His Useful Jews

An American political scientist talks in terms reminiscent of Tsarist Russia.


At some point in the early part of the 20th century, the Tsarist authorities deemed my great grandfather to be a "useful Jew." He was a pianist and his musical talents fit nicely with Russia's classical preoccupation with high European culture.

And so, under this vulgar appellation, he was issued the necessary documents and permitted to leave the area where men of his caste were kept. He moved to St. Petersburg to teach at a musical conservatory and joined the ethnic Russian population under whose caprice he lived, but to whom he would never truly belong—even after his conversion to Orthodoxy.

Some 80 years later, my family and I left the Soviet Union and moved to the United States where we could define our own identity without the help of paternalistic Tsars and commissars. Had I been born a century ago, I don't know whether I would have qualified as a "useful Jew" or a useless one and, truth be told, until last week I never found the occasion to wonder.

On April 29, University of Chicago professor John Mearsheimer delivered a speech titled "The Future of Palestine: Righteous Jews vs. the New Afrikaners." Mr. Mearsheimer is one of America's more celebrated political scientists. In 2006, he and a co-author wrote an article-turned-book called "The Israel Lobby," arguing that advocates for the Jewish state have manipulated U.S. foreign policy in a way that harms American interests.

In last week's talk, given at the Palestine Center in Washington, D.C., Mr. Mearsheimer explained that "American Jews who care deeply about Israel can be divided into three broad categories." Since I don't know many American Jews who are apathetic about Israel's fate, and since I had no idea that an entire ethnicity could be so neatly compartmentalized, it seemed prudent to continue reading the transcript.

Mr. Mearsheimer refers to the first category as "Righteous Jews." According to him, they include radicals like Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein, as well as more reasonable individuals like New York Times columnist Roger Cohen.

The second category, those that could be described as hawkish on Israel, Mr. Mearsheimer calls the "New Afrikaners." This reference to supporters of apartheid encompasses the Jews that he doesn't like; they include the heads of most American Jewish political organizations as well as right-of-center media figures. He refers to the third category as the "great ambivalent middle," those who are apparently undecided about Israel.

The speech contains a litany of other bizarre and unsubstantiated claims: Zionism's core beliefs are deeply hostile to the establishment of a Palestinian state, many young Israelis hold racist views towards Palestinians, and so on.

But it was Mr. Mearsheimer's taxonomy of the Jewish citizens of this country that captivated me the most. I'm not sure where I fall on his rubric. I had always considered myself simply a Jewish-American, but perhaps I truly am "righteous" or alternatively a "new Afrikaner."

Nor am I sure where to place all the other Jews that I have encountered in my life. The ones who so generously helped my family when we arrived in this country as refugees seemed quite "righteous," but they are associated with some of the organizations Mr. Mearsheimer deemed evil, or at least accomplices to it.

Such distinctions should be considered beyond the pale. Would a professor get a respectful hearing if he divided black men into "righteous African-Americans" and "Malcolm X types"?

A college friend, born and raised in Canada but of Chinese descent, once remarked to me that the U.S. is so great because it is the country where people are least likely to ask where you're "really" from. Yet Mr. Mearsheimer seems convinced of his ability to divine who one really is. One imagines that the word American wouldn't satisfy his inquiry.

Surely the crude categorization of an entire set of people according to political proclivities has no place in the 21st century. The illiberal political condition of Tsarist Russia enabled cultural arbiters to define minorities any way they pleased. Thank goodness America accords the likes of Mr. Mearsheimer no such right.

Mr. Balson is an M.A. candidate at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

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10.  A Governor at Tel Aviv University blasts the Israeli Academic Fifth Column:

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