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Reform Rabbis Call for 'Sanctions' Against U.S. Talk Show Host

400 non-Orthodox rabbis signed a WSJ ad against popular Fox News' Glenn Beck for criticizing George Soros. They don't get away with it unscathed.
By Elad Benari and Rachel Sylvetsky
First Publish: 2/2/2011, 3:19 AM / Last Update: 2/2/2011, 3:13 AM

An anti-Zionist Jewish millionaire, a talk show host, and a letter signed by non-Orthodox Jewish clergymen are at the forefront of a controversy in the United States.

Last Thursday, Holocaust Remembrance Day, a full page letter signed by 400 Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist clergymen in the United States appeared in The Wall Street Journal. In the letter addressed to Rupert Murdoch, the clergymen called on Fox News to sanction its host Glenn Beck for what they described as his repeated use of Nazi and Holocaust imagery and for his airing attacks on Jewish multimillionaire George Soros. The group also demanded an apology from Fox News chief Roger Ailes for characterizing Beck's Jewish critics as nothing more than “left-wing rabbis.”

The non-Orthodox rabbis reportedly spent more than $100,000 for the letter to be published, for which they were roundly panned.

They also did not escape scathing criticism for the letter itself, which criticized the intrepid talk show host's taking on an anti-Zionist, Arab and J Street supporting Jew who is also a multi-millionaire and a friend of Obama.

The story:

In November, Beck, who is a staunch supporter of Israel and a fierce critic of leftist liberals, ran a three-part program on George Soros and what he called his nefarious activities in WWII, during which he said: “George Soros used to go around with this anti-Semite and deliver papers to the Jews and confiscate their property and then ship them off. Here's a Jewish boy helping send the Jews to the death camps. And I am certainly not saying that George Soros enjoyed that,, even had a choice. I mean, he's 14 years old. He was surviving. So I'm not making a judgment. That's between him and G-d.”

Despite being Jewish, Soros has given money to radical Arab groups but not to Israel, and has funded U.S. liberal groups such as MoveOn.org. He criticized former U.S. President George Bush for refusing to accept a Palestinian Authority ruled jointly by Fatah and Hamas and has openly said that Israeli and American policies fuel anti-Semitism. It was recently revealed that Soros helps fund the controversial, radical leftist J Street lobby, a fact which led to a cancellation of an appearance by Soros at a pro-Israel congregation in Boston.

In the letter, the signers also express anger at Roger Ailes, who in November called NPR executives Nazis for their decision to fire Fox commentator Juan Williams. In the same interview, Ailes defended Beck's frequent use of Nazi references to describe his political opponents. Leftists use these terms as well.  He later apologized to the Anti-Defamation League for his remarks.

“We share a belief that the Holocaust, of course, can and should be discussed appropriately in the media. But that is not what we have seen at Fox News,” the signers wrote in the letter/ad which was timed to appear on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. “It is not appropriate to accuse a 14-year-old Jew hiding with a Christian family in Nazi-occupied Hungary of sending his people to death camps. It is not appropriate to call executives of another news agency 'Nazis.' And it is not appropriate to make literally hundreds of on-air references to the Holocaust and Nazis when characterizing people with whom you disagree.”

The letter goes on to say: “We respectfully request that Glenn Beck be sanctioned by Fox News for his completely unacceptable attacks on a survivor of the Holocaust and that Roger Ailes apologize for his dismissive remarks about rabbis' sensitivity to how the Holocaust is used on the air.”

The clergymen who signed  the letter came under strong fire themselves for publishing the letter in which they claim to represent a broad range of views. Below are examples of two letters to the WSJ written by prominent Jews who hold opposite views and who are fiercely critical of the signers for their letter.

“The Good Rabbis Were Certainly Not Speaking For Us

Regarding the full-page ad by numerous rabbis in the Jan 27 Journal, as well as their prior pronouncements elsewhere, purporting to represent “diverse political views.” They call for the sanctioning of Glenn Beck and criticize Roger Ailes.  If there is a single non liberal among them, I would eat crow.

I suppose that I am to rest easy now that these rabbis and the individuals they quote in their ad find Glenn Beck and Roger Ailes (who is responsible along with Rupert Murdoch for News Corps support of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, the Anti Defamation League and other Jewish philanthropies) represent a greater threat to the welfare of the Jews than George Soros.  I have no position on Mr. Beck, but I am frankly puzzled as to how he merits so great an expenditure by this group [of rabbis, ed.]. What a waste of communal resources this represents when there are so many needy people, Holocaust survivors and others. Herein lies the mercy of religious figures-not in politics.

This absurdity and the fact that these rabbis have never seen fit to comment on Mr. Soros's support for entities that have harmed Israel and Jewish interests, (and in my view, Western interests generally) force me to speak out.

Elan Steinberg is quoted in the ad in his capacity as vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors.  He has no more right than I do to speak in the name of the survivors on this topic. I know this because I, too, am vice president of the American Gathering. I also know that in my 30 years of participation in large scale annual commemorations I have yet to meet a survivor who expressed support for Mr. Soros.”

Signed

Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld, Vice President American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, Great Neck, NY

 And the second letter:

“I was surprised to see my name and statements attributed to me used in the ad from Jewish Funds for Justice calling on Rupert Murdoch to "sanction" Glenn Beck for his repeated use of Holocaust and Nazi images on his Fox News program.

 I want to make it clear for the record that I do not support this misguided campaign against Fox News even though my name was used.

 While we have said many times that Nazi comparisons are offensive and inappropriate when used for political attacks, in my view it is wrongheaded to single out only Fox News on this issue, when both liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, can share equal guilt in making trivializing comparisons to the Holocaust.

 Furthermore, the open letter signed by hundreds of rabbis is a trivialization in itself--bizarrely timed for release on United Nation's Holocaust Remembrance Day.  At a time when Holocaust denial is rampant in much of the Arab world, where anti-Semitism remains a serious concern, and where the Iranian leader has openly declared his desire to "wipe Israel off the map," surely there are greater enemies and threats to the Jewish people than the pro-Israel stalwarts Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes and Glenn Beck.

(signed, Abraham H. Foxman, National Director, Anti-Defamation League, NY.)