Temple Israel Should Un-invite Anti-Israel Extremists

An event with three anti-Israel speakers and no other point of view is slated to take place at a Reform Temple. It should be cancelled.

Tags: J Street NIF
Ronn Torossian

OpEds Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian

Co-authored by Hank Sheinkopf , Ronn Torossian and George Birnbaum. 

Shouldn't Jewish places of worship refrain from allowing people who support a boycott of Israel to appear at their events? Temple Israel of Boston is hosting an event on April 23rd, entitled “Challenges and Opportunities for Peace and Democracy in Israel” which features three radical extremists - Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street President & Daniel Sokatch, New Israel Fund CEO, at an event moderated by the Director of Programming at Encounter. 

One wonders why this speaking series features solely extreme-left wing viewpoints?  Would not a synagogue – a home of Jewish worship – seek to host a smattering of viewpoints rather than solely the very far left (which received barely any representation during the recent Israeli elections?)

Criticism of each of these organizations is common across the Israeli political spectrum, as the viewpoints Temple Israel will present represent the furthest left viewpoint one can find. Benny Yanay of an Israeli military organization called Consensus, who represents a reported 3,000 members of the Israel Defense Forces said that “The New Israel Fund acts against Israel — against the soldiers of our country. It is supported by foreign governments and organizations so that Israeli soldiers will be weakened.” 

The Deputy Speaker of the Knesset noted the NIF was bent on “erasing the Jewish identity from the Jewish State.”

One can go on and on about how the NIF is Anti-Israel.

Encounter, moderating the discussion, is an organization which UK Media Watch recently covered, noting:

“The Jewish participants spent the entire time listening to Palestinian views. There was never an opportunity by Jewish participants to even briefly explain the Jewish/Israeli narrative. Indeed, such ‘counter narratives’ were explicitly forbidden by the program organizers.” Not one Palestinian, when discussing their long-term vision for the region, advocated a two-state solution, nor expressed any empathy for Jewish aspirations.

"Several presenters (such as ‘Comment is Free’ contributor Sam Bahour) quite explicitly advocated a one-state solution. One Palestinian presenter, named Shirin, told us that, in the absence of a one-state solution, there is going to be a bloodbath. In response to this, most participants clapped. “

“The resentment towards us (Jews/Israelis) was really intense. They clearly hate Zionism, and Zionists, with a passion.”

“To put this 'peaceful' encounter, organized by Americans who fancy themselves progressive, in some perspective, note that one of the featured speakers was ‘Comment is Free’ contributor, Sam Bahour Bahour is affiliated with ‘Al Shabaka’ (a group which opposes all Palestinian Authority negotiations with Israel), has signed the Stuttgart declaration calling for a one-state solution (a resolution signed by activists representing both Islamism and the radical left), and, in a previous CiF piece, sanitized the death and carnage of the 2nd intifada as a mere 'civil uprising' which the Arab world would be wise to emulate.

"Does it really need to be asked how anyone claiming the mantle of peace can legitimize the call for the end of the Jewish state? At the end of the day, what programs like ‘Encounter’ truly represent are efforts to tell morally vulnerable U.S. Jews that their spiritual salvation, their moral redemption for the original sin of the Jewish state’s creation, lie in Israel’s complete capitulation.”

Tellingly, Birthright boycotts New Israel Fund, and the Likud Party says the organization is Anti-Zionist.  Israel’s economic minister noted “…New Israel Fund, I will boycott whoever persecutes Israeli soldiers. I will not apologize for it. He continued, “The NIF works methodically and consistently to attack our Israeli soldiers, accuse them of war crimes of torturing Palestinians and intentionally attacking women and children. They turn to the UN and to the committees that are most hostile to Israel and try their best to convince them that Israel is a war criminal. I repeat: They say that our soldiers- you, I, your friends and your families, your children and their friends – that we are all war criminals. The New Israel Fund invests large amounts of money through its organizations with one purpose- to harm IDF soldiers who are physically protecting us with their bodies."

The message of the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Israel in Washington, DC, Barukh Bina at a J Street conference should be noted.  Binah said, “We need you to stand with us. It is as simple as that, and someone ought to say it. Internal activism is a central part of democratic society, but pressures on the elected government of Israel can present us with a problem, when we need you the most. Friends, I urge you to stand by our side as Americans, as members of your community, as Jews. For the sake of our forefathers and our future, we must keep our brotherhood strong."

Binah further noted, "You may be critical of settlements, but if you choose to show the most extreme, it behooves you to present the greater mass of moderates as well. If you show them [politicians J Street brings to Israel] negative aspects of checkpoints, please show as well the catastrophe and grief of terror victims. If you show them Israel’s failings, show them also our triumphs such as the aliyah of the Jewish community of Ethiopia. I urge you to strive for balance, so that these lawmakers may become friends of Israel who might be critical, and not critics of Israel who are not friends."

Those who care about Israel must urge Temple Israel of Boston to cancel this event.  Jews – on the left and right – must shun extremists who sympathize with Israel’s enemies, as they must be rooted out of the realm of acceptability.

Co-authored by Hank Sheinkopf is CEO of Sheinkopf Communications and a leading Democratic strategist. His clients have included former President Bill Clinton.  Ronn Torossian is Founder and CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR Firm in New York, and one of the 20 largest independently owned agencies in the United States. George Birnbaum is an international political consultant, who is partners with Arthur Finkelstein. Birnbaum formerly served as chief of staff for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.