American-Jewish editor defends "The Arafat Seekers"

Susie Dym,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Susie Dym
Susie Dym serves as spokesperson for Mattot Arim, with over 20 years of expertise on "peace-for-peace" issues.
American-Jewish editor offers fact-deficient defense of Arafat-seekers

Two American rabbis recently generated shock waves by promoting Jewish visits to the grave of  Yasser Arafat, father of modern terrorism. There was outrage. Rank and file Jews like Richard Brook, Carl Sherer, Joseph Davidsohn, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld and Avi White, and many others, hastily took to the e-streets to try and repair the self-respect and decency of American Jewry.

Suddenly however, these hurriedly assembled and ill-equipped infantrymen found themselves under artillery attack. The editor of a New York newspaper, the Jewish Week, rushed in where angels would fear to tread and penned a particularly aggressive attack against –

No --  not against the Arafat-seeking rabbis: Gary Rosenblatt, NYC’s Jewish Week editor, chose instead to attack those bold rank and file Jews who had dared criticize one of the Arafat-seekers. The forthright critics of the shocking Arafat glorification phenomenon were publicly denigrated in the Jewish Week as being harmful, self-righteous, factually inaccurate, publicly vilifying, unseemly, unethical, foster[ing] Jewish enmity not unity, fierce,  and damaging. If you want to find this list of adjectives, read Gary’s work for yourself, here: In contrast, the very same Gary lovingly described one of the Arafat-seekers as: well respected, strong, committed, Zionist, extremely effective, serves his synagogue with distinction, healer, community builder, deeply connected to Israel, eclectic,  thoughtful, creative, sincere, convincing, nuance[d], subtle.

The Jewish Week also scornfully dismissed giving any weight to what they said was going to be a mere ”20-minute stop” at the grave of Arafat. Also, one of the Arafat-seeking rabbis was quoted as saying his intention had been to hold a “serious” and “complex” conversation at the grave, on “who [Arafat] was and what he symbolized”.  Dear Gary, dear brothers on the Jewish Week staff -- either the grave-fest was going to be a mere 20 minutes,  or it was going to be long enough to have a “serious and complex” conversation. You can’t have it both ways.

Next, the Jewish Week’s Rosenblatt lectured the Arafat-seeking rabbi’s beleaguered critics for being “factually inaccurate”. They had “use[d] the Internet to smear people and didn’t bother to check facts”, Gary scolded. Worse, they had “no remorse about their verbal attacks” even after they had heard from the Jewish Week that the rabbi is “not affiliated with the left-wing groups they said he belonged to”.  Gary reverently published one of the Arafat-seeking rabbis’ accusations that he had been “defamed” and subjected to “insidious slander”, and also covered the same rabbi’s pathos-laden observation that fact-checking is “a lost art” whereas “a core Jewish belief is giving someone the benefit of the doubt”.

All this because those pilloried by New York’s Jewish Week had gone so far as to write that one of the rabbis had lent his name, support and reputation to T’ruah, Breaking the Silence, the New Israel Fund, and Rabbis Without Borders. The facts, the Jewish Week emphasized, were that the rabbi in question had never been associated with T’ruah, New Israel Fund or Breaking the Silence.

What is funny is that the person who gets the fact-checking booby prize here is actually  Gary himself. The infantrymen, amateurs though they may be, were quite right:

Rabbi Neil Blumofe never associated with the New Israel Fund?? Check out this:   – is that not Rabbi Blumofe prominently featured on the New Israel Fund website??

Rabbi Blumofe never associated either with Tru’ah or with Breaking the Silence? Wrong again: Rabbi Blumofe, as Rosenblatt himself points out, “has been active with ... Rabbis Without Borders”. Check out that organization minimally to find out who is their main or sole subcontractor for “social justice” (sic). Just click here: then click on “social justice”. Which organization pops out? Tru’ah -- exactly. Now go to the Tru’ah website, Which group is mentioned prominently on their home page? Breaking the Silence – exactly.

The moral of the story is this: In this difficult Israel-bashing  era, it is NOT the Jewish Week's job to place Arafat-seeking rabbis on a pedestal.  Gary Rosenblatt needs to start thinking big. He needs to start being a fighter for the Jewish people. That's when big things will start to happen to the rest of us, particularly in Israel, because Gary Rosenblatt is actually  a very clever guy. He is just not using his smarts for the right things.

There was once a Jewish liberal journalist and playwright very much like the Jewish Week’s Rosenblatt, except he lived in Vienna rather than in New York, and his name was Theodor – not Gary. Slowly but surely, this Viennese journalist developed into his true destiny and the rest is Jewish history. In contrast, poor Gary, in New York,  is still stuck on the wrong side of the "is it okay to offer homage to Arafat" issue.

The Jewish world is watching and waiting for Gary – waiting to forgive and forget, if and when he gets his act together. Because “a core Jewish belief is giving someone the benefit of the doubt”.

Mr. Rosenblatt thus far chose not to respond to an advance copy of this post, however the offer to post any comments he may have was genuine and is still open.

This is Susie Dym, spokesperson for Mattot Arim, writing to you from Israel.