The winner of the Monitor’s second annual Henry Schwarzschild Award for most offensive comments by a Jew in the public spotlight goes to Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. The prize, which last year went to Israeli uber-leftist Uri Avnery, is awarded to the person who, in the Monitor’s considered opinion, by his or her statements displays a contempt for the Jewish people, a disregard for historical truth, a desire to sup at the table of Israel=s enemies, or who otherwise plays into the hands of the enemies of Jews and Israel.
Before we get to Foxman’s words of wisdom, a little something about Henry Schwarzschild and why a prize like this deserves to bear his name.
Schwarzschild, who died in 1996, was a longtime activist in groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and Jewish Peace Fellowship. In the wake of the Israeli siege of Beirut in the summer of 1982, he wrote a letter of resignation to the journal Sh’=ma which will stand in perpetuity as a monument to the neuroses and insecurities of a secular leftist. Schwarzschild’s main points:
For a generation now, I have been deeply troubled by the chauvinistic assumptions and repressive effects of Israeli nationalism. I have experienced the War on Lebanon of the past few weeks as a turning point in Jewish history and consciousness exceeded in importance only by the End of the Second Commonwealth and the Holocaust … the War on Lebanon has now made clear to me that the resumption of political power by the Jewish people after two thousand years of diaspora has been a tragedy of historical dimensions….
I now conclude and avow that the price of a Jewish state is, to me, Jewishly unacceptable and that the existence of this (or any similar) Jewish ethnic religious nation state is a Jewish, i.e. a human and moral, disaster and violates every remaining value for which Judaism and Jews might exist in history….
I now renounce the State of Israel, disavow any political connection or emotional obligation to it, and declare myself its enemy.
Schwarzschild’s piece was immediately published in the leftist Nation magazine, and for better than two decades has remained a favorite of Jews on the Left. Tony Kushner (Steven Spielberg’s screenwriter for “Munich”) and Alisa Solomon thought so much of it that they included it in Wrestling with Zion, a compilation of essays by leftists ambivalent about Israel.
Admittedly, Schwarzschild’s sick screed is an almost impossible act to follow. Maybe someone in some year to come will match that gold standard, but until then we’re forced to make do with efforts like Foxman’s speech last November at the ADL’s national conference in which he tore into the Christian Right for what he described as its efforts “to ‘Christianize’ all aspects of American life, from the halls of government to the libraries, to the movies, to recording studios, to the playing fields and locker rooms of professional, collegiate and amateur sports, from the military to SpongeBob SquarePants.”
Foxman’s hysterics — never employed when liberal advocacy groups attempt to ram their particular agendas through the courts and Congress — were bad enough. More egregious still was his imputing anti-Semitic sentiments to the majority of respondents in an ADL-commissioned poll.
“If 60 percent think religion is under attack,” said Foxman, “who do they think is attacking them? Hollywood, the media and the ACLU? And who is behind those three institutions? The Jews, right?”
As the Monitor observed at the time, “These are the remarks of a man intent on reading the darkest implications where it is far from obvious that any exist. It’s as though Foxman wants to feed the perception among some Jews that conservative Christians opposed to liberal policies are by definition opposed to Jews — and the perception among some conservative Christians that the words ‘Jewish’ and ‘liberal’ are interchangeable.”