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US Jewish Peace Group Calling Romney Racist over Palestinian Culture Comment

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Rabbi Joseph Berman, Boston chair of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Rabbi Joseph Berman, Boston chair of Jewish Voice for Peace.
Photo Credit: Temple website

In an entirely predictable effort to use the word “Jewish” to attack those who support the Jewish State, the organization Jewish Voice for Peace invited other haters of Israel to sign a letter to Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, lambasting him for his “racist” and “ignorant” statements about Arab Palestinians.

In one of the more hotly debated statements Romney made on his trip to Israel last month, he attributed the vast disparity in economic health between that of the robust Israeli one and the dismal one of the Palestinian Authority to, in part, a difference in culture.

Given that the two societies live in the same climate, with the same geologic infirmities, is it a wonder that someone might think to look to culture to explain the vast difference between the two?  Of course, the naming of children’s sports teams, streets and town squares after people who blow themselves up in order to murder as many Jews as possible is surely an indicator of cultural inclination.

But the JVP folks insist that the reason for the disparity in economic health between the two societies is the “Occupation.”

Rabbi Joseph Berman of Temple B’Nai Israel in Revere, Massachusetts, is the Boston chair of JVP and sits on its rabbinic council.  Rabbi Berman delivered the JVP petition to Romney’s national headquarters in Boston, on Monday, August 6, 2012.  The petition “demands” Romney apologize to the “Palestinian people” for his “cultural differences” statement regarding the Arab Palestinian people.

Your statements in Jerusalem regarding the growth of the Palestinian and Israeli economies were inaccurate and misleading. Israel’s Occupation of Palestinian land makes it impossible for the Palestinian economy to succeed, not “cultural differences.” Your comments were not a reflection of the values Jews, Americans, and our allies hold dear. We call on you to apologize to the Palestinian people for your willful lack of understanding of the facts on the ground and the racist assumptions behind them.

Given what they describe as Romney’s racism, JVP claims that this election season “is a unique moment to raise the issue of the Occupation in the presidential election. We all know the Occupation is what’s holding back the Palestinian economy.”

Is it?  Back in 2002 the pre-eminent Middle East historian Efraim Karsh slew that sacred cow. Karsh explained that, actually, the very best thing that ever happened to the economy, the overall health, the educational levels and the standard of living for the Arab Palestinians was precisely what JVP and others claim is the reason for their misery: the so-called “Occupation.”

Following the 1967 war, when Israel became responsible for the Arabs living in the disputed territories, their life expectancy rose from 48 years in 1967 to 72 years in 2000; their infant mortality rate plunged from 60 out of 1000 to just 15 in 2000; during the 1970’s the economy in the territories and Gaza was the fourth fastest growing in the world, illiteracy rates plummeted to just 14 percent, the lowest of all Arabs in the surrounding Arab countries.  In 1967, when Israel first gained control over the territories, there was not a single institution of higher learning, by the beginning of the 1970’s there were seven.

The JVP petition claims that Arabs are under-paid in the territories, but, in fact, Arabs living in Israel and the territories have among the highest standard of living of any Arabs anywhere in the world.

But Jewish Voice for Peace echoes the outrage of Palestinian Authority spokesman Saeb Erekat’s response to Romney’s cultures claim. They are insisting that rather than Arab intransigence and a culture that glorifies murder and terrorism, it is the mere statement of a US presidential candidate that has destroyed the chances for negotiations that JVP, at least, claims would lead to the creation of the holy grail of progressive Jewish politics – the creation of a Palestinian State.

Professor of Medieval history Richard Landes, writing in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, August 6, shored up Karsh’s exposure of the “Occupation” as Middle East bogeyman (“Richard Landes: Romney Is Right on Culture and the Wealth of Nations“).  While Karsh wrote about the benefits brought to the Arabs by their exposure to, and entwining with, the Israeli economy and technological progress, post-“Occupation,” Landes struck hard on aspects of Arab culture that practically ensure stagnation.

Arab culture, says Landes, views intellectual curiosity and exuberant innovation as subversive.  He writes that Arab culture  “emphasizes rote learning and unquestioning respect for those in authority,” and public criticism of authority invites “sharp retaliation.”

Landes brings the argument full circle.  In the speech he gave in which he discussed the impact of culture on both the Israeli and the Arab economies, Romney cited historian David Landes, Richard’s father. The son pointed out, in his Journal op-ed, that “Blaming others for one’s own failures prolongs failure. Even though his own government daily chooses a culture of death, not life, Mr. Erekat wants to blame Israel for Palestine’s woes; no admission here that he and his colleagues might have some role in the suffering of their own people.”

If blaming others is at least a root cause of the dismal Arab economy, and if JVP and their fellow travelers encourage that culture of blame, then perhaps it is also the culture of those such as Rabbi Joseph Berman and his comrades at JVP which must bear at least some of the blame for the cycle of Arab failure.

More Good Works by our Brothers and Sisters at the Jewish Voice for Peace:

JVP supports Presbyterian Divestment

JVP is very proud to have been part of the broad coalition supporting Presbyterian efforts to boycott settlement products and divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation since 2004. We are especially proud of the members of our youth branch — Young, Jewish, and Proud (YJP) — and of our Rabbinical Council who were in Pittsburgh this year at the General Assembly meeting in support of the resolutions.

TIAA-CREF: Divest from the occupation

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) has endorsed the TIAA-CREF campaign and is urging all groups working on boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns in the US, especially on university campuses, to endorse the campaign and join it, whenever possible, to amplify its reach and impact across the US. 

Campus Divestment

On April 28, 2010, students at the University of California at Berkeley failed by just one vote to overturn the veto of the original student council vote of 16 to 4 to divest from companies that specifically profit from the occupation, but they helped launch a new phase of the movement for justice.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the JewishPress.com. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: Lori@JewishPressOnline.com

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  1. Lori Lowenthal Marcus says:

    Not a shock, but critical information in here for the truly pro-Israel crowd to know.

  2. Lauren Ks says:

    They are the blind ppl. the kapos of our time. Clearly Romney is not racist and only made conclusions based on facts.

  3. kapos would be a step up for them, they have no Nazis standing over them to make them act this way

  4. Yori Yanover says:

    I like the earring.

  5. Marc Prowisor says:

    I was waiting for the vanguard of the idiot savant to step up.

  6. As a Jew, I'm embarrassed that this man if wearing a yarmulke.

  7. Moses Maimon says:

    Two things are clear from this: This Joseph Berman is no Rabbi, and this Joseph Berman idiot is a self-hating Jew, a modern day kappo. That loser brings shame to our Jewish people.

  8. Marc Prowisor says:

    Its alright, he is embarrassed to be a Jew, and remember, his children wont be Jewish, so…

  9. Moses Maimon says:

    True, but meanwhile, he is making it appear as if we Jews are as stupid and immoral as he is.

  10. Liad Bar-el says:

    Read carefully, take notes, counter every point he made with facts. This is the only way to fight against idiots.

  11. D'vorah Joy says:

    I'd like to have a word with this faux Rabbi in a dark alley. I am so sick and tired of these "peacenik" self-hating Jews in need of psychiatric evaluation and care. Daniel raised an excellent point. There is no pig in ss uniform standing over them and threatening them with death, they are sabotaging their own people all on their own. obama is accomplishing exactly what he intended in his own snarky and sneaky way and that is he is causing the worst division among the Jewish people since the time that Sabbatai Zevi first declared himself as the messiah and then converted to islam. I don't know what will be…is it going to take another holocaust for the Jewish people to once again close ranks?

  12. Jewish Voice for Peace = 21st century kapos and Judenrats. I bet that during 1941-1945 they would have told Germany's Jews that the cattle cars were going to take them to luxury resorts with showers with nice warm running water. The fact that they support anti-Israel divestment suggests that they would indeed have collaborated willingly, and with little or no coercion whatsoever.

    A behavioral choice is not a race, and JVP knows this fully well which also makes it dishonest. The Palestinians are dirt-poor and live in squalor because they teach their children to grow up to be suicide bombers while Israel teaches children what they need to know to become engineers, doctors, and other productive citizens.

  13. Harry Onickel says:

    I've attended a couple Detroit area JVP presentations. Peace is the last thing on their mind.

  14. This is the rebbi whose family said stop crying so loudly in your suffering because you upset the fuhrer and keep him awake he can not sleep.You jews moning to loud .Dear rebbi did you ever think about to go to Isreal and say a prayer over the thousend of Isreali bodies who were murderd in Insreal by the arab murdereres.Pleas don'shame the jewish people to call yourself a rebbi or a jew. I hope Mitt Romney wins the election.I want to stop the false claim who is against president Obama is a racist.I don't like him as a president because we Americans can't figer out what the hell he is doing.

  15. Yudenrat in action

  16. Yaakov Levy says:

    my questions: 1. can they be brought back? how? 2. how to prevent them from being seen as a valid jewish perspective

  17. This guy in the photo is a Rabbi? HoHoHo… I seems more a Rabbid anti-Israel.

  18. Pninah Means Millson Mason says:

    And take note of the earring in his ear. Oy what a shonda. Last time I heard, a right ear piercing meant a man was gay.

  19. Les Legato says:

    It's code for the nose ring that he has for the muslim brotherhood and the democrats to lead him around with.

  20. Les Legato says:

    Not the only way.

  21. Jay Marcus says:

    Just thinking the same thing!

  22. Anthony Mammon says:

    No need for ANYONE to apologize to a people whose culture is to openly support terrorism and the murder of innocent civilians. Rabbi Berman, you are a disgrace.

  23. Moses Maimon says:

    Devorah Joy, it is really only the Jew ignorant of his own religion who is as self-destructive as the jerk in the above video. In sharp contrast, traditional, Orthodox Jews overwhelmingly support pro-Israel candidates like Mitt Romney.

  24. Romney paid a compliment to Israeli culture as highly advanced, more advanced than Palestinian culture. He cited high-tech exports as an example.

    Everyone admires the cell phone technology invented in Israel. When Israel got to the Old City in 1967 it provided indoor toilets for the first time. The public toilets were the kind you had to sit down on a hole in the floor.

    In the Middle Ages Arab culture was the most advanced in the world. Today it is not.

    Palestinian culture is legitimate and should be honored, except when it kills innocent civilians or promotes that. (Romney also mentioned Israel does not export terrorism).

  25. P.S.

    I am not implying that Israeli culture is perfect towards the Palestinians. But it has never officially supported what Hamas has.

  26. Charlie Hall says:

    What is really crazy about this is that Romney actually walked back much of what he said that JVP is complaining about!

  27. Does nobody see the irony in Romney, in effect, saying that Jews are good with money?

  28. Kapos oppressed fellow Jews under duress. JVP oppresses Jews for fun and profit.

  29. A classic anti-semitic remark!

  30. Les Legato says:

    Goddard, the swamp par excellence for self-loathing jinos who will kiss the obama tush for money.

  31. Johnie Kemp says:

    Romney's comments on his trip to Israel were so blatantly political is was embarrassing. I say this not in opposition to his remarks but to put them in perspective of an active political campaign in full campaign mode. You cannot depend on anything said during these election cycles by anyone running for office. Candidates will say and use any relationships to their advantage and that is what Mr. Romney has done. Be careful and put words in perspective with the occasion.

  32. David Most says:

    Boston is known for its leftist leanings and sometimes unbelievable postures. To read this young "rabbi"'s anti-Israel and anti-Jewish positions is to induce vomiting!

  33. Hello Lori and thanks for your good article but…trying to persuade these renegade traitor jews is like trying to persuade hitler's cronies! They aren't ignorant, they are cruel and stupid to choose to betray Israel and the rest of Jews in order to appear "better" than the real Jews, to the arab muslims! They are the sewers that pollute all around them and will probably send Israel to ruin!!! While I desperately hate those miserable primitive savages, cut throats arab (and whatever else) muslims…I hate DOUBLY those renegade traitor jews!!! I got rid of several "friends" of mine who, whenever I showed them an injustice to Israel would whine: "How about the poor palestinians?" ARGH!!! Adela

  34. Johny….then, to your thinking, we should vote….for whom????? You better try to be less pessimistic, if not, keep it to yourself. It's either Romney or death!!! Adela

  35. Johnie Kemp says:

    Romney or death? That's a little dramatic. But I do get your meaning, that the current president will not be supportive of Israel. Well, some people either don't know the facts or don't believe them. I am pessimistic, if Romney gets in office because I am not in the top one percent of our nation's earners. And I wont' keep it to myself, no one else does. And it is my right and my privilege to speak out As is it yours. Thanks. I would just hope you would be a little more cognizant of political players.

  36. Blum: You imply Romney's statement is antisemitic? Then for whom will you vote in Nov.???

  37. D'vorah Joy, I agree with you a thousand percent!!! But I hope Moses Maimon is right! 🙂

  38. Jean Pierre Katz: As to your glowing opinion of the arabs, the past doesn't count in our present problem. We must focus on the present arab muslims. And….did you HAVE to add your P.S. about Israel's culture towards the palestinians???

  39. Madeleine Begun Kane As I answered to Blum: You say Romney's statement is antisemitic, so…for whom will you vote in Nov.??? Keep in mind that it's Romney or….freedom DEATH!!!

  40. Lori, may I know why my reply to you is nto shown here? Thanks.

  41. Pisarevsky: Please give one, just one, instance of President Obama having curtailed anybody's freedom in any way. Just one. But make it a true verifiable fact. Just one, if you can.

  42. Indeed! Jews are very very good with money, finances, that´s undisputable. But it´s worth to remind Romney and friends that they essentially excel in sciences, economy, philosophy, sociology, music, psychology, and much more… in any area of human knowledge they are allowed to compete they excel…finance and trade is only a very narrow sample…

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