The winner of the Monitor’s third annual Henry Schwarzschild Award for most offensive comments by a Jew in the public spotlight goes to Michael Lerner, publisher of the far-left Tikkun magazine.
The prize, which last year went to Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman and the year before that 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 Lerner’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 public letter of resignation from the editorial advisory board of the journal Sh’ma – a letter that will stand in perpetuity as a monument to the unimaginable 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. I have resisted the inference for over thirty years, but 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 will not avoid an unambiguous response to the Israeli army’s turning West Beirut into another Warsaw Ghetto. 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.
The lethal military triumphalism and corrosive racism that inheres in the State and in its supporters (both there and here) are profoundly abhorrent to me. So is the message that now goes forth to the nations of the world that the Jewish people claim the right to impose a holocaust on others in order to preserve the State….I now renounce the State of Israel, disavow any political connection or emotional obligation to it, and declare myself its enemy….
Schwarzschild’s reprehensible screed was immediately published in the leftist Nation magazine (then and now the most anti-Israel mainstream political publication in America) 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 struggling with their ambivalence toward Israel.
On to Michael Lerner, who back in December was all lathered up over widespread negative reaction among supporters of Israel to Jimmy Carter’s atrocious new book, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid. According to Lerner:
Jimmy Carter was the best friend the Jews ever had as president of the United States…. In an interview that will appear in the January issue of Tikkun magazine, Carter points out that he is “not referring to racism as a basis for Israeli policy in the West Bank, but rather the desire of a minority of Israelis to occupy, confiscate and colonize the West Bank.”…. What Carter is arguing is that the best interests of Israel and the United States are not served by the current policies…. Jimmy Carter is speaking the truth as he knows it, and doing a great service to the Jews…. It’s time to create a new openness to criticism and a new debate. Jimmy Carter has shown courage in trying to open that kind of space with his new book, and he deserves our warm thanks and support.
So there it is. In Lerner’s world, the more someone lambastes Israel, the more someone speaks disparagingly of Israeli policy and Israeli leaders while raising nary a hint of criticism against Arab states and Arab leaders, the more that person is to be trusted, thanked and praised. From his perch in a presumably warmer climate, Henry Schwarzschild must be glowing.