The story so far…
You’ll remember that the Left wing Jewish campaigning group, Tikkun, published an article a notorious neo-Nazi who calls himself “Israel Shamir”. The veteran Austrian anti-fascist campaigner, Karl Pfeifer, tried to find out how it happened. As a result, he had the piss taken out of him by a Tikkun staffer, for a small grammatical error. Eventually, the piece was taken down.
This is Rabbi Lerner’s response:
The reason I do not wish to engage with you is that you have already publicized this incident on your website and obviously have some agenda with me and Tikkun that has nothing to do with this specific incident. Unfortunately, this summer when we had approximately ten new interns, somebody put this up on our web site. I do not recall being involved, though someone in a meeting may have, without reference to Shamir in particular, asked me what our stance was on putting up pieces by people with whom we disagree, and I said something to the effect of, even a broken clock is correct twice a day and that if the actual content of the piece was something unlikely to be heard elsewhere, that our policy should be to put it on our website along with disclaimers that remind people that our website Current Thinking category does not reflect our own views necessarily. That iss my best recollection of how this thing happened. I happen to have met Shamir, found him an extremely unpleasant and hateful person, and while some of his articles are in my view correct in their perspective or analysis, others are in my estimation overtly hateful toward Judaism (I may have said something like that too). In any event, I surmise that this is how the whole thing got up there, and when it was pointed out to me last week, I ordered it removed. I do not want to give this more attention and publicity, because I am certain that Shamir will be able to transform this whole question into a “free speech debate,” and on that issue he will have many supporters who do not know about his particular history. Why give him a free ride in that way? So I have removed the article, but I do not intend to make any public statements about it unless Shamir himself starts to attack on those free speech grounds.
So, what do we learn from this:
1. Lerner blames an intern.
2. Lerner thinks that some of what Shamir writes is “correct in its perspective or analysis”.
3. Lerner thinks that what is wrong with Shamir is that he is “overtly hateful towards Judaism”.
First of all, it is weak, and very poor form, to blame an intern.
Secondly, I’d be very interested to hear what specifically in the writings of “Israel Shamir” Lerner agrees with. A SWPer might share an opposition to the Iraq war with a BNPer, but he’d be bloody stupid to think that created any genuine commonality of belief between them.
Thirdly, Lerner has completely misunderstood Shamir. Shamir’s gripe isn’t with Judaism. It is with Jews and “Jewishness”. His perspective on Jews is not a response to Jewish theology. It is, rather, informed by a Protocols of the Elders of Zion conception of Jewish Power, mixed in with a bit of medieval blood libel.
Obviously, I think Lerner is an idiot.
But his idiocy is illustrative of a broader point: which is that even on the Jewish Left, the ability to recognise an open and obvious racist and neo-Nazi is being lost.