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Matisyahu Played, but BDS Racism Won

We won the battle but are losing the war.

As much as anyone I’m thrilled that Matisyahu performed “Jerusalem” at the Rototom reggae festival this past Saturday night in Spain.image

Organizers had to apologize and re-invite him after they cancelled him.

The cancellation was precipitated, according to the festival director, by radicals from BDS who convinced organizers that Matisyahu must submit a public condemnation of Israel and Zionism in order to perform. It’s cynical nasty stuff. It’s inquisition-esque.

Don’t believe the festival director that he cancelled Matisyahu over fears of a seriously disrupted festival. After he contacted Matisyahu, the director would settle for nothing less than a pro-BDS, anti-Israel video or statement according to my sources. It wasn’t just support of a Palestinian state they wanted. They wanted Matisyahu to disavow Israel.

Matisyahu refused to submit. So they cancelled him in a disgusting and public manner.

But racism wasn’t going to win – at least this time.

The festival director came under huge pressure from the government, music fans in Spain and across the globe, and in the Spanish media. This festival after all received government funding. The cancellation was a major embarrassment to Spain who is trying to invite decedents of Jews expelled by the Inquisition back for citizenship. (What Jew is going back to Spain when inquisitors are still at large?)

Matisyahu is no more in control of the destiny of Israeli-Palestinian relations that you reading this article. He’s a proud American Jew and he was targeted because he’s a Jew.

Did the organizers question the gay-hating reggae singers about their political views?

Did the submit the other artists to political and social litmus tests?

No. Only Matisyahu was singled out because he’s a Jew.

While the Jewish community, fans of Matisyahu, and anti-racism and anti-BDS activists are celebrating this victory, we must realize this was still in the long term a victory for BDS.

European festivals next summer are going to think twice about booking Matisyahu. Not Poland which is hosting him again for multiple shows and has been for several years. (Respect!) But Western European festivals in countries with active anti-Israel movements (I think that’s every country) will consider this incident before signing the most publicly Jewish musician in the world.

I’m not surprised that major Jewish artists haven’t come forward to support Matisyahu. In the world of music the mone

y is in touring and famous Jewish musicians will be concerned to be targeted themselves. Better stay quiet it seems.

This episode in the BDS battle against Israel, amid growing European anti-Jewish racism, will have a lasting and negative impact on Jewish musicians who want to perform there – let alone Israeli musicians who will find getting booked increasingly difficult in Western Europe.

As much as I want that to not be true, as much as I believe that Matisyahu’s inspired performance was a victory for justice, we must face the grey future of uncertainty as racism and anti-Israel fervor spreads on the continent that 70 years ago exterminated most of its Jewish population.

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Never Forget: Iran is the Problem, not Boteach

IMG_6447In a Jewish world desperate for unity, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach succeeded in uniting a broad array of Jewish groups, including Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, secular and religious, right leaning, and left leaning, centrist and apolitical — to condemn his full-page ad attack against National Security Advisor Susan Rice in the New York Times.

If only that unity could be channeled into publicizing the existential threat a nuclear Iran poses to America and the world, perhaps the US Administration would truly recognize the danger that a nuclear armed Iran would be, and reject any deal that would leave Iran within reach of the bomb.

Boteach’s tactics are reminiscent of Peter Bergson (aka Hillel Kook) and his supporters who tried to move the United States to protect the Jews of Europe being slaughtered by Germany during WWII by allowing increased immigration of European Jews into America. Bergson’s group ran shocking full page ads in the Times and other newspapers as part of their campaign to tell the world of the destruction of European Jewry.

Boteach knew that his attack on Rice would be controversial. The establishment’s denunciation only proves to Boteach and his supporters — and he counts the outspoken Sheldon Adelson among them — that American Jewish leadership is incapable of articulating a unified position on Iran.

Details of the Iran deal, currently being worked on in secret by America and Iran, have been leaked across the media for days. By all accounts it allows for Iran to maintain a serious nuclear program.

Yet news that Iran will be on the path from being a pariah state, to a legitimized nuclear power, has not galvanized major American Jewish organizations to protests, mass petition campaigns or to even to take out ads in the Times.

Rather, American Jewish groups are distracted, busy fighting a very public battle over whether Bibi’s speech to congress this week is good or bad for Israel and the Jews.

Boteach, many American Jewish leaders, and the Christian Zionist lobby, believe Bibi’s speech to the US Congress can help to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons and make the case for strengthening America’s resolve against Tehran’s nuclear aspirations.

He is not alone. Even the Obama Administration, wrote Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic, is afraid that Bibi’s speech to congress could scuttle a deal with Iran.

We can look into the historical record to see who stood against Peter Bergson’s tactics to bring the plight of European Jewry to the pages of the NY Times and in public demonstrations in Washington. We can see their publicly stated positions aimed at defusing any hint the American Jews might be accused of disloyalty to America in favor of foreign Jews.

According to recent scholarship, prominent Jewish organizations tried to have Bergson deported and had the IRS audit his group to try to find irregularities. Likewise nearly every mainstream Jewish organization, including the greatest Zionist leaders tried to discredit Bergson.

In addition to Bergson’s ad campaign, and renting Madison Square Garden, the Hollywood Bowl and other massive venues for a show he produced called “We Will Not Die”, he organized a March of Rabbis on Washington.

Bergson and the March of 500 Orthodox rabbis on October 6, 1943 did not succeed in meeting President Roosevelt, or in being heard in congress. Instead, the Jewish establishment blocked them any way possible worried that these Jews would increase American anti-Semitism.

When asked about his tactics, Bergson said in 1973, “Why did we respond the way we did? The question should be, why didn’t the others? We responded as a human and as a Jew should.”

Bergson’s March, which included Jewish War Veterans, met the Vice President and a few members of congress. Their pressure helped rescue of some 200,000 mostly Hungarian Jews through changes in the policies of the War Refugee Board.

We see today that those who condemn Boteach’s NY Times advertisement and demand he publically apologize, seem to be echoing the concern Jews have always felt when we have achieved a high level of acceptance within any nation – we are worried that to press for protecting World Jewry, and Israel in particular, makes us vulnerable to the anti-Semites’ claim that Jews are a fifth-column or have dual loyalties.

This fear is burned into our collective memory as a foundational fact of our national story. From the time recorded in the Bible when Pharaoh’s advisors feared that the Israelites would join with some potential invading force and overthrow Egypt, to today’s Zionist conspiracies, our enemies have accused us of treachery. This fear of being accused of disloyalty runs deep in our national psyche.

While Boteach’s tactics — a personal attack on a prominent politician — are very controversial and offensive to most, it’s because Boteach believes the stakes are very high.

The Jewish Establishment has proven the point that Boteach has set out to prove — that there is no unified voice on how to combat a mortal enemy of the Jewish people, but only on trying to make the Jewish community not seem ungrateful for everything that Susan Rice and the US Administration have done for Israel.

As in Bergson’s day, it appears to some Jews in America who have taken to Boteach’s defense, that the Jewish Establishment is more concerned about losing its good access to the White House than the threat of Iran with the Bomb.

If history can be any kind of teacher, then the lesson must be: If Iran is allowed to build a nuclear weapon, to regain its standing it the world and lose its pariah status, it doesn’t matter how many good deeds Susan Rice and the President have done for Israel. They will have given Israel’s mortal enemy the ability to slaughter Jews by the millions.

One cannot help but take note of the state of affairs in American Jewish life when the Jewish Establishment agrees to roundly condemn a fellow Jew. The unified criticism aimed at one well-known Jewish American is unprecedented in recent times. Public and strident Jewish critics of Israel, whose names are respected, and whose current criticisms are simple reiterations of poisonous anti-Zionist rhetoric, have never received such treatment. The danger of their Jewish attack on Israel’s right to exist does not seem to galvanize anyone, let alone the diverse groups now condemning Boteach.

Boteach has been aiming to be a player in politics since he started at Oxford. Kosher Sex was never his end game. He won’t leave the issue of bilateral Israeli American relations to others, because he and his backers believe their voices need to be heard at the table. While Boteach had a following before, thanks to this avalanche of derision, Boteach now has a bigger platform. He can summon a NY Times ad with a few phone calls. He has a larger social media imprint than all the major Jewish organizations that condemned him — combined.

Boteach is the son of an Iranian Jew. He knows what happened to his family and the other Jews of Iran when the Islamists came to power in 1979, and he as well as every other Iranian Jew, distrust Iran more thoroughly than any other segment of our community.

Boteach is not a unifying figure. That is not his operating guideline. Neither was Bergson. Boteach is out to stop Iran from getting the bomb, and he’ll use all his political capital, connections, as well as the negative attention he can get to bring the issue into the public sphere.

Instead of turning on Boteach, the Jewish establishment needs to turn on Iran, publically, verbally, unashamedly, without fear of an anti-Semitic backlash.

Remember, never forget, it is Iran that has been supplying weapons, money, and training to Hamas and Hezbollah to wage a proxy war on Israel for decades.

Remember, never forget, it is Iran that is responsible for the deaths of more Americans that ISIS by many fold.

Remember, never forget, it is Iran that blew-up the Jewish community building in Argentina.

Remember, never forget, it is Iran has consistently lied to the world about its nuclear ambitions and hidden major parts of its nuclear program deep underground.

Remember, never forget, that it is Iran that has called for the repeated destruction of Israel

As we approach Purim, a Jewish holiday which commemorates our salvation from a Persian plan to destroy our people which was already set into motion, the world’s superpowers sit across the negotiating table from a murderous Iranian regime sworn to destroy Israel, and who have killed hundreds of Jews and Americans around the world.

Our sages created Purim to remember – and to never forget – that to ensure our survival as a people, it will take a unified community and holy chutzpah. Esther risked everything for her people.

Boteach has unwittingly unleashed some Jewish unity using some serious chutzpah. Can the American Jewish establishment use that to launch a major campaign against Iran reminiscent of the Soviet Jewry Movement or the Bergson group’s Emergency Committee?

I pray so.

Remember, never forget, Iran is the problem, not Bibi Netanyahu’s speech to congress and not Shmuley Boteach’s ad in the New York Times.

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Operation Chazak – Powering-Up Israeli Soldier’s Cell Phones

Today we launched a new campaign to support Israel at this critical time. Operation Chazak will get instant cell phone chargers to soldiers so they can stay in touch with their families and loved ones — they can’t plug in anyplace in Gaza.

Yesterday’s campaign raised $3k to send care packages of toiletries to 1000 soldiers. Let’s see how many soldiers we can support with this new campaign.

Please donate one charger if you can for $25 or multiple chargers if you can. Please promote this campaign through email and Facebook.

Contact me if you have any questions.

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Iran Must Not Be Allowed to Remain Nuclear

Elie Wiesel, winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace, implored Congress and the world to disarm Iran’s Nuclear program completely in an ad placed in NYT and Wall Street Journal. The powerful ad was organized by my close friend Rabbi Shmuley Boteach who recently spoke at length about Iran at Pico Shul during his last visit. While Shmuley was not victorious in his recent congressional campaign, he is making his presence in the halls of congress known none-the-less.

The voice and conscience of the Holocaust is calling on the world, and Congress in particular to act. Yet, the White House has pledged to veto any new sanctions bills. Wiesel knows full well what the White House has said. But he is counting on the Senate to cast a vote tightening sanctions.

The Iranian regime has won a major victory. While crippling sanctions brought Iran to the table, President Obama and his ill-guided advisors refused to bring the regime to its knees. This is a grave mistake. One wonders what possible benefit could Washington have to refuse to press harder against Iran. We don’t have time for games of Risk. Israel – and the world’s – safety is at stake.

As any Persian Jew in Los Angeles will say, “You are a fool to believe anything that the Iranian government promises. You don’t trust them. And you certainly, never, under any circumstances, let them get the upper hand.”

Here is the full text of the ad below.

Iran Must Not Be Allowed to Remain Nuclear

If there is one lesson I hope the world has learned from the past it is that regimes rooted in brutality must never be trusted. And the words and actions of the leadership of Iran leave no doubt as to their intentions.

Should the civilized nations of the world trust a regime whose supreme leader said yet again last month that Israel is “doomed to annihilation,” and referred to my fellow Jewish Zionists as “rabid dogs?”

Should we who believe in human rights, trust a regime which in the 21st century stones women and hangs homosexuals?

Should we who believe in freedom trust a regime which murdered its own citizens in the streets of Tehran when the people protested a stolen election in the Green Revolution of Summer, 2009?

Should we who believe in the United States trust a regime whose parliament last month erupted in “Death to America” chants as they commemorated the 34th anniversary of the storming of our Embassy in Tehran?

Should we who believe in life trust a regime whom our own State Department lists as one of the world’s foremost sponsors of terrorism?

America, too, defines itself by its words and actions. America adopted me, as it did so many others, and gave me a home after my people were exterminated in the camps of Europe. And from the time of the founding fathers America has always stood up to tyrants. Our nation is morally compromised when it contemplates allowing a country calling for the destruction of the State of Israel to remain within reach of nuclear weapons.

Sanctions have come at a terrible economic cost for the people of Iran. But, unfortunately, sanctions are what have brought the Iranian regime to the negotiating table.

I appeal to President Obama and Congress to demand, as a condition of continued talks, the total dismantling of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and the regime’s public and complete repudiation of all genocidal intent against Israel. And I appeal to the leaders of the United States Senate to go forward with their vote to strengthen sanctions against Iran until these conditions have been met.

I once wrote that history has taught us to trust the threats of our enemies more than the promises of our friends. Our enemies are making serious threats. It is time to take them seriously. It is time for our friends to keep their promises.

Elie Wiesel

Nobel Peace Laureate

This Ad was produced by This World: The Values Network (LOGO)

Executive Director, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

And Sponsored by Michael Steinhardt, Board of Governors, This World: The Values Network; co-founder Birthright Israel