Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Federation CEO Sokatch: problem is "not offering a range of perspectives"

This note by Daniel Sokatch, CEO of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties (man, that's a mouthful) is revealing. Pull out your shovel before reading his message --- you're going to need it!

Emphasis mine:

In my judgment, the Festival, for which I have a very high regard as a major cultural institution within and beyond the Jewish community, made a mistake in inviting her without offering a range of perspectives on the film’s controversial subject of the role of the International Solidarity Movement. I have conveyed these concerns to their leadership while fully respecting the fact that the Festival has the right as an independent organization to make and be responsible for its decisions.

I am pleased to report that the Festival has done the following in response to the legitimate criticisms about this program (see the attached statement):

1) Mike Harris, co-founder of San Francisco Voice for Israel, has been invited to speak and will make remarks immediately prior to the showing of the film;

2) The Festival has apologized for not fully anticipating how divisive the program was likely to be;

3) The Festival’s leadership has recognized the importance of learning from this experience with the intent of approaching potential controversies in the future with greater sensitivity and care in planning.

Under the leadership of Festival Director, Peter Stein, the Festival continues to set a very high standard for outstanding films and programming and this year’s overall program again provides an extraordinary array of films on subjects of Jewish interest, including more than 30 about Israel. I very much hope that the decisions undertaken by the Festival in response to the criticisms about the “Rachel” program will help begin to restore your confidence in this important institution.

Thank you again for your interest and concerns,

Daniel Sokatch
Chief Executive Officer
Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties

Shovel ready? Let's break this down:
  1. In Sokatch's view, the problem here is the fact that the otherwise excellent SFJFF leadership failed to provide a "range of perspectives" on the ISM. What, did they fail to also invite a Klansman and a Hamas member to round out the discussion of exactly how Israel should be destroyed?

    Get real. This has nothing to do with not offering "a range of perspectives." Inviting a token pro-Israel activist at the last minute is nothing but a side-show intended to distract the rubes. The real issue is the fact that a Jewish institution which receives (according to the SFJFF web site) "major support" from the Jewish Federation sees absolutely nothing wrong with using that "major support" to propagandize against Israel.

  2. SFJFF leadership is to be faulted not for showing an anti-Israel film and inviting a vicious anti-Israel activist to speak but for not "fully anticipating how divisive the program would be."

    Translation: It's cool to host Israel-bashers. Just keep your eyes open and do it gingerly.

  3. The SFJFF needs to learn to deal with "potential controversies in the future with greater sensitivity and care in planning."

    No, they need to learn to not abuse Israel with Jewish communal funds.

Of course, coming from a guy who has a reputation for being a "useful idiot" accustomed to defending Israel-hating whack jobs, this pathetic rationalization of SFJFF bad behavior is hardly surprising.

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