I have lived in the Bay area since 1995. I have seen many instances of anti-Semitism coming from Jews, including demonstrations by members of Jewish Voice for Peace, Women in Black, and others, often in collaboration with Palestinian groups. I remember how some of these groups shut down a speech by Benjamin Netanyahu in Berkeley about eight years ago, and the claim by a Jewish leader of one of these organizations (MECA) that “not everyone deserved free speech”. I remember demonstrations in front of the Israel consulate which threatened to turn violent. I have read anti-Semitic diatribes in the pages of the Berkeley Daily Planet.
But for the first time, the larger community has reacted vigorously to these outrages. The catalyst was the showing of the film “Rachel” by the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, and co-sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). The JVP has nothing to do with peace and is questionably Jewish; it has become an ostensibly Jewish mouthpiece for the allies of Hamas. Along with the showing of Rachel, Cindy Corrie, a flak for the International Solidarity Movement, was gently interviewed by Peter Stein, the Jewish film festival director. You will read below how that showing degenerated into a hate fest.
Despite the clear outrage, the SFJFF believes that they simply started a dialogue about something with two presumably equally valid points of view. (By their reckoning, Birth of a Nation, which defended the Ku Klux Klan, or Triumph of the Will, which glorified Hitler, might also be merely controversial and deserving of discussion). The Jewish weekly, “J” ran a point-counterpoint spread presenting both sides of the argument (see Larry Goldberg’s article below). “J” saw no need or value in taking sides. The Film Festival, controlled by a director and board who are far left ideologues, has issued no apology and defend their actions on grounds of aesthetics and free speech (The film was a political polemic, not a well crafted documentary with aesthetic value)
And the Federation of SF? They are not taking sides either. Their new CEO comes from a progressive background, and is one of the founders of the far-left “J Street”. Presumably he does not wish to alienate his base. Perhaps he really believes that there is nothing wrong in showing propaganda put out by a pro-Hamas group. Perhaps he believes that progressive Jews who hate Israel will suddenly start giving money to the Federation.
Federation’s minimal response consisted of carefully chosen non-committal words, along the lines of ‘Hey, not us. We have no control over what they do’ Well, never mind that the Federation gives partial funding to the SFJFF. And never mind that the community donates its dollars to that same Federation. And never mind that we expect some leadership on moral issues that affect our community. Is there not some reason to expect our leaders to express some judgment regarding this anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hate fest? Where is the outrage?