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‘The Crisis of Zionism’ author Peter Beinart cancels KPFA talk in Berkeley

by dan pine, j. staff

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A mid-April talk in Berkeley by “The Crisis of Zionism” author Peter Beinart has been canceled — by Beinart himself.

But it took an intriguing turn of events to get to that point.

After learning a Jewish Voice for Peace board member was scheduled to moderate the talk by Beinart, the JCC of the East Bay withdrew its co-sponsorship of the event, according to a March 21 statement issued by the JCC.

Consequently, Beinart canceled the appearance, which was being co-sponsored by left-wing Berkeley radio station KPFA. On the station’s website, it was listed as a “KPFA upcoming event” for April 17 at the Hillside Club in Berkeley.

Peter Beinart at a talk in 2009   photo/creative commons-center for american progress
Peter Beinart at a talk in 2009 photo/creative commons-center for american progress
According to its statement, the JCC withdrew sponsorship because “KPFA selected a moderator [Penny Rosenwasser]… whose organizational affiliations were not disclosed to us proactively. We will not sponsor a speaking platform for a representative of an organization [JVP] that calls for withdrawal of economic support for Israel.”

Rosenwasser is a leader of Jewish Voice for Peace, an Oakland-based organization that calls for an end to Israel’s presence in the West Bank and has urged “withdrawing [Israeli and American] support from the occupation.” Her role for the lecture was to have been to introduce Beinart and help field audience questions.

Sally Kauffman Flinchbaugh, executive director of the JCC of the East Bay, said, “I have to take responsibility. I didn’t know who [Rosenwasser] was. It was not clear until the poster came out that she was the moderator. For us, we can’t have a [JVP] moderator up there. It slanted the whole thing.”

Once the JCC pulled out, KPFA events coordinator Bob Baldock spoke to Beinart, telling him KPFA “would not jettison [Rosenwasser] on this basis.” He told j. that Beinart requested time to consider his options. “The next day,” Baldock continued, “we got a call from Beinart’s publicist saying, ‘Sorry, guys.’ ”

Neither Beinart nor his publicist could be reached for this article.

While acknowledging that it was Beinart who chose to cancel the talk, Jewish Voice for Peace sent out a statement that placed blame on “an increasingly McCarthyite atmosphere in the Jewish institutional world … more and more, Jewish institutions are required to police speakers and events based on the narrow requirements of a handful of influential funders.”

Referring to guidelines established two years ago by the S.F.-based Jewish Comm-unity Federation (which set limits for grantees in terms of anti-Israel speech), Rosenwasser told j., “I don’t fault the JCC. I think it’s the guidelines. Part of the motivation for the guidelines is fear. A lot of Jews have a lot of fear because we were nearly wiped out 70 years ago. But we can’t let that get in the way of fairness.”

The JCC of the East Bay, which has locations in Berkeley and Oakland, is in the region overseen by the Jewish Federation of the East Bay, which has not issued funding guidelines similar to those of the S.F.-based federation.

Flinchbaugh denies the guidelines or any outside pressure played a role in the decision to withdraw sponsorship.

“It was the board’s feeling that we can’t support this,” she said. “There was serious board involvement. I won’t deny I had a handful of phone calls [from] a couple of individuals who said you can’t do this, but nobody from federation said ‘Sally, you have to pull out.’ ’’

She also emphasized that the JCC’s sponsorship meant nothing more than helping to publicize the event.

Beinart’s new book, “The Crisis of Zionism,” has stirred controversy for its harsh condemnation of Israel’s presence in the West Bank. In a recent New York Times op-ed, Beinart called for a boycott of Israeli goods produced in the West Bank.

He is still scheduled to appear April 16 at the JCC of San Francisco, with host Janine Zacharia, former Jerusalem bureau chief and Middle East correspondent for the Washington Post.

As for Beinart’s call for a boycott of good produced in Israeli settlements, Rosenwasser said, “I think it’s very brave of him to take a clear stand. He’s young, and talks about young Jews who are disaffected by the Jewish establishment’s beliefs and policies.”


Posted by Dan Spitzer
03/29/2012  at  04:02 PM

It was Peter Beinart who cancelled his talk in Berkeley when he realized that it was an a pro-BDS organization, JVP, who co-sponsored his lecture and who was providing-along with fellow Israel-loathing KPFA-the noxious Penny Rosenwasser as moderator.

Although in concert with a majority of Israelis I don’t believe W. Bank Jewish settlements are in the best interests of Israel, I don’t concur with Beinart that boycotting goods produced by the West Bank settlers will do anything positive for the cause of peace. Indeed, quite the contrary as it is all too easy for people who don’t know any better to confuse the Beinart’s position with those of organizations such as JVP which seek to help destroy Israel by advocating BDS vs all of the Jewish State. Indeed, JVP doesn’t believe in the existence of Israel as a Jewish State.

This is sewage which Beinart doesn’t support and he has demonstrated the integrity to eschew any connection with the toxic stance of JVP.

That JVP would blame Beinart’s decision to cancel his talk on a “McCarthy-like atmosphere” is typical of the inane ideological mire into which JVP regularly sinks.

In sum, JVP should give credit where credit is due: It’s Mr. Beinart who didn’t wish to sully his reputation by sharing the toxic air JVP produces and to share the podium with Ms. Rosenwasser. And whether one agrees with Beinart’s perspective on the settlements or not, the man has ethics which JVP so clearly lacks and he wants nothing to do with this destructively marginal minion…

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Posted by Theresa
03/29/2012  at  06:59 PM
JVP hiding from debate, still

“You just can’t make this stuff up:  JVP, which insists that it should have the right to utilize Jewish community institutions to defame and delegitimize Israel, celebrates the muzzling of an Israeli LGBT delegation in Seattle (for which the Seattle LGBT Commission has subsequently apologized, recognizing that they failed to fulfill their responsibilities to the city and its LGBT population).   And now they’ve thrown a tantrum over their failed attempt to get the East Bay JCC to cosponsor an event that would be led by a hard-core anti-Israel activist—though they refrained from blasting Peter Beinart, who is the one who actually cancelled his appearance.  Given JVP’s track record, that probably means that they will try to disrupt his San Francisco talk. 
Yet JVP failed to respond to an open invitation for debate in the pages of J Weekly, probably because they are afraid to try to defend their own positions against a knowledgeable opponent; it’s much easier to convince people who don’t know the facts

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Posted by Pete
03/30/2012  at  01:33 PM
Beinart's fantasy

Mark Levine said it all

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Posted by Frank
04/01/2012  at  03:44 AM
Beyond the Pale

It is unfathomable how any so-called “Jewish” organization could host an anti-Israel faux-“Zionist” Jew who favors anti-Israel boycots.  Hateful anti-Israel extremists, allied with the “progressive” enemies of Israel, such as J Street, are being provided legitimacy by Jew haters from the far left and within the “mainstream” anti-Israel media.  Over the last week the Wall Street Journal, under partial Saudi ownership, has been giving this character tremendous free advertising.  There is never a legitimate reason for any true “Jewish” organization to give the enemies of Israel any legitimacy by hosting them.  They should be shunned and reviled.

Having Zacharia, who herself has been described as having a very anti-Israel bias, is icing on the cake if the “Jewish” JCC in San Francisco proceeds as advertised:

A better title for this event could be, “The Enemy Within - The Crisis of American `Jewish’ Leftist Antisemitism”.

(The vile antisemitism cited by “Pete” from Aljazeera, above, is indicative of the extremist leftist anti-Israel attacks by faux-Jews.)

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