Nothing New about JNews

Were the canapés at the JNews launch last week really so delicious that guest Matt Seaton felt the need to commission two CiF articles on the subject in 5 days? On March 15th Miri Weingarten waxed lyrical about her new project and a few days later Keith Kahn-Harris pitched in with one of his signature cloyingly naive articles. Mr. Kahn-Harris may be in for some disappointment; there’s nothing to suggest that JNews is “a potential voice for peace” as stated in his piece, unless of course one considers the undermining of a sovereign state to be peaceful.

So what do JNews claim they will do according to Director Miri Weingarten?

“JNews will bring to public attention the authentic voices of those directly affected by the conflict and highlight the problems facing migrants and asylum seekers in Israel, the poor and the dispossessed, Arab-Palestinian citizens and the Bedouin. More generally in Israel-Palestine it will focus on the conditions of prisoners and detainees, the status and treatment of women, and the political and civil rights of Palestinians living under occupation and under the control of the Palestinian Authority.”

Translation: JNews will push to the fore stories which highlight the viewpoint of everyone except the Jewish Israelis.

“A key theme of JNews’s output will therefore be the provision of information, views and comment from alternative Jewish sources, which will demonstrate that it is perfectly possible maintain a critical Jewish perspective, but one that arises out of deep empathy for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

Let’s see how they’re doing on the ‘deep empathy’ front so far. Some of the main stories running on the JNews website at the time of writing are as follows: ‘Israel set to forbid mourning its Independence Day’, ‘EU Parliament endorses Goldstone Report’, ‘Childhood under fire; an exhibition of Gaza children’s drawings’, ‘No hiding place for criminals’ and an article about gender segregated buses.

At the same time, some of the main stories running in Israel itself were ‘IDF kills 2 attackers in West Bank trying to stab soldiers ’, ‘Government approves investment of 800 million shekels in Bedouin and Arab communities’, ‘Weekend riots flare up in Jerusalem’, ‘Kassam hits south of Ashkelon’, ‘Palestinians open fire on IDF ’, ‘Shalit becoming Ron Arad ’.

In other words, issues which actually concern the average Israeli such as attacks in all their various permutations by Palestinians or soldiers kidnapped by terrorists receive no coverage from JNews, but stories depicting Israelis as criminal, bigoted, bullying and violent do. Not only is this obviously as far away from balanced or empathic as it is possible to get, it is not journalism either but blatant political propaganda.

So let’s see if this already miserable start to JNews’ mission can be explained by the ‘souls at work’ as we say in Hebrew. As we already know, the Director is Miri Weingarten, formerly of ‘Physicians for Human Rights Israel’ and a woman who has no problem collaborating with the PSC or MAP. The Chair and one of the Trustees of JNews needs no introduction to CW readers; he is none other than Antony Lerman of Independent Jewish Voices and CiF fame. Other trustees include Ellen Dahrendorf, also of IJV and chair of the UK branch of the New Israel Fund, Maurice Naftalin, also of IJV and JFJFP, Lynne Segal  who sits on the IJV steering group, and the person whose brainchild JNews apparently was; Richard Kuper of Jews for Justice for Palestinians. Last year I happened to come across Mr. Kuper in person at a showing of Caryl Churchill’s anti-Semitic play ‘7 Jewish Children’. Needless to say he was publicly advocating the idea of Israel as an apartheid state at the time.

I’m afraid things don’t get any better when it comes to the Patrons of JNews either; they include Francesca Klug of IJV, Morris Farhi, Stan Cohen and Avi Shlaim. Tony Klug of JFJP, Jews for Justice and Human Rights and a member of the IJV steering group and Brian Klug – co-founder of IJV – are also involved. I’m sure readers have already noticed something of a pattern here: JNews appears to be nothing more than a somewhat incestuous rehash of IJV. Many of the names involved with JNews can be found on this public letter to the British Prime Minister urging him to support the Goldstone Report which was the initiative of IJV and JFJFP amongst others.

As regular readers will already have realised, I’m something of a believer in ‘cherchez l’argent’, so I decided to take a look at who is funding JNews and it appears to be ‘The Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust ’. Sounds very respectable, but who are they? Well, this is a group of die-hard Marxists, but with the money to promote their anachronistic agenda.

“The general objectives of the Trust are to advance public education, learning and knowledge in all aspects of the philosophy of Marxism, the history of socialism, and the working- class movement.”

In 2006 their annual lecture was given by none other than ex- and- anti-Israeli communist Moshe Machover – father of Daniel Machover of ‘arrest warrants for visiting Israelis’ fame. In 1998 they hosted Noam Chomsky. Another recipient of the Trust’s money has been the Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association which was involved in a scandal last year and received criticism from the Mayor of London when borderline antisemitic and blatantly anti-Israeli leaflets were handed out at a London school with Jewish pupils.

The Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust is a registered UK charity and its Trustees include Rodney Bickerstaffe, President of ‘War on Want’ – yet another British charity with a nasty anti-Israeli agenda which promoted Ben White’s oeuvre ‘ Israeli Apartheid – A Beginner’s Guide’. Bickerstaffe is also a signatory to this PSC initiated letter demanding that Veolia boycott the new light rail system in Jerusalem. Another Trustee is Rebecca Amiel of JFJFP and a signatory of the above letter in support of the Goldstone Report. Then there’s Tariq Ali;  a one-stater who spoke at one of the 2009 demonstrations against Operation Cast Lead in London and who is of the opinion that Oslo was a surrender on the part of the Palestinians, that suicide bombings in Israel need to be contextualized and that the situation in the Middle East is the cause of the 7/7 bombings.

So all in all, I think we can safely assume that Keith Kahn-Harris’ naïve hopes that JNews will hasten peace in the Middle East should have been dashed before the caterers finished clearing up after the launch. The only perspective JNews will be bringing is an anti-Israeli one and despite the snazzy website, the PR and the hyperbole, this is in fact nothing more than another step in the campaign by the 1,300 or so members of IJV and their hangers-on to delegitimize the Israeli state and its people by disguising themselves as a news agency. Of course the comments to Weingarten’s article were full of gushing praise for this ‘noble project’, but I will not bore readers by subjecting them to a reproduction of such sycophantic twaddle. Instead, I would like to use this space to raise an issue which has been bothering me for some time – ever since I first came across groups like IJV and JFJFP.

As an Israeli and someone who through marriage has come into contact with the experiences of Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews who were forced to leave their homes in Arab lands – in the case of my mother-in-law, literally at knife-point – I have to say that I find the approach of people such as Lerman, Kuper and the assorted Klugs to be incredibly parochial. Here we have a group of people who do not want to live in Israel, do not speak its language, are not familiar on a personal level with the day to day demands and dilemmas of life there and are not part of its democratic process. And yet (in my view purely out of self-interest) they appear to think that from on high in their ivory towers thousands of miles away, they have some sort of right to judge the decisions and actions of the people who do live the often difficult and challenging Israeli experience every day. More than that, they form their opinions based on a Jewish experience which has no relevance in the place about which they pontificate and totally ignore the many other Jewish viewpoints which are the product of hands-on experience of life with neighbours who are not quite as amicable as those in Islington or Oxford. The members of IJV and other such organisations may very well wish to distance themselves from Israelis and Zionists in order to avoid some of the opprobrium we receive; that’s more than fine by me and the feeling is definitely mutual, but they have absolutely no moral right to interfere in and endanger the existence of my country.

IJV and similar groups are incredibly quick to jump on the bandwagon of Palestinian Human Rights which is undoubtedly an important and legitimate subject. However, in their rush to do so and in the populist style they adopt, they become complicit in undermining and denying the Human Rights of another group of people – Israelis. To me it is quite obvious that any successful solution to the problems of the Middle East can only be based upon respect for and preservation of the rights of all parties involved, which is why I find groups such as ‘Jews for Justice for Palestinians’ and IJV so offensive. Their blatant one-sidedness is far from being a recipe for peace and reconciliation and this latest project going under the name of JNews shows no potential for being any different.

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66 replies »

  1. When they set themselves up as alternative Jewish voices bringing a perspective from
    “alternative Jewish sources” that demonstrate that is perfectly possible to maintain a critical Jewish perspective, but one that arises out of deep empathy for both Israelis and Palestinians…..we know that a forked tongue is being used as a pitchfork.

    Now I can understand how these neo-libs need to state their agenda in such flowery golly gee terminology making it so apple pie that only a sick puts could be against it…..after all that is the goal, painting mainstream accepted Israeli and Jewish voices in a negative guilt by association terminology.

    It is acceptable and the sophistry bought into so readily only because it involves Jews and Israel.

    Pick any other place in the world that is in decades long war and opposition and transplant such a paper representing such an organization.

    American alternative voices seeking alternative sources that maintain a critical American perspective, one that arises out of empathy for Americans and communist Russia.

    Those other representative voices that maintain a critical American perspective that arises out of empathy for Americans and Communist China.

    Naturally the papers are to be seen as loyal American, striving for the improvement of lives in America and the advancing of American society…..all funding coming from Cuba.

    Do I need to go on with the analogy ?

    This IS what these people are all about, and this is the danger of Neo-Libs as they distort our core values, using and abusing them in fanciful displays of sophistry.

  2. Pretzelberg: Don’t you know the difference?
    Meretz is a real Israeli political party that wants my vote: highly relevant to me.
    Aipac is an American lobby, nothing to do with me. What message should I want to ‘send’ them?

  3. JerusalemMite;
    We have already crossed swords on the attempt to smear JStreet with an alleged anti-Israel agenda. I suggest you adopt a very simple procedure. Look at the listed patrons and supporters of JStreet and read the aims of that organization on its website and then compare them with the Lermans, Klugs, Shlaims and others of JNews/IJV. If you can’t tell the difference, you need to see someone urgently.

    The odious Silverstein has absolutely nothing to do with JStreet and his attempt to climb on their bandwagon at one of their meetings was a resounding failure.

    Is it possible that you are suffering from a severe memory defect? Meretz is a social-democratic Zionist party which has members drawn from all sections of the Israeli public. Meretz was an important part of the Rabin government 1992-5 and the Barak government 1999-2001. Meretz ideas and policies, for example the two state solutionbased on 1967 borders with land swaps to take into account settlements close to that line were formulated back in the 1970’s. At that time , such ideas were thought to be extreme but, lo and behold, even a certain B. Netanyahu has come to accept the essential logic of such a position.
    As with many things, yesterday’s revolutionary idea becomes today’s mainstream.

  4. No Abtalyon I remember perfectly well all demonstrations where I participated under the sign Meretz, I remember perfectly well all elections where I voted for Meretz and (before them Ratz) and I never will forget my very active participations ine every election campaign standing at junctions distributing flyers “Vote Meretz!”
    But as you said Meretz is (was only in the past methinks) an Israeli social-democratic and Zionist party and it should not have anything to do with persons like Erdman who is obviously not Israeli, not Zionist, (or even an anti-Zionist) and obviously not a social democrat and who allies themselves with persons and organisations hostile to Israel including the very Meretz.
    My memory is good, the problem is your perception of the reality.

  5. Hi Abtalyon

    What of my suppositions regarding Erdman are incorrect?

    Erdman is not an Israeli. Check.
    He is an anti-Zionist eulogizing for Lerman a virulently anti-Zionist and obviously anti-Israel activist. Check

    That he was active in Zionist organizations in the past
    is absolutely irrelevant.

    Wishing and working for peace, equality and social justice and preaching moral from Broadhurst Gardens to Israelis living in Israel are two very different things as you certainly know.

  6. @Peter1

    we know that a forked tongue is being used as a pitchfork

    A very apt expression.


    Surely AIPAC members based outside Israel seek to influence what goes on that country.

    As usual, the Pletsl cannot resist pontificating even though in so doing it reveals it is still talking through its hat.

    1. “AIPAC members based outside Israel” is a strange expression. AIPAC members are Americans.

    2. AIPAC, as a matter of policy, strategy, and common sense, remains resolutely non-partisan with respect both to US politics and Israeli politics. Its functioning and objectives depend upon its maintaining good working relations with all US and Israeli parties.

    @Sababa and Pletsl

    The Norwegian FAFO institute has done quite a bit of polling of Palestinians. For example, it was FAFO which surveyed Palestinians after 9/11 and found over 60% supporting the WTC strike.

    From memory, I believe FAFO polls have shown the Palestinian public opinion split (coexistence vs destroy-Israel) hovering about 50%.

    There is an additional important consideration: Back-sliding. It took 25 years of occupation for the Palestinians to move from “Jews into the sea” to “we just want to govern ourselves.” However, the moment the Palestinians got what they wanted (self-government, in Area A), they back-slid to “Oslo is just a stage in the strategy of slices.” This back-sliding was immediately observabe both in Arafat’s speeches in Arabic as well as public opinion.

    Just as the Palestinians have back-slid from “we recognise Israel” to “we don’t recognise Israel as a Jewish state.”

    The potential for – and even likelihood of – Palestinian back-sliding should be a factor in all Israeli calculations.

  7. germolene

    Pletsel: You made a statement about the Palestinians. If you have proof, offer it.

    I suggested you Google the issue. Both you and the frankly idiotic Toko LeMoko implied I was making it up.

    Majority of Palestinians and Israelis prefer two-state solution over
    binational state or confederation

    Feel silly? You should do …

    You remind me of those idiotic anti-Israel posters on CiF who insist that Israelis are against the two-state solution.

  8. peterthehungarian;

    Sorry to have to continue this discussion at such a late hour but I couldn’t let your last post go unchallenged.

    I’m sure you will agree with me that being an anti-Zionist, anti-Israel activist and being a member of Meretz are simply incompatible. To be the former means total denial of the declared principles governing the latter.

    As Erdman’s resume at the Meretz UK site reveals, he is an Israeli by birth who has spent the greater part of his life in the UK, presumably for professional reasons. By his own admission he joined Mapam, the hard core of the kibbutz movement, a step which for an anti-Zionist would be unthinkable. So I can’t accept your dismissal of his credentials.

    We are, however, in agreement concerning the various exhortations we Israelis keep getting from external sources of all kinds, both friend and foe, on how we should deal with our situation.

  9. Abtalyon

    Only one question: If Erdman (not Meretz but Erdman) is a Zionist, how is it possible that he euologizes Lerman (an anti-Zionist)?
    If he spent most of his life in the UK, he is a British citizen, he is living in the Uk together with his family and children then he is not an Israeli anymore.

  10. Abtalyon

    By his own admission he joined Mapam, the hard core of the kibbutz movement, a step which for an anti-Zionist would be unthinkable. So I can’t accept your dismissal of his credentials.

    Udi Adiv came from a Mapam Kibbutz.

  11. PTH;
    Please show me Erdman’s “eulogy.” Maybe then I can relate to it.


    from the wikipedia entry;

    Of his experience, Udi Adiv said:
    “For me and for many young people, the 1967 war and its aftermath were a real shock. I woke up to the hypocrisy of the Mapam, its nationalism and refusal of any form of solidarity with the Palestinians. As a student I tried to make direct contact with the latter. And so, after a succession of secret meetings, I ended up, stupidly, in Damascus. Needless to say, I never gave the Syrians a scrap of information.”

    Seems to me that he repudiated Mapam and went further left to Matzpen.

    BTW, Ran Cohen, former MK for Meretz, was brought up, like Adiv, on Kibbutz Gan Shmuel.

  12. Abtalyon

    Please show me Erdman’s “eulogy.” Maybe then I can relate to it.

    Every reader of this blog can browse in the old articles and find Erdman’s arguments for A. Lerman – he gave his entire life to the Jewish community etc. If it helps you the post in question was published some weeks ago on a thread about Lerman here on CifWatch.

  13. peterthehungarian:

    Thanks for the reference – the article on March 6.

    I read Erdman’s comments there where he simply agreed with Lerman’s argument concerning the conscious decision of the early Israeli leaders to aggressively promote Hebrew( and Hebraization of names) while frowning on Yiddish and other languages as a means of encouraging immigrants to unite in the common goal of setting up the country and leaving behind the Galut.

    He also drew attention to Lerman’s previous work for the UK Jewish community which predates Lerman’s transformation from a pro- to an anti-Israel stance.

    Erdman’s comments give Lerman credit where credit is due. This can hardly be described as a eulogy or indeed, endorsement of Lerman and his current political views.

  14. Abtalyon

    I read Erdman’s comments there where he simply agreed with Lerman’s argument concerning the conscious decision of the early Israeli leaders to aggressively promote Hebrew( and Hebraization of names) while frowning on Yiddish and other languages as a means of encouraging immigrants to unite in the common goal of setting up the country and leaving behind the Galut.

    Yes he agreed with Lerman’s assertion that the Zionist leadership unsuccessfully tried to send to oblivion the Yiddish language, a laughable distortion of the reality. Promoting something and eliminating the opposing option are two absolutely different things. The Zionist leadership strongly promoted the use of Hebrew in my kibbutz of Hungarian immigrants…does it means that they wanted to eliminate the Hungarian language?!

    Erdman’s comments give Lerman credit where credit is due.

    I disagree. Erdman tried to silent criticism of Lerman quoting his past achievements. They are irrelevant. The head of the Sicilian maffia is a perfect family man… So what?

    Anyway I have a plane to catch and during the next ten days I won’t have internet access so let me wish you a happy holiday.

  15. I have seen the IJV/ JfJfP coterie in action, several times.

    They have an undisguised hatred for the Jewish state, which they dearly would love to see destroyed.
    Kuper is the worst— he pays bad cop to Brian Klug’s good cop.
    The Klugs are (inherited) property millionaires— big time.
    They are short on talent, but have plenty of time on their hands to play at “becoming persons of note”.
    Try offering an alternative perspective at any of their meetings, and watch the totalitarian mindset in action.