In 2014, in his new film, “The Last of the Unjust,” Claude Lanzmann shares his 1975 interview with Viennese Rabbi, Benjamin Murmelstein, the last and only surviving “Elder of the Jews” at Theresienstadt. Both Lanzmann (and I) are impressed with Murmelstein’s wit, wisdom, learning, and tough survival skills. While Murmelstein submitted documents to Prosecutor Gideon Hauser, Murmelstein does not understand why the Israeli prosecution did not allow him to testify against Eichmann—a man Murmelstein characterizes as evil and monstrous--a man whom he personally witnessed shooting and hanging Jews and ordering others to do likewise. In Murmelsteins’ view, Arendt’s adjective “banal” in no way applies to the man who systematically deceived, terrorized, and murdered Jews.
Although the Nazis gave him no choice—it was do their bidding or die--many have viewed Murmelstein as a collaborator and traitor. He could have escaped, but actually chose not to do so. Ultimately, Lanzmann is not persuaded that Murmelstein is a traitor, and that others really cannot judge men who are placed in such unbearable positions, but Lanzmann leaves this decision up to each and every viewer.
In my opinion, based on the new film, "J Street Challenge", which was premiered last night in Miami, Jeremy Ben-Ami may be a far more dangerous and morally problematic traitor to his people than were any of the Judenrat leaders during the Shoah. I say this because no one is threatening Ben-Ami with imminent death (each kapo and judenrat leader was death threatened while in captivity). Ben Ami lives in the United States and is a free man.
Yet, in classic Orwellian style, he presents his organization as both “pro-peace” and “pro-Israel” when he is neither. He condemns Israel at every turn and he does so in an era when Israel is under existential siege and a Second Holocaust is fully underway in slow motion. Jews are being blamed for and physically attacked outside of Israel because of Israel’s alleged “apartheid” and “occupation” policies. Israeli civilians are also being attacked—blown up, knifed—inside Israel proper.
The war against the Jews and the Jewish state rages on as never before at the United Nations, the European Union, among intellectuals and academics, on campuses, and within international human rights organizations. The Big Lies and filthy propaganda may be found 24/7 on the internet and in well-made documentaries as well as in prize-winning feature films.
The "J Street Challenge" is short, powerful, and an absolute must-see. It has been released by Americans for Peace and Tolerance, the group founded by anti-slavery activist, Charles Jacobs. This film was produced, written, and directed by Avi Goldwasser and Ilya Feostikov. Jacobs served as a “special consultant.”
At such a moment in history, Ben-Ami has purposely chosen not to focus on the escalating Arab, Muslim, and Jihadic attacks against the Jewish state and against all infidels, nor does he condemn the anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist riots and marches in Europe, North America, and all across the Muslim world. Instead, he blames Israel for having provoked these attacks by “occupying” Palestinian Arab land; he calls for a “peace” and “Jewish ethics” via a “two-state solution, allies his organization with the BDS movement, and with the Muslim Public Affairs Committee and other Muslim Brotherhood fronts in the United States. He insists that “Israel is no longer David but (has become) Goliath.”
Further, Ben-Ami is actively working with President Barak Obama to supplant and destroy AIPAC and all American Jewish organizations and become the President’s leading “go-to” Jewish lobby.
Here’s an example of what kind of influence J Street has.
Recently, some of Ben-Ami’s supporters signed an angry letter: An Open Letter from NY Jews to Mayor de Blasio: ‘AIPAC does not speak for us.” The letter was meant to punish and shame new Mayor Bill deBlasio for having dared to meet with and declare support for AIPAC, a group which does not represent “their” views. Among the signatories to this letter are Peter Beinart and Kathleen Peratis who support the J Street disinformation campaign and agenda.
According to the film, “J Street Challenge,” these signatories are part of a cabal that is being funded by George Soros and Genevieve Lynch, who is on the Board of the pro-Iranian National Iranian American Council.
With a heavy heart, I checked the J Street website and discovered that five additional signatories to this Open Letter (Rabbis Rachel Cowan, Sharon Kleinbaum, Ellen Lippmann, J. Rolando Matalon, and Burton Visotzky) are listed as J Street’s Executive Rabbinic Council. Other signatories include feminists Barbara Dobkin, Eve Ensler, Erica Jong, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Ann Roiphe, and Gloria Steinem.
While I respect free speech and freedom of conscience, and do not wish to silence anyone’s views—I believe that the Oslo accord madness, the demands of liberalism-turned-left, the nature of the American Democratic Party, further mobilized by the cachet that J Street has gained between 2008 and 2014, may account for such signatories and the ease with which they were obtained. Some signatories know a great deal about Israel and care about it—and some know absolutely nothing and care even less.
As the film documents, J Street has become a very fashionable address, a trendy calling card, the kind of group you want to be networked into if you wish to get published,funded, and invited to the right parties. More important, if you are a young Jew, and want to be liked, loved, popular, not burdened by the need to defend an Israel that has been grossly distorted—you will follow Ben-Ami’s call right down into extinction. After all, he tells young and dis-informed Jews that “their voice has been stolen from them…by a few large funders or a few loud voices who urge them to stay silent…we are taking on much more than AIPAC, (we are after) the Conference of Presidents, the American Jewish Committee, the lobbying structures of the federations…the community relations councils.”
Ben-Ami is up front. He wishes to dismantle organized Jewry entirely and replace all structures with J Street. And J Street wants America to dictate to Israel the terms of surrender. Ben-Ami comforts the cowardly and the assimilated, he supports liberalism as if it were orthodox Judaism; cleverly, he says “we make a mistake when we tell (our) children that they have to check their Jewish values at the door of Zionism”—as if Zionism is not a Jewish value or as if it opposes Jewish values.
The film stands up to Ben-Ami and exposes him for what he is. Great and eloquent experts take part, including Lenny Ben-David, Alan Dershowitz, Carolyn Glick, Daniel Gordis, Charles Jacobs, Richard Landes, Andrea Levin, Bret Stephens, and Ruth Wisse. We have recently seen some of them in Gloria Greenfield’s powerful films "The Case for Israel" and "Unmasked. Judeophobia The Threat to Civilization". However, in this film these experts say new and specific things that pertain directly to the J Street phenomenon and danger.
When I asked Jacobs why they did this film, here is how he answered me.
“J Street goes unchallenged when it speaks on campuses and in the community because 1. AIPAC chooses (for now) not to answer them publicly, fearing it will give them bigger platform, and 2. Federations and jcrc’s do not want divisive public events. 3. Once having been accepted into the big (fundraising) tent, they are protected by the establishment: RULE: any Jew can (and may be encouraged) to criticize Jewish leaders in Israel, but it is taboo to criticize American Jewish leaders…. Even if they are taking Jewish money by promising to protect us, but spending it on the liberal agenda.
"Jews whose synagogues or community centers have hosted J Street speakers cannot easily get any of our on-screen experts to offer to balance J Street out….. so our film might fill that function. We think they have the right to raise the questions they raise. Our film seeks to answer these questions with the truth, not with lies.”
Avi Goldwasser said: “The film was conceived and produced to provide the community with access to the most articulate scholars and activists so that we might engage in a virtual debate about the issues raised by J Street.”
The theatre was sold out (400 people) in two days. Jacobs believes they will have to “come back here and do five more screenings.”
I hope they do just that.
Dr. Phyllis Chesler is a Fellow of the Middle East Forum and recipient of the 2013 National Jewish Book Award. She is the author of fifteen books, including Women and Madness, Woman's Inhumanity to Woman, and The New Anti-Semitism. She has published three studies about honor killing and is at work on a fourth. Her new book, An American Bride in Kabul, (Palgrave Macmillan) has been published to great acclaim. Professor Chesler may be reached at her website www.phyllis-chesler.com