Letters to the Editor: Survivor Story, Taxes, Jerusalem and Linda Sarsour


Inspired to Share Her Own Survivor Story

I was quite moved by Jane Ulman’s story on Mina Wilner (“Mina Wilner: Saved by a ‘Remarkable Woman,’ ” Nov. 3).  I was first attracted to the photo — it looked vaguely familiar, a bit of my own face. I was born in Warsaw and lived in Poland for 18 years. I am a bit younger. I was actually born in the Warsaw ghetto.

After my mother perished there, my father was trying to think how to save me. At about 15 months old, I was tiny, severely undernourished. He wrapped me in an old blanket and packing paper and threw me over the ghetto wall.  Yes, he did have some contacts on the outside and there were a number of people who promised to deliver me to Brwinow, not too far from Warsaw, where the Ursuline nuns were running an orphanage — but not for Jewish children, as far as I know. For a very long time, my father didn’t know if people did come to pick me up, get me on several trains, though the distance was small. My guardian angel must have been close on that night. I did survive (and my father took part in the Warsaw Insurrection with other surviving Ghetto Fighters.) The Ursuline nuns have a tree in Vad Yashem now.

Anne P. Warman via email


Don’t Forget What Paying Taxes Gets You

Even assuming that everyone receives some temporary benefit from the GOP tax bill, we see little attention given to the reason we pay taxes in the first place. The pursuit of happiness our Founding Fathers promised us means that we have access to health care, education, public safety and the myriad benefits of living in a democracy. Despite President Donald Trump’s claim that we are the most highly taxed nation, in fact we rank 33rd out of 35 developed nations in the percentage of taxes we pay.

Americans need to connect the amount of taxes we pay to the public services we have learned to expect.

Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said, “Taxes are the price of civilization.” The Republican bill will further eliminate funding for the institutions and programs that provide what Americans most treasure. I’ll continue to hate paying my taxes but I want to continue to enjoy what they support.

Barbara H. Bergen, Los Angeles


‘Judaism and Jedi-ism’

In his column (“Judaism and Jedi-ism,” Dec. 22), Eli Fink equates the burning of the Jedi temple with the burning of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. However, Yoda, in saying the books [of Jedi wisdom] were unimportant, was more like the Christians who eliminated the need to follow all the Jewish laws. Rey is more like Yohanan ben Zakkai, who started a school in Yavneh. He saved the books.

After all, we are the people of the book.

Carol Levine via email

FROM FACEBOOK …

I absolutely agree with your take. Judaism is moving to a decentralized model. What that will look like, who knows? But I suspect Mussar and personal ethics may be part of the answer. Thanks for writing.

Greg Marcus

I loved this! I’ve seen the movie [“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”] five times and found so many incredible themes.

Christy Marshall


‘A Diaspora Is Born in Nebraska,’ Dec. 22:

I am happy that [the Yazidis] are safe and sound, and sad that in order to achieve this, they had to leave the land of their birth. Welcome!

Rosalie Paul


‘Why a Jewish Hospital Has a Christmas Concert,’ Dec. 22:

“I have a little problem with a Jewish hospital, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, serving its patients and employees with a Christmas concert, but this story’s writer, Rabbi Jason Weiner, speaking as a rabbi, is just wrong about what Judaism asks of us.

Saying, “Honoring other faith traditions is an integral part of what it means to be a Jewish hospital” is ridiculous. Allowing them the right to worship as they please is one thing, but “honoring”? His statement is a brilliant political move, but that is what it is: politics. Celebrating (or should I say, “honoring”) others’ religions is specifically forbidden repeatedly by the Torah.

Gideon Jones

Music brings joy to one’s heart and I see nothing wrong with that. Perhaps if we shared more music with our fellow man, it would be a better world.

Joan Feldmann

Great story! Rabbi Weiner, whom I have had the pleasure to meet, has both warmth and an unassuming manner (humility), which comes across when you speak with him. Both the hospital and the community are lucky to have him. This article reflects that.

Tzvi Binn


‘My Reform Colleagues Were Wrong on Jerusalem,’ Dec. 22:

I can’t help but wonder what the response would have been if former President Barack Obama had declared the embassy will be moved to Jerusalem.

Dotty Weisberg

Actually, and with all due respect, I believe the original response of the North American Reform organizations to President Donald Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem was the correct response to make. In the absence of any final status peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, openly supporting Trump’s politically and manipulatively motivated statement (which he made primarily to appease and shore up his support among many right-wing, Christian evangelical supporters) would have been the wrong approach for these Reform organizations to take.

Craig Mankin


‘Jerusalem Move Blows Up Mideast Myths,’ Dec. 22:

Why do we always seem to forget the 1956 Suez campaign? Is it because part of the reason was that the British and French were trying to restore colonial control of the Suez Canal? Israel, on the other hand, was threatened and attacked by the same kind of fedayeen raids that were part of the cause for the 1967 war as well as conventional Egyptian forces on her borders.

John Fishel

This mantra is useless. Rational people don’t buy this nonsense. For a peaceful future, there is one solution: a shared capital, east for Palestine, west for Israel.

Wahid Awad


‘On Goddesses, Doormats and Linda Sarsour,’ Dec. 22:

It’s kind of amazing how ideologically polarized we’ve become. When people are questioning an incident that calls out some of the horrible management practices — covering up sexual assault in the workplace — of one of the most vocal anti-Semites in America today, in a Jewish magazine nonetheless, and people don’t believe it because it was first reported by a conservative news site, we really have lost our common consensus on the basis of reality and politics has trumped Judaism.

Pamela Fleischmann

Screenshot from Twitter.

‘For We Are Glorious’


An iconic photo has emerged from the protests in Iran. A young woman — fearless, determined, resolute — holds a long stick. At the end of the long stick is a white hijab. The image is so powerful it was morphed into digital art, which then became a social media meme. But it is a meme with no words, no hashtag.

Because a cry from the heart needs no hashtag.

Sadly, as I write this five days into the protests, most people probably haven’t seen the image. It hasn’t been splashed on all the front pages of the world. Indeed, at least in the beginning, much of the media ignored or downplayed the largest protests in Iran since 2009. There has been a deafening silence from leftist groups that purport to be about human rights and feminism.

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. The god of leftism, President Barack Obama, set the stage when he took the side of the tyrannical dictatorship during the 2009 protests, and then, as part of the Iran deal, gave the terror-happy regime billions of dollars in cash.

The Iranians have no interest in victimhood and are throwing off the hijab with abandon.

Eight years later, faced with the agonizing cries of a people desperate for freedom and human dignity, the left is failing again. Many are trying to protect Obama’s legacy; most will do anything not to be on the same side as President Trump, who has thrown his support squarely behind the protesters.

Perhaps the larger issue is this: Iran puts in high relief the difference between real liberalism, in which principles transcend politics; and leftists, who live in fear of helping their ideological enemies and offending the victims du jour.

Linda Sarsour and her fellow travelers have sanctified this antiliberalism through endless manipulation and propaganda. In one surreal moment, she was able to convince women on the left that wearing the hijab was a symbol of “empowerment.”

But here’s the funny thing about this Persian Spring: the Iranians have no interest in victimhood and are throwing off the hijab with abandon. Day after day, the brave Persians are showing the world what real liberalism looks like.

Mesmerized by the protests, I keep thinking of a song from the new movie “The Greatest Showman.” The movie itself is an homage to non-conformity and non-victimization, but one song in particular, “This is Me,” describes the sentiment that first inspired feminism and liberalism:

We are bursting through the barricades/And reaching for the sun (we are warriors)/Yeah, that’s what we’ve become/Won’t let them break me down to dust/I know that there’s a place for us/For we are glorious.

In the film, set in the late 19th century, the song is an anthem to human dignity, respect, tolerance and a classless society where anyone can achieve greatness.

In 2018, it can be seen as an anthem to freedom, justice, individualism and the classical liberalism now reborn with the Iranian protesters.

While Sarsour has convinced the left to make victims the new dictators — she recently announced that Palestinians have a right to become terrorists — the Iranian people are done with dictatorship, terrorism (notably, the protesters shouted: “Death to Hezbollah”) and fundamentalism.

Sure, some women may choose to wear a hijab, just like women in other religions choose to dress modestly. But since 1979 Iranian women were not given this choice. They were forced to wear the hijab, as well as to accommodate the craziness of the mullahs in every aspect of their lives, or they were lashed and imprisoned. Meanwhile, Islamic clerics regularly hang gay men, even teens.

The world has watched a vibrant country be destroyed by Islamic fundamentalism, and now, the world watches a people rising up to say,  “Enough.”

Were the protesters inspired by the U.S. standing up to Islamic dictators over Jerusalem? Perhaps indirectly. Freedom has a way of sending out waves of positive energy, as we saw with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

We can mark the start of 2018 optimistic that a ray of courage has emerged from an ancient people who have, overall, a positive relationship with another ancient people — the Jews. And we can hope and pray that the evil mullahs will be gone before Purim.


Karen Lehrman Bloch is a cultural critic and author.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

On Goddesses, Doormats and Linda Sarsour


“For me,” said Pablo Picasso, “there are only two kinds of women: goddesses and doormats.”

Picasso was somewhat of an expert on women: He knew how to destroy them. Of the seven most important women in his life, two killed themselves and two went mad.

I thought of this quote when reading about how Linda Sarsour allegedly dealt with sexual assault accusations at the Arab American Association of New York, where she was executive director. According to The Daily Caller, in 2009 Asmi Fathelbab told Sarsour that she was being repeatedly sexually assaulted by volunteer Majid Seif.

“Sarsour is no champion of women,” said Fathelbab, 37. “She is an abuser of them.” Sarsour, she said, told her that “something like this didn’t happen to women who looked like me. … She told me I’d never work in New York City again for as long as she lived.”

Others have come forth to corroborate Fathelbab’s allegations. A New York political operative said that Sarsour was “militant against other women. … The only women [Sarsour] is for is herself.” Sarsour denies the allegations, portraying herself, as always, as the real victim.

None of this is shocking to anyone who has followed Sarsour’s hate-filled rhetoric, and while the allegations remain allegations, much of the mainstream media — notably The New York Times — are  curiously silent about this #MeToo case after creating hysteria about every other one.

Nevertheless, I imagine the story also doesn’t come as a shock to most women, who have no doubt been treated like doormats by ambitious women like Sarsour at one time or another. It’s the abuse no one likes to talk about.

Of course, anyone who has ever been around young girls knows how cruel they can be to one another.

But everyone expects that most girls will, well, grow up.

That’s not always the case. Consider, for instance, women in the office who take out their unhappiness on other women. An editor at a book publisher that I used to work for would scream at me each morning from Paris, calling me the nastiest names. I used to joke that it was like the old “Saturday Night Live” routine: “Jane, you ignorant slut.” It didn’t really bother me because I knew I was doing good work, and I knew that she was in a difficult marriage. Neither of which, of course, made it OK.

I’ve had other instances of female abuse in the workplace, most of which have come when I knew the woman personally. This has led me to two conclusions about female abuse: One, many women do it because they can — because they see other women as soft targets. Two, many women do it because they feel threatened by other women’s success.

There is a popular meme on Facebook: You can tell who the strong women are—they are the ones who support the success of other women.

You can tell who the strong women are — they are the ones who support the success of other women.

I don’t expect other women to treat me a like a goddess (men, on the other hand, absolutely). But I do expect a level of respect that some women seem incapable of providing. The “sisterhood” model, as appealing as it sounds, breaks down when it assumes that all women think alike, which, of course we don’t.

But respect is most needed when we don’t think alike. I respect you even if we have different political views. I support your career, and if anyone — male or female — is bullying you, I will be the first to call it out.

As for the allegations against Sarsour, they are especially egregious because they involve both sexual assault and serious damage to a woman’s career. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Women who support Sarsour’s politics are being put in a challenging position: Which do they care about most, the fact that Fathelbab allegedly was sexually harassed, and then bullied by Sarsour, or the fact that they can’t call out a “sister”?

Here’s hoping that Sarsour’s supporters don’t turn into female Picassos for all of the wrong reasons.


Karen Lehrman Bloch is a cultural critic and author.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Regressive Chic


In 1970, Tom Wolfe coined the term “radical chic” to describe how socialites and celebrities were adopting radical political causes to advance their social standing. If you wanted to be considered fashionable, you had to ostentatiously embrace violent groups like the Black Panthers.

Today, the desire to use radical politics to advance your status has been adopted by not just celebrities but by professors and writers as well. And it’s not only about supporting illiberal, often violent groups and trends; it’s also about silence in the face of the most outrageous acts. Maajid Nawaz calls this regressive leftism because it’s tearing down every tenet of the Enlightenment and liberalism. I call it regressive chic because it’s so tied up in social insecurities.

Take the panel on anti-Semitism at The New School in New York City. The fact that the panel was led by Linda Sarsour and Jewish Voice for Peace—toxic anti-Israel activists who honor terrorists who kill Jews—is of course the height of regressive chic. So was the fact that the five panelists spent most of their time bashing Israel and doing everything possible not to mention the elephant in the room: Islamic anti-Semitism.

But just as egregious: only one professor in the entire country publicly condemned it.

I know of professors who are outraged by Sarsour’s skillful manipulation of the left. But when it came time to writing an op-ed that demanded the panel be cancelled in the name of truth and sanity, they were silent. Why? “Trash-talking Jewish Israelis is not only permitted in progressive circles, it’s rewarded,” wrote New School Professor Susan Shapiro in the New York Daily News.

Across the river at Rutgers University, three professors who have expressed blatantly anti-Semitic views, both in the classroom and out, have been inexplicably defended by Rutgers’ president, Robert Barchi. Again, no professor in the entire country has publicly had a problem with this.

Interestingly, one of the Rutgers’ professors, Michael Chikindas, is not just anti-Semitic; he’s also homophobic and misogynistic. Have we heard anything about this from LGBTQ or feminist groups? Nope. Because in the land of regressive chic, if you show your anti-Semitic hall pass, you are then free to say or do anything, however depraved.

This helps explain the left’s silence when Iran throws gays off of rooftops or when Sharia Law-driven Muslims beat and stone to death their mothers, wives, and daughters.

If you’re wondering how all of this happened, listen to Sarsour or Students for Justice in Palestine. They have so brilliantly conflated the Palestinian cause with African-Americans you would think the South owned Palestinian slaves before the Civil War. The fact that it is Muslim countries, most especially Libya, that to this day own black slaves is Sarsour’s best-kept secret.

If anti-Semitism is key to regressive chic, so is support for protests that promote radical victimhood, including anything “trans.”

This last one may seem innocuous—the granting of rights to transgender people—but it’s not. Forcing biological female teens to shower with biological male teens, for instance, undermines a key tenet of liberalism: your rights end where mine begin. But don’t even try telling this to leftists; they will simply call you a fascist, comically/tragically misunderstanding that regressive leftism is the closest we’ve had to fascism in seventy years.

What makes regressive chic so appealing to even professors who know how illiberal it is? Status. If you can’t be a regressive victim (which of course is the highest form of status), then you can support/appease/apologize for said victims. This gives you an immediate identity and an instant social group: others who eagerly conform to regressive chic by-laws on speech and behavior.

I recently befriended a young Egyptian who wants to write about why the Arab world needs to change its stance on Israel. Since he lives in Egypt, I asked him whether he thought it was better to use a pen name. He thought about it for a few minutes, and then wrote back: “No. We are right so I’m not afraid.”

I was struck by the bravery, by the almost Biblical morality of his sentence.

If only liberal writers and professors—living safely here in the United States—had even an iota of his desire to put the promotion of justice over anything else. Call it liberal chic; call it real liberalism. Whatever you call it, we need to bring it back.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Satirical Mossad Twitter Account Trolls Linda Sarsour for ‘Jewish Media’ Remark


Linda Sarsour, who became well-known for organizing the Women’s March, claimed criticism from her stemmed from the “Jewish media,” a remark that set herself up to be trolled by a satirical Mossad Twitter account.

Sarsour was part of a panel at The New School in New York City discussing anti-Semitism on Tuesday evening when she blamed the “Jewish media” for stirring up controversy against her.

“If what you’re reading all day long, morning and night, in the Jewish media is that Linda Sarsour and Minister Farrakhan are the existential threat to the Jewish community, something really bad’s going to happen and we’re going to miss the mark on it,” said Sarsour.

“Minister Farrakhan” is a reference to Louis Farrakhan, who has a long history of anti-Semitic invectives.

Sarsour also stated her support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

“What other way am I supposed to be, as a Palestinian-American who’s a daughter of immigrants who lived under military occupation and still has relatives in Palestine that live under military occupation?” said Sarsour. “I should be expected to have the views that I hold.”

A Twitter account under “The Mossad” moniker happened to see Sarsour’s “Jewish media” comment on Twitter, so they tweeted, “We will take credit for causing earthquakes, releasing sharks into your waters and even stealing your shoe. But you being unpopular, @lsarsour? You did that all on your own.”

Sarsour’s appearance on the anti-Semitism panel drew criticism from the Anti-Defamation League’s Jonathan Greenblatt:

Sarsour has been celebrated by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for her work in promoting various progressive causes, including her support for Black Lives Matter and fighting alongside the ACLU against the “unlawful police spying” of Muslims. Others, such as Journal columnist Ben Shapiro, have criticized Sarsour for supporting Sharia law and her embrace of various Palestinian terrorists.

Jake Tapper speaking to a crowd at the Harvard Institute of Politics Forum on Dec. 1, 2016. Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Jake Tapper and Linda Sarsour mixed it up on Twitter. And it wasn’t about Jews. Or was it?


Jake Tapper, the CNN anchor, uses Twitter as a platform to joke, kibbitz with friends and colleagues, and, as he does on his show, “The Lead,” to call out deviations from what he sees as basic American values like tolerance and free speech.

One of his best-known encounters of the latter kind came last year, when he pressed candidate Donald Trump to disavow an endorsement by David Duke, the anti-Semite and racist. (Trump did, eventually.)

So it was odd to see Linda Sarsour, the feminist and Palestinian-American activist, say on Twitter on Tuesday that Tapper had joined “the ranks of the alt-right.”

It was part of a fraught exchange between a Muslim American well known for her friendship with some liberal Jews and for her clashes with the Jewish establishment — she endorses the boycott Israel movement — and a celebrity who makes no secret of his Jewishness. But it was one in which Jews never came up, at least explicitly.

So what started it all?

Tapper earlier on Wednesday criticized Sarsour and the Women’s March — which she helped found — for celebrating the birthday of Assata Shakur, a black militant convicted in the 1973 murder of a New Jersey State Trooper. She was jailed in 1977 and escaped in 1979, eventually fleeing to Cuba, where she lives today. Tapper responded to Sarsour’s birthday greetings by tweeting, “Shakur is a cop-killer fugitive in Cuba. This, ugly sentiments from @lsarsour & @dykemarchchi …Any progressives out there condemning this?” He linked to a Women’s March tweet marking Shakur’s birthday.

The Women’s March, in an extensive thread, had said that it was feting Shakur because of her role in repudiating sexism in the black nationalist movement, and did not endorse her role in the murder of the trooper.

Sarsour rejoined on Twitter, first with her gibe about Tapper joining the alt-right and then asking him directly: “Please share my ‘ugly’ sentiments? Unapologetically Muslim? Unapologetically Palestinian? Pro-immigrant? Pro-justice? Shame.”

Tapper, replying, referred to Sarsour’s attacks on Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the onetime Muslim who is now an outspoken critic of Islam. Ali has at times said her focus is only on militant Islam, but at other times has targeted the faith more broadly, earning herself a reputation in some quarters as an Islamaphobe.

In a now deleted 2011 tweet, Sarsour, comparing Ali to anti-Islam activist Brigitte Gabriel, had said: “Brigitte Gabriel=Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She’s asking 4 an a$$ whippin’. I wish I could take their vaginas away – they don’t deserve to be women.” (Asked about the tweet recently, she said, “People say stupid shit sometimes.”)

That, Tapper said, was “pretty vile” addressed to Ali, a survivor of female genital mutilation.

So, nothing in this fight is Jewish, right?

Yair Rosenberg, the Tablet blogger, noted on Twitter that Tapper — a graduate of Akiba Hebrew Academy in suburban Philadelphia who frequently celebrates his Jewish upbringing —  came in seventh among Jews in an Anti-Defamation League tally of journalists abused by the alt-right.

Beyond that, there are some hints of a Jewish subtext — that Tapper was coming at this from the perspective of Jewish experience, and that Sarsour understood this. Certainly, Sarsour seemed, by lumping Tapper in with the alt-right, to be seeking to wound him in the way that some folks belittle some black men by referring to them as Uncle Toms.

And Tapper, in his initial tweet pointing out progressive excesses, called out the Chicago Dyke March, for also wishing Shakur a happy birthday. Chicago Dyke March’s only known controversy of late was its ejection of three Jewish marchers for bearing flags marked with the Star of David.

(Sarsour did not reply to a request for comment, and CNN did not reply to a request to interview Tapper.)

On the other hand, Tapper’s overarching outrage at the happy birthday greeting would appear to stem not from any animus toward Sarsour or anti-Zionists, per se, but toward Shakur. As an ABC reporter in 2011 he aggressively pursued a story about how unhappy New Jersey cops were that President Barack Obama had invited the rapper Common to the White House; Common had recorded a paean to Shakur. As recently as last year Tapper urged fellow journalists travelling to Cuba to ask Shakur if she wanted an interview.

Added bonus irony? Tapper, now reviled by President Donald Trump and many of his followers who consider CNN hopelessly biased, earned kudos in 2011 from conservatives for holding Obama’s feet to the fire.

Activist Linda Sarsour speaks during a Women For Syria gathering at Union Square in New York City on April 13. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Linda Sarsour, defending cemetery allocations, lashes out at ‘right wing zionists’


Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour said she is the target of  the “right wing, alt-right” and “right wing zionists” after being accused of withholding $100,000 that a fund she helped launch had promised to a neglected Jewish cemetery in Colorado.

The money would be disbursed, she said, after the organization handling the fund received a detailed plan from the cemetery.

Sarsour was responding Tuesday to an article by the Jewish news website The Algemeiner alleging that a campaign she set up in February to raise funds for vandalized Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia failed to deliver funds promised to the Colorado cemetery.

The Muslim-led crowdfunding campaign raised $162,000 from nearly 5,000 donors, exceeding in the first few hours its $20,000 goal to help repair the Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery in St. Louis. Jewish leaders who otherwise object to Sarsour’s support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel appreciated her gesture.

According to the campaign, some $40,000 was sent to the cemetery in St. Louis. Another $5,000 each went to help a vandalized Jewish cemetery in Rochester, New York, and repair the Chicago Loop Synagogue following an anti-Semitic attack. The Philadelphia cemetery turned down the money, saying it was not in need of further assistance.

The Algemeiner reported Tuesday that the Golden Hill Cemetery in Lakewood, Colorado, had yet to receive a check for approximately $100,000 as promised by Celebrate Mercy, a Muslim nonprofit that partnered with Sarsour on the project.

Golden Hill was not among the vandalized cemeteries, but rather requested funding from Celebrate Mercy at the suggestion of Jennifer Goodland, a local history buff and photographer who had taken pictures of the cemetery’s overgrown plots and toppled headstones. In a Facebook post Wednesday, Celebrate Mercy said it was awaiting a revision of Golden Hill’s “detailed funding request” and that “we are doing our due diligence to all the campaign donors to carefully evaluate all proposed costs and set up a disbursement schedule for the funds based on achieved milestones.”

“Over the next few months, we intend to fully disburse all remaining funds to help other vandalized Jewish cemeteries and centers nationwide,” the Facebook post read.

Goodland, commenting on the Celebrate Mercy Facebook page, supported the nonprofit’s assertion that the funding would follow a careful review process.

“This is not the kind of project someone does overnight,” she wrote. “The cemetery has been holding meetings with other grant organizations so that we best know how to proceed and truly maximize your humbling and generous offer.”

Neal Price, a caretaker of the cemetery, told The Algemeiner that he and other officials had met in June to discuss costs and create the plan Celebrate Mercy had requested, but that he had not heard from Goodland or Tarek El-Messidi, Celebrate Mercy’s founder, in weeks.

New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Democrat from Brooklyn, accused Sarsour of “fraud” because Golden Hill had not received a disbursement.

“Sarsour is a fraud,” Hikind said in a statement following publication of the Algemeiner article. “She talks out of both sides of her mouth. One minute she’s claiming to be a disciple of the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the next she’s standing with a terrorist on stage at an event, and singing praises of that terrorist to an audience. I won’t be the least bit surprised to hear that her little Jewish cemetery publicity stunt wasn’t quite what she made it out to be.”

In April, Sarsour appeared at an event in Chicago with Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian woman who is being forced to leave the United States for not telling immigration authorities that she was imprisoned in Israel for her role in two terror attacks. In May, Hikind objected when the City University of New York School of Public Health chose Sarsour to deliver the keynote speech at its graduation, saying Sarsour supports terrorism and radical Islam.

Sarsour hit back on Facebook, writing: “I have the unfortunate receipts of what it costs to be a target of the right wing, alt-right, right wing zionists. This has caused my family great emotional stress & trauma. It’s not free to keep my family safe. I just want people to know I am taking names of media outlets and prominent individuals who have used the last few months to defame my character. I may be quiet but they will pay with their pockets.”

Sarsour noted that El-Messidi had visited the Colorado cemetery in February and was awaiting plans from the cemetery officials.

“Once they had a plan to take on this huge project Tarek would be ready with the funds,” she wrote.

“You can call me what you want BUT DO NOT EVER QUESTION my integrity,” she also wrote, adding: “I am exhausted. I am tired of the lies, lies, and more lies. It’s too much and it reignites the most vitriolic human beings on this earth. I am not safe and someone will pay for this with their pockets. Big time.”

I have the unfortunate receipts of what it costs to be a target of the right wing, alt-right, right wing zionists. This…

Posted by Linda Sarsour on Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Activist Linda Sarsour in New York City on June 29. Photo by Joe Penney/Reuters

How the Dems can lose 2018


Last week, the Democrats released a new bumper sticker for their 2018 Congressional campaign: “I mean, have you seen the other guys?”

It’s not a bad political notion so far as it goes — opposition in politics is an effective tool, as Democrats learned from Republicans, who campaigned against Obamacare and Democratic spending policies to the tune of 1,000 state legislature seats, 12 governorships (including in states such as Michigan and Massachusetts), 10 Senate seats and 63 House seats. Now Democrats hope to reverse the math.

But there’s something else going on here, too. Democrats hope that campaigning as #TheResistance will suffice to prevent voters from looking too hard at their own moral and political shortcomings. That’s because for all the talk by Democrats about Republican extremism, Republicans actually have moved closer to the center on policy, while Democrats have embraced an ugly combination of Bernie Sanders-style socialism and college campus-style intersectionality.

Leave aside the boorish antics of President Donald Trump and the incompetence of Congressional Republicans. Here is the fact: Trump is the most moderate Republican president since Richard Nixon. He has successfully passed almost no major policy in seven months. His foreign policy on North Korea and Syria is barely distinguishable from former President Barack Obama’s. His approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been praised by Palestinians and former Obama officials. He’s the most pro-LGBT Republican in presidential history; his stance on abortion has been vague; his White House chief strategist has openly embraced higher taxes on upper-income earners, as well as a massive infrastructure spending program; he has embraced the central premises of Obamacare. Trump may act in ridiculous ways that defy rationality — his Twitter feed is littered with stupidity and aggression, of course — but on policy, Trump is closer to Bill Clinton of 1997 than President Obama was.

Democrats, meanwhile, are moving hard to the left. When former Clinton adviser Mark Penn wrote an op-ed for The New York Times calling for Democrats to move back to the center, he was roundly excoriated by the leading thinkers in the Democratic Party. He was an emissary of the past; he had to embrace the new vision of the leftist future. That leftist future involved radical tax increases, fully nationalized health care, and — most of all — the divisive politics of intersectionality. Sens. Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) may own the policy side of the Democratic coalition, but the heart of the Democratic coalition lies in polarization by race, sex and sexual orientation. Forget a cohesive national message that appeals to Americans regardless of tribal identity: The new Democratic Party cares only about uniting disparate identity factions under the banner of opposing Republicanism.

The clearest evidence for that alliance of convenience came earlier this month, when Democratic darling and Women’s March organizer Linda Sarsour was caught on tape promoting “jihad” against Trump. Sarsour said that the sort of “jihad” she liked was “a word of truth in front of a tyrant or leader.” But she deliberately used the word “jihad” because of its ambiguity, not in spite of it: Sarsour has stated that pro-Israel women cannot be feminists; she supports the imposition of “Shariah law” in Muslim countries; she has stated of dissident and female genital mutilation victim Ayaan Hirsi Ali that she wishes she could take her “vagina away”; she has long associated with the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood; she opened her “jihad” speech by thanking Siraj Wajjah, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing who has repeatedly advocated for a violent form of “jihad.”

Democrats hope that campaigning as #TheResistance will suffice to prevent voters from looking too hard at their own moral and political shortcomings.

Democrats rushed to her defense nonetheless, hoping to preserve the intersectional concerns that animate their base. Never mind that Sarsour is no ally to LGBT rights, or that she blames “Zionists” for her problems. She represents an important constituency for Democrats, and so she must be protected. More than that, she speaks anti-Trumpese fluently, and thus is an important figure for Democrats.

This isn’t rare on the left anymore. Much of the Democratic establishment supported Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a longtime Nation of Islam acolyte who spent years defending that group’s most extreme anti-Semitic rhetoric — a man so radical that he openly associated with the Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, which recently labeled Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) an “Israel Firster.”

Even as the Democratic Party embraced Sarsour and defended her ambiguous use of the word “jihad” — after all, she was opposing Trump the Impaler — leftist spokespeople rushed to microphones to denounce President Trump’s speech in Poland, in which he called for a defense of “the West” and “our civilization.” Leftist columnist Peter Beinart labeled the speech racist. As Jonah Goldberg of National Review points out, we now have a Democratic Party that spends its time defending the use of the word “jihad” against the president but labeling the phrase “the West” a problem.

Bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see how it works out.

And so Democrats must focus on President Trump. They must hope that he smacks himself in the face with a frying pan. They must bank on some sort of Trump-Russia collusion revelation. They must pray that the focus stays on Republicans rather than turning back to Democrats. After all, Sanders-Sarsour doesn’t sound like a winning combination.


BEN SHAPIRO is editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire, host of the most listened-to conservative podcast in the nation, “The Ben Shapiro Show,” and author of The New York Times best-seller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear Silences Americans.”

Linda Sarsour speaking onstage during the Women’s March on Washington in Washington, D.C, Jan. 21, 2017. Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Rasmea Odeh, Linda Sarsour slam ‘Zionists’ at Jewish Voice for Peace summit


A Palestinian woman who is being forced to leave the United States for not telling immigration authorities that she was imprisoned in Israel for two terror attacks told a U.S. Jewish group that they must stop the “Zionists” from their “land grab.”

Rasmea Odeh was the keynote speaker on Sunday in Chicago at a summit of the Jewish Voice for Peace, a group that backs the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

Odeh, 69, accepted a plea bargain last month that forces her to leave the country and strips her U.S. citizenship. She had been fighting in the courts for years.

Also speaking at the conference was the Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour, who raised hackles among liberal American Jews recently by saying that those who identify as Zionist cannot be feminist because they are ignoring the rights of Palestinian women.

Meanwhile, during Odeh’s address, the Israel advocacy group StandWithUs held a memorial ceremony at the same hotel for Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner, the two men killed in the 1969 bombing in Jerusalem for which Odeh was convicted by an Israeli military court. The group had been denied a request to rent a conference room at the insistence of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Odeh spoke about having to leave the United States.

“I thought when I came to the U.S., and made it my second home, it would be the last station in a journey of struggle that I shared with my Palestinian people in response to the Nakba [catastrophe]  and the occupation of 1967,” she told the audience of about 1,000, referring to the Palestinians’ perception of Israel’s founding, including their forced and voluntary displacement to neighboring countries.

She added: “Now I face a similar Nakba, forced to leave the country and the life that I built for myself over 23 years in the U.S., but I will continue my struggle for justice for my people wherever I land.”

Odeh, a leader of the grassroots International Women’s Strike, reminded the audience that Americans are “in the streets” resisting President Donald Trump every day.

She continued: “Of course, Zionists aren’t going to stop their land grab in Palestine either. The Palestinians there and the Palestinians and our supporters here have to stop them with our resistance and our organization.”

In 1970, Odeh was sentenced to life in prison for two bombing attacks on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and spent 10 years in prison before being released in a prisoner exchange in 1980.

In 2015, she was sentenced in the U.S. to 18 months in prison for covering up her conviction and imprisonment in Israel when she entered the country in 1995 and applied for citizenship in 2004, but the conviction was later vacated to allow Odeh to show that she suffered from post traumatic stress disorder over her alleged mistreatment while in prison.

Sarsour, an organizer of the Women’s March on Washington who recently raised thousands of dollars to repair anti-Semitic vandalism at three U.S. Jewish cemeteries, told the crowd: “If what is being asked of me by those who pronounce themselves and call themselves Zionist is that I, as a Palestinian American, have to somehow leave out a part of my identity so you can be welcomed in a space to work on justice, then that’s not going to be the right space for you.”

“We, as Palestinian Americans, as Arab Americans, as Muslim Americans, we will not change who we are to make anybody feel comfortable. If you ain’t all in, then this ain’t the movement for you,” she said.

StandWithUs rented a regular hotel room and held its memorial there.

In a statement, the Joffe family described Jewish Voice for Peace as “another deeply misguided so-called ‘Jewish’ organization.”

“She will soon be forgotten by her supporters who have so misguidedly championed her,” the statement said, “but the memory of Edward and Leon will live on forever.”

Linda Sarsour speaking onstage during the Women’s March on Washington in Washington, D.C, Jan. 21, 2017. Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Why should we care what Linda Sarsour says?


The internet treated us to quite a debate last week. The issue: Are Zionism and feminism, two of the most successful social revolutions of the 20th century, compatible?

In a New York Times op-ed, Jewish American Emily Shire wondered if her identity as a Zionist would alienate her from a resurgent feminist movement aligned with the Palestinian cause. “I am troubled by the portion of the International Women’s Strike platform that calls for a ‘decolonization of Palestine’ as part of ‘the beating heart of this new feminist movement,’ ” she wrote. “Why should criticism of Israel be key to feminism in 2017?”

She was answered by Linda Sarsour, a Muslim-American activist and one of the organizers behind the Women’s March on Washington. In an interview with The Nation, Sarsour responded bluntly: “It just doesn’t make any sense for someone to say, ‘Is there room for people who support the state of Israel and do not criticize it in the movement?’ There can’t be in feminism. You either stand up for the rights of all women, including Palestinians, or none. There’s just no way around it.”

On one point, Sarsour is right: To believe in the rights of women is to believe in the rights of all women — including those in Sudan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. A feminism that lacks inclusion is a flawed feminism. There’s just no way around it.

But many in our community only heard Sarsour say: “criticize Israel.” And so the debate descended into something vicious and misguided, helped in large part by The Nation’s deeply irresponsible headline — “Can You Be a Zionist Feminist? Linda Sarsour Says No” — and a reporter who was even more irresponsible. She offered Sarsour an unrestricted soapbox on which to air her views, without ever thinking to ask if she supports the same Jewish right to self-determination that Sarsour is seeking for the Palestinians.

I spent a few days thinking about why this little tempest matters, and you know what I concluded? It doesn’t.

“Basically, this is a conversation about theory,” Anat Hoffman, perhaps Israel’s most famous feminist, said when I reached her by phone. “The practical, immediate repercussions of this are zero.”

Talking is not especially useful to Hoffman, who is one of Israel’s leading activists. She is a founding member of the Women of the Wall movement, which seeks prayer equality for women at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, and the executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, a legal advocacy arm pursuing gender equality, social justice and religious pluralism. Hoffman spends most of her time bringing lawsuits against the State of Israel, demonstrating that arguments about the definition of political movements are far less consequential than policy change.

If people like Sarsour count no Jewish Zionists among their friends or colleagues, it is virtually guaranteed they will never modify their views.

For women who work in the trenches of Israel’s justice movement, the tension between Zionism and feminism is nothing new. The Orthodox establishment within Israel’s government has precluded women from realizing their full rights since the country’s founding.

“What about the 50,000 women who cannot get divorced because there is no civil marriage or civil divorce in Israel? What about the gaps in salaries? What about domestic violence?” Hoffman said. “To the Jewish woman who says that for the first time she feels a tug between her Zionism and her feminism, I say: ‘Good morning, sister!’ ”

How one Muslim-American woman defines feminism, or Zionism, is irrelevant. Any thoughtful person can define his or her personal politics and has the right to set their own political priorities. What matters is that we stop instantly vilifying anyone and everyone with whom we don’t agree — whether within our own communities or outside of them.

“Zionism needs a good kick in the ass,” Hoffman said, “as long as there’s one condition: that you love Israel, that you are committed to the existence of Israel, and to the right of the Jewish people to have a sovereign state and self-determination. Then you can criticize Israel as much as you want.”

But what about people like Sarsour, who might not love Israel? Should we, as a community, even bother talking to her? Where do we draw the line?

“If you believe terrorizing innocent civilians is the way to achieve liberation, then that crosses my line,” Hoffman said. “Someone who believes the only way to go is to explode buses in Israel — he is my enemy.”

A shared premise of nonviolence is a reasonable rule of engagement. Better to engage — even our foes — than walk away from the table altogether, right? At least if we’re talking, there is hope our views will prevail over time, or that we’ll reach a compromise. After all, if people like Sarsour count no Jewish Zionists among their friends or colleagues, it is virtually guaranteed they will never modify their views.

Sarsour says she is committed to non-violence, but other aspects of her record are troubling. She fights on behalf of the oppressed but seems to have little regard for Jewish history. Nowhere is there a record of her support for the existence of Israel as a Jewish state, and she has tweeted that Zionism is “creepy” and akin to racism. Is it worth talking to her if she doesn’t support Israel’s right to exist? If she’s really an anti-Zionist activist disguised in social justice clothing?

“I believe in Sarsour’s right to self-determination and an independent state of her own,” Hoffman said. “And I would like you to find out if she believes in my right to [the same]. Because I have no other choice: Hebrew is my language and Jerusalem is my home. I have nowhere else to go.”

That’s a Zionist feminist talking.

J.K. Rowling attends the 70th British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) at Royal Albert Hall in London, Feb. 12, 2017. Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images.

Author JK Rowling helps boost Muslim campaign to repair vandalized Jewish cemetery


Donations tripled to a Muslim-supported crowdfunding campaign to repair a vandalized St. Louis-area Jewish cemetery after British author J.K. Rowling offered her support in a tweet.

Rowling, the author of the popular “Harry Potter” series of books, on Wednesday morning in Britain tweeted a link to an article about the campaign and posted “This is such a beautiful thing.”

The tweet has received more than 10,000 retweets and more than 30,000 likes.

As of Wednesday morning in the United States, the campaign by Muslim activists Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi has raised $66,000, far exceeding its $20,000 goal when it was established on Tuesday afternoon.

Between 170 and 200 headstones were discovered on Monday morning to have been toppled by vandals at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in St. Louis. The attack on the cemetery took place sometime between Friday night and Monday morning.

The organizers of the crowdfunding campaign said any remaining funds after the cemetery is restored will go to fixes for other vandalized Jewish centers.

“Through this campaign, we hope to send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities that there is no place for this type of hate, desecration, and violence in America,” the activists wrote. “We pray that this restores a sense of security and peace to the Jewish-American community who has undoubtedly been shaken by this event.”

Eric Greitens speaking at the Robin Hood Veterans Summit at the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York, May 7, 2012. Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images.

Jewish governor of Missouri, Muslim activists pitching in to repair vandalized Jewish cemetery


The Jewish governor of Missouri, Eric Greitens, said he will volunteer to help repair a St. Louis-area Jewish cemetery where at least 170 gravestones were toppled over the weekend.

Meanwhile, two Muslim activists have launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $20,000 for repairs. The launchgood drive started by Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi had brought more than $45,000 as of Tuesday evening.

They said any remaining funds after the cemetery is restored will go to fixes for other vandalized Jewish centers.

“Through this campaign, we hope to send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities that there is no place for this type of hate, desecration, and violence in America,” the activists wrote. “We pray that this restores a sense of security and peace to the Jewish-American community who has undoubtedly been shaken by this event”

Greitens in a news release Tuesday cited the concept of “tikkun olam,” or repair of the world, and asked helpers to bring rakes, garbage bags, wash rags and more cleaning supplies.

“My team and I will be there tomorrow, and I’d invite you to join us,” he said.

The governor had previously condemned the vandalism on the Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery in University City and called on people to “fight acts of intolerance and hate.”

“Disgusted to hear about the senseless act of desecration at the cemetery in University City. We must fight acts of intolerance and hate,” Greitens wrote in a tweet Monday evening after the vandalism was discovered.

The attack on the cemetery took place sometime between Friday night and Monday morning, when the damage was discovered.

Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery Executive Director Anita Feigenbaum told The New York Times that between 170 and 200 headstones were toppled, with some being broken and damaged.

The headstones are in the cemetery’s oldest section, dating from the late 1800s to the mid-1900s, she told the Times.

“I just am quite shocked — it affects so many people, so many families, so many generations,” Feigenbaum told the newspaper. “This cemetery was opened in 1893.”

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Lt. Fredrick Lemons of the University City Police Department declined to classify the vandalism as a hate crime.

“Right now, everything is under investigation,” Lemons said. “We’re looking into all possible leads.” The police are reviewing cemetery surveillance cameras, according to the report.

Greitens, a former Navy SEAL whose military awards include the Bronze Star, was elected the first Jewish governor of Missouri in November.

In a post on Facebook he called the vandalism a “despicable act of what appears to be anti-Semitic vandalism.”

“We do not yet know who is responsible, but we do know this: this vandalism was a cowardly act. And we also know that, together, we can meet cowardice with courage,” he wrote. “Anyone who would seek to divide us through an act of desecration will find instead that they unite us in shared determination. From their pitiful act of ugliness, we can emerge even more powerful in our faith.”

Immediately following the announcement of the vandalism, the Chesed Shel Emeth Society, which owns the cemetery, posted a message on Facebook informing families with relatives buried there that it is  “assessing the locations and damage and will post names that are affected as soon as we are able. Many monuments are facing down and we won’t be able to read the names and see if there is any damage until we lift the stones.”

In an update Tuesday afternoon, the society said a local monument company had begun to replace the monuments on their bases. It said it would try to have a comprehensive list of the toppled monuments posted by Wednesday.

A local church, the All Nations Church, launched an appeal to help repair the damage caused by the vandals. The church said on its website that it would match up to $500 in donations to the cemetery.

“Destruction of Jewish headstones is a painful act of anti-Semitism,” said Nancy Lisker, director of the American Jewish Congress in  St. Louis. “We feel the pain of the families whose grave sites of loved ones were desecrated and look to the authorities to apprehend and bring to justice those responsible for this heinous act.”

Activist Linda Sarsour addresses the crowd during a protest against President Donald Trump's travel ban, in New York City, U.S. Jan. 29. Stephanie Keith/REUTERS

Linda Sarsour and American Jewish politics


Those seeking to build coalitions must make a difficult decision early on: What compromises are we willing to make on other core commitments in order to effectively organize with those who share this core commitment?

The philosopher Avishai Margalit stipulates that the first way to think about this question is to determine whether we are speaking in terms of “religious compromise” or “economic compromise.” Religious compromise offers very little margin of error; in his memorable phrasing, compromising over the holy risks compromising the holy. Economic compromise is far cruder and simpler, and operates through a simpler cost-benefit analysis. Rotten compromise, the kind we must not do, entails making common cause with evil. Most coalition builders, in trying to assess with whom they can ally, struggle to determine whether they are in the religious or the economic model, and can be paralyzed with indecision in the fear that their choices ultimately produce something rotten.

This is the framework with which I have been thinking about the “Linda Sarsour moment” in American Jewish politics, wherein a major social justice and interfaith activist who was a central organizer of the women’s marches around the country — and who has a track record of outspoken criticism against Israel and Zionism — invites controversy, and hopefully more thoughtful deliberation, on the choices we make about our alliances in the pursuit of our political causes. This issue is presenting itself now, as well, in the form of anti-Trump protests organized by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an organization with a long history of vexed relationship with the Jewish community as it relates to divergent politics on Israel. CAIR was out in force at last weekend’s airport protests against President Donald Trump’s immigration orders.  How does our community, committed to Israel as well as a host of other social justice commitments, navigate collaboration with other faith and political leaders who not only oppose one critical piece of our community’s agenda but often even militate against it?

In response to this challenge, the instinct by many communities is to create “litmus tests” — tools of assessing loyalty and commonality that establish the legitimacy of partnership. In this arena, I see two equally problematic tendencies that represent opposite extremes but that yield similar solutions.

On the left, the litmus test in vogue — and one that sometimes leads progressive activists to exclude Zionists from their camp — relies on a pure application of the academic theory of intersectionality. In arguing for the deep, structural, interdependent relationship among forms of oppression, this form of ideological purity makes acceptance of a total program or platform into a litmus test.

It may make for an incredibly powerful political community; only those who subscribe to the full network of commitments — ostensibly with equal passion for all forms of interrelated injustice — can participate as members. Yet its rigidity also is likely to yield an incredibly small group.

The opposite approach, still bewilderingly au courant in some Jewish communal circles, is the “single-issue” litmus test approach, which evaluates ideas and people on the basis of a single issue — almost always Israel politics. This is a different form of ideological purity. But rather than insisting on purity through linkages, the litmus test insists on a singular cause as the evaluative instrument of legitimacy. This is single-issue politics of disqualification, which works very well for the border police who enforce it, and is baffling and exasperating for most others who live inside or outside the enforced parameters.

If the pure intersectional approach is flawed for seeking perfect or consistent structures as the organizing principle in which to hold a wide group of imperfect and inconsistent moral actors, the single-issue approach is flawed for the perversity that it periodically engenders. As many have noted, the anger in the Jewish community about a line in the platform of the Movement for Black Lives created the risk of moral tragedy. As a friend wrote to me recently: “I can’t support black kids not being gunned down, because some of the movement leaders don’t meet my Israel ideology purity test? That’s the hill we want to die on?”

Neither of these approaches then really works. Rather, they are better at restricting, constricting, and ultimately diminishing effective political community than constituting strategies for effective organizing and growth across diversity. Most political movements actually require broader coalitions than litmus tests allow, such that the foregoing “coherence and conviction” become the discourse of a shrinking and failing minority. I want to instead propose an alternative set of strategies and considerations to replace the litmus test, and to provide some conceptual tools that could be helpful to the efforts at building community, while maintaining loyalty to the moral fabrics and commitments that community-building means to advance.

First, I suggest that we work to articulate a hierarchy of our moral commitments that we can crudely divide among what we consider moral imperatives, moral concerns, and — further down the line — political preferences. Firmly entrenched ideologies of political communities — political parties, religious denominations, etc. — make it easy for their adherents to conflate these three, but they are really separate, and precision counts.

All of us carry around with us a short list of moral imperatives that reflect our central commitments. These are ordering principles in our political universe, and it would be difficult for us to inhabit communities — or to make personal life decisions — that did not follow their mandates. Separately, however, we carry around a longer list of moral concerns — the issues we care about (often deeply) but which do not rise to the level of ordering our families, communities, and life choices. Most of us can tolerate relatively easily living in community with people who do not value the same full list of moral concerns, but we struggle to do so when it comes to moral imperatives.

On the basis of this, my suggestion for building political community is that in lieu of comprehensive or single-issue litmus tests, we endeavor to follow a “two-thirds and 51 percent” rule, which would state as follows: We identify in political communities, or organize for particular causes, with people who share, or at least do not operate in contradistinction to, two-thirds of our core moral imperatives, and with whom we agree on a minimum of 51 percent of our moral concerns.

We need both of these categories — the imperatives and the concerns — precisely because we need a weighted standard which recognizes that some commitments are more significant than others, on one hand, and because a successful political community simply needs to capture a majority viewpoint to be politically successful, on the other. “Two-thirds and 51 percent” enables individuals to belong to communities in which they broadly agree with the consensus viewpoints and are not challenged more than they can be about their central moral commitments. It means a certain degree of manageable discomfort that is implicitly assuaged by the gains accrued by belonging.

Belonging in political community to people with whom we have significant differences — that one-third matters! — does not mean we assent on those issues. We can disagree and fight vigorously on those issues where we have deep disagreement, and I am not proposing that we paper over those differences. But the major added advantage here is that we find more effective common cause than is possible in the inherently constricting litmus test approach, which not only closes off a wider network of allies that we all desperately need, but which also creates a culture of suspicion even toward those with whom we are close. The litmus test approach is a negative structure toward cultivating loyalty; “two-thirds and 51 percent” tilts toward creating cultures of broad assent. Besides, the winning causes do precisely this. It is only the losers who debilitate their own side with infighting.

I recognize that there are those people, on the right and on the left, for whom their relationship to Israel is not just a moral imperative but an exclusive imperative; and for whom, therefore, common cause with an opponent issue entails transgressing an impassable line. I respect this position, especially in its self-awareness of its hierarchy of moral choices. But I also believe it is a tragic position to take in a political moment that requires of us commitments to more than one moral imperative; and also because I wonder whether our willingness to work with outspoken critics of Israel right now, when we agree on many other issues, may in fact enable us to manage those tensions with those critics more effectively in the long run. I think a David Ben-Gurion-like position is a perfectly tenable moral position that balances multiple moral imperatives: We fight for our moral values in American political life as though there was no disagreement with our allies on these issues on Israel, and we fight on Israel with critics of Israel as though there was no domestic agenda. The existence of multiple moral frameworks with which to view the world is not a sign of confusion; it is a sign of sophistication and strength. 

All the following can be true at the same time: that we need community, that our communities stand for core values, that political community can create change, and that each of us have particular, individual moral commitments that constrain our capacity to be in relationship with others who do not share them. But we might be able to build technologies and calculations, such as the ones that I am proposing, that respond to these challenges strategically, unlike the blunt instrument of the litmus test. For the urgent goals of our community and our broader society, I believe a new approach is overdue. 

Yehuda Kurtzer is the president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America

+