NEW YORK – In observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day, 400 American rabbis took out a full-page open letter in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal and Forward to call on Rupert Murdoch to sanction pundit Glenn Beck, and demand an apology from Fox News chief Roger Ailes for repeated misuse of Holocaust terminology.
The letter, organized by Jewish Funds for Justice, was prompted in part by Beck’s three-day series on billionaire George Soros, in which Beck claimed Soros survived the Holocaust by collaborating with Nazis.
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“[Soros] used to go around with this anti-Semite and deliver papers to the Jews and confiscate their property, and then ship them off,” Beck said in the series. “And George Soros was part of it. He would help confiscate the stuff. It was frightening.
Here’s a Jewish boy helping send Jews to the death camps.”
The letter was signed by the heads of the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements – as well as prominent Orthodox rabbis. It accuses Beck and Ailes of desecrating the memory of the Holocaust.
“In the charged political climate in the current civic debate, much is tolerated, and much is ignored or dismissed,” the letter states. “But you diminish the memory and meaning of the Holocaust when you use it to discredit any individual or organization you disagree with. That is what Fox News has done in recent weeks, and it is not only ‘left-wing rabbis’ who think so. [Beck has made] literally hundreds of onair references to the Holocaust and Nazis when characterizing people with whom [he] disagree[ s].”
Beck regularly compares American leaders to Nazis, has likened his battle against progressives to that of “Israeli Nazihunters,” and has said that putting the “common good” first leads to “death camps.”
Ailes dismissed criticism of Beck, characterizing critics in an online interview with The Daily Beast as no more than “leftwing rabbis who basically don’t think that anybody can ever use the word ‘Holocaust’ on the air.”
However, Rabbi Felicia Sol of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in New York, a board member of the Jewish Funds for Justice, said the rabbis who signed Thursday’s letter cannot all be characterized as progressive or “leftwing.”
“To divide the world into left wing and right wing – particularly with respect to the Holocaust – concerns rabbis who dedicate their entire lives to the continuity of the Jewish people,” Sol said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post. “Well, it’s an absurd critique. This letter honors the diversity of our outrage.”
Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League – and a child survivor of the Holocaust – described Beck’s attack on Soros as “not only offensive, but horrific, over-the-top, and out-of-line.”
Yet Foxman said he found the open letter to Murdoch a “bizarre” use of the Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“[Jewish Funds for Justice] has a right to voice their grievances,” he said. “What I find bizarre, though, is to take Holocaust Remembrance Day – and the names of the victims – to take a public stand against Murdoch, Ailes and Beck.
They’re not our enemy, and they are certainly not Holocaust deniers.
“If you want to take on the issue – and the issue is a serious issue – take out an ad, which I would be glad to sign, which takes on both Democrats and Republicans for trivializing the Holocaust,” Foxman said. “But why zero in on these people and make them our enemies – which they’re not?” However, the rabbis’ letter cautions that a lack of sensitivity to the memories of the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust sets a dangerously low standard of discourse.
“It is because this issue has a profound impact on each of us, our families and our communities that we are calling on Fox News to meet the standard it has set for itself: ‘to exercise the ultimate sensitivity when referencing the Holocaust,’” the letter concludes. “We respectfully request that Glenn Beck be sanctioned by Fox News for his completely unacceptable attacks on a survivor of the Holocaust – and Roger Ailes apologize for his dismissive remarks about rabbis’ sensitivity to how the Holocaust is used on the air.”