N. Americans raise eyebrows over rabbis' Murdoch letter

After 400 rabbis call for political commentator Glenn Beck to be sanctioned, many in Jewish community object to methods used.

February 7, 2011 17:39
3 minute read.
Glenn Beck, center, holds hands with faith leaders at the "Restoring Honor" rally in front of the Li

Glenn Beck at Wahsington Rally. (photo credit: Associated Press)


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NEW YORK – A week and a half after 400 American rabbis called for Fox News Channel political commentator Glenn Beck to be sanctioned for his repeated misuse of Holocaust terminology, many in and outside the Jewish community have raised questions about the rabbis’ message.

In a full-page open letter printed in the January 27 Wall Street Journal and Forward for Holocaust Remembrance Day, the rabbis, representing all streams of Judaism, accused Beck and FNC head Roger Ailes of desecrating the memory of the Holocaust. The letter was prompted in part by Beck’s three-day series on billionaire George Soros in which he claimed that Soros had survived the Holocaust by collaborating with the Nazis.

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Column One: A prayer for 5771
US rabbis pen letter criticizing Beck's Holocaust usage

The letter called on Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corporation, FNC’s parent company, to sanction Beck and demand an apology from Ailes for his and Beck’s repeated misuse of Holocaust terminology.

It was organized by Jewish Funds for Justice and signed by the heads of the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements, as well as by prominent Orthodox rabbis.

When the letter appeared, Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League and a Holocaust survivor, told The Jerusalem Post he found the letter a “bizarre” use of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“[Jewish Funds for Justice] has a right to voice their grievance.

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,” Foxman said.

“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 continued. “But why zero in on these people and make them our enemies – which they’re not?” Many have queried whether the strength of a multidenominational open letter was deployed in the proper direction with the Jewish Funds for Justice ad.

“Who would have thought that with all the real grave challenges facing Jews [and] the memory of the Holocaust and Israel, that you and your fellow 400 rabbis would see fit to take out a full page ad in the WSJ to go after Glenn Beck, Roger Ailes and Fox News as if they were the enemy of Jews and the memory of the Holocaust?” queried Canadian blogger Bill Narvey in an open letter of his own addressed to the signatories.

“I don’t give a damn about your politics or that you appear to be left wing. I do give a damn when the foregoing very real and grave existential challenges facing Jews and Israel do not enrage and unite you in great numbers to lead the Jewish community to stand tall and firm against these threats,” Narvey wrote.

“I implore all of you to direct your outrage and energies to leading the Jewish community as a whole to stand up to and defeat the grave and existential threats that really matter and which we Jews and Israel are confronted by daily!” Writing in a blog entry in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, Mark Paredes said he felt some of the signatories had been motivated by Beck’s right-wing politics.

“I have already condemned Beck’s irresponsible attacks on Soros’s Jewishness and actions during WWII, and agree with JFJ and the rabbis that they are reprehensible,” Paredes wrote. “However, for the life of me I cannot understand why the signatories would invoke the considerable moral authority of the rabbinate on this issue, considering the source. Moreover, the text of the ad inexplicably (and carelessly) cites statements by Jewish leaders (e.g., Abe Foxman, Deborah Lipstadt) who in fact were less than enthusiastic about the ad.”

Saying the rabbis who signed the letter were “wrong – not morally, but politically,” Atlantic writer Wendy Kaminer wrote, “I’m not criticizing the rabbis, or any Jewish advocacy groups, for criticizing Beck. I’m not denying their right to call for his punishment or even dismissal; I’m questioning the wisdom of doing so. My unsolicited advice is: Expose and challenge the anti-Semitic ravings of Beck and others, but stop short of trying to silence them.”

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