ZOA Criticizes Brandeis U. For Honoring Anti-Zionist Playwright Tony Kushner
New York – The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), who includes Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis among its former presidents, criticized Brandeis University for planning to give anti-Zionist playwright Tony Kushner, an honorary doctorate at its commencement on Sunday, May 21, 2006 in the Gosman Sports Center there.
Tony Kushner, whose recent screenplay “Munich” was widely condemned by numerous critics as being grossly inaccurate in ways that were hostile to Israel and inappropriately sympathetic to Palestinian terrorists. The critics include the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens; Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz; Columbia Professor and author Samuel Friedman (Jerusalem Post); the New Republic’s Leon Wieseltier; movie critic and social analyst Michael Medved; former U.S. Holocaust Museum Director Dr. Walter Reich (Washington Post); the New York Times’ Edward Rothstein; Commentary’s Gabe Schoenfeld; Charles Krauthaumer; Variety Magazine and MTV’s Kurt Yoder. The anti-media bias organization CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America), for example, stated that in Munich, “Kushner repeatedly blamed Israel for supposed ‘ethnic cleaning’ and ‘dispossession’ of Palestinian’s casting the alleged action of denying Palestinians a homeland as the root fo the Arab-Israeli conflict, while disregarding the reality of the Arab world’s rejection of a non-Arab, non-Muslim Jewish homeland in its midst and Israel’s repeated peace overtures.” Only this week on the Charlie Rose Show, Ephrain Halevy, former Director of Mossad, the Israeli secret service, said that Tony Kushner’s screenplay of the movie Munich “had no relation to the truth or the facts.”
Kushner has also made numerous egregious statements viciously condemning Israel and decrying its very existence. He called Israel’s founding a “mistake,” saying “it would have been better if Israel never happened.” He also condemned Israel for “ethnic cleansing” and “behaving abominably and denounced, “the shame of American Jews for failing to denounce Israel.”
Kushner also “deplored the brutal and illegal tactics of the IDF” and “the deliberate destruction of Palestinian culture and a systematic attempt to destroy the identity of the Palestinian people.” He is also on the board of an organization that opposes the security fence, a unified Jerusalem, or military aid to Israel, recommends Norman Finkelstein’s notorious anti-Israel, anti-Jewish books, and supports boycotting and divesting from Israel.
It is especially painful to think of the anguish this award to the anti-Zionist Kushner would mean to the ardent pro-Israel Zionist Justice Louis Brandeis. He would be horrified having his name associated with such an Israel-hater. We believe that a man who President Franklin Delano Roosevelt regarded as a model of morality, affectionately nicknaming Brandeis “Isaiah” would consider this award the height of immorality in sullying the good Zionist name of Brandeis.
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin wrote in his acclaimed book, “Jewish Literacy,” (Morrow Books, 1991, pg. 412-413):
“Shortly before his appointment to the Supreme Court, Brandeis was converted into a passionate and highly involved Zionist. He served as president of the American Zionist Federation, and actively raised funds to further Jewish settlements and cultural life in Palestine. Subsequent to his appointment to the Supreme Court, he resigned from all extra-judicial affiliations except for his Zionist activities. In 1920 he even considered resigning from the Supreme Court to become head of the World Zionist Organization.
“Brandeis aggressively criticized Jews who expressed fear that support for Zionism would call their loyalty to America into question. “Multiple loyalties,” he cogently explained, do not necessarily imply “mutually exclusive loyalties. A man can be loyal to his family, his city, his state and his country, and need have no fear that these loyalties will conflict.” Today, some three quarters of a century later, American Jews still cite Brandeis’s formulation to counter accusations that those who work on behalf of Israel are guilty of having dual loyalties.
“He was an ardent supporter of Zionism, and upon his death, the largest bequest in his will was to the Zionist movement. He was particularly disheartened – as were many Jews and non-Jews – by the attraction of many secular Jews in the 1930s to communism.”
The following is a selected list of Tony Kushner quotes:
“[Israel was] founded in a program that, if you really want to be blunt about it, was ethnic cleansing, and that today is behaving abominably towards the Palestinian people.”
— Yale Israel Review (winter 2005)
“I’ve never been a Zionist. I have a problem with the idea of a Jewish state. It would have been better if it never happened.”
— The New York Sun reporting Kushner comments made at a conference in NY (10/14/02)
Kushner: Establishing a state means F****** people over. However, I think that people in the late 20th century or early 21st century – having seen the Holocaust, having seen the 20th century and all of its horrors — cannot be complacent in the face of that. Ha’aretz reporter: But you are saying that the very creation of Israel as a Jewish state was not a good idea.
Kushner: I think it was a mistake.
— Ha’aretz (4/7/04)
“Zionism aimed as the establishment of a national identity is predicated on a reading of Jewish history and an interpretation of the meaning of Jewish history I don’t share. Insofar as Zionism is an idea that the solution to the suffering of the Jewish people was the establishment of a Jewish nation, I think it is not the right answer.
— Ha’aretz (4/7/04)
“I am not a Zionist in case you haven’t noticed.” Kushner cited “the shame of American Jews” for failing to denounce Israel.”
— Chicago Tribune (4/10/02)
“The existence of the state of Israel, because of the terrible way that the Palestinian people have been treated, is now in great peril and the world is in peril as a consequence of it.”
— In These Times interview (3/4/02)
“Israel is a foreign country. I am no more represented by Israel than I am by Italy.”
— Ha’aretz (4/7/04)
“The Israeli-built security wall should come down, the homeland for the Palestinians should be built up, with a strictly enforced peace, not enforced by the Israel Defense Forces, but by the United Nations.”
— Baltimore Jewish Times (6/4/04)
“I deplore the brutal and illegal tactics of the Israeli Defence Forces in the occupied territories. I deplore the occupation, the forced evacuations, the settlements, the refugee camps, the whole shameful history of the dreadful suffering of the Palestinian people; Jews, of all people, with our history of suffering, should refuse to treat our fellow human beings like that.”
— London Times (5/7/02)
“[Israel is involved in] a deliberate destruction of Palestinian culture and a systematic attempt to destroy the identity of the Palestinian people.”
— New York Sun (10/4/02)
“To avoid facing up to such atrocity, to sustain the refusal of any Israeli share in culpability, Zionism has produced a long, shameful, and debilitating history of denial…”
— Wrestling with Zion – Introduction p.5
In a report that CAMERA released on January 4, 2006 about Tony Kushner they wrote,
Kushner sits on the Board of Advisors of the “Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP),” which advocates divestment and boycott campaigns against Israel. His name appears on JVP letterhead, including on a letter “salut[ing]” the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) for its move toward divesting from companies that do business with Israel. The letter posted on the JVP Web site not only applauds selective divestment focused on particular companies as proposed by the Presbyterians but says “we absolutely reject the accusation that general divestment or boycott campaigns are inherently anti-Semitic.”
JVP also posted a related statement saying:
Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), the largest grassroots Jewish peace group of its kind in the United States, applauds the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) for its recent vote to explore divesting from companies who profit from the harming of “innocent people, Palestinian or Israeli.”
JVP’s Web site contains additional examples of its anti-Israel activity as well as press releases denouncing Israel in distorted and unbalanced language. JVP opposes Israel’s construction of a security barrier in the West Bank, opposes military aid to Israel, opposes a unified Jerusalem, recommends the notorious Norman Finkelstein’s books and much more.
In a press release published on the occasion of Yasir Arafat’s death, JVP condemned Israel for not fulfilling his burial wishes, mentioning only briefly that the Palestinian leader was associated with violence. Although Arafat is the father of modern terrorism, with a grisly record that includes the killing of innocent men, women and children in Israel and beyond, his seminal role in this global scourge was omitted.
It should be noted that often news stories referring to JVP’s involvement in anti-Israel activity makes special mention of Tony Kushner as a member of the Board of Advisors.
Tony Kushner is involved with a radical group called, “Not In Our Name (NION) that opposes U.S. policy ‘in Palestine.’ Kushner has been a signer of neon-ads and a member of the ‘Statement Advisory Board.’ According to a Chicago Sun Times report (10/20/02):
The NION group was started and is being run by founders of a New York-based radical group called Refuse & Resist, who are closely tied to the Maoist-inspired Revolutionary Communist Party.
NION’s various chapters sponsor demonstrations with extreme anti-Israel themes, such as “Tear Down the Israeli Apartheid Wall” was the slogan on a banner bearing the NION label and logo.
At the same demonstration, “Free Palestine” marchers carried PLO flags and a banner saying “We shall return.”
An October 7, 2002 story in The New York Sun was headlined “Park Peace Protest Is Riddled with Anti-Semitism.” It reported on many anti-Israel and anti-Jewish statements at an anti-war demonstration in Central Park sponsored by Not in our Name.
ZOA National President Morton Klein, Chairman of the Board Dr. Michael Goldblatt and Chair of the Executive Committee Dr. Alan Mazurek has written to Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz and Brandeis Board members saying,
“We are deeply grieved by Brandeis’ decision to honor Tony Kushner, an anti-Zionist who called Israel’s establishment a ‘mistake’ openly stating, ‘I am not a Zionist,’ while condemning ‘the shame of American Jews for failing to denounce Israel.’
“Should a university named after one of America’s greatest Zionists give an honorary doctorate to such a man as Tony Kushner who said that ‘the world is in peril as a consequence of the terrible way that (Israel) has treated the Palestinian people.’
“Should a Jewish oriented university who professes a love of Israel give honor to Tony Kushner who said, ‘The Israeli built security fence should come down,’ and who ‘deplores the brutal and illegal tactics of the IDF’ and who condemned Israel for ‘the deliberate destruction of the Palestinian culture and a systematic attempt to destroy the identity of the Palestinians.’
“Would Justice Louis Brandeis be anything but revolted by your honoring Tony Kushner who sits on the Board of the ‘Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP),’ which advocates divestment and boycott campaigns against Israel and condemns Israel for not fulfilling the brutal wishes of the arch-terrorist and killer of Jews Yasser Arafat.
“We are certain that Justice Louis Brandeis would be turning over in his grave if he know this honor was being given to Tony Kushner in the Zionist Justice’s name.
“Tony Kushner is in the same league as MIT Professor Noam Chomsky when it comes to hatred of Israel and Israel-bashing.
“ZOA was surprised by some at Brandeis saying that ‘this award is being given not because of Kushner’s political views, but because of his artistic accomplishments’: Would they support giving a Brandeis honor to David Duke, if Duke was a great playwright? Would they support giving Noam Chomsky a Brandeis honor for his academic work in linguistics, ignoring Chomsky’s virulent attacks on Israel? Would they support giving Wagner, the great German composer who hated Jews, a Brandeis doctorate?
“Given Tony Kushner’s documented record of hateful statements toward Israel and Zionism, we respectfully urge you to reconsider giving Kushner this prestigious honor. Brandeis enjoys the respect of the Jewish and non-Jewish community. We believe following through on this award can only harm its reputation and gives solace, comfort and support to other bashers of the Jewish State of Israel and to those who hate its very existence.
“Please, Mr. President Reinharz and members of Brandeis’s National Board, search your souls, and do what’s right and what’s moral and what Justice Louis Brandeis would have called on you to do. Rescind this honor to the hater Tony Kushner and stop any further harm to Brandeis’s reputation.”
The Zionist Organization of America, founded in 1897, is the oldest pro-Israel organization in the United States. The ZOA works to strengthen U.S.-Israel relations, educates the American public and Congress about the dangers that Israel faces, and combats anti-Israel bias in the media and on college campuses. Its past presidents have included Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis and Rabbi Dr. Abba Hillel Silver.