Wednesday, October 24, 2007

UPDATE: Interfaith Peace Group Removes Holocaust Denial Author from Reading List Without Comment

I recently posted about the so-called "Interfaith Peace Initiative" of Providence, Rhode Island. (read here) This organization was founded by Susanne Garrison Hoder, one of the proponents of the anti-Israel divestment campaign within the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church. (read here) Hoder campaigns against U.S. support for and corporate involvement with what she calls "Israeli Apartheid" against "non-Jews". (read here) Here's a quote:

"When the world saw what was taking place in South Africa, a global divestment and boycott campaign ended the separation of that country’s people according to race. In America, people of conscience have not been allowed to see the parallels between Israeli actions toward non-Jews and the South African experience."

The "Interfaith Peace Initiative" portrays itself as a place where people of different religions and different political views but who all advocate peace in the Middle East can come together to discuss the issues and build a coalition for peace (read here) . (In spite of the broadness of their name, the main focus of this group is the Arab/Israeli conflict -- other war torn parts of the globe must find peace without their assistance.) Their mission statement goes so far as to stress that they have included voices both Zionist and anti-Zionist, creating the impression that this is a broad-based, inclusive group (read here).

I recently discovered that this group was recommending a book by a notorious anti-Semitic polemicist and Holocaust denier named Michael A. Hoffman II. Hoffman is the sort of fellow for whom opposition to the existence Israel is not sufficient. He has devoted himself to the promotion of some of the most virulent anti-Jewish literature in current publication, as he himself would admit. In fact, on his website, (direct link here; archived version here) he actually advertises himself as a sort of pioneer of anti-Semitism saying
"Areas of interest which Hoffman has pioneered: Judaism: the anti-Biblical religion of racism, idolatry, superstition and deceit."
In addition to opposing Judaism, Hoffman's works are devoted, in large part, to denying the Holocaust, although Hoffman prefers to call himself an advocate of "historical revisionism". Not surprisingly, Hoffman is also an advocate of current events revisionism as well, having authored "The Israeli Holocaust Against the Palestinians", a book which focuses on what Hoffman sees as the fundamental cause of the Arab/Israeli conflict: Judaism itself is fundamentally evil.

Speaking of revisionism, Hoffman actually revised the history of this book's creation in that he invented a Jewish co-author, whom he called Moshe Lieberman, and for whom he invented a fictitious biography: former researcher at Hebrew University. When confronted with the fact that Hebrew University has no records of employing a Moshe Lieberman as a researcher, Hoffman invented another bio for him and went on to say that his imaginary co-author was in hiding in order to avoid detection by Jewish assassins. Right.

Imagine my surprise when I found Hoffman's book on a list of books under the heading "By Jewish Authors" on the Interfaith Peace Initiative's list of recommended books (read archived version here). As outrageous as it is to recommend the book of this notorious anti-Semite as that of a peace advocate, or as reflective of an accurate view of Israel, these outrages are compounded by portraying Hoffman as representing a Jewish position. (Which raises the question, why does this group identify Jewish authors and separate out their books when the religious or ethnic affiliations of other authors aren't specified? More on this below.)

Since I posted on this subject, someone at the Interfaith Peace Initiative has had the good sense to remove Hoffman's book from their reading list. I am very glad to see them stop legitimizing Holocaust denial. But I still have some questions for this group:

Why was Hoffman's anti-Jewish book on this reading list in the first place? Does it reflect the views of the Providence Interfaith Peace Initiative? Was this book removed from the reading list because their views have changed or for some other reason? Why was an anti-Semitic book presented as representative of a Jewish view?

Why does this reading list single out authors it identifies as Jewish and list them separately from other authors while other groups are not so identified? This list, including works by Norman Finkelstein, Ilan Pappe, Micheal Neumann and Anna Baltzer, consists exclusively of criticism of Israel, many by authors who identify themselves as anti- or post-Zionist. Is this "By Jewish Authors" reading list really intended to be representative of Jewish views?

The American right wing sometimes trot out black conservatives as representative of a significant minority viewpoint within the black community, although polling indicates that this is statistically untrue. The Republican convention tends to highlight the presence of black delegates in spite of the low representation of blacks in that party. Of course, this deliberate distortion is designed to create the image of a diverse, non-racist organization. I believe that the "By Jewish Authors" reading list of the Providence Interfaith Peace Initiative exists for precisely the same reasons: it presents a distorted impression of Jewish views on Israel, it provides cover for the extreme anti-Zionist bias of the group and, by highlighting the presence of Jewish authors, it counters charges of bigotry. 

To be blunt, this seems pretty sleazy. To restate: this group trumpets its inclusion of Zionist views, while promoting a harshly anti-Zionist bias. For propaganda, it singles out Jews for special attention while not doing so for others. It uses Jews as a cover for its bias. It deliberately tilts the debate on Arab/Israeli issues against Israel. It portrays itself as advocating peace while instead advocating for one side in the conflict, a recipe not for peace but for continued war.

But here's what I'd like to know: after having recommended a book of bigotry and Holocaust denial for several months, why have they removed this book from their website without comment? No explanation, no apology, no correction, nothing has been done to undo the damage they have done or the insult to the Jewish community.

If this group truly intends to be an interfaith peace initiative, they need to go a long way to explain their inclusion of bigoted voices and their distortion of their own mission.

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