Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Repair Richard Silverstein's World

Richard Silverstein's blog still has the outward appearance of a progressive, pro-peace blog, just as it did when he started it in 2004.  He called it Tikun Olam, Hebrew for "repair the world".  Over the years, he decorated it with images that evoke peace between Arabs and Israelis, music, children.  Back in the early days, he even did a little writing about World Music and his native Hudson Valley.  But since then, something has happened. His idealism soured into something harsh and cynical.  The columns on music and the Hudson Valley were replaced by a steady stream of attacks on real or imagined enemies, pseudo-investigative journalism which frequently makes a jumble of facts, and gratuitous attacks on Israel and those whom he sees as supporting Israel.  The pro-peace images remain on his website, but the feeling behind the writing has profoundly changed.

This was made abundantly clear recently when Silverstein published a vicious attack on Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., one filled with venom and tinged with racist imagery.  Silverstein was angered by (among other things) Jackson's proposal that the Palestinians renounce violence and follow the teachings of King and Gandhi.  Silverstein, rather than jumping on that bandwagon as he might have at one time, accused Jackson of being a whore, a beggar and an ignorant lackey of "rich pro-Israel Jews".  To his shame, he also mocked Jackson by adopting a blackface dialect, dropping the g's on several words in the piece in apparent imitation of an African-American accent.

That bugged me, and I said so in a post that appeared on my blog and at Harry's Place.  Silverstein has now responded to my post supporting Rep. Jackson by publishing a blog post which calls me, in Silverstein's very offensive words, "the Negro's greatest friend".  He goes on to bizarrely call me "a British Christian" ("keep in mind this guy is British and not Jewish" he writes), and falsely charge that I never write about race or civil rights except as a means of promoting Israeli interests.   All that came as news to me.  I'm Jewish, American, liberal, and a frequent commenter on racial issues in the U.S.  My parents and grandparents were active in the civil rights movement and I consider myself to be proudly in that tradition.  Silverstein, knowing virtually nothing about me other than the fact that I had criticized both his racist attack on Jesse Jackson Jr. and his misguided support of violence as a political tool, went so far as to invent an identity for me out of whole cloth, then attacked it.

(Since the time that his "Negro" post went online, Silverstein has learned from a comment that I'm an American Jew and has posted a half-baked explanation of his repeatedly calling me British and Christian. He claims that it was based on my frequent writing about a British cleric named Stephen Sizer. My blog has mentioned this man precisely twice in the course of the more than five years I've been blogging: I wrote one paragraph on him in 2007 and I cross-posted another blogger's piece on him in 2010. According to Silverstein's explanation, these two references to Sizer somehow led to his belief that I'm a British Christian. As to why this is important to him, I just can't say.)

I guess that I shouldn't be surprised by any of this. Silverstein has a reputation of being both thin-skinned and irrational when angry. I even saw evidence of this myself a while back. After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, he bizarrely condemned Israel for sending portable hospital facilities to assist the victims, an act of charity that many people regarded as heroic. Silverstein called it "the Zionization of disaster relief" in a blog post that was subsequently reposted on neo-Nazi and other racist websites.  When I pointed out that Silverstein's attack was unfair, he wrote a response in which he invented another false identity for me.  Without any basis whatsoever, he called me a right wing "Muslim-hater" and "McCarthyite", linked me, again without basis,  to a list of people he put in that category, and went on to condemn the liberal blog Daily Kos for publishing me.  His attack verged on paranoia when he wrote of those who expressed disagreement with his views on Haiti relief:

The attack is . . . coordinated along with internet activists recruited by the Foreign Ministry. Dershowitz and buddies of his like Weissman and Holland also play a useful role. I call it the vast right-wing hasbara conspiracy-crusade.

After inexplicably calling me a McCarthyite, he accused me of being part of a vast international conspiracy.

Looking back at both of these tantrums, it strikes me that this new one is actually worse than the previous one, and may reflect a further stage of Silverstein's decline. While the level of vituperation and deception in the personal attack is about the same, the broader implications of Silverstein's words are actually much more destructive.  Having been criticized for using racist language, Silverstein in response uses even more offensive racist language.  Having been criticized for opposing non-violence and negotiations, his response calls advocates of non-violence and peace negotiations agents of oppression.

What has become painfully obvious from his recent writing is Silverstein's difficult relationship with advocates of peace. Silverstein starts from the assumption that his opposition to Israel is intrinsically pro-peace and progressive. He then argues that people like Jesse Jackson, Jr. only support non-violence to help Israel, which Silverstein regards as being intrinsically reactionary and warlike. Through these mental gymnastics, Silverstein would have us believe that his support of political violence is more pro-peace than Jesse Jackson's support of non-violence.

It makes me sad to think that Richard Silverstein used to support peace in the Middle East and oppose the use of racially offensive stereotypes.  I wonder what went wrong with him.

From Richard Silverstein's blog: "Adam Holland: Negro's Greatest Friend"


Michael B. said...

Hi Adam: Nobody has done a better job of encapsulating the confused, fact clouded antics of Richard Silverstein than you have in this posting.

I am always surprised when supposedly reputable media turn to Silverstein for his angry, agenda driven, fantasyland take on Middle East events.

Well done!

Adam Holland said...

Thank you, Michael.

Anonymous said...

no one turns to dickie for anything

he has been blacklisted by almost every online blog and never gets interviewed for american tv or radio

channel 10 in israel talks to him...basically to make fun of him

here is a guy who thinks the hatfield and mccoy feud is found in the pages of huck finn

he is a racist, a jew hater and a buffoon

Brian Goldfarb said...

bacci40 suggests that Silverstein is "...a racist, a jew hater and a buffoon". He may be disturbed and a buffoon, but the other two designations don't fit. Had Jesse jackson Jr told a different story, so would Silverstein, and probably without condescension. What appears to have happened is that he has started to believe in his own intellectual infallibility, always a dangerous development.

Thus, I suspect that he wouldn't attack Adam if Adam agreed with him. Rather, we should regret the loss of Silverstein's critical intelligence, which means he can no longer argue with (in the intellectual sense) those who disagree with him, let alone apologise for errors, however egregious these might be.

The semi-biblical phrase is appropriate here: "Oh, how are the mighty fallen".

Adam Holland said...

I tend to agree with Brian on this. Silverstein isn't a racist so much as he is a cynic willing to use racist imagery to score points.

Bella Center said...

Silverstein is very cozy with the Sabeel Center of Puget Sound, WA. When I asked him in a comment how he felt about Replacement Theology which is at the heart of Sabeel's teaching, he replied: "Frankly, I don’t trust anyone who, as an outsider would make claims about what is the core of SABEEL’s teachings. It sounds like you have an axe to grind. I don’t. And I don’t trust yr judgment about what SABEEL is or what SABEEL believes. But nice try." He isn't very comfortable with views that challenge his.

Adam Holland said...

Silverstein told you that he would only accept comments about Sabeel's beliefs from members of Sabeel? He believes that everyone else is "biased"? What a backwards view of the world that is.

What you say of Sabeel is undeniably true. That he wouldn't let you say it speaks to his lack of respect for his readers.

modernity said...


Richard Silverstein doesn't come over as very bright or intellectually flexible.

Had Silverstein spent 3 seconds he could have checked your profile and gathered that you were an American.

Had Silverstein spent another 15-25 seconds reading some of your posts he would have learnt that you are not a Christian.

If he can't do elementary research on you then how does he grasp (or not) the complexities in the Middle East, it is anyone guess.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the bastion of Jewish values Mondoweiss is jumping to Silverstein's defense. I'm not surprised, mind; this is the same Weiss that asked an anti-semite to write an article for him, after all.

annie said...

Silverstein told you that he would only accept comments about Sabeel's beliefs from members of Sabeel?

what he actually said was I don’t trust anyone who, as an outsider would make claims about what is the core of SABEEL’s teachings.

the question was a set up. Bella Center asked a question based on a presumption without offering sans any credence to support the allegation Replacement Theology is at the heart of Sabeel's teaching.

silverstein gave the right answer. the only people qualified to be speaking wrt the 'heart' of sabeel, is sabeel or an 'insider' of sabeel.

annie said...

What you say of Sabeel is undeniably true. That he wouldn't let you say it speaks to his lack of respect for his readers.

huh? unlike this comment section silverstein's doesn't require the 'blog owner' to approve comments. Bella Center asked her question, no one prevented her from speaking her mind. we all know Bella Center thinks she understands the heart of sabeel and we know what she thinks is there.

Shai said...

I have been reading Tikun Olam for about two years now and have seen Richard deteriorate over time. He has good intentions but he lets his ego get the better of him. He constantly feels threatened by everyone who criticizes him -- even people who simply question his arguments and the conclusions he has reached.

He has adapted to a new mechanism of self defense where he is very swift with bans and deletion of comments which are usually followed by ad hominem attacks. He is also a master of guilt by association.

This makes me especially sad because I think he is occasionally a very good (and reliable) source of information. I think he urgently needs some time off to relax in the Caribbeans.

Anonymous said...

I totally get Silverstein, he's out of patience like most of us are.
For how long now has the blah,blah,blah about peace gone?
Listen, there is hardly an adult looking at the whole I/P and USA-Isr thing that doesn't see it for the talky-talky stall game it is and has been for 40 years.
It's high time some tempers are flare over this---and are expressed---and where it can do some good.
Give the US congress hell, that's where I/P is enabled and supported.

Anonymous said...

So Silverstein accused someone of making unsubstantiated claims about a person/organization? He should take a page from his own book and look over his accusations against others, starting with Holland. The man is rude and belligerent to others on his blog and has made such comments on others; if he wants to repair the world, he should repair his etiquette first. As for Hollands comment policy, although it might require his approval, he's almost never censored/removed anyone's comments; when he has, it's been done to remove hate-speech and racism. He let your post through, and he'll probably allow this one through as well.

And no, I don't excuse any of the idiocy that Silverstein finds on his blog. I read and posted on it recently; I know the crap that some commentators post on it. I think that Holland made some mistakes on his post about Silverstein, as he did with the post above; he's not perfect, and makes mistakes. However, when he does, he typically admits to them, which is a rare and valued commodity in the world.

PS Are you the same Annie who posts on Mondoweiss? If so, would you mind me asking you a comment or two?

dcdoc said...

Shai is right about how Silverstein responds to those who would contradict or criticize him; Annie is dead wrong in that regard, as can be easily seen by simply reading some threads.

The very self-deluded Silverstein, who describes himself as a "progressive Zionist" but never has a good word for Israel while he won't say anything about Israel's enemies unless he can say something positive on their behalf, does "moderate" comments, and he regularly threatens to ban people who would disagree with him no matter how temperate they are in doing so. He lets antisemites, like Joachim Martillo, post to his blog.

One has to be a Sabeel insider to know what the Reverend Ateek stands for? What a strange claim. Does one have to themselves be a member of a neo-Nazi organization to know what neo-Nazis are about?

dcdoc said...

As I noted a couple of days ago in response to Adam's previous OP about Silverstein and the Jesse Jackson, Jr. matter, those dropped "g"'s cannot be assigned the meaning that Adam gave them, or at least that meaning is not consistent with the way Silverstein first used the dropped "g"'s in a post about the Congressional junket Jackson went on. Silverstein used the "schnorrin' and whorin'" business before he knew Jackson was along on the trip, and he directed it at the junketeers as a group, not to any individuals. So, Adam should acknowledge the mistake, if only not to distract from the rest of it, on which he was very much right, that is as far as he went with that Silverstein post and the truly and consistently loathsome Silverstein himself.

Someone asked Silverstein why it was so terrible for AIPAC to put together a trip like the one Silverstein was decrying, when Silverstein had seen no reason to say anything about a similar trip for Congressman J Street had put together. Silverstein's response was telling...he ignored the question.

Anyone who would like a quick overview of Silverstein should have a look at an exchange between him and Robert Wilkes in the JTNews, Seattle's Jewish newspaper, earlier this year. Here's an excerpt:

Jews of the extreme left are well-meaning but delusional, and ultimately dangerous to the Jewish people. To understand my use of “delusional,” read my column. I stand behind it. The link to my column is at under the “opinion” category.

Since he can’t take on my thesis, he takes me on ad hominem, and puts me in some extraordinarily distinguished company. Others he has similarly attacked include Alan Dershowitz (“intellectual slimeball”), Natan Sharansky (writes “gobbledy-gook”), Elie Wiesel (“master propagandist”), Judea Pearl (“neocon”), Ambassadors Michael Oren (“sheer mendacity,” speaks “pure fiction”) and Dore Gold (“intellectual thug,” writes “pablum”), and Israeli prime minister’s spokesperson Mark Regev (“outright liar”), to name a few. Dershowitz and Sharansky are “Israeli and American Jewish toadies.” He has ferociously attacked the leadership of the pro-Israel advocacy group StandWithUs as “thugs.” I am thrilled to be included in this list. My Jewish mother, who never let me forget that she wanted me to be a doctor, would finally be proud.

Silverstein is in the business of vituperative attack. His blog gushes invective at an amazing rate...

Bella Center said...

"silverstein gave the right answer. the only people qualified to be speaking wrt the 'heart' of sabeel, is sabeel or an 'insider' of sabeel."

Dear Annie, If what you say is true, then no one could know what is at the heart of, say, the Nazi Party, without being an insider of the Nazi Party. But we can all read and learn from our chosen texts, just as you do from yours.

Dan O. said...

I agree with Shai. Silverstein's bizarre rants obscures what he can do, which we are reminded of immediately after this episode. Namely, (i) highlighting that the Israeli response was extremely hasty, when it is not at all clear who was responsible for the attack, and (ii) highlighting the Israeli political effect of that hasty response (although he got this a bit wrong, we seem to have Kadima moving rightward).

What's particularly interesting is that an al qeada affiliate may be responsible for the attack. And I agree with Silverstein that if the Israelis were wrong about the attack originating from within Gaza, there's little reason to believe the newer claim that although the attack didn't originate in Gaza, it was scouted from within Gaza.

Anonymous said...

How can someone take seriously a person whos official education sums up to a phd in Literature (!!!) from the mid 1960's, and yet claims to be an expert on every possible aspect of humans life, who allows himself to welcome any new user with an automatic threat to ban him, because he doesnt like him, who constantly makes funn of people because they "dont know Arabic" or "Economy", and yet write about this subject,as if he knows any better?

Even his best friend, or "pet" - as someone there called her - is leaving is blog, so what else can be said ?

P.S the man has actually compared himself (more than once) to biblical times prophets. if that doesnt show u hes a lunatic - i dont know what does.

Zionist Jew said...

Although I am not a psychologist, I think the most charitable thing that can be said about Silverstein is that he is mentally unstable. He can not get along with anyone, even people who are politically allied to him, because any difference of opinion is automatically blown up by him into a major crisis. That is why, as was pointed out, even Israel bashers such as the Guardian and Michael Lerner fell out with him. He was interviewed by Yediot Aharonot and that newpaper (which calls itsself "the Nation's (Israel's) newpaper" whitewashed him and allowed him to present himself falsely as a "liberal Zionist". The fact is that no one who knows anything about Israel takes him seriously EXCEPT for the fact that people with access to classified information use him as a channel to leak the information to the media. Why they would use someone as unstable as him is a mystery to me. All I can say is that we wish him a full recovery of his senses.

Anonymous said...

Few things:
1. To Shai, Richard doesn't have information, in fact Richard never checks what he write's, Richard is just a tool for those in Israel who wish to violate Gag order's.
2. As someone who was banned about 20 different times from Richard's site - for arguing with him, and for telling it the way i see it - Richard doesn't speak fluent Hebrew or has any knowledge of Jewish or Israeli history.
3. Richard thinks he's god gift to the world.
When you combine the 3 above, you get a rude person, who thinks he knows everything, who post items without checking them, and uses every opportunity he has to drag Israel and Israeli's through the mad. His reasoning is juvenile at best.

4. let me quote Larry Drefner who co authored a blog with Richard (for a very short time)"My problem with Richard’s replies was that in most cases, he was hostile to people who were not hostile to him, and who were not right-wing racists or provocateurs. (I’m new to the blogosphere; I don’t know what ”trolls” are.) He was hostile to basically everyone whose politics were to the right of his. I disagreed strongly with some of Richard’s opinions, of course – that was why I approached him in the first place - but I had no “problem” with their substance; I did with the way they were often expressed."

I think that sums it all up.

Anonymous said...

Another proof that sometimes (and maybe MOST of the times) the opinions about the israli-palestinian conflict are deriven not from "peace loving", but from hate to Israel and Zionism (Looks to me just like the same old antisemety).
I live in israel, and the de-legitimation of us, the isareli people, reaaly makes me afraid from the future of this place.
Shabat Shalom.

dcdoc said...

Anonymous wrote, "How can someone take seriously a person whos official education sums up to a phd in Literature (!!!) from the mid 1960's, and yet claims to be an expert on every possible aspect of humans life..."

I'm pretty sure Silverstein never earned a PhD in literature or anything else. But he does pontificate about which he thinks he knows much and in fact knows little.

Anonymous said...

And its funny to see how he writes in every other post about freedom of speech, like here for example:

"banning someone merely for their ideas is reprehensible"

Isnt this exactly what hes been doing for years? Hell, i saw him banning people because he didnt like their nicks, or because they've "annoyed" him. I wonder if his followers on the blog dont realise he is insane, or they just dont care, because its nice having a jew so anti-israeli like he is

Anonymous said...

J-Street apparently withdrew their claim... just in time for Silverstein to make an ass of himself. Again. I quote the idiotic paragraph in full (apologies for the block of text):

'Though some of you, had you written this column might’ve written it differently, especially considering your audience, the plain fact of the matter is that no matter how controversial this statement might be for an Israeli Jew, it’s an unpopular view that should be heard in a democracy. A view that should be published by a free press (if there is one). What Larry was doing was provoking debate and thought, even uncomfortable debate and thought. The plain fact of the matter is that as long as Israel refuses to settle the conflict there will be violence against it by Palestinians. That nothing short of a settlement will stop that violence. And that, by God, if you don’t realize that Israelis are gonna be killed because of that then you have your head buried in the sand. And that the only way to stop Israelis being killed is to make a deal. What’s so controversial about that? Of course, it will be for the rightists. But for the pragmatists among us, what’s the big deal?'

I think Silverstein is having a few comprehension problems, and I have many, many, many problems with it. However, as this isn't my blog, I'll keep this short. Freedom of expression is valid, and shouldn't be restricted. However, the JPost is just as free to not allow someone who believes indiscriminate murder is a right, and is under no obligation to provide 'provoking debate and thought'.

Silverstein: Even when I agree with him, he's still an arrogant, incorrect ass.

Anonymous said...

Great article which shows a unhinged person who ignores facts and bullies anyone who he percieves as his enemy.

( i know he had 2 defamation lawsuits against him but i'm not sure of what happened to them).

One has to ask if enjoys be a provacative target or if his mental capacities have simply deteriorated.

Its obvious he is simply a self-absorbed paranoid.

I have been called "zionist scum" by him when I was outraged when he called the murder of those 6 israeli yeshiva students by a terrorist "unfortunate".

WE have a long history of documenting the hatred and lies of (MR.?) Silverstein.



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