The American Sephardi Federation's Bizarre Defense of an Anti-Israel Activist

The Center for Jewish History made a serious mistake by appointing David N. Myers, one of the more notorious anti-Israel figures at UCLA, as its head. I discussed the issue in a recent article.

David N. Myers vocally advocated for If Not Now: an anti-Israel hate group linked to JVP and J Street which harasses Jewish charities in a stealth BDS campaign. He’s on the advisory council of J Street, he has been listed on the Academic Council of Open Hillel and has been linked to Peace Now.

While officially claiming to oppose BDS, Myers wrote several years ago, “If President Obama does not apply the requisite pressure by the end of this year, then a boycott of Israel’s settlements and commercial activity in the West Bank may have to be the necessary next step.”

He also claimed that, “Many advocates of BDS are decent people seeking a long overdue measure of justice for the Palestinians.”

David N. Myers also sits on the board of the New Israel Fund which funds BDS promoting hate groups.

And yet David N. Myers has been nothing if not consistent. After the Hezbollah attack on Israel in ’06, he blamed Israel. Myers claimed that “Israelis and many Jews around the world” had reacted with “tribal rage”. The anti-Israel activist insisted that, “Israel's military response in Gaza has been disproportionately harsh”. He conceded that, “Israel is not solely to blame for the escalating violence”, but that that it has to be the most “responsible party.”

Now there's been an official response from Jason Guberman-Pfeffer of the American Sephardi Federation, one of the components of the Center.

First, an official statement from ASF claims, "The American Sephardi Federation endeavors to exemplify the Sephardi tradition of tolerance." Jason is Ashkenazi. And in an email exchange he dismisses objections by a Sephardi Jewish activist.

Dear Jason,

I am responding directly to you.  I am of Iraqi descent and I appreciate the fine work the ASF has done in preserving our history.  However, your defense of David Meyers seems totally out of context for a Jewish organization.  Of course everyone is entitled to their opinion and the right to freely express that opinion or viewpoint.  However, Mr. David Meyers has publicly expressed support for a boycott of Jews.  He has that legal right, however it is beyond acceptability, in my opinion for him to head a Jewish communal organization. Keep in mind, no one challenges the right of Mr. Meyers to express his anti-Israel positions, I do challenge the CJH and the ASF in placing this Israel-Hater as your leader. The support of these anti-Israel viewpoints renders this individual unacceptable to head a broad based Jewish communal organization, especially one that relies on community financial support.  This is no small issue.  I received a call today from a large early financial supporter of yours that is bewildered and hurt at the choice of leadership.  I am sure that you will find this more widespread than you currently realize.

Jason predictably dismisses them. But that's a lot closer to the Sephardi viewpoint.

The first few paragraphs accuse Myers' critics of adopting BDS tactics, even whiile the ASF is defending a supporter of BDS.

After paragraphs of attacks on his critics, the ASF statement mentions, "Several ASF and Center Board Members profoundly disagree with David Myers’ personal political beliefs, particularly on Zionism and Israel, but everyone recognizes his right to freedom of thought."

Freedom of thought is not at issue. Everyone has freedom of thought. Not everyone is allowed to head the Center for Jewish History. A Holocaust denier wouldn't welcome. 

The statement also claims that Myers will eschew politics while at the Center. But his "scholarly work" is closely tied to anti-Zionism. And in an interview, his Center work appears to be drawn there.

After his selection, Myers announced that he wants to provide perspective on the role of Israel in Jewish history.  “We’re the guardians of a two thousand year history, and the history of the State of Israel is obviously a much briefer history,” he noted dismissively. "I would not want to reduce the entirety of Jewish history to the seventy-year period of Israel’s existence."

Jewish history stretches much further back than two thousand years. And Israel, in its various incarnations has existed for many times more than seventy years.

David N. Myers isn’t that ignorant. He knows exactly what he’s saying.

Beginning Jewish history two thousand years ago severs the existence of the preceding kingdoms of Israel from Jewish history. Moshe, Joshua, King David, King Solomon, Ezra and the Maccabees never existed. Jewish history begins with exile and if Myers has his way, it will end there.

The Center and its components need to come up with a more serious response.