John Legend Says Israel Needs to Be Held to a “Higher Standard”: “What They’re Doing to the Palestinian People Is Not Fair”
The Jewish Journal included our criticism of singer John Legend's anti-Israel, anti-Semitic remarks in its coverage of Legend's appearance of “The Mehdi Hasan Show" on MSNBC.
Singer John Legend called for Israel to be held to a “higher standard” in a September 20 appearance on MSNBC, arguing that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is “not fair,” The Algemeiner reported.
Mehdi Hasan, host of “The Mehdi Hasan Show,” pointed out that Legend had tweeted “Palestinian Lives Matter” in May during the Israel-Hamas conflict and asked Legend how he became an advocate for Palestinian rights. Legend responded that he learned “what justice meant” through reading the works of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and writer James Baldwin.
“When I see what’s happening in Palestine, to the Palestinian people, where they’re clearly not being able to experience [the] full rights that they deserve, it’s an extremely unfair and difficult life they’re forced to live,” Legend said. “I had to say something. It’s not fair, it’s not just, and given that Israel is the recipient of so much American aid and support and named as one of our strongest allies, we should hold them to a higher standard, and what they’re doing with the Palestinian people is not fair and it shouldn’t be done in our name and with our resources contributing to it.”
Some Jewish groups criticized Legend for his remark. Stop Antisemitism tweeted to Legend that “Egypt is the recipient of nearly the same amount of aid as Israel and controls Gaza’s southern border. Why are you speaking only of Israel and ignoring Egypt??”
They added in a follow-up tweet: “Why did @johnlegend make no mention of the 4500 terror rockets blast into Israel in 11 days from Gaza? Those rockets were also made ‘in your name’ and with your tax dollars. Again why is your grievance only with Israel?”
B’nai Brith International similarly tweeted that they were “disappointed” with Legend’s remarks.
“Legend falsely accuses #Israel of ‘unjust’ treatment of Palestinians, while failing to mention the Hamas terror threats Israelis face every day,” they wrote. “We urge Legend to apologize for his anti-Semitic remarks.”
On the other hand, Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization that supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, tweeted in support of Legend. They argued that he was “speaking out for Palestinian rights and the need for the US to finally hold Israel accountable.”
Hanan Ashrawi, former member of the Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee, similarly tweeted that Legend’s comments took “courage, empathy, & moral clarity.”
The Jewish Journal noted B'nai B'rith International's appreciation for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis calling for sanctions against Ben & Jerry's anti-Semitic boycott of Israel.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, sent a letter to the State Board of Administration (SBA) on July 22 requesting that they take action against Ben & Jerry’s and their parent company Unilever.
“It has come to my attention that Ben & Jerry’s has announced plans to remove its products and prohibit the sale of ice cream in Judea and Samaria,” DeSantis wrote, arguing that doing so puts Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever “within the prohibited activities” under Florida state law. DeSantis asked that the SBA put Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever on “the Continued Examination Companies that Boycott Israel List” and the “Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List.”
If Ben & Jerry’s continues to not sell their products in the West Bank after being put on these lists, then “the Board must refrain from acquiring any and all Unilever assets consistent with the law,” DeSantis wrote. “These actions affirm the State of Florida’s relationship with the State of Israel and our commitment to a swift response to those who discriminate against the Israeli people.”
A spokesperson from the DeSantis administration told Fox Business that if the SBA follows through on DeSantis’ request, they “would prevent the board from buying stock in Unilever … and its corporate entities. The state would also be unable to contract with these companies unless they ended their boycott.”
B’nai Brith International tweeted “kudos” to DeSantis. “The ice cream maker must be held accountable for its #antisemitic boycott of #Israel.”
Other states appear to be taking similar actions. The New York State Comptroller’s Office sent a letter to Unilever CEO Alan Jope on July 23 stating that they are “troubled and concerned” that Ben & Jerry’s “is involved in BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] activities.” Unilever has 90 days to prove that Ben & Jerry’s is not partaking in BDS activities; otherwise, the state may withdraw their pension funds from Unilever under New York’s anti-BDS law.
Pennsylvania State Representative Aaron Kaufer, a Republican, requested that state government officials enforce Pennsylvania’s anti-BDS law against Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever. He received replies stating that officials would ensure that their anti-BDS laws are being upheld.
“Unilever is feeling the heat,” journalist and author Gary Weiss tweeted. “The question is whether it believes it benefits more from standing with Jews or antisemites. Its long tradition, going back to the 1930s, is not encouraging.”
The Jewish Journal included B'nai B'rith International's tweet calling out Kamau Bobb, Google’s Global Lead for Diversity Strategy and Research, for his offensive 2007 blog post, "If I Were A Jew."
Kamau Bobb, Google’s Global Lead for Diversity Strategy and Research, is under fire for a 2007 blog post in which he said if he were Jewish, he would be concerned about Israel’s “insatiable appetite for vengeful violence.”
The post, which was first unearthed by the Washington Free Beacon, began with the following: “If I were a Jew today, my sensibilities would be tormented. I would find it increasingly difficult to reconcile the long cycles of oppression that Jewish people have endured and the insatiable appetite for vengeful violence that Israel, my homeland, has now acquired. This reconciliation would be particularly difficult now, in November, 79 years after Kristallnacht – the Night of Broken Glass.”
Bobb’s post went on to criticize Israel for invoking “collective punishment” against the Gaza Strip and for “destroying buildings and breaking the glass” in the West Bank. The post eventually concluded: “If I were a Jew I would be concerned about my insatiable appetite for war and killing in defense of myself. Self defense is undoubtedly an instinct, but I would be afraid of my increasing insensitivity to the suffering others. My greatest torment would be that I’ve misinterpreted the identity offered by my history and transposed spiritual and human compassion with self righteous impunity.”
Jewish groups condemned Bobb’s blog post. The Simon Wiesenthal Center tweeted that Google should “fire this #antisemite.” Stop Antisemitism similarly tweeted, “How is the obscene, antisemitic bigot still employed there?”
B’nai Brith International similarly tweeted that Bobb’s post was “appalling.” “How did #Google promote someone with such hateful, anti-Semitic views to lead their diversity strategy?”
StandWithUs Israel Executive Director Michael Dickson tweeted that Bobb also wrote a blog post about how if he were an Arab, “the ability of the United States and Israel to not only dictate the terms of my subjugation, but characterize my desire to be free as rooted in hatred would burn.” The post also stated that “you cannot beat a people and demand that they not fight back in order to peacefully negotiate an end to the beating.”
“All of this begs the question whether (1) @Google did due diligence when selecting @kamaubobb for the sensitive position of global Google DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) Director and (2) whether he should remain in these positions,” Dickson tweeted. “@Google – what say you?”
Meghan McCain, co-host of ABC’s “The View,” said during a June 2 segment that Google “should’ve googled him” and that she’s tired of “having the conversation over and over about why antisemitism is the last passable form of bigotry in the United States.” “If they said this about Black people, or Asian people, or LGBT people, he would be fired already. And he’s not, which says that Google’s okay with a little bit of soft antisemitism.”
Tablet Magazine senior writer Yair Rosenberg, on the other hand, argued that Bobb should have been “given a chance to account for how he’s changed/grown over the last 10 years when it comes to understanding Jewish people” and he could have “emerged as a better ally… instead, we get gotcha pieces in conservative outlets that aren’t interested in helping people empathize with each other and move beyond past problems, but rather in fashioning 10-year-old errors into the latest ammo in a culture war.”
The New York Post reported that they obtained an email from Bobb to Google’s “Jewgler” Employee Resource Group stating that he was “deeply sorry” for the post. “What I wrote crudely characterized the entire jewish community. what was intended as a critique of particular military action fed into antisemitic tropes and prejudice. i think we can all agree, there is no easy solution to this situation. but that’s beside the point. the way I expressed my views on that conflict were hurtful.”
Google did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.
JTA and the Jewish Journal noted our denunciation of a Human Rights Watch report once again demonizing Israel, the world's only Jewish state.
(JTA) — A report by Human Rights Watch says that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza has crossed the threshold into apartheid and recommends far-reaching punitive measures, including prosecutions for crimes against humanity.
The leading human rights group’s embrace of the term, seen by Israel and many Jewish groups as a way of accusing Israel of being essentially racist and illegitimate, set off a firestorm of outraged attacks from a number of major U.S. Jewish groups that charged Human Rights Watch with attempting to “delegitimize” Israel. Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations called it “a collection of lies and fabrications, bordering on antisemitic.”
Human Rights Watch is an international group that monitors countries’ adherence to international human rights law. It has often been harshly critical of Israeli policy, and in 2019 Israel deported one of the group’s employees.
But this is the first time the group has used the word “apartheid” to describe Israeli policy. The report says Israel systematically discriminates against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza as well as against its Arab citizens, some of whom identify as Palestinian. But the report says the apartheid designation applies only to Israel’s policy in the West Bank and Gaza.
“To maintain domination, Israeli authorities systematically discriminate against Palestinians,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement. “In the occupied territory, the severity of the repression, including the imposition of draconian military rule on Palestinians while affording Jewish Israelis living in a segregated manner in the same territory their full rights under Israel’s rights-respecting civil law, amounts to the systematic oppression required for apartheid.”
Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Six-Day War. In the West Bank, Israeli settlers are Israeli citizens with the right to vote and freedom of movement. West Bank Palestinians live under varying degrees of Israeli military control and Palestinian local governance, without citizenship or the right to vote in Israel.
Israel withdrew its settlers and troops from Gaza in 2005, and Israelis particularly reject the notion that Israel still controls the coastal strip. Israel does control most of Gaza’s border and airspace. And the Human Rights Watch report treats the West Bank and Gaza as a single entity despite their different realities.
Within Israel’s recognized borders, Arab Israelis are full Israeli citizens with the right to vote, equality under the law and representation in Israel’s parliament. Community leaders, however, have long complained of systemic discrimination in a range of fields.
Gilad Erdan, the Israeli ambassador to the U.N. and the United States, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in a statement that the report “is part of the organization’s ongoing campaign against Israel. He added, “When the authors of the report cynically and falsely use the term apartheid, they nullify the legal and social status of millions of Israeli citizens, including Arab citizens, who are an integral part of the State of Israel.”
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella body for U.S. Jewish groups, called the report released Tuesday “disgraceful” and said it was an attempt to “demonize, delegitimize and apply double standards to the State of Israel.”
The Presidents Conference statement stopped short of calling the report antisemitic, but the “three d’s” cited in the statement is a formula coined by Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet refusenik, to describe when criticism of Israel crosses into antisemitism.
Other major U.S. Jewish groups including the American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith International, separately slammed the report. AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby, retweeted the Presidents Conference statement and two Republicans in Congress condemned Human Rights Watch. The Anti-Defamation League also called the report “yet another attempt to delegitimize the very concept of a Jewish and democratic state,” though the group added that the report “raises legitimate issues of concern about Israeli policies.”
Human Rights Watch is not the first group to apply the apartheid label to Israel. In January, the Israeli human rights group Btselem concluded that Israel should be considered an apartheid state.
The core of Israeli and mainstream Jewish objections to using the term apartheid is that in its original South African definition, it described a system that explicitly used race to discriminate against, oppress and disenfranchise minorities.
The Presidents Conference said that the “tyranny and dehumanization” of South African apartheid had “no equivalence” with Israel’s “vibrant democracy where all citizens of rights and representation in the national legislature.”
Human Rights Watch argued in its report that the term apartheid has been used since the collapse of South African apartheid to describe inequitable societies that are not explicitly based on racist laws, as South Africa’s was.
The group said Israel met the terms of what it says is this more recent definition in three ways: by maintaining domination over the Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip through military occupation, citing statements from Israeli officials who suggest the occupation will continue in perpetuity; through Israeli laws that discriminate against Israel’s Arab minority, including one from 2018 that states Israel is the “nation state of the Jewish people”; and “inhumane acts” including restrictions on the movement and residency rights of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The report’s recommendations are far-reaching, including prosecutions of Israeli officials for crimes against humanity and restrictions on trade with Israel. It also calls for the international community to “establish through the United Nations an international commission of inquiry to investigate systematic discrimination and repression based on group identity in the [Occupied Palestinian Territories] and Israel.”
NGO Monitor, an Israeli watchdog of human rights groups, says such recommendations suggest a broader and more sinister agenda.
“This publication is not merely a critique of Israeli policy in the West Bank, but an attack on the very foundations of Israel and a rejection of the legitimacy of a Jewish state, regardless of borders,” it said in publishing its own report on the report.
At least two pro-Israel groups on the left said the correct reaction to the report should not be to focus on whether or not apartheid is an appropriate term, but to address the corrosive effects of the occupation described in the report.
“After 40 years of documenting and protesting against the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, we do know a thing or two about it,” said Americans for Peace Now, a constituent of the Presidents Conference. “And we know that the carefully documented facts in the HRW report on the occupation are largely indisputable. We also know too well what the occupation does to Palestinians and Israelis, and how desperately it needs to end.”
The president of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel group, said his organization would not use the apartheid term, but called on other Jewish groups to refrain from “defaming” those who do use it.
“While we do not ourselves use the term ‘apartheid’ to describe the current situation in the occupied territories, we believe it’s deeply wrong and harmful to defame scholars, activists and political leaders who use it themselves,” Jeremy Ben-Ami said.
Jewish Voice for Peace, an anti-Zionist group that has longed use the term, welcomed the report.
“It is long past time for the rest of the world to call this what it is,” JVP said on Twitter. “It could not be more clear. It’s apartheid.”
The first meeting, held at 1:45PM, featured National Security Advisors Susan Rice and Colin Kahl. The organization leaders who attended include.
Conference of Presidents' Malcolm Hoenlein, AIPAC's Lee Rosenberg and Robert Cohen, ADL's Abe Foxman, OU's Allen Fagin, JCPA's Steve Gutow, Wiesenthal's Marvin Hier, URJ's Rick Jacobs, AJC's Jason Issacson, WJC's Ronald Lauder, Israel Policy Forum's Peter Joseph, NCJW's Nancy K. Kaufman, B'nai B'rith's Dan Mariaschin, NJDC's Greg Rosenbaum, Rabbinical Assembly's Julie Schonfeld, Federations' Jerry Silverman, past CoP Chair Alan Solow, J Street Vice-Chair Alexandra Stanton, and CoP's Chairman Robert Sugarman.
According to a source, the two hour long meeting, featured Potus speaking for around an hour with some time for questions and answers with the President and Rice.
The second meeting, tailored more for the President's longtime supporters in the Jewish community, was held at 4:45PM and lasted around an hour and forty minutes.
The meeting featured President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Susan Rice, Valerie Jarrett, and Robert Malley. According to two sources with knowledge of the meetings, the President began by detailing the day's previous meeting, with no notes, for around twenty minutes and then went around the room allowing each attendee to ask multiple questions on issues including Iran, Israelis and Palestinians, and the U.S. - Israel relationship.
One source told Jewish Insider that they had never seen the President as "passionate, emotional and connected to the issues" as he was [today] but added that the President was also candid and honest about expressing frustration with the way some of his views have been portrayed and attacked by others.
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