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This is an email exchange with Rabbi Michael Lerner, concerning his accusation that those who support the Palestinian right of return may be on a "paid mission as an agent of Sharon."

Rabbi Lerner is the editor of Tikkun Magazine. Any emphasis shown is mine.



The exchange begins with a reply by Rabbi Lerner to a posting by Jeff Blankfort,
a well-known activist for Palestinian rights.


From: Rabbi Michael Lerner
To: Jeff Blankfort
Subject: Re: Sharon and his neocon heavies have won
Date: Thursday, April 15, 2004

They won in part because idiots and anti-Semites like yourself helped disempower the pro-Israel left that has been advocating for the Geneva Accord as a real alternative to Sharon -- an alternative that had the possibility of developing a serious constituency both within this country and in Israel for the proposition that Israel and the US would be best served by ending the Occupation and allowing a politically and economically viable Palestinian state to emerge. But our progressive "middle path" that is both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine was torpedoed by people like you who managed to undermine any possible unity the liberal and progressive world might have shown against Bush/Sharon and instead fulfilled what for all I know might have been your paid mission as an agent of Sharon: to create fights and disunity in the camp of those who are seeking to end the Occupation.



From: Marc Norton
To: Rabbi Michael Lerner

Date: Saturday, April 17, 2004

I understand that you recently accused Jeff Blankfort of possibly being on a "paid mission as an agent of Sharon..."

Regardless of any political differences you have with Blankfort, it is highly improper for you to accuse him of being a state agent, unless you have serious evidence to back up your claim.

In almost any situation, the mere perception that an individual is a state agent can put them in serious physical danger. I hope I do not need to elaborate on that danger, as anyone with any political history knows it to be true.

You should put any real evidence you have to back up your assertion on the table. If not, you should immediately and publicly retract your statement and offer Blankfort a sincere apology.



From: Rabbi Michael Lerner
To: Marc Norton
Date: Saturday, April 17, 2004

Whatever I said to Blankfort was in a private email to him and not a matter for any public discussion unless he chose to make it such.



From: Marc Norton
To: Rabbi Michael Lerner
Date: Sunday, April 18, 2004

You say that your assertion that Blankfort may be on a "paid mission as an agent of Sharon..." was made in a "private email," but I think that anyone in public life like yourself knows full well that such "private" comments have a way of showing up in the public sphere.

In any event, your accusation is now very public. Therefore, it seems to me that you still have a responsibility to either put any real evidence you may have on the table, or else retract your statement and offer Blankfort an apology.



From: Rabbi Michael Lerner
To: Marc Norton
Date: Monday, April 19, 2004

I have no obligation to put anything on the table -- I wrote a private letter to Blankfort and he decided to send it out without my permission. That's all I have to say about him. About the issue in general, not specifically related to him? Here:

[Lerner appended an article, written by him, titled "How ultra-lefties in the U.S. and in Palestine may have helped create the triumph of the George Bush/Ariel Sharon Axis of Occupation." This articles appears to have been sent originally to "Tikkun mail." The relevant part of the article reads: "I would not be surprised to find that some of the most militant of the ultra-lefties today who managed to paralyze the progressive forces because of their one-sided hostility to Israel and their insistence on 'right of return' at the very moment when Palestinian rights are being further eroded, turn out to be conscious and paid agents of the Israeli or American political Right."]



From: Marc Norton
To: Rabbi Michael Lerner
Date: Tuesday, April 27, 2004

I am sorry I didn't reply sooner, but sometimes life calls.

You made an accusation, whether public or private, that Jeff Blankfort might be on a "paid mission as an agent of Sharon."

Do, or do you not, have any evidence to back up this very serious accusation?

Now I see that you are asserting that you "would not be surprised to find that some of the most militant of the ultra-lefties today who managed to paralyze the progressive forces because of their one-sided hostility to Israel and their insistence on 'right of return' at the very moment when Palestinian rights are being further eroded, turn out to be conscious and paid agents of the Israeli or American political Right."

I am one person who considers himself a militant, and who supports the "right of return." I don't think I am "one-sided," or that I have "managed to paralyze" anyone, but that is a judgment which you are entitled to make if you wish.

However, you are now accusing, not only Blankfort, but all people who militantly support the right of return as likely to be "conscious and paid agents of the Israeli or American political Right."

This time you are making your accusation in a very public way. You know full well from your extensive political history that such accusations can easily lead to repression and violence against those accused. I hope that is not your intention.

I must insist that you either offer some proof of your assertion, or offer a public apology to people, like me, who militantly support the right of return.



From: Rabbi Michael Lerner
To: Marc Norton
Date: Thursday, April 29, 2004

Marc, I can only repeat my point: stop selling out the interests of the Palestinian people to the interests of the Israeli Right by tying their cause to demands that are guaranteed to be impossible. I have no information about you or Jeff Blankfort (except in his case the repeated attacks on me personally and politically in his emails), but I am well aware of the tactics being used -- you see, when I was sent to prison for my leadership in the anti-war movement against the war in Vietnam, there were several ultra-militants (people who publicly baited me for being too moderate) who testified in the trial, revealing that they had in fact been paid employees of the FBI and the police, so I've been up against this kind of phenomenon before.



From: Marc Norton
To: Rabbi Michael Lerner
Date: Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Since emailing you yesterday, I have encountered the website of the Right of Return Congress for Palestinian Refugees, at www.ror-congress.org. Many individuals and organizations have endorsed this call.

Perhaps you can tell me which of these people and organizations are "conscious and paid agents of the Israeli or American political Right."



From: Rabbi Michael Lerner
To: Marc Norton
Date: Wednesday, April 28, 2004

I'm not sure. When I was sent to prison for fighting against the war in Vietnam, some of the people who testified against me were FBI and police agents who were part of the Weathermen. The entire Weathermen organization was doing the work of the FBI, by advocating violence and engaging in violence, but only some were conscious and paid agents. So I doubt if this information will come out at this moment in regard to the Right of Return Congress, and I imagine that just as in the Weathermen there were many decent but deeply misguided people, so too in the organizations you cite.



To: Rabbi Michael Lerner
From: Marc Norton
Date: Monday, May 3, 2004

First, you now have admitted that you have "no information about... Jeff Blankfort (except... the repeated attacks on me personally and politically in his emails)..."

The fact that Blankfort may have criticized you, personally or politically, clearly does not constitute any kind of indication, much less proof, that Blankfort is on a "paid mission as an agent of Sharon."

It seems very evident to me, then, that you owe Blankfort an apology for your groundless accusation. Are you big enough to do the right thing here?

Second, you stated in your recent article that "many of the people" who militantly support the Palestinian "right of return" are likely to "turn out to be conscious and paid agents of the Israeli or American political Right." I challenged you to offer evidence for this assertion.

Your answer to me was "I'm not sure... I doubt if this information will come out at this moment..."

Once again, it seems that you have no evidence whatsoever for your accusation. Therefore, I believe that you should retract this statement as well, and offer an apology to those of us who militantly support the right of return.



To: Rabbi Michael Lerner
From: Marc Norton
Date: Sunday, May 9, 2004

I'm waiting for a reply.

 
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