The East Bay Jewish Community Relations Council has scheduled an interfaith workshop Tuesday at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley on "the challenges and opportunities for dialogue on the Israel-Palestine conflict." Although I am glad to see that the GTU is open to hosting events on Israel-Palestine, this news raises concerns.
Perhaps the GTU administration is not acquainted with the history of the national network of JCRCs, Jewish Federations and the Israel Action Network. They do many good things for the Jewish community, but they are also known for attempting to silence both Jews and non-Jews who oppose Israel's 45-year-old occupation of Palestinian land and people.
For instance, last year the Bay Area's Jewish Community Relations Council and the East Bay Jewish Federation successfully pressured Oakland's Museum of Children's Art to cancel an exhibit of Gazan children's art sponsored by the Middle East Children's Alliance, despite the fact that MOCHA had a long history of showing art by children during wartime.
The JCRC also tried to significantly impede a UC Hastings legal conference on Palestinian rights that they claimed was "anti-Israel" even before the conference took place.
In response to their closed-door efforts, nearly all of UC Hastings' tenured professors signed a letter to the Hastings board complaining about capitulation to outside pressure on academic freedom.
The student government and 30
In 2012, the JCRC tried to undermine the Sabeel conferences in Sunnyvale and Sacramento by unfairly smearing the Palestinian founder and director of Sabeel -- the Rev. Naim Ateek, a graduate of two GTU member schools -- in letters sent to hundreds of local churches.
Among many others, a group of rabbis from Jewish Voice for Peace came to Ateek's defense.
Perhaps the GTU administration is also unaware that in 2010 these organizations in consultation with the Israeli parastatal think tank, The Reut Institute, created a $6 million fund to "delegitimize" critics of Israeli policy.
To guarantee a transparent, truthful and open discussion, it is imperative that events held at the GTU enlarge the sponsoring groups to include a much wider spectrum of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian perspectives.
Walter T. Davis, Jr. is professor emeritus at San Francisco Theological Seminary. He is a resident of San Anselmo.