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Hillary Clinton's Rabbi

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By Moshe Phillips - March 22, 2009

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's first Middle East trip included criticism of Israel on an unprecedented scale. Not since James Baker's tenure as the 61st United States Secretary of State under President George H. W. Bush has there been a senior U.S. official that was so anxious to put Israeli politicians on the defensive. Clinton's predisposed bias was not only demonstrated by her bitter words toward Israeli policy vis-a-vis illegal Arab housing but her ongoing and vehement support of a Palestinian state while Hamas rockets continued to fall on Israeli towns.

Many in the Jewish community have suddenly become unnerved by her words and indeed shocked by her actions.

The naivete of these rather dangerously unaware Jews can be easily put to rest by more serious students of Clinton's history as it applies to Israel.

Secretary of State Clinton has long been involved with Jewish issues in as much as she has been well schooled by the Jewish activist many refer to as Hillary's Rabbi.

The following are quotations from her mentor:

-- "The Jewish community is racist, internally corrupt..."

-- "The synagogue as currently established will have to be smashed."

-- "Black not an anti-Semitism rooted in ...hatred of the Christ-killers but rather one rooted in the concrete fact of oppression by Jews of blacks..."

The words are those of Rabbi Michael Lerner as he wrote them in a 1969 article published in Judaism magazine. This is the same Michael Lerner whose intense friendship Hillary Clinton led her to refer to him as my "Politics of Meaning" guru. Over the last last forty years since those words were written with great heart-filled hatred for traditional Jewish practice, Lerner's views on Jews and Israel has only become more radicalized. That is to say, Learner's thoughts and beliefs have become less reflective of the mainstream American Jewish public.

The truth is Michael Lerner is not a real rabbi, regardless of his popular title as it relates to Hillary Clinton. Lerner never completed education at a rabbinical college or a yeshiva and his 1995 "rabbinical ordination" was bestowed by the radical Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi of the far out Jewish Renewal group. Rabbi Lerner does have excellent credentials for his real vocation - that of radical activist, nee community organizer. Lerner has a doctorate in philosophy from University of California at Berkeley. While at Berkley he was a leader in the Free Speech Movement, the SDS and, in a broad sense, the militant, revolutionary left in the Bay Area. Other products of that time and place are the Weatherman / Weather Underground, the Black Panther Party and the Symbionese Liberation Army.

After leaving California, Lerner took a position as an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Washington in Seattle. On February 17, 1970 just two days after Lerner organized a campus visit from the "Chicago Seven" leader Jerry Rubin, Lerner founded the Seattle Liberation Front (SLF). The SLF soon absorbed the veteran SDS activist cadre on campus and began its anti-government, anti-Vietnam war militancy. Just a month after its founding Lerner's SLF sponsored a protest at Seattle's Federal Courthouse and police were attacked with paint bombs, tear gas and rocks. Twenty people were injured and 76 arrested during the fighting between police and protesters. Lerner and six others were indicted on conspiracy charges by a federal grand jury. The first trial of the Seattle Seven, as the criminal conspirators were dubbed, was declared a mistrial. All the conspirators except for Lerner served jail terms from contempt charges stemming from their misbehavior at the first trial and there was never a second trial on the original conspiracy charges. On March 11, 1970 Lerner and his fellow revolutionaries set their sights on the University of Washington. Six buildings were taken over and a strike was declared. Fourteen faculty members and students were beaten by the strikers. Local newspapers at the time showed Lerner with a bullhorn leading the protesters. Lerner stated in a 1970 interview with the Seattle Times that "The only place left for those who want social change is to be fighting in the streets." (For more information on Lerner's time with the SLF please see the book With Friends Like These: The Jewish Critics of Israel by Edward Alexander [S.P.I Books, 1992]. Alexander is a professor emeritus in the Department of English at the University of Washington.)

Taking the street revolution to the publishing world, Lerner moved on to his better known activity as the publisher of the leftist political journal Tikkun founded 1986.

It was in the pages of Tikkun Magazine that the Clintons, according to many press reports, found the ideas of the extremist publisher so compelling. The effect of Michael Learner's words were so powerful that Hillary Clinton quoted from Michael Lerner, calling for "a new politics of meaning" in her major April 6, 1993 speech on health care at the University of Texas at Austin. It was then that Lerner was labeled "the guru of the White House" by the press. Michael Lerner had a profound effect on Hillary Clinton in the 1990s.

A 1993 Time Magazine article by Priscilla Painton titled "The Politics of What?" relates Lerner's influence on Clinton's thinking at that time. When Hillary Clinton was the First Lady perhaps other than the Monica Lewinsky scandal, national health care, and her It Takes A Village book she is recalled for the introduction of the idea of "Politics of Meaning" to the nation's marketplace of ideas.

Twenty some odd years removed from street violence, Michael Lerner was a guest at the White House. The Clintons invited Lerner and Arthur Waskow, a Philadelphia based '60s radical turned "Jewish Renewal rabbi," as well as other longtime leftist critics of Israel's policies to witness the September 13, 1993 agreement (what was to become the beginning of the Oslo War) between Israel's Yitzhak Rabin and the PLO leader, Yasser Arafat. By the way, it is worth noting that the photo ops that day were personally orchestrated by the now White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel.

By 2003 in a post 9/11/2001 world, Hillary Clinton needed to rework several life experiences as she composed her biography, Living History. The "exaggerations" written into, the work have been to some extent well-reported during the Democrat primary campaign of 2008. The mainstream press was forced to take a second look at Hillary as their love affair with Barak Obama was just in bloom. For this reason Hillary was occasionally called upon to explain events as written in her book that where either historically inaccurate or were told very differently by other witnesses. In one of her more interesting accounts, it was the video tape that made lies of her words. What the press failed to mention however was her removal of the pivotal role played by Michael Lerner intellectual development. In order to sanitize her relationship with Lerner, both the "Rabbi" and his Tikkun Magazine were left out of her autobiography. It is worth noting that she did spend three pages Living History on her "Politics of Meaning" speech.

A careful read of Clinton's Living History clearly demonstrates that her ideas remain highly influenced by Michael Lerner. From her views of certain personalities - Her cold, detached feelings towards Israel's Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Benjamin Netanyahu. Her adoration for Suha Arafat. Clinton opted to pleasantly describe the group of wives of brutal Islamic dictators including Egypt's Suzanne Mubarak, Suha Arafat and Jordan's Noor Al-Hussein as "like old friends" explaining "We did our best to welcome a new member of the group Suha Arafat…"

To her blatantly leftist position regarding land for peace. Lerner as an individual may have been thrown under the bus, a common practice on the left as ascension to higher office deems necessary, but his ideas are forever ingrained as part of her world view. As Hillary Clinton took the opportunity as Secretary of State to publicly criticize Israel on internal and domestic policy, an act so unprecedented that images of James Baker permeate her every word, she so well reflects the anti-Israel views of Michael Lerner and Tikkun Magazine.

The Tikkun website in 2008 featured a Tikkun Passover Haggadah supplement that read in part: "... as we face the 60th anniversary of the birth of the State of Israel on May 8th of this year, and simultaneously remember the tragedy (al Nakba) that the creation of the State (of Israel) turned into for our Palestinian brothers and sisters.." The same Lerner who blamed Jews for the social ills of America in the 1960s and 1970s consistently seeks to blame the U.S. and Israel, and never any Islamic state, for all of the turmoil in the Middle East.

There should be little doubt that the Obama/Clinton policy for Israel will include the sort of pressure on Israel to negotiate away the Jewish State's very survival. Clinton's first visit to Israel as Secretary of State is just an introduction, for indications of what's to come, see the pages of Tikkun Magazine.

Moshe Phillips is a member of the Executive Committee of the Philadelphia Chapter of Americans For a Safe Israel - AFSI. The chapter's website is at: and Moshe's blog can be found at

The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Jewish Eye.
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