Extremist site bashes Tikkun editor, lists his address

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Quoting the Torah, Rabbi Michael Lerner points out, "Thou shalt love the stranger." And while the founder and editor of Tikkun magazine does his best to carry this out in his daily life, if a stranger were to show up on Lerner's front door these days, the rabbi would have good reason to be a little nervous.

Scrolling through his e-mail, Lerner is unruffled by letters reading, "One ripe day someone will come and kill you. Wish you to rot in hell, pig." In fact, he's been getting mail like this since the first intifada. But, earlier this week, Lerner got some news that actually fazed him: He discovered that he was one of six "self-hating Jews" targeted on a right-wing extremist Web site.

"For every precious fighter for Israel, there are, unfortunately, Jews who despise being Jewish and wish Israel harm," reads the pro-Israel Web site under a subsection titled "With Jews Like These…"

"These cowardly Jews are so filled with self-hatred and shame at their total inability to fight off the anti-Semites and enemies of Israel that they have no choice but to betray their own people. We don't mind at all if they build their own roads to Auschwitz. We just don't want them to drag us along with them!"

On the Web site detailed instructions on how to drive to Lerner's house in Berkeley were included, along with the following suggestion: "Be sure to send him e-mail, or, if you're ever in the San Francisco area, drop in on him at his home…One more thing — be sure to mention our Web site!"

For security reasons, the Bulletin is not printing the Web address or the name of the group.

Discussing the posting, Lerner said, "I haven't felt scared by [past] death threats; I felt they were just ugly. But this goes to a level where it's more frightening. Since this kind of site attracts pathological kinds of people, I don't know who else is going to pick up on this."

Other Jews targeted on the site include Israel Shahak, chairman of the Israeli League of Human Civil Rights; Knesset members Dedi Zucker and Ran Cohen; Massachusetts Institute of Technology linguistics Professor Noam Chomsky; and, of all people, Woody Allen. Of this group, particularly among the Americans, Lerner believes he is the most accessible.

Contacted by Lerner last week, Jonathan Bernstein, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, compared Lerner's plight to a much-publicized case earlier this year in which the Supreme Court ruled it was legal for an anti-abortion Web site to post the home addresses of abortion doctors on the Internet.

With this in mind, Bernstein is uncertain that the makers of the site targeting Lerner can be prosecuted. He still feels, however, that it is a dangerous development.

"Whether or not we can prosecute is not the primary issue," he said. "The issue is the impact this has on the victim."

Bernstein said he put through a call to the FBI, and Lerner has already contacted both the San Francisco and Berkeley police.

In addition to being concerned about the possibility of extremists knocking on his door, Lerner resents the notion that he has "betrayed" Israel.

"From my standpoint, I'm a total supporter of Israel; I remain a strong Zionist. I believe Jewish people absolutely have the right to self-determination in the land of our ancestors," he said. "But I'm in favor of territorial compromise and getting the settlements out of there, because I want Israel to live in peace. It's out of love of Israel that I take the stance I do. Not out of indifference."

Lerner adds that his son served in an Israel Defense Force combat unit six years ago — which Lerner could have vetoed, since the son is his only child.

And while having his address revealed on the site is more unsettling than your standard "you subhuman leftist animals…you should be all exterminated…you are the lowest of the low life" letter, Lerner says it won't stop him from speaking his mind via Tikkun magazine.

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.