An Open Letter to Ed Asner on Israel

By Jack Saltzberg

Dear Mr. Asner,

Some of my best early memories were of watching you on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. I was proud when I learned that you were Jewish, and I was in awe when I eventually watched you and Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin lead our Yom Kippur service at the Stephen S. Wise Temple. Therefore, it personally pained me to have to lead a campaign to stop you from being honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award given by the Jewish Journal’s Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival, and sponsored by, among others, the Anti-Defamation League.

You see, Mr. Asner, your distinguished career and professional achievements in the context of a Jewish film festival are incompatible with your serving on the advisory board of arguably one of the most active and virulently anti-Israel organizations: Jewish Voice for Peace.

Knowing that you are a good person, forever fighting for the underdog, I can only believe that you were inadvertently misguided about Jewish Voice for Peace. If that is the case, you should know the following:

  • According to the Anti-Defamation League: “Jewish Voice for Peace is the largest and most influential Jewish anti-Zionist group in the United States. Despite the neutral tone of its name, JVP works to demonstrate Jewish opposition to the State of Israel and to steer public support away from the Jewish State.”

  • According to NGO Monitor: “JVP’s strategy is to create ‘a wedge‘ within the American Jewish community, while working toward the goal of eliminating US economic, military, and political aid to Israel.”

  • Jewish Voice for Peace’s executive director, Rebecca Vilkomerson, was the presenter of the Gandhi Peace Award at Yale to Omar Barghouti, the co-founder of the global BDS campaign.

  • Jewish Voice for Peace:

  1. endorses the BDS campaign in total, including a complete cultural,  educational and economic boycott of Israel;

  2. led a boycott against the Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema;

  3. successfully urged Oscar-nominated actors to boycott a free trip to Israel;

  4. brought a convicted Palestinian terrorist who murdered two Jewish students and wounded nine people in Jerusalem to speak at its national convention in Chicago;

  5. aggressively tried to disrupt and shut down pro-Israel events such as a talk by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, a Taglit Birthright reunion and an AIPAC conference;

  6. hijacked the Jewish high holidays for anti-Israel messaging; and

  7. defended an anti-Israel third grade event in Ithaca, New York.

You have said that you “do not support BDS,” but, as you clearly see, JVP is one of the most aggressive supporters and promoters of BDS globally.

You have said that you “just want peace.” So do the Israelis, who have endured almost seven decades of war and brutal terrorist attacks. The Israelis who grew up in bomb shelters and lost family and friends — they too, want peace. The Jewish parents who send their children to the army to protect Israel — they too, want peace. But Jewish Voice for Peace has never sought peace for Israel; JVP has only supported those who refuse to accept Israel’s right to exist, and have committed atrocities against our people.

Mr. Asner, you can’t be an advisor to one of the most hateful anti-Israel organizations, and at the same time distance yourself from their values, platform and actions.

When you received your Lifetime Achievement Award, hopefully you said a few comforting and sympathetic words about Israel. I’m sure that the people there would have appreciated that from a legendary Jewish figure. Yet my greatest hope was that, when you received your award, you would have publicly denounced Jewish Voice for Peace, and then resigned from their advisory board. Then, Mr. Asner, you truly would have been worthy of a Lifetime Achievement Award.


Jack Saltzberg

Founder / Executive Director

The Israel Group

Reprinted from the Algemeiner