JTA reporter Uriel Hellman didn't speak with me for his brief piece -- he appears to have been sought out to listen to and report on what Chairman Kathy and CEO Jerry wanted him to hear -- but he did an excellent job in framing the conundrum; here are the critical issues as he framed them:
"What's impossible, from the vantage point of those of us who were not in the room, is to sort out how significant this really is (if at all). First, it's not clear whether Wexler's account has any accuracy or whether he's misinterpreting a discussion he didn't witness firsthand. Second, even if there's some truth to Wexler's version of events, how significant is it that some JFNA higher-ups in the room (Kathy Manning, the chairwoman of the organization's board of trustees, denies saying what Wexner (sic.) appears to attribute to her) preferred using some term other than Zionism to describe the federations' Israel-related work?"
Let's take the JFNA (and Hellman) points one by one:
- I wasn't in the room. That's true. How many stories has, e.g., Uriel Hellman written based upon confirmed sources when he "...wasn't in the room?" I know those with whom I spoke were "...in the room." They are known to me to be honest and responsible leaders; they stand accused by those engaged in the real "misinformation campaign" here as lying. I will leave it to you as to whom are those engaged in "misinformation" here.
- Manning denies saying what I attributed to her. Well, every member of the Work Group heard her objection to the inclusion of "Zionism" from the Global Planning Table loud and clear. Here is what an Anonymous Commentator wrote: "I was in the room. Richard Wexler has softened the words of Manning. The truth in his court. The matter would have ended easily in any organization that can admit an error. Not JFNA..." And another: "Richard, I was in the room and know exactly what Kathy Manning said. I think you do, as well. and it's far worse than what you wrote." Although comforted, I don't rely on Anonymous Comments. Before I wrote the Posts in question, I had heard from my sources in the room, federation leaders all, that the Board Chair said the following: "'Zionism is too controversial to be in a JFNA (GPT) Vision Statement" or words to that effect. Hellman, for JTA, might have asked Manning when she merely denied making such a statement: "What exactly did you say?" But, apparently Hellman did not.
- Even if she said what was attributed to her, so what? Our readers know that I have consistently objected to the confusion over the past years of JFNA's positions with those of the Board Chair. L'etat c'est moi has become an operating principle at JFNA.
- This was just a JFNA leader's expression of preference for "using some term other than Zionism to describe the federations' Israel-related work." Sure. JUST READ WHAT THE JFNA BOARD CHAIR SAID.
And, then there's the argument that this was nothing more than a Work Group, a sub-committee, "no harm, no foul," incapable of stating "policy." And, of course, that's true...to a point. What the Board Chair wanted was to eliminate Zionism from the lexicon of the Global Planning table. What better place to do that then at the Work Group level in the belief that that's where any discussion of its inclusion would end -- for how would the highest levels of the GPT "food chain," wherever "decisions" are to be made, ever know that the excision the Board Chair had dictated had taken place. And, of course, all else followed.
Do I believe, as I have been told, that many Federations would have stood tall at the time of any final action to assure that "Zionism" was not excised as the Board Chair demanded? Of course I do; if they had known of the excision. But, because this demand was made (and met) where and when it was, there was no way that these federation leaders would have known.
I find it ironic that Manning and Silverman used a Blog...a Blog...of all things to deny that Manning spoke out against the inclusion of Zionism in the Vision Statement of the Global Planning Table. Among the many things that I do know is this: when confronted with the choice between telling the truth and just covering up, these two leaders and their small group of minions have chosen...well, you decide.