Former Duke “rabbi on campus” calls for death curse on Durham

Rabbi Ben Packer (center) with Mark Levin (left) and Paul Teller (right) at the Western Wall plaza in occupied East Jerusalem.

Rabbi Ben Packer (center) with Mark Levin (left) and Paul Teller (right) at the Western Wall plaza in occupied East Jerusalem on “Jerusalem Day.” (Facebook)

Ben Packer, self-styled former “rabbi on campus” at North Carolina’s Duke University, has called for a “pulsa denura,” or death curse, to be invoked against all of the city of Durham.

In a Facebook discussion with one Scott Hirsch on 2 May, Packer declared, “Someone should do that pulsa denura thing to that city. All of humanity would benefit.”

This could be considered a form of incitement to violence: such a death curse was publicly pronounced outside the official residence of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin just weeks before he was assassinated by a Jewish extremist in November 1995.

In the current US context, where campus shootings are an omnipresent threat, such calls should not be taken lightly.

Packer’s fury is connected to a unanimous April vote by the Durham city council to prohibit “military-style training” programs for its police force in foreign countries, including Israel.

Local and national activists with Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) pushed hard for the vote to protect communities of color in Durham and to raise awareness of the discrimination faced by Palestinians subjected to military policing and wanton killings by Israeli forces.

Packer is also rightly angry about the recent appearance of what Durham’s The Herald-Sun described as “white nationalist stickers and anti-Semitic posters.”

It was not, however, until Hirsch mentioned Durham’s recent police resolution that Packer called for the pulsa denura.

The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and Jewish Voice for Peace oppose racism and bigotry in all their forms, including anti-Semitism.

Packer, a supporter of the late racist leader Meir Kahane, has gained notoriety in recent years for making “Rachel Corrie pancakes,” for showing a striking degree of sympathy for white racists and for taking Stephen Miller around the occupied West Bank a decade ago, years before Miller became a top adviser to President Donald Trump. Miller is now one of the principal proponents of Trump’s racist immigration policies separating children from their parents.

Packer knew Miller at the time that Miller palled around with white supremacist Richard Spencer discussing their shared anti-immigration ideas.

Yet in Packer’s view, “Stephen Miller is not just my friend, he’s not just our friend, he is us.”

Packer added, “He is part of that new proud generation, no longer relegated to the fringe. His appointment is spectacular news for the Jewish people and he should be blessed with everything to do great things.”

Recent events have borne out that Packer’s bigoted views are not on the fringes, but are very much incorporated within the thinking of the White House, particularly on the issue of Jerusalem.

Smear campaign

In the aftermath of the Durham decision, there has been a right-wing effort to suggest that Jewish activists who support BDS are somehow not Jewish.

Rather than applaud Jewish Voice for Peace’s commitment to Palestinian freedom and equal rights, the communal publication JNS has gone out of its way to cast aspersions at the group.

“They are a problematic element within the community, particularly because they portray themselves as a Jewish organization and use that to provide cover for groups that are engaged in far more nefarious and odious types of rhetoric,” Yona Schiffmiller of NGO Monitor told JNS.

NGO Monitor is a far-right Israeli group that specializes in smearing human rights defenders.

The JNS article implied that two Jewish women, both employed at Durham-area synagogues and the local Jewish Federation, were unfit for their jobs because they support BDS campaigns for Palestinian equal rights.

The naming of the two activists in the article, along with details of their employment, looks like an attempt to build pressure to get them fired, and thus deter others from speaking out against collusion with Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Jews in Durham were among activists participating in the civil rights struggle. There should be little surprise that this commitment to equality continues today.

Nevertheless, JNS writer Eliana Rudee asserts that the “employment of anti-Israel activists by local Jewish Federations, and particularly by synagogue education departments, is raising eyebrows about the low level of standards maintained during the hiring and vetting of professionals – or worse, that the federations and synagogues themselves are comfortable with BDS activists teaching at local Hebrew schools.”

In other words, Jewish professionals who support equal rights for Palestinians – and actually taking nonviolent action to secure such rights – are to be regarded as unfit to teach Jewish children.

This is an effort to enforce ideological discipline at a moment when American Jews, especially the younger generation, are more than ever rejecting and protesting the communal establishment’s staunch support of Israel’s violent and discriminatory actions against Palestinians.

Meanwhile, the racism and incitement of bigots such as Ben Packer passes without comment or condemnation.

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In the movie, "Rabin-the Last Day" it was called a "din rodef" made by Talmudic Hassidic rabbis, of which killer Yagil Amir was a Yeshiva staudent.

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Thank you. I saw bumper stickers of Obama lynched these last 8 years and wondered why people were not prosecuted for incitement. People weee shot in Arizona when radio hosts called for “shooting liberals”. Threats of violence need to be fully addressed as the criminal acts they are. This “rabbi” shows the evil that BDS is fighting. In calling for the death of a Jewish Mayor, Packer is indeed why some Palestine activists
have called Zionism similar to nazism. Zionism must never be conflated with Judaism. One is nationalism, as in Germany first. The other is religion, as in God first. What seems to go over peoples heads is that Muslim,
Christian or Jew, all are worshipping the god of Abraham. And in this case it is the rabbi smiting another jew. Bds asks for humanity and equality. I guess this rabbis religion is against those things?

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The last thing law enforcement in the US needs is Israeli guidance and training. Israelis murder unarmed non-threatening people by the bushel full, don't they? We don't want this.

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Michael F. Brown

Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist. His work and views have appeared in The International Herald Tribune, TheNation.com, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The News & Observer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post and elsewhere.