Rights and Accountability 23 January 2023
Last week, Rabbi Ben Packer, director of the Jerusalem Heritage House and co-founder of Young Jewish Conservatives, glorified John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln, as a “freedom fighter.”
Writing on Facebook against “judicial tyranny,” Packer declared, “As freedom fighter and actor John Wilkes Booth reportedly exclaimed, ‘Death to tyrants…’” Booth is thought to have shouted, “Sic semper tyrannis,” meaning “thus always to tyrants,” and perhaps to have added, “The South is avenged” upon shooting Lincoln.
This may constitute a threat by Packer against Israel’s high court, a “liberal” court Packer dislikes notwithstanding the support it gives to violating Palestinian rights.
The comment certainly puts Packer squarely in the company of white supremacists and is in keeping with his supportive remarks after neo-Nazis and other white racists violently rallied with deadly results in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. Packer is from Petersburg, Virginia.
Back in Jerusalem he follows a similarly racist agenda, pressing for the further dispossession of Palestinians. He routinely fundraises in the US for his activities which include the promotion of illegal settlement activities in Hebron.
Now he’s giving a talk in Florida where he can promote a government that favors the same anti-Palestinian racism he does – in a state with a governor who is more and more comfortable attempting to use state government to impose his own bigoted and racist positions on students, teachers and the wider population.
Whether the extreme racism Packer is promoting will receive mainstream coverage in the US remains very much in doubt.
Florida pushing racism
The anti-Palestinian racist is due to speak on Tuesday at an event hosted by Young Jewish Conservatives, a group that supports Israel’s illegal settlement activities.
He should be right at home.
Earlier this month, Florida’s Department of Education asserted in a letter that the content of an Advanced Placement African American studies course is “inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.” According to the letter, the course is not “historically accurate” and violates state law.
Among other criticism of the course, the state’s Department of Education found fault with civil rights and Palestinian rights activist Angela Davis, saying that she is “a self-avowed communist and Marxist.”Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, has pledged to be the “most pro-Israel governor in America.”
To that end, he held a cabinet meeting in 2019 at the new US embassy in Jerusalem. DeSantis has referred to Israel’s military occupation of Jerusalem in 1967 as its “liberation.”
DeSantis’ teaching of the American Civil War and the centrality of slavery to it while at an elite private boarding school in Georgia in 2001-2002 has been called into question.
Packer’s views on the Civil War may be, if anything, even more unsettling than those of DeSantis. Furthermore, Packer is a supporter of the anti-Palestinian and genocidal Meir Kahane.
Young Jewish Conservatives, the hosting group, provides no details about its legitimacy on its donation page.
Promotional material for the event says it is celebrating “Israel’s new coalition government and the return of Bibi Netanyahu as Prime Minister!”
The announcement adds, “Free market economic reforms, needed changes to Israel’s judiciary, and continued expansion of communities in Judea and Samaria are anticipated by this big conservative electoral victory!”
“Judea and Samaria” is the term Israel uses for the West Bank and the “communities” referred to are settlements. All Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank is illegal according to international law.
Netanyahu’s new government is promoting such settlement and his cabinet includes Itamar Ben-Gvir who has multiple convictions for incitement to racism and support for a terrorist organization.
Packer’s ongoing bigotry
Packer has repeatedly made racist and bigoted statements in the months after The Electronic Intifada’s most recent coverage of him.
In March 2022, Packer stated, “I don’t tend to report on US current events, since this is an Israeli current events update and, if I do, I don’t put a lot of effort into it/fact check. But I was overjoyed to hear that black and female Janet Jackson had been nominated to the US Supreme Court. She was always my favorite of the Jacksons.”
This was a racist conflating of musician Janet Jackson with President Joe Biden’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Ketanji Brown Jackson, who is now the first Black woman on that court.
In August he attempted to disparage Israel’s Meretz Party with a homophobic comment. “A few more cases of monkeypox among their voters and they might not make it” into the next Knesset, Israel’s parliament.
In the same post, Packer cheered threats against a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who had written an opinion piece about UNC study abroad programs in Israel and Israeli apartheid for the student newspaper. The op-ed had been removed at the student’s request due to threats directed against family members.
Packer posted, “The article has now been taken down at the author’s request after he claims to have received threats. Not sure if it’s true or not, but I sure as hell hope it is. You can’t usually fix anyone this stupid, but they can be scared into submission and that is likely the best-case scenario.”
Merely on the basis of a controversial November monologue by comedian Dave Chappelle on Saturday Night Live, Packer claimed that “anti-Semitism seems to be more contagious in the American black community than Covid was,” broadly stereotyping that anti-Semitism and disease spread readily in the Black community in the US.
Following deadly twin November bombing attacks in Jerusalem, an angry Packer promoted the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians while simultaneously disparaging the Judaism of Jews with whom he disagrees. He also indicated that the new government would make life much worse for Palestinians.
“I always say that the shrabs [sic] should have made peace with the fake Jews when they had the chance, it will be a lot worse for them when we are in charge. And we are basically almost in charge. #flyingcarpetstorussia”
Again taking to Facebook, in late November Packer lauded Israeli army violence against anti-apartheid Israeli Jews with whom he disagrees.
“The army unit currently stationed in Hevron [Hebron], the mighty Givati Tzabar battalion, is switching out of Hevron in the next few days, so no real surprises here. Golani 51 is coming in next so these traitors better beg their Jew-hating masters in Europe to sponsor some more protective padding for them.”
Packer is an angry and violence-promoting bigot. Any fundraising at his Tuesday event will be for a Kahanist rabbi who distorts the implications of the American Civil War for Black Americans, promotes vicious anti-Palestinian racism, and applauds violence against Jews with whom he disagrees politically.
- Ben Packer
- Young Jewish Conservatives
- John Wilkes Booth
- Abraham Lincoln
- Ron DeSantis
- Meir Kahane
- Benjamin Netanyahu
- Judea and Samaria
- Itamar Ben-Gvir
- Ketanji Brown Jackson
- Meretz Party
- University of North Carolina (UNC)
- israeli apartheid
- Dave Chappelle
- Saturday Night Live
- ethnic cleansing
- anti-Palestinian racism
- Angela Davis
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