Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Jewish Moral and Ethical Values Also a Victim of Israel's Assault on Gaza

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Jewish Moral and Ethical Values Also a Victim of Israel's Assault on Gaza

Article excerpt

Israel's assault on Gaza has taken a terrible toll in human lives, the majority of them Palestinian civilians, many of them women and children. Sadly, the organized American Jewish community has embraced this attack, held rallies in its defense, and raised money for the Israel Defense Forces. The indifference to the loss of civilian life has shocked many Jews who lament the manner in which, for the Jewish establishment, Israel has become an object of worship, much like the idolatry of the golden calf in the Bible.

Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun, wrote: "My heart is broken as I witness the suffering of the Palestinian people and the seeming indifference of Israelis. All my life I've been a champion of Israel...I always told myself that the dominant humanity of the Jewish people and the compassionate strain within Torah would reassert itself once Israel felt secure. That belief began to wane in the past eight years when Israel, faced with a Palestinian Authority that promoted nonviolence and sought reconciliation and peace, ignored the Saudi Arabian-led peace initiative that would have granted Israel the recognition that it had long sought, an end to hostilities, and a recognized place in the Middle East, refused to stop its expansion of settlements in the West Bank and imposed an economically crushing blockade on Gaza."

Now, notes Lerner, "It is the brutality of this assault that has broken me into tears and heartbreak...The worship of power is precisely what Judaism came into being to challenge...It is this love, compassion, justice and peace-oriented Judaism that the State of Israel is murdering."

Within the organized American Jewish community, and in Israel, there has been little sympathy expressed for the nearly 1,500 civilian victims. The strident voices of support for the assault on Gaza are instructive with regard to what the Jewish establishment holds dear.

At a pro-Israel rally of 10,000 people in New York on July 28, Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner, an executive of the New York Board of Rabbis, suggested that Palestinians who voted for Hamas are combatants who deserve to be targeted by Israel. He said: "When you are part of an election process that asks for a terrorist organization which proclaims in word and deed that their primary objective is to destroy their neighboring country...you are complicit and you are not a civilian casualty."

The crowd cheered, and Kirshner went on to claim that the Israeli army is "the most moral army in the history of civilization." He ended his remarks with the word "Amen." Philip Weiss, reporting on this event on Mondoweiss, pointed out that, "The rabbi did not make clear how he would sort out Palestinians who voted for Hamas."

Rabbi Menachem Creditor of Berkeley, California is a well-known liberal, an advocate of gay rights, gun control, abortion rights and granting refuge to illegal aliens. He was named by Newsweek as one of America's 50 most influential rabbis. When it comes to Israel, he has defended the bombing of civilians in Gaza, declaring: "I am done trying to apologetically explain Jewish morality. I am done apologizing for my own Jewish existence." Although ostensibly an American, he was referring to Israeli soldiers when he said, "I have lost 20 of my sons in the last 3 days."

Even J Street, promoted as a "liberal" Zionist voice, has embraced Israel's actions in Gaza. In 2008, the group publicly opposed Israel's Operation Cast Lead assault on Gaza. During subsequent crises, however, the "pro-Israel, pro-peace" group has declined to criticize Israeli actions. In the face of mounting civilian casualties in Gaza, J Street has joined the organized Jewish community in its uncritical support.

In Israel itself, there has been almost unanimous support for the war on Gaza and some calls for even harsher steps to be taken. Ayelet Shaked, a Knesset member from the Jewish Home Party, a member of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's governing coalition, issued on Facebook what amounts to a call to commit genocide by deliberately killing Palestinians, including women, children and old people. …

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