ADL Needs To Drop Thane Rosenbaum Right Now.

(Oops! Forgot to post this last week!)


So. Can we talk about Thane Rosenbaum?

You probably already know that Thane Rosenbaum — who likes to talk about being a human rights professor — wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal arguing that the Gazan noncombatants are fair game in this war, because “they” voted for Hamas and “invite [Hamas members] to dinner with blood on their hands.”

Setting aside the fact that Hamas (being awful) hasn’t held elections since 2006 — and also setting aside the fact that Gaza’s overwhelmingly young population includes hundreds of thousands of people who couldn’t have voted for Hamas had they wanted to — there are of course numerous problems with this analysis, starting with the Geneva Conventions.

To read the rest, please click through to The Forward.

Where’s Jewish Fury Over Tariq Abu Khdeir Beating?

I have no idea what Tariq Khdeir was doing on the day he was savagely beaten.

I have no idea if — like the American high school student in my own home – Tariq woke up late and lazy, because that’s what vacation’s like. Maybe he slipped on headphones as he reached for his cell, checking his texts or the World Cup stats. Maybe he jumped straight out of bed. Maybe he lay quietly under the covers, trying desperately not to remember his cousin Muhammad’s voice, not to envision his grisly murder, not to hear the sobbing of his family.

Maybe Tariq Khdeir woke up filled with sorrow and helplessness. Maybe he woke up filled with rage. All those years in American schools, walking American streets, hearing about what life was like for his cousins in East Jerusalem, and then there he was, right in the house, with wailing family and shattered hearts. Maybe Tariq wanted to at least see Palestinians fighting back in his cousin’s name, just to see the rocks thrown, just to see the anger and maybe some fear on the other side.

Maybe Tariq Khdeir wrapped his head in a red-and-white checked keffiyeh because he’d been warned not to go out, and he didn’t want to get busted. Maybe he wrapped his head because he didn’t want to be recognized by police. Maybe he got out there and, like many angry young men before him, felt the power of rage surging through the streets and his own veins and picked up a rock. Maybe Tariq Khdeir threw some rocks — he says he didn’t, but for the sake of argument, let’s imagine he did. Grief and fury can muddle the minds of even straight-A students.

I don’t know what Tariq Khdeir did that day, or how he felt, or what he was thinking, but here’s what I do know: He went out to the streets. He was at a protest that had shaded into riot, and his head was wrapped in a keffiyeh. And two Israeli police officers, broad of chest and fully armed, grabbed him – a slight 15-year-old boy — and dragged him to where they believed they would not be seen, and they beat the ever-loving daylights out of him. They held him down. They kicked him. They hit him. They took turns. They broke his nose. They blackened and bloodied his eyes. They held him down and beat him.

Tariq didn’t have a weapon in his hand or on his person. He’d been separated from whoever he’d been with. Whatever he may or may not have done in the moments before the now infamous video of fists and feet raining down on his body, Tariq Khdeir was not any threat, of any kind, to those who pushed him to the ground and raised their boots.

To read the rest, please click through to The Forward.

The best way to achieve nothing.

Here we go.

Some non-Jews have questioned the morality of Israel’s army and are working to undercut US military aid to Israel. And American Jews are losing it.

Major American Jewish organizations said Wednesday they have cancelled talks with liberal Protestant leaders after the churches sought an investigation of US military aid to Israel.

…The church leaders said in an Oct. 5 letter to Congress that Israel was guilty of widespread human rights violations against Palestinians that violated U.S. legal standards for recipients of military aid.

Rabbi Steven Wernick, chief executive of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism called the claims “repugnant, regrettable and morally misguided.”


I am of at least two minds (if not five or twelve) on this whole turn of affairs, but let’s start here:

First of all, no, Rabbi Wernick, with all due respect (and I speak as an active member of your movement), there’s nothing “repugnant” nor “morally misguided” in saying that there are “widespread Israeli human rights violations committed against Palestinian civilians.” It’s factually accurate (if you don’t trust me, ask the United Nations. If you don’t trust the UN, ask Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem. If you don’t trust B’Tselem, ask the US State Department), and there’s absolutely nothing morally misguided about spiritual leaders calling on political leaders to stop abusing the lives and dignity of those under their decidedly un-democratic rule. Indeed, that’s kind of the spiritual leaders’ gig, as I understand it. If you don’t trust me, ask Isaiah.

And just so we’re clear: The church leaders in question also condemned “the horror and loss of life from rocket attacks from Gaza and past suicide bombings, [and] the broad impact that a sense of insecurity and fear has had on Israeli society,” adding “each party—Israeli and Palestinian—bears responsibilities for its actions.”

But yes. There is a “regrettable” aspect to the letter: The fact that many American organizations feel comfortable taking issue with Israel’s actions without turning a similar light on abuses perpetrated by other U.S. aid recipients. There is a paragraph that reads

While this letter focuses on U.S.-Israel relations and the Israel-Palestine conflict, these are laws that we believe should be enforced in all instances regardless of location. All allegations regarding the misuse of U.S. supplied arms should be investigated.

But I don’t know: Have there been a lot of letters about military aid to Egypt or any other countries?

In this regard—though I’m certain many of my co-religionists will cry “anti-Semitism!”—I think we’re better served looking at two more positive sources for the focus on Israel: Israel’s openness (Egyptian human rights activists don’t enjoy quite the same freedoms that B’Tselem does), and the close Judeo-Christian relationship.

We Jews forget: The Holy Land really is, actually, holy for Christians, too. Our Scriptures really are their Scriptures. Our cultures are intertwined. And people everywhere tend to register greater anger towards those to whom they are, in some way, close. I’m not saying it’s fair. I’m saying it happens.

But if American institutions want Jews to listen when they criticize Israel, they might try applying their opprobrium more evenly—and as Christians in dialogue with Jews surely know, calling for limiting military aid to Israel is exactly the kind of thing that makes Jews very nervous.

Israel’s military serves two different roles, one as the defender of the state from outside threats, the other as as an occupation police force. The former is absolutely warranted, and Israel’s military advantage is a big part of why the Arab League has twice offered a peace plan in the past decade. As American Jews are painfully aware, that advantage is wholly bound up in Israel’s relationship with the U.S., and people hoping to engage with the community need to be honest about this sensitivity.

The IDF’s latter role, however, is a direct result of Israel’s ongoing occupation of land that belongs to someone else, and kicking seven year old children and beating and detaining innocent men is neither defensible, nor in the service of Israel’s security. Investigation of these activities is justified, because they are wrong—and the fact that they are bundled up in the IDF’s larger mission is, frankly, Israel’s fault, not that of American Christians.

Rather than forever leaping to the defense of anything and everything Israel does (an approach that posits an Israel outside of human history, in that, unlike any other nation ever, it can do no wrong), I believe that America’s Jewish leaders would be wiser to engage not only with what’s laudable in Israel, but also with what’s questionable. If we cannot say that beating innocent people is bad, what’s left of our heritage?

I don’t know how to resolve this impasse. I can see too clearly the imperatives felt on all sides (not least, those of the Palestinian people themselves).

But I will say this: As much as I may equivocate on the value of the letter, I’m pretty clear that the one sure way to make sure there’s no forward movement is to stop talking.

And I am very uncomfortable with the fact that my community’s go-to response for people they don’t like is to cut off their mic.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

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