Monday, May 31, 2010

Summary of the Events on the Mavi Marmara

Here's the summary of the Flotilla situation that I have pieced together:

First please watch the video of the soldiers being attacked IMMEDIATELY upon boarding Mavi Marmara by "non-violent" protesters.

1. The Free Gaza Movement organized the flotilla but did not control all of the ships and it could not vouch for the contents of the ships or necessarily the activists on board each ship. The ostensible leader of the flotilla said that Israel would have to stop them by force.

2. The flotilla was supposed to be a non-violent protest and its passengers non-violent protesters. This proved horribly untrue on ONE of the ships, the Mavi Marmara. NO SIMILAR VIOLENCE TOOK PLACE ON ANY OTHER VESSEL.

3. The Mavi Marmara was controlled by the IHH, a Turkish organization that is known for outspoken support of Hamas and terrorism against Israel.

4. At least several passengers on the Marmara were NOT non-violent protesters but VIOLENT ones and PLANNED TO USE VIOLENCE if boarded. Significant amounts of weaponry were readied on the ship designed to attempt to repel an assault at a minimum or to capture or kill members of an IDF boarding party.

5. The moment IDF soldiers boarded the Marmara, if not before, they came under attack by numerous people with metal bars, boards, and evidently knives as seen clearly in the video at the link provided above. IDF soldiers did NOT "immediately open fire with bullets on civilians" as reported by the Free Gaza movement, though they may have used the paint ball guns they carried.

6. No similar violence occurred on any other ship boarded by the Israelis which may have been the result of the effectiveness of the use of anti-piracy techniques by those on board the Mavi Marmara, resulting in the need for helicopter boarding of that ship.

7. It appears that at least some of the vessels may have employed anti-piracy techniques against the Israelis which escalated the situation significantly as I wrote about The video of the use of anti-piracy techniques by at least one ship is telling. The use of anti-piracy techniques resulted in the incapacitation of at least two soldiers on the Mavi Marmara and turned the seizure of the ship into a rescue mission with soldiers in a life threatening situation in which the use of stronger force unfortunately became necessary.

8. The IDF soldiers had riot suppression gear including paint guns as their primary means of response. They also carried handguns, but no heavier weaponry.

9. With at least two soldiers incapacitated by the mob on the Marmara immediately and at least one handgun taken from a soldier and turned against other soldiers, the situation escalated and soldiers were given permission to use live fire if necessary, but to shoot to incapacitate, to target legs. The IDF says that two soldiers were shot PRIOR to the approval of the use of live fire in defense by the IDF possibly with a gun seized from one of the incapacitated soldiers.

10. There was no chance to withdraw to de-escalate the situation because IDF soldiers were in mortal danger and at the time possibly on the verge of death, "lynching," as one authority reported.

11. It is unclear exactly how the deaths of those who died occurred. They could have been killed deliberately in self defense, accidentally by stray fire in close quarters, or accidentally by the activists themselves attempting to fire on Israeli soldiers. The IDF reports the accurate death total as NINE, mostly from Turkey.

12. It is clear that the IDF had no intention of using more than a minimal level of violence, crowd control, against the flotilla and that the major violence was instigated by the passengers on board the Marmara who used anti-piracy techniques that escalated the situation.

13. It is possible that the passengers anticipated the IDF assault on the ship by relatively weakly armed soldiers and intended to capture and hold Israeli soldiers as hostages. Regardless, whatever was intended by the level of resistance on board the Marmara failed because of the training of the IDF soldiers who unfortunately for the protesters responded appropriately and immediately.

14. All of the ships involved in the flotilla were forewarned that Israel would be stopping the ships. That the timing of the interdiction was earlier than expected cannot possibly have resulted in a radical alteration of the plan of the activists to switch from non-violent resistance to violent resistance. It seems that anti-piracy efforts were intended to prevent the seizure of the ships.

15. There are those who argue that the raid took place in international waters and therefore violated international law. The relevant international law, however, supports Israel's position. According to The San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea, 12 June 1994

Neutral merchant vessels

67. Merchant vessels flying the flag of neutral States may not be attacked unless they:

(a) are believed on reasonable grounds to be carrying contraband or breaching a blockade, and after prior warning they intentionally and clearly refuse to stop, or intentionally and clearly resist visit, search or capture;

16. There is no little bit of international condemnation of Israel on this issue. Much of it is to appease Turkey and the Arab League. However, should the United States fail to defend Israel on its actions during this event, it will encourage future and much more dangerous encounters in the future.

17. The US should say, "Upon obtaining a clear understanding of what occurred on board the Marmara, the United States feels that the response of Israeli soldiers to a life threatening situation was both appropriate and proportional and that had it not been so many more lives would have been lost. The extreme violence on board the ship theoretically carrying non-violent protesters was instigated by the passengers, not by the soldiers who boarded out of a legitimate concern for Israel's security. The history of weapons smuggling by Hamas gave Israel every necessary concern to prevent these ships from reaching land. Without peace, both sides face a bleak future."

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Disaffection Among American Jews for Israel

Shalom All,

Daniel Gordis' article about the origins and problem of disaffection among American Jews is scary.

I must say, however, that I think there are primary causes that most people are either failing to cite at all or are playing down far too much. I would cite the following four which I think are most influential:

1. Americans in general are feeling that America's role in affecting other countries is both far too great and increasingly detrimental to American interests. This is, in my mind, the primary battle that we need to win. If Americans don't really care what is happening in Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, North and South Korea, Venezuela, Mexico, Lebanon, Sudan, China, Georgia, etc... Why should Americans care about Israel? One could make the argument that our own problems are overwhelming our focus just as they were in the 1920s an early 1930s. The horrific occurrences along our Southern Border in places like Juarez are being treated as if they are not really our problem, even when Americans are killed there.

Meanwhile, in relation to several major problems that we would rather not have (Muslim anti-US terrorism and conflicts in the Middle East), people such as Hamid Karzai are calling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a "festering wound" for Muslims and Americans, including our President, are buying it. Of note and entirely missed by most of the "let's get the hell out of there" set in America is the fact that the "festering wound" is not the absence of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but the EXISTENCE of Israel. The additional fact that many young American Jews are part of the "let's get the hell out of there" set simply means that there are Jews who share the incorrect view that peace will result in the healing of the "festering wound." Radical Muslims, those whose inconvenient hatred and attacks against us are SOMEWHAT bothersome, don't want a Palestinian state alongside Israel, they don't want peace, but a Palestinian, read MUSLIM, state in Israel's place. The way to heal the "festering wound" for them is to eliminate, not make peace with, Israel. Most young American Jews have no clue that is the case and many on the political left, including Jews, young and old, are promoting the misunderstanding that peace BETWEEN Israelis and Palestinians will heal the wound to which Karzai and others including Al-Qaida figures refer.

2. American Jews have failed and are continuing to fail miserably at teaching about the history of Jew-hatred and have devoted virtually all the time allotted to the subject to teaching about the Shoah which we describe as a wholly unique event. This combination, namely focusing on the Shoah and its uniqueness, gives any sane student the impression that while the Shoah was horrific, it is almost certainly unlikely to happen again, so what is the purpose of having a refuge for Jews? Besides, America is our refuge, right? This is clearly the impression that most young American Jews have. Most American Jews have little or no understanding of or knowledge of any of the rest of the long history of Jew-hatred. For most of them, the Crusades were solely Christian anti-MUSLIM events and 1492 was the year that Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Pogrom is a typo missing an "r" and with an "a" exactly as this word processor is telling me now. They do not see any need for a Jewish state because the Shoah will happen "never again" and Jews have nothing about which to worry in 2010 America.

3. Israel is increasingly being seen by American Jews as not the Jewish state, but the ORTHODOX, or even worse, ULTRA-Orthodox, Jewish state. Progressive and secular Jews not only feel ashamed at the actions of the settlers and sickened by Israel's military actions, even when they see them as justified by security needs, but they are ashamed and dismayed by Israel's Rabbinate's and Knesset's pro-Orthodox and anti-pluralistic biases, much less legal restrictions, and they have every reason to do so. If the state is theirs also, those laws should not exist. Those biases should not exist. Reform and Conservative Jews should be welcome to practice Reform and Conservative Judaism with the APPROVAL and SUPPORT of the state and accompanied by all benefits given to any other Jewish streams. The only possible sane response to the absence of that approval and support is that "Israel isn't really OUR home, but one we help to provide for THEM." "THEM" referring to those who are NOT LIKE US and who often believe things that we, Progressive and Secular American Jews overwhelmingly reject and by which we may well be offended. That attitude has to change, but it CAN NOT unless Israel's leadership ends the Orthodox monopoly in Israel. This is URGENT, but instead of moving toward ENDING that monopoly, recent legislation is aimed at SOLIDIFYING it and WORSENING it!!!

4. Affiliation for Pedagogy is the primary way that most American Jewish families connect to the Jewish community. This leads to most American Jewish adults having little or no access to information about Israel, much less an inspired desire to care about it. They simply do not encounter it. We need to create programs that inspire Jewish adults to enter our doors for reasons other than dropping off their children and we need to get them to stay to learn about Judaism long past when their children are out of their homes, to see their congregation as their spiritual home, and to feel a real connection to other Jews. That we likely need to start with the children and young adults we now have the ability to inspire means that the problem of disaffection will be with us for some time. But only if we rectify it, and only then, can we truly change the dynamic.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Road Less Traveled - Confirmation 2010

As a rabbi, I have had the pleasure to teach many students, to share my thoughts on life with them and to hear theirs. Confirmation students question everything strongly, challenging each other even concerning the question, “Why be Jewish?” and thinking about what the consequences are of making that choice? Finishing up their Sophomore year of High School and looking ahead at applying to colleges, they are in the midst of a tremendous period of self analysis, a time not only when they examine their current identities and how Judaism fits into their lives, but a time when they look closely at the world around them and ask themselves who they wish to be. One of my former confirmation students, a young woman with a great passion for social issues, whose parents are both Jews by birth, was particularly troubled by the question, “Why be a Jew?” and decided to write about it in her confirmation speech. She began with the words of Robert Frost.

The Road Less Traveled
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth
Then took the other, just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
–I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

My student continued, “As a Jew, I take the road less traveled by. The difference is, in the beginning, I did not choose to become a Jew. I was born into a house of Jewish parents, and raised as a Jew as a child, not because of a decision I had made, but one that my parents had made for me. Now, however, I stand at the crossroads for myself. On one side of the path, a road sits. It is worn down; many have walked on it, and many still do. The majority of my friends choose this path, as their parents have. It is mainly foot-printed by Christian soles, but others wear it down, pressing its leaves into the earth, smoothing the gravel into a fine pulp so that it may be smooth for the next pair of boots that cross it. The other side, however, is not so smooth. It is a bit rocky. It is, “just as fair,” and is bright and cheerful, not angry or jealous that the other path has more travelers. It has been scorched and destroyed, but its grass still grows green. Some weeds grow on its surface, other vegetation colors it, thriving where few feet have crossed. It is the path of Judaism.

Being Jewish is not always easy. It has its downsides, as does every religion, brought down by the ignorance of others, or the lack of fellow travelers. I am not saying that there are not other woods where Judaism is more common. There are other countries, states, and cities, and even schools where the path is easier to walk across. Although it exists, it is not mine. I am at a crossroads where very few stand with me. Many of my friends choose other paths. Some ask me to come with them. And sometimes, I wonder where I am headed. Which path do I choose?

How is my life affected by the path I choose? I have yet to see. I do know one thing, and I am sure of it. I take the path less traveled by, and that will make all the difference.”

They were the sentiments of one Confirmation student, yet clearly they are relevant to everyone. There is something powerful that draws us to the path of Judaism, even though we know that the path is a bit rockier and at times we may even have to use a machete to hack our way through the overgrowth. We know that along the road less traveled, we are more likely to find undiscovered treasures, natural beauty less tarnished by the masses hurtling by on the high ways. We also know that there are wonderful things that can only be seen and experienced on other roads, roads significantly more heavily traveled. Some of those things we will miss, others we will come to by a side road and then leave by a side road again. Some things we will experience through the trees from a distance.

Many things on the path that we choose, those on other paths will never experience at all. Some flowers only bloom away from the hustle and bustle. The fruit on the trees on our road less traveled is given more time to ripen before it is picked by passersby-by. On occasion, we may even look down and see the trace of the foot prints of those who walked the same path generations before us. Sometimes we find ourselves walking only with Reform Jews or Conservative Jews. At other times, we find ourselves walking the path along side many others, some of whose reasons for being on the path might be very different from our own.

It is true that on occasion, the road less traveled may be lonely. We may not see fellow travelers often. Yet unlike on more heavily traveled roads, we are much more likely to take notice of travelers on our road less traveled, perhaps even taking the time to greet them, to talk about the sights we have seen, to play “Jewish Geography” or even to share some of the wonderful fruit that we have gathered on our journeys.

Though, as Jews, our footsteps fall on the Jewish path, we may choose at some time to join the others on the high ways, to travel speedily and anonymously in the pack, for every now and then we will come to junctions where our less traveled road links up with others. Many times, others whose journeys have been along the more traveled roads will join with us on our path, sometimes choosing to become one of us, to convert to Judaism. But often with their hearts and minds dedicated to the road more traveled, they take the hands of their loved ones and journey along side them on the road less traveled, our road.

For certain, the road less traveled draws the Jewish soul. In the words of the prophet Micah, “For all the peoples walk, each in the name of their own god, but we will walk in the name of Adonai, our God, forever and ever.”

I do not know what each of us will encounter along the path we will choose, but that along the way, as Micah tells us, we need “to do righteous deeds, to love acting kindly, and to walk humbly with our God.”

I stand before you today without a sigh, as a guide on the road less traveled by. Up ahead there is much more to learn and experience, and if you continue on this road, it will indeed make all the difference.

[Many thanks go to Megan Sass whose Confirmation Speech at
The Valley Temple in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2000 was so inspiring]

Monday, May 10, 2010

Smearhawker’s Pretext

John Mearsheimer is one of the leading opponents of Israel in America. He contends that a two state solution is not a viable option. Instead, Mearsheimer contends that Israel seeks a single state solution in which it will continue to rule Gaza and the West Bank indefinitely while denying the Arab residents of those territories the rights of citizenship. This situation he compares with Apartheid South Africa in which residents of the nation who should have received the full rights of citizenship were denied them. His basic argument is that this is untenable for long and that what will eventually occur in the territory now controlled by Israel will be a Democratic bi-national state, dominated by Palestinians, and ceasing to be a Jewish state.

Mearsheimer believes in this inevitability because he contends that Israel lacks the will to concede everything to the Palestinians that it must concede in order to achieve a two state solution and that it simply cannot maintain for long a single Jewish dominated state, “Greater Israel,” that denies the Arab residents of Gaza rights as citizens.

If Israel indeed were to incorporate the entirety of the West Bank and Gaza into “Greater Israel” then Mearsheimer is mostly correct here. Israel cannot permanently control the territory while denying its inhabitants rights as citizens without rightly being accused of mistreatment of those inhabitants and justifying questions about whether or not they should be granted rights as citizens. Those who would argue that the Palestinians do not wish to achieve peace and that therefore Israel can simply continue to expand settlements in their midst without worrying about the needs of the Palestinian population are extremely and dangerously wrong. While a two state solution is Israel’s goal, the US and others will treat Israel as a democratic friend. If that solution were to be abandoned by Israel, support from Western powers would almost certainly follow.

One place where Mearsheimer is wrong is that Israel has options to create two states if negotiations fail. It COULD if it wished, for example, abandon much of the West Bank and abandon the Eastern border (which would be a security nightmare) in Palestinian hands. This is a BAD option for everyone involved, but it is a better option than absorbing the entire population of the West Bank and Gaza into Israel’s and creating a bi-national state. Hence, Mearsheimer is wrong in his conclusion that the primary or only option that will be available if a two state neogiated solution is not found is “Greater Israel.” If Israel abandoned Gaza and most of the West Bank, sealing its borders with those territories, it would leave them as enormous problems for Egypt and Jordan as well as itself. Likely in that scenario both Egypt and Jordan will seal their own borders with the Palestinians because of the volatility and danger that open borders with them would create and the Palestinians will be in a far worse situation than they find themselves in today. The Palestinians, not just Israel, have incentive to negotiate.

A two state solution would involve a Palestinian state controlling well over 90 percent of the West Bank and all of Gaza as well as territorial swaps that would add to that territory in exchange for territory in the West Bank that would become part of Israel. Likely, some portion of Eastern Jerusalem, possibly Northeastern and Southeastern, would be turned over in the deal to the Palestinians and become the capital of the new Palestinian state. There would be restrictions on Palestinian military capabilities and possibly border access. Earlier discussions would have given the Palestinians control over the borders, but since 2005, with the Hamas takeover of Gaza, it makes less sense to argue that Palestinians could guarantee Israel’s security if it opened the Jordanian border. This situation will almost certainly now require some sort of security agreement with Israel in which Israel continues to maintain Eastern border control so as to prevent the importation of massive amounts of dangerous armaments.

Mearsheimer suggests that a bi-national democratic state is the best solution that is available, something that Palestinian supporters want to hear because it would result in the elimination of the Jewish state and would be a Palestinian dominated one. What he doesn’t understand is that this is itself not a viable option.

In essence, a single “bi-national” state is the reversal of the outcome of the 1948 war, eliminating Israel and creating an Arab dominated state in what was British Mandatory Palestine. The assumption that there would not be war between the parties immediately upon the creation of a bi-national state, which would almost certainly need to be forced upon Israel by the UN, is ludicrous. Those who support this option are dangerously idealistic and unrealistic. This attempted solution would result in a new war between Jews and Arabs. In that war, the losing population would almost certain be forced to flee in large numbers.

It could well be that the Palestinians gain enough strength to cause the Jews to flee with the backing of the Arab nations, but the result could easily be the mass flight of more Palestinians. In this scenario, a regional war would result and there would be tens of thousands dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.

Thus, in my view Mearsheimer’s single state alternative to a two state solution is far worse than the status quo and amounts to re-fighting the wars of 1948 and 1967 in the hope that the Jews lose. A peaceful solution it is not.

The status quo is not good by any means, although it should not be considered “Apartheid” as Mearsheimer does because the Palestinians are actively at war with Israel and not citizens of the state. Mearsheimer ignores the fact that the Palestinians have an alternative to extricate themselves from the status quo, namely a two state solution that Israel can accept. The Palestinians have an incentive to make peace and to make concessions to achieve it. It is simply Antisemitic to term the results of the Palestinians’ refusal to live at peace alongside Israel under the Camp David accords of 2000, namely Israeli defenses against and responses to harm done by Palestinians, as “Apartheid.”

The only viable solution in the long run is a two state solution and to achieve it any time soon, we need to stop talking about single state alternatives. They are far worse than the status quo. If they are the alternatives, the status quo will continue. Achieving peace will be difficult, for both sides. Are there settlers who would resist the abandonment of isolated settlements in the West Bank? Of course! Israel will need to address its radicals just as the PA will need to address its radicals for there to be peace. It will be painful, but so is eternal conflict.

Mearsheimer wants to see Israel as a malicious and power hungry entity that MIGHT actually go through with a policy of ethnic cleansing in order to maintain the territory of “Greater Israel” with a Jewish majority. Yet, Israel has controlled the West Bank for 43 years and has not done that. Why should there be any question that it would now?

The only real possibility of a major population shift occurring is with a regional war instigated by the Arabs against Israel, either in pursuit of its elimination outright, or for the creation of a Palestinian dominate bi-national state. Mearsheimer suggests that Israel might use a war as a pretext to oust Palestinians. BUT he neglects to consider the idea that the war might well be a civil war in which the Palestinians are enemy combatants!!! Mearsheimer assumes that the Palestinians would be non-violent innocent bystanders being expelled. What if they were in fact a defeated rebellious army or part of a regional Arab army? I could certainly see such a war happening in pursuit of a Palestinian dominated single state solution.

This is a scenario that the Palestinians need to avoid and Mearsheimer is advocating that they position themselves for it! If the Palestinians were to engage in a civil war with the Jews of course American Jews would have a problem with it and would defend the defensive actions of the Jews against the offensive actions of Palestinians and the Arab world. It is ridiculous to think otherwise, but Mearsheimer wishes to see such support for the security of Israel and Jews as somehow evil and that Israel and the “Israel lobby” would support ethnic cleansing under the “PRETEXT” of security.

Mearsheimer in fact delves into what is pure demonization. He wrote in his recent speech to the Palestine Center in Washington, D.C.:

We should not underestimate Israel's willingness to employ such a horrific strategy if the opportunity presents itself. It is apparent from public opinion surveys and everyday discourse that many Israelis hold racist views of Palestinians and the Gaza massacre makes clear that they have few qualms about killing Palestinian civilians. It is difficult to disagree with Jimmy Carter's comment earlier this year that "the citizens of Palestine are treated more like animals than like human beings." A century of conflict and four decades of occupation will do that to a people.

Mearsheimer is simply spewing Jew hatred here. He might as well have said, “Look at those evil Jews!!! They will certainly do this if we let them!!! The Israelis are going to ‘massacre’ the Palestinian civilians!!! Jimmy Carter said that the Israelis consider the Palestinians to be animals! Surely they are willing to slaughter them!”

If this is not Jew hatred, it is at a minimum shameful speech. In fact, U. of Chicago should fire Mearsheimer for using this language which is reminiscent of descriptions of Jews as war mongers who can only but be trusted to do evil when presented the opportunity.

We need to make it clear that what this man is promoting is not reasonable and not a peaceful solution, but instead advocating for the eradication of the Jewish state through war and demonizing, not only Israel, the Jewish state, but Jews as whole in the process.

The full text of Mearsheimer’s Palestine Center speech may be found at:


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Where Liberal Theologians Fail and Do Harm

This summer, several Mainline Christian church denominations will consider divestment from Israel. Some of these denominations have seriously considered it before. Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions proposals, usually referred to by the acronym BDS, are not new. They were implemented against Apartheid South Africa effectively and eventually resulted in the collapse of that system of government. Similar proposals aimed at Israel are extraordinarily problematic and troubling, not only because of their potential impact on the Israeli economy, but because of their impact upon Jewish-Christian relations and their impact on Jewish communities around the world. Why?

Those promoting BDS are primarily advocates for a SINGLE state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Most see the conflict as one in which the entire territory now under the control of Israel is occupied Arab land and should be Palestinian land. Many proposals and documents supporting BDS are deliberately ambiguous about what constitutes “Occupied Palestinian land” so as not to alienate those who desire a two state solution. For the most part, advocates of BDS see Israel, the Jewish state, as illegitimate and do not desire a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but instead a Palestinian state in its place.

Why is all of this relevant TODAY?

There are renewed and strengthened calls for BDS proposals and they are being discussed in some of our local and national church communities right now. This is to no small extent due to the creation of a document known as “Kairos / A Moment of Truth: A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering” which was issued in December by a group of Palestinian Christians including the leaders of several Palestinian Christian churches and organizations. While Palestinians certainly continue to suffer, this document is anything but one of love or truth as I will show, but instead seems to be a document of faith and hope in the effectiveness of playing on empathy for fellow Christians and of latent and blatant Antisemitism.

The Kairos Palestine Document calls upon Christians around the world to employ BDS against Israel. Kairos intends to mimic the results of the 1985 document produced in South Africa. Its intention is to compare Israel with Apartheid South Africa, a comparison that not only is grossly in error for a voluminous number of reasons, but also is based in age old Jew hatred and is designed to elicit the response of hatred and suspicion from those Christians who are willing to listen.

In South Africa, the oppressed people were oppressed because of their race. Of vital importance is the fact that they were people who should have been granted the rights of citizens of the state. The Palestinians are not being oppressed because of their race, but because many are actively trying to harm Israelis. Palestinians as a whole remain in a state of war with Israel and therefore Israel must secure itself against them. Those residents of Gaza and the West Bank are not, nor should be considered, citizens of Israel and therefore are not being denied the rights of citizenship in Israel. They are members of a people actively engaged in war, using violence to fight their enemy as well as negotiating for the elimination of their enemy’s state. Those advocating that Palestinians be given the right of citizenship in Israel are actually advocating for that agenda, the end of the Jewish state, a single state solution.

Meanwhile, those Arabs who are citizens of Israel have more rights and privileges by far than the citizens of any other nation in the Middle East and so are hardly being “oppressed.” The analogy with South Africa fails miserably, but those who are ignorant of the realities of the situation could easily be persuaded that Israel is at fault while not checking to see if the accusations are fair. That is the intention of making the Apartheid accusation, namely to tar Israel and rally support against it. The document fails in numerous other areas as well.

●The Kairos Document advocates for the ELIMINATION of the Jewish state, not for a Palestinian state alongside it living in peace. It promotes a SINGLE state solution and therefore is not a document of peace between Israelis and Palestinians at its heart, but is instead an attempt to rally support for a Palestinian victory and the elimination of the Jewish state altogether.

●It pretends that Israel has no legitimate concern for security even while advocating for the very violence against Israel that necessitates that concern—for example:

●It demonstrates in NUMEROUS places SUPPORT for HAMAS, a recognized terrorist organization, as the elected government of the Palestinian people and support for VIOLENT RESISTANCE, even terrorism, as legitimate while at the same time incongruously advocating for “non-violence.”

●It pretends that without occupation there would be no violence against Israel, something proven by history to be outrageously incorrect, with many Jews killed in violence including suicide attacks, even PRIOR TO WORLD WAR II, much less prior to 1967, as evidence of that fact.

●It ignores, because of its single state solution goal, the fact that peace could have been achieved not once but TWICE in recent years alone were it not for the refusal of the PALESTINIAN side to agree to it (2000 and 2007).

●It functionally condemns as EVIL, the Jewish state, and by implication all JEWS who support it, the vast majority of Jews in the world.

●It is a morally and ethically bankrupt document that exploits Christian love and concern for the poor and weak along with tendencies, latent and not-so-latent, toward Jew hatred in order to promote the persecution of the Jewish state and to avoid placing any real responsibility on the Palestinians for the absence of peace.

●It is inherently a document of Jew hatred under the guise of criticism of Israel, something that has become all too politically acceptable.

●It also warps the concept of Liberation Theology, advocacy for the poor and weak, by turning into victimized freedom fighters the defeated Arab armies with their vastly superior numbers, who were bent on the slaughter of Jews both in 1948 and 1967. Let me remind you of a bit of history. King Hussein of Jordan signed a defense pact with Egypt on May 30, 1967, less than a week before the war started. Colonel Nasser of Egypt then announced:

• The armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are poised on the borders of face the challenge, while standing behind us are the armies of Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan and the whole Arab nation. This act will astound the world. Today they will know that the Arabs are arranged for battle, the critical hour has arrived. We have reached the stage of serious action and not declarations.

This, only a few days after Syrian Defense Minister Hafez Assad said:

• Our forces are now entirely ready not only to repulse the aggression, but to initiate the act of liberation itself, and to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland. The Syrian army, with its finger on the trigger, is united....I, as a military man, believe that the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation.
Here is where liberal theologians fail and actually do harm.

Behind the BDS efforts in the Mainline Christian community and in the Palestinian Christian community lies an effort to promote, as applicable to the conflict, what is known as Liberation Theology. Liberation Theology argues, in essence, that Christians are duty bound to aid the poor and weak against their oppressors. We, Jews, might simply call this an aspect of Tikkun Olam or perhaps, dealing with its economic aspects, Social Justice. In South America, where it is a dominant religious theology, it is the cry of the impoverished and politically oppressed masses.

Then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, argued in a document he produced for the Catholic Church in 1984 that Liberation Theology is basically Marxism with Christian overtones. It argues not for faith or belief but that people should help the lower class rise up against the wealthy, the weak against the powerful. It is a theology of class conflict. Now, many advocates for the basic philosophy would disagree with that sentiment and would argue, as we, Reform Jews, do about our concept of Social Justice, that the goal is a reasonable life for all, not the elimination of capitalism or personal wealth. Regardless of how you might feel about these ideas, the real questions are whether or not they apply to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and what happens when they are applied.

To apply Liberation Theology here implies that the Israelis, the citizens of the Jewish state, are an oppressor people, an Evil people, and not people defending themselves against an enemy seeking their harm. The Kairos Palestine Document refers more than once to Israel’s “PRETEXT” of security, implying that it both lacks a reasonable need to secure itself and that its actions in that regard are purely malicious. Its authors need to argue in this fashion because, if indeed Israel’s defensive measures are legitimate, Liberation Theology cannot possibly apply to the conflict. Given the fact that violence against Jews by the Arab inhabitants of the land occurred in significant amounts, including riots and even mass murder in the 1920s and the infamous massacre in Hebron in 1929, LONG BEFORE there was a Jewish state, the contention that such violence is based upon the events after 1967 or even 1948 is grossly incorrect. In fact, the history of the last century of the conflict provides ample evidence that violence against Jews by Arabs in the land has been primarily driven by the hatred of Jews as a race, even when their numbers were few and Arabs had the power to oppress them.

Yet, the document states that:

In the face of this reality, Israel justifies its actions as self-defense, including occupation, collective punishment and all other forms of reprisals against the Palestinians. In our opinion, this vision is a reversal of reality. Yes, there is Palestinian resistance to the occupation. However, if there were no occupation, there would be no resistance, no fear and no insecurity.

This statement is laughable were it not for the fact that lives are at stake and good people around the world take this statement at face value. On the other hand, one could in fact make the case that Liberation Theology could apply to supporting the Jews against those who would see their harm! The Jews are only not being attacked and killed now, as we speak, by the Palestinians and other Arab nations because the Jews have the upper hand and can and are defending themselves. The Palestinians certainly wish to apply Liberation Theology to themselves because it makes them the victims, pegs Israel as an evil oppressor, evincing age old stereotypes rooted in Jew hatred and encourages American and European Christians to support Palestinians by acting against Israel.

Many Christian leaders with whom I have spoken about this issue think that the application of Liberation Theology to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not only inappropriate, but inherently antisemitic. It obviously should not be the case that only when being oppressed and slaughtered in attempted genocide should Jews find support from Christians. Having gained the upper hand against those who would slaughter them should not suddenly result in the Jews being seen as oppressors, yet for many it seems that Israel’s ability and willingness to defend its population has wrongly resulted in exactly that.

Apparently, however, this problem has failed to be understood by those church groups who have regularly considered and currently consider BDS proposals that seek to harm Israel or consider offering support for the circulation of the Kairos Palestine Document. It is of no little concern to us in the Reform Jewish movement that these same church groups tend to be our closest of friends and allies on our social agenda including the Presbyterian Church, the Disciples of Christ, the United Church of Christ and others, and that these boycott proposals will result in making it difficult, if not impossible, for us to continue working with them in coalitions.

The Kairos document poses perhaps the greatest threat to relations between Jews and liberal Christians that has ever arisen. The Central Conference of American Rabbis’ commentary on the document, should ALARM any in the interfaith community who consider advocating for it, much less support its conclusions. The CCAR is exceedingly liberal in its general, and certainly political, outlook, so it is not coming from anything close to a politically conservative perspective.

The CCAR response states:

A close reading of Kairos reveals that it is anything but a document based on truth. Careful consideration of what it says and what it does not say, of the history it paints and the history it obfuscates, and of the moral yardstick it applies to Israel yet compromises in the face of Palestinian violence, reveals a morally inconsistent and theologically suspect document that speaks only part of the truth, and not always that.

Sadly, this document also rejects or ignores more than a half a century of Jewish-Christian rapprochement and takes its place among other Christian documents which, throughout history, have intended to delegitimize the Jewish people’s continuing Covenant with God, particularly by arguing that our Covenant has been superseded by Jesus and Christianity. Too often, such Church documents have been utilized as pretexts for our persecution, our expulsion, and even our attempted annihilation. Since the Shoah and World War II, and particularly beginning with Vatican II, the Jewish people has come to expect better from our Christian brothers and sisters….
The Kairos Document has been explicitly endorsed by a relative few Palestinian Christian leaders. [10] However, the acceptance and endorsement of this document by certain other individuals and church groups with whom we have enjoyed harmonious interfaith relations has been surprising, disturbing and profoundly disappointing.

For the contemporary Christian to ascribe to this supersessionist document would be saying to their Jewish neighbors and friends – indeed to the world – that Judaism has no validity as a covenant religion; that the pain and martyrdom endured by countless generations of Jews was for naught; that the world would have been better off without the religious, cultural, spiritual, social, scientific and educational contributions of Jewish people throughout ages; and that the God we worship and serve is no God at all. So many mainstream churches have rejected supersessionism, not only because of the centuries of persecution it has engendered, but because they believe it not to be true.

In short, those who would associate themselves with this document and the religious foundation upon which it is based would be erasing years of Christian soul searching and repentance as if they had not been. We expect more from our interfaith partners. We are forced to wonder whether these Church organizations do not recognize the supersessionist and anti-Semitic nature of the Kairos document or whether they no longer care to share interfaith dialogue with us.

Therefore, the Central Conference of American Rabbis:
1. Declares that Kairos is a factually, theologically and morally flawed document;
2. Insists that the document’s explicit supersessionism and inherent anti-Semitism prevent Kairos from providing a legitimate framework for interfaith dialogue and understanding;
3. Acknowledges with appreciation Kairos’ call to the Palestinian people to reject hate [11] (as we all must do), to follow the Christian commandment to “love both enemies and friends” and to resist “through respect of life,” as required by cited Christian Scriptures; [12]
4. Challenges the authors of Kairos to be true to the love and respect of life they endorse and the very scriptures they quote by rejecting as immoral and un-Christian the indiscriminate and deliberately targeted murder of Israeli men, women and children;
5. Again insists that such acts of murder, either as acts of revenge or with the specious designation of “legal Palestinian resistance,” [13] do indeed comprise terrorism, denounced by people of conscience throughout the world as an unacceptable tool for achieving political ends;
6. Asserts that the Jewish people’s right to national sovereignty in the Land of Israel is primarily established, not by subjective religious belief or fundamentalist reading of Hebrew Scriptures, but by a millennium of national existence and civilization there, followed, even in exile, by nearly two millennia of unbroken physical and spiritual support of and yearning for the Land;
7. Labels as theologically hypocritical and historically dishonest the assertion that the Palestinian people’s historic presence on the land establishes its right of return, [14] but that the Jewish people’s historic presence, dating back 3000 years, does not establish that very same right;
8. Calls on Christians of good faith to recognize the complexity of the Israeli-Arab conflict, which is complicated by territorial dispute as well as competing allegiances to sacred land, Palestinian suffering and Palestinian terror; and which must not be reduced, as Kairos’ authors do, to an assertion that the Jewish people are in the wrong and that the Palestinian cause is fully just;
9. Calls on all who have endorsed Kairos to look deeply into its words and honestly into their own souls and to recognize and forswear the flawed and distorted picture of reality it paints;
10. Serves notice that the CCAR would require serious reflection before continuing our common cause with any Church body or organization that endorses or continues to endorse Kairos;
11. Re-affirms our commitment to our continuing interfaith cooperation with Christian groups that affirm the continuing, unique Covenant between God and the Jewish people; and
12. Recommits itself to all worthy and legitimate endeavors to bring an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people, to be achieved through negotiations to establish a Palestinian State adjacent to and in cooperation with a secure Jewish State of Israel.
13. Urges our members to educate themselves on this matter and to seek opportunities to share concerns about the Kairos document with their local Christian colleagues and lay people.

I urge everyone to speak with their Christian friends about the Kairos document and to ask them to speak up against it to their church leaders. The Kairos Palestine Document and the inappropriate application of Liberation Theology to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have the potential to do tremendous harm to Jewish-Christian relations by mainstreaming age old prejudices, much less to do harm to the nation of Israel, the Jewish state.

We will not reach a righteous solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through political and economic pressure directed to achieve the same bad solution that has been tried through military means several times before, namely the creation of a single Arab dominated entity in place of Israel and a Palestinian state. Peace will not be found through the demonization of Jews or the Jewish state. It is sad to see people of faith, including too many religious leaders, trumpeting words of war as if they were words of peace.