When the Rabbis start speaking out against Gazan outrage

Observing American Rabbis unite over Palestinian rights is an inspiring sight. Back in July, Mondoweiss reported:

Thirteen American rabbis have initiated an important new project called Ta’anit Tzedek – The Jewish Fast for Gaza. The rabbis are calling for a communal monthly fast in support of the following goals:

  1. To call for a lifting of the blockade that prevents the entry of civilian goods and services into Gaza;
  2. To provide humanitarian and developmental aid to the people of Gaza;
  3. To call upon Israel, the US, and the international community to engage in negotiations without pre-conditions with all relevant Palestinian parties – including Hamas – in order to end the blockade;
  4. To encourage the American government to vigorously engage both Israelis and Palestinians toward a just and peaceful settlement of the conflict.

Rabbi Brant Rosen, who we love on this site, is one of the people behind the effort. He explains, “Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people in Gaza amounts to nothing less than collective punishment. While we condemn Hamas’ targeting of Israeli civilians, it is immoral to punish an entire population for the actions of a few. This blockade has only served to further oppress an already thoroughly oppressed people. As Jews and as human beings of conscience, we cannot stand idly by.”

Two months later, the campaign is clearly having an effect, if the criticism directed towards it is any indiciation. Rabbi Brant Rosen responded on 1 September on his blog to some of the predictable smearing:

Rabbi Brian Walt and I, along with the other rabbinical leaders of Ta’anit Tzedek were the object of a vicious…  smear-filled diatribe written by Rabbi David Forman in last Friday’s Jerusalem Post. Brian and I have written a short letter to the the Post and we hope it will be published. In the meantime, we have written this joint essay. Brian has also posted it in his personal blog:

Rabbi David Forman’s smear against Ta’anit Tzedek: Jewish Fast for Gaza is the latest in a series of…  public attacks by Rabbi Forman on Americans and…  American Jewish leaders who criticize specific policies of the Israeli government that violate the human rights of Palestinians.…  Forman attacks us, the coordinators of Ta’anit Tzedek, calling the tenor of our comments “anti-Zionist, bordering on anti-Semitism” and even “an assault on the legitimacy of the Jewish state.”… …  He calls Ta’anit Tzedek “anti-Israel” and even goes as far as to suggest that that the rabbis and others involved in Ta’anit Tzedek “stand idly by when their fellow Jews’ blood is being spilled.”

These accusations against us personally and against the rabbis involved in Ta’anit Tzedek, is a serious violation of the Jewish ethical prohibition against spreading false accusations (“motzi shem ra”), an act unworthy of a rabbi at any time, but especially during this month of Elul devoted to forgiveness and repentance.

Ta’anit Tzedek is not in any way an “anti-Israel act” or an attack on “the very legitimacy of Jewish State,” nor are the rabbis involved in this project “anti-Israel” or “anti-Semitic.”…  All of us are devoted to teaching the values of Judaism and to protecting the human rights of all people: our people, Israelis, Jews throughout the world, and all human beings, including Palestinians and the residents of Gaza.

It is our commitment to the Jewish belief that all human beings are created in the image of God that that impels us to speak out against the blockade, a policy of the Israeli government that causes untold human suffering.…  We are opposed to this policy of the Israeli government, not to Israel. Is there no space for criticism of the policies of the Israeli government without being labeled “anti-Israel” or “anti-Semitic”?

The primary goal of Ta’anit Tzedek is to end the Israeli blockade on Gaza.…  We are shocked that the blockade has led to inadequate nutrition, the stunted growth of children, the denial of medical care to the sick, inadequate fuel and electricity, damage to public health system and many other kinds of suffering.

As Jews and rabbis who care deeply about the Jewish tradition of human decency (“menshlichkeit”), we feel a special responsibility to speak out against the Israeli policy that leads to this suffering.…  Ta’anit Tzedek is committed to breaking the shameful silence on this issue in our community and to doing all we can along with our fellow Americans of all faiths to end this immoral policy.

Read the whole thing.

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