Rabbis for whose human rights?

CiF Watch (named after the Guardian's "Comment is Free" section) has a blog post denigrating a Rabbis for Human Rights press release in response to the murder of four Israelis last week (I'm the co-chairman of the board of RHR).  You can read it here.  CiF complains that in a 92 word press release on the murder, only 8 words were devoted to compassion for the families.

Here's the press release:

“May God comfort the families of those murdered tonight, and also protect Palestinian families from attempts at revenge.  There was already one attempt this evening, and security forces are protecting the family.  In another location there is currently an attempt to uproot trees.  If we hear of other such attempts we will try to send security forces to do their job. However, we also need volunteers who are willing to travel at anytime tonight if needed.  Please call me at any time if you are willing to be on such a list.”

So, I will actually agree with CiF that perhaps we should have said more about the victims.  One of the things that happens is we often feel there are certain things that "go without saying," that apparently we do actually need to say.

Rabbis for Human Rights is an organization made up of Israeli rabbis–many of whom have served in the IDF.  Those of us who made aliyah at an age too old to serve in the IDF have kids who have/do/will serve in the IDF. As such:

It goes without saying that we are outraged by the vicious murder of four Jews who were killed for no reason other than being Jews driving in the wrong place.

It goes without saying that we condemn terrorism in any form.

It goes without saying that we are aware that Hamas would love to destroy Israel and they need to be dealt with seriously.

It goes without saying that our hearts break for the families and the orphaned children.

What the CiF blog post reminded me of is that the things we think would go without saying actually need saying because many people don't really understand Rabbis for Human Rights.  We are a Zionist organization — we believe in a Jewish state in Israel.  We are rabbis and uphold the ideals of the Torah.

At the same time we are concerned for the human rights of everyone, not just Jews, and we have seen in recent months the settler community getting more violent, calling for a "price tag" on Palestinians for things like settlement evacuations. 

Which is why the press release focused on that issue.  It needs to be said that the proper response to a terrorist act is NOT more terrorism.  The murderers should be tracked down and put in jail (and interjecting my own personal opinion, NOT be part of a grossly lop-sided trade for an Israeli soldier in captivity).  But if some of the extremist settlers try to take revenge in their own hands by murdering some Palestinians — or otherwise harassing them, including, yes, uprooting trees — it will only beget an ongoing cycle of violence.  And note the above does NOT lump ALL settlers into the violent category; most settlers are decent people who also strongly oppose violence against innocent people, regardless of which side they are on.

I was encouraged that the Palestinians took this very seriously, arresting 150 known Hamas operatives virtually immediately.

The real way to end the violence, of course, will be to get a real peace settlement.  May God strengthen the leaders on both sides to find a path to peace.  May Netanyahu and Abbas both find the courage, the will, and the political capability to bring a lasting peace to my troubled country.

I hear Ramallah is having real boom times.  I'd love to visit sometime and see for myself.  But for right now, I'd be too scared to go.  Which is a pity…

Reb Barry


Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

2 thoughts on “Rabbis for whose human rights?

  • September 5, 2010 at 2:47 am

    Our Rabbis, the original ones, said:
    “כל שנעשה רחמן על האכזרים, לסוף נעשה אכזר על רחמנים” (ר’ אלעזר, מדרש תנחומא לפרשת מצורע)
    that is, He who takes pity o [becomes merciful towards] those who are cruel, become in the end cruel against the pitiful. – R’ Elazar, Midrash Tanhuma, Parshat Metzora.

    We can all understand the need for certain Rabbis, having been brought up in the non-Orthodox stream, or those who have been influenced by progressive radical ideology to do what HRH did in this case. It isn’t unique but that doesn’t make it right. Linking up with evil is a slippery slope. In the end, you can provide cover for violence not only in this case but like when a certain Rabbi A allowed a Jew to be struck, knocked to the ground and suffer a slight concussion necessitating hospital care.

    My only thought now is what am I if I take pity on you?

  • September 5, 2010 at 6:17 am

    Yisrael, by accusing us of “linking with evil,” you are saying all Palestinians are evil. We do not defend terrorists. We do defend innocent people who are attacked or harassed. I have met many Palestinians are not terrorists, who are not particularly political, whose main interest is the same as anyone’s: wanting to live a “normal” life, with the prospect that things will be better for their children. I’m not saying take pity on the cruel — go ahead and be cruel to Hamas. Just as not every Jew is a violent settler, not every Palestinian is a terrorist.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Keep me up to date, sign me up for the newsletter!