Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families who lost loved ones and to those injured last evening at a Lag b’Omer celebration at Mt. Meron in northern Israel.
What Is Going On!?
Last weekend the Jewish community learned a Portland area auction house intended to auction off a dagger that purportedly belonged to Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler. Due to pressure from the Jewish community and elsewhere, the auction house removed the item and said it will never sell Nazi memorabilia again. You can read more about it here.
Linfield University made local front page news and international news yesterday with the firing of English professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, a public advocate for students and faculty who had complained about alleged sexual abuse by board trustees. He is Jewish and earlier this month accused university President Miles Davis of making anti-Semitic comments to fend off criticism of how the school handled those sexual abuse complaints. According to the university, the firing was not in retaliation for Pollack-Pelzner speaking out against the president or board chair but for his “propagated false and defamatory statements.”
Linfield faculty (who last week issued a “no confidence” vote of the administration) and students have repeatedly over the last two years called for the administration and trustees to account for how they have addressed sexual abuse and harassment complaints.
We will be watching this story carefully as it further unfolds.
I know there are multiple views in our community on this next challenging issue.
Earlier this week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a 213-page report, “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution,” drafted by Omar Shakir, who has been denied entry to Israel due to his collaboration with the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. In the report, HRW asserted that Israel is “committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution,” saying Israel had an “overarching” policy to “maintain the domination of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians. That intent has been coupled with systematic oppression of Palestinians and inhumane acts committed against them. When these three elements occur together, they amount to the crime of apartheid,” the report read.
The word "apartheid" appears over 200 times…Israel is spoken about as "from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea," all the while ignoring the Palestinian Authority that administers the lives of the Arabs in the West Bank and the Hamas regime in Gaza. The report acknowledges every citizen between the river and the sea, outside of Jews, as Palestinians. There is no mention of the Druze or Bedouin and other groups. The report negates Israel’s Law of Return, while demanding Israel immediately accept the "right of return" for Arabs.
Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Michael Biton responded, “There is no connection between HRW’s report and the legal, social, and moral truths which are prevalently found throughout Israel. The purpose of this spurious report is in no way related to human rights, but to an ongoing attempt by HRW to undermine the State of Israel’s right to exist as the nation state of the Jewish people.”
Israel’s Ambassador to the United States and United Nations Gilad Erdan called the report “a collection of lies and fabrications, bordering on anti-Semitic…When the authors of the report cynically and falsely use the term apartheid, they nullify the legal and social status of millions of Israeli citizens, including Arab citizens, who are an integral part of the State of Israel.”
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the central coordinating body representing 50 national Jewish organizations (including the Jewish Federations of North America) on issues of national and international concern, shared this statement, "We strongly reject the disgraceful report released today by Human Rights Watch (HRW) that attempts to demonize, delegitimize, and apply double standards to the State of Israel…HRW should be denounced for giving voice to such vicious hate while purporting to defend human rights.”
At the same time, many progressive Jewish groups decried those Jewish organizations that responded so critically to HRW and the report. "Don’t shoot the messenger" was much of the sentiment. JStreet, for example, responded that they do not use the term “apartheid” to describe the current situation in the occupied territories, yet, they (and others) believe this new report raises important concerns that should be investigated.
The United States government voiced disagreement with Human Rights Watch’s allegations that Israel is committing “apartheid” against the Palestinians but said it was committed to condemning abuses. “It is not the view of this administration that Israel’s actions constitute apartheid.”
The report’s use of the word “apartheid” is an easy “cheap shot.” It makes headlines. It automatically puts Israel on the defensive. It fuels the ongoing campaign to demonize Israel. Despite the inappropriate use of the word, the report does share concerns that Israel should address to improve its collective society – not dissimilar from other countries, including our own.
I encourage you to take the time to read this important Op-Ed in The Forward from Hirsh Goodman, a noted journalist and former editor of The Jerusalem Report. It provides greater clarity on the issue.
I am sure many of you have reactions to what I wrote. We should recognize that we each see/experience Israel through our own personal lens. The key is (and perhaps the most difficult part) is to open oneself to other perspectives and not feel one’s own view is the only correct one. I am very open to hearing your thoughts.
Finally, please join Americans for Ben Gurion University, Congregation Neveh Shalom, Israel 360 and the Jewish Federation for the free film showing of Ben-Gurion, Epilogue, an introspective, soul-searching interview with one of Israel’s founders. The film is free to view from May 6-19, with a virtual program on Sunday, May 16 at 10:30 a.m. featuring the film’s director, Yariv Mozer. Click here to register.
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