Rabbibrian's Blog

A Voice for Justice and Peace in Israel/Palestine

Rabbi attacks Corrie family and Foundation

Posted by rabbibrian on May 25, 2009

As I have always been inspired by the story of Rachel Corrie and the work of Cindy and Craig Corrie, Rachel’s parents, I was shocked to read an article attacking the Corrie Foundation in the Jerusalem Post by Rabbi David Forman, one of the founders of Rabbis for Human Rights.  As I have worked with Rabbi Forman and admire his  role in founding RHR, I found his comments particularly disturbing.

Two of the many totally unfounded claims that Rabbi Forman makes in his article are:

“…..the foundation supports genocide in Darfur, brutal Hamas killings and indiscriminate assaults on Israel’s civilian population.”

How does Rabbi Forman know this?  Because the Foundation focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and on the suffering in Gaza!  How surprising!  Rachel was killed in Gaza.

The foundation propogates  “bigotry – in the form of pure anti-Semitic propaganda”

How does Rabbi Forman know this?

Because there is an article about the AIPAC convention by Medea Benjamin, an American Jewish activist,  on their website.   The article originally appeared on Common Dreams.

If one actually reads the article, one will read such “anti-semitic” charges such as the following:

When is it too late, I wonder, to stop Israel from destroying itself? When is it too late to tell AIPAC attendees that more violence and hatred is not the answer? When is it too late to open the hardened hearts of my people, once victims of a terrible holocaust, to realize that by occupying Palestine we have become they evil we deplore? When is it too late to restore meaning to the Hebrew term “tikkun olam” by truly working to heal the world? When is it too late for the Jews of the world to weep for the children of Gaza, recognizing that they, too, are the children of God?”

In my position as Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America,  I have worked with Cindy and Craig, Rachel Corrie’s parents.  They are extraordinary human beings who generously support the work of Rabbis for Human Rights and other Israeli human rights and peace groups. They have visited with Rabbi Arik Ascherman, the Executive Director of RHR in Israel, and others in the RHR office in Jerusalem and have consistently supported our work.  I have been moved in my conversations with them, by their integrity and their deep commitment to a just peace.  If I were in their situation,  I would imagine that the temptation to hate  those who killed my daughter would be hard to resist.  (Forman points out that the details of Rashel’s death are disputed.  He doesn’t mention that it was Israel’s refusal to agree to an impartial investigation that prevented us from knowing the truth.  In a very similar action,  Israel recently refused to cooperate with the Goldstone Commission into the Gaza war, even though Judge Goldstone is a committed Jew and made it clear that he would be investigating violations by both sides.)  Despite their daughter’s tragic death, the Corries have never spoken in a hateful  way towards Israel or Jews.  On the contrary, they are deeply committed to peace and to the security of all people in the conflict, Israelis and Palestinians.

Another irony here is the  nastiness of Rabbi Forman’s article. Forman fulminates, as he has on many occasions,  against Americans who express concern for the suffering of the Palestinians and have the chutzpah to speak out against human rights violations by the Israeli government.  How dare we express our disagreement with Israeli government policy?  He and many other Israelis are in for a rude awakening as American Jews and American citizens of all faiths, increasingly refuse to be silent.  We can support Israel and criticize the policies of its government.  It is only a vigorous and clear intervention by our new President supported by Americans of all faiths that has the chance of saving the Jewish people from the disaster of the continued Occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people.  Forman wants us to silence us.  Thankfully, increasing numbers of American Jews and people of other faiths, like the Corrie family,  are ready to say, “NO!” and to express our commitment to safety for Israelis and Palestinians AND our horror at the Gaza war,  the continued settlements, home demolitions and other acts that cause suffering and perpetuate the conflict.

 

 

 

 

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21 Responses to “Rabbi attacks Corrie family and Foundation”

  1. Rabbi Brian, One mistake. Yours will not be just another blog. A serious, thoughtfull and committed Rabbi willing to say no to Israel and willing to point to the obfuscations of the liberal wing of organized Judaism is anything but ‘just another’. You are right that Israel is in for a rude awakening and i think you are one of those able to wake up those who will be doing the rude awakening.

  2. Hi Rabbi Walt,
    One correction; As previewed in your 1st blog, yours will not be ‘just another blog’. A thoughtful and serious Rabbi willing to say no to Israel and to the Judaism that empowers Israel through silence and obfuscation is not just another Rabbi. If that were the case the souls of the Palestinian and Israeli peoples would not be in despair and our religion would not be on the brink of irrelevance. I have very few heroes and you are one of them.
    Thanks and good luck with this iportant blog

  3. Shai said

    If Rabbi Brian hasn’t fixed the link yet to David Forman’s article, then Click here to read the David Forman article that Rabbi Brian is responding to.

    Click here to visit the Rachel Corrie Foundation Web site.

    Thanks Brian for defending the Rachel Corrie Foundation, their work, and the legacy of Rachel Corrie from this kind of defamation.

  4. Carolyn Openheim said

    Dear Rabbi Walt,
    Thank you for speaking out against Rabbi Forman’s diatribe against the Corrie’s and their Foundation. We need Rabbis with the courage to denounce the kind of “censoring” speech that attacks non-Jewish Americans for not using Jewish sensibilities in their criticism of Israel.

    “They” do not have to prove to “us” that they care about us to have permission to express outrage at violations of human rights by the Jewish State of Israel.
    We cannot impose loyalty oaths on non-Jews who do not meet our standards of acceptable criticism or they will be dubbed “antisemites.”

    You have called the question.
    There is a lot of discourse coming that is uncomfortable for us and there will be more. Thanks for addressing this most difficult issue in your first blog!
    Carolyn Oppenhem

  5. Eugene Sotirescu said

    “Another irony here is the nastiness of Rabbi Forman’s article. Forman fulminates, as he has on many occasions, against “naive” Americans who express concern for the suffering of the Palestinians and have the chutzpah to speak out against human rights violations by the Israeli government. How dare we, who haven’t served in the Israeli army, express our disagreement with Israeli government policy.”

    i read the article and can’t find the places where rabbi forman fulminates against ‘naive’ americans for speaking out (the word ‘naive’ doesn’t appear in the article) or where he makes service in the idf a condition for expressing disagreement with the policies of the goi (the israeli government is not even mentioned in the article as far as i can tell).

    i find the article misguided in more than one way, but i didn’t come away with the impression that rabbi forman wants to silence us.

  6. Stephanie Schamess said

    I am delighted that you’ve taken up blogging. Your perspective is a welcome and much-needed one in the world of Israel/Palestine-related blogs and commentary. I look forward to reading more.
    Re: Rabbi Forman — he came to speak at a relatively new reform synagogue in Northampton about 5 years ago. I had just returned from my first trip to the West Bank and was still trying to come to grips with what I’d seen there. Knowing Rabbi Forman was from RHR, I went expecting to hear a very different talk from what he gave. He was very defensive of Israel and surprisingly (to me at the time) critical of those who questioned or disagreed with Israeli policies. Among other things, he dwelt at great length on how hard it was for his own teenage kids to give up going to the movies and cafes because of the threat of suicide bombers. Since I had both heard about and witnessed first hand some of the daily traumas endured by Palestinian children who had to stand by while their parents were rudely humiiliated at checkpoints, or had seen their fathers beaten up in IDF raids on their homes, it was hard for me to feel much sympathy for middle class teens in Tel Aviv who had to watch TV instead of going to a movie. I was pretty shocked at Forman’s insensitivity. Fortunately I discovered other folks at RHR (!!) whose ethics and views were more in keeping with what I expected of the organization. But I’m not surprised to read what you have to say about his article.

  7. I have heard ‘Rabbi Forman’s fulminations” for many years now. At least two times he sought to silence people asking him questions about Israeli human rights abuses in my presence. He refuses to accept the documented record of human rights abuses condoned by the Israeli government and as reported not only by Rabbis for Human Rights but also groups like B’Tselem. This is a very sad and painful denial of reality by a person who once was a model for so many of us.

    This is a case of a very good rabbi and leader who now seeks to belong more than to lead. It pains me to see Forman and many other rabbinic colleagues who know better but look away or knowingly mislead American Jews on these issues.

    Congratulations to Rabbi Brian Walt for beginning his blog with such a strong subject.

    In California, I have met the Corrie family and feel moved by their strength in the face of such callous treatment. The Corrie family and Rachel do not deserve defamation but our respect for their pursuit of peace. Besides the honor of meeting them, I felt their courage and dignity. They are very good and noble people.

    Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak

    • Eugene S said

      dear rabbi beliak, thanks for the clarification.
      i thought this was about straightening the record on the rachel corrie site and legacy as misrepresented in the jpost article. however, if this is the beginning of a campaign against rabbi forman, i have nothing to say, not being familiar with him or rhr politics.

  8. Esther Mohler Ho said

    Rabbi Walt has encouraged me to add to this blog the note which I sent directly to him:

    Dear Rabbi Walt:

    Thank you for your clear repudiation of the unfounded claims of Rabbi Forman re: Cindy and Craig Corrie, whom I have heard speak on several occasions and whom I admire deeply. This is not the first time I have encountered unfounded claims of Rabbi Forman. A year or so ago I read an article by Rabbi Forman in the newsletter of Rabbis for Human Rights which questioned the wisdom of RHR’s working with groups such as ISM and Christian Peacemaker Teams because he felt that they had anti-Semitic leanings. (The article was in a section of the newsletter which was marked as not necessarily representing the views of the organization.) Having served as a member of CPT’s Hebron team for two summers, I know from personal experience that CPTers strive very hard to erase any feelings of anti-Semitism from their thoughts and actions. Also I am reminded of the instance in the mid-1990’s when CPTers put their lives on the line for Jewish riders by riding on the Sunday Jerusalem bus which had been bombed the previous two Sundays. I personally have taken the pledge written later by the CPT Hebron team stating that we will do whatever is in our power to protect Jewish persons, including standing up for them when we hear racist statements or jokes.

    Thank you again for speaking the truth. May you and your work be richly blessed.

    Esther

    P.S. In response to Rabbi Walt’s generous statement in his reply to me that he knows “how often people of other faiths get called anti-Semitic unjustly because they are dedicated to pursuing justice and peace,” I want to say that I have worked closely with many Jewish activists whose steadfast work for justice and peace puts my feeble efforts to shame. This experience has convinced me that Jewish advocates for peace and justice are much more frequently and vehemently castigated as being anti-Semitic (or self-hating Jews) than are those of us from other faiths.

  9. rabbibrian said

    Dear Eugene and Friends,

    This is not a campaign against Rabbi Forman. It is an effort to address the unfortunate tendency among some progressive Israelis and American Jews to readily accuse Christians and people of other faiths of anti-Semitism (and Jews of being “self hating Jews”) when they criticize Israeli policy. This is just one manifestation of the silencing of the discussion on Israeli policy in North America. We all suffer from the effects of silencing.
    I also wrote the article because I know the Corries personally and the attack on them and their foundation was so unfair.

  10. Eugene Sotirescu said

    dear rabbi brian,

    “This is not a campaign against Rabbi Forman.”

    i’m glad it isn’t (the posts in reaction to your blog entry give that impression tho)

    i guess i got it wrong in terms of the priorities in your response to rabbi forman’s article: i thought it mainly wanted to address the injustice done to the corrie foundation and family. it turns out that the attack against the corrie foundation was just the opportunity to address the larger issues you mention.

    i would like to address the issue of the corrie foundation as represented online, if you don’t mind.
    from what i can see online, the site is devoted to raising awareness about rachel’s work, supporting pro-palestinian causes, and criticizing israeli occupation. hardly anything that deserves vituperative attacks, but also not the universalistic “peace and justice” it claims.

    my issue with the site is the following:
    if you click on the link to the site’s shop (http://astore.amazon.com/rachelcorriefoundation-20) you get to an amazon ministore customized for the site. to the right there is a menu, and on it there’s link called: “Jewish History and Identity”. if you click on that link you come to what the corrie foundation has chosen as reading for people interested in jewish history and identity. three books are represented there:
    1.”Reframing Anti-Semitism: Alternative Jewish Perspectives From Jewish Voice For Peace (a collection of essays on the misuse of the issue of the holocaust and anti-semitism to silence critics)
    2.Israel and Palestine – Out of the Ashes: The Search for Jewish Identity in the Twenty-first” By Marc H. Ellis (the author is a professional critic of israel, for whom “the sin of twentieth –century [is] Jewish settlements”)
    3.”Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years” By Israel Shahak (the late israel shahak was a shady figure whose writings often sound like an expanded version of the “protocols of the elders of zion”).

    in addition to these books, a list of “similar items” appears to extend the options of the reader interested in “jewish identity and history”. they are items such as “The Jews And Their Lies” by Martin Luther (republished by Liberty Bell Publication, a publisher of anti-semitic and neo-nazi literature); “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine
    by Ilan Pappe”; and “The Synagogue of Satan” by Andrew Carrington Hitchcock (this is a rotating list, which changes every time one refreshes the page, so you might see other similarly insightful works there).

    my question is: are these works representative of “Jewish History and Identity”? if asked for some reading concerning the topic, would you, rabbi brian (or the other rabbis reading this) come up with a list like this as a fair way to give a non-jew a taste of jewish identity and history? and if not, perhaps would you be so good to use your connections to the corrie family to suggest to them to remove or replace this with something that truly reflects a desire to “build understanding, respect, and appreciation for differences” as stated in the corrie foundation’s mission?

    thanks

    • Eugene S said

      ERRATUM
      i misrepresented a quote from mark ellis. he didn’t say that “the sin of twentieth –century [is] Jewish settlements” but rather that “the sin of twentieth –century Jewish settlements is less the desire or need for space and some form of autonomy than it is the uprooting and domination of the Palestinians inhabiting the land.”

  11. Thank you Rabbi Walt.

    America is increasingly in danger of defining anti-Semitism downward. Genuine anti- Semitism is always evil. Defining anti- Semitism as disagreeing with AIPAC, or disagreeing with any policy Israel pursues, or disagreeing with any Jewish person who supports those policies is using the charge of anti- Semitism as a political cudgel.

    Every human person possesses the same human rights; every human person deserves just and ethical treatment. There is no justification for any inconsistent application of this fundamental truth.

  12. David said

    Marc ellis is a rabid anti zionist. Anti zionism is anti semitism!
    Why do you not write about Rachel Hutael who was killed with her family in Gaza by Palestinian terrorist!

  13. Andrew said

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve been mulling whether to write something as well. I’m trying to figure out the purpose of his comments are, or what they signify about Rabbi Forman. I have a great respect for Rabbis for Human Rights (and worked with them now and again while I was in the West Bank) and wonder how long he’s had these views, or if it’s just the hawkish conservatism we’re all warned comes with old age. Some of these statements, including the factually inaccurate ones, seem parroted by select others out there who would have far less in common with the organization he founded.

  14. Craig Corrie said

    I would like to thank Rabbi Walt for coming to the defense of our foundation and family, and the rest of you for the valuable discussion on this blog. I remember immediately after Rachel was killed how Jews from around the world, including Israel, reached out to our family with words of compassion and support. That was a gift of immeasurable value to us then and remains so as we have been blessed to meet so many of you in person (or in cyberspace) in the years since.

    I particularly want to thank Eugene Sotirescu for pointing out the problem with the book list on Amazon. By the time Brian called us to discuss this Monday, a colleague at the foundation had passed your criticism on to Cindy and me in an email and we had asked our webmaster to fix the problem. We have disabled the Amazon link from the website. I also want to thank Brian for trusting enough to call us when he saw concerns he felt legitimate. I wish Rabbi Forman had shown that same courtesy and talked to Cindy and me directly while he was here in Olympia.

    I want to apologize for any inappropriate books that may have been advertised on our link to Amazon.com. After the first three books, which we did suggest, I don’t really know how the books filter through the “similar items” site. I am told we did not actively choose these other books, but in any case some are clearly objectionable and we are grateful that this was brought to our attention. I do not, of course, apologize for the Foundation’s strong stand against Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land. I believe when we stand against the occupation, we stand for dignity, security, equality, and justice for all people in the region and we make possible a shared future of peace. I hope to continue that work with respect for all peoples and persons, and if for some reason I do not, I hope that people like Eugene and Brian will continue to call it to my attention.

    Congratulations, Brian on creating space for such constructive dialogue.

    Craig Corrie

  15. […] Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Would you really expect anything else? No. And now I’ll quote Rabbi Brian Walt, Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights – North America, who, with much more eloquence than I […]

  16. […] who has been a tireless crusader for peace and reconciliation since her daughter’s death, was recently vigorously defended against attack by a colleague in this remarkable piece by Rabbi Brian Walt, the former head of […]

  17. Laurence Seeff said

    Rabbi Brian,

    I would like to point out a few issues:

    1. You have conveniently and manipulatively misquoted Rabbi Forman. The accurate quote is:
    “By pure syllogistic reasoning, the foundation supports genocide in Darfur, brutal Hamas killings and indiscriminate assaults on Israel’s civilian population”.
    You lead your readers astray by cynically manipulating the context of Rabbi Forman’s statement.

    2. Judge Goldstone
    Goldstone, being a Jew, has nothing to do the investigation. The UN would never have appointed him to lead the investigation if his Jewishness would have any connection to the investigation. By making a connection, you lead the unwary reader astray. This negates the very essence of being a judge, by definition. The investigation is
    not impartial:

    http://maurice-ostroff.tripod.com/id218.html
    You might read Mr. Ostroff’s communique with the judge too.

    3. Please explain how “We can support Israel and criticize the policies of its government”. “Rabbi Brian”, online is overwhelmingly followed by far more words like “palestinian”, “gaza” and critisism of Israel, than support. Where is this support? What form does it take?

    I am anxiuosly awaiting your reply, especially snce since you have not replied to a previous post on another issue.

    Laurence Seeff
    Israel

  18. […] Rabbi Brian Walt has clearly been to Gaza. He knows Cindy Corrie (As do I, and I agree with every si…: In my position as Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America,  I have worked with Cindy and Craig, Rachel Corrie’s parents.  They are extraordinary human beings who generously support the work of Rabbis for Human Rights and other Israeli human rights and peace groups. They have visited with Rabbi Arik Ascherman, the Executive Director of RHR in Israel, and others in the RHR office in Jerusalem and have consistently supported our work.  I have been moved in my conversations with them, by their integrity and their deep commitment to a just peace.  If I were in their situation,  I would imagine that the temptation to hate  those who killed my daughter would be hard to resist.  (Forman points out that the details of Rashel’s death are disputed.  He doesn’t mention that it was Israel’s refusal to agree to an impartial investigation that prevented us from knowing the truth.  In a very similar action,  Israel recently refused to cooperate with the Goldstone Commission into the Gaza war, even though Judge Goldstone is a committed Jew and made it clear that he would be investigating violations by both sides.)  Despite their daughter’s tragic death, the Corries have never spoken in a hateful  way towards Israel or Jews.  On the contrary, they are deeply committed to peace and to the security of all people in the conflict, Israelis and Palestinians. These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. […]

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