Rabbi Forman’s attack on Jewish Fast for Gaza
Posted by rabbibrian on August 31, 2009
Rabbi Brant Rosen and I have just written the following response to Rabbi David Forman’s attack on Jewish Fast for Gaza published in the Jerusalem Post on August 28.
Rabbi David Forman’s smear against Taanit Tzedek: Jewish Fast for Gaza (Jerusalem Post , August 28), 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 right of Palestinians. Forman attacks us, the coordinators of Taanit 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 Taanit Tzedek an “anti Israel act” and even goes as far as to suggest that that the rabbis and others involved in Taanit Tzedek “stand idly by when their fellow Jews blood is being spilled.”
These accusations against us personally and against the rabbis involved in Taanit 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.
Taanit 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 Taanit 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. Taanit 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.
Rabbi Forman asks, “How well have these rabbis examined the blockade?” There are many sources we have examined including the reports of Israeli human rights organizations like B’Tzelem, Gisha and Physicians for Human Rights in Israel. On our website (www.fastforgaza.net) one can find many sources of information. For example, just two weeks ago eight Israeli human rights organizations joined together to produce a video “Lift the Closure, Give life a chance.” We are delighted to partner with these inspiring Israeli organizations in their efforts to end the blockade. Gisha issued a report a few weeks ago entitled, “Red Lines Crossed: Destruction of Gaza’s Infrastructure.” We are also very pleased that the Association for Civil Rights in Israel has endorsed Taanit Tzedek.
Is Rabbi Forman challenging the reports of these organizations? If so, let him bring the evidence and engage in a serious debate, rather than public name- calling. We would be happy to debate the facts and would be delighted to disband Taanit Tzedek if Rabbi Forman could prove that all these accounts of suffering are simply untrue.
Forman argues that our concern for the suffering in Gaza indicates that we are unconcerned about the suffering in Israel, specifically in the South of Israel. He accuses us of a lack of balance. This is simply untrue. As rabbis and Jews we are committed to the Jewish belief that all people are created in the image of God and we are committed protecting the human rights of children in Sderot and Gaza City. As rabbis we all support Israel in many ways including direct support for the people in Sderot.
Moreover, the blockade does not in any way, ensure greater security for Israelis. The denial of food and other basic necessities merely continues cycle of hatred further endangering the lives of Israelis. We support the right of the Israeli government to stop the transport of armaments into Gaza but the blockade of food and other basic necessities causes suffering and further endangers Israelis and all people in the region.
It is a sad day when a rabbi who claims to be a human rights activist, and who was one of the founders of Rabbis for Human Rights, publicly attacks his rabbinic colleagues for advocating for the right of human beings to basic necessities. It is a sad day when criticism of Israeli government policy can only be viewed as “anti-Israel” or “anti Semitic.”
Rabbi Forman argues Taanit Tzedek means that the number of rabbis involved in Taanit Tzedek proves it is a “colossal failure” yet he devoted his entire article in the Jerusalem Post to an attack on our project. We are indeed pleased that over 70 rabbis have joined Taanit Tzedek. We knew when we initiated this project that there would be a limited number of rabbis who would join in this effort. We started the project with just a minyan of rabbis. Many more rabbis support our project yet fear that going public could cost them their jobs. Rabbi Forman’s vicious attack helps to create an environment of fear that silences so many in our community.
We will continue to break the silence and to insist that the suffering caused by the blockade must be addressed in our community not by name-calling but by a serious discussion of the facts and the moral implications for us as Jews. Now is not the time for pointing fingers at others. This is the time when we are called as Jews to do a Moral reckoning (Cheshbon nefesh). Taanit Tzedek will continue to call on our community and all people to do a moral reckoning about the blockade and to follow the prophet Isaiah’s call “to lift up our voices like a Shofar” until this immoral blockade is lifted.