Jewish Conscience, Jewish Shame

A few days ago, a longtime friend of mine who has been living in Israel for the past twenty years sent me this comment:

Hi Brant. How about writing something positive about Israel for a change? Israel must mean something to you other than one large injustice to the Palestinian people. How about balancing your blogs with items that can help your readers find pride in Israel and its accomplishments, despite all the real problems that you primarily focus on.

It’s a fair and important comment – and it’s been put to me more than once. Invariably, some of them are presented in a much less tactful manner. A commenter to my January 19 post had this to say:

I honestly cannot believe the postings on this blog. The level of Israel bashing is sickening.

It gives me a strange and queasy feeling to be called an “Israel basher.” It’s an odd switch. It doesn’t feel that long ago that I felt the same way about Jews who seemed to regard Israel as little more than a source of shame.

For many years, Israel and Zionism have been central to my Jewish identity. I too had a hard time abiding by those Jews who viewed Israel, as my friend put it, as “one large injustice to the Palestinian people.” While I certainly didn’t deny many of these injustices (and would often protest them) I also had an unabashed Jewish pride in Israel – and in Zionism itself as the “national liberation movement of the Jewish people.” In my most cynical moments, it often felt that those who chronically “bashed” Israel were motivated by Jewish self-hatred more than anything else.

Those who read my blog must certainly know that my relationship to Israel is being painfully challenged – particularly since Israel’s military assault on Gaza last year. I’m well aware that I often address these painful issues head on and sometimes with uncensored candor. And I’m certainly not unmindful that the cumulative effect of these posts may well come off as unduly unbalanced, harsh – and yes, to some, as “Israel bashing.”

Those who know me well know how deeply I feel about Israel. I continue to identify deeply with many aspects of Israeli life – particularly with the new Jewish cultural spirit that is being created and re-created there. I will always love the Hebrew language, literature, and poetry – as well as the powerful rhythms of Jewish life that a Jew experiences when living in Israel.


However, as a Jew I am growing increasingly heartsick that this culture has been and continues to be created on the backs of others. I am having a increasingly difficult time getting past the fact that our Jewish national rebirth has come at the expense of the Palestinians. And I am even more painfully considering whether these problems are not mere “blemishes” on an otherwise noble national project, but rather something fundamentally problematic with the Zionist enterprise itself.

I know that Israel has accomplished a great deal against all odds. And I certainly know that many feel I should “balance” my blog posts by drawing attention to these achievements. But for better or worse, I can no longer regard the Israel-Palestine reality as a balanced equation. I’m coming to believe that the moral challenges Israel faces are so critical that they fundamentally threaten the very real accomplishments Israel has achieved in its short and remarkable life.

I understand that there will be those who will never accept this – and that some people will never experience my writing as anything other than hatred for the Jewish state. Even more painfully, I am all too aware of how my words may affect my many dear friends in Israel, people who have chosen to make their lives and raise their families there and who continue to mean a great deal to me.

All I can hope is that they might somehow understand that I do not seek to “bash” Israel. Quite the opposite. My words have always and will always be motivated by Jewish conscience – not by Jewish shame.

35 thoughts on “Jewish Conscience, Jewish Shame

  1. Alex

    Brant –

    I applaud your work and your courage. It can’t be easy and I’m sure you will come under fire, but you deserve credit for following your conscience. Good luck.

    1. susan chang

      The video (below), captured last week in Hebron by a participant in Btselem’s Camera Project, opens with an Israeli border policeman ambushing a nine year-old Palestinian boy. The policeman grabs the child, who curls up on the ground crying, and holds him there. Another policeman wanders over and kicks the child, then casually walks away, after which the first policeman lets the child go.
      American Jews must recognize that they do Israel no favors by staying silent in the face of such behavior. The actions captured in this latest video aren’t those of a couple of bad apples or, as Golden observes in Maariv, this isn’t just a few “errant weeds.” That video is in truth a relatively mundane example of the kind of abuses and indignities routinely meted out by Israel against an entire population, including children, in the service of an occupation that is immoral and undermines Israel’s own interests. As Golden observes,

      …We’ve turned into a nation that shoots at nine-year-old children, that kicks them with a military boot and which doesn’t understand what the problem with that is. On the contrary: it believes that kicking a nine-year-old boy is just the precursor of what truly ought to be done to him…

      American Jews must face this reality: sometimes the Zimmermans of the world turn out to be Jewish and/or Israeli. Their actions bring shame to all of us and are a stain on our community, our religion, and the Jewish state. The shame and stain are only magnified when out of cowardice, laziness, or for reasons of political expediency American Jews look away or, worse yet, try to defend policies and actions that are by nature indefensible.

  2. Robert L. Stebbins

    The Prime Minister of Israel proposes to build 1500 new apartments in East Jerusalem to be occupied by Israeli Jews. This would further alienate Palestinians and greatly damage prospects for peace in Israel/Palestine. However, an alternative plan could enhance the chances for a peaceful solution. Equal numbers of apartments for Jews, Christians and Muslims could be built in the same district with occupation limited to those who would be dedicated to living close to community members of the three religions. A common meeting hall could be constructed to facilitate social interactions. A common school with classes taught in English, Hebrew and Arabic would also be helpful.
    At YMCA’s Camp Collins, near Portland, Oregon, in spring of 2010, Israeli Arabs sat beside Jewish schoolmates, pairings which would be highly unusual in their native country, Israel. Twenty one youths, 15 girls and six boys, primarily in middle school grades, are spending roughly two weeks in the Portland area spreading a message of peace. They come from a school in Jerusalem that aims to integrate two groups violently opposed. The school is operated by the Hand in Hand Center, a program started 13 years ago by Portland Native Lee Gordon. In a recent bar mitzvah of one of the Jewish students, eleven Arab school friends attended. The example that this program has established shows what is possible.

    1. Israel Gershon

      The program you mention does show what’s possible. But perhaps we aren’t listening closely enough to what is also happening in Israel. You don’t have to look to Oregon – if we lower the bashing Israel volume, just a bit, we may hear of many unlikely things that are happening. Here are a few:
      “Swinging from the coexistence trapeze”

      “Throwing a Frisbee for Middle East Peace”

      “Giving voice to peace”

      “Incubating peace with Israel’s Arab sector”

      These and many other efforts at coexistence are happening in Israel. They can only give us hope. But to move from hope to a better reality we will need to recognize and nurture these efforts.

      I am not heartsick about Israel and I don’t feel it is fair or accurate for Rabbi Rosen to say that its culture was created on the backs of others. Israel was created in fulfillment of the internationally recognized right of the Jewish People to self determination. It is my hope that the Palestinians will also achieve their expression of this same right -in peace.

  3. Laurence Seeff

    “…am growing increasingly heartsick that this culture has been and continues to be created on the backs of others.”

    Can you qualify this statement with some examples?

    You have a great deal to say about anything that happens in Israel. I particularly remember your posting bashing the Tal Aviv municipality for creating a counseling group for Jewish girls who are thinking about marrying out of the faith.
    Add to this, your posting titled “Iran is not meshugah” or something to that effect. The Iranian dictator has publically denied the Holocuast and referred to Jews as pigs, vernmin and cancer. Moreover he pyblically calls for the destruction of Israel. If that is not meshugah, then what is, I ask.
    Oh, you went there too.

    Laurence Seeff

    1. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author

      “…am growing increasingly heartsick that this culture has been and continues to be created on the backs of others.”

      Here are two examples:

      – During 1947/48, Arab villages in Palestine were emptied of their residents. The new State of Israel did not allow them to return. These villages were either destroyed or expropriated and repopulated by Jewish residents. The Arabic names of the villages were changed to new Hebrew names.

      – Any Jew in the world has the right to “return” to Israel. Palestinians who actually lived in this land (or have ancestors who did) are not given this same right.

      Re the statement that “Iran is not meshugenah:” that was a direct quote from Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

  4. Ruth Rosen


    You are walking a narrow bridge. Untenable as it is, the entire situation in Israel demands the amazing courage of your convictions. I too wish you luck.

  5. Miriam

    I think it is important for American Jews to ask themselves this question: “Why am I so threatened when people criticize Israel?” We all hear Americans criticize the US government all the time, and no one questions the motivation. As an American Jew, I have grown tremendously by reading Brant’s blog and seeing his courage to say what others are too scared or too ignorant to say. I am proud to be a Jew who speaks out about injustices; even (or especially) injustices occuring right now in Israel’s own back yard. American Jews also need to realize how painful this path has been for some of us. It is not easy for Brant and others to speak out against things Israel does. It is not easy for Brant and others to begin to question Zionism. It is not easy for Brant and others to re-evaluate the space that Israel has had in our hearts since we were born. It is not easy for Brant and others to make a paradigm shift so huge in how one sees the world. The next time you want to criticize Brant or any other Jew for speaking up about human rights issues (a core value of Judaism), think about this: what are you willing to speak out for? What are you willing to sacrifice? What risks have you taken for the sake of the truth? Thank you, Brant, for having the courage to speak and to model the scary places that we all need to be moving towards, before more and more people suffer from the occupation that we have helped to fund.

  6. Matt Planchak

    I think in this country it’s a fairly narrow cross-section, people who are informed and can discuss these issues thoughtfully and can also see that there are two or more sides to every story. It can be very difficult at times, not being able to share your thoughts–sometimes even with those who are closest to you and you want to share the most.
    This blog has always been a source of comfort for me, to know I’m not alone in my beliefs, values, and ideas. I’m grateful, Brant, on a personal level, that you have created a safe space to share and also to disagree.

    Keep on keepin’ on.

  7. Julie

    There was time when I might have agreed with your general premise, Brant, that the victory that comes from anothers’ loss is tarnished, to say the least. However, two years ago a horrible event happened that changed my views in a radical way. An Arab terrorist infiltrated the library of the Mercaz Harav Yeshivah and brutally murdered eight young men before being gunned down himself. At this point I became painfully aware of how much we, as Jews, are hated. This hatred doesn’t lessen when our enemies have jobs, housing, a comfortable family life or basic freedoms (and this terrorist had all of these things). The truth is I admire your ability to still feel for the Palestinian people after they willfully trample on you time and again. Your sensitivity surpasses mine and that of many many of the Jewish people. However, I humbly caution you against alienating your very own brothers and sisters for the sake of people who have not given a second thought to the most cruel acts imaginable, and who will not stand by you as partners in peace.

    1. Matt Planchak

      It sounds like you experienced a personal loss in this incident, so I don’t want to come across as insensitive or disrespectful. However, in emotional times, sometimes our logic gets put on hold, and I believe you have understandably formed a false syllogism.
      I believe it’s never a good idea to judge an entire people by the actions of individuals. Nor would we want to be judged such. But I believe it is such thinking that leads to the hatred of the terrorist you described. It could never be right to judge all Jews by the actions of Baruch Goldstein, or the Irgun, or the faceless pilots of F16s with stars of David, destroying one’s home. But people are human. They see these things and it causes the same revulsion that you feel.

      All the tanks and guns in the world could never stop anyone from hating us. And there will always be people who hate Jews (and blacks, and Arabs, and Roma, and…) for any reason other than who we/they are. We can’t change anyone but ourselves. But we do have that power. And Brant is one of many who are working for such a change. And there are many people that some would call enemies who are passionately working for change on the other side of the line.

      I firmly believe there is still hope.

      1. Lisa


        Would just like to join in Matt’s eloquent and heartfelt response to your comment.

        In addition, would like to reply to this part of your comment: “I humbly caution you against alienating your very own brothers and sisters for the sake of people who have not given a second thought to the most cruel acts imaginable, and who will not stand by you as partners in peace.”

        I feel that my true brothers and sisters are those who are committed to working as partners for a just peace. Many of these people are my Palestinian friends who have experienced horrific personal losses at the hands of the IDF or individual settlers who perpetrate almost daily progroms on Palestinians and their villages. Yet, they do not hate Jews or Israelis as a group or as individuals.

        I recommend you check out the website for the Parent Circle- Families Forum: This is a group of Israelis and Palestinians who have lost close family members to the violence of the conflict. They come together, share their stories, and have a mission of reconciliation. You can also rent the documentary DVD “Encounter Point” to learn more about what they do, and how they heal.

        You sound like you are in pain and I hope this helps.

  8. Ian Rosen

    It’s always a breath of fresh air to read your comments. I read the Jewish Journal, which always has an unquestioning attitude towards Israel (except for the letters section) and that can get a bit one-sided.

    You obviously have a deep-seated passion for seeing peace between the Jews and the Palestinians, and are very well-informed in your opinions. It’s easy to dismiss any criticism of Israel as naive or short-sighted, but that’s the easy way out. It’s nice to read from someone who can get beyond that and tries to have a sense of fairness on the general issue of civil rights for everyone who lives in Israel.

  9. Julie

    I thank you all for the sensitivity of your replies. I often comment with a dissenting or controversial opinion on blogs like this and find that the response is almost entirely negative and dismissive, if not downright insulting. Whatever the “peace process” may be, whether between Israelis and Arabs or between factions within those groups, the ability to give others the benefit of the doubt and respond to them in a kind and measured way will be key. I still strongly feel that a situation can come to a point where measures must be taken to avoid major loss, but I think our more pressing concern is mending fences within our own communities and returning to our shared core values of wisdom and peace.

    1. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author

      Your comment means a great deal to me Julie. I’m so very gratified that you’ve found a sensitive reception on this blog, especially from people with whom you might disagree. I agree with your feeling that blog conversations too often are nasty and insulting – but it doesn’t have to be that way. It shouldn’t have to be that way.

      I also agree with you that the way out of these conflicts lies with our ability to empathize and give others the benefit of the doubt. On this we must all agree, no matter where we stand, no matter how painful the issue.

  10. Israel Gershon

    I appreciate the Rabbi addressing the charge that he is an “Israel basher”. I have expressed similar feelings. Though we may share similar knowledge of history and the “facts”, we don’t agree on what they mean for Israel or the Jewish People.

    I had just this week had the opportunity to hear Ruth Gavison speak at UCLA. Ruth Gavison is an Israeli Law professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She is also a Senior Fellow Emeritus at the Israel Democracy Institute. Her areas of research include Ethnic Conflict, the Protection of Minorities, Human Rights, Political Theory, Judiciary Law, Religion and Politics, and Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State. She was a founding member of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) among other achievements.

    She is very serious and doesn’t shrink away from the negative aspects of Israeli history nor the current state of affairs. I would strongly suggest that you take some time to read her paper, “The Jews’ Right
    To Statehood: A Defense”

    Click to access 1322AZ15_Gavison.pdf

    She ended her lecture at UCLA, by saying that she feels what you ask for yourself, you must be willing to give to others. [Speaking about exercising the right to self-determination]

    You may also be interested in her new organization “Metzilah”
    “The Metzilah Center was founded in 2005, to address the growing tendency among Israelis and Jews worldwide to question the legitimacy of Jewish nationalism and its compatibility with universal values.

    Metzilah was established with the conviction that Zionism and a liberal worldview can and must coexist; that public discourse, research and education hold the key to integrating Zionism, Jewish values, and human rights in the Jewish state; and that the integration of these values is critical for the enduring welfare of Israel and the Jewish people worldwide.”

    1. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author

      I appreciate your thoughtful response, Israel. I’ve never heard of Ruth Gavison, but I’m interested in reading her thoughts. I think many people don’t realize how historically complex the issue of “the right to self-determination” really is. I look forward to reading her ideas.

  11. ellen

    I’ve been thinking about this blog entry all morning and my reaction to it. I appreciate they words of Rabbi Rosen, spoken with love and support and it is within this devotion that it is imperative that these issues need to be discussed.

    There are two thoughts about this are constantly in my thoughts. the first being, since when in Judaism there only one answer and those that do not support the one answer are considered enemies. This is so not the flavor of our people. We are a people of QUESTIONS, DISCUSSION/ARGUMENTS and COMPROMISE. If there was ever a truer stereotype of the Jews it is of questioning. What< i should tell you the answer? The Seder, a foundation of our traditions, is all about questions… What is the Talmud?Except a record of the discussion and arguments of the interpretation of Torah, The stories that create our tribe. As far as compromise, it is in front of us everyday we walk into a Jewish home. The Mezuzah in on a diagonal as a compromise between Hillel and Shami. So, why then if you question the actions of the "Jewish" state you are label with words as strong as anti Semitic??

    The other idea that tears me apart, is the fact that the true events of 1948, where never taught. It was always taught and even written in Behold The Land, THE book used in religious school, that either the Arabs left their homes on their own accord, due to a call from the Arab countries to clear the way for the Arab armies. Not only was the fact that people where forcefully removed by the Haganah not talked about it was denied. War is war! Horrible things happen. It doesn't take a deep examination of American history and know that the conquest of land is not accomplished without a struggle.

    The struggle for existence in the Middle East as been going on since civilization began. It is complex, entangled and filled with high emotion. It needs to be discussed, argued and looked at through a variety of eyes. We as Jews are not one voice within our own community. Why would it be so for anything that happens in or about Israel?

  12. Mike Okrent

    I am always amazed when someone who offers honest, constructive criticism (such as yourself)is told to present a more balanced perspective, in this case on Israel. Do these people also ask that AIPAC see Israel’s flaws, face up to them and try to be constructive in addressing them?
    And when people ask that why are your singling out Israel when there are other injustices in the world, are they admitting that there is injustice in Israel? Are they also working to address that injustice, or helping to perpetuate it passively or actively? Would this logic also have directed those who opposed discrimination in the this country to seek a new cause rather than single out the US?
    Since no one can take on everyone injustice in the world, these kind of comments are often a distraction. And this is especially true in the case of Israel when there are many who equate any criticism whith anti-semitism.
    To practice Jewish values is to face the truth head on and work for justice, no matter who is the object of injustice, and not just circle the wagons.

  13. boris furman

    Is there not some truth to this statement?
    “Arab refugees were INTENTIONALLY not absorbed or integrated into the Arab lands to which they fled, despite the vast Arab territory. Out of the 100,000,000 refugees since World War II, theirs is the only refugee group in the world that has never been absorbed or integrated into their own people’s lands. Jewish refugees were completely absorbed into Israel, a country no larger than the state of New Jersey.”
    Is there also not some truth to this statement?
    “Genocide is a real possibility in the 21st century.”
    How about this one?
    “The world stood by as one third of its Jews were murdered in the mid twentieth century.”
    Does it not follow?
    “Jews need to take extraordinary measures to protect themselves from genocide?”
    Let the Jews take care of their own. Let the world take care of the few remaining refugees from World War II.
    We Jews need to cut ourselves a break and let the other six billion take care of the Palestinian refugees.
    I am heart sick that we would sacrifice the safety and security of the Jewish people for those who would not lift a finger to help themselves except by taking from us.

    1. Dan Solomon

      Hi Boris:

      You wrote
      “is there not some truth to this statement? Arab refugees were INTENTIONALLY not absorbed or integrated into the Arab lands to which they fled, despite the vast Arab territory.”

      I believe there is truth to this statement as well as the other statements you made on your posting. However I also believe that there is a great deal of truth to the statements of Rabbi Rosen and others on this blog. I don’t believe that these statements necessarily contradict each other.

      What I think that some people are trying to point out is that Israels treatment of the Palestinians is unnecessarily oppressive and, as a result, is actually counterproductive to the security of Israel.

      – Dan Solomon

    2. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author


      Re your first statement: Yes, Palestinians were not absorbed into Lebanon, Jordan etc. But your reference to these countries as “vast Arab territory” is a huge generalization, and suggests that all Arab nations somehow constitute one monolithic Arab country. The Palestinians’ culture, heritage and history was rooted in Palestine. And they did not “flee” from their homes there – they were expelled.

      Of course genocide is a real possibility in the 21st century, as Darfur has already demonstrated. And of course Jews need to protect themselves from genocide – but I simply can’t see how Israel’s oppressive policies towards Palestinians do much to ensure Jewish security. Needless to say, I disagree strongly with your final comments. Whether we like it or not, Israel has culpability for the Palestinian refugee situation – and Israel will have to be a major part of its solution. This is not only an issue of human rights for Palestinians – it is ultimately a matter of “safety and security” for the Jewish people as well.

  14. boris furman


    I agree that unnecessary oppressive treatment of Palestinians is counterproductive to the security of Israel. It’s important to call attention to it.
    However that is not the root cause of the continuing state of war between Israel and its neighbors. The root cause is the refusal of Israel’s neighbors to accept its legitimacy as a permanent entity in the region. There are some who maintain that the real problem is Israel’s stubborn claim to an imaginary right to exist in a place its people don’t belong.
    Focusing on criticizing Israel for its oppressive policies can not help but lend support to its enemies’ strategy of delegitimizing the Israeli government.
    I would hope that the ultimate goal is for the people of the region to live together in peace and harmony. Insisting on a one dimensional focus on Israel’s sins in trying to defend its population isn’t the best way to get us to that goal. There are other issues that are important to consider as well. It serves no one to ignore them.

    1. Dan Solomon

      Hi Boris:

      You wrote “The root cause [of the conflict] is the refusal of Israel’s neighbors to accept its legitimacy as a permanent entity in the region.”

      I don’t think as the conflict of having one “root cause” but as consisting of a number of aggravating factors. One of which is certainly the refusal of many in the region to accept Israels legitimacy. And, perhaps, this may be the most serious aggravating fact.

      However, the treatment of the Palestinians by Israel is also a significant aggravating factor. In fact these two factors feed on each other in a way so that it is hard to separate one from the other. Israeli mistreatment of the Palestinians strengthens the hand of those who deny Israeli legitimacy and Palestinian threats and violence cause Israel to clamp down harder.

      I think from your comments you would agree that there are problems with the way Israel is treating the Palestinians but this pales in comparison to what the enemies of Israel would do if they got the upper hand. Therefore we should be cautious in our criticism for fear of strengthening these enemies and undermining support for Israel. The problem is that Israeli oppression of the Palestinians is also undermining support for Israel and strengthening its enemies.

      Much of what Israel has done in terms of settlement expansion and the like is totally counterproductive and morally wrong. It is simply hard to ignore and overlook and, I think, is a legitimate subject for discussion.

      Dan Solomon

  15. Alex

    Boris, your argument is akin to someone who hits a person with a car and drives off, rationalizing it by saying there are plenty of other people to help the person lying injured on the ground.

    The Jewish people and the people of Israel cannot wash their hands of this issue — indeed, they are not only morally obligated to help because of their role in the root cause of this refugee issue, but also because they have the ability to do so, any culpability aside.

    Discussions on the obligations of other countries is not a helpful, particularly because we as Jews are inherently implicated in the actions of Israel, and have a theoretical voice there we do not have in other countries. Yes, you can argue that other countries may have a responsibility to help people (in your specific case here, it’s an obligation to help people of roughly the same ethnic make-up, I suppose?), but that does not obviate the need for a Jewish response, or an Israeli response.

  16. boris furman

    What does this have to do with a car accident?
    If someone attacks you, it is your obligation to defend yourself. Injuring the attacker in the process is as much a byproduct of their choice to attack you as it is of your choice to defend yourself. Hamas attacks Israel. Israel defends itself.
    If Hamas stops attacking, there will be less suffering all around.
    Or would we rather that Israel stop defending itself?

  17. Alex

    Because, Boris, when you say “Let the Jews take care of their own. Let the world take care of the few remaining refugees from World War II,” it implies that the Jewish people and the Israeli state had nothing to do with the creation of these Palestinian refugees, when clearly it does.

    For your last statement, well, it’s not a point made by people looking for an honest discussion. You say “Hamas attacks Israel and Israel defends itself.” People on the other side of the spectrum say “Israel attacks Hamas and Hamas defends the Palestinian people. It’s a convenient argument used by both sides — it’s also totally and completely useless in starting a dialogue or figuring out how to move forward or actually, you know, improve the situation.

    You also probably don’t really want to get drawn into a discussion about numbers of civilian casualties on either side, or children killed, or economic infrastructures being attacked. Regardless, it’s still not a useful discussion.

    What can be useful, though, is not just throwing up the “we’re under attack, we can do no wrong” banner and actually honestly looking for ways Israel can work for peace. Do you think those exist? If not, is it just the case that Israel has to continue bombing/shooting/building in Easy Jerusalem and settlements until anyone who might dislike Jews/Israel is dead? Without regard to the fact that those actions create more people who will hate Jews/Israel than previously existed.

    You’re not proposing solutions or being constructive; you’re being the petulant child who, after hitting his smaller younger brother, claims that he was hit first.

  18. Stewart Mills

    Thanks Brant and others on this site who continue to show compassion to the other. This is the best of Judaism.

    Contrast this with these poor souls demonstrating in New York on the 25th April. I struggle at times to see the Spirit of God in such people. At one level there is a passion for what they understand to be true and just. At another level their ignorance of history, their callousness and indifference to the plight of another makes me think I am in some demented dream; and I just pray to awake from this madness. “Feeling the hate in New York” is certainly an apt title by Max Blumenthal.

    Feeling the hate in New York
    by MAX BLUMENTHAL on APRIL 28, 2010

  19. Stewart Mills


    Yes, there is a legal right of self-defence. This right though is not an unlimited right and it is not limited to one party but to all human beings; including both the people of Israel and to Palestinians living under occupation in Gaza and the West Bank. The question is how is that right exercised? For example what good comes of using weapons against a people that obviously are designed to create maximum pain and agony? Take for example the use of white phosphorus. This is a legitimate material to be used as a smoke screen in non-civilian areas. But if it is used either intentionally or with reckless indifference in a civilian area i.e a city, then that right is breached. The countless cases of children having white phosphorus burning their flesh is a classic case of excessive use of force. Similarly take the use of flachettes. A weapon designed to release hundreds of darts into a victim. Is that a weapon of self-defense or is that a weapon designed purely to cause maximum pain to a fellow human being.

    The rocket attacks on Sderot also constitute such a war crime as there was no direct military target, simply a random act of violence against a civilian population.

    The moral of the story is yes you have a right to self-defence but the force you use must be proportionate to the military objective desired. Collective punishment, weapons used purely to inflict maximum pain and agony are are an anathema by all moral, legal and religious standards.

    Boris on a related issue may I encourage you to also investigate reading the following site:

  20. Alex

    This past weekend I was near Ein Gedi talking with Israelis about what’s going on here. I told one that it is precisely because I love this place and its people, and care about their well-being and future, that I am critical of their government’s policies. It’s a two way street: if Israelis wish to opine upon and influence my government, and they do, I have the same right as an American Jew.

  21. Richard Kahn

    Someone raised this question in a previous post and you didn’t answer it. You’re openly not a Zionist and you’re not pro-Israel. I don’t mean “pro-Israel” in the sense that AIPAC uses it (never criticizing Israel). I mean pro-Israel in the sense that believing that Israel should exist. If this is the case, why do you associate with J Street, which self-identifies as pro-Israel?

    1. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author


      I’ve never said or written anywhere that I don’t believe Israel should exist. I’ve made it clear that I oppose Israel’s oppression of Palestinians – and yes, I’ve raised questions about Israel’s founding that contradict the official Zionist narrative. Whether or not this makes me “anti-Zionist” I’ll leave for others to decide. I find the categories of “Zionist” vs. “anti-Zionist” to be utterly unhelpful – as they are too often bandied about by many Jews as a kind of litmus test of one’s loyalty to the Jewish people.

      For me the important question is not “does Israel have the right to exist?” (or, for that matter, “does a Palestinian state have the right to exist?”) I believe the real question is “how can we find a way to extend civil rights, human rights, equity and equality for all inhabitants of Israel/Palestine?”

      If this question can be sufficiently addressed through the peace process, culminating in a true and viable two-state solution (as promoted by J. St,) then I would unabashedly support a two-state solution. If a two-state solution becomes impossible, forcing a choice between an apartheid state ruled by a Jewish minority over a Palestinian majority or one secular democratic state of all its citizens, I would unabashedly choose the latter. Again, whether or not this makes me “anti-Zionist” I’ll leave for others to decide.

  22. Adam Bennett

    The usual bunch of half-truths, lies and B.S. debated by American Jews and liberals. My personal experience (and fact) is that I was thrown out of a graduate school interview because I had an Israeli name, and Jewish women have told me they don’t date Israelis even though I grew up with them and went to the same schools. American Jews need ask themselves why they share none of the guilt harbored by the Arabs and carry so much of the shame associated on T.V. with Israel. Most Israelis have none of very little shame concerning how things have turned out for the Arabs in their attempts to purge Jews from their lands. I should mention that over 50% of the Jews in Israel were expelled from Arab lands for which the Arabs bear no guilt. And as for the shame, Israelis possess more pride in their little country, a mountain of pride compared to a continent of shame possessed by American Jews.

  23. Santa

    Eh, my fellow human being – thats the nature of most horrific disease of modern era, plague of the 20th century. Called Nationalism – its lethal and has three stages. First stage is called simply Nationalism and symptoms are extreme pride and excessive joy in ones national identity followed with mild history revision and delusion of significance, second stage is called Ultra Nationalism and it symptoms are extreme hatred and fear, as well as hate and fear mongering followed with extreme history revision and total delusion of grandeur and significance, and final stage, the terminal stage, is Militant Ultra Nationalism and symptoms are extreme suffering, destruction, bloodshed, war and ultimately death.
    This horrible plague claimed 100’s of millions lives in last century, last decades of 19th and first decade of 21st century, but many more are infected and who knows how many will die…

    Survivor Siege of Sarajevo and Serbian Militant Ultra Nationalism

  24. Rabbi Green

    Hovevei Zion isn’t about neutral balanced reporting – It’s about irrevocable sense of loving commitment — which doesn’t negate the possibility of working like heck for betterment. Don’t try to be a BBC Broadcaster. They have enough of those characters. And don’t think of Israel as a short-lived Jewish state. You’ll recall that somewhere in your studies you traced the arc and meaning and history of the Jewish homeland over time and regimes. The question is not whether you, Brant, allow for the existence of Isael. The question is whether you allow for the love of Israel. I see you conscience. I don’t see you love. Judgmentalism rarely leads to Justice. Justice can’t be pursued without love. If begun at home and with oneself it becomes a useful basis for protecting and projecting that energy.


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