How Do We Pursue Peace? A Response to Rabbi Shmuley BoteachPosted: May 26, 2011
Apparently Rabbi Shmuley was two seats away from her at the time and witnessed the entire episode. In his piece, he explained why he decided not to “intervene” during the incident. He also made some rather colorful observations about the Israel-Palestine conflict, including:
It’s not the ’67 borders that separate the Palestinians and Israelis. Rather, the conflict is all about values, specifically the Palestinians’ growing culture of death versus the Israeli culture of life.
My good friend and colleague Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb wrote an awesome response to Rabbi Shmuley and agreed to let me post it here below:
Thank you for your Shabbat hospitality the other night. Your family is beautiful. I appreciate your wife’s efforts to feed us and make us welcome in your home. Your hosting of conversations that explore the dimensions of a variety of issues is representative of the finest in our tradition. Critical thinking is crucial to the work of peace. Therefore, I feel empowered to address the issues your raised in your newsletter, especially since I know Rae Abileah personally and she ended up in the hospital.
1) She was not uttering curses. A curse is wishing for destruction or harm of another person or people. This was not the case. “End Occupation” is not a curse, it is a political statement. Great lovers of Israel including Jewish parents in the Bereaved Parent’s Circle support this position.
2) Whether you agree or disagree with her statement, Rae was physically assaulted which is against the law. “Do not envy a man of violence nor follow any of his ways.” “Do not follow the majority to do evil.” “Do not hate your brother in your heart.” “Do not seek revenge…”
Physical assault is a crime. Period. Interrupting a speech may not be well received but it is not physical assault.
3) By becoming a bystander and watching a physical assault without intervening and making an effort to stop the assault, you committed a sin of omission. You became a bystander.
4) By polarizing the conflict with your words in this newsletter, you are creating new enemies. The mitzvah is “to turn an enemy into a friend.” Our tradition asks religious leaders to rise above the fray and to stand against violence of any sort. That is why we are commanded to help an enemy before a friend in the question of relieving a donkey of his load. Or take the example of Aaron, running between two enemies to make friends.
As someone who has a following I urge you not to promote more hatred by creating a category of “Israel haters.” Rather, seek to understand their concerns, open a dialogue, become a Rodef Shalom (“Pursuer of Peace”) and not someone who fuels feelings that violence and revenge are justified.
By making the deeply distorted and uneducated statement about “the Palestinian culture of death and the Israeli culture of life” you are contributing to hate mongering which is a violent act according to our tradition. You have obviously not been in Palestine, nor do you seem to know about the very widespread movement for nonviolence that has been part of the Palestinian struggle for freedom for several decades. Yes, there are forces of violence in Palestine, just as there are in Israel. How do we pursue peace?
The kind of advice and opinion that appears in this newsletter puts you outside the circle of traditional Jewish sensitivities and commitments to peacemaking. As people in leadership, we have a great responsibility to Torah as a path of peace. Just as you urge Rae to use her words wisely, I urge you to do the same. I would be happy to continue this discussion with you at your convenience.
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb