By Ari Bussel
If I were to dismiss a truth only because a Reform Rabbi told it, many in the Reform community would be up and arms against what I said. In fact, my own mind, conscience and very being will object to my doing so. I thus try to address the substance, not the speaker.
Rabbi Laura Geller (a woman, thus necessarily part of Reform Judaism) tells us about a congregant who forwarded an email. She does not dismiss the member of her congregation, whom she describes as “a thoughtful person, engaged and passionate about Israel, a person [she] admire[s].”
The e-mail talks about a young Palestinian woman who was treated at a Jewish Israeli hospital. The young patient then returned one day strapped with explosives to murder her treating doctor along with others at this hospital. Alas, she was not a very good terrorist, and luckily, she was apprehended before succeeding in her vile intentions.
Rabbi Geller went as far as checking with the Anti Defamation League that this incident indeed took place. [Why is the ADL the source of “truth” is interesting, but not the subject of this Postcard.] What she did not like, though, was not the inexplicable behavior of the Arab patient, rather the fact that the e-mail was sent by a “right winger.”
She thought long and hard: Should she simply delete the e-mail, leave it unanswered or reply? Her internal deliberations tied nicely in her mind with this week’s Torah portion, and she knew that acquiescing is wrong, that “silence is consent.” Assent makes her responsible for the e-mail, only because her name appears among a list of recipients.
I presume that Rabbi Geller receives many e-mails where her name appears along with others on the To or CC line. However, what made this e-mail so egregious is the fact that it “tarnishe[d] all Arabs.” The title “The Arab Mentality” and the fact “a right-wing Israeli” sent it made it so wrong, deliberate and disturbing, Rabbi Geller found no solace until her views were duly expressed in the Jewish Journal.
I wonder if Rabbi Geller takes the same amount of time, feelings and energy to respond to other emails that describe the atrocities committed against Jews and Israelis, or are these (or some of them) excused in some manner or another. This is the real crux of the matter: What has Rabbi Geller done, directly and via her congregation, to expose and fight the incitement by the Palestinian Authority, Israel’s “Peace Partners,” against the Jews.
Rabbi Geller felt accountable and knew she has the ability to prevent us from sin. She wrote back: “This is not a story about the ‘Arab mentality’ in general. It is rather the story of a particular Arab woman.” This is exactly where she is mistaken.
Rabbi Geller, this is a story about the so-called “Palestinians” and the consequences to their constant enticement to hatred. This is not a story about a particular woman but about a society at large, a society that lives in sin.
It is the story of every one of those terrorists apprehended before, during or after committing horrific acts against humanity. They sit in Israeli jails, until the next round of hostage exchange sets them free to repeat their horrible deeds.
It is the story of a greater societal support of barbarism, fundraising drives to support homicide bombers, salaries and benefits paid to their family members paid by official bodies and government.
It so happened that Rabbi Geller’s article appeared just hours before a young Norwegian man (an extreme right-winger who supports Israel in its fight to exist) murdered dozens of people, many young. If I were to send an e-mail saying this is the Norwegian Mentality, I would err factually. As much as I write about the failures of the Oslo Accords and object to Norway’s welcoming the Palestinians into “statehood,” I would not think to generalize one horrible incident and blame all Norwegians as being insane.
If someone were to generalize the acts of this one Norwegian madman and state that all Jews and Israelis are responsible, I would do everything to counter such claims. But this is not what the medical doctor in Israel did. He did not take a singular occurrence and generalized it. Rather, he used one example of thousands – they are so common one needs not go far to find them.
What would satisfy Rabbi Geller and incontrovertible proof that this is the case? Would the deeds and speeches, “in their own words,” be sufficient? How can one even start to support one’s claim when Rabbi Geller refuses to accept there might be a world in which hatred prevails and love and sanity have disappeared? Rabbi Geller refuses to look and ignores what she sees. That does not make the problem go away.
Rabbi Geller is concerned to the core that “Arabs and Muslims as a group” are being maligned. I wonder what would make her recognize reality. “Right wing Israelis” do not malign Arabs because they are non-Jews. Israelis in general are not taught to hate Arabs or any other nationality, religion or minority because they are the “other” or because they are different.
Israeli soldiers do not wake up in the morning thinking how many Arabs would they murder today, nor do they go to sleep lamenting they did not rape enough Arab women during the day or having captured young Arab males to harvest their organs or young Christian children to use their blood to bake Matzos.
But Rabbi Geller knows all that. She takes groups of her congregants to Israel. She recently went with a delegation of other Los Angeles Rabbis to Israel with the Israeli Consul General. She oversees Israel program both at Temple Emanuel School and to her congregants. She teaches and lives the Jewish Bible.
Rabbi Geller, you preach nicely but you seem to conveniently fit your lesson to your purpose and blatantly refuse to apply it equally elsewhere. As a leader, this is exactly your responsibility, else your actions reduce to pure propaganda, regrettably to the benefit of your very enemies.
The lesson Rabbi Geller raises is that we must not keep silent. We must speak and act when faced with a situation that is wrong. Many decades ago, a German pastor named Martin Niemoller expressed the very same sentiment when he said in a sermon he constantly remained silent when the Nazis came after other groups. When they came for him, “there was no one left to speak out.”
The incident of the Arab patient-turned-terrorist is not unique. This is what is so frightening. A society is raised on hatred to Israelis / Jews only because they are Israelis / Jews. So two eighteen year olds go and murder a couple and three of their children, the youngest three months. They do so without any notion that slaughtering adults and children is wrong. They have no remorse. Their actions are justified in their eyes and in the eyes of the society that raised them.
Who is responsible for such a frame of mind? Their parents, siblings or other family members? Their teachers? Their clergy people – the equivalent of Rabbi Geller? Do the latter also go out utilizing their status within the community to fight the “extremists” who malign the Jews and Israelis?
Can Rabbi Geller provide one example of a colleague, a Muslim “Palestinian” clergy person in that region who teaches love and acceptance, respect and co-existence, peace and cohabitation to his congregants?
The Palestinian Authority TV broadcasts programs with blood libels. They glorify homicide bombings and other terrorists on posters, by naming town squares and playgrounds after them. They teach, as part of the regular approved curriculum, hatred. There is no place for coexistence, for Israel to be anywhere in the Middle East.
Songs and music videos, cartoons and children programming all aimed at creating a hate culture toward Jews and Israel – the two are indistinguishable.
Textbooks to official radio and internet programs are all infested with Jew-hatred, and most of the listeners or viewers have not met a Jewish person in their lives. We are “pigs and apes,” and they are commanded to expose and kill us.
Friday sermons anyone? Those are readily available in translation. Possibly the organizations translating (PMW, MEMRI, and others) are also prohibited or termed “right wing extremist” or “propaganda” entities?
Rabbi Geller will be shocked to learn all of this. She has continuously and steadfastly refused to allow experts in the field to appear at her temple while opening her doors to the left and extreme-left. J Street is not an expert on what the Palestinians say or do. Unlike the Israeli doctor who is a Member of the Knesset and has first hand knowledge from the ground, J Street paid-personnel are Americans who are as far removed from the Middle Eastern mentality as is Rabbi Geller.
Dear Rabbi Geller, closing one’s eyes shut and one’s ears with both hands will not change reality. Israel is surrounded by enemies who want her destruction. They call themselves “Palestinians” and claim the whole land is theirs. They further state that the very notion of a “Jewish state” is racist. They burn goods and boycott Israeli products. They teach their young ones to hate from age zero.
They want a country of their own and a right to return to Jewish Israel.
They glorify terrorism and make dying an ideal.
This is not a singular outrageous act of a mad person. It is a societal, systematic behavior that is the very reason that there cannot be peace in our time.
Hatred pervades every good plot in their society, to the extent that if there are individuals who are still sane and good, they will be murdered by their own. Reason, sanity and love have no place in that society. I realize it is incomprehensible to us, but this is the situation on the ground, a situation you so conveniently ignore.
By attacking those who try to expose and present what is taking place, you are weakening Israel and emboldening our enemies. You bring discord to within our very community rather than unite us in the fight for survival. Possibly from the comforts and protections of Beverly Hills, wealth and power, you do not feel the need, the call to action.
Possibly rather than Parashat Matot, Rabbi Geller should have chosen Parashat VaYera (Genesis 18-22). It is in Chapter 18 of the first Book of the Torah that we learn that God decides to go down and check, is the situation in Sodom and Gomorrah as bad as the cry that has arisen. Abraham refuses to believe that God will annihilate a righteous man along an evil one, and God agrees not to destroy the cities if 50 good people will be found there, 40, 30, 20 or even ten.
Alas, Sodom and Gomorrah are both destroyed. Will that serve as prove positive that even God concluded that evil has overtaken these cities, or would God’s action be doubted and countered with the claim that He has erred, and the people of these communities were really good and caring?
Rabbi Geller may find a few good people among those who elect to call themselves “Palestinians,” those who want to see Israel’s destruction. They are the exception, not the rule, and the prevailing mentality is one against Israel’s very being.
The true, more urgent deliberation should be why are we not fighting our enemies? Coming out against an email because it was sent by a “right winger” Member of the Knesset does not go to the substance, and the substance is what prevents some of us of sleeping at night.
If Israel does not exist, then Temple Emanuel that I can see from my bedroom window may not be safe as one would tend to think, not even in Beverly Hills.
We must do everything it takes to protect our very being first. Then, if indeed a member in our midst makes a mistake (and by Rabbi Geller’s own investigation the substance of the e-mail is factual and not in dispute), we should correct it. But our first and foremost obligation is to not to ignore everything around us, particularly the evil and hatred. For as Rabbi Geller so eloquently (though misdirectedly) points out, “silence is like assent.”
I am sure Rabbi Geller does not assent to hating Jews or Israelis, to murdering them or to teaching hatred toward our community. So SPEAK OUT AND ACT!