The Deir Yassin Remembered Blog

Report on Beth Israel vigil 06-11-11

Posted on June 19th, 2011 at 10:26 am by

Beth Israel and Torture

Three years ago we reported during Torture Awareness Month that Rabbi Dobrusin invoked a Catch-22 formulation for using “self defense” as a reason for unplanned torture. Since June is Torture Awareness Month, this writer decided to review and independently evaluate the Rabbi’s words in his sermon of June 7, 2008.

First off, it appears clear that the Rabbi’s stance against torture applies to the conduct of the United States, and not to the other country whose flag shares equal prominence on the Congregation’s bima. He says “this country should not engage in torture of prisoners in any situation and that there should be no ambiguity to this prohibition.” Why wouldn’t he say, “Neither this country nor Israel should engage in torture” if that was what he meant?

It appears to this writer that the Rabbi has indulged in a slight form of intellectual dishonesty here, and notwithstanding any positive feelings I hold for the Rabbi, it appears undeniable.

Secondly, the Rabbi attempts to distance himself from Israeli professor Yehezkel Dror (“When Survival of the Jewish People Is at Stake, There’s No Place for Morals”), claiming a high moral ground that refuses to enter a possible scenario with advanced plans to commit torture. According to Rabbi Dobrusin that’s not ethical, and remains the source of his disagreement with Dror. But once the Rabbi has claimed this high ground, he then mixes Jewish religious law, or halacha, into the soup, which – though not a priori allowing torture (or any other unethical behavior) – removes the guilt of committing such an offense by utilizing a self-defense plea after the fact. In the Rabbi’s words: “We would do what we thought we had to do, and then would seek to defend ourselves as having committed a justified act of self-defense.”

And that also gives the appearance of intellectual dishonesty. If we were scripting a two-person play it might go like:

“Nope, we’re not gonna torture anyone”
“But he had the information we wanted. We used torture, thinking we could get it”
“Well, ok, it was an act of self-defense. Just don’t do it again”

Since Torture Awareness Month has two weeks to go, perhaps the Rabbi will issue a clarifying sermon, and borrow our “Torture is Wrong” banner to hang upon the wall of Beth Israel. Readers might wish to also review PeaceMonger’s excellent deconstruction of the Rabbi’s sermon here.

JWPF Recognized by Washtenaw Jewish News

The June/July/August 2011 edition of the Washtenaw Jewish News again devotes considerable ink to Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends. A page 2 report by WJN staff and entitled “Picketers say ‘Imam is wrong’ that Islam ok’s their synagogue protests”, fairly accurately depicts JWPF’s differences with Imam Dawud Walid, initiated by him at a public meeting at Ann Arbor’s downtown library last January.

The second article, written by Victor Lieberman – a congregant who would regularly spit at JWPF members until he entered an agreement with us to discontinue his practice – is much longer (3,100 words) and frankly is so full of holes, it’s difficult to know where to begin a refutation, not that the Jewish News would have any intention of printing it anyway (their one-sided editorial history is well-established). Example: Lieberman writes “Plan D arose in response to the impending collapse of key Jewish positions … and in anticipation of more serious assaults from Arab state armies.”

According to Israeli Professor Ilan Pappe (The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine), Plan Dalet was finalized on March 10, 1948 and “spelled out [Zionist aims] clearly and unambiguously: the Palestinians had to go” (p. xii) . For Lieberman to assert that Plan Dalet occurred as a response to actions by Palestinians that would not occur for two months, is a misrepresentation of the actual historical timeline. Readers are also invited to visit “Plan Dalet Revisited” by Professor Walid Khalidi here.

Actually, Professor Lieberman, who teaches a course at the University of Michigan on the “Arab-Israeli conflict”, makes many of JWPF’s points for us and his refutations are weak, at best. His outline of “The picketers’ intellectual assumptions examined” is reprinted here:

– Israel was born in sin, dependent for its very creation on dispossessing Palestinians, and therefore is morally and legally illegitimate.
– Israel is a racist state.
– Israeli expansion lies at the heart of Mideast tension.
– Because Jews dictate America’s Israel policy, the picketing of synagogues is justified to weaken the Jewish lobby.

Readers are invited to view these articles here.

Michigan Peace Team calls; JWPF member responds

Responding to a personal request to serve as a Peace Team member, this writer joined a Michigan Peace Team presence at the American Catholic Council (ACC) convention at Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit. I worked with veteran Peace Team members Fr. Peter Dougherty, Kim Redigan, and others. We report that no altercations took place on our watch.

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Five Vigilers
No to Two-States; Yes to Justice
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends

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