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Friday, March 18, 2011

A response to Tikkun's Michael Lerner's comment

In response to my posting yesterday saying that leftists are silent about Hamas abuses of freedom of expression and freedom of the press  - where I listed a number of those who were silent, including Tikkun magazine - I received this comment:

Rabbi Michael Lerner (unregistered) wrote:

We at Tikkun totally condemn Hamas' human rights abuses, commend Justice Goldstone for condemning them also, condemn all forms of Palestinian and Israeli violence, "one standard shall you use," and have no sympathy for anyone who uses violence or who tries to distort the Biblical notion of a rodeph from someone standing in front of you with the means to kill you into a general legitimation of violence against an entire people, and pray everyday that Israel should be safe and secure.
--Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor, Tikkun www.tikkun.org

It is nice to see that Tikkun condemns Hamas' human rights abuses.

Some of Lerner's other comments deserve a response, though.

The main one is important in the wake of Tikkun's honoring Richard Goldstone (and Lerner himself!) in their recent 25th anniversary dinner. Lerner asserts here that Goldstone condemned Hamas in his report.

He didn't.

As I wrote one of in my many critiques of the Goldstone report - a report that Tikkun and Lerner absolutely loves - Goldstone studiously avoids condemning Hamas in his report, instead using nebulous terms like "armed groups" and making a clear and totally artificial distinction between Hamas and its own Al Qassam  Brigades.

In fact, as I wrote, Goldstone praises Hamas in his false and slanderous report. As I conclude in my analysis:
The only recommendations in the report to "Gaza authorities" are to release political detainees and to "continue to enable the free and independent operation of Palestinian non-governmental organizations."

Hamas is not given a single recommendation to stop rocket attacks. Hamas is not told to stop incitement. Hamas is not told to release Gilad Shalit (as if he is being held against Hamas' wishes!).

No wonder Hamas is thrilled about the report. In the entire 450 page report, Hamas is not singled out once for condemnation.

And all the news stories and Goldstone interviews that claim that the report condemns Hamas are wrong.

It is also necessary to respond to Lerner's comment that "anyone who uses violence or who tries to distort the Biblical notion of a rodeph from someone standing in front of you with the means to kill you into a general legitimation of violence against an entire people." For those who do not know, the Torah explicitly allows one to kill someone who is in hot pursuit of another with the intent to kill, and that person is known as a "rodeph" (pursuer.)

Lerner is implying in his comment that Israel's justification for defending itself is the Jewish legal definition of rodeph.

There are at least three major problems with this formulation.

Firstly, Israel is not a theocracy, so it is unclear why Lerner is implying that the State of Israel is using Biblical law to justify its actions to defend itself - actions that every single state in the world, bar none, would do when faced with similar threats. By bringing up "rodeph" Lerner is slyly putting Israel in a category of a state that is relying on Old Testament justice in a modern world, and therefore this is a dig at the State of Israel itself.

Secondly, Lerner is saying that Israel attacks "an entire people" - and this is simply a lie, and also slanderous. No doubt he thinks of Operation Cast Lead as an attack against all Palestinian Arabs, but one wonders - why are the Arabs in the West Bank doing so well lately economically, even with Jewish communities in their midst? Why aren't they being attacked if Israel routinely practices violence "against an entire people"? In fact, why are there any Palestinian Arabs left alive today when Israel's awesome war machine could have eradicated them decades ago? Lerner here is accusing Israel of attempted genocide, and that is something that must be shown to be a baldfaced lie, no matter how many times people like Lerner repeat it. It is a disgusting and false charge and Lerner ought to be ashamed.

Thirdly, even according to Jewish law, "Rabbi" Lerner is wrong. The halachic justification for Israel is that a war to defend Jews is a "milkhemet mitzvah," , which is a much different topic than the law of a rodeph. Lerner should learn some halacha before spouting on topics that he knows nothing about.

So while I appreciate Lerner's taking the time to (apparently) paste a comment here, and his condemnation of Hamas, he is deeply wrong on many levels and his sickening formulations of using Judaism to justify his positions that are fundamentally antithetical to both Judaism and to Israel's own security must be refuted over and over again.

After all, Lerner doesn't even understand basic concept of "Tikkun Olam" - the fundamental underpinnings of his entire life's work and the basis for what he named his magazine.