NYT obit of rabbi left out his urging Sharon: ‘Very simply, wipe them out’

Israel/Palestine
David Hartman

The late Rabbi David Hartman, photo at the Hartman Institute site, by David Rubinger

A couple of weeks ago the Presbyterian church published an important report on the conflict, titled, “Zionism Unsettled” that says that the ideology of Zionism must be taken on in order to resolve the conflict. “The fundamental assumption of this study is that no exceptionalist claims can be justified in our interconnected, pluralistic world.”

The report includes some shocking quotes from the late Rabbi David Hartman, which appeared in the Washington Post in March 1, 2002, at the height of the Second Intifada, when he urged Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to be more brutal:

“Which population in the world would allow itself to be intimidated and terrified as this whole population is, where you can’t send your kid out for a pizza at night without fear he’ll be blown up?” said David Hartman, a rabbi and philosopher who runs a think tank in Jerusalem. “The frustration is, ‘Sharon, we thought you’d show our power.”
“Let’s really let them understand what the implication of their actions is. . . . Very simply, wipe them out. Level them.”

Hartman died a year ago. He had high status in the American Jewish community. He founded the Hartman Institute, which has a liberal Orthodox reputation; his son Donniel now heads the institute and speaks at J Street (and says Israel lives in a “difficult, crappy neighborhood”).

Here is Jodi Rudoren’s obituary for David Hartman in The New York Times from last February: “Rabbi David Hartman, Champion of an Adaptive Judaism, Dies at 81.” These excerpts characterize the admiring nature of the piece:

A charismatic teacher and prolific author, he encouraged students to question tradition and urged people of different backgrounds and ideologies to pore over Jewish texts together, a practice more common in his native United States than his adopted country.

“At the center of his thinking was a kind of counter-religious idea, where religious life is a life of affirmation, not a life of denial,” said Moshe Halbertal, a professor of philosophy at Hebrew University and Rabbi Hartman’s former son-in-law. “If human life is not denied by the force of revelation, but it’s actually a participant in revelation, then human life has to come to its full fledge, with its moral convictions, with its encounter with the world.”..

“He was a public philosopher for the Jewish people,” said Michael J. Sandel, a professor of political philosophy at Harvard who has written about Rabbi Hartman’s work. “As Maimonides drew Aristotle into conversation with Moses and Rabbi Akiva, so Hartman renovated Jewish thought by bringing the liberal sensibilities to bear on Talmudic argument.”

Jonathan D. Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University, described the Hartman Institute as “a little island of pluralism amidst a sea of what was often religious fanaticism,” but noted that “he had to establish his own institutions precisely because, unlike Soloveitchik, he was not really welcomed” by Israel’s religious establishment.

The obituary includes one comment about Palestinians:

What is happening today with religion is more dangerous than what’s happening with the Arabs — the Arabs want to kill my body, the Jews are killing my soul,” Rabbi Hartman said in a 2011 interview with the Israeli daily Yediot Aharanot.

But that’s all. And so: The Presbyterian Church feels that Americans should know about Hartman’s exterminationist recommendations to Ariel Sharon, but the New York Times ignores them. Imagine a Palestinian making such a recommendation — how his obituary would read.

The average American who relies on the American mainstream press is not getting anywhere near an accurate picture of what Israel is in 2014. Most Americans don’t have a lot of hours every day to search out the truth about Israel on alternate websites and European sites. They rely on the media, understandably, and they’re consistently being misled. This is why Max Blumenthal’s book is indispensable: it’s a long and detailed, and necessary, corrective to the warped perspective in the press.

P.S. The Times of Israel has attempted to defend Hartman from the quotation in the Presybterian church’s report.

[The report] claims that liberal Orthodox educator Rabbi David Hartman advocated the wholesale slaughter of Palestinians: “’Let’s really let them understand what the implication of their action is,’ he said of the Palestinians. ‘Very simply, wipe them out. Level them.’”

But a glance at the 2002 Washington Post article from which the quote was taken makes it obvious that Hartman was talking about Palestinian terrorists, not the civilian population at large, as “Zionism Unsettled” wrote.

Here is the fuller context to Hartman’s comments in the Post article:

Three options [of Israeli response to the Second Intifada] are mentioned most often.
One is to intensify attacks on Palestinians. Within Sharon’s hardline Likud party, and among many centrist Israelis as well, there is broad support for escalation, no matter what the diplomatic consequences for Israel or the likelihood of casualties.
A number of senior military officials have also been pressing for tougher action on the ground, including deep invasions of Palestinian-held territory, to arrest suspected militants and break up what Israelis call the “terrorist infrastructure.” The assaults Thursday on refugee camps in Jenin and Nablus fit into that perspective. Backing for such a strategy is widespread among not only hawkish politicians but also some of Israel’s leading intellectuals.
“Which population in the world would allow itself to be intimidated and terrified as this whole population is, where you can’t send your kid out for a pizza at night without fear he’ll be blown up?” said David Hartman, a rabbi and philosopher who runs a think tank in Jerusalem. “The frustration is, ‘Sharon, we thought you’d show our power.”
“Let’s really let them understand what the implication of their actions is. . . . Very simply, wipe them out. Level them.”

Donald Johnson points out: Personally I don’t think Hartman literally meant exterminate all the Palestinians either–I think he was urging the usual Israeli tactic, where they use indiscriminate firepower without caring who dies. It’s exterminationist rhetoric, but what I think he actually meant was “bomb and shell and kill and don’t worry about the civilians and show them who is boss” and not literally “kill all of them”. In other words, he was advocating war crimes, the sort of thing Sharon was famous for and he’s disappointed that it hasn’t been done on the scale he’d like to see, though of course more Palestinians than Israelis were dying all along. It wouldn’t occur to the great philosopher that Palestinians would have more provocation for urging Arafat to “wipe them out. Level them”. The Presbyterian study guide got it right. Hartman doesn’t use the word “terrorists”. And even if he did, Israelis always claim they are killing “terrorists” when they start bombing. Hartman was urging Sharon–Sharon–to be more brutal.

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