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‘Boycott’ Israel over J’lem prayer rules, but ‘work’ against occupation — Forward’s double standard

US Politics
on 42 Comments

As you may have heard, American Jews have led a protest against orthodox restrictions on prayer at the western wall in Jerusalem. Orthodox rabbis control this holy space, so they segregate the sexes; but under pressure from American Jews, the Israeli government has come up with a compromise plan that would allow mixed-gender prayer in one part of the site, called the Kotel.

But the government is dragging its feet on the reforms, and Jane Eisner, editor of the Jewish Forward, who has pushed the changes, has published a set of recommendations to American Jews on how to win their cause. That list includes boycott and acts of civil disobedience.

Boycott the site.

… what if pickets were set up at the entrances to the plaza, and protesters mounted a concerted effort to remind passersby, customers and visitors in the Old City of the blatant unfairness of the current system, in which an unelected, unrepresentative and sexist group of rabbis rule with abandon? Take a cue from striking workers. Don’t let ‘em cross the picket line.

[P]erform acts of civil disobedience at the site itself.

Writing in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, Shmuel Rosner raised this possibility after the June 1 meeting between Netanyahu and American Jewish leaders resulted in another postponement: “begin a civil resistance-style fight on the ground. That is, to send groups of progressive Jews to the Kotel to pray in mixed groups. Reform and Conservative prayers at the northern plaza of the Kotel.”

The protests will be stopped by police, of course, and the resulting mayhem will prove to be a “PR disaster for Israel,” Rosner predicts. “…it could be an educational drama that has the potential of changing the conversation about Jewish partnership for both U.S. Jews and Israeli Jews.”

Eisner also offers the option of

“Forget changing the Kotel, and work to persuade Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian lands. Compared to a half-century of occupation, is worship around a bunch of ancient stones really that important?”

But that line is a throwaway: Eisner isn’t as urgent about that agenda as she is about fair prayer. The Forward has opposed boycott of Israel for the occupation, and has done nothing to advance Palestinian villages’ civil disobedience to try to forestall confiscation of their lands. And this double standard is an ethnocentric one: For the millions of Palestinians under occupation have no rights to think of; while the Jews whom Eisner would boycott on behalf of have merely been deprived of the right of worship in a couple of acres in Jerusalem.

It’s interesting too that Eisner urges American Jews not to undertake one measure: to “negotiate” the existing deal. That deal is a “compromise of a compromise,” she informs her readers, and if we enter into negotiations, the “opportunity for equality and fairness will be lost.” No: American Jewish leaders should walk away instead.

But isn’t that the definition of the two-state solution, a compromise of a compromise? Palestinians started out anticipating sovereignty over all the land of historical Palestine and are now reduced by degrees to 22 percent. Many have resisted this solution as a mingy compromise. Some have walked away rather than negotiate with the government that controls the situation.

The Forward would be far more persuasive if it remembered Rabbi Hillel’s simple moral standard: “That which is hateful unto you do not do to your neighbor.”

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42 Responses

  1. Citizen
    June 18, 2016, 12:22 pm

    Hillel was quite a guy.

  2. Donald
    June 18, 2016, 12:53 pm

    She knows her audience. The commenters ( I think there were one or two exceptions) either rejected option 5 or thought it not worth mentioning.

  3. Balfour
    June 18, 2016, 2:50 pm

    Jane Eisner is a New York resident: if she sets up “centers of civil disobedience” and “engages in boycotts” challenging the limitations of non Orthodox Jews to pray at the Western Wall, will she be prosecuted under the anti BDS laws recently signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo?

    • ritzl
      June 18, 2016, 3:15 pm

      One would think.

    • ritzl
      June 18, 2016, 3:23 pm

      Another question is whether Cuomo knows she would have to be prosecuted under his decree.

      I’d love to see her letter stating her reasons to be taken off the list.

    • MHughes976
      June 18, 2016, 4:48 pm

      We are overreacting to Cuomo’s posturing. There is no law and no source of prosecutions. Cuomo’s pension fund would withdraw from investment in Eisner’s business and damage her reputation but she would not be behind bars.

      • ritzl
        June 18, 2016, 6:17 pm

        Yep MHughes. Should have been persecuted and/or punished. Cuomo skipped right past the due process part.

    • WH
      June 20, 2016, 2:42 am

      She’s not proposing to boycott Israel, just the Kotel.

  4. Talkback
    June 19, 2016, 5:43 am

    It’s only hypocrisy under the assumption that for Elsner every human being is equal. Otherwise is just the usual supremacism.

  5. eljay
    June 19, 2016, 8:54 am

    … The Forward would be far more persuasive if it remembered Rabbi Hillel’s simple moral standard: “That which is hateful unto you do not do to your neighbor.” …

    Zio-supremacists operate under a different “moral” (as opposed to moral) standard: Jews are entitled to do unto others acts of injustice and immorality they would not have others do unto them.

  6. Talkback
    June 19, 2016, 6:38 pm

    “The Forward would be far more persuasive if it remembered Rabbi Hillel’s simple moral standard: “That which is hateful unto you do not do to your neighbor.””

    Maybe the Forward assumes that the biblical term “neighbor” in Judaism is only a synonym for “fellow Israelite” (see Leviticus 19:17-18).

  7. Shmuel
    June 20, 2016, 3:34 am

    How ironic that the spiritual heirs of Kaufmann Kohler and Emil Hirsch (founders of the Reform movement in the United States), who viewed the destruction of the Temple, virtual abolition of the priestly caste and Jewish dispersal as necessary stages in the evolution of the Jewish people and the Jewish concept of messianism toward universal justice and love of all mankind, have joined the Orthodox in sanctifying the site on which the ancient Temples stood. What is more, they do so in a context of political strife, violence, nationalism, occupation, repression and discrimination — not to mention the war crimes involved in creating the very site at which they wish to pray. And this is supposed to be a blow for “equality”?

    • yonah fredman
      June 21, 2016, 7:55 am

      Shmuel- your second sentence focusing on the politics of occupation jerusalem and the Western wall, I will concede. (In argument I will concede it, though I visit the old city when I visit jerusalem, because it’s one of my favorite spots on this sphere, aka mother earth.)
      As far as the rabbis you mention and the ethical humanism, I agree that a holy land at peace which will require much change, is worth more than a mountain in the hand. Still your derisive ness towards these women and their urge to gain entrance reminds me of avrum Burg and his argument with Allison sommer in haaretz and I feel that Burg is out to lunch on this one.
      I first encountered Women in black at Union Square and only met them in jerusalem after that original meeting. I spoke to them about 8 years ago. It is very different arguing about occupied territory across an ocean and a sea and arguing about it when it is within sight. (This was before cast lead and if you can believe it I was even more right wing at the time.) They were telling me their vision for a shared jerusalem and I asked “What about the kotel?” And one of them said, to the effect: I don’t hold by the kotel, that national disco (diskotel), and my trepverter (comeback line thought up too late) was: If I come to the rabbi with ice cream and ask if it’s kosher, I don’t want the rabbi to tell me, “that’s chocolate. I hate chocolate ice cream.” Y’know some people don’t believe in God and others don’t believe in prayer and some people like mountains and others like the sea shore. These women like to pray and they get an added spiritual buzz at the wall. For my house will be a house of prayer for all the nations. This verse on signs near the wall should be translated into Arabic , but to you and those 2 reform rabbis, you envision only Muslims are allowed to get sent by the place and jews must seek god only in ethics but not in prayer. Maybe prayer is not your thing, but many jews seek spiritual experiences, and just cuz you don’t like chocolate don’t tell me my ice cream is treif.

      • Mooser
        June 21, 2016, 8:33 am

        “You envision only Muslims are allowed to get sent by the place and jews must seek god only in ethics but not in prayer”

        So because the place “sends” you, we should kill for it, maybe start a war over it? That’s “prayer” for you?

      • Mooser
        June 23, 2016, 12:45 am

        “just cuz you don’t like chocolate don’t tell me my ice cream is treif.”

        “Yonah” check the ingredients. If it’s got human blood in it, it is more than likely trefe, no matter how good it seems to taste.

    • Shmuel
      June 21, 2016, 8:45 am


      Only the second sentence reflects my own views on the subject. In the first sentence I merely meant to point out the vast discrepancy between present-day Reform Jews and the founders of their movement, as reflected in attitudes toward the Kotel (including re-embracing “the priestly blessing”, in egalitarian garb). I don’t agree with the extreme de-nationalisation of Judaism that was an essential part of “Classical Reform” (although I don’t believe that even its proponents were as extreme as some of their declarations would seem to imply).

      My own aversion to the Kotel (for both ethical and religious reasons) does not affect my ability to understand how it could be meaningful to some people — in both good and bad ways. My main objection to the “Women of the Wall” issue pertains to the hypocrisy of claiming one’s own rights, in the name of equality, while denying rights to others. This is apparent in the case of the Kotel, as it is in the case of demands for Israeli state recognition of the non-Orthodox movements, which merely seek to benefit from a discriminatory (and corrupt) system rather than striving for true equality.

      So, chocolate or not, the ice cream is treif, but I know some Jews will eat it anyway — and I get why (after all, I used to eat it myself).

      I’ve written about the Kotel before at MW, but it seems most of my archive has disappeared.

      • gamal
        June 21, 2016, 7:37 pm

        “seems most of my archive has disappeared”

        mine too, nothing lasts.

      • Mooser
        June 21, 2016, 8:55 pm

        “mine too, nothing lasts.”

        “Gamal, clicking your name, I get:

        Total number of comments: 712 (since 2011-07-30 17:54:17) – See more at:

        Does that seem about right to you? Is it all there?
        Could it be the way you are accessing the archive which makes it appear truncated?

        Click on your name, get the whole archive. If you word-search, you will get a selection. You have to return to an un-searched archive page (click your name) before you can word- search again unless you want to search within the previous result.

        I hope that helps, and I hope your archive is all where it should be.

      • gamal
        June 22, 2016, 7:56 am

        hey man it should be a couple thousand or more, i am very industrious.

      • Mooser
        June 22, 2016, 11:27 am

        “hey man it should be a couple thousand or more, i am very industrious.”

        Oh, gosh, all that commenting wasted. I’m sorry to hear that. Let me know if you need any, I’ve got extra.

        Well, at least “Shmuel’s” archive is all there, anyway. Hate to think any of that archive got lost. Try and comfort yourself with that thought, “gamal”

        As for me, I kick myself every day for not registering as “Derbig_Mooser”. It’s nobody’s fault but mine.

      • Shmuel
        June 22, 2016, 11:30 am

        Well, at least “Shmuel’s” archive is all there, anyway.

        Nope. Many thousands of comments missing.

      • gamal
        June 22, 2016, 11:54 am

        ” Try and comfort yourself with that thought, “gamal” ”

        no dont you see gamal no longer really exists, i can no longer plagiarize myself others can never really plagiarize me to the final cliche, also no more youtube thumbnails for me just links,

        but who is the real victim here me or posterity.

      • Mooser
        June 22, 2016, 12:02 pm

        “Nope. Many thousands of comments missing.”

        Shmuel, that is awful. I’m hoping they are there somewhere. If they’re not, I’m sorry, because I think a lot of good is lost with them. They have got to be there.

        Look, I can’t live with this. I’ll spot you guys about 10,000 comments each, on the swing, and you can pay me back on the roundabout. Use the “word-search” feature and pick the ones you want.

      • Shmuel
        June 22, 2016, 12:10 pm

        Thanks for the thought, Mooser, but I’m afraid your credit doesn’t stretch that far any more. You’re almost as comment poor as the rest of us:

        Commenter Profile
        Search Mooser’s comments
        Total number of comments: 14796 (since 2009-08-14 22:39:41)

      • Mooser
        June 22, 2016, 12:23 pm

        “You’re almost as comment poor as the rest of us”

        Me? Huh? Silence is golden, everybody knows that, and as far as I’m concerned, my net worth has just about doubled!
        I enjoyed writing them and conversing with other readers, Mondo got the web-stats (whatever that’s worth, welcome to it) and I got a reprieve! Taciturn, that’s me, a man of few, badly chosen, words. The strong, silent type. Short, pale, and homely, too, but you can’t have everything.

        I bet “Hophmi” and “Yonah” and all those guys have complete archives, the poor schmucks. I wonder how much “Hophmi” would pay to have his deleted? Possible fund-raiser for Mondo?

        Anyway, I feel like Trump stiffing a contractor. 5 grand each is my offer, take it or leave it, sue if you want, and I will see you in court. I won’t just wear you down with litigation, I will bury you in litigation!!!

      • Mooser
        June 22, 2016, 12:46 pm

        “no dont you see gamal no longer really exists”

        And according to (((James North))) (the writer formerly known as “James North”) I am “Steve Grover”!

        What can you do?

      • eljay
        June 22, 2016, 12:55 pm

        || Mooser: … according to (((James North))) (the writer formerly known as “James North”) I am “Steve Grover”!

        What can you do? ||

        Not a damned thing, because “each and everyone of us are uniquely molded to play specific roles in the universe.” That progressive Marxist belief in determinism in human behavior will get you every time… ;-)

      • Annie Robbins
        June 22, 2016, 12:57 pm

        whole comment sections from our past have disappeared completely. i am freaked out. i just visited over ten past articles and none of them had any comments at all. some used to have hundreds. someone is systematically erasing our history.

        and that’s not all. remember the worldwide protests gaza link from the 2014 summer slaughter?


      • ritzl
        June 22, 2016, 1:07 pm

        Sorry to hear that Shmuel and gamal. That’s a big loss for the site.

        A few thousand of mine are gone too. See, some prayers do get answered. :)

      • ritzl
        June 22, 2016, 1:13 pm

        EI said they had a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack a few weeks ago. Now masses of comments missing here.

        Coincidence, or Israel’s attempt to digitally win hearts and minds?

      • Shmuel
        June 22, 2016, 1:21 pm

        EI said they had a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack a few weeks ago. Now masses of comments missing here.

        The first “targeted civil eliminations” (in the words of Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz)?

      • ritzl
        June 22, 2016, 1:36 pm

        Hey Annie. 246 comments show up for me on your “Worldwide Protest” article. Was that all of them?

      • ritzl
        June 22, 2016, 1:57 pm

        @Shmuel –

        The first “targeted civil eliminations” (in the words of Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz)?”


        Kinda like Babe Ruth calling his shot by pointing at the center field stands ( I can almost hear the Mafia-like “You can’t prove anything!” non-denial denials coming soon.

      • Sibiriak
        June 22, 2016, 2:01 pm

        Many great posts gone. Hostage’s archive barely exists anymore. That’s a huge loss–along with many others– if it can’t be retrieved.

      • Annie Robbins
        June 22, 2016, 2:03 pm

        ritzl, i can’t see the article at all. it just says

        Fatal error: Unknown: Cannot use output buffering in output buffering display handlers in Unknown on line 0

        i heard back from adam and he said the comments were removed (they have them) because we recently had tech problems and the database was part of the problem.

        i should try to calm down. sorry for sounding alarmist but it freaks me out.

      • Mooser
        June 22, 2016, 2:07 pm

        Not a damned thing, because “each and everyone of us are uniquely molded…”

        As a famous navigator once said: “I yam what I yam, and that’s all that I yam! I’m Popeye, the Sailor Man! Toot-toot!”

        “i heard back from adam and he said the comments were removed (they have them)”

        You don’t think you could maybe print mine out, for safekeeping, and then leave them by an open window on a very windy day, whooops, there they go… hmmmm, maybe I can get near the server with a powerful magnet…there’s gotta be a way..

      • Bumblebye
        June 22, 2016, 2:56 pm

        I just checked the article too annie – all present and correct for me.
        Now I’ll check and see if I’ve got a full comment archive.

        nope. down to 626. vast majority gone.

      • Annie Robbins
        June 22, 2016, 7:06 pm

        that’s so strange bumblebye.

  8. Mooser
    June 21, 2016, 6:28 pm

    “but it seems most of my archive has disappeared.”

    Shmuel, I see: “Total number of comments: 638 (since 2009-08-04 05:43:29)” – See more at:
    by clicking on your user-name

    Hopefully it’s all there.

    • Shmuel
      June 22, 2016, 11:31 am

      I don’t remember exactly, but it should be more like 10,000.

      • Mooser
        June 22, 2016, 12:13 pm

        “I don’t remember exactly, but it should be more like 10,000.”

        You are welcome to as many of mine as you want.
        I think (?) the Editors warned us about possible loss of material during the switchover to the new format, or server? I had high hopes for my own archive. A radical literary liposuction was what I had in mind.

        Anyway, “Shmuel” and “gamal”, that’s too bad, and I’m sorry it happened.

      • Sibiriak
        June 22, 2016, 2:46 pm

        It seems like all comments for everyone before June 1 2014 are gone. At least that’s what a few searches show for me at this point.

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