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I was heartened to see that one prominent Israeli – a top IDF radio host — posted (on Saturday on Facebook) “Today I am ashamed to be Israeli.” On Friday and Saturday night, at Passover Seder celebrating Jewish liberation, I felt similar shame – shame to be a Jew – at the latest massacre of Palestinians by Israeli troops. This unspeakable, unlawful outrage – young Jewish snipers deliberately shooting down unarmed Gazans gathered in protest at the border fence that helps keep them confined in the largest open-air prison in the world, killing 18 and wounding more than 1,400 — was committed pursuant to shoot-to-kill orders from senior Israeli military and political leaders, who put them there precisely to intimidate Palestinians who dared engage in non-violent protest, and to collectively punish, again, the civilian Palestinian population.

Shooting unarmed Palestinian demonstrators pursuant to an open-fire policy is not new, either in Gaza or the West Bank. In December 2017 alone, Israeli soldiers shot and killed eight demonstrators. In the same month, live fire wounded an additional 291 Palestinians in Gaza and 117 in the West Bank. But the Passover killings at the Gaza fence reached a new high, or low, in Israel’s and the Jewish people’s descent into madness.

I do not know which is worse, the shamelessness of those perpetrating these atrocities, or the indifference and silence of both Israeli and American Jews – rabbinate and laity – at the routine Jewish large-scale killing and maiming of Palestinian protesters. Israeli military, political and judicial leaders make sure virtually no killers of Palestinians are held accountable, and none suffer serious punishment.  About Friday’s massacre, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman assured Israelis that there would be no investigation, saying, “all our soldiers deserve a medal.” 

Oh yes, the Jewish kids who killed the young man rolling a tire away from the border, the man praying with others, and the young man watching the protests and puffing a cigarette, they all deserve medals? Watch the videos, but be warned, if they don’t make you physically sick, they will make you heartsick at what passes for Jewish values these days.

Before we had a Jewish state, we had Jewish books. Five books. A Mishnah. A Talmud. We discussed, debated, argued about and perfected Jewish moral, ethical and religious values. We knew what they were, and when they were violated. And we knew what it was like to be victimized by others who did not share those values. When we felt the lash of oppression, it stung so bad it really had meaning. We were against it. It was something that the goyim did to us, and to others. It was not for us. So we were for equality, dignity, fraternity, rule of law. We were against racism. We were for taking in the stranger, the immigrant, treating him or her like our own. We were proud to serve in the war against the fascists. We celebrated resisters and their resistance to oppression in Europe, and criticized collective punishment of European civilian populations after such acts of resistance. Even after Israel was born, we marched, here in America, against war and militarism, against white supremacy, against Apartheid in South Africa, and for civil rights of people of color.

But now we have a Jewish state. Now, instead of a book and values, we have power. And it turns out that we are every bit as good at abusing that power, as the goyim. In fact, we may be better at it. A 2008 delegation of ANC leaders visiting the West Bank said our apartheid is worse than the South African variety they experienced and helped overcome. And our propaganda, our hasbara, is certainly more potent and effective than that of most oppressors around the world, past and present. After all, who else could propagate and maintain for decades the myth of Israeli democracy for American Jews while running a white Jewish supremacist regime for five million Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza as comprehensive and relentless as this one – plain as day when one is there — that accords Palestinians no civil rights, steals their land and water, demolishes their homes, and has no reservations about killing and wounding them in large numbers?

But now, the Palestinians are ramping up non-violent protest as the resistance modality of choice, and the Israelis are ratcheting up the violence to meet it. The truth is coming out — that Israeli leaders never feared violence or “terrorism” as much as non-violent resistance. The mask of benign democracy is starting to fall away, and the true face of our Jewish oppression is showing, for all American Jews (and Christians) to see — we Americans who support and facilitate this oppression, and without whose support it would shortly cease to exist.

I am ashamed. I am a Jew ashamed of this Jewish state that perpetrates all this, purportedly in my name and in the name of the entire Jewish people. I am ashamed that I did not speak out publicly until my 67th year in 2014, after the massacre that was the Israeli “Operation Protective Edge” in Gaza in 2014. I am ashamed that, at Passover Seder, many of my friends and family are still silent. I am ashamed that, in temples and synagogues and Jewish institutions across this land, one hears expressions of support for right-wing Israeli leaders and their crimes while Trumpers are piously excoriated for similar crimes, policies, and pronouncements here at home. I am ashamed that, on Friday, when I first heard about the killings at the Gaza fence, I could not find one TV station reporting on it. Nor can I find, with very limited exceptions, American newspapers who will tell it like it is. That includes you, Sulzbergers, running a paper I’ve been reading since the sixth grade, which proclaims that it publishes “All the News That’s Fit to Print.”

I am ashamed at the American Jewish rabbinate, our supposed religious leaders, who have been to Israel and know how brutal, systemic and relentless the oppression of Palestinians is there, but who remain silent for fear of losing their jobs or dividing their congregations, when what is really at risk is their Jewish souls, our Jewish values, and the essence of what Judaism has to offer the world. And it is not this.

There is no reason that a country with hundreds of nuclear weapons, the most sophisticated conventional military hardware, and the most powerful security and intelligence capability in the world, has to kill, maim, intimidate and collectively punish its Palestinian inhabitants. The Israeli leaders who perpetrate these crimes against humanity – and their citizens who are indifferent to it — may be Jews, but they are not Jewish.

It is time to acknowledge all this to ourselves, and to be silent no more.

About Robert Herbst

Robert Herbst is a civil rights lawyer. He was chapter coordinator for Westchester Jewish Voice for Peace from 2014-2017,

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24 Responses

  1. Stephen Shenfield
    April 4, 2018, 2:50 pm

    I understand and to some extent share your feeling of shame for the misdeeds of those associated with you as kin or co-religionists. It is hard not to have that feeling. But I want to ask: is it justified? does it make sense? and — does it help?

    Each of us is responsible only for what we ourselves do or fail to do. Over that at least we have some control. In doing what we can we relieve the weight of individual shame. But collective shame seems to me fraught with paralysis and despair, for it remains whatever we do.

    • James Michie
      April 5, 2018, 10:24 am

      To what “extent” do you share Robert’s feeling of “shame”, Stephen? If your Zionist Israel uses harsh and sometimes brutal collective punishment of Palestinians, why can’t you accept and join in collective shame over your Zionist “soldier” assassin snipers who murdered 18 unarmed Palestinian protesters and shot and wounded at least 750 more? Is the very thought of these hideous and murderous acts too much for you, sending you “to some extent” into abject denial and cognitive dissonance? It certainly would see so.

    • inbound39
      April 6, 2018, 7:49 pm

      Stephen…..we cannot change others but we can change how we react against them and we can cease enabling them and give them consequences for their wrongful actions thus making them responsible for their actions. Until people take that basic pschological strategy for Israel then there is no incentive for Israel to change. If it becomes more and more uncomfortable for Israeli’s to continue their wrongful actions against Palestinians then out of necessity they will change themselves. We provide them incentive to change by withdrawing support and giving them consequences….good and bad.

  2. dx
    April 4, 2018, 5:41 pm

    Excellent summary of the morality of the situation in Israel and Palestine. I would add greater emphasis needs to be placed on America as a whole–Christians, Jews, and just all of us– for ignoring our own complicity in the continuing degradation and oppression of the Palestinians. We should all be ashamed.

  3. LHunter
    April 4, 2018, 6:14 pm

    Thank you for sharing – and thank you for supporting the Palestinians.

    “And our propaganda, our hasbara, is certainly more potent and effective than that of most oppressors around the world, past and present. After all, who else could propagate and maintain for decades the myth of Israeli democracy for American Jews while running a white Jewish supremacist regime for five million Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza as comprehensive and relentless as this one – plain as day when one is there — that accords Palestinians no civil rights, steals their land and water, demolishes their homes, and has no reservations about killing and wounding them in large numbers?”

    How can this be explained? Everytime I try I’m either censored or branded a conspiracy theorist. I get it, Jews do not control the MSM or Hollywood so what other explaination is there?

  4. James Michie
    April 5, 2018, 10:26 am

    Thank you, Robert! Very well stated.

  5. Dougal
    April 5, 2018, 11:51 am

    Thank you sir for you excellent writing. There is one other thing to consider. While Americans may ignore the actions of Israel against the Palestinians for the most part, the rest of the world is much more aware. They are creating a great deal of hatred by their actions. I was raised to respect the civic responsibility of my Jewish friends. I am so terribly disappointed and disgusted by their “state”. I work as hard as I can against all funding for that state. I feel all thinking people should do the same.

  6. genesto
    April 5, 2018, 12:05 pm

    As a non Jew, it still irks me no end to read or hear about ‘Jewish values’, as if they are somehow superior to normal, garden variety human values. As I was growing up, I never heard about ‘Arab values’, although I’m sure I know what the response by most readers here is to the term ‘Christian values’.

    If you are committed to eradicate Jewish exceptionalism, which is at the core of Zionism, then you have to accept that there are human values accepted by all of humanity, period. There are no other ethnically-derived values that transcend these.

    • LHunter
      April 8, 2018, 11:47 am

      So true – everything about Jews and Jewishness is branded as sui generis. Jewish values, as far as I can tell, are unsurprisingly similar to or the same as what most decent people believe in. Zionists do violence to those Jewish values and humanity.

      • Maghlawatan
        April 8, 2018, 12:30 pm

        Jewishness evolved over millenia as a guide to life. It can be summarised as don’t be an asshole and be careful. In order to be a Zionist you need to take stupid risks while acting as an asshole.

      • Mooser
        April 8, 2018, 1:42 pm

        “So true – everything about Jews and Jewishness is branded as sui generis.”

        So how come I’ve still got three cases of “Jews sui generis” lapel buttons? I was sure they would be hot sellers after the Charlie Hebdo thing.

      • LHunter
        April 8, 2018, 4:14 pm

        Mooser – I think your sales dilemma has to do with this lapel-less new generation – have they no shame?

        Not to worry, fashion is all about rediscovering the past with a new twist – lapels are sure to make a comeback. Just don’t forget us little people when you become a lapel button icon

  7. gamal
    April 5, 2018, 6:07 pm

    “rabbinate and laity” but its not real religion

    “So we were for equality, dignity, fraternity, rule of law. We were against racism”

    That got to me Robert, so …so as a religionist…let me say

    the great Garuda states

    ” There is no Buddha, and who creates the fetters that bind?” ?

    in the secret teaching, for which i get a place in vajra hell for revealing, but I live near Drimoleague exactly how much worse can hell be….buddha didn’t factor that in…

    The All Creating Monarch :

    Mind is the essence of what simply is

    What simply is, is non-dual and supremely blissful,

    and while allowing for all manifestations is itself nonmanifest.

    Given that it abides timelessly, like space, free of elaboration, it is not some objective construct and cannot be reckoned even as a unity”

    and thus “Conditioned existence is just a label, for phenomena thus imputed have been transcended” and anyway as the Great Garuda affirms

    “MInd is never subject to extremes”

    but nowadays people mess with other shit and call it religion when they mean something else….that’s it… no argument.. no sense.. religionism..am I wrong?

    • Maghlawatan
      April 7, 2018, 7:03 am

      Mind is easily sent off course by trauma.

      • gamal
        April 7, 2018, 9:25 am

        neither trauma nor mind exist, but we sure can have a lot of fun with both, its the miracle of the Christmas everyday palace we inhabit.

        Mooser you know once wrote something that is still run around my mind (which doesn’t exist, in the manner conventionally accepted, it doesn’t exist)

        what should happen to us so that we be free of “trauma” and what is off course there is a right course,

        also there 8 extremes, everything in religionism is either a slogan “whatever is in your hand, give it, whatever is in your mind, drop it, whatever happens to you in life do not turn away from it” or will be bullet pointed. as in

        3. Drive all blame in to one (guess which one)

        4. Be grateful to everyone

        it’s a nike just do it thing we don’t hold with too much thinking (any at all)

        so where’s this fucking trauma? look around you the only people free of trauma are the religionists and the dead, we are not dissimilar.

        “My view is the kaya of the sphere of being”

        from the tantra : Naturally Arising Awareness, which continues

        “I am the graveyard of all buddhas and ordinary beings”

  8. yourstruly
    April 6, 2018, 1:35 am

    Robert Herbst is ashamed at the crimes his coreligionists in Israel are perpetrating upon the Palestinian people. Even worse, committing said crimes in the name of all Jews, himself/myself included. I understand how he feels but am long passed the shame phase of mourning (assuming Kubler-Ross’s 5 stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) of grief are herein applicable to the betrayal (a type of loss) of a long held and cherished belief, namely, Jewish values. Where to place being ashamed in this ranking? Well, seems to me that shame alone might place the author anywhere between stage 2 and 4. But his writing this article indicates that he’s well beyond merely being ashamed, he’s reached acceptance. Congratulations Robert, you made it, and for this we are thankful. Please keep reaching out.

    • LHunter
      April 8, 2018, 6:02 pm

      Coreligionists? So the Israeli Zionists commiting these atrocities are Jewish? I have been told they are just Jews and not Jewish? If they are just Jews can they still be coreligionists with Jewish people?

      I’m confused – where’s Mooser on this one? Jews, Jewish, Israeli, Zionist, only the brave would attempt to figure this out – someone who walks the walk – someone who wears a “Jews sui generis” lapel button

      • Mooser
        April 9, 2018, 1:04 pm

        “– someone who wears a “Jews sui generis” lapel button”

        And that ain’t me. Frankly, I am typical.

  9. Maghlawatan
    April 7, 2018, 6:05 am

    “The Israeli leaders who perpetrate these crimes against humanity – and their citizens who are indifferent to it — may be Jews, but they are not Jewish.”

    Beautifully put

    It reminds me of the song Dance with the Devil. Because that is what Zionism is.

    “I’m falling and I can’t turn back
    I’m falling and I can’t turn back

    Right before he pulled the trigger, and ended her life
    he thought about the cocaine with the platinum and ice
    and he felt strong standing along with his new brothers
    cocked the gat to her head, and pulled back the shirt cover
    but what he saw made him start to cringe and stutter
    cause he was staring into the eyes of his own mother
    she looked back at him and cried, cause he had forsaken her
    she cried more painfully than when they were raping her
    his whole world stopped, he couldn’t even contemplate
    his corruption had succesfully changed his fate
    and he remembered how his mom used to come home late
    working hard for nothing, cause now what was he worth
    he turned away from the woman that had once given him birth
    and crying out to the sky cause he was lonely and scared
    but only the devil responded, cause god wasn’t there
    and right then he knew what it was to be empty and cold
    and so he jumped off the roof and died with no soul
    they say death takes you to a better place, but I doubt it
    after that they killed his mother, and never spoke about it”

    Israel will jump off Masada

    • LHunter
      April 8, 2018, 5:22 pm

      “The Israeli leaders who perpetrate these crimes against humanity – and their citizens who are indifferent to it — may be Jews, but they are not Jewish.”

      Are there comparables?

      The German leaders who perpetrated crimes against humanity – and their citizens who were indifferent to it – may be ______________ but they are not _____________

      The S.A. leaders who perpetrated crimes against humanity – and their citizens who were indifferent to it – may be ______________ but they are not _____________

      The Saudi Arabian leaders who perpetrate crimes against humanity – and their citizens who are indifferent to it – may be ______________ but they are not _____________

      American leaders who perpetrated crimes against humanity – and their citizens who were indifferent to it – may be ______________ but they are not _____________

    • Mooser
      April 9, 2018, 1:09 pm

      “Beautifully put”

      Well, it was, so beautiful, so natural, but do you think it might be a wee bit better if he said ‘they may be Jewish, but they are not Jews’, instead?

    • eljay
      April 9, 2018, 1:34 pm

      || Maghlawatan: … It reminds me of the song Dance with the Devil. … ||

      Powerful lyrics.

  10. Ossinev
    April 7, 2018, 7:06 am

    Assuming that the Giro D`Italia organisers do proceed with their plan to hold the first three stages of this years race in Israel the participants will be taking part at a time when innocent civilians are being massacred by the host country(the Nakba demonstrations are due to continue until 15th May and the planned Giro stages are scheduled for 4th – 6th May ) If the wind is in the right direction then they may be able to hear the sound of the slaughter. I do hope that as with the South African sports embargo they have the humanity or at the very least the common sense to switch to their Plan B – which is to hold these stages in Italy itself. If not they and the riders who themselves cannot be exonerated will deserve the consequences of any disruption of the race by demonstrators. Speaking of which I wonder what the most moral ROE will be for those demonstrators. Remember it is a Grand Tour event watched LIVE by millions of people in the West.
    http://www.cyclist.co.uk/news/3900/unrest-in-israel-could-see-giro-ditalia-start-moved

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