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Total number of comments: 41 (since 2015-01-30 03:16:27)

Michael Lesher

Michael Lesher, an author and lawyer, has published numerous articles dealing with child sexual abuse and other topics, including the Israel-Palestine conflict. He is the author of the recent book Sexual Abuse, Shonda and Concealment in Orthodox Jewish Communities (McFarland & Co., Inc.), which focuses on cover-ups of abuse cases among Orthodox Jews. He lives in Passaic, New Jersey. More information about his work can be found on his web site


Showing comments 41 - 1

  • Adi Shosberger called Israeli soldiers ‘terrorists’ -- and Israel has turned on her
    • A fine piece. If there are readers in the U.K., perhaps someone can ask publicly why Ruth Smeeth and her cronies, who are so full of pious outrage over what they claim are "threats" against a "Jew audacious enough to enter political life" (that is, Smeeth herself), have nothing to say when the Jew in question defends Palestinian rights and really is threatened -- in Ms. Shosberger's case, more than threatened -- by people who clearly consider her Jewishness part of her offense. ("Judenrat," for instance.) How long are we supposed to take Smeeth's charade seriously?

  • Seven things you need to know about Israel's latest attack on Gaza
    • I know most readers here will not need any clarification from me. But if the IDF's sycophants are going to claim that any attempt by Palestinians to escape from Gaza justifies mass murder, let's not let them forget a bit of context.

      The densely-packed Strip, which even the U.K.'s Israel-supporting David Cameron described as an "open-air prison," is being strangled in a brutal, illegal Israeli siege -- a siege that has been at its most crippling for over a decade now -- under which 2 million people, fully half of them children, are physically trapped in conditions a recent U.N. report described as verging on uninhabitable. More than 95% of the water in Gaza is unfit for human consumption; hospitals are shutting down (I mean, even the ones the IDF has not shelled) due to lack of electric power; 100,000 people remain homeless since 2014, when Israel systematically demolished 18,000 homes, because the Israelis still will not allow rebuilding. Add to that the constant attacks by drones, sniper fire and periodic missile and artillery bombardment, and you have some idea of the daily reality of living in the concentration camp Gaza has become.

      Nor can Gazans reasonably hope for relief through diplomacy: the Israelis have twice agreed, formally, to lift the siege -- after the massacres known as Cast Lead (2009) and Pillar of Defense (2012) -- only to renege both times. The result? Silence from the U.N.; and from the U.S., a fat cash reward as America's military support for Israel, already illegal under U.S. law, was increased to a publicly-acknowledged $3.8 billion annually.

      Now, we all know the poster ("Mayhem") was lying through his teeth when he claimed that every Palestinian homicide victim was trying to break through Israel's prison wall. But suppose it were true. Can people be faulted for trying to escape an illegal, inhuman siege? What if 2 million Israeli Jews, including a million Israeli children, were caged up in similar conditions and shot with high-powered rifles at the first sign of trying to break out? Wouldn't our proud Israel apologists be defending the right of those suffering civilians to freedom, to life? Why is it only Palestinians who have to justify their right to live to the satisfaction of Israeli armchair "security" experts?

      I omitted these matters from my column because I was hoping to reach a wide audience and wanted to focus on the simplest and least controversial points -- I didn't want to give the crime-boosters any excuses to derail the argument into quibbles about "narratives" and "background." But here on Mondoweiss we should be prepared to go a bit farther. It's not just Israel's methods that are criminal. It's the entire Gaza policy. And at least until Israel keeps its twice-broken promise to lift the siege, any Gazan who tries to escape is not "threatening" Israel; he or she is exercising the most basic of human rights.

      (By the way: we know that Israel tried to bully Gaza bus companies NOT to drive people to the demonstrations, because an Israeli general publicly admitted this. Are we really supposed to believe that bus drivers could be "compelled" to FORCE people to go to the protests against their will? Even an Israeli propagandist would have to be pretty dim to make such a claim, I think.)

  • Israeli leaders read Trump's words as a permission slip
    • This is the most important report so far to emerge from that press conference. What was actually said there matters less than what Israel's highest officials claim was said -- particularly if, as is virtually certain, Trump doesn't publicly contradict them.

      And what they're saying represents not only the death knell for any independent Palestine. It really amounts almost to a sort of Jewish fascism: we take whatever we want, because we're Jews, and whatever Jews identify as Jewish belongs solely to us; anyone who gets in the way is an enemy of the Jews and of "peace."

      That's the big story here -- and I think Jonathan is the first to report it.

  • The Israeli police’s extrajudicial execution of Israeli citizen Yaqoub Abu Al-Qia’an
    • Thanks for this, Jonathan. There are so many outrageous (and typical) elements in this story that one hardly knows where to begin.

      Perhaps the most astonishing fact is that this series of appalling wrongs by the Israeli government -- ethnic cleansing of the community in 1948, continuing interference with its natural development, targeting for more ethnic cleansing in recent months, breathtakingly callous home demolitions, brutal repression of nonviolent protest, attack on a legislator, and then what appears to be a cold-blooded murder of one of the victims of home demolition -- is actually being trumpeted as a "terror attack" in which Israelis are the victims and the government engages in cynical defamation of the real victim and incitement against all Palestinians.

      If they can get away with this, they can get away with anything... but perhaps if we do what we ought to, they won't manage it this time...

  • Challenging an ideology means rupturing with community and family
    • I'm all too familiar with the very personal sort of vituperation aimed at Jews who reject notions of Jewish supremacy or entitlement. As an Orthodox Jew, I've often received responses to my published writings about Israel/Palestine that would be hard to believe -- that is, if I weren't so well acquainted with the cultural mindset that sees humanity and egalitarianism as forms of treason. Yet just this mindset is what must be fought.

  • Ari Shavit’s humiliating fall from grace: AIPAC, Hillel cancel events in wake of groping story
  • Dream Defenders statement on the condemnation of Movement for Black Lives platform by some pro-Israel groups
  • Bible justifies rape in times of war, despite rabbis' efforts to spin or hide the teaching
    • ... or "his evil inclination," if "THE evil inclination" seems to externalize the mechanics of temptation.

      Again, what the traditional consensus seems to be saying is that since a soldier is likely to take advantage of his opportunity to rape a captive, the law of the Torah was designed to grant him what he would take anyway. Or as Rabbi Hirsch put it, summarizing the view in the 19th century, rape is not considered culpable when "in the first heat of the conquest he [the soldier] has already yielded once to his passion." Of course, the intelligibility of this view -- let's not even talk about morality -- depends on the assumption that the woman is a mere object; that she can be classified as "permitted" or "forbidden" no differently from a piece of bread; that rape is, in essence, a victimless crime because the victim is understood only from the perspective of the rapist, for whom she is assumed to be nothing more than impulse-stimulant. (Note how Hirsch's language depicts the attacker as essentially passive: he is said to have "yielded" to his passion, not to have assaulted a woman. This form of words would not occur to anyone who conceived the victim as fully human.)

      The indecency of this sort of thinking seems to me too obvious to need much emphasis, which is why I didn't emphasize it in my original post. But maybe I should take a moment to note that none of this seems to have troubled Rabbi Qarim or his defenders. Let's assume, for argument's sake, that if pressed (or shamed by public exposure, as I think more likely) they would genuinely prefer the minority view of the Talmud's reading of this passage, under which the law permits, not a battlefield rape, but a "marriage" with a captive after a 30-day hiatus. Where and when has Qarim ever suggested that, even in this scenario, the desire to "marry" is, or ought to be, mutual? What choice ought the captive to have in the matter? Commentators say she is to let her nails and hair grow, and to bewail her (slain) parents, in order to make her less attractive to the captor and thus to reduce the likelihood that he will go through with his original intention. Wouldn't matters be simpler if she were allowed to refuse to be abducted by a member of the army that killed off her family?

      A fair critical reading of the ancient text would, of course, take into account what sort of treatment female captives typically received in the ancient Near East; such an approach would have the virtue of honesty, though it would leave the text no less appalling as a piece of a purportedly divine tradition. Some commentators (notably Ohr ha-Hayyim) have tried to sanitize the passage altogether by reducing it to allegory. But it's worth noting that Rabbi Qarim doesn't seem to have considered either of these escape routes. Indeed, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the Biblical passage really doesn't bother him very much, and that his only problem with it arose when it turned out to be bad form to publicly sanction battlefield rapes instead of mere forced marriages with female captives. And that, in turn, tells a chilling tale about the rabbi's whole moral universe, all the more chilling because he seems quite unaware of what he is revealing.

      Which brings us back to the original problem. What does it mean when a government -- a society, a religion, a rabbinate -- places a man of a such impenetrable brutishness -- I can't think of a better word -- in a position of religious authority over men and women who, as part of a heavily armed and notoriously aggressive army of occupation, will likely have plenty of opportunities to inflict all sorts of violence, sexual and otherwise, on a large number of victims? I'm afraid the question pretty much answers itself. Yet that's the question popular media seem to be allowing to slip away amid dishonest apologetics, half-truths and indignant counterattacks against "the left."

    • Fair point. For clarity, the phrase could be (maybe should be) "in other words, the 'evil inclination' compels him to satisfy his lust..." It didn't occur to me that the words could be read as suggesting that the LAW compels him.

  • 'I Am a Human Being': A visit with Dareen Tatour
  • Israeli rabbi who advocated rape of 'comely gentile women' during war becomes chief army rabbi
    • Shmuel, all good points -- though I admit I'm not as sanguine as you about the firewalls between Talmud and practice in relatively haredi circles (which were more or less mine, by the way, rather than "modern" ones, after I turned B.T. many years ago).

      I think the discussion we're having is probably digressing from the main points of interest to most readers here, so I prefer not to prolong it on the site. But I'd be very happy to know more about you and your ideas, if you'd ever care to email me at [email protected]. By the way, do you know my book (Sexual Abuse, Shonda and Concealment in Orthodox Jewish Communities)?

    • Shmuel: Thanks for your reply. Your point is well taken; this is one of many topics that rabbis of the Religious Zionist camp have dug out of mothballs and tried to apply to dangerously practical situations that could scarcely have been imagined when the Talmudic text was completed, or when Rashi and others wrote their commentaries. I agree with you that in doing this, these rabbis are recklessly giving new life to ideas that should have been shelved a long time ago.

      My only additional point is that saying that much isn't really enough. First of all, I can't accept the premise that relegating a discussion of permissible rapes to the realm of "theory" neutralizes its danger. After all, what are we to learn from such a passage -- if not that a woman, at least a non-Jewish woman, is an object, not a person, one that may be forcibly violated whenever the law "permits" her to a Jewish man? Isn't a consensus in favor of such a view bound to have ugly consequences, whatever its application?

      Second, history teaches us again and again that you can't incubate, hatch, nurture, feed and strengthen a dangerous idea over a period of centuries, and then expect it just to go away because you turn your back on it for a while. Yes, the IDF's rabbis are doing us all a monstrous disservice. But aren't all of us Orthodox Jews responsible, too? Why have we left rulings like the ones relied on by Qarim unacknowledged and untouched for so many years? We're a bit like a parent who leaves a loaded gun in a kitchen drawer, and is horrified when a kid from next door shoots somebody with it. If our rabbis -- I'm speaking broadly now -- hadn't so often fallen back on dishonest, or half-honest, methods of rationalizing the indefensible, fending off curious goyim with half-truths and telling ourselves that, anyway, the whole truth doesn't really matter, so long as we keep it inside the walls of the yeshiva -- in a word, if we hadn't been guilty for so long of so much intellectual and moral cowardice -- would we be in the position we're in now? The Rabbi Qarims of today are symptoms of a serious disease. Had the disease been cured when we had the chance, there'd be no more symptoms.

  • In latest pander to Israel lobby, Clinton smears Max Blumenthal's criticism of Wiesel as 'hateful'
    • Wiesel's shameless apologetics for Israel have been catalogued for years by Norman Finkelstein and others; Max Blumenthal simply offered an accurate summary. (Wiesel's suggestion in 2014 that Gazans were deliberately sacrificing their children to Israeli shells may have represented a new low even for Wiesel.)

      I'd just like to add that Wiesel was also guilty of denaturing the moral lessons of the Nazi genocide. He insisted on the uniqueness of Jewish suffering, lobbying against recognition of the Armenian genocide, for instance, and opposed all efforts to compare other instances of bigotry or mass murder to the history of Hitler's Final Solution -- except, as in the Balkans, when it suited the interest of his powerful friends. This amounts to a disastrous legacy, quite apart from his flacking for Israeli violence and apartheid. Wiesel stood near the head of a long line of pro-American opportunists who have cynically invoked the "memory" of the holocaust against official enemies of the U.S. -- Iran, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Palestinians -- while promoting amnesia wherever the perpetrators of similar crimes have had American support. In other words, he manipulated the historic crime of which he was a putative spokesman in a way diametrically opposed to the methods of true moralists, who are concerned first of all with wrongs their influence might help to restrain. My only consolation is the likelihood that his memory will be short-lived.

  • Democratic Party leadership lines up against BDS -- and the 'nuts' who support it
    • Thanks for the analysis, Phil.

      I think you are dead right. Hillary Clinton staked out a pro-war, imperialist position long ago, and her AIPAC address clearly showed that her support for Israel's occupation is probably stronger than ever.

      I suspect she'll use her attacks on Trump's more outlandish comments as cover for her swing to his right on foreign policy issues: war, the spread of American power, more weapons for "allies." And the Democratic Party will try to demonize all criticism of Israel -- with methods probably even uglier than those used by Republicans.

      I hope as many people as possible will support a vigorous platform battle over the issue of Israel's occupation. I think this is likely to be one of the most important issues to arise at the convention. Not because of what it means for the Democratic Party, which we should trust as far as we would the Gotti family -- but for what it could mean for a popular movement in support of basic human rights. I think they're afraid of exactly that, and we should try to keep them afraid.

  • 'NYT' finally mentions 'Goliath' -- in rightwing ad smearing Max Blumenthal
  • Palestine and the anxiety of existence
    • This is both deeply insightful and beautifully expressed. My thanks and congratulations.

      It's interesting to notice the special frisson of horror that always surrounds the weapon used by Palestinians at any particular moment (or the object most noted in popular media). Obviously it's not the object that inspires such terror -- how dangerous is a stone or a pair of scissors next to automatic rifles and helicopter gunships -- but its use by one of the colonized against the oppressor. This also helps to explain why the occupiers' horror at resistance seems only to increase as the imbalance of power in their favor grows. (Dozens of Israeli columnists have recently been wailing about Israel's terrible fear of "lone wolf" attacks with knives.) The terrifying fact is that, even against overwhelming power, resistance in some form continues. Like a ghost that won't die, it haunts the oppressor everywhere, poisoning his comfort in a way he can't prevent and can't tolerate.

  • 'Why do they hate us?' -- Israeli version
    • Of course, one particularly painful irony of this sort of thinking is that it once targeted European Jews. It was a staple of anti-Semitism circa 1930 that Jews were systematically spreading through Europe, taking over its power structure and subverting its culture. (Then as now, both the numbers and the influence of the immigrants were often wildly exaggerated.) And Nazi propaganda during the 30s stressed that Germany was misunderstood, and unjustly maligned, as it stood alone against the "Judeo-Bolsheviks" who menaced the entire West.

      This idea reached a sort of apotheosis in Himmler's infamous Posen speech, in which he explained the "painful" necessity of eliminating dangerous races -- a job he said Germans did not like, and that he was glad they did not like -- as an imperative of "history." Himmler also stressed that those who carried it out should be proud to have remained "decent" as they did their duty. That's why it's especially chilling to hear similar sentiments expressed by prominent Jews about "the most moral army in the world."

  • New Jersey teenager threatened with legal action by high school over pro-Palestine activism (Update)
    • Annie, this is a great story. I hope we can keep attention on it and really embarrass this school's administration for trying to suppress free speech -- and a student telling the truth.

  • Roger Waters points out that Palestinian children can't visit the sea
  • Video: Days before Christmas, Bethlehem erects 'resistance tree' outside Nativity Church
    • This is eerie, sad, inspiring -- and deeply moving. This is what SHOULD be reported from Palestine. And it suggests what we need to send back.

      Blessings to the people of Bethlehem and all of Palestine; may your resistance lead to the rendezvous of victory and your mourning to joy.

  • The mainstream press can't handle anti-Zionism-- Rosengarten
    • This is an important story. Just about any Jewish Holocaust survivor can publicize her tale these days, especially in the U.S. market. But clearly some sorts of narratives, some kinds of Jewish experience, are simply not expressible in mainstream media. I believe we can change that. But we need to know how things are. Lillian Rosengarten has some powerful things to say, and it's very revealing that her message isn't heard in popular media. Anyway, I applaud her efforts.

  • Why my books are not published in Israel
    • For what it's worth, it seems to me that the dialogue between author and publisher, as described in the article, is a rare example of dialogue between a Palestinian and an Israeli that is NOT falsified by ignoring or tolerating the intolerable -- a condition usually demanded of Palestinians in such exchanges. For that I commend both participants.

  • Running for top UN job, UNESCO chief to appear at Zionist celebration on Capitol Hill
    • Thanks for mentioning that. It's hard to imagine anyone but Hier -- and Israel -- with the chutzpah to bury the remains of what once was a large and ancient cemetery under a Zionist expansion project to be called a "Museum of Tolerance."

      And it's hard to imagine a candidate for U.N. Secretary-General teaming up with the perpetrators -- were they anyone but Israelis and their apologists.

      But of course, the world hates poor little Israel, doesn't it?

  • 'What I know is that I can't take it anymore': Palestinian woman killed by Israeli troops explains decision to carry knife to checkpoint in suicide note
    • I agree with Kalithea. This is a wrenching story: this woman could no longer live under the conditions of the occupation, and she knew exactly how to end it for herself -- the only escape Palestinians are allowed.

      But we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that although she intended to be killed, her death was a murder. It was only suicide to the extent that she understood her murderers only too well and knew that they wouldn't hesitate to kill the moment they saw the symbol of defiance in her despairing hand.

  • The 'Jewish Week' propagandizes for Israeli violence
    • Annie, you're very welcome. (And thanks, Mooser.)

      Ha'aretz has a higher-resolution screen capture that seems to show a knife hanging downward from the boy's right hand (albeit in a rather unnatural position). I'm no expert in these matters. But you're right: video can be doctored, and there's no reason to trust an IDF production.

      Anyway, the whole thing's wrong. If he never got near a guard -- and it doesn't look from the video as though he did -- then his killing was likely an execution whether he was armed or not, given that deadly force was obviously used (five bullets in him?) without, apparently, an imminent threat. And the IDF's account (repeated without question by Ha'aretz) makes no sense either. We're told he posed as a vendor to get close to the soldiers and then attempted a sudden sneak attack. But the video shows him running from a point quite distant from the soldiers; there's no way they could have failed to see him coming. And whatever he's doing, he's certainly not sneaking.

      But you're right -- this is Israel and we'll probably never know, particularly because powerful countries and their journalists are unlikely to ask. It's just hard for me to stop thinking about a child's murder, especially one I've just watched.

      Your criticisms of the Jewish press in general are, unfortunately, accurate. And in this instance you're clearly right about the choice of language. By the way, the idea that Palestinians use knives because such attacks are "intimate" is a creature of Israeli propaganda: I remember it creeping into the written discourse as far back as the 1980s -- a clever way of converting barely-armed people trying to fight a huge military machine into the villains of the story. But I don't know that the British press was any better when it covered Indian resistance, or the American press writing about Native Americans (our Declaration of Independence calls them "merciless Indian savages"), or for that matter any of the recent mainstream Western coverage of Iraq or Afghanistan. So I tend to think the problems are more institutional in nature, and more widespread, than just the parochialism of the Jewish media.

      As for The Jewish Week itself, it has done some serious reporting on issues including child sex abuse by rabbis -- I know because I've been a source for many of those stories. And I never regretted the work involved in helping to get that topic discussed in such a venue. How better to reach the community one hopes to change? I must say, though, that just for that reason it's very unsettling to observe the same people who were so exacting about evidence in connection with those stories casually ladling out racist propaganda when it comes to Israel and Palestinians. But -- so it goes. My father was a reporter for many years, so I really ought to be used to the pattern by now. But I never really get over it.

      Well, on to the next windmill, I guess.

    • Annie, thanks for your comment. (See my response below.)

      I admire your work, if I haven't mentioned that before.

      Since you recently wrote about extrajudicial executions in the West Bank, I wanted to make sure you knew about this recent incident. The link below comes from The Jewish Press, which includes a video taken by "security cameras" at a checkpoint. The article claims it shows a 16-year-old "terrorist" rushing at guards with a knife -- he's then "shot on the spot." My eyes don't see a knife in the boy's hands as he runs. He disappears behind a vehicle, where he's apparently gunned down by several heavily armed soldiers. So at first blush, at least, this looks like another extrajudicial execution, this time of a 16-year-old. Even if the kid had a knife, I see no evidence that he endangered a guard, or that it wouldn't have been possible to stop and disarm him (if in fact he was armed). Here's the link to the JP article with video:

      Hope this is of some use.

    • Yes, I may be wrong on that one. Perhaps I'm over-cautious in assessing people's motives (as opposed to their actions). In this case, my exchanges with the editors suggested that they really don't see why their expression of concern for Israelis -- which is how they characterize what they wrote -- amounts to rather sinister propaganda (for all the reasons my column spelled out). And since I know from my own experience how dense and foggy the walls of denial can be, I'm trying to be fair when it comes to things I can't prove.

      But, as I said, I may be wrong. Anyway, I'm not inclined to give the benefit of a doubt on any further occasions. And I apologize to readers here if I was too forgiving this time around -- though I imagine the editors aren't likely to see it that way.

    • Here, too, you may well be right. But if so, the Jewish Week shouldn't call itself a newspaper. It should say that when it comes to Israel it serves simply as a propaganda organ of Israel's Foreign Ministry. And then all these heartfelt editorials about the suffering of the Israelis, and of all Jews as we empathize with their hard times, etc., could be junked as superfluous.

      If they're going to go on writing such things, and continue to call themselves a newspaper, they're going to have to answer to a different standard.

    • Point well taken. Strictly speaking, the question of the legality of the occupation itself wasn't before the ICJ. However, all judges did agree that East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza are occupied Palestinian territory. Considering that in combination with the other findings (e.g., the illegality of all settlements), and in light of the court's stress on the impermissibility of acquiring territory by force, I think it's fair to say the judges "recognized" that the 48-year occupation itself is illegal. though this wasn't specifically a "finding" of the court. I would have put it differently in a legal brief or a scholarly article. In the present context I think it was a fair way to express the point, but your more precise reading is welcome.

  • Set up? Video appears to show Israeli soldier placing object next to Palestinian killed in Hebron (Update)
    • I too know the feeling of helpless outrage. But thanks for your work, and know you're not alone.

      I agree that what we can see in this video isn't conclusive. But it's certainly enough to raise serious questions, particularly given recent fabricated claims by the IDF that other victims were armed with knives. I hope we can press these questions home. Has the IDF claimed to have found a knife at the scene? If so, can they explain how the boy got through a checkpoint with it?

      Meanwhile, who is this settler? What's his history? Does he always carry pistols to synagogue on the Sabbath? How many shots were fired at the youth, and at what range? If at close range, where are the marks from the knife? If not, was the killer in danger? From what angle did bullets enter the victim's body?

      I know the atrocities go on day after day. But sometimes one powerful story can help to expose the truth to a larger public.

      Meanwhile, I mourn the dead, and -- again -- I'm grateful for your reporting.

  • Duma murders fail to penetrate the Tel Aviv bubble
    • I believe Mr. ivri has proved my point (above).

    • The cruel truth, I'm afraid, is that the publicity granted a handful of exceptionally horrific crimes like the Dawabshe arson attack is actually part of the system of denial. The government and media indulge an orgy of hand-wringing, a settler or two may pay some sort of penalty, and after a while everything returns to "normal" -- with the liberal class reminding itself that good Israelis (unlike other people, one supposes) do get upset when they read about a family being torched. All the while, of course, the occupation goes on, its daily outrages undisturbed. But everybody's moral quota has been filled for a while -- so nothing need be noticed.

      To be taken seriously, the Israeli left -- what's left of it -- should be seizing on such outrages precisely to insist that these should NOT be the focus of activism. They are just the inevitable crests topping a long and sinister tide. Ignore the tide and you're wasting your time (and everyone else's) wailing over the occasional crest.

  • The 'Pallywood' smear: Viral images of Palestinian boy's brutalization brings backlash
    • We should be proud of these brave children and women who will not be cowed by the cycle of Israeli abuse and repression.

      As for why children have emerged in a central role in Palestinian resistance, the answer is quite simple. As the article details, Israel has targeted children in its repressive tactics. So the children must either resist or be endlessly victimized. As Amira Hass said some time ago, "Every occupation deserves its resistance."

  • It's time for American Jews to recognize they have been duped
    • I apologize for taking so long to express my appreciation and gratitude for this column, and for you as its author. As an American Jew (and an Orthodox one for many years, at that) I've seen much more than enough of the phenomena you describe. I've written about them, too.

      At the moment it's a hard struggle to move the discourse in an honest direction; we're working against powerful institutions that are dead set against it. But as you eloquently insist, the only way forward involves keeping principles straight and facts clear. Anyone who helps us do that deserves support, so please accept my sincere if belated congratulations for an article that buoys my own spirit, reminding me that honest people can see and write the truth.

  • 'If we don't take out Iran,' it will reenact the Holocaust in US and Israel -- Steven Emerson to Times Square rally
    • Thanks for sharing this -- it brings back memories. It also reminds me that decent people can fight back against propaganda. It won't be a quick or easy struggle, but it can be won. And in any case it must be attempted.

  • Why haredi Jews should resist military service
    • Piotr, thanks for your comment.

      I agree with you that Israel today faces no actual military emergency. However, as the text I quoted shows, the haredi rabbinate's position is not based on the absence of an emergency; in fact, the rabbis' spokesmen insist on the opposite. Under those circumstances, it's hard to square their claim about the priority of prayers and study over actual military service with the clear letter of rabbinic law.

      As for the moral values contained in Jewish tradition, I quoted one well-known example of the rabbinic stress on ethical conduct; many more could be cited, of course, but I'm not trying to argue theology here. My point is that it's possible to miss those values for more than one reason. You may not see them because you're simply not interested in the relevant texts at all. Or -- as in the case of the haredi rabbinate -- you may miss them because you're looking so hard at other details (and not looking at the factual situation) that you sacrifice moral perspective. I can't argue with people who aren't interested in traditional Judaism -- that's a matter of personal choice -- but I do think it's tragic when the putative guardians of that tradition can lead it so far astray, while all the time proclaiming, quite sincerely I'm sure, their fidelity to the religion and how much it matters.

  • 'NY Times' helps Israel whitewash the killings of four boys playing soccer on Gaza beach
    • Standard practice at the Times. In 2006, I believe, a deadly Israeli attack on civilians at a Gaza beach was (unusually) caught on camera, so the Times couldn't just ignore it. In later reports, however, even though human rights professionals who had investigated the incident insisted otherwise, the Times eventually printed only, and without comment, Israel's denial that it had fired a shell that day.

      The reporters certainly know better. It's just the public that isn't supposed to.

      The worst thing about reports like this is that they have the effect of reducing the entire Protective Edge massacre to a "controversy" about the death of 4 boys -- when everyone knows the Israelis killed over 500 children during the assault, mostly in deliberate and unprovoked attacks on civilian neighborhoods.

      I shouldn't comment without adding more praise for Dan Cohen, Ayman Mohyeldin and other fine reporters who have reported accurately from Gaza. (And Tyler Hicks, the cameraman who filed a moving report after the beach attack.)

  • Netanyahu eulogizes settler movement founder convicted of manslaughter
    • Excellent journalism; important story. Let's all remember it next time one of Israel's apologists wails that a Palestinian fighter has been praised by this or that Palestinian politician for some bygone act of resistance.

  • Israel imprisons Palestinian cartoonist Mohammad Saba'aneh without charge, sparks international demands for his release
    • As Annie says, if this outrage helps to draw international attention to the larger outrage of Israel's systematic detention of Palestinians for all sorts of non-reasons, so much the better.

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