Regular readers of this site know that we have a word called PEP, progressive except on Palestine. Rabbi Susan Talve embodies PEP. She is known as the most liberal rabbi in St. Louis. For instance, in 2007, she invited women who wanted to be Catholic priests to have their own ordination service at her Central Reform Congregation.
Talve has taken a leading progressive position on the Michael Brown killing in Ferguson, just outside St. Louis. On St. Louis Public Radio Thursday, she decried the militarization of police, racial profiling and the infiltration of white anarchists with Molotov cocktails:
“I think there is this overwhelming feeling from everybody that at this point the militarization of the police is not helping. It’s making people more afraid, and it’s getting in the way of peaceful protest…
“The other thing that came up at this meeting [with local officials]… I want people to know. There was a mother there from Canfield project [near Ferguson]. She said I’m trying not to be afraid, because I have to be there for my kids. But when she looks out at night, she says I see white people setting fires in garbage cans. It was said that there are some white anarchist groups that have infiltrated and that are causing problems. And are handing molotov cocktails to people, so. There is something big going on here…
“St. Louis has to stop racial profiling. We’ve been talking about this for years. Enough. This means stop, because nobody feels safe.”
She also said the aggressive role police are taking has caused distrust.
“Police are there to protect us. They work for us. And I don’t think that’s the perception in the community of people of color. That needs to change.”
But what about Gaza, where 1.8 million people live in an open-air prison, and where the Wall Street Journal says Israel just killed 1400 civilians in indiscriminate bombing? That’s putting Talve in a bit of a pretzel.
At minute 44 of that radio show caller Madalyn asks her about Gaza. “My question is for Susan Talve. I wonder what the difference is between people in Ferguson asking for equal rights and human rights and Palestinians [demanding equal rights] in Gaza and the West Bank.”
Talve’s answer I think might be properly termed twaddle:
I’ll say that equal rights are equal rights, and that anything that is a– something that supports anti-racism, and supports equal rights, and makes all of our children safe, you know. In the most recent Israel Gaza there were four young men, four teenage boys, that you know, it wasn’t because of them, but it sparked– it sparked this violence. And of course we have Michael Brown now. We have five teenage boys whose names we know whose families we see grieving and you know whatever it is we can do to promote peace and have peaceful conversations that understand that on all sides there are human beings, there are families with children who want to live in peaceful neighborhoods. Here and there.
That’s surely a reference to the three Jewish teenage boys who were hitchhiking in the occupied territories on June 12 when they were abducted and murdered and the abduction and killing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir in revenge in East Jerusalem on July 2 .
Talve is very aware of the strains inside the Jewish community posed by the new generation that is critical of Israel, but she seems to feel that she can reconcile these strains, or maybe buy them off. On August 6 she invited six members of Jewish Voice for Peace to address the synagogue. Good for Talve! I can’t think of many synagogues that have invited JVP to talk.
But a week later Talve held a night called The Progressive Case for Israel, which was a night of justifying massacre, featuring Ann Lewis, the former Hillary Clinton aide, representing AIPAC, the rightwing Israel lobby group that pipes Israeli propaganda.
Talve likes AIPAC. In mid-July, she went to Israel “with 20 progressive rabbis” on an AIPAC trip, and in late July she published this letter to her congregation about her trip. It stressed all the Palestinians and Jews having good dialogue in Israel, but it included many Zionist incantations:
My dear friend, amidst the horror of war, of course there is good news, it’s Israel. On the northern border Israeli surgeons are treating more than 1,000 Syrian refugees torn apart by weapons of war…
There are still tons of food and medical supplies going into Gaza from Israel along with the devastating shelling…
All the blame for the war belonged to Hamas, in Talve’s reading (and right out of the AIPAC chapbook). The tunnels are targeting Israeli children:
And yes, the escalation of rocket fire into Israel by Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists cannot continue. The hundreds of rockets aimed at Israeli, Palestinian and Bedouin cities and towns must be stopped. The tunnels built from the billions in aid for humanitarian purposes and instead are filled with more rockets and missiles and IDF uniforms to infiltrate, capture and kill Israeli men, women and children, must be destroyed…
Hamas is forcing Israel to kill civilians:
Egypt cut off the militant Hamas and in their economic desperation they escalated the terror of missiles launched at Israel knowing that Israel would have to return the fire and cause the kinds of heartbreaking casualties in Gaza that turns public opinion and brings in money for aid. The world and especially the press, loves the underdog, and the suffering. We must remember that there is horrific suffering on both sides.
Talve’s list of victims does include the four Palestinian boys on the beach “blown up by Israeli artillery fire” but it’s in a slurry of victims, including a child in Israel who’s afraid when the sirens go off.
And Talve’s message concludes with an urging to American Jews “not to turn away,” but stay involved– with AIPAC or J Street! No mention of Jewish Voice for Peace. She got that message from Israeli Jews:
from our AIPAC guides and from members of the Knesset, from academics who have made Aliyah and have children serving in the military and from the aide to Netanyahu who now runs an organization that sits at the checkpoints making sure that there are no human rights violations against the Palestinians
That aide to Netanyahu who runs an organization that makes the checkpoints lovely. Wow; it’s a pure tragedy what Zionism has done to the Jewish community. And by the way, Talve deserves to be called out, but you can surely blame the congregation, the organized Jewish community. The synagogue board is surely not pleased that she invited Jewish Voice for Peace. And Ann Lewis supports AIPAC the way Barney Frank supports AIPAC the way Hillary Clinton does, because of big pro-Israel money from the Jewish community.