Trending Topics:

Rabbi slams ‘militarization’ in St. Louis but when it comes to Gaza– the press ‘loves underdog and suffering’

on 26 Comments
Rabbi Susan Talve. Named one of America's most inspiring rabbis by the Forward in 2014. (Photo: Central Reform Congregation)

Rabbi Susan Talve. Named one of America’s most inspiring rabbis by the Forward in 2014. (Photo: Central Reform Congregation)

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.


Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

Other posts by .

Posted In:

26 Responses

  1. W.Jones on August 16, 2014, 10:57 am

    Has Hamas ever said that they want civilian casualties among Gazans in order to get support?
    It’s obvious to me that this is just a way to misinterpret reality and blame Hamas for Israeli attacks on the population.

  2. Marco on August 16, 2014, 11:01 am

    Notice how even with the St. Louis situation she’s playing games. Why single out “white anarchist groups” to begin with? Presumably these are people who are sympathetic to the local community, however wrong-headed they may be.

    I question the sincerity of PEP’s like Talve. If you support apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and colonialism abroad, it’s hard to believe you’re genuinely concerned about police militarization and racial profiling in America.

  3. just on August 16, 2014, 11:04 am

    PEP she is, among other things. She’s an American, but clearly an Israel- firster. She can do all she wants here, there, and everywhere for humanity BUT does not deserve one iota of my respect until she deals with her blatant hypocrisy and prevarications.

    There’s nothing “liberal” about her, imho. She’s a Zionist.

    • Mooser on August 16, 2014, 12:06 pm

      Thank G-D that in Israel, no real Jewish congregation would allow the hands of a woman to defile the Holy Scrolls. What if she is….no I can’t even think that, it’s too horrible.

      • just on August 16, 2014, 12:09 pm


      • Pixel on August 17, 2014, 1:03 am

        Mooser, you make me laugh every time!

      • Mooser on August 17, 2014, 11:57 am

        “Mooser, you make me laugh every time!”

        But Dad, I’m serious!! No, really!

        Some day I’ll tell you what my Dad said when I asked him to buy me a Jaguar XKE.

      • Mikhael on August 17, 2014, 10:07 pm

        Mooser says: Thank G-D that in Israel, no real Jewish congregation would allow the hands of a woman to defile the Holy Scrolls.
        August 16, 2014 at 12:06 pm

        There are dozens of non-Orthodox synagogues in Israel, several have female rabbis. Although their ordination is not recognized by the state’s Ministry of Religion and Interior Ministry for the purposes of marriages and divorce, non-Orthodox rabbis, male or female, are not prevented from serving their congregations as rabbis. (I happen to think Israel has a misguided policy in not recognizing civil marriages and only allowing certain confessions this right–in the Jewish community only rabbis belonging to recognized Orthodox streams can solemnize marriages, and in this respect Israel is as stupid as the neighboring countries that have similar policies). The majority of Israelis, whether religious or not, especially those belonging to the Mizrahi- and Sefaradi-descended majority, tend to regard Reform and Conservative Judaism as some weird North American Ashkenazi innovation that is not connected to what they know as Judaism, however.
        Moreover, most Modern Orthodox synagogues, in Israel and the Diaspora communities alike, certainly allow women to hold the Torah, especially on Simhat Torah when men and women alike dance with the Torah scrolls, although this is looked askance at in the Haredi sector.

  4. MTd2 on August 16, 2014, 11:30 am

    ” 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…”


    ” The tunnels, built from the billions in aid for humanitarian purpose, indeed are filled with people carrying supplies, goods and food necessary to keep the Gaza economy, are being used by men using IDF uniforms to infiltrate, capture and kill Palestinian men, women and children…”

    • W.Jones on August 16, 2014, 12:07 pm

      I actually doubt how much the humanitarian aid goes to paying for digging tunnels. Their tunnels as far as I heard are hardly US Highway style tunnels, but rather earthen dugouts with boards and soil. They rely on manual labor rather than finances. Thus, the claim that humanitarian aid is being misused to build tunnels might be a way to cast a bad light on humanitarian aid.

      • tree on August 17, 2014, 1:27 am

        Thus, the claim that humanitarian aid is being misused to build tunnels might be a way to cast a bad light on humanitarian aid.

        I think that is the intent. Claim that humanitarian aid is being misused, so therefore push to end humanitarian aid. And I doubt that any humanitarian aid went into building the tunnels. Its mainly the work of human labor, mostly likely being paid for out of tax revenues collected by Hamas on the import of goods through the export/import tunnels. Humanitarian aid is controlled by the aid agencies and NGOs, not by Hamas.

      • W.Jones on August 17, 2014, 12:36 pm

        This is what I think. as long as Hamas can feed itself and has physical bodies, they are going to use that to make tunnels. and if they have metal they will make tubes that they can use as light “bottle rocket”-level weapons. We are talking about very primitive, weak means of resistance. It makes directly occupying Gaza costly because of the manpower needed to “secure” all the locations, but there are not many casualties inflicted by Gazans either.

        This is why the Israelis found it more practical to evacuate Gaza than to still occupy it. And anyway Gaza is so small and dense that it is not really worth using it for settlements either. Sderot and the other neighboring villages are geographically about where settlements would be in that general region if Gaza had a decent sized territory.

  5. Kay24 on August 16, 2014, 11:44 am

    It appears to be easy to forget all about human suffering, brutality against civilians, massacre of women and children, when people who profess to be in the service of their Gods and religion, are faced with defending, or showing loyalty to, a nation whose violent actions have been challenged by the rest of the world, and facts keep showing that they have used deadly weapons, excessive violence, and whose recent attack on Gaza and unarmed civilians called “unprecedented destruction” by the UN.
    At what point do they do the right thing by humanity not of their own? Do they lack any conscience or decency to choose those who suffer, and are slaughtered in HUGE numbers over the small number of their own, and realize the other side suffers more and needs some kind of sympathy and support? When AIPAC calls and waves the flag with the star of David, are you expected to lose your sense of decency, conscience, and common sense, and forget to do the right thing?

  6. MHughes976 on August 16, 2014, 12:14 pm

    It would indeed be nice to know that the Press loves underdogs and sufferers! In fact it has taken suffering on a gross scale to penetrate the defences of the Western information machine. The routine suffering caused by the blockade – one of the things that got me involved years ago in this argument was an article in the Economist (which does not have mass readership) claiming, as well as I remember, that there were deaths in Gaza, at least one a week, caused by various blockade related pressures – has never received mass attention.
    ‘Israel would have to respond’: even if you grant this point exactly as stated, the necessity for the mighty response that came is not demonstrated. The dilemma for Israel was that a near-proportionate response would certainly not end the rocket fire, therefore not end disruption to normal life – a serious danger to political unity, whereas an extreme response (actually chosen) might (maybe it didn’t) suppress the rockets but would cause worldwide horror. The position in Gaza, I suppose, was that normal life has already been disrupted so hideously and for so long that more desperate suffering could probably be endured without breaking political unity.
    Neither side was unconditionally determined that those telegenic deaths should occur, both were ready to take the risk (which rapidly approached certainty) that they would.
    It should be obvious – but I suppose it’s not, given what I think of as our underdog-hating and underdog-fearing media – that in these circumstances those ready to inflict the deaths (and use the horrible term ‘telegenic’ for them) are on a worse moral plane than those ready to endure them.

  7. Kay24 on August 16, 2014, 12:15 pm

    If anyone has friends who might be interested in hearing Norm Finkelstein and Chris Hedges speak in Princeton NJ tomorrow, please forward this link. Thank you.
    This is a peaceful march and rally for the people of Gaza, it should be very interesting considering the guest speakers.

  8. Jeffrey Levy on August 16, 2014, 12:18 pm

    Is the rabbi aware that the militarization she deplores has, apparently, been facilitated by the Israel Defense Forces?

    See: Israel-trained police occupy Missouri
    in Electronic Intifada, August 15

    • lysias on August 16, 2014, 2:27 pm

      And, as Ali Abunimah details in his new book, Israeli militarized training for U.S. police forces has gone far beyond the police chief of St. Louis County. It has, for example, conspicuously included the NYPD.

  9. Theo on August 16, 2014, 12:20 pm

    To follow up on rabbi Talve, probably the israelis and the Hamas got together before the bombing started to discuss how many dead and how much damage would fit the needs of Hamas.
    The main reason for Israel to hang on to Gaza is gas! Offshore there are huge deposits of natural gas und Israel wants to have all of it, without having to split with the people of Gaza, so I cannot see in the near future freedom for those poor people.

    • Kay24 on August 16, 2014, 12:42 pm

      If what you say is correct, then the US obviously knows this, which may be ONE of the reasons it keeps supporting this rogue nation, arming it, and protecting it in the UN. Greed is ugly. Greed and brutality is disgusting.

  10. traintosiberia on August 16, 2014, 1:02 pm

    The Zionist has perfected the art of balancing very well. One side of the Zionism ( liberal ) wants to commit the same crime the conservative side does and supports the same crime the conservative wing of Zionsm does but it does from a different vantage point. The liberal supports the blacks,the Latinos,the immigrant,and even sometime Muslims ( like in Balkan ) . It is immaterial whether they do that to earn some brownie points but evidently they cite and use the examples to buttress their claim of belonging to a worthy cause or movement known as Zionism. By association Zionism then becomes good and worthy of acceptance .
    But obviously what they believe they don’t practice .
    The subversion of ideologies or corruption of the fairness is worst enemy of the ideology and of the just process. Historically Zionism has inserted itself in various social agenda whether new deal or civil right or financial derugaltion or labor right on the past or offerring costly services to the victims of persecution abroad to essentially to enrich their own folks disproportionately and often on a recurring basis .

  11. Peter in SF on August 16, 2014, 2:34 pm

    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.

    I haven’t heard that theory before. Of course, there’s no evidence for it, plenty of evidence against, and the more you think about it, the less sense it makes. Does she believe this herself, or expect that anyone else will believe it?

    • philweiss on August 16, 2014, 2:54 pm

      she might just be parroting AIPAC. That letter refers to her AIPAC guides

  12. Pixel on August 17, 2014, 1:07 am

    Just for a change of pace, I’m going to play the devil’s advocate, here.

    For most people, fundamental change is a process not an event.

    I’m not a patient person BUT/AND I give the woman some credit for at least trying .

    (I love it that the caller asked the question they did – and that whoever was responsible for screening callers let it get through. It was perfect! And, yeah, her response was ridiculous – just mealy-mouthed nonsense. Clearly, she didn’t expect that question!)

  13. traintosiberia on August 17, 2014, 12:42 pm

    Rabbi is right to get into this latest controversy
    But I can’t stop speculating that if any Imam or Muslim as a Muslim got involved in this episode he or she would be accused of incitement or introducing the Islamic angles into this quintessential American issues .

Leave a Reply