Lots of people have addressed this issue, but Shaul Magid gets it right, at Tikkun. Without using the word hypocrisy once, the scholar of Judaism at Indiana University asks why the liberal Jews who have protested police killings in the U.S. lately have had nothing to say in the face of a vengeful Jewish establishment about Israeli human rights violations in Palestine. The piece is titled, “Is It Right to Compare Ferguson to Gaza? Reflections from a Jewish Protester.”
Many of the same rabbis and Jewish leaders who now raise their voice in protest against the death of Eric Garner are more reluctant to raise their voice in protest against similar actions in the West Bank against Palestinian civilians every day…. [Many] Jewish leaders in America whose eloquent voices I have heard regarding Michael Brown and Eric Garner are reluctant to cry out openly and forcefully against the injustices of the forty-seven-year occupation of the Palestinian people—injustices that are being carried out “in their name.”
Many argue that the context of the crisis in Israel/Palestine is of a totally different nature. I respectfully disagree. The situations are certainly not identical, no two situations are, but they are not categorically different either. Actions by the IDF against innocent Palestinian civilians do not always result in death, although sometimes they do. Sometimes they result in house demolitions, unwarranted arrests, interrogation of children, destruction of property and businesses, and beatings.
Magid says these folks have been silenced in large part by the “vengeance” of the Jewish establishment.fea
Who will take to the Jewish social media, and Jewish public space, and say “not in our name”? This protest comes with a price, the vengeance of the American Jewish Establishment, the criticism of the Israeli Establishment, the accusation that we are not “pro-Israel.” Who is willing to pay that price?
The piece is unfortunately silent about the numbers of civilians and children killed in Gaza. But it makes this excellent point about all the videotapes of atrocities in Palestine, which American Jews whitewash because of “Israel exceptionalism.”
The reason that we all know about Eric Garner is because someone was there to videotape his death. But violence against civilians has been videotaped by Palestinians dozens of times…
I say to many of my American Jewish colleagues who have justifiably marched and even been arrested protesting the death of Eric Garner; where are you when similar injustices occur against Palestinians like him all the time? Where were you when you saw similar acts of violence in Five Broken Cameras? “It is different,” many of my colleagues and friends say. How it is different is not exactly clear. Many simply live in the orbit of Israel exceptionalism. Others simply cannot fathom that the Jewish State is acting so unjustly. Others, too many, would like to speak out but are caught in the “chokehold” of the American Jewish Establishment driven by AIPAC. They fear retribution, marginalization, or worse. Their fears are not unwarranted. One can certainly understand this fear and yet when it comes to standing against injustice, fear of retribution can be a legitimate concern but it cannot be an excuse.
Magid’s last few sentences are lacerating about American Jewish privilege and hypocrisy:
I say to all those of my people who have stood in protests against the death of Eric Garner: There are many Eric Garners who are living under the thumb of a forty-seven-year occupation. There may be a price to pay to raise our voices in their behalf but it is the right and just thing to do. But maybe that is the difference between protesting above a safety net and speaking truth to power.
Speaking of AIPAC’s chokehold, we have regularly mentioned the Reform rabbi from St. Louis, Susan Talve, “a fixture at the Ferguson protests.” Last summer she went to Israel with AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and described occupied Jerusalem as part of Israel and Israeli soldiers as “heroes” even as the Gaza onslaught was taking place.
Last Tuesday she gave the opening prayer for the second meeting of the Ferguson Commission; and she is featured in a piece in the Canadian Jewish News about whether Jews and blacks are still allies.
A fixture at the Ferguson protests, Rabbi Talve laments that the Jewish community has become less engaged in social justice.“We’ve gotten pretty complacent in America, as white people,” Talve said, “but [events in Ferguson] have been a real wake-up call to the Jewish community to stand up for people who don’t have a voice… That’s certainly what Torah calls us to do.”