B’nai Jeshurun Rabbis Praise UN’s Vote on Palestinian Statehood
Rabbi Rolando (Roly) Matalon, of B’nai Jeshurun Congregation. Praise of UN’s vote on Palestinian statehood creates debate.
By Staff Writer
The following is the text of the B’nai Jeshurun’s Rabbis e-mail to their members, regarding the UN vote of recognizing Palestinian as an “Observing State”. The email was quoted and referred to in a NY Times article.
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Yesterday's vote at the UN on Palestinian membership was a day which will go down in history, although what history will write about it only time will tell.
In this week's Parasha, Vayish-lach, Jacob battles with the angel and earns the name Israel. It is the first time we are recognized as the people of Israel. Our own struggles were rewarded exactly 65 years ago on 29 November 1947 with the UN partition plan that acknowledged the right of the Jewish people to an independent state.
The Parasha also tells us how Jacob prepares to meet his brother Esau again, 20 years after fleeing from him. The risks are real - Esau has threatened to kill him. This meeting is the biblical prototype of confrontation between Israel and the nations. Before the meeting with Esau, Jacob prepares in three ways: he divides his camp in two, he prays to God, and he sends Esau gifts and conciliatory messages. These three tactics mirror the basic strategies that Israel has at its disposal: preparation for battle, prayer, and diplomacy. We as a nation have had to rely on all three at different times. Today we feel it is critical that we remember the crucial role that diplomacy played in achieving independence for the State of Israel.
The vote at the UN yesterday is a great moment for us as citizens of the world. This is an opportunity to celebrate the process that allows a nation to come forward and ask for recognition. Having gained independence ourselves in this way, we are especially conscious of this. Every people has the right of recognition, every person has th right of recognition.
As Jews deeply committed to the security and democracy of Israel, and in light of the violence this past month in Gaza and Israel, we hope that November 29, 2012 will mark the moment that brought about a needed sense of dignity and purpose to the Palestinian people, led to a cessation of violence and hastened the two state solution.
We continue to pray for a lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors.
Signed: Rabbis Roly Matalon, Marcelo Bronstein and Felicia Sol, and Hazzan Ari Priven Jeannie Blaustein, Board President Steve Goldberg, Executive Director Orli Moss, Director of Israel Engagement.
B'nai Jeshurun Should Rethink Rash Statehood Support
By Alan Dershowitz
Published December 05, 2012.
Immediately after the General Assembly voted to accord the Palestinian Authority observer status as a state within the 1967 borders, the rabbis and lay-leadership of congregation B’nai Jeshurun, a popular synagogue in Manhattan praised the U.N. and described its vote as “a great moment for us as citizens of the world.” When they made this statement, did the rabbis realize that, according to the vote, the Western Wall (the holiest site in Judaism) is being illegally occupied by the Israeli government? Did they realize that the decision of the government to set aside the area for Jewish prayer could now be deemed a war crime punishable by the International Criminal Court? Do the rabbis intend to pray at the Kotel next time they visit Israel? Or are they prepared to advise their congregants not to set foot on this Palestinian land now illegally occupied by Israel?
Do the rabbis realize that under the General Assembly vote the access route to Hebrew University on Mount Scopus is now on illegally occupied Palestinian land and that the Israeli government’s decision to reopen the Mount Scopus campus following the 1967 War may now also be considered a war crime? Do the rabbis intend to advise their congregants not to attend Hebrew University or to boycott the scholars who now illegally traverse Palestinian land to get to their offices and research facilities?
Do the rabbis understand that according to the General Assembly vote, the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, where Jews lived for more than 2,000 years until they were ousted by Jordan in 1948, is illegally occupied Palestinian territory, and that Israel’s decision to rebuild the synagogues destroyed by the Jordanians can now be deemed a war crime? Do these rabbis intend to stay away from the Jewish Quarter when they next visit Israel and advise their congregants to do the same?
I doubt very much whether these well-intentioned but extraordinarily nai"ve rabbis and lay-leaders understand the implications of the vote they so heartily approve. For them the vote was a symbolic gesture in favor of the two-state solution.
But do they know that a large percentage of the governments voting for Palestinian statehood do not recognize Israel’s right to exist and would clearly vote against Israeli statehood if given the opportunity? Indeed, a majority of those countries voted in 1975 to declare Zionism a form of racism. Even though the General Assembly was eventually pressured into rescinding that vote, its spirit hovered over the General Assembly as it does over many of the constituent organizations within the United Nations.
Naivete and ignorance are not an excuse for supporting immoral actions, especially when this support comes from rabbis and congregational leaders who ought to do their homework before spouting out support for resolutions whose implications they do not understand.
Already the Palestinian Authority has threatened to use this resolution to bring charges against Israel for war crimes. Do the rabbis support the bringing of such charges? If they are brought, will the rabbis send out an email declaring the bringing of charges to be “a great moment”?
I too support the two-state solution, but I support it based on a negotiated resolution between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The Israeli government’s official position is to welcome negotiations with no preconditions. The Palestinian Authority insists on preconditions, including a prior total settlement freeze.
When Israel imposed a freeze, the Palestinian Authority refused to come to the bargaining table until just before the freeze expired, and then demanded an extension of the freeze. I have proposed that the Palestinian Authority agree to enter into negotiations first, and that the Israeli government then agree to a freeze.
I have been joined in that proposal by Peter Beinart and others who favor a negotiated two-state solution. The unilateral demand for statehood, approved by the General Assembly, makes it less likely that the Palestinian Authority will agree to begin negotiations, since they now believe they can get what they want without having to give up anything at the bargaining table.
I am sure that those of us who occasionally attend services at B’nai Jeshurun, as I do, and those who are members and frequent attendees, are deeply divided about these issues. It required incredible chutzpah and insensitivity to the intelligence of congregants for the rabbis and lay-leaders to issue their announcement without first allowing both sides of this issue to be heard and debated.
I hereby challenge the rabbis to debate this issue in front of their entire congregation. I am confident that if the congregation hears both sides of this issue they will have grave doubts about whether the unilateral General Assembly action represents “a great moment,” rather than a step backward in the quest for peace. I am also confident that after hearing both sides of the controversy, many congregants will be appalled at the decision of their rabbis to speak in their names without giving them an opportunity to be heard. Even congregations require a modicum of due process and freedom of dissent, both of which were denied the congregants of B’nai Jeshurun.
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Alan Dershowitz is a professor at Harvard Law School and the author, most recently, of “The Trials of Zion” (Grand Central Publishing, 2010).
Response to The Piece from A. Dershowitz
By Drew Kopf
Alan Dershowitz picked a tiny phrase out of the entire "prayer" written by our rabbis to which any and all of us ought to be answering "Amen":
“The vote at the UN yesterday is a great moment for us as citizens of the world. This is an opportunity to celebrate the process that allows a nation to come forward and ask for recognition. Having gained independence ourselves in this way, we are especially conscious of this. Every people has the right of recognition, every person has the right of recognition.
As Jews deeply committed to the security and democracy of Israel, an in light of the violence this past month in Gaza and Israel, we hope that November 29, 2012 will mark the moment that brought about a needed sense of dignity and purpose to the Palestinian people, led to a cessation of violence and hastened the two state solution. We continue to pray for a lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors.”
How people could miss read our rabbis' words or prayer amazes me in one way and proves to me that there are certain people who are just aching for a fight and just shoot from the hip to take pot shots at anyone who is not walking in lockstep with their own narrow take on the world; the World of Judaism and the World in general. Who in G-d's name do they think they are anyway?
The phrase in our rabbis' message to us; i.e. the members of BJ; their flock, on which Mr. Dershowitz ought to have directed his focus is "a needed sense of dignity and purpose" because that is really the crux of the problem faced by civilization now and going clear back to Noah. Yes. It's not just back to Father Abraham to whom we need to be turning for guidance and reference. It is to Noah.
There are seven laws that are named for Noah and by which everyone who wishes to be considered and treated as a civilized human being must keep in the sense of follow and observe; i.e. must not transgress, or else they are to be considered as barbarians; uncivilized. (This is pretty serious stuff so please get out of your mind the line from a play where she says, "Take human bites!").
The rabbis of BJ prayed for the Palestinians to some how get "a needed sense of dignity and purpose" from the action of the UN. Right.
Because right now and going back in their entire history the Palestinians have one and only one clear sense of purpose and it is markedly not dignified; rather, it is murderous. The Palestinians and so many of their Muslim and Arab brethren are dedicated and outwardly declare their intention do all that they can to bring about the deaths of Jews and the demise of the Jewish State of Israel with nothing, not even the lives of their own children and even little babies as being more important to them than murdering Jews.
The operative word there is murder. Not to murder is one of the seven Laws of Noah. To blatantly declare their intent to murder anyone as the Palestinians declare their intent to murder Jews classifies them as barbarians; not worth of being counted among civilized human beings.
Well according to just about everyone's ancient history, the L-rd drowned every animal that walked the earth including every human being save for Noah and his family and the animals they brought onto the ark for just that kind of inhuman behavior.
Our rabbis prayed well and I for one say, "Amen." How could a member of the civilized world, Jew or non-Jew, anyone at all, want murderers to be allowed to stay in our community unchecked? Our rabbis wrote a prayer that any self-respecting and G-d fearing rabbi of any denomination; and, frankly, every priest and every religious leader of any kind ought to repeat out loud for their following to hear and to which their congregants ought to answer, "Amen."