Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sanity Has Left the Building

Sometimes I wonder if there is any sane rabbinic leadership in Israel anymore. Just when I am beginning to absorb the enormous impact of Rabbi Don Segal’s remarks, I see another rabbi making his own outrageous comments. This time it is from the opposite end of the religious political spectrum.

An article in Ha’aretz which references both statements tells us about notices going up in Kiryat Moshe, the neighborhood in Jerusalem where Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav is located. Here are the pertinent excerpts:

"Each and everyone is required to imagine what the enemy is plotting to do to us, and to match it measure for measure."

The rabbis also said it was necessary "to work to create a proper Jewish leadership," and looked forward to the day when "Jews will congregate in their cities ... and strike those who wish upon them ill in those days at this time." The latter alludes to the Book of Esther, which will be read next week on Purim.

Among the signatories to the street notice were Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, son of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Rabbi Ido Elba, who was sentenced to a two-year prison term for incitement to racism, Rabbi Gadi Ben-Zimra, the rabbi of the Orthodox high school where girls who were arrested refused to recognize the court's authority.

This was followed by a disclaimer about taking personal revenge. But if I understand correctly, that disclaimer is not in the notice itself. Notices like these can then easily incite violence by extremists on the religious right. And there is no worse time to do that then right now.

I cannot understand the purpose of rabbis putting up posters like this now. Other than as some sort of cathartic act expressing their feelings in reaction to the massacre. Disclaimers outside of the actual posters are of little value to those who read them. They will see prominent rabbinic names attached. They can easily think they now have rabbinic approval to do - God knows what!

Besides, what these rabbis are actually advocating is not much better:

Ben-Zimra said the words "local blessed actions" in the notice referred to acts such as returning to Gush Katif.

How does he propose to do this? How will it be to carried this out? Does he think the government is going to send in the troops and retake Gaza? Is he organizing his own army? What could he possibly be thinking?

Does he think the United States would just sit back and applaud if Israel were to attempt anything like this - whether by government action or through a private citizen's army? Even from a sympathetic administration like the current one there would surly be negative consequences.

What would an Obama or Clinton administration do? How would they react? Would they cut off all of Israel’s life saving military and economic aid? And what price would we pay in blood if this were even attempted? This kind of rhetoric is irresponsible and could do so much more harm than good.

So there you have it. One rabbi says that Zionist nationalism caused Divine retribution in the form of a massacre. And another rabbi thinks we ought to seek a ‘measure for measure’ response.

Sanity seems to have left the building.