Rabbis Bachman and Lerner on the Gaza Conflict


Rabbi Michael Lerner is a clown and does not need any more publicity, but did you read his article, “It Breaks My Heart to See Israel’s Stupidity” a little over a week ago? Here is a choice bit:

Israel’s attempt to wipe out Hamas is understandable, but stupid…

Killing 500 Palestinians and wounding 2,000 others (at the time of writing) is disproportionate. Hamas can harass, but it cannot pose any threat to the existence of Israel. And just as Hamas’s indiscriminate bombing of population centres is a crime against humanity, so is Israel’s killing of civilians (at least 130 so far in Gaza, not to mention the thousands in the years of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza).

Lerner received a lot of heat for that piece. Some of the more thoughtful critiques were provided by Eric Lee (Labourstart) and Ami Isseroff (ZioNation).

But you may have missed these posts by Rabbi Andy Bachman of Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn (and Brooklyn Jews). Rabbi Bachman was in Israel when the Gaza assault started. Like Lerner, he would probably describe his politics as progressive, but he is as far away from Lerner as you can get regarding his interpretations of this recent conflict.

Rabbi Bachman is not responding to Lerner directly in any of these posts but they really spoke to me. This post was, coincidentally, published the same day as Lerner’s op-ed (January 5):

As Israel’s incursion into the Gaza Strip moves well into its second week, most of us watch from the sidelines or a distance with a heavy, heavy heart over the loss of innocent life. No one deserves to die who has not brought death on to him or herself, least of all an innocent child.

So to be fundamentally clear: even those of us who support Israel’s efforts to break Hamas and seriously damage its ability to torment Israeli towns with terror mourn loss of every innocent life and grieve with those families. In addition, our hearts go out to those terrified by bombs dropping in homes, on streets, in mosques.

But Israel’s war, I believe, is a just war.

When Israel pulled out of Gaza, tearing deeply at the fabric of its own society to uproot families there (a disengagement I strongly favored and still do) the entire world was able to see if it chose to look that Israel was willing to risk the unity of the nation to take fundamental steps toward peace. The Hamas leadership took the exact opposite steps, took no risk, brutally murdered its own in waging violent and bloody civil war with the Palestinian Authority, and continued on its self-destructive path of trying to wage existential war against Israel. Never has it seriously addressed Israel’s justified existence; never has it accepted Israel’s RIGHT to exist; and never has it seriously sought to make peace. Rather, it has embarked on a hundred years plan, to wear down the psyche of the Israeli population with terror, kidnapping, and the selling of a religio-fundamentalist viewpoint that completely de-legitimizes any Jewish claim to the land.

It’s truly depressing.

You have leaders who deny that a Temple ever stood in Jerusalem–archaeological and historical evidence to the contrary; you have posters at rallies all over Europe, the US and the Arab world saying, “Palestine from the River to the Sea,” the implication being, of course, that in the final analysis, Israel will be an historical footnote, soon to be no more.

[read it all here]

I also recommend reading “Adapt and Live” and “Just the Nasty Business“.


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