n my July 8 blog on the Flotilla and Flytilla, I offered a critique of Rabbis for Human Rights for signing onto a statement in support of the Flotilla. Despite my best efforts, I have yet to find the actual statement online. Even on the web sites of the purported signatories (including Rabbis for Human Rights, Gush Shalom, the Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions and the Alternative Information Centre) I did not find the statement. So this leaves the question of whether the statement actually exists. It probably does, I just can’t find it.
My largest concern is with RHR because I know lots of good people, mostly rabbis in the US, who are RHR members and are strong supporters of Israel who would never sign a document offering such blanket support to the Flotilla organizers. I have viewed RHR as always having been a part of Israel’s “loyal opposition” — opposing Israeli policies in the West Bank and elsewhere while always strongly affirming Israel’s right to self-defense and right to exist within secure and recognized borders, etc. That is why I am all the more baffled why RHR appears to have signed onto a document that supports an effort that ultimately benefits Hamas.
To be fair, while RHR did release a statement of its own that calls “upon the Israeli government to enable the flotilla to arrive in Gaza” it nonetheless made it very clear that “Israel has the right and the obligation to defend itself and its residents from those who are trying to reject and destroy her existence.” I urge readers to view the RHR statement in full.
I am concerned enough about this matter that I posted the following onto the RHR web site, on the page with their statement. It is awaiting moderation, and I hope RHR will post it even with its criticisms. I hope to hear from RHR on this, and I will be happy to post any of their comments here on this blog.
While not agreeing with the statement above challenging specific aspects of the Israeli government’s policy toward the Flotilla, I nonetheless see quite clearly in the statement RHR’s commitment to Israel’s security needs, and our right to defend ourselves when attacked. I have come to expect this of RHR, which I have always considered to be part of the “loyal opposition” capable of both criticizing Israeli policies while articulating clearly RHR’s love for Israel and support for our right to national self-determination in this land.
Unfortunately, the organizers of the Flotilla do not recognize our right to self-defense, and it is fair to say that they do not even recognize our right to exist. That is why I have no sympathy with their efforts.
I am baffled, however, not by RHR’s above statement, reasonable people can disagree reasonably, civilly and respectfully and still walk away from the encounter as friends. I do, nonetheless, take issue with RHR’s signing onto a statement that appears to have been written by Flotilla organizers. This statement, also signed by other Israeli peace groups, including the now anti-Zionist ICAHD, is being circulated by the Flotilla organizers in their own propaganda efforts.
I say “appears” to be written by Flotilla organizers because I cannot find the actual text of the statement anywhere in the internet, nor on the web sites of any of the purported signatories. All I can find are references to the statement such as the one above and this one.
In my most recent posting in my blog Engaging Zion, (Flotilla, “Flytilla” are not about peace; but challenging Israel’s right to exist) I first examine the pro-Hamas leanings of the Free Gaza Movement, their clear connections with Hamas, and also their statements opposing Israel’s right to exist and their effort (in the words of Adam Shapiro) to transform “this conflict from one between Israel and the Palestinians, or Israel and the Arab world…to one between the rest of the world and Israel.” Such rhetoric is toxic as it is not aimed at defusing the conflict, but rather intensifying it.
If RHR did indeed sign the statement in question, I think an explanation is owed the rest of us in the Israeli public, and to American Jewish rabbis who support RHR with their names and reputations. If it should turn out that the statement in question doesn’t exist, or is being deliberately distorted by the Flotilla organizers, or if RHR would retract its name from the statement in question, then I will gladly retract my criticism.