Daniel M. Cohen

An Article Filled With “Yes/But” When the World Needs “Both/And”

Co-Authored with Rabbi Robyn Fryer Bodzin, MSW

We are writing as Jews, as Zionists and Rabbis from two different movements to reflect upon Jay Michaelson’s thoughtful and provocative response in the Jewish Daily Forward to Rabbi Menachem Creditor’s piece about his shifting perspectives and deep commitments in the Huffington Post. Before we develop our thoughts on Mr. Michaelson’s response, a bit of disclosure is necessary. We spent the week beginning July 8th in Israel together with Rabbi Creditor and 16 other rabbis. While in Israel, we spent countless hours in meetings, staying glued to media reports about the unfolding violence and ran into bomb shelters. Together we were, time and time again, shaken by the perilousness of the situation and the human suffering on both sides of this conflict.

Not only do we know Rabbi Menachem Creditor well, but we are in awe of his deep compassion for all of humanity. We take issue with the claim that Rabbi Creditor’s response was “emotional tribalism” that lacked reasoned analysis.

That Mr. Michaelson leveled that criticism at Rabbi Creditor suggests that he does not know his “friend” as well as he might think. Moreover, the author seems to suggest that an emotional response, by definition, precludes thoughtful analysis and meaningful discourse. This is anything but the case. To put it bluntly- Rabbi Creditor is one of the most reflective people we know both in person and on social media.

Contrary to the statement that the article was an opportunity for Rabbi Creditor to “give voice to his frustration,” the piece was in fact, the result of hours of thought, reflection and soul searching. Rabbi Creditor’s piece was not a stream of consciousness rant. It does not reflect callousness, or uncaring about the wellbeing of others. Rabbi Creditor shares a very real concern for the future of the Jewish people and the security of the State of Israel in the face of an enemy who plays by different rules, namely terror.

When reviewing both Rabbi Creditor’s piece and Mr. Michaelson’s piece, a timeline of events is important to take into consideration. Rabbi Creditor wrote before the extent of the terror tunnels was revealed, while Mr. Michaelson wrote afterward. When Mr. Michaelson wrote his piece, the media had already shared that these tunnels were designed and created in order to infiltrate Israel’s borders. By the time Mr. Michaelson wrote, it had already been revealed that the tunnels were a key part of a planned attack on Rosh Hashanah. Yet Mr. Michaelson continued to refer to them as “smuggling tunnels”.

Also striking to us was the fact that every reference to Hamas , their military, their weapons and their attacks is downplayed in his piece by the use of strategic adjectives such as “trickle” and “potent” while the Israeli position is simply dismissed as “propaganda. ” We cannot understand why Mr. Michaelson writes that only Israel is engaged in the propaganda wars. We have seen the children’s Arabic television shows and are deeply troubled that unlike Israel who use the media to “make their case” their “propaganda” calls for the death of Jews and the destruction of Israel.

In addition, Mr Michaelson refers to Hamas as “guerillas” when they are, of course, known terrorists. The author later states that Creditor asserts that, “Hamas is barbaric, irrational, other, less than human.” We, and the international community, agree. We also believe it is worth mentioning that they treat women as property, put members of the LGBTQ community to death, want to impose their religious views views on the world and in their charter seek the destruction of the State of Israel.

Before Mr Michaelson dismisses us, as he did Rabbi Creditor when he wrote, my “left-leaning” friend sounds like the Islamophobe Pamela Geller we would point out that there is a difference between Hamas and the PA. There is a difference between Hamas and the residents of Gaza and there is a difference between Islamic Fundamentalism and Islam. Rabbi Creditor makes that distinction. We do as well. Mr Michaelson apparently does not.

Sadly Mr Michaelson and much of the Western world seem to be missing an important critical point. On a “local level” it seems that this is a fight between the democratic country Israel and the terror organization Hamas, with civilians on both sides paying a price. But this is symptomatic of a larger struggle between the West and Fundamentalist Islam. By vilifying Israel and humanizing Hamas Mr Michaelson adds to the problem.

Perhaps most troubling to us is that, there seems to be a charge that someone such as Rabbi Creditor, can be either Zionists OR lovers of humanity, either supporters of Israel OR concerned with those who suffer. In response to piece filled with a series of Yes/Buts arguments we felt compelled to make it clear that we will accept nothing less than Both/And. And we will will not apologize for that.



About the Author
Rabbi Daniel Cohen was ordained in 1993 by the HUC-JIR and has served Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel since 1993. An avid technology geek, for fun he writes for the tech blog Gear Diary.
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