An Open Letter to Rabbi Michael Lerner – Why the Fear?

In the course of my short and fairly mundane blogging “career” I have been forced a number of times to come to terms with my beliefs on many issues. Sometimes facing these beliefs has not been a comfortable task, but, in the end, I believe this task is both important and necessary, and further I believe that I do not not try to deceive those who read my work with ambiguous commentary.

Unfortunately I cannot say the same with regards to others in the blogosphere. Of course one such poster who purposefully traffics in ambiguity is noted anti-Zionist author and blogger, David Harris Gershon, a person who consistently refuses to clearly state his political stance on any issue regarding Israel. In Harris-Gershon’s case he will simply not engage in any meaningful way with those who challenge his multiple contradictory claims.

Why do I bring up Harris-Gershon in an Open Letter to Rabbi Lerner? Because the good Rabbi and his website Tikkun Daily constantly “run cover” for Mr. Harris-Gershon. The good Rabbi himself stepped up to Harris-Gershon’s defense in a current piece at Tikkun that Harris-Gershon wrote titled: Israel to Raze Palestinian Village (within Israel) & Displace its Citizens to Build ‘Jewish’ Towns.

In this article Harris Gershon was challenged by this comment from  Albert K who wrote:

David has omitted that Israelis are speaking out against this decision, and that the matter will be heard by Israel’s Supreme Court. So it is not over yet, and hopefully the decision gets reversed.

But, once again, the author leaves out facts in order to paint the picture most appealing to those who hate Israel.

to which Rabbi Lerner responded:

We who are the loyal opposition to American imperialism and the globalization of materialism and selfishness know that one can be a lover of America and yet powerfully critique our government’s disastrous choices. So it is unfair and a distortion to label people who strongly critique the policies of Israel as haters of Israel or seeking to appeal to haters of Israel. As my rabbi Joachim Prinz used to point out, the supreme ethical error for most people is the crime of silence in the face of evil actions. When the government of Israel pursues evil policies, it is ethically imperative that we speak out and inform people of those choices–and doing so can be the best form of loyalty and support for all the goodness that remains in Israel, just as doing so here in the US can often be the best form of patriotism and love of country! So thank you David Harris-Gershon for keeping us informed!

And this is where we start. I asked a reasonable question on Tikkun of the good Rabbi and the question was immediately deleted. There was nothing rude or out of line in it, just a simple question calling Rabbi Lerner to task on his own words. Here was my question that Rabbi Lerner refuses to make public much less answer

Rabbi Lerner.. a few questions if I may?


1. How do you define the term “loyal opposition”? Doesn’t “loyal opposition” take the form of actually wanting the party that you are loyal to, to exist in the first place. Mr. Harris-Gershon is nebulous at best involving the existence of Israel and has never offered a clear answer to his thoughts on the existence of Israel as it was originally conceived, as the National Homeland of the Jewish people.


2. You mention Rabbi Prinz and staying silent in the face of evil. Wouldn’t you agree that the destruction of the State of Israel is in itself an evil act? If so, (and I hope you would) wouldn’t you also then agree that Mr. Harris-Gershon’s silence in the face of this evil is just that? If not, why not? If so, shouldn’t his constant criticism of Israel be viewed in light of this?


I hope that you will take the time to answer these questions as David seems to want no part of them. YET, he presents himself merely as a critic. Shouldn’t he clarify his perspective? If not, Why not?

Granted those are pointed questions but they are hardly offensive, or abusive.

No… I think one has to realize that those questions are at the heart of the discussion regarding the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians (and Arabs) in general.

So I have to ask again of Rabbi Lerner (since he states that he and Mr. Harris-Gershon are the “loyal opposition”), where does he stand on issues such Palestinian Right of Return? How does he feel about the fact that they Palestinian / Arab polity does not and would not accept a Single State Solution where Jews and Arabs share equal rights? Then I would ask that given his position why he does not ask David to clarify what he believes, and why does he try to distract from the general charge that Harris-Gershon refuses to even mention his beliefs much less stand up for them, all while advocating (and simultaneously denying such advocacy) policies (like BDS) that would lead to the elimination of Israel.

I ask in general, does Rabbi Lerner consider the destruction of Israel as the National Homeland of the Jewish People to not be an evil act? Harris-Gershon will never answer the question. All he says, is that he supports the Two State Solution but refuses to clarify exactly what that means. Because honestly there are many interpretations of the Two State Solution and many of them do not include Israel in the form it was conceived to be.

Therefore I have to ask… Why the fear? Why do they refuse to even deal with the tough questions that would define their politics? Is what they believe so egregious that they are ashamed to take a stand?

Rabbi Lerner quotes Rabbi Prinz as saying the severest ethical crime is silence in the face of evil. But isn’t Rabbi Lerner guilty of the same thing when he deliberately ignores requests for clarification over such important political views.

Anyway, since Rabbi Lerner does not want to have this conversation or even allow this conversation on his site, I invite him to have it here for all to see. I invite him to explain what is his fear of having to define where he stands politically on an issue that he is outspoken. Also, why if the greatest ethical sin is Silence in the face of Evil, then why is he silent regarding someone who wants nothing less than the destruction of Israel as the National Homeland and State of the Jewish people. Isn’t that going against his principles.

Taking a principled stand is fine as long as one is willing to express their principles. Calling out evil from only one side of a conflict while pointedly ignoring it from ones own side is maybe even worse than silence. So why the “fear” even express ones P.O.V. much less call it out.

I hope (though I strongly doubt) that Rabbi Lerner will take this opportunity to clarify his commentary and his politics for all to see.

Thanks in advance.

About the Author
Jon Segall is creator of the blog The Progressive Zionist. Jon has lived in Israel and studied Israeli and American Policy in the region. Currently Jon, is re-learning Hebrew, and is an active practitioner of the Israel Self Defense Martial Art Krav Maga.