How dare you treat us like Palestinians!

Human rights defenders cannot condone the abuse of any human being, Jewish or non-Jewish.  This separates us from many on both the “left” and the “right,” and is reflected in the joint statement of Israeli human rights organizations Torat Tzedek-Torah of Justice initiated this week regarding the interrogation of the Jewish youth suspected of the murdering Palestinian Aisha Arabi z’l.  (See below) This week’s Torah portion marks our birth as a people,  demanding that we ask ourselves what sort of a people we wish to be.

Somebody told me yesterday that he has no problem if it is true that the Shin Bet services used “moderate physical pressure” or other forbidden interrogation methods against the Jews suspected of murdering Arabi.  He argued that the “hilltop youth” are too skilled at avoiding incriminating themselves, and there is no other way to get to the truth, and put an end to their sometimes deadly violence.  We have all heard the strident voices protesting the fact that the suspects were not allowed to meet with a lawyer, and the allegations regarding interrogation methods.  I have on several occasions over the years heard right wing extremists express genuine outrage when interrogation or crowd dispersal methods used against Palestinians are used against them.  “What? How dare they treat us like Palestinians!”

I told the person I was speaking with that we must be consistent in our demands not to use forbidden interrogation methods.  I was similarly upset to hear rabbis and other leaders criticize how the Jewish suspects were allegedly treated while avoiding answering when reporters asked if they condemned the use of the same methods against Palestinians.  I was even more outraged to hear them praise the way of the hilltop youth.  These particular suspects are innocent until proven guilty.  However, I have myself been violently attacked by the hilltop youth, and we know enough about their violent actions and ideology to know that these rabbis should not be supporting it. They should be educating our youth to respect and defend universal human rights as part of a religious obligation to honor God.

We in the human rights community do our best to be consistent. The core of my faith is that I am obligated to recognize and honor God’s Image in every human being.  Although I deal on a daily basis with how our government and our society defaces God’s Image in both Jews and non-Jews, I don’t believe that is  what we aspire to, or how we perceive ourselves.  Just yesterday, speaking to an Israeli television crew documenting us as we accompanied Palestinian shepherds, I expressed my belief that the vast majority of Israeli Jews (I would add world Jewry as well) would be distressed with how both the Israeli security forces and Israeli citizens are abusing non-Jews, were they to let down their defenses and take a good look in the mirror.

Last week I acknowledged that I wish God had freed us from Egypt with less suffering to innocent Egyptians. At the same time, God will tell us time after time not to abuse others because we were once that other in Egypt, and we know how it feels.  In this week’s portion, God commands us to retell our story in every generation.  Many of us fulfill this command by educating our children on seder night, and throughout the year, to be vigilant in opposing the oppression or abuse of any human being, and to make sure that we do not treat others as we were treated so many times throughout history.

Shabbat Shalom


Shin Bet interrogation methods and preventing interrogees from meeting with a lawyer have made headlines recently because of the arrest of youth suspected of murdering Aisha Arabi.

The Israeli human rights organizations signed on below frequently deal with allegations regarding Shin Bet interrogators, the violation of the rights of interrogees, the use of forbidden interrogation methods, and even torture. Lessons of the past demand that there be a thorough investigation of the current allegations by authorized and independent authorities,

We call upon the entire public, spanning the entire spectrum of opinions, and including all camps, to take a unified and consistent position opposing forbidden interrogation methods, regardless of the religion, race, gender or nationality of the interrogees.

Amnesty International Israel
Bimkom-Planners For Planning Rights
Physicians for Human Rights
Rabbis For Human Rights
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel
The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel
Torat Tzedek-Torah of Justice
Yesh Din-Volunteers For Human Rights

For more information:  Rabbi Arik Ascherman  – Torat Tzedek  – 050-5607034,

About the Author
Rabbi Arik Ascherman is the founder and director of the Israeli human rights organization "Torat Tzedek-Torah of Justice." Previously, he led "Rabbis For Human Rights" for 21 years. Rabbi Ascherman is a sought after lecturer, has received numerous prizes for his human rights work and has been featured in several documentary films, including the 2010 "Israel vs Israel." He and "Torat Tzedek" received the Rabbi David J. Forman Memorial Fund's Human Rights Prize fore 5779. Rabbi Ascherman is recognized as a role model for faith based human rights activism.
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