The organization Jewish Voice for Peace (JVOP) placed a full-page advertisement in the New York Times on Friday, January 26th. The form of the text was an open letter to President Biden.
“Dear President Biden,
As American rabbis, we write to you with deep sorrow and fury.
Tomorrow is the UN–designated International Holocaust Remembrance Day: a time to honor the memory of the millions of people murdered through the genocide committed by the Nazi regime, including six million of our Jewish ancestors. “
“With sorrow, we will also remember this as the time in which Israel was committing a genocide, aided and abetted by the United States.
We are compelled to speak with moral clarity about what is happening to Palestinians at this very moment. We do so not in spite of our histories, but because of them. We know in our bones what it means to hear Israeli officials dehumanize an entire people, to witness the Israeli military mass murder tens of thousands of Palestinians, to watch Israel systematically destroy civilian infrastructure, cultural institutions, universities, and hospitals. To see Israel purposefully deny food, medicine, and shelter to refugees.”
“According to a core teaching of Jewish spiritual tradition, humanity was created in the image of God. That means that each and every human being is of infinite value. The UN 1948 Convention on Genocide was created to uphold this very idea. The Torah also teaches that there will always be moments when we must make a critical moral choice”
It closed with:
“President Biden, what is happening right now in Gaza is no accident of history — and your complicity has been anything but silent. We call upon you to be true to your word and end U.S. complicity in Israel’s genocide against the Palestinian people.
If the words “Never Again” have any meaning at all, they must mean “Never Again for Anyone.” We fervently ask of you: please honor the word and spirit of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day by using your office to bring a ceasefire to this tragic violence — and to stop blocking efforts toward building a truly just peace for all who live between the river and the sea.
Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council”
The rabbinical signatories to this letter are not in the letter. On the JVOP website, you can click on the Rabbinical Council link to find the list of a few dozen rabbis who are the signatories.
One can invoke the Holocaust when considering mass killings. One can condemn the killing of more than 25,000 Gazans, mostly women and children. One can call on Biden to stop sending powerful bombs and weaponry to facilitate this mass killing. I think that any statement of the mass killing by the Israeli Defense Forces has to be accompanied by a full disavowal and condemnation of the Hamas atrocities on October 7th i.e. the terrorism, murder, rape, torture, and killing of children. In this full-page advertisement (costing about $100,000, I recall reading a few years ago), not a word was written about the Hamas atrocities, not a word of condemnation, not a word of acknowledgment of the pain and suffering.
This one-sided approach reflects both many far-left and Muslim attitudes to the conflict and also many Israeli and diaspora Jews’s attitudes to this horrific conflict. I will only talk about YOUR atrocities and ignore MY atrocities. This attitude is made very clear on the TOI blogs and even more so in the responses to original blog posts. It permeates the Arab world’s reporting of the conflict. One recent example was a long article by the far-leftist, Naomi Klein. She castigated, described, and condemned Israeli actions over many, many long paragraphs. In the middle of a sentence, there was a throwaway phrase about the October 7th Hamas attack (obviously unimportant to her). Similarly, Bret Stephens, the New York Times Op-Ed writer, has written eloquently on the sufferings of the hostages and their families, about the misrule of Hamas, about world condemnation of Israel, and about the atrocities of October 7th. In his 4 or 5 articles on the Israel-Gaza war that I have read, there is not a word on the 9,000 Gazan kids killed.
Each side must acknowledge the suffering of the other. Each side must attempt to restrain its own side’s violence.