Anson Laytner
Anson Laytner

Netanyahu, the German Foreign Minister and Palestinian Human Rights

One of the unfortunate consequences of Israel’s conquest of the West Bank nearly 50 years ago is that it controls the lives of the Palestinians who live there, particularly in matters pertaining to the security of Israeli citizens. And one of the consequences of this necessary control is that there will be occasions of abuse and alleged abuse by Israeli soldiers of Palestinian civilians.

As a democracy, the Israeli government is obligated to investigate these situations and, as in America, there are a number of NGOs that are dedicated to helping the government pay attention to these issues, whether or not it wants to.

ACRI, B’Tselem, even Break the Silence, are but three of these organizations that fulfill this important role, even if the current Israeli government might prefer that they didn’t.

To draw the analogy again to America, from time to time the police are accused of abuse, often against members of the African American community. When this happens government officials investigate. Sometimes these are locally led investigations; sometimes they involve the federal government. Under the Obama administration, more weight seemed to be given to the plaintiffs, but since Trump has taken office, the government seems to be tilting to support of the police and is more dismissive of charges of abuse made against them. But the problems are real regardless.

Netanyahu’s government may choose to ignore the findings of B’Tselem, ACRI, Break the Silence and other groups. It may accuse them of being disloyal, undermining Israel’s reputation in the world or aiding the enemy. But it cannot just dismiss what they report. That is like the proverbial ostrich putting its head in the sand to avoid dealing with a problem. And the problem is real. The control of another people inevitably leads to situations of abuse.

The Prime Minister chose to boycott a meeting with the German Foreign Minister because the latter had met with representatives of B’Tselem and Break the Silence. It would have been preferable for Netanyahu to pay attention to what these groups report, investigate and deal with the real issue rather than punishing the German Foreign Minister for being as concerned about Palestinian human rights as he himself should be.

Israel deserves better.

About the Author
Rabbi Anson Laytner of Seattle is currently president of the Sino-Judaic Institute and longtime editor of its journal Points East. He is the co-editor, with Jordan Paper, of "The Chinese Jews of Kaifeng." Before retiring, he taught at Seattle University and worked with the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. His most recent book is "The Mystery of Suffering and the Meaning of God."