David-Seth Kirshner
Author of Streams of Shattered Consciousness

Streams of Anxious Consciousness – 34

Whenever I am wearing my pastoral or counselor yarmulke, I remind the people I am meeting with that I am bound by confidence with whatever they share. The only exceptions are, if they tell me something that could bring physical or emotional harm to themselves or another, or if they are part of or covering up a felonious crime. When people share with me that they are having issues at work, challenges in their marriage, or turbulence at home, I try and listen empathically and give counsel, when possible. If the person(s) ever talks about self-harm or harming others, they have crossed the line of what can remain confidential, and I need to concern myself with their(s) and others’ safety.

That is not an unusually hard line to walk and not challenging to understand. I did not need weeks of ethics training or days of legal courses to help define the line. It is simple. Everything stays in the vault unless they are going to hurt themselves or others, or a crime is involved.

My ethical parameters are no different than physicians, therapists, teachers, counselors or attorneys. These guiding principles should transcend geography, politics or religion.

You can probably appreciate my rage, anger and disgust upon learning about photo and video journalists who seem to have been made aware of the October 7th attack well in advance, and then documented the barbarism in real time. Some even participated in the actual attacks and chants. These people then sold their pictures to well-known media outlets.

These journalists must be bound to the same ethics as the professions mentioned above. That would require them to not participate in an attack – or any crime – that would cause death, destruction and violate dozens of international laws.

Important to note, these journalists are free-lancers and are not formally employed with any of the major companies they have done work for in the past or sold to on October 7th.  If media outlets maintain their relationships with any of these journalists, they should be tried in the ICC for harboring and aiding known terrorists. One of the video journalists rode on a motorcycle with one of the jihadists, documenting the rampage while holding a grenade in his hand. The evidence is clear as sunlight. He was incriminated from his own camera.

Could you imagine a journalist donning a parachute and boarding a plane with the Al Qaeda hijackers on September 11th? Could you envisage a reporter embedding with the SS at the door to the gas chambers in Birkenau? How about a broadcaster taking pictures of Jim Jones mixing the poison and the Kool-Aid and staying silent?

Journalists have ethics too. Every human has a basic moral code they need to follow. These so-called photojournalists violated every human decency and tenet that is core to the profession they belong. They are beneath the lowest dregs of any society.

One article I read on this topic was titled, “The ethical challenges of photos journalists as part of the October 7th pogrom.” What in the hell is the ethical dilemma? There is no dilemma. These journalists seemed to have been so aware of the attacks in advance that on a glorious Saturday morning, earlier than 6:00 AM, they were just causally waiting with running shoes and loads of film at the separation wall between Gaza and Israel for whatever might occur. These journalists could and should have alerted the authorities. They could and should have shared with their superiors what was going down. They could and should have made a moral choice. Instead, they were amoral. They were dishonorable and they were complicit in the atrocities that took place. They are not journalists. They are not civilians. They are terrorists. Plain and simple.

Perhaps most disgusting is if and when these ‘journalists’ are apprehended, and they still hold a grenade in their hand, and the IDF neutralizes the threat, the international world will condemn us for killing a journalist. Let’s stop the shame-calling and hypocrisy and fake protections before they are implemented.

If any of these journalists would have been killed on October 7th or immediately after, they would have died as a terrorist. They were more a part of Hamas than they are an employee of any news outlet. They were accomplices in war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

Today I saw a video from a gunfight in Jenin between Hamas and the IDF. A terrorist was shot and killed. The video shows a medic, dressed in a protective orange vest, running to the downed terrorist. The medic does not give mouth to mouth. He doesn’t perform CPR. He does not bind the Hamas person’s wounds. The medic grabs the fallen terrorists machine gun and runs it to another terrorist waiting in the wings.

Woe to Israel if that “medic” were shot by the IDF. Condemnation would pour in fast and furious. Of course, the “medic” was carrying a weapon and then ferrying a weapon to other fighters to keep the siege alive. But wearing the vest protects him from being targeted. What an unfair scenario for any group. How depraved and morally corrupt!

The timing of the revelation of the collusion between Hamas and these journalists could not have been more painfully elegiac. This is the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht – the night of Broken Glass pogroms that devastated Jewish shops and synagogues throughout Germany. It was the darkest foreshadow of what the coming years would bring for Jews in Europe.

Most believe that the November 1938 pogrom was spontaneous. They would be wrong.

A young Jewish boy named Hershel Grynszpan went to visit an anti-Hitler Nazi embassy official named Ernst Vom Rath, in Paris. Grynszpan was all of sixteen years young. He came to the embassy to lodge a complaint about his parent’s treatment in Germany after they emigrated from Poland. When Vom Rath walked in to greet him, decked out in his Nazi finest, Grynszpan pulled out a gun and shot him five times.

Way before Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, instant messaging, email, cell phones or pay phones, communication took much longer to get from Paris to Germany. Yet, within a few hours of Vom Rath’s shooting, word had made it to Germany that the embassy secretary was dead. Thousands of angry people came to the streets within minutes, ready to march, set fires and beat Jews with batons.

How could they organize so quickly? And isn’t it curious that this all went down on the same date as Hitler’s failed Beer Hall putsch, only 15 years earlier?! Hmmm.

Serious Holocaust scholars contend that Grynszpan was a patsy used to rid the Nazi party of a thorny employee. Young Hershel was someone who could innocently light the match of a night of terror, riot,  destruction and Jew hatred, which was ripe kindling for Germany.

Not so coincidentally, this was a similar modus-operandi that Hitler and Goebbels utilized to create the Reichstag fire and gain legislative control of Germany.

The collusion of the Gaza based journalists leads to a conspiracy that the world is quickly uncovering. The only ethical question to ask now, is can we use pictures from known terrorists who profited from their duality of terrorism and photo contributor?

Judaism tells us clearly that one cannot read from a stolen Torah. We are not permitted to shake a stolen Lulav. We cannot pray while wearing a stolen talis.

Perhaps these pictures should be removed from circulation or noted that they were taken by terrorists, so no one can profit from them evermore. Of course, the problem is it would remove more proof of the crimes committed against Israel and Jews by the evil Hamas. That is a serious conundrum that will not be easy to solve.

This Saturday night, as soon as the sun sets, I will be on my way to Israel. My mind is racing and my heart fluttering for this trip. I will share more. Until then, I wish you a Shabbat of peace and love and please God, a Shabbat of reunification for our hostages that need to come home.

About the Author
David-Seth Kirshner is the senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, a Conservative synagogue in Closter, New Jersey. He is the past President of the NY Board of Rabbis and the NJ Board of Rabbis and is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Hartman Institute and serves on the Executive Committee of the JFNA. Rabbi Kirshner was appointed to the New Jersey/Israel Commission by Governors Christie and Murphy. Rabbi Kirshner is a National Council member of AIPAC and an adjunct faculty member at the Academy for Jewish Religion, (AJR). He is the author of Streams of Shattered Consciousness, featured in The NY Times Book Review (Feb '24) and has over 11,000 copies in circulation in its first three months since publication. He has spoken on his book and topics connected to Judaism and Zionism across the world.
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