Avi Weiss

To Rep. Bowman: An Open Response to Your Recent Criticism of Israel

Dear Representative Bowman,

I hope this finds you and your family well.

Now that you’ve assumed office as our representative, my blessings for your success.

I continue, however, to be deeply concerned, upset by your stance on Israel, most recently, your criticism of Israel for not vaccinating Palestinians in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).

The Palestinian government is party to the Oslo Agreement, which in Article 17 declares that it is responsible for the health of its citizens.

When considering that just two years ago the Palestinian Authority allocated $330 million dollars to the families of terrorists, money that could have covered the cost of vaccines for all of their people – they bear responsibility.

Indeed, in June 2020, the Palestinian Authority refused COVID relief from the United Arab Emirates, as the flight bringing the aid was coordinated directly between Israel and the UAE. The PA feared that this coordination would be a step towards normalization between Israel and the Gulf states.

Furthermore, the PA has been reluctant to request COVID vaccines from Israel, turning instead to Russia. The efficacy of the Russian vaccine is highly questionable. For the Palestinian Authority, politics outweighs their responsibility to their own citizenry.

At the same time, while the PA too often ignores its people, Israel has provided medical help to thousands of Syrian refugees who were treated in Israeli hospitals. And of course, all Israeli citizens, including Israeli Arabs and Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, are being vaccinated. Also, 75% of Palestinians in Israeli prisons, including terrorists, have already been inoculated.

And while you’re quick to criticize Israel, you’re silent as Palestinians continue to commit egregious acts of terrorism against the Jewish state.

Where was your voice in August – when it was clear you would be our congressman – when Rabbi Shay Ohayon was murdered in central Israel by a Palestinian terrorist, leaving behind a wife and four children?

Where was your voice as our Congressman Elect when, just last month, Esther Horgen, a mother of six, was brutally stoned to death by Palestinian terrorists?

Likewise, where was your voice when just last week an explosion rocked the Beit Hanoun area of Gaza, injuring almost 40 Palestinians? Does it not outrage you that these explosives were stored by Hamas in civilian areas?

In a prior communication to you I suggested that as you assume office, you speak to Israeli representatives in New York. Have you done so? It would make sense to not only speak to the Israelis, but to New York Jewish leadership before making outrageous allegations about Israel’s vaccine policy.

I so much want to work with you, but along with thousands of your constituents, am proud of Israel’s record. We will continue speaking out, yes, truth to power, from simple citizens, to you Dr. Bowman, who now sits as a powerful politician – a U.S. House Representative.

For the sake of Israel and “the sake of Zion, I will not be silent.”

With Blessings,

Rabbi Avi Weiss

About the Author
Avi Weiss is the founding rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, Bronx, N.Y., and founder of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and Yeshivat Maharat rabbinical schools. He is a co-founder of the International Rabbinic Fellowship and longtime Jewish activist for Israel and human rights.