Torture, the CIA and a mostly silent Jewish community

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Most major Jewish groups have steadfastly avoided taking a position on issues involving the treatment of U.S. foreign detainees.

Not so the Reform movement; this week the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism hailed Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to appoint a federal prosecutor to look into cases of possible violations of the law by CIA interrogators who used coercive techniques.

“We welcome the news that Attorney General Holder has appointed a federal prosecutor specifically to investigate cases in which CIA employees and contractors may have abused detainees, largely from Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Mark Pelavin, the RAC’s associate director. “We are hopeful that this preliminary investigation will prove to be an important step toward shedding new light on how these abuses came to be, creating greater transparency and accountability in our government’s actions, and preventing future acts of abuse.”

At the same time, the group expressed  concern over “the Administration’s refusal to rule out the practice of extraordinary rendition, whereby detainees in our custody are turned over to other nations for questioning.  History has shown that the use of rendition results in the application of information-gathering techniques that are abhorrent and defile humanity.”

Human rights groups were outraged by Monday’s announcement that the Obama administration will continue to use rendition, but monitor the process more closely (here’s a New York Times story on the decision).

And what about other Jewish groups?

So far, not a peep. And with the actions of the Bush-era CIA set to become the hottest political issue this fall, I’m not holding my breath.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.