Dear Rav Arik,
I am more than pleased to publish your reponse to my piece.
In terms of my response to you, please know that it is because I have expectations from the Rabbis for Human Rights that I indeed raise these issues of moral and Jewish consequence. I would never think of raising such matters of ethical concern to Meretz or the Mafdal. No lehavdil necessary.
My concern and credibility on the issue of home demolitions is reflected in my continued legal fight on behalf of a group of Arab homeowners near Bani Nayim. Betzelem sang my praises back in 1992 when I won an injunction against the civil adminisrtation from touching their property.
What I vociferously object to is you again raising the unsubstantiated number of “6,000” home demolition orders, with no source nor documentation to back up this figure. What the use of such a figure does is to leave the uniformed human rights activist with the impression that this is the general Israel and, indeed, Jewish policy in dealing with the matter of Arab homes. You could just as well cited the Israeli government estimates for the other figure for the thousands of homes that have indeed been built illegally, and work it from there. I am planning a major news story about Beit Tzfaffa where the illegal housing construction has become rampant, and where the Jerusalem municipality has not enforced any existing laws in this respect.
I remind you that the PLO used fabricated human rights reports throughout the Intifada to bolster their case to the world media. Do you remember their lie about the IDF killing children with teargas? Or another one about the IDF “targeting” children after the PLO put them in the front line to die? (Dauod Kuttab’s inciteful piece in the Journal of Palestine Studies from February 1988 described that methodology of the use of kids in riots in great detail)
The point is that I am focusing on RHR because your moral judgement of Israel reaches beyond the shores of our country, and were you to focus on individual cases and were you to warn about a specific number of incidents, I and others from everywhere on the political spectrum would join you in the concern that the Rabbis for Human Rights has raised.
Yet the minute that you throw out figures which have not been substantiated, the holy issue of human rights loses all credibility.
The issue of the RHR coordination with the PA/PLO is reflected only by those who sign petitions together with RHR. Discretion is the better part of valor when you become part of a coalition that includes PA/PLO entities and when you march with groups like the Christian Peacemakers Team.
I of course know that RHR raised human rights issues with Arafat. The fact that he ignored you should be a source of outrage and should be a matter that we hear about. The fact that you did write to him and meet with him is step one. Not to respond when he continues his suppression of civil liberties and when he continues to order the murder of his people would give the impression that you acqiesce in such actions.
shtikah c’hoda’ah dami = the Talmudic point that “silence is agreement”, could well be applied here.
Yes, Betzelem back in 1995 was critical of the PA. That was before Yizhar Baer and Bassam Eid left them. Their low profile in regard to PA human rights abuses over the past few years speaks for itself.
The trampling on human rights and civil liberties remains one of the characteristics of the current negotiation process between Israel and the PA.
RHR may have some leverage with the new Israeli government. Perhaps it will use that leverage to make the peace process contingent on the respect for human rights and civil liberties, including those of the Jewish and Arab victims of Arafat and the PA.
At a time when the Israeli government spokesmen shrug their shoulders at the prospect of letting out prisoners who have murdered Arabs or prisoners who have tried to murder Jews, I would expect to hear the voices of Rabbis. If the act of murder and of attempted murder by people who express no regret and indeed take pride in their act is not a cause of concern to eighty Rabbis, am I wrong in not expressing some confusion about human rights priorities?
My hope in the new year is that you indeed become a forceful conscience for the state and people of Israel. We sure need one.
B’vracha leshana tova umetukah.