Criticising Israel

Thought for the Day - Radio Scotland 13th March 2002

As a Rabbi, it’s difficult for me to express criticism of the bloody and brutal policies of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

It’s difficult precisely because for the rest of the world it appears to be almost too easy to do so.

It’s difficult because media reports of the appalling incidents in the blood spattered area of the Middle East have used the words Israeli and Jewish interchangeably, as though there were no distinction between the two.

It’s difficult because offering such criticism might place me in the same camp as those who would make absurd and offensive comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany, or between what’s happening to the Palestinians and the genocide of the Holocaust.

It’s difficult because criticism of Israel seems to fall so readily from the lips of Israel's detractors that to add one's voice to over-simplified and often simplistic views would be seen as a betrayal of the Jewish community, already beleaguered and sensing something more sinister beneath the easy diatribes.

It’s difficult because those who demand that Israel return to the pre 1967 borders seem unaware that the reason Israel stepped beyond those borders 35 years ago was to defend herself against the openly stated - and still not fully rescinded - desire of her Arab neighbours to push the inhabitants of the then 19 year-old country into the Mediterranean Sea.

But as a Rabbi it’s difficult not to criticise the bloody and brutal policies of Ariel Sharon. They lack morality, they lack integrity, they lack humanity and they lack purpose, unless that purpose be to match the Palestinians’ hatred of Israel with a similar hatred. And so, at the risk of falling foul of all the difficulties I’ve outlined, I will most certainly and most vociferously criticise the bloody and brutal policies of Ariel Sharon. They’re an affront to Judaism, they’re an affront to humanity, they’re an affront to God. And so I criticise them. But criticism is of no value unless it offers an alternative, a tangible and achievable hope of peace. Until something more positive and constructive than empty rhetoric emerges from all sides, we shall simply continue to hide behind our respective prejudices and versions of history and the blood of innocents will continue to flow.

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