Jerome Chanes: ‘Has Israel Lost Its Moral Balance?’

Jerome Chanes: ‘Has Israel Lost Its Moral Balance?’

PPI Board Member, Professor Jerome Chanes

Historian Jerome Chanes has written this article in NY Jewish Week, excerpted below:

The debate, already ongoing as the Palestinian civilian death count rose in Gaza, was amped up by Leon Wieseltier . . . in his Aug. 6 New Republic article, “Israel and Gaza: A Just and Unjust War.” Wieseltier, in his declaration of surprise “by the magnitude of the indifference in the Jewish world to the human costs of Israel’s defense against the missiles and the tunnels,” raised questions among some analysts about “armchair moralism.” . . .

Supportive, . . . is a public-affairs analyst . . . who expressed distress about those who, pandering to the Jewish “street,” “talked at length about Jewish mothers’ suffering. I have waited in vain for comments about the suffering of many more Palestinian mothers,” the analyst said, adding: “I would not equate the two, and would blame Hamas for their suffering. But at least acknowledge it. Where is the decency?”

The other side of the “compassion” coin is expressed well by the American Jewish Committee’s director of contemporary Jewish life, Steven Bayme, who notes, “. . . Jews do support Israel’s actions in Gaza but are deeply pained by their impact upon Palestinians living there.” . . .

And from Israel, the sober voice of writer and Israel-affairs analyst Hillel Halkin, . . . : “I don’t know to what extent Israelis have been ‘indifferent’ . . . But some amount of ‘indifference’ here is surely necessary. You can’t really fight and cry for the enemy at one and the same time.  . . .

“I personally feel sad,” continues Halkin, “that Palestinian civilians are being killed as a result, but I . . .  feel no guilt over it. We did not ask for this war; we are doing our best to fight it fairly and humanely,  . . .   Israel has been trucking in daily, daily, hundreds of tons of foodstuffs into the Gaza Strip to prevent the local population from suffering hunger. Has there ever been anything like this in the history of warfare? Can you imagine England or America sending shiploads of food to Germany in 1944? . . .
. . .  So where are we? I am yet in Tisha b’Av.

The Book of Lamentations — Megillat Eichah — read by Jews around the world last week, is a bitter dirge describing and accounting for the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. It speaks of a people dehumanized to the unimaginable point where “tenderhearted” mothers cook their own children. As religion analyst Mark Silk reminds us, “Eichah teaches that particular responsibility may lie with those charged with leadership, and that their moral failures are more serious for calling down upon their people the obloquy of the world at large.

“There is no pretense in Lamentations that the destroyers of Jerusalem are good,” notes Silk. But whatever the evils of Hamas — the Hamas Charter, one of the most antisemitic documents of the 20th century, is nothing less than genocidal — Hamas does not bear sole responsibility, as many of our co-religionists would believe. Indeed, Eichah has something to say to the present moment. Listen to verse 4:13: “It was for the sins of her prophets, who had shed in her midst the blood of the just.”

Lamentations is worth listening to, on all sides, because it undermines the ability of leaders to profit from the victimization of their people.  [Click here for the entire article.]

By | 2014-08-14T18:07:00-04:00 August 14th, 2014|Blog|2 Comments


  1. Malinda December 28, 2016 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    This is a most useful cobnuitrtion to the debate

  2. http://www./ January 17, 2017 at 6:29 pm - Reply

    Wow, that’s a really clever way of thinking about it!

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