In this online op-ed for The NY Jewish Week– “How Vulnerable Is Israel To War Crimes Charges?“– I am referred to as a “Jewish Week Online Columnist.” Initially, I was to inaugurate a new blog feature, but I’m happy with this designation. Since the frequency and final contents of my work there is subject to editorial review, I will also continue blogging at this venue.
Both Prof. Moshe Halbertal (an expert on the laws of war) and Rabbi Arik Ascherman (the head of Rabbis for Human Rights)– whose observations formed the core of that piece for The Jewish Week– doubted that the government had done all it could to avoid the recent Gaza war. But that is another question than the one I examined for The Jewish Week. (Read Doug Chandler’s excellent news article for something on this aspect of Halbertal’s talk at the Jewish Theological Seminary.)
Arieh Lebowitz and I attended the official New York Jewish community memorial service, Sunday evening, for the 17 murdered victims of the attacks in Paris last week. I was glad to hear Rabbi Michael Miller, the executive v.p. of the city’s Jewish Community Relations Council (which co-sponsored the event) remind us that we are at war with “radical Islamism,” not with the religion of Islam as a whole. But I have some differences with remarks made by Senator Charles Schumer and the Israeli consul-general, which I lay out in my newest Jewish Week online column, “Making Distinctions: Islam Is Not Islamism.”
Finally, I wish to mention that a writer who briefly blogged for us has just had an op-ed published in The NY Times. (If you enter “Moriel Rothman” in the search window at the upper right of this screen, you will find four pieces by him in late 2009 and 2010.)
A former national head of J Street U who now lives in Israel, he writes under the hyphenated name of Rothman-Zecher; “Why I Won’t Serve Israel,” extolls his and others’ refusal to serve in the IDF. While I respect his sense of commitment, I can’t say that I’m fully in agreement with his action.
In the same piece, he attacks Labor party chair Isaac Herzog for opposing such a position and scorns all major parties, while not even mentioning Meretz. The traditional Meretz view of service refusal is to respect it as an individual act of conscience, but not to advocate it in its platform.
I am reminded of the position of Mapam, a predecessor of Meretz, which urged its members to serve if called up for the Lebanon war that it opposed in 1982, but to protest politically upon their return. Mapam’s primary argument was that since Israelis relied upon the IDF to keep them safe, it was important not to undermine its functioning by refusing to serve; another left-wing party known as Sheli, partly an offshoot of Mapam and competing for the same constituency, did support service refusal.
I also recall the 1980s-era debate between the iconic peace activists Meir Pa’il and Yeshayahu Leibowitz. Pa’il argued that peaceniks should serve in the IDF, especially in the occupied territories, so that “the bastards” don’t serve in their place, or go unchallenged in the field.