Haaretz, perhaps the leading newspaper in Israel, reported that on a tour of Hebron in the West Bank, American rabbis were shocked by what they saw. Yet, only five of them allowed reporters to use their names:
Most of them are unwilling to have their names or photos published. Their congregations back home might not understand their decision to participate in a tour that offers a different narrative about the conflict – one that puts a human face on the other side and doesn’t paint Israel in the usual rosy colors.
I understand the squeeze. In the early 1990s, I preached against the wisdom of a U.S. invasion of Iraq. Members of my congregation warned me that unless I got on board and “supported our troops,” large financial commitments to the church would be in jeopardy. I was reminded of our commitment to building a medical facility in Ghana and the needs of hundreds of homeless men and families our church was seeking to address. It was a tight squeeze and I felt it. However, I could not abandon the justice aspect of the gospel to which I was committed to preach. Did it cost me my job? I would not say so, but it certainly contributed to my decision to seek a more receptive ministry elsewhere.
I feel for the rabbis who would surely loose big donors if they criticize Israel. It is a tight squeeze. At the same time, what do they, or I, have left if we sacrifice our integrity? Most of those who would criticize them have never been to Israel, never seen the horror of the occupation, or the pain of their wall, the hunger of children or even the humiliation caused by hundreds of check points.
“Money talks,” they say. A prime example was Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to our congress in 2015. Both he and they were well aware that in the balcony sat Sheldon Adelson, multi-billionaire who had contributed $150,000,000 to the GOP and its friends during the 2012 election cycle. Thus, it was not enough for him to hear the applause of those members of congress, they stood up, over and over, 26 ovations, to be sure that Adelson could see them standing.
No doubt, money talks, but money has no intelligence, conscience or morals… just power.
July 9, 2017