Condemnation Is Not Enough

Rabbi Sharon Brous
on July 31, 2015

J Street condemns yesterday’s terrorist attack by Jewish extremists on the Palestinian village of Duma in the West Bank, that left a Palestinian infant dead and three family members critically injured. This “price tag” attack is part of a deeply disturbing and ongoing pattern of violence, harassment and intimidation towards Palestinians, rooted in hateful and dangerous rhetoric that has spread in some corners of Israeli society. We’re also deeply disheartened by the terrible stabbing attack at the Jerusalem Pride parade. Our sadness and concern over these tragedies were perfectly expressed in the following statement posted by J Street Rabbinic Cabinet member Rabbi Sharon Brous, of the IKAR community in Los Angeles:

We grieve over and condemn the two terrorist attacks that took place yesterday – one in Israel and one in the West Bank.

At the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade, a celebration of LGBT visibility and equality, an ultra-Orthodox Jew stabbed six marchers, two of whom remain in critical condition. The attacker had served 10 years in prison for stabbing participants at a Pride Parade in 2005 and was released just a few weeks ago. One of our community members who was there both yesterday and ten years ago, called it “a march of the broken hearted.”

Then last night a group of settlers attacked a Palestinian family home in a “tag mahir” or “price tag” attack in the northern West Bank, throwing firebombs into the house, which subsequently caught fire. The mother and father were able to escape the fire with their four year old child, but tragically, their 18 month old son, Ali Saad Daobasa, did not survive. The words “revenge” and “long live the Messiah” were spray painted in Hebrew on the walls of the home.

People of conscience, politicians, rabbis and Jewish community leaders will rush to condemn these attacks, as we all should. But the time has come not only for condemnation but also for a serious heshbon hanefesh – soul-accounting. The truth is that both attacks are horrific and neither should come as a real surprise. They are both the logical outcome of the atmosphere of racism and intolerance that has been festering over the past many years. From the ubiquitous labeling of ‘traitor’ to anyone who challenges the logic of the right wing, to government ministers calling asylum seekers a cancer and the Knesset Member who just this week called for the High Court to be bulldozed, to the thousands of daily musings from pundits, rabbis and community leaders who fuel or simply excuse a growing violence and intolerance in Jewish and Israeli culture, and then act with shock and disgust when incidents of violence occur. All of this while the rest of us whisper quietly our growing discomfort, afraid to speak out lest we, too, have our loyalty or love questioned.

Painful as it is, we must acknowledge that a culture of racism, hatred and indifference will inevitably become a culture of violence. It’s time for us to take responsibility for building a political and social reality that reflects Jewish values of tolerance, equality and humility, one that promotes civil discourse and fights, above all, for human dignity. It’s time to stand with strength and courage not only to offer words of condemnation and consolation, but to fight to change our social, political and religious reality so that such things never happen again.

Rabbi Sharon Brous is the founding rabbi of IKAR Los Angeles and a member of the J Street Rabbinic Cabinet