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Columnist Says Claiming The West Bank Is Not The Cause Of American Jews

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
November-December 2001

Columnist Says Claiming The West Bank Is Not The Cause Of American Jews  



Rabbi Shlomo  
Riskin of Efrat, Israel addressed a Re­form temple in East Hampton, New York  
asking for money for Israeli settlers in the West Bank for armored buses, bul­letproof  
vests and helmets.




Commenting on  
his talk, columnist Anne Roiphe, writ­ing in The Jerusalem Report (Sept,  
10, 2001), asks: “What is the Orthodox Riskin doing at the beautiful Reform  
temple addressing its members with urgent, eloquent pleading ... Rabbi Riskin  
is making a plea that American Jews should come to the aid of the settlers,  
because Jews are in danger and Jews must stand together in bad times. ... He is  
selling the settlements as if they were a matter of Jewish solidarity.”




In Roiphe’s  
view, “The problem with Rabbi Riskin’s plea is that he sidesteps the reasons  
why these Jews are being shot at. He makes their cause, claiming the West Bank  
for the Jews, our cause. And it is not. The vast majority of Ameri­can Jews do  
not view the settlements or the West Bank as essential to the survival of  
Israel. For profound moral rea­sons, they are not willing to remove or resettle  
or transport the populations of Arabs who live in that land to allow the  
expansion of Jewish borders. Asked what to do with the Ar­abs in the West Bank,  
Rabbi Riskin said ‘I want them re­moved.’ American Jews are now distraught and  
despair of the peace process...But...the Jewishly identified majority of  
us...are not committed to a religious vision of taking the entire land,  
settlement by settlement, away from the people who are already there. The  
morality of that occupation is ap­palling, but above everything the  
determination to take the West Bank and the Temple Mount for one’s own seems a  
sure way to the death of many and the mutual destruction of all.”




declares that, “If the settlements did not exist in occupied lands, there would  
be no need of helmets and ar­mored buses and bulletproof vests. If the  
settlements were evacuated, then Israeli soldiers could defend the borders with  
less danger to themselves, less bloodshed all around. Around this issue lies a  
complicated political and perhaps religious quarrel between Jews. You cannot  
get around this sharp dis­pute by an appeal to Jewish solidarity that  
deliberately awak­ens memories of the failure to respond to the Holocaust.”




concludes: “The further irony of Rabbi Riskin appearing at the Jewish Center of  
the Hamptons to make his pitch lies in the fact that he would not accept a  
conversion performed by Rabbi David Gelfand who leads this congrega­tion. He  
would on many matters not accept the validity of his halakhic judgment or the  
sacredness of a marriage performed by this Reform rabbi. It would be no use to  
appeal to him on grounds of Jewish solidarity to change his mind. So it seems  
to me a rank manipulation of public opinion to use this ap­peal to raise funds  
for the settlers. ... American Jews want to support the government of Israel as  
always. Some of us want to support its loyal opposition. But we are not going  
to be taken in by sentimental appeals to our Jewish loyalties to put our money  
where our minds and hearts are not.”




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