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Public Theology: Israel Must Stop Playing Victim
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Israel Must Stop Playing Victim
In an exchange of letters regarding a statement endorsed by the Oregon Area Jewish Committee, Israel is urged to stop playing the victim game and take responsibility for its role in settlements.

By Ed Knudson

A friend of mine here in Portland, Oregon, John Elizalde, has responded to a statement of July 14, 2014, by the Oregon Area Jewish Committee (OAJC), a group which he has praised in the past for resisting "signing some of the prior 'party line' statements." The statement concerns the Israeli attack on Gaza in Palestine currently underway.

Below first find a letter by the executive director of OAJC and then the response by John. I believe it is important for people to start standing up for fairness for Palestinians. Israel enjoys much too much nearly automatic support from politicians on both sides. And it is long past time that Israel should get by playing the victim, as John says in his letter.


Oregon Area Jewish Committee


As most of you are aware, Israel has been under constant rocket fire from the terrorist group Hamas, for over a week now. The warning sirens sound just seconds before the rockets are overhead making it impossible for Israelis to live a normal life.

It may be easy to forget what is going on there until the sirens go off while you are on the phone with family or friends living in Israel.Ö your conversation is cut short as your loved ones rush to the nearest bomb shelter and you anxiously await a text letting you know they are okay.

My husband and I are leaving for Israel this week to attend our sonís wedding and what we hope will be a joyous occasion uninterrupted by rocket attacks. We have never been in a war zone, never had to run to a bomb shelter, never had our sleep interrupted by warning sirens and honestly, I am not looking forward to experiencing any of it. But that is the life all the Israeli people are living these days from the Golan to the Gaza border. IT IS INTOLERABLE!

OAJC leadership met last week with leaders from the Oregon Board of Rabbis, The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation to solidify our support for Israel and make a public statement. Here is that statement:
The Portland and Southwest Washington Jewish communities stand in solidarity with Israel in defending itself against Hamas terror attacks from Gaza.

Despite Israelís complete withdrawal from every inch of Gaza in 2005, and ever since Hamasí hostile takeover there in June 2007, the population centers of southern Israel have been terrorized by thousands of mortars and missiles fired from the coastal strip. Over seventy percent of Israelís population (5.6 million Jews and Arabs) is under daily threat of rocket fire from Gaza. An untenable situation to begin with, Hamasí most recent escalation constitutes an act of war.

Every nation has a fundamental right to self-defense; indeed, no country would tolerate the continuous violent attacks against its citizens from across its border by a terrorist group bent upon its destruction. We therefore unequivocally support Israelís right to defend itself and we hope, for the good of all Ė Israelis and Palestinians Ė that Hamas ceases its attacks and its exploitation of Gazan civilians as human shields in schools, mosques, hospitals, and homes.

Even as it tries to protect its innocent civilians, Israel is taking steps to provide advance warning (via leaflets and calls to cell phones) to Palestinian families in Gaza to evacuate target sites. In the past week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet have exercised substantial restraint in the face of Hamasí actions.

Sadly, that restraint has been met by Hamas deliberately escalating and provoking.

We are grateful for the USís role in funding the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system and for American statements of support for Israelís right to defend itself against rocket attacks that no sovereign state anywhere would tolerate. And while we yearn for an enduring peace and an end to this violence, we also urge international diplomats to continuously remind the world that there is no moral equivalence between Hamasí deliberate targeting of civilians and Israelís military response in self-defense. The only solution to this crisis is for Hamas and the other radical groups to stop the rocket attacks. Now. We pray for the peace and security of Israel and continue to yearn for the day when the Jewish state will enjoy that peace and security amongst all its neighbors. In the meantime, we stand with Israel and our Israeli brothers and sisters. Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation, Oregon Board of Rabbis, Oregon Area Jewish Committee
For daily updates on Operation Protective Edge, launched by Israel to intensify defensive efforts against Hamas and restore stability to the country, visit the Jewish Federation of Greater Portlandís website at

We will be back in August with more news and a calendar of fall programs and events. Thank you for your support and ongoing commitment to the mission of OAJC! Joanne Van Ness Menashe (



I pray that your son's wedding and all the upcoming weddings in Israel and Palestine are safe, happy and the beginning of long term loving and peaceful relationships.

That said, I read with interest and sadness your notes and the fact that the Board endorsed the statement attached at the end of your notes. I am not surprised that the other co-signers of the statement used this opportunity to repeat what has become the 'party line' for most American Jewish entities. And, I realize that OAJC is under tremendous pressure including financial pressure, to toe the line. Surely you have precious little latitude but to restate the blanket endorsement of all things Israeli.

However, I returned to the OAJC policy statements and read your recognition of the deleterious effect of expanded West Bank settlements on the prospects for any Israeli/Palestinian softening. In fact, the policy statements are a treasure trove of human rights based policies that reflect the Committee's historic commitment to ALL people. Specifically, the strong bond the Committee has created and maintained with the Islamic community in our area is a benchmark for other faith communities.

However, I must protest. Time and again I read or listen to the same rhetoric from both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian divide. Two sets of victims virtually boasting of their victimhood. The Portland and Southwest Washington Jewish community statement repeats the same 'we are the victims here, don't ever forget that' warning that has been the hallmark of all, yes all, such statements. To be crass, how's that work'n for ya?

Almost 70 years after the beginning of the Israeli/Palestinian War, both sides are sure that the best way to get support from anyone is to claim victimhood. I say that because it is always the basis for any public statements. I don't think playing the victim works for either side. Two warring parties are two warring parties: period. Warriors do atrocious things: dead children are called 'collateral damage' and are blamed on someone else. It sickens me.

I read your statement as saying that Americans should support Israel as it targets civilian areas, precisely destroys those areas, allows time limited cease fires for civilian resupply and then invades the very places it vacated 'every inch of' eight years ago. It seems that the only moral high ground for Israel are the rockets that have been swatted out of the air or fallen on empty land. No Israeli death is right; no Palestinian death is right. Blind support of Israel isn't right, whether from a hapless US politician or from an American community group that otherwise boasts high standards and a history of good works.

I was particularly saddened because the statement did not acknowledge in any way the plight of the Palestinians. Is the Board really that insensitive to the destruction and terror and deprivation being foisted on Palestinians by Israelis? A Board that has adopted the policy statements of the OAJC could not possibly be so inured to the Palestinian situation in either Gaza, the West Bank, Israel or Jordan. The statement uses the standard "blame it on Hamas" as though any provocation from Hamas entitles Israel to do whatever it wants, when ever it wants and to whom ever it wants.

I realize that Palestinians do not acknowledge any provocative behaviors on their part. They too are victims and playing that card attracts the media, plays well on the nightly news in the west and the Middle East. They don't acknowledge the terror and death (limited though it may be) that engulfs Israel.

Please note that I use the terms Israelis and Palestinians. I believe this is a secular war. Prior to and even during the war, Jews and Muslims have demonstrated an ability, even a willingness to live and work together harmoniously. There are no religious issues here - my apologies to those who cling to the hope that their history of oppression provides license to behave however they please.

I lament the role of the US in this war. Our country has facilitated the war for most of its course. We fund both sides. We refuse to hold Israel accountable for their behavior. Our politicians are embarrassing. We finally have 'bipartisanship' in Washington: pandering and feckless.

And yet, I wonder if the US isn't maybe playing a bigger role than we discuss. I wonder if the real solution in the eyes of the Israelis is not simply to eradicate the Palestinians. Your statement condemns Hamas for a policy of Israeli genocide. Could the US be holding back Israel from ridding its land of the Canaanites?

I write this piece as the Defense Forces invade Gaza. The other day I blasted a series of interviews on for the same 'we are victims' tripe that I read in the statement.

It ain't working folk. Some country will have to do something different. Some group(s) is going to have to stand up and apply their values and principles evenly, in the face of opposition. I deplore the current situation.

And you?

John Elizalde

Please Comment - See More Articles in this Section - Submitted By: 5520

Date Added: 7/18/2014 Date Revised: 7/18/2014 6:19:41 PM

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