The Zionist Conspiracy
Friday, December 03, 2004
OU and Baruch Goldstein
The winter issue of Jewish Action - the magazine published by the Orthodox Union - arrived at my home last night, and I was very disappointed to read an absurd defense of Baruch Goldstein by Toby Klein Greenwald.
The new issue is not yet online at the Orthodox Union's website, but apparently in a previous issue that I did not receive, Ms. Greenwald referred to Goldstein's murder of 29 Arabs at Maarot Hamachpelah in Hebron as an "incident." A reader appropriately wrote a letter to the editor to object, pointing out that Goldstein killed 29 civilians and that nothing justifies his actions.
Ms. Greenwald responded in length by questioning whether Goldstein's victims were in fact innocent, and rehashed as factual all the exaggerated defenses of Goldstein emanating from the extreme right. Worse, Ms. Greenwald extensively cites a recent book by Chaim Simons about Goldstein, and quotes a few passages from Simons that make him sound as though he is objective. In fact, while Simons may raise some legitimate questions, he has long advocated extremist positions such as transfer of at least some Arabs from Israel, and his book ultimately suggests (though it takes pains not to "conclude") that Goldstein's killing of 29 Arabs was justified under halacha as an act of self-defense. The 1929 massacre of Jewish Hebron residents is used as a prime argument in favor of Goldstein, ignoring that the IDF did not exist then.
The morality of killing Arabs aside for just a moment, Greenwald and Simons also do not appear bothered by the fact that Goldstein's murder was the proximate cause for Prime Minister Rabin's transfer of Ohel Yitzchak - by far the main sanctuary in Maarot Hamachpelah - to Muslims on all but a handful of days. Thanks to Goldstein, Ohel Yitzchak is defiled each and every day by Islamic fundamentalist crazies. Prior to 1994, while Arabs did conduct prayer services there, Israel maintained primary control over all three sanctuaries in Maarot Hamachpelah.
Goldstein also ensured that Arab terror attacks were seen as part of the "cycle of violence." For a long time after the Goldstein massacre, the New York Times and other major media outlets mentioned the Hebron massacre whenever covering a Hamas terror attack.
To me, one's stance on the murders by Goldstein and by Yigal Amir (of Prime Minister Rabin) are a barometer of whether one's views can be deemed within the realm of political sanity. To the extent that the idea that either act was justified can be deemed at all legitimate within observant Jewry, grievous harm will be done to our spiritual, moral and political standing.
The OU generally offers a moderate political voice, and while Ms. Greenwald's response cannot be ascribed to the OU, it would have been appropriate for the editor to have issued a short note stating that the views she and Simons express are theirs alone, and not those of the Orthodox Union. I don't believe they did, though it's possible that I missed a disclaimer.