Progressive Rabbis: Be Still My Bleeding Heart

As someone reviewing candidates for a rabbinical position, I come across my share of resumes. A substantial proportion of these show that rabbis tend to be involved in everything from global warming to vegetarianism. These days, some rabbis seem to have heard the call, but it appears to be the call to render first unto Caesar.

You'd think that rabbis would have a special concern with the politics of the Middle East, but strangely enough a lot of rabbis have been primarily concerned with partnering alongside their brethren in the liberal Christian clergy to save the environment, protect the rights of illegal aliens, and extol the virtues of vegetarianism. These rabbis might communicate how Judaism and Torah have influenced their lives, but when one looks at the things that absorb their time and energy, you'd think they all received their "smicha" (ordination) somewhere between the United Church of Christ and the ultra-liberal Presbyterian Church (USA).

What some rabbis want is to affirm their progressive credentials and to gain social acceptance within the interfaith community. Given a choice between affirming their Judaism and affirming their progressive credentials, progressivism wins every time. For these rabbis, there is no difference between the two, but then true believers have an uncanny ability to not only utter nonsense but to believe it, even if it is from their own lips.

When it comes to the Middle East, or the issues of terrorism, you can find progressive rabbis at the forefront of concern; concern that is for the rights of Gitmo detainees, for the protection of Hamas mass murderers from targeted assassination, and for any failure by the United States and Israel to adhere to the strictest interpretations of human rights protections for any terrorist who falls into their hands.

We all possess limited time, energy, and capacity for emotional stress. Where anyone chooses to put those resources is a statement about what he or she thinks is most important. In a world of growing demonization of Israel and anti-Semitism not seen since the 1930s, the primary concerns of many politically active rabbis are the rights of enemy combatants and the residents of Gaza.

Anointing oneself with the mantle of human rights or peace might be a splendid aspiration, but aspiration and reality are all too frequently different things. The Oslo Accords might have inspired hope for peace, but the reality is that these so-called "peace accords" actually escalated the casualty rate on both sides, as Arafat proved himself to be the single greatest murderer of Jews since Hitler. It is no wonder that some Israelis refer to the Oslo Peace Accords as the "Oslo Death Accords." Long ago, we should have learned to judge agreements by their outcomes, not by their intentions or symbols.

Calls for a ceasefire in the midst of a war might seem like a moral position, but it isn't, for it invariably favors one side over another. After years of bowing to NGO pressure for ceasefires and armistices, the Sri Lankan government watched casualties mount and the Tamil separatist use the lulls in fighting to grow in strength. Eventually, the Sri Lankan government decided that such policies were no different than the Israeli experience with Oslo. Inevitably, the Sri Lankan government shut out the NGOs -- especially the Norwegians -- launched a full scale military assault on the Tamils, and brought the insurrection to submission, reducing civilian casualties. But who would have publicly advocated "Give war a chance"?