The actions of Trump-Netanyahu to exclude congresswomen and censor debate violates justice and Jewish values.
Recently, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, at the request of Donald Trump, banned two US Congresswomen from visiting Israel. This conduct violates basic principles of justice, and goes against Jewish values, which support robust debate and free speech. As Trump seeks to distort Jewish ideals to perpetuate his prejudice and attacks on Muslims, I felt it important to make clear that this ban violates my ethics, and does not speak for me!
Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, Muslim-American women, are the duly-elected representatives of their districts and should not be targeted or excluded. If Israel seeks to continue a working relationship with the United States, it should not prohibit our democratically elected officials from visiting.
Furthermore, banning our congresspersons from visiting Israel, out of fear that they may criticize the policies of the Netanyahu government is an act of a coward and a bully – it shows weakness, not strength. It also exposes the dangerous flirtation of the Netanyahu administration with outright fascism.
Stifling robust debate pulls us further away from the vision of peace and justice that we seek in Israel and Palestine. Israelis themselves hold a wide range of views on these subjects, and so do American Jews. Many Israelis and American Jews oppose the occupation.
Furthermore, Jewish teachings value inclusion and debate. The main text of Jewish legal interpretation, known as the Talmud, is thousands of pages long and recounts extensive debates and disagreements on numerous subjects.
In this tradition, minority opinions are included, debate is encouraged and encompassed in the materials to be passed on to future generations. Fundamentally in Judaism, there is not one right answer to a complex question. Censorship is not the solution nor is it a Jewish value.
Trump’s latest statement about “disloyal Jews” further shows his disdain of our community by using old tropes and stereotypes.
Neither Israel nor American Jews, should allow ourselves to be used as props in Trumps despicable bigotry and attempt to rally white supremacy for his own political benefit. We must stand up for our Muslim community, our Abrahamic family, and against all forms of hate and injustice.
Rebecca Kaplan is a Torah teacher, Talmud scholar, and President of the Oakland City Council.