KAPLAN in the period after the end of World War I , was concerned about the issue of free speech. Right now both in America and in Israel the matter of free speech is very much on people’s minds. With Israel at war should we allow ourselves the space to criticize the government in its policies and its actions? What does patriotism dictate?
In a sermon from that era, never published, which he entitled “ The Right to Criticize One’s People” Kaplan points to narratives from the Torah, particularly with regard to Jacob and the sins of his early life.
This sermon was delivered at the Jewish Center, he told the congregation:, “ “ The Bible shows not the least tendency to palliate any of the wrongs committed by Israel’s heroes. Whether it is patriarch or prophet, priest or king, that deserved denunciation, the Bible shows itself entirely unsparing. Israel as a whole fares still worse. Her sins are exposed with pitiless frankness.”
And yet the issue of criticism is different in war time. Kaplan goes on to state, “ ..we should say that during the time that we were engaged in war, there was justification for limiting the right to criticize government policies and national institutions. But now we are at peace with the outside world, why continue the suppression of free discussion? The right to free speech …should not defined as an abstract right to self-expression but as an indispensable need to those who are in power to prevent them from abusing that power..”
What is the lesson here? Israel’s leaders must take heed and be careful. They have a right and an obligation to strengthen Israel’s security and to ensure a safe homeland but at the same time they must keep in mind the Jewish tradition of justice and the sacredness of every life including the lives of our enemies. When the war ends they will be subject to judgment.
Bibi may have personal reasons for having the war continue.
The statement by Golda Meir keeps rolling around in my head “ How do you make peace with someone who comes to kill you” and yet we must find a way to make peace. It is well to remember that Yitzhak Rabin made peace with Yasir Arafat. You make peace with your enemies not with your friends. Rabin stated eloquently, “Military cemeteries in every corner of the world are silent testimony to the failure of national leaders to sanctify human life.” But perhaps the time has not yet arrived. — Yitzhak Rabin, 1994 Nobel Peace Prize lecture