July Conference Call: "Myths and Facts About the Siege of Gaza"

Posted 07/13/2010 - 14:55 by Rabbi Brant Rosen

To mark our July fast day Ta'anit Tzedek - Jewish Fast for Gaza is sponsoring "Myths and Facts About the Siege of Gaza," a conference call with Sari Bashi, Executive Director of Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement on Thursday, July 15 at 12 noon EST.

Since Israel's easing of its blockade of Gaza, international pressure to end the siege has eased as well. Does this "easing" in fact represent actual change for the people of Gaza? What kinds of good and services are Israel allowing in? What is the status of Gazans' freedom of movement? What are the current effects of the blockade on the lives of residents?

To help us better understand these questions, we turn to Gisha, one of Israel’s leading human rights experts on the siege on Gaza. Founded in 2005, Gisha seeks to protect the freedom of movement in the Occupied Territories, offering legal assistance and public advocacy to protect the rights of Palestinian residents. Because freedom of movement is an essential precondition for the exercising of other basic rights, Gisha’s work also helps residents of the Occupied Territories gain access education, jobs, family members and medical care.

Gisha's work in Gaza has been critical in this respect. I've long been referring folks to their website Gaza Gateway, an essential resource that present credible information about the amount of traffic that Israel allows to pass through the Gaza Strip border crossings. I also highly recommend Gisha's publications for critical, up-to-date reports on the effects of the siege.

Call-in info:

Phone Number: 1.800.920.7487
Participant Code: 92247763#

As with our call last month, we will be offering the opportunity for Q&A during the call.

Click here for a recent Gisha article, "Unraveling the Closure of Gaza."

Open the Gates: A Rabbinical Response to the Gaza Freedom Flotilla Tragedy

Posted 05/31/2010 - 14:59 by Rabbi Brant Rosen

Dear Friends,

In the wake of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla tragedy, we once again feel the need to raise our voices as rabbis in the Jewish community.

According to press reports, we now know that at least 9 people have been killed and many more have been injured when Israeli Navy Seals boarded a boat that held 600 people in the middle of the night – conducting a military operation against civilian activists in the midst of international waters.

We also know that the essential aim of the Freedom Flotilla was to carry humanitarian aid to those who have been severely suffering under the effects of Israel’s crushing blockade of Gaza. We call upon our community not to turn away in denial or blame those of good will and good purpose who risked their lives to relieve the beleaguered people of the Gaza strip.

Dershowitz, Goldstone, Israel and South Africa

Posted 05/13/2010 - 05:11 by Rabbi Brian Walt

My colleague, Rabbi Brant Rosen, has just published a important response on Huffington Post to a series of articles by Alan Dershowitz over the last few weeks. I recommend his article highly and encourage you to share it with others.

When a Jew starts to accuse rabbis of blood libel; when an American shouts "McCarthyism" at an American magazine editor whose life is dedicated to dialogue; when a professional, highly experienced lawyer accuses a world-renown jurist of "evil," equating him with the Nazi "Angel of Death," and uses Star Wars terminology against a legitimate, widely-supported political lobbying group - well, it adds up, and it indicates one thing: Desperation.

Rabbis thank Judge Goldstone for upholding principles of justice, compassion and truth

Posted 04/24/2010 - 19:06 by Sara Kominers

Dear Judge Goldstone,

As rabbis from diverse traditions and locations, we want to extend our warmest mazel tov to you as an elder in our community upon the bar mitzvah of your grandson. Bar and Bat Mitzvah is a call to conscience, a call to be responsible for the welfare of others, a call to fulfill the covenant of peace and justice articulated in our tradition.

As rabbis, we note the religious implications of the report you authored. We are reminded of Shimon Ben Gamliel’s quote, “The world stands on three things: justice, truth, and peace as it says ‘Execute the judgment of truth, and justice and peace will be established in your gates’ (Zekharya 8:16).” We affirm the truth of the report that bears your name.

We are deeply saddened by the controversy that has grown up around the issuing of the report. We affirm your findings and believe you set up an impeccable standard that provides strong evidence that Israel engaged in war crimes during the assault on Gaza that reveal a pattern of continuous and systematic assault against Palestinian people and land that has very little to do with Israel’s claim of security. Your report made clear the intentional targeting of civilian infrastructures such as hospitals, schools, agricultural properties, water and sewage treatment centers and civilians themselves with deadly weapons that are illegal when used in civilian

This is the ugly truth that is so hard for many Jewish people to face. Anyone who spends a day in Palestinian territories sees this truth immediately.

Judge Goldstone, we want to offer you our deepest thanks for upholding the principles of justice, compassion and truth that are the heart of Jewish religion and without which our claims to Jewishness are empty of meaning. We regret that your findings have led to controversy and caused you not to feel welcome at your own grandson’s Bar Mitzvah. We believe your report is a clarion call to Israel and the Jewish people to awaken from the slumber of denial and return to the path of peace.

Rabbi Everett Gendler
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Rabbi Brant Rosen
Rabbi Brian Walt
Rabbi Haim Beliak
Rabbi Michael Lerner
Rabbi Arthur Waskow
Rabbi Michael Feinberg
Rabbi Shai Gluskin
Rabbi David Shneyer
Rabbi David Mivasair
Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman
Rabbi Douglas Krantz
Rabbi Margaret Holub
Rabbi Rebecca Alpert
Rabbi Mordecai Liebling
Rabbi Phyllis Berman
Rabbi Zev-Hayyim Feyer
Rabbi Eyal Levinson
Rabbi Doron Isaacs
Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill
Rabbi Erin Hirsh
Rabbi Michael Rothbaum
Rabbi Benjamin Barnett
Rabbi Julie Greenberg
Rabbi Linda Holtzman
Rabbi Ayelet S.Cohen
Rabbi Jeffrey Marker
Rabbi Nina H.Mandel
Rabbi Victor Reinstein
Rabbi Meryl M. Crean
Rabbi Sheila Weinberg
Rabbi Pamela Frydman Baugh
Rabbi Lewis Weiss
Rabbi Shaul Magid
Rabbi Stephen Booth-Nadav
Rabbi Phillip Bentley
Rabbi Anna Boswell-Levy
Rabbi Chava Bahle

Join a Conversation With Young Gazans

Posted 04/08/2010 - 21:44 by Rabbi Brant Rosen

Ta'anit Tzedek's next monthly fast day is Thursday, April 15. To mark the occasion we'll be sponsoring the second monthly phone conference of our new initiative, Resisting the Siege: Conversations with Gazans.

This month our call will spotlight the Popular Achievement Program in Gaza, a project of the American Friends Service Committee. This remarkable program works with 14-17 year old Gazan children, instilling values of civic engagement and empowerment to achieve positive social transformation and sustainable development in their communities. Initiatives such as the Popular Achievement Program - not blockades and bombs - are the true key to stability within in Gaza and the Occupied Territories.

On our call we will be joined by Popular Achievement director Amal Sabawi and two teenage program participants, Sarah and Roba Salipi, who will discuss how they live with the daily challenges of life in Gaza.

Here's the call info:

Thursday, April 15, 12:00 pm EST

Toll Free Number: 1-800-868-1837
Direct Dial Number: 1-404-920-6440
Conference Code: 775326#

Sam Bahour: "Happy Passover From Gaza"

Posted 03/28/2010 - 23:05 by Rabbi Brant Rosen

Palestinian activist Sam Bahour has just published his own take on the Passover symbols. His words present a powerful and sobering challenge to the Jewish community:

Click here for his full post.

April Fast Day Event in Chicago: "Dignity Under Siege," featuring Mark Braverman

Posted 03/25/2010 - 22:01 by Rabbi Brant Rosen

On Thursday, April 15, 7:30 pm, Ta'anit Tzedek with sponsor a Chicago area program: “Dignity Under Siege: An Evening of Interfaith Reflection, Conversation and Action on Behalf of the Citizens of Gaza."

Our featured speaker will be Mark Braverman, author of the recently published “Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews, and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land.” Trained in clinical psychology and crisis management, Mark Braverman is a longtime advocate for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine and works closely with peace activists and civil society leaders from the Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities.

The program will take place at the Evanston Galleria, 1702 Sherman Ave. (Corner of Sherman Ave. and Church Rd.)

More information: contact Rabbi Brant Rosen at

US Senate Candidate Jonathan Tasini: End the Blockade!

Posted 03/22/2010 - 08:32 by Rabbi Brant Rosen

Another brave politician (in this case "political hopeful") has publicly called for an end to the blockade of Gaza. Click below to watch Jonathan Tasini, Democratic candidate for US Senate in New York make a unabashed statement about the moral, strategic and humanitarian costs of the siege.


Ta'anit Tzedek Conference Call this Thursday with Craig and Cindy Corrie, Sami Abdel Shafi

Posted 03/16/2010 - 14:31 by Rabbi Brant Rosen

"Ta'anit Tzedek - Jewish Fast for Gaza" has begun a new initiative: "Resisting the Siege: Conversations With Gazans." On each monthly fast day (the third Thursday of every month) we will convene a conference call featuring a Gazan Palestinian who will discuss his/her experience of life in Gaza, the effects of the siege, and how we can best support efforts to lift the blockade.

Our next conference call will take place this Thursday, March 18, at 1:00 pm and will feature Sami Abdel Shafi, an independent political analyst and writer who lives in Gaza. In addition, we will hear from Cindy and Craig Corrie whose daughter Rachel was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in 2003 as she tried to protect a Gazan Palestinian home from demolition.

In an article he wrote for The Guardian last December, Mr. Abdel Shafi wrote eloquently about the nature of the crisis facing Gaza:

Almost nothing has been more deceitful than casting Gaza as a humanitarian case. This is becoming exponentially more problematic a year after the war. Gaza urgently needs far more than merely those items judged by the Israeli military as adequate to satisfy Gaza's humanitarian needs. This list of allowable items is tiny compared to people's needs for a minimally respectable civil life.
Gaza is not treated humanely; the immediate concerns about the situation have clearly given way to long-term complacency, while failed politics has now become stagnant. The humanitarian classification conceals the urgent need to address this. Moreover, many in the international community have conveniently resorted to blaming Palestinians for their political divisions, as though they were unrelated to Israel's policies – most notably Gaza's closure after Israeli disengagement in 2005.

I also encourage you to read this piece, in which Abdel Shafi discusses the challenges facing the Palestianian Authority during this latest incarnation of the peace process

The Corries (left) will be joining our call from Haifa where they are currently participating in the hearing of a civil suit they have brought against the Government of Israel. Following Rachel's death, the Israeli government promised the Bush administration a thorough, credible and transparent investigation of Rachel’s killing. Now seven years later, no such investigation has taken place.

On a recent interview with Democracy Now's Amy Goodman, the Corries spoke at length about their seven year quest in search of justice and accountability for their daughter's death:

This is a culmination, really, of seven years of our family searching for some sort of justice in the killing of Rachel. And we’ve tried to do that through diplomatic means, and we’ve asked for a US-led investigation into Rachel’s killing. We also understand that the Israelis, through Prime Minister Sharon, promised President Bush a thorough, credible and transparent investigation of Rachel’s killing. But, by our own government’s measure, that has not happened. So we’re left with simply a civil lawsuit.
So, we’re accusing the state of Israel of either intentionally killing Rachel or guilty of gross negligence in her killing seven years ago. And so, we’re seeking—the only thing you can seek in a civil case is damages. You know, so it’s really a very small part of the story that’s gone on in our lives. But it’s critical to have our time in court.
Our motivation for that was largely that it is an avenue which we understood we would be able to pursue and get information. So, through the discovery process, we were hoping to get a good deal of information. We have gotten some, but they’ve used sort of secrets of state to keep us, block us, from getting other evidence into court. But we’re going forward, and we’re very hopeful that we will get a fair trial.

Today is, in fact, the seventh anniversary of Rachel Corrie's death. I strongly encourage you to check The Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice website to learn how you can honor her memory. We might also heed the words of Craig Corrie (again, from the Democracy Now interview):

(One) other very specific thing that people could do, and I’m calling for people to do—the US government has come out against the blockade or the continued occupation and siege on Gaza. The children that were behind the wall that Rachel stood in front of are still under a state of siege. And I think that, very specifically, people around the world and certainly in this country could write, call or fax the White House and say, not only should we be working to have the Israelis lift that siege, but if they continue to be unwilling to do so, then the United States should come in there, work out a way that they could come in and—the Berlin airlift, it sent a message to the world about our ability to protect people around the world and our willingness to do so. If we did something similar by sea to the Gaza Strip, it would change the view of Americans around the world for maybe another fifty years. It is something that’s doable, and it’s something that the people out, your fans, could actually physically do and ask the White House to do that.

To participate in the conference call:

Dial-in Number: 1-517-417-5200 (caller pays any phone charges)
Participant Access Code: 860453
Questions for Conference Call: If you would like to suggest a question for Mr. Abdel Shafi or for Cindy or Craig Corrie, please email your question to or no later than Wednesday night.

Thank You, Rep Baird

Posted 02/16/2010 - 10:08 by Rabbi Brant Rosen

Yet another American political voice calls to lift the Gaza blockade. From yesterday's NY Times:

The United States should break Israel's blockade of Gaza and deliver badly needed supplies by sea, a U.S. congressman told Gaza students.

Rep. Brian Baird, a Democrat from Washington state, also urged President Barack Obama's Mideast envoy to visit the Hamas-ruled territory to get a firsthand look at the destruction caused by Israeli's military offensive last year.

Rep. Baird's statement on Gaza, from his website:

(Rocketing) from Gaza doesn't necessarily mean that any response, regardless of scope, target or impact on civilians, is necessarily justified, moral or strategically prudent. This kind of misleading duality itself reflects the thinking, on both sides, that can make peace so hard to achieve and violence so easy to justify. The fact is, there were and are many alternative responses possible and it is a false dichotomy to suggest, as some have, that if one criticizes the actions taken by Israel in Gaza and the West Bank then one is necessarily ignoring the rocket attacks from Gaza or somehow siding with or enabling terrorists.

In my judgment what has happened in Gaza and what goes on in the West Bank every day endangers U.S. integrity and security and ultimately strengthens hard line extremists at the expense of moderates and to the detriment of long term Israeli security. I also believe, having traveled and met with people throughout the region, that this adverse effect is not confined to Palestine but extends to varying degrees throughout the Islamic world and beyond.

I understand that people may disagree strongly with this perspective, but I am certainly not alone in expressing it. Many people have contacted my office to convey support for what we have said about our visit and this includes many friends of Israel within our own country.

Click here to thank Rep. Baird for his courage.

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