Vitriol and Accusations - March 8, 2024

Yesterday morning, I testified at the Multnomah County Commissioners board meeting. The first item on the agenda, even with all the challenges facing our city, was a proposed ceasefire resolution on the current war in Gaza. Interestingly, this resolution was being discussed on the five-month anniversary of Hamas’s brutal attack into Israel.


The Commissioners initially presented one ceasefire resolution, yet when I arrived at the meeting there was a “compromise resolution.” (I do believe our JCRC played a role in this via our one-on-one meetings with each commissioner.) It called for an immediate ceasefire, the return of hostages, and access for humanitarian supplies. What it did not include was the removal of Hamas.


Let me describe the scene. About 150 people were in the room exercising their rights. Outside of one gentleman who yelled, “Zionism is Nazism” prior to the meeting, the room was quite calm. And then, one by one, 35 people provided public testimony in the meeting room and others via the phone. Each speaker had 90 seconds. One after another shared their perspective. I will admit, it was disturbing to hear the vitriol and accusations levied against Israel of every horrible crime imaginable. You can watch the full recording here.


Two community leaders representing J Street spoke, and later it was my turn (my talk is at 1:02:05). When one other person and I each raised the issue of the rapes and mutilation that took place on October 7, several in the audience yelled, “Lies! Lies!” (including one woman who interrupted my talk and was either told to or left the meeting on her own.) This, despite even the United Nations finally acknowledging that sexual assaults had occurred. During and following my remarks you can see people “flipping me off” based on my comments.


Here was my statement (and you only have 90 seconds):


On October 6, 2023, there was a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza.


Five months ago today, on October 7, Hamas, which is never mentioned by name in the resolution, broke that ceasefire by entering Israel -- murdering 1200 people (Jews and non-Jews), raping and mutilating women, which the UN only acknowledged this week, and took over 240 people hostage.


Israel has every right to defend its citizens.


Let me be clear – war is horrible. I abhor the loss of innocent life, whether Jewish or Arab, Israeli or Palestinian. And the humanitarian needs are immense.


It should be made clear that Israel is not at war with the people of Gaza – it is at war with Hamas.


We ask that any ceasefire resolution:


Fully acknowledge the atrocities of October 7, including the ongoing trauma and impact on the people of Israel, which is never mentioned. In fact, I have yet to hear any empathy from any speaker today towards the Israelis and hostages.


The ceasefire resolution should clearly commit to the release of every Israeli hostage.


It must demand the removal of Hamas from power. If you want better for the people of Gaza, then we need responsible Palestinian leadership to take control.


Hamas started this war, and they could end it now. Even President Biden said “A ceasefire is in the hands of Hamas. The Israelis are cooperating.”


I know you want to stand up for peace. So do I. The only chance for peace begins with the end of Hamas rule. An immediate ceasefire with Hamas in power would guarantee future war, bloodshed, and suffering by both Israelis and Palestinians.


What upset me the most was not hearing one word of empathy for the Israelis on October 7 and the total disregard for the hostages from any pro-Palestinian speaker. Nor did anyone discuss the role Hamas plays in all of this.


In the end, this ceasefire resolution passed. What impact will it have – who knows?


Earlier this week, I received the following email:


I could use some guidance/assistance and thought I would check in with you, see if you could help or point me in the right direction.


I have two kids in high school here in town. With the volume of conversation around what is happening in Israel seemingly escalating, and becoming more normalized each day, and the misinformation that is out there, is there any guidance or any resources out there for Jewish teenagers that would help them on how/when to engage? How to combat misinformation? How to know when to walk away - it is a lose-lose situation? Key factual points to hit on that would help give others perspective?


Any suggestions on what might be most effective, or proven ways of communicating in these situations, at the teenage level would be greatly appreciated.


My heart broke. I did respond. What teens (and seemingly every age demographic) who support Israel are going through today is quite difficult.


Ben Fields, a PhD Candidate in Sociology at University of California, Riverside, and his team have developed a survey (approved by the UC Riverside Institutional Review Board #30234) for Jews in the United States inquiring about their beliefs and attitudes on Israel, Gaza, Jews, and Palestinians. The survey looks at Jewish attitudes and identities and how Jews are thinking about both the current war in Gaza and broader political issues in the Middle East. Participants must identify as Jewish to participate. Click here to take the survey (takes 15 minutes to complete).


To learn more about what is happening on the ground in Israel, I encourage you to hear Avi Melamed, a dear friend of mine for over 20 years and a fourth-generation Arabic-speaking Jerusalemite Jew who is an expert on the Middle East. Avi is speaking at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center on Wednesday, March 13 at 7:00 p.m. The evening revolves around discussion of Israel at war. Avi is excellent and will provide great insights into the developments in Israel. Register here.


On a separate note, one year ago the Hindu and Jewish communities (members of our Jewish Community Relations Council) came together to begin a dialogue group. Since that time, the relationships have only grown stronger. This group is excited to share their cultures with our communities with a special Purim and Holi event on March 17 from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. at Congregation Neveh Shalom. This is a family-friendly event and will feature fun, food, and activities about Purim and Holi. Register here.


Shabbat shalom. 



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