CNN Gives Platform to Radical Rabbi Who Blames Israel For Civilian Casualties in Gaza

While a nearly finished 72 hour cease-fire has at least temporarily stopped the war between Israel and Gaza, the media’s anti-Israel slant has been unrelenting. On the August 7 edition of CNN Newsroom, host Carol Costello welcomed radical pro-Palestine rabbi Michael Lerner to the program, and he placed all of the blame on Israel for the conflict.

Lerner did have the courage to label Hamas as a “terrible and oppressive force,” but throughout the segment he criticized Israel’s  “oppressive” occupation and blockade of the Gaza strip. And when Costello asked the rabbi who “is more to blame for so many casualties and deaths in Gaza, is it Israel or Hamas,” his answer revealed a distinctly anti-Israel bias: [MP3 audio here; video below]

Well, look, Israel has been targeting, claiming to target the bad guys, but meanwhile, they have destroyed – they've killed a thousand civilians, they have, they have hurt, they have wounded over 6,000 civilians.

He continued by claiming that “This is a people's rebellion against the oppression there,” as if the true oppressors are the Israelis, not Hamas, the militant terrorist organization dead set on the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews. The rabbi argued that Jews are responsible for “blind loyalty to the state of Israel even though Israel has continued to expand its settlements in the West Bank.”


Of course, the rabbi attempted to frame his message in the context of Judaism; that Israel’s military actions are an affront to the Torah and everything that Jews are supposed to stand for. He asserted that “Judaism came into the world as a critique of the empire and the view of the world that says that security can be achieved through domination,” and stated that Israeli policy toward the West Bank has contradicted this idea:

Israel's occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza has been the opposite, it has been a policy of oppression and domination without any serious attempt to negotiate a final peace agreement.

Lerner suggested that Israel was to blame for the deaths of children in Gaza more generally, once again citing the blockade: “Hundreds of children [are] dying every month of malnutrition because the blockade keeps them from getting the food and the equipment that is needed.”

Even though the questions of Mr. Lerner were rather fair, CNN would benefit its viewers by providing a guest to counter the rabbi’s dubious claims about Israeli responsibility for the conflict.

The relevant portion of the transcript is below.

CNN
CNN Newsroom
August 7, 2014
10:22 a.m. Eastern

CAROL COSTELLO, host: In a piece for salon.com you talk about how you are mourning Judaism writing in part, quote, increasing numbers of Jews have abandoned the religion of compassion and identification with the most oppressed, and instead come to worship power and rejoice in Israel's ability to become the most militarily powerful state in the Middle East. Explain what you mean.

MICHAEL LERNER, rabbi: Well, Judaism came into the world as a critique of the empire and the view of the world that says that security can be achieved through domination and power over others, and it came with a different vision and said, no, security can be achieved through love and care. And our Torah says, when you go into your land, remember to love the stranger, not just live peacefully, love the stranger. Treat the other with real caring and respect.

Unfortunately Israel's occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza has been the opposite, it has been a policy of oppression and domination without any serious attempt to negotiate a final peace agreement. And when – and for years, Israel has complained that there was no point in negotiating with the Palestinian authority because they didn't represent Hamas, then Hamas agreed to be part of the negotiations and Israel cut it off.

COSTELLO: Let me ask you this, let me ask you this. Hamas is a terrorist organization.

LERNER: And I have no sympathy for them.

COSTELLO: So you're not talking about Hamas the love and care part, right?

LERNER: No, of course not. But the way to end this struggle is to end the occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza. And I understand why Hamas is not jumping for the cease-fire accord right now, because in the – while the blockade has gone on, the people of Gaza have suffered terribly, hundreds of children dying every month of malnutrition because the blockade keeps them from getting the food and the equipment that is needed for adequate health care in Gaza.

COSTELLO: So I would say –

LERNER: So I don’t support Hamas – Hamas is a terrible and oppressive force there, but the central issue is the occupation and the occupation and the blockade have to end and it can end, that's what embracing Israel/Palestine, my book,  I lay out some of the terms of how that could happen. Israel knows that they've been –  

COSTELLO: Who do you think, rabbi, is more to blame for so many casualties and deaths in Gaza, is it Israel or Hamas?

LERNER: Well, look, Israel has been targeting, claiming to target the bad guys, but meanwhile, they have destroyed – they've killed a thousand civilians, they have, they have hurt, they have wounded over 6,000 civilians. And it's inevitable if you're going to make a war against the people, after all –  Hamas, the Palestinians – don't have an army, they don't have an air force, they don't – so where do they – where are they? Of course they're located in the people. This is a people's rebellion against the oppression there.

COSTELLO: I understand. I also want – I also want to get to your final point in the salon.com article. You also write it's okay for Jews to say they don't believe in God, that they will be welcomed, but if they question Israel they're labeled self-hating. And as you know, Jon Stewart parodied that recently after he condemned an Israeli attack on Gaza. Have you encountered this sort of criticism?

LERNER: Totally. Whenever I or anybody else speaks out to critique Israeli policy it's as though we were critiquing God. A large number of American Jews have given up on God after the Holocaust. I don't blame people for feeling that God abandoned them during the Holocaust. But instead, they have given up on the notion God that taught us, which is that the world should be based on love, on generosity, on caring. This is the essence of the Jewish message. And that message has been abandoned.

Instead, people give blind loyalty to the state of Israel even though Israel has continued to expand its settlements in the West Bank and has no intention of getting out and allowing the Palestinians a real state, and have done everything they could to block it. That's a tragedy, but the biggest tragedy is for Judaism itself because when Judaism is represented by – by the Israeli army as though this is what Judaism is about, it's a – it's a desecration of God's name, an abandonment of our Torah, an abandonment of our highest values.

Connor Williams
Connor Williams
Connor Williams is a contributing writer for NewsBusters.