BDS And A Moment of Silence
Last week, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards issued an executive order prohibiting Louisiana state agencies from doing business with companies that boycott Israel or supporting those that do. The order requires the termination of existing state contracts, and companies seeking state contracts henceforward will have to sign an agreement certifying that they aren’t boycotting Israel to be awarded a state contract.
Also last week, the Coalition for Jewish Values and the Zionist Organization of America strongly condemned the Beacon School of Manhattan, a highly selective college preparatory public school, for authorizing the use of its public address system to call for a moment of silence in tribute to “Palestinian victims of violence” in Gaza. Several school parents expressed their outrage over their children being subjected to the call without warning.
As expected, some professional First Amendment types argued that Governor Edwards’ executive order violated the free speech rights of those opposed to Israel’s policies. Some others similarly maintained that the “moment of silence” proponents had a right to voice their opinion on a public issue.
Putting aside the merits of the argument against pro-BDS and “moment of silence” advocates – and there are compelling ones, to be sure – what rankles is that they make a mockery of the “free speech” model. Underlying that vital value is the clash of ideas that comes from a free exchange of ideas. That is, you counter speech with other speech – not with restrictions – and let the better argument prevail.
However, as is well known, pro-Israel speakers are not invited to college campuses – or any other place controlled by leftists, – and if they somehow miraculously slip through the cracks, they are harassed once they begin speaking and shouted down.
There is no free exchange of ideas. That may be sad, but that’s the reality at the moment, and our side is not to blame.
The NYU Langone Bikur Cholim Controversy
A new wrinkle has emerged in the continuing dispute between Manhattan’s NYU Langone Hospital and the Satmar Bikur Cholim group. As we have noted before, Satmar Bikur Cholim is the premier group providing kosher food and other amenities to patients and visiting family members at many hospitals in New York City. However, citing privacy and safety concerns, NYU Langone has recently stopped allowing Bikur Cholim volunteers to visit patients in their rooms and deliver food to them.
This past week, it has emerged that NYU Langone’s decision was motivated by claims that the Bikur Cholim volunteers were offering counsel to patients concerning Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) authorizations, anatomical gifts, health care proxies, and other end-of-life declarations that, while in accord with the consensus of halachic opinion, run counter to hospital policy.
New York hospitals must adhere to a NYS-prescribed Patients’ Bill of Rights, which provides that patients must give “informed consent” regarding the aforementioned authorizations. It also requires a hospital to “authorize…family members and other adults” to visit patients pursuant to a prioritized list, “consistent with…[the patient’s] ability to receive visitors.”
It seems to us to be a no-brainer that the hospital cannot totally preclude a class of visitors, especially visitors that will facilitate an informed consent.
We are dismayed by the recent calls for the shutting down of Shomrim, an organization which over the years has provided invaluable protection to vulnerable Jews.
Critics of volunteer efforts periodically target the work of this vital group, despite its rapid-response time and enviable record of success. But the most recent attacks were triggered by allegations that Shomrim’s president was involved in a serious crime that had nothing not at all to do with his role in, and work with, Shomrim.
We expect that the allegations against him – and we emphasize they are only allegations– will be fully examined. But we repeat that they have nothing at all to do with Shomrim and should not be allowed to compromise the work of an important Jewish community resource.