The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) claims on its site and its Facebook page that it “is the representative voice of the organized American Jewish community.” While that may be news to many American Jews, even more of them will be loathe to accept that description after reviewing the JCPA’s latest press release.
The public statement, “JCPA Mourns Palestinian Teenager, Calls for an End to Violence,” was posted on its website just after mid-day on Wednesday, July 2, less than 12 hours after news that an Arab teenage boy had been found dead in Jerusalem.
And yet, although JCPA President Rabbi Steven Gutow noted in the statement that, “the circumstances of his death remain uncertain,” the same sentence then takes a sharp turn and places the blame squarely on Israel: “it appears that Mohammed was not a party to nor instigator of the tragic events of recent days and weeks. But he now has paid the ultimate price regardless.”
So although no one yet knows for certain how the teenager died or who was responsible, the JCPA publicly drew a target on the back of the Jewish State. Not content to simply act as judge and jury, the JCPA proceeded to send out the statement to its members across the country, inviting everyone to embrace its judgment – that Israel or individual Israelis are responsible for the abu Khaider’s murder, and pronouncing the murder a revenge attack.
It is important to mourn the loss of a teenager’s life whether it is a member of your own family or a stranger, and true leaders take the opportunity to model that behavior. Many of Israel’s top leadership immediately condemned the murder of abu Khaider, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Jerusalem’s mayor Nir Barakat and several Knesset members. Even, and most incredibly, the Yifrach family, the family of Eyal Yifrach – one of the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped and murdered and buried just yesterday – condemned the killing. That statement was unequivocal:
There is no differentiating between blood and blood, murder is murder, whatever the nationality or age. There’s no justification, no forgiveness, and no redemption for any murder.
It may be, when the investigation is complete, that Israelis were responsible and that it was an act of revenge for the kidnapping and murder of Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaar. And if that is the case, the guilty must be condemned and punished. The murder of innocents is always tragic, whether the guilty are our friends or the victims are our family.
But until the investigation is complete, no one can – and no one should – say why Mohammed abu Khaider was killed, or by whom.
And yet, the JCPA rushed to put out a public statement less than 24 hours after the death was discovered. And in that statement the JCPA presented itself as judge, jury and sound system with a verdict of guilt for Israel.
Why the rush? It took the JCPA 3 days to condemn the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers. Perhaps that was due to an abundance of caution – one would not want to falsely accuse anyone. If so, why the different standard here?
Perhaps the JCPA’s goal was to present themselves as the “good Jews,” the ones who not only condemn the murder of an Arab but who rush blindly forward with its finger pointed at the “bad Jews,” the Israeli Jews, the ugly, violent Israeli Jews who would do such a thing, and to heck with truth and facts and evidence.
Because if the goal was to help to reduce violence, to help shepherd the masses poised to strike back to a path towards calm, the JCPA statement will only achieve the opposite. The statement will fuel the fire of hatred by anti-Semites who readily believe Israelis should be punished for Mohammad’s death, whether or not Israelis are guilty. And look, here’s an official Jewish coalition, officially blaming Israel! It will also inflame anger towards those whom JCPA claims to represent by supporters of Israel who believe that the Jewish State is entitled to the presumption of innocence at least until strong evidence is produced pointing in the opposite direction.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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