Why Jews Should Support Texas Bishops in Their Battle against Invasive Subpoenas

June 28 2018

As part of an ongoing fight over abortion law, a federal judge ordered the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops (TCCB)—which is not a party to the case at hand—to turn over thousands of pages of documents, including records of internal deliberations. TCCB is now fighting for the right to keep these records private. To Howard Slugh and Greg Dolin, not only is the court’s demand unreasonable, but it would set a precedent that should be particularly worrisome to Jews:

Demanding that rabbis produce records of their internal religious deliberations substantially burdens their religious exercise by forcing them to censor their discussions. Frank rabbinic discussions enable Jews to apply their faith [to] new situations and challenges [as they] arise. Courts should therefore only grant litigants access to such discussions if they demonstrate a compelling need for the requested information. No such need has been demonstrated in the TCCB case.

Internal religious communications often involve discussions of sensitive matters relating to marriage and divorce, end-of-life decisions, child rearing, financial matters, and interaction with the secular government. If rabbis knew that their internal religious deliberations were ordinarily discoverable, they would not be able to have the wide-ranging talmudic-style discussions that understanding Jewish law requires. The risk of an adversary twisting such discussions, or even simply removing them from their proper context, is simply too great. . . .

[Furthermore], people intent on demonizing Judaism can generate anti-Semitism by taking discussions of historic examples out of context. . . . They could, [for instance], use the discussion of historic sources to make it seem as if modern rabbis are advocating lying to the police and committing tax fraud. Courts should not make life any easier for people with such malign intent. . . . History is replete with examples of Jewish suffering resulting from the disclosure of sensitive information. . . .

None of this is to say that courts can never order the production of internal religious deliberations. But the party seeking such materials should bear the burden of demonstrating a compelling need to have access to the documents, and that there is no other possible source of equivalent information. . . . This standard was not applied in the TCCB case.

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More about: American law, Catholic Church, Freedom of Religion, Jewish-Catholic relations, Politics & Current Affairs

The Impossibility of Unilateral Withdrawal from the West Bank

Feb. 19 2019

Since throwing his hat into the ring for the Israeli premiership, the former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz has been reticent about his policy plans. Nonetheless, he has made clear his openness to unilateral disengagement from the West Bank along the lines of the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, stating the necessity of finding “a way in which we’re not controlling other people.” Gershon Hacohen argues that any such plan would be ill-advised:

The political and strategic precepts underlying the Oslo “peace” process, which Gantz echoes, vanished long ago. The PLO has unequivocally revealed its true colors: its total lack of interest in peace, unyielding rejection of the idea of Jewish statehood, and incessant propensity for violence and terrorism. . . . Tehran is rapidly emerging as regional hegemon, with its tentacles spreading from Yemen and Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea and its dogged quest for nuclear weapons continuing apace under the international radar. Even the terror groups Hizballah and Hamas pose a far greater threat to Israel’s national security than they did a decade ago. Under these circumstances, Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank’s Area C, [the only part still under direct Israeli control], would constitute nothing short of an existential threat.

Nor does Israel need to find a way to stop “controlling other people,” as Gantz put it, for the simple reason that its control of the Palestinians ended some two decades ago. In May 1994 the IDF withdrew from all Palestinian population centers in the Gaza Strip. In January 1996 it vacated the West Bank’s populated areas (the Oslo Accords’ Areas A and B), comprising over 90 percent of the West Bank’s Palestinian residents, and handed control of that population to the Palestinian Authority (PA). . . .

This in turn means that the real dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as within Israel itself, no longer revolves around the end of “occupation” but around the future of eastern Jerusalem and Area C. And since Area C (which is home to only 100,000 Palestinians) includes all the Jewish West Bank localities, IDF bases, transportation arteries, vital topographic sites, and habitable empty spaces between the Jordan Valley and the Jerusalem metropolis, its continued retention by Israel is a vital national interest. Why? Because its surrender to a potentially hostile Palestinian state would make the defense of the Israeli hinterland virtually impossible—and because these highly strategic and sparsely populated lands are of immense economic, infrastructural, communal, ecological, and cultural importance, not to mention their historical significance as the bedrock of the Jewish ancestral homeland

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More about: Benny Gantz, Israel & Zionism, Two-State Solution, West Bank