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


Who Changed the Term “Nakba” into a Symbol of Arab Victimization?

April 19 2019

In contemporary Palestinian discourse, not to mention that of the Palestinians’ Western supporters, the creation of the state of Israel is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe—sometimes explicitly compared with the Holocaust. The very term has come to form a central element in a narrative of passive Palestinian suffering at Jewish hands. But when the Syrian historian Constantin Zureiq first used the term with regard to the events of 1948, he meant something quite different, and those responsible for changing its meaning were none other than Israelis. Raphael Bouchnik-Chen explains:

In his 1948 pamphlet The Meaning of the Disaster (Ma’na al-Nakba), Zureiq attributed the Palestinian/Arab flight to the stillborn pan-Arab assault on the nascent Jewish state rather than to a premeditated Zionist design to disinherit the Palestinian Arabs. “We [Arabs] must admit our mistakes,” [he wrote], “and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.” . . . In a later book, The Meaning of the Catastrophe Anew, published after the June 1967 war, he defined that latest defeat as a “Nakba,” . . . since—just as in 1948—it was a self-inflicted disaster emanating from the Arab world’s failure to confront Zionism. . . .

It was only in the late 1980s that it began to be widely perceived as an Israeli-inflicted injustice. Ironically, it was a group of politically engaged, self-styled Israeli “new historians” who provided the Palestinian national movement with perhaps its best propaganda tool by turning the saga of Israel’s birth upside down, with aggressors turned into hapless victims, and vice-versa, on the basis of massive misrepresentation of archival evidence.

While earlier generations of Palestinian academics and intellectuals had refrained from exploring the origins of the 1948 defeat, the PLO chairman Yasir Arafat, who was brought to Gaza and the West Bank as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords and was allowed to establish his Palestinian Authority (PA) in parts of those territories, grasped the immense potential of reincarnating the Nakba as a symbol of Palestinian victimhood rather than a self-inflicted disaster. In 1998, he proclaimed May 15 a national day of remembrance of the Nakba. In subsequent years, “Nakba Day” has become an integral component of the Palestinian national narrative and the foremost event commemorating their 1948 “catastrophe.”

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More about: Arab World, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, New historians, Yasir Arafat