THE Rabbinical Council of Jewish Voice for Peace has written an open letter to President Biden. Published on 26 January, the letter looks forward to Holocaust Remembrance Day, and reflects on the current situation in Israel and Palestine. The rabbis say they “support and uplift” South Africa’s application to the International Court of Justice.
The letter reads:
Dear President Biden,
As American rabbis, we write to you with deep sorrow and fury.
Tomorrow is the UN-designated International Holocaust Remembrance Day: a time to honor the memory of the millions of people murdered through the genocide committed by the Nazi regime, including six million of our Jewish ancestors. On this day, we honour the enormity of our losses, the impact of dehumanisation and attempted annihilation on those who survived, and the still-reverberating trauma that has shaped so many of our families and communities.
With sorrow, we will also remember this as the time in which Israel was committing a genocide, aided and abetted by the United States.
We are compelled to speak with moral clarity about what is happening to Palestinians at this very moment. We do so not in spite of our histories, but because of them. We know in our bones what it means to hear the highest representatives of a state dehumanise an entire group of people, to witness the filling of mass graves, adults and children stripped and marched for humiliation, the systematic destruction of civilian infrastructure, cultural institutions, universities, and hospitals. To see food, water, medicine, fuel and shelter denied to an entire civilian population.
We hold the traumatic history of our people with care and sensitivity – and know how painful it is for Jews to grasp that a Jewish state could possibly commit a genocide. Nevertheless, we must agree with increasing numbers of scholars and international rights experts who have determined that Israel’s actions in Gaza constitute, in the words of Prof. Raz Segal, “a textbook case of genocide.”
We support and uplift South Africa’s recent application to the International Court of Justice claiming Israel is in breach of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. And now, Palestinian human rights organisations, together with Palestinians in the US and Gaza, are bringing a case against your administration for failure to prevent, and complicity in, the Israeli government’s unfolding genocide against them, their families, and the 2.2 million Palestinians in Gaza. We stand in support of their action as well.
According to a core teaching of Jewish spiritual tradition, humanity was created in the image of God. That means that each and every human being is of infinite value. The UN 1948 Convention on Genocide was created to uphold this very idea. The Torah also teaches that there will always be moments when we must make a critical moral choice. As Deuteronomy 30:19 says, “I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life.” President Biden, you have chosen death. Instead of using your considerable power to prevent or end this genocide, you have directly abetted it with weapons, funds and diplomatic cover.
On this day of remembrance in 2021, you noted that, “The Holocaust was no accident of history.” As you stated, “It occurred because too many governments cold-bloodedly adopted and implemented hate-fuelled laws, policies, and practices to vilify and dehumanise entire groups of people, and too many individuals stood by silently. Silence is complicity.”
President Biden, what is happening right now in Gaza is no accident of history – and your complicity has been anything but silent. We call upon you to be true to your word and end US complicity in Israel’s genocide against the Palestinian people.
If the words ‘Never Again’ have any meaning at all, they must mean ‘Never Again for Anyone.’We fervently ask of you: please honour the word and spirit of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day by using your office to bring a ceasefire to this tragic violence – and to broker a truly just peace that will bring freedom and security for all who live between the river and the sea.
Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council
* Source: Jewish Voice for Peace