In the world of authoritarianism there is only one truth and that truth is determined by the powers that be. In an authentic democracy, freedom of thought, freedom speech, freedom to disagree with one another and your government are the foundations on which the democratic state exists. And when it comes to Judaism, one need only peruse the tens of thousands of Rabbinic opinions that have been penned by great Jewish minds over past 3,000 years to appreciate how much Judaism values intellectualism and diversity in thought.  As important as intellectual honesty, Judaism demands that we see each and every individual life, Jewish or not, as sacred and created in the Divine Image.

JTA is reporting today that one of the most respected human rights groups in Israel, B’Tselem will no longer be

Palestinian children killed in the recent Gaza conflict
Palestinian children killed in the recent Gaza conflict

considered as a legitimate placement site for those people who elect to participate in Israel’s national community service program. The reason given was that B’Tselem had acted “against the state and its soldiers.” And what reprehensible thing did the human rights organization do to be accused of treasonous behavior?  B’Tselem has sought to put a human face on the casualties of the recent war in Gaza by seeking to broadcast the names of Palestinian children killed in the conflict. (FYI, the names of the Palestinian children who were “collateral damage” in the war are being displayed on the B’Tselem web site.)

In informing the organization of his decision the director of the national community service program, Sar-Shalom Jerbi stated:

Director of Israel's national community service program, Sar-Shalom Jerbi
Sar-Shalom Jerbi

“there is a clear line separating a legitimate political opinion in the Israeli political discourse and the dissemination and publication of lies and slander in Israel and worldwide …. Therefore I see no possibility of continuing to approve your organization as a participating body in the national civilian service, which receives assistance from the State of Israel.”

This story is yet another tangible example of the Jewish state’s ongoing drift to the far reaches of the political right. A nationalistic, authoritarian mentality would seem to be in control of a nation that once upon a time celebrated its democratic character and the Jewish values that guided its leadership.  This sad story is a textbook example of how authoritarian governments operate:

We control the flow of information.  

We stand ready to punish those people and groups who don’t promote the party line.

Israel’s founders would be ashamed.

AND THIS, FROM THE 8/19/2014 EDITION OF HAARETZ: American Jewish leaders fiddle while Israeli democracy burns Jews fight for freedom, equality and minority rights in America but exempt themselves from the same battle in Israel.