Friday, July 03, 2009

Chuck Don't Need No Stinkin' Facts

Writing to the Ann Arbor Peace list, one of the (mis)leaders of the local peace biz, Chuck Warpehoski, takes a jab at JWPF leader Henry Herskovitz regarding last week's vigil report. Warpehoski writes:
1. Checking whether or not Temple Beth Emeth displayed a "torture is wrong" banner does take doing a bit more work than sitting at a computer, but it's not hard to verify. All it takes is a walk or drive to the building. As of today, the "torture is wrong" banner is still hanging at Temple Beth Emeth/St. Clare's Episcopal Church.

2. Regarding Beth Israel Congregation's opposition to torture, I see no reason to believe that a survey of citizens of Israel would have the same results as a survey of American Jews in general or Beth Israel Congregation members in particular. In fact, last year Beth Israel Congregation participated in the Rabbis for Human Rights "Honor the image of God: Stop Torture Now" campaign. This year, Rabbi Dobrusin has submitted a joint Op-Ed column to the Detroit Free Press along with Imam Dawud Walid and Bishop Wendell Gibbs calling for an investigation of U.S.-sponsored torture since 9/11 as well as stronger U.S. laws banning torture.

This year the Jewish community has had the highest participation in Torture Awareness Month activities of any faith tradition. A much higher participation of the synagogues have participated than the churches, sanghas, mosques, or other congregations.

But hey, since when has Henry let a few facts stand in the way of a good rant?
In reality, simply walking by Genesis--the name of the building shared by TBE and St. Clare's--is not sufficient to verify that TBE rather than St. Clare's put up a banner. In his report, Henry doesn't dispute that there is a banner present in front of Genesis but claims that TBE is apparently not on any NRCAT endorsement list accessible by Google. As of Tuesday, that was still true. Eleven Ann Arbor congregations are listed from last year but none of them are Jewish. JWPF, however, comes up as a member of NRCAT and is listed on the 2008 participating congregations list of 5/29/08.

As for "facts," Warpehoski claims that "This year the Jewish community has had the highest participation in Torture Awareness Month activities of any faith tradition" but he doesn't offer any evidence for this. Is he including JWPF? Even if his assertion is true, it doesn't erase the fact that last year Rabbi Dobrusin, from the bima, made a case for justifying torture as self-defense under Jewish religious law. Nor does it change the fact that the only anti-torture banner that has ever flown outside Beth Israel Congregation--'spiritual' (I use the term loosely) home of ICPJ president Ruth Kraut--is the one carried by JWPF members.

Warpehoski claims to see no reason to suppose that American Jewish support of torture parallels Israeli Jewish support. Consider the following points that Warpehoski can't see:
The American Jewish Committee last week became the first, and to date only, mainstream Jewish group to give strong public backing to proposed legislation that would ban the use of torture by American military, intelligence and law-enforcement personnel ...

Most other Jewish organizations with prominent advocacy efforts in Washington, however, have been noticeably absent from efforts to push through the anti-torture legislation ...

"There was a shocking silence of the Jewish community on the issue of torture, and there is still a lacuna on this vital issue, to my eye," said Felice Gaer, director of the AJCommittee’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights. ...

The executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, Rabbi Brian Walt, said that the reluctance of a large segment of the organized Jewish community to speak out against harsh interrogation techniques [sic] stems partly from the belief that torture may help to prevent terrorist attacks, as well as from concern that heightened scrutiny of American security forces’ methods could draw increased attention to Israel’s own interrogation practices.
Of course, Chuck Warpehoski sees none of this. Indeed, one wonders if Warpehoski can see anything that his paymasters don't want him to see, let alone speak about.

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