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A legal scholar sizes up the religious argument against abortion bans

(JTA) — The abortion debate is often portrayed as a clash between religious beliefs on the pro-life side and secular or humanist convictions on the pro-choice side. Indeed, lawmakers and activists have often invoked God in enacting state bans on abortion since the Supreme Court, in last year’s Dobbs decision, struck down a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy.

Some clergy and faith groups, however, including a number of Jews, are pushing back. In efforts to overturn these restrictions, they have been pressing a legal strategy claiming that abortion bans violate their religious liberty. In Kentucky, a case brought by three Jewish women argues that the state’s near-total abortion ban violates their religious beliefs about when life begins and protecting a mother’s life. In Indiana, a suit brought by Hoosier Jews for Choice and four women who represent a variety of faiths demands exemptions from the state’s abortion ban for people whose religions support abortion rights. 

In Florida, a synagogue filed a lawsuit saying the state’s abortion restrictions violate the religious freedom rights of Jews.

“Judaism has never defined life beginning at conception,” the Kentucky suit says, adding that “millennia of commentary from Jewish scholars has reaffirmed Judaism’s commitment to reproductive rights.”

Although Orthodox organizations support restrictions that allow abortion only under rare circumstances, most American Jews and their representative organizations back wide abortion access.

To understand the legal strategy behind these state-level religious challenges to abortion bans, JTA spoke Friday with Elizabeth Reiner Platt, the director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia Law School. Last year, the center published “A Religious Right to Abortion: History & Analysis,” a memo intended for lawyers, activists, faith leaders and journalists. 

Platt spoke about what Politico recently called “the sleeper legal strategy that could topple abortion bans,” two recent Supreme Court cases on religion and how the conservative court is approaching religion in general. 

Our conversation was edited for length and clarity.

Last August you released a report analyzing how religion law might apply in legal challenges to abortion bans. Can you summarize the strategy?

I always like to start by saying that the idea that religious liberty includes a right to make decisions about one’s reproductive health care is not just a legal strategy that folks came up with in response to Dobbs. It is how religious groups themselves have been talking about their understanding of reproductive rights for a very long time. I have a handy list of denominational statements from a range of different traditions, including some Jewish groups, as well as Lutheran, Presbyterian and Unitarian Universalist back from the ’80s and ’90s saying reproductive rights are a religious liberty issue for them and for their congregations.

One of the most valuable things in that report is the case index that shows cases going back from the ’70s, the pre-Roe era, that make this legal claim where people of faith have said, “Our religious beliefs motivate us to help people access reproductive health care.” The report essentially lays out the different kinds of legal arguments to be made for a religious liberty right to provide access or facilitate abortion care. And we’re now seeing that happen and a handful of lawsuits across the country including Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, Indiana and Idaho. Several of those cases include Jewish plaintiffs [including Missouri, where five rabbis from multiple Jewish denominations are among more than a dozen Missouri faith leaders challenging the state’s ban on abortion]. There’s a very interesting lawsuit in Kentucky right now involving three Jewish women who actually focus on their religious obligation to have children using in vitro fertilization. And so their complaint overlays on both the state constitution as well as the state Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and says that they have a religious right to seek IVF care, but also because of their age and other factors they have a higher risk of pregnancy complications, and so they’re including as part of that complaint right to access abortion care in accordance with their religious beliefs.

How does the IVF relate to abortion in this sense? Are they arguing that abortion is similarly included in a full range of gynecological and obstetric care?

Basically, they make the case that they want access to IVF but also that some of the claimants in the past have had really serious fetal anomalies and believe that the religiously motivated decision for them at that time was to seek abortion care.

Members of Jews For Racial and Economic Justice and IfNotNow hold signs that say “Baruch Hashem [Bless God] For Abortion” at a rally at New York City Foley Square, May 2, 2023. (Jacob Henry)

Have there been rulings over the years that accept the right to abortion as a question of religious liberty? 

I’ll start by saying they’re kind of two basic ways a claim can be made.There are concrete Free Exercise Clause claims that essentially say, “My religious beliefs motivate me to seek this care to make this decision. And abortion bans therefore stifle my religious practice.” And that kind of claim would typically result not in overturning an abortion ban, but in providing a religious exemption for the claimant. The other way to make a religion claim is to say, “This abortion ban is actually religiously motivated and improperly enshrines one particular religious view into law, and it’s therefore a violation of a federal or state Establishment Clause provision.” And that kind of challenge would, if successful, overturn the law completely for everybody. 

There is not a lot of case law on the former. There have been many challenges, but they’ve almost all been dismissed on things like standing or mootness — technical, legal things. The big exception is right now: There is a case being brought by the ACLU of Indiana that relies on that state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was a very contentious law passed several years ago by then Gov. Mike Pence. That case did, at the trial court level, succeed in granting religious exemption to the claimants [which remains in effect even as the Indiana Supreme Court allowed the state’s total abortion ban to take effect Aug. 1]. That’s the first major decision that we’ve seen post-Dobbs.

Is it fair to say that the same law that ostensibly would have protected conservative religious behavior is being deployed from a progressive standpoint?

That is certainly how it gets framed a lot. But these laws should ideally always be applied neutrally, across the denominational and the political spectrum, and have long been used by people of all different faiths and denominations. I deeply do not think that this is some sort of clever legal tactic. We’re seeing, in the wake of Dobbs, ideas and language that have been promoted by religious groups for many, many, many years.

In the current political climate, do you think courts are inclined to accept the right to abortion as a question of religious liberty? 

I think there’s definitely an appetite for these arguments. There was a really interesting lower court decision in Kentucky a while back, when a judge ruled that the state’s abortion ban violated religious liberty — without that argument even having been made by either party, which is extremely unusual. I think [that] really shows that there is an appetite for these claims. It’s important to say that almost all of these claims are being brought in state court. Most litigators are bringing cases that would not end up in the U.S. Supreme Court. I’m not Pollyannaish about the fact that we have very conservative state judiciaries and a lot of these states are very opposed to abortion, but I think the legal claims themselves based on doctrine should be very strong.

An argument I’ve heard in the Jewish community is that because some of the Jewish plaintiffs pressing religious freedom arguments aren’t Orthodox or traditionally observant Jews — in other words, because they do not act according to traditional Jewish law in other aspects of their life — they shouldn’t be making religious claims in this one area of reproductive rights. Do the courts take into consideration the extent of perceived sincerity or consistency of a party’s beliefs and actions when they review these cases?

Courts can absolutely look at religious sincerity, but I also think it’s outrageous to say that “only Orthodox Jews are sincere.” You know the old saw: two Jews, three opinions. What matters is not getting an Orthodox rabbi in the stand to give expert advice on the Talmud. What matters is the plaintiffs’ own understanding of their Judaism and what it looks like in practice. People can be very sincere about how they practice their Judaism without necessarily being glatt kosher or what have you. Courts tend to use a pretty light touch when it comes to sincerity.

Going back to the Establishment Clause, can you explain to me how an entire ethos that seems to be very much based in religious conceptions of when life begins can make it into secular law without running afoul of the Constitution? Some of these abortion bans seem to me to be examples of one denomination’s religious views becoming everyone’s law. How does that pass muster?

The key case on this is Harris v. McRae from the ’80s, which was a case that challenged the federal Hyde Amendment that bans almost all federal funding for abortion. The challengers made that exact claim: that this is based on a particular conception of when life begins and is essentially a religious restriction. And that case lost before the Supreme Court. The court said that just because a law happens to overlap with particular religious beliefs, it doesn’t make it an inherently religious law. And honestly, since then, the Court’s conception of the Establishment Clause has gotten narrower and narrower.

Right to Life advocates pray during a sit-in in front of a Planned Parenthood in Washington, D.C. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

That does not mean, however, that that’s the end of the story. Again, I’ll say that most of these claims are being brought under state rather than federal provisions. And we’re now seeing state legislators being much more frank and forthright about their religious motivations when passing some of these laws, in a way that can be relevant to new Establishment Clause challenges. So, for example, the Missouri case which is being brought by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and National Women’s Law Center [filed on behalf of 13 clergy members from six faith traditions, saying that the state’s abortion ban establishes one religious view about abortion as the law of the land in violation of the Missouri constitution]. It’s a challenge under the state’s Establishment Clause. And they point to the fact among other things that the law has the words “Almighty God” right in the text of the statute. That is pretty shocking and unusual. 

I’d like to shift gears and talk about some of the other religion cases of the last week. The court ruled last week in Groff v. DeJoy that employers had to show a substantial burden before curtailing accommodations for religious employees, who may seek accommodations for the Sabbath, or wearing distinct dress. Groff was a postal worker who argued he shouldn’t have to work on his Sabbath. What did you think about the unanimous ruling?

This is an unusual example of the court taking at least somewhat of a middle path. They could have ruled very explicitly that the needs of coworkers don’t matter and shouldn’t be considered, and thankfully they didn’t. Ultimately, neither side got exactly what it wanted. I mean, Groff did not get his religious exemption yet. The court tweaked the test by which it will be evaluated, and according to my reading of the case, there is ample opportunity for the lower court to look at the new test and say, “Your request was really burdensome on the operation of this very small postal office, and you don’t get [your accommodation].” The jury’s still out on that case and I think we might see a real kind of diversity in how it ends up getting implemented in practice.

In another important ruling on religion and the law, the court ruled that a website designer could decline to provide service to a same-sex couple based on her assertion that she has a religious objection to creating messages that promote a view she doesn’t accept. I was intrigued by your tweet: “The decision in #303Creative today is not a win for religious liberty.” How did you mean that?

We wrote an amicus brief in this case on behalf of a bunch of religious minority organizations and faith-based organizations from a lot of different denominations. The point we made was that if we want to make sure that people can exercise their religion openly in a pluralistic society and without being chilled or in fear that they’re going to get turned away and unable to access services because they’re wearing a hijab or a yarmulke, then we need robust civil rights laws. A return to a segregated marketplace is going to maybe help a few religious believers who happen to own small businesses, but overall it’s going to have a real chilling effect on religious diversity and pluralism in smaller communities. Our point was that civil rights law shouldn’t be seen as being in conflict with religious liberty, but in fact, civil rights law is what has helped religious minorities thrive in the United States. And you know, I mentioned in my tweet that when my parents were kids, the “Jewish Vacation Guide” was still helping families figure out whether they were going to get turned away from hotels and such.

To take a broader view of the Supreme Court for a second, it’s clearly privileging religion in ways not seen in previous courts. The New York Times columnist Linda Greenhouse has written that the conservative supermajority completely identifies with “the movement in the country’s politics to elevate religion over all other elements of civil society.” I’m wondering if you agree with that assessment. And if so, what are its implications? I know that for a lot of our readers, it’s a great thing to elevate religion over other elements of civil society. 

I would tweak it, because there are religion claims that don’t succeed. For example, there have been a lot of cases involving the targeting of Muslims, questioning people about their religious beliefs and practices at the border and the surveillance of mosques and religious groups, and very famously the court’s upholding of the Trump Muslim travel ban. In those cases, religious liberty did not win out over other elements. So I agree that the court has sided with particular, primarily conservative, Christian religious liberty claims. But I don’t think that that is going to protect everyone.

To conclude again with abortion: I don’t know if you are familiar with the work of Rutgers professor Michal Raucher, who argues that Jewish movements like hers — she is a Conservative Jew — should be arguing the case for abortion from the perspective of women’s bodily autonomy, and not the more narrow case that Jewish law allows abortions in some limited circumstances. Are religious challenges to abortion bans just sort of the flip side of religious opposition to abortion — they downplay the autonomy of women as individuals by making their decision-making a matter of church or synagogue doctrine? 

This is sort of an age-old strategy question. If you look at the pro-life movement, there was a lot of argument between a “chip away over time” strategy or a more absolutist constitutional amendment saying that personhood starts at the moment of conception. We can have shorter term and longer term strategies, and I don’t know that it’s necessary to pick one. Even to the extent some of these lawsuits don’t end up succeeding, there is value in showing the diversity of religious beliefs on reproductive healthcare, because I think conservative Christians have had such a dominant presence over the issue of religion and abortion. There’s been a lot of history lost. I think of things like the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion, which was a national network of clergy members who helped people access abortion, vetted illegal abortion providers and also helped people access care abroad. And that history has been all but lost. So yes, I think there can be multiple narratives happening at the same time.

The post A legal scholar sizes up the religious argument against abortion bans appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Gaza Terrorist Spokesperson Reveals How Media Falls for Terror Group’s Lies

People inspect the area of Al-Ahli hospital where Palestinians were killed in a blast from an errant Islamic Palestinian Jihad rocket meant for Israel, in Gaza City, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Ahmed Zakot

When Pinocchio lied, his nose grew longer. His falsehoods were too obvious to be ignored.

But media outlets barely raised an eyebrow after a Big Lie was exposed last week, perhaps because it also exposed them as wooden marionettes.

On Monday, April 8, it was revealed that Gaza terror organizations have been deliberately spreading false narratives on the Israel-Hamas war, and that international media outlets have been playing an unwitting, or even willing, role in enabling this mass manipulation.

Unsurprisingly, the foreign press ignored the exposure, even though everyone received the announcement distributed by the IDF.

Israel released a video that showed the interrogation of Palestinian Islamic Jihad spokesperson, Tariq Salami Otha Abu Shlouf, who had been captured during the IDF’s recent raid on Gaza’s Shifa hospital.

During his conversation with the interrogator, which amounts to an incriminating account concerning news coverage of Gaza, Abu Shlouf reveals how the well-oiled media manipulation machine of Islamic Jihad and Hamas operates:

Top figures in the group decide on a beneficial narrative, such as focusing on the humanitarian angle rather than the military one.
The message is circulated to news outlets.
Reporters uncritically echo what the terror group says, to avoid harming ties with sources.

The chilling testimony of an Islamic Jihad spox revealed how terrorist orgs manipulated the media to blame Israel for acts it did not do in this war.

It’s a day after the IDF released the testimony & neither @AP nor @Reuters have mentioned him at all.

— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) April 9, 2024

Abu Shlouf references the Al-Ahli hospital incident as an example: he admits his group decided to falsely blame Israel for the deadly strike, in order to erase the fact it had been caused by an Islamic Jihad rocket — a fact known to local reporters.

He also tells the interrogator how the “humanitarian angle” is being pushed to pliant reporters, with specific messages fed to international news outlets:

Abu Shlouf: The international media differs from the Arab ones, they focus on humanitarian issues, we don’t speak to them in the language of violence, destruction, and revenge. They come and say “let’s talk for a minute or two, but only talk to me about the humanitarian side, meaning, for instance, you’d say “it’s our right to live,” “we want the situation to return to normal, and our children to live like other children in the world,” “we have the right to receive capabilities and institutions.” This is the humanitarian side. And the other side, some of the international media organizations automatically address events like al-Ahli, when an event happens, they turn to us.

He adds that terrorist officials even vet news stories before publication. And he describes how “interviews” are conducted with international media reporters:

Abu Shlouf: They like to do interviews with figures from the political bureau, senior figures, like Khaled al-Batsh. There were a few international media outlets that conducted interviews with him. He sits with someone, then the journalist starts asking him questions, because it’s under the table, the humanitarian situation doesn’t interest the journalist. Only three things interest him: was the fallen rocket yours? Khaled al-Batsh, of course, answers him “No, it’s from the occupation.” Of course, the journalist knows that the rocket is indeed ours and not yours.

Interrogator: Even though the journalist knows, does he still echo what is said by the organization [Islamic Jihad]?

Abu Shlouf: Yes, because they ask him to review the article before publication, telling him to send it to us before he can publish it so we can review it.

Interrogator: And if it’s not to your liking, it doesn’t get published?

Abu Shlouf: No, of course not, because he [the journalist] needs us for more interviews.

Media outlets might argue that Abu Shlouf’s account as an IDF prisoner had been given under duress. But it seems — even with the video cuts — that rather than giving short answers, he willingly provided elaborate details and names. And that also suggests it’s true.

The foreign press can also argue that what he said about al-Ahli and terrorists’ use of hospitals and ambulances isn’t new. But that’s why it may be even more incriminating, as further proof that Gaza reporters have most likely known about it all along and kept silent.

The unavoidable conclusion from Abu Shlouf’s account is this: People in his position are constantly contacted by foreign press reporters to quote data, request interviews, and get reactions. So the editorial line on Gaza news is not being decided by the local reporter or his/her editors in Jerusalem or London. It first passes through the terrorists’ filter.

Is this not worth reporting? Don’t news consumers deserve to know the truth?

These questions are important because media outlets have published many stories focused on their Gaza reporters throughout the war — from their personal safety concerns to their electricity challenges. But when it now comes to focusing on the actual work they do, the media silence is deafening.

This is also defining the foreign press’ inability to carry out any self-reflection. If they care so much about the truth they purport to pursue, these media outlets ought to be the first to acknowledge that a huge shadow of doubt has just been cast on the professionalism of every reporter in the Hamas-run Strip. And it also hovers over their vetting procedures of new hires in Gaza.

HonestReporting has questioned the journalistic ethics of Gazan reporters since the beginning of the war. We exposed how some of them infiltrated into Israel with Hamas on October 7, as hundreds of Israelis were slaughtered.

Now, when it’s become even clearer that everything we see and read from Gaza is being manipulated by terrorist propagandists, it’s time for a media reckoning.

Pinocchio managed to transform into a responsible human being.

Why can’t journalists covering Gaza see who is pulling their strings, and do the same?

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

The post Gaza Terrorist Spokesperson Reveals How Media Falls for Terror Group’s Lies first appeared on

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Understanding the Meaning of Elijah This Passover

Then-Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan hosted a mock Passover seder at the United Nations on April 6, 2022. Photo: Shahar Azran.

“Behold I will send you Elijah (Eliyahu) the prophet before the great awesome Day of God, and he will reconcile fathers to children and children to fathers” (Malachi 3:24).

This is part of the Haftarah for Shabbat HaGadol — the Shabbat before Pesach. But why is it associated with Elijah? It is true that in terms of stature and his place in our tradition, Elijah was the greatest of the prophets, even if no book is attributed to him. His public victory over the Prophets of Baal during the reign of Ahab and Jezebel was his most famous triumph — but just as significant was the Chariot of Fire that took him up to Heaven when he died. This became the symbol of mysticism that he was always associated with. And mystics love messianism and days of judgment.

In the Talmud, Elijah figures prominently in the debates about messianism and whether he was to be the messiah or the pathfinder and precursor. But the tradition developed that he would pave the way for a messianic era, and would instruct us what to do and what parts of our tradition would be revived or survive when it came about.

In the Talmud, there are many episodes in which Elijah is said to appear to rabbis and guide them, and he is associated with solving unresolved halachic issues.

Elijah has a special affinity with children in tradition. He figures prominently in the circumcision ceremony where the Sandek, the equivalent of a godfather, sits on a special Chair of Eliyahu (Kisey Shel Eliyahu) at a Bris. He is metaphorically the Sandek and protector of us all. Stories in the Bible have Elijah helping barren women conceive and reviving children who are mortally sick. And yet one could also point out the negative side. When he chooses Elisha to join and succeed him. Elisha asks permission to bid goodbye to his parents, but Elijah refuses and insists he leave them without ever saying goodbye.

Elijah has multiple associations with Pesach. The most obvious is when towards the end of the Seder, we have the Fifth Cup of wine dedicated to him, and we invoke his presence in asking God to remove our enemies.

Why is this fifth cup specifically Elijah’s? On the one hand, it makes sense because he is our concept of a messiah. But it’s also Elijah’s cup because there is a debate as to whether we drink four or five cups of wine at the Seder to commemorate the four terms used in the Torah to describe the process that gave us our freedom from slavery  — “I freed you, I saved you, I redeemed you, I took you out.” But some say  “I brought you” counts as a fifth. So are there four cups or five cups? The debate is left unanswered. Although we are only obliged to have four cups of wine, we add an extra one just in case. Elijah has helped us solve the debate.

This year, we have much to be sad about. So many beautiful young and not-so-young lives have been killed in defense of our land. So many more lives have been injured or ruined. And yet there have been so many examples of deliverance, self-sacrifice, and heroism.

Is this the year the messiah will come? We can hope. But in the meantime, we have to do our best to reconcile, and to heal the chasms amongst us. We must come together to go forward united with pride and joy. Thank you, Eliyahu.

The author is a writer and rabbi, currently living in New York.

The post Understanding the Meaning of Elijah This Passover first appeared on

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‘Washington Post’ Platforms Superficial ‘As a Jew’ Op-Ed on Israel & Gaza

The former Washington Post building. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Peter Maass, a journalist and former senior editor at left-wing publication The Intercept, admits that his “Jewish identity was always a bit vague.” He is also not an expert on international law, military tactics, or even the Middle East in general.

However, none of this has stopped Maass from using his Jewish heritage and past experience covering the war in Bosnia in the 1990s as a platform to not only falsely accuse Israel of war crimes in the present day, but also to re-invent history in a recent op-ed for The Washington Post.

Titled “I’m Jewish, and I’ve covered wars. I know war crimes when I see them,” Maass’s op-ed is rife with inappropriate analogies, context-free claims, and a heavy reliance on his “vague” Jewish identity — all in an effort to harm the image of Israel and to besmirch the Zionist movement in general.

Neither his Jewish identity nor experiences covering the Balkans & other conflicts qualify @maassp to pass judgment on Israel & accuse it of war crimes.

But that won’t stop @washingtonpost from blending “As a Jew” tokenism & superficial military analysis.

Full analysis

— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) April 10, 2024

Peter Maass’ Crooked Line Between Bosnia & Gaza

In 1992 and 1993, Peter Maass served as an on-the-ground journalist during the war in Bosnia, reporting on the war crimes and ethnic cleansing that had become central features of that conflict.

Over 30 years later, and 1,000 miles away, Maass appears certain that his experiences in Bosnia are relevant to an analysis of the current war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

However, while his reporting from Bosnia might have been laudable, his understanding of Gaza is superficial and amateurish.

Take, for example, his claim that Israel’s “grind through Gaza” — when it “bombs and shoots civilians, blocks food aid, attacks hospitals and cuts off water supplies” — reminds him of the war crimes that he witnessed in Bosnia.

Despite what Maass might have observed in Bosnia, this is not at all what is occurring in Gaza.

Israel is currently trying to uproot a terrorist infrastructure that has spent years embedding itself within the civilian areas of Gaza, turning schools, hospitals, mosques, and even private homes into rocket launching pads and other military installations.

Civilian deaths in Gaza are due to Hamas’ cynical manipulation of civilian areas for their terrorist purposes, not because Israel is indiscriminately targeting civilians on a whim.

Similarly, when Israeli forces enter hospitals, it is due to the use of those facilities by Hamas gunmen and leaders, not out of abject cruelty or spite. The recent extensive IDF operation at Al-Shifa Hospital, in which hundreds of Hamas gunmen were killed, and hundreds more were arrested, attests to this reality.

As for his claim that Israel is blocking food aid or cutting off water supplies, this is simply an inversion of reality.

Further in the piece, Maass alleges that, based on his understanding of international law, Israel is committing war crimes and that its conduct is tantamount to genocide.

How does he come to such conclusions?

For the war crimes allegations, Maass asserts that Israel is undertaking a revenge operation in Gaza, where it is purposefully targeting civilians and is violating the rule of proportionality by harming a large number of civilians “for a minor battlefield gain.”

Despite his lack of access to Israeli military intelligence, his unfamiliarity with modern urban warfare, and his observing the war from thousands of miles away, Maass seems perfectly confident in his understanding of Israel’s war conduct that he is able to make such a bold assertion.

With regards to his claim of genocide, Maass alleges that “sufficient evidence for indictments” against Israel “appears to exist” as, according to its legal definition, the crime of genocide includes the intent to destroy a group “in whole or in part.”

For Maass, Israel can be credibly accused of genocide as it is seeking to destroy the Palestinian population of Gaza “in part.”

However, the “part” of the Palestinian population in Gaza that Israel is seeking to destroy is the Hamas terror group. According to Maass’s twisted logic, every army bent on destroying a terror group or enemy military force could, in theory, be accused of committing genocide.

No, the key words are “intent to destroy…a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.”

Israel is not trying to eradicate the Palestinians. It’s addressing the rampant culture of terrorism that led to 10/7.

Targeting terrorists does not a genocide make.

— Jacki Alexander (@JackiAlexander_) April 10, 2024

Perhaps the most perfect example of how Maass’ experiences in Bosnia cannot correlate to the current war in Gaza cannot be found in this op-ed, but in a tweet he posted on October 18, 2023, the day after the Al-Ahli Hospital explosion.

Although Israel was initially blamed for the damage wrought outside the hospital, by the time Maass tweeted, it was becoming clear that the explosion had actually been caused by an errant Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket directed at Israel.

Nevertheless, Maass felt it appropriate to tweet about how, during the conflict in the Balkans, the Bosnians were falsely accused of bombing themselves. For Maass, since it was inaccurate in Bosnia, it must also be inaccurate in Gaza.

Ironically, in the same week that a video was released where an Islamic Jihad leader admitted that it was a rocket that caused the explosion, Maass is still peddling his “expertise” in war crimes and false analogies between Bosnia and Gaza in order to tarnish Israel’s reputation and to harm its fight against terrorism.

From my book “Love Thy Neighbor,” on claims the Bosnians bombed themselves:

“Thankfully, we have not always been so circumspect, and did not demand, during World War II, that Winston Churchill provide proof that the bombs exploding in London were German rather than British.”

— Peter Maass (@maassp) October 18, 2023

A Simplistic Understanding of Zionist History

Coupled with Peter Maass’ poor understanding of the current war in Gaza is his simplistic view of Zionist history and the idealization of “non-Zionism.”

Maass draws on his own family history, pointing out how, despite financially supporting the immigration of Jews to the British Mandate of Palestine, his ancestors were opposed to a Jewish state in the land, as it would lead to “bloody heads and misfortune.”

For Maass, this non-Zionism appears to be the ideal: Jews living in the land but holding no sovereignty, amicably sharing control with local Arabs.

Peter Maass sees a continuation of this ideal in the likes of Jews protesting the Israeli “occupation” (which he deems to be the “underlying problem” in the conflict) and Jewish groups protesting against Israel’s war against Hamas.

However, the fly in the ointment for Maass’ idealized non-Zionism is the fact that it has already been tried and failed.

Prior to Israeli independence, a group called Brit Shalom was founded, which advocated for the non-Zionism that Maass holds dear. However, by 1948, the group had practically ceased to exist as the British Mandate’s Jewish community was forced to come to terms with three decades of Arab violence and intransigence.

In both his “analysis” of the war in Gaza and his view of Zionist history, Peter Maass seems to place the onus for all the violence and carnage on Israel and Zionism, either ignoring or diminishing the role of Palestinian Arabs, including Hamas.

This view of the war in Gaza, and Israeli history in general, is not only superficial and immature but it also creates a skewed paradigm through which one party to a conflict is absolved of any responsibility while the other must shoulder all the blame.

A skewed paradigm can ultimately lead to a deadly and dangerous reality.

It shouldn’t matter that Peter Maass is Jewish. It shouldn’t matter that he reported on ethnic cleansing 30 years ago.

What should matter is that The Washington Post has platformed an amateurish analysis that is based on false assertions, misleading statements, and a superficial understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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