To some of you this may seem like inside Jewish baseball, but to me it’s deadly serious both because it involves a perversion of Jewish law and a personal calumny. The perpetrator is David Abitbol, purveyor of lies and smears at Jewlicious who stated I was a moser because I advocated the capture and trial of the Mossad agents who assassinated Mahmoud al-Mabouh in Dubai last month.
A moser is a Jew who informs on a fellow Jew usually out of spite or hope for material gain. In the 19th century, such betrayals could mean imprisonment or death for those Jews nabbed by the Czar’s police (as happened to Shneyer Zalman of Liyadi the first Lubavitcher rebbe). For this reason, msirah is a grave offense in Jewish law. Lately, Alan Dershowitz has levelled such a heinous charge against Justice Goldstone, accusing him of betraying Israel over his Gaza war crimes report. Afterward, Dershowitz backpedaled saying he didn’t wish any physical harm to befall the judge. But the damage was done.
Now comes that most excellent Jewish theologian, David Abitbol, spewing Torah and halacha as he goes and making a mockery of it in the process. By my wish that the Mossad agents face justice for their murder, I’ve apparently betrayed them to the non-Jews of the world. Further, even Justice Goldstone might approve of the murder of al-Mabouh. I kid you not:
Are the people that committed this killing Israelis? We don’t absolutely know. Are they murderers? Is killing an enemy combatant, with blood on his hands, actively engaged in plotting the deaths of civilians, a murder? Or is it the sort of measured response to terrorism originating in Gaza, urged for by no less than Justice Goldstone in his infamous Report?
Let’s make some important distinctions that are clearly irrelevant to Abitbol but may be to the rest of us. First, al-Mabouh admitted responsibility for capturing and killing two Israeli soldiers, not civilians. I’m not in favor of what al-Mabouh did. But we must keep in mind that Israel killed 1,100 Gaza civilians last year in the war. The way I look at it if the IDF can engage in this sort of behavior, I have a hard time making moral distinctions between what al-Mabouh did and what the IDF does. In my opinion, they’re both reprehensible with the difference being the IDF is far more lethal than al-Mabouh ever was. The latter was reputed to be Hamas’ chief arms buyer with the Iranians. I remind us all that all of Hamas’ rockets have killed well short of 50 Israelis since the Gaza withdrawal in 2004. In spite of the fact that killing Israeli civilians is inexcusable, so is killing roughly 100 times as many Palestinian civilians in that same interval.
So, if Abitbol wishes to justify killing al-Mabouh will he also justify any potential future killings of Israeli leaders that might happen if Israel gives Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran or the Syrians enough justification to do so? After all as I’ve been writing all too often lately, what’s good for the goose…
Perhaps the most bizarre claim here is that Justice Goldstone would somehow approve of the “measured response” of the Mossad in killing al-Mabouh. In fact, this is a perversion of Goldstone and only a over-wrought hasbarist mind could conceive of such a claim.
Another halachic nit-pick with my learned rabbinic colleague, Abitbol. A moser is someone who affirmatively betrays a fellow Jew to the authorities, not someone who writes a blog post calling for a Jew to be held accountable for his and her deeds. Even more broadly, is killing a Palestinian leader like al-Mabouh something that no Jew is allowed to denounce because killing him somehow saved Jewish lives?
Jerry Haber of the Magnes Zionist, takes Abitbol to task from Jerry’s vantage point as a professor of Jewish philosophy, an Orthodox Jew, and dual Israeli-American citizen:
…It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to describe the Dubai assassination as an extra-judicial killing that a) violates norms of law, b) violates Dubai’s sovereignty, c) leads to reprisals against Israelis and Jews, and d) desecrates God’s name because civilized countries don’t send out hit squads in hotels…It is not only not mesirah to call for their arrest and trial, but it would be a mitzvah.
Now I don’t expect you, or anybody else with a tribal morality that belittles the rule of international law, to agree with this. Fine…But what does mesirah have to do with it? You are deliberately using a charged term just to take potshots.
Returning to Abitbol’s argument in favor of targeted assassination: we can also argue about the ultimate utility of this notion: does targeted killing really weaken Israel’s enemies? I argue, no. Those who’ve read yesterday’s post will remember that Israel assassinated Hezbollah’s leader, which brought us an even fiercer current one. Israel assassinated Hamas’ top leaders twice and is Hamas any less formidable a foe? Does anyone doubt there will be plenty of resourceful candidates lining up to take al-Mabouh’s place? That is the ultimate fallacy of Abitbol’s logic such as it is.
Besides being a Talmudic authority, Abitbol fancies himself an expert on international law. At least he’d have to be to make this statement (which is utterly false):
…This sort of operation falls outside the ambit of the ICC
Of course, since Abitbol typically provides no proof or explanation for this contention, I can’t argue as to the specific fallacy, but this crime is certainly within the ICC’s jurisdiction. Though international law requires that the nation within which the crime is committed must be given the opportunity to prosecute first. That’s why I’ve suggested that Dubai ask the ICC to take on the case in order to give justice an international imprimatur.
I’ve often mentioned during the vendetta Abitbol has pursued against me that he’s a blatant liar, and he doesn’t disappoint here as well. He claims that I’ve expressed “unbridled hatred” against a fellow Jew (that would be the Mossad killers):
…For a Jew to express such unbridled hatred against another Jew, and to actively urge people to turn them in, one has to wonder how the law of Moser ought to apply…
Sanctions against Moserim [sic] range from death to excommunication….I would never suggest that Richard Silverstein be killed for his opinions and he excommunicated himself from Klal Yisrael a long time ago.
…Richard Silverstein has proven himself to be a world-class douche bag.
First, I did not express hatred against the individual murderers. I expressed disgust for their crime. There is a difference and Abitbol typically does not understand what it is. And as for “hatred,” I’d say Abitbol is a lot closer to expressing hatred of me here than I. Second, the Mossad agents acted not as Jews, but as Israelis. There is no religious element to this crime. It is a national crime. So for Abitbol to introduce theology into the discussion is yet another red herring. Third, Abitbol has done to me precisely what Alan Dershowitz did to Richard Goldstone. He has placed me in a category of someone who it is permissible to kill because they violate a grave injunction and endanger the Jewish people. And like Dershowitz, with whom there are many similarities except that Abitbol is more of a wannabe than anything else, he has attempted to retract the poison from the statement by claiming he doesn’t wish me dead. Of course, the rightist pro-settler forces who might target mosrim might not take his distinction to heart and restrain themselves. Fourth, I would like my Jewish readers to tell me whether it is David Abitbol or I who have excommunicated ourselves from Klal Yisrael. Is David Abitbol the type of Jew of which you are proud? Fifth, a Hebrew correction: the plural of moser is mosrim, not moserim.
Speaking of Dershowitz, he too has penned a disgusting defense of the Dubai assassinations. It is on a par with his defense of the killing of Lebanese civilians during the Israel-Lebanon war and of torture.
Abitbol is not someone who understands the consequences of his words. He’s like a slightly precocious teenager full of himself who enjoys the sound of his own voice and his cleverness. He enjoys the pseudo rapier wit (or what passes for it) of calling someone a “douchebag.” I note with pride the other wonderful Jews whom he’s labelled similarly, among them Avrum Burg.
One of the things I value highly about Jewish tradition is that it emphasizes the importance of words. Words have consequences. For Abitbol, words are a game. He is clever, oh so clever. It’s all a game to him. But when you call someone a moser you have put them in danger from all the right wing pro settler crazies out there, and even more importantly you are announcing to the world what type of person and Jew you are. David Abitbol has engaged in hillul ha-shem, a grave desecration of God’s name. He has exposed himself for what he is. I leave it to you to judge for yourself.