Jews have a substantial traditional literature on how to deal with making a mistake, on how to repent for hurting others. Though we may not always act on our knowledge, we know what we're supposed to do when we've said something cruel to or about someone else. More recently, we've also developed a body of wisdom on how to respond to hate speech.
Let's be clear: When David Friedman referred to supporters of J Street as "not Jewish" and "worse than kapos", he was engaging in hate speech, no less than if a non-Jewish politician had referred to members of AIPAC as Nazis. Now, with a plum political job in reach, Friedman is making a public show of what is supposed to be seen as “contrition.”
"I regret use of such language," Friedman said during his first hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "The inflammatory rhetoric during the presidential campaign is entirely over. If confirmed my language would be measured," he added. Friedman went a step further by saying that there was "no excuse" for his choice of words. (source: Haaretz)
Has he reached out to those he’s hurt? Has he tried to undo the damage by saying not just, “I shouldn’t have used that language” but, “I was wrong – these people are Jews, are not enemies of the Jewish people or the Jewish state, and while I disagree with them profoundly I see them as caring, decent people”? Has he, in fact, done any of the things that the tradition demands of the penitent? Well, I know I’m still waiting for my call.
Or has he done any of the things that we’d demand of even a juvenile who’d painted a swastika on a JCC? Has he spent time with those he’s attacked, learning about who they are, what their experience was, so that he might come to empathize with them and understand the pain he has caused and explore his own bigotry? Please.
To those who believe that Friedman should be the American Ambassador to Israel because they approve of his language, or at most think it’s no big deal, well, it’s a free country. But to those who might suggest that he has in any way apologized? That’s insulting.
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