Tag Archives: Rabbis

Open Letter to Ben Affleck

Affleck 1209Dear Ben,

I originally had no intention of writing you this letter, but after a friend asked me to do so, I thought about it long and hard, listened to your exchange with Bill Maher and Sam Harris numerous times, and reconsidered my decision.  When I confirmed with this friend that she did indeed want me to write this letter, she responded by saying, “yes please, he is a moron”. To be very fair, I think what ultimately motivated me to write to you is that I actually believe you are the furthest thing from a moron. I do however believe there may be a reality you either are unable to see or unwilling to see, and what appears to be your passionate denial of this reality is something many people, including myself find to be very troubling.

I want to start by saying that I think your heart is actually in the right place.  As opposed to those out there who express opinions that are harmful if followed by everyone, if everyone felt as you do we would all be just fine.  After all, what’s so bad about someone defending innocent Muslims, right?  Your thought process is a normal one.  You think making indicting comments about an entire group of people is an ugly thing to do.  You believe it to be so wrong you get angry at anything that resembles this sort of stereotyping, seeing it as irrational and callous bigotry.  Obviously anyone who sees a problem with you or anyone else thinking that way has a serious problem and has an abnormal thought process.  Not so fast.  We are are not living in normal times.

Ben, despite the impression one may have of me by the time they finish this letter, my nature is to actually love all people.  It’s that very love for people that makes me agree with Sam Harris, not you.  You vehemently insist that most Muslims do not want what the Islamic extremists want.  You compared the generalizations to calling Jews shifty.  I appreciate that your point is that both are wrong, but the criticisms that both Sam Harris and Bill Maher are giving of Muslim behavior are sanctioned by numerous Muslim clerics worldwide, while no Rabbis sanction that Jews should act shifty.  Muslim leaders are sanctioning murder, rape, beheading and crucifixion in the name of their religion.  Many do not sanction it but remain silent as it happens.  As far as the general population is concerned, tens to hundreds of thousands of Muslims worldwide protested Israel’s operation in Gaza.  While Israel conducted its operation in the name of self-defense, ISIS makes no secret of its desire to conquer lands.  Why is it that as ISIS terrorizes the populations of Iraq and Syria there are no mass protests from the Muslim world?  Even you who defends the Muslim world with the passion that you do must ask this question.  Would you be willing to admit that even if they don’t actively support it, their opposition to it isn’t strong enough for them to take a stand against it. Meanwhile you feel the need to defend this same population that says nothing.

By no means am I even implying that all Muslims are terrorists and should be treated as such.  What I am saying is that the problem within the Muslim world is prominent enough that if Muslims don’t rise up against the evil in their midst they are at best not concerned enough about the consequences, and at worst they are complicit, be it knowingly or not.

I urge you to recognize this very harsh reality.  Even if the majority of Muslims are not dangerous, there is a significant element within the Muslim world that is very dangerous, increasingly more powerful, and growing by number.  This element wants to destroy everything you believe in.  Freedom, religious tolerance and personal choices would all be things of the past if they were to conquer the world as they wish to.  I’m not asking you to stop fighting for tolerance, just to recognize who the real enemies of tolerance truly are.  They are not Sam Harris and Bill Maher.

I hope you wake up to these realities before it is too late.

David Groen




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Who am I to advocate Force?

idfI often feel guilty when I come out in favor of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) taking the harshest of approaches.  After all, who am I to say this?  I live in New York.  I do not live in Israel, I do not live in Judea, Samaria, or Southern Israel.  I do not have children being called up to fight and risking their life to do the things I comfortably encourage from a safe air-conditioned home in the United States.

Who am I?  I am a human being, I am a Jew, and I am the son of Holocaust survivors.  I have made every attempt in my life, both in practicality and in theory to learn lessons from the past.  Sometimes successfully, sometimes not.  If there is one lesson I have learned, and I truly believe it may be the most important lesson of our time, one that could mean the difference between the death or survival of modern civilization, it’s that we can not apply rational standards to irrationally thinking people.  Do I believe the answer is to wipe out anyone who lives by those irrational standards?  Of course not.  Do I believe re-education of the greatest kind is needed. I do.  I also believe that sometimes the only way to begin that re-education is by a show of force of the most enormous proportions.

Two of the most civilized nations today, and strong American allies, are Germany and Japan.  Go back 70 years ago to the year 1944 and no one would have thought that to be realistic.  Yet the world was saved, at least temporarily by the drastic change in direction initiated by the allied forces basically pounding the two nations into submission.   Many people who wanted nothing more but to live a decent life died in the process, on both sides, but the fact remains that with the strong force brought on to both of these nations, history was changed for the better.

We face a similar threat today, at least as far as its potential danger, even if the landscape is very different.  Many people such as myself, who believe a powerful approach is needed against our enemies, are getting criticized for our viewpoints.  “Jews don’t act like that, the enemies do”, is one of the things I have heard.  To that I reply, yes, in the past we did not.  But we also say Never Again.

I find the murder of any innocent person to be tragic.  But I also believe in the phrase coined by our ancient Rabbis in Ethics of our Fathers, “im ain ani li mi li”, which translated into English means, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me.”   As a Jew, my sad assumption is that as a collective, there will be no one. There are many righteous people who have and would sacrifice their lives to protect innocent people, Jew and non-Jew alike, but there are no nations or groups who will look after the Jewish people any better than their fellow Jews will.

So although I feel somewhat guilty for sitting in comfort and speaking in favor of force by the IDF, as a Jew who has learned from history I would feel more guilty if I did not.