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Are We Our Brothers’ Keepers Even When They Hate Us?

If someone wants to destroy you, are you obligated to help them? How humanitarian is aid when it supports hate?

This stopped being a theoretical question when Hamas was elected to lead the Palestinian people, because Hamas continues to be dedicated to the destruction of the State of Israel.

The Torah teaches us we are our brother’s keeper. An example is given: If the donkey of our enemy falls down, we are obligated to help raise up the donkey of our enemy even before the donkey of a friend. The goal here is that we should not even appear to be vindictive. The hope is that such an act of kindness would stimulate a cycle of rapproachment leading to reconciliation.

If only such a strategy would work in the world of Middle East realpolitik.


The Torah also teaches, however, that self-preservation is a mitzvah (a commandment). U’v’hai bahem, you should live by them (the mitzvot), the Torah reads. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves, Rabbi Akiva explains, but not more than ourselves. In other words, we are not required to endanger ourselves so that our neighbors can live.

If we were to apply these moral lessons from our tradition, we could say that since Hamas is unrepentant in its commitment to destroy Israel, and if providing aide to Hamas shores up its support among the Palestinian people, there seems to be a very good reason why such support should be withheld.

However, what about the Palestinian people who are suffering because of their leaders’ decisions? Well, they are not really innocent, of course, having elected Hamas in the first place. Nevertheless, how can we just stand by and see individuals, particularly children, suffer?


We can’t, which is why Israel is providing humanitarian aid directly to the Palestinians by using the tax money Israel collects on behalf of the PA to pay Palestinian water and electric bills. (For the record, Israel offered to have the PA take over its own collections, and it preferred to have Israel continue to run the collections.) Israel is also shuttling medical supplies directly to Palestinian hospitals. America and our Western allies can follow suit.

What shouldn’t be overlooked is that Israel doesn’t need to provide the aid it is providing. If the situation were reversed, I have no doubt Hamas would revel in Jewish pain rather than seek to alleviate it. Too often overlooked is the fact that Israel is trying to help its neighbor, even when that neighbor is an enemy who wants to destroy it. In effect, Israel is trying to help individual Palestinians while trying to avoid contributing to a situation that strengthens Hamas.


What is happening in the West Bank and Gaza is a terrible tragedy. Unfortunately, it is a tragedy of the Palestinians’ own making. The majority of Israelis are willing to recognize a Palestinian State. If only the majority of Palestinians could feel the same about Israel, recognizing its right to exist, they would quickly have a secure and prosperous state of their own. It comes down to whether they love their children more than they hate Israel.

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posted June 15, 2006 at 11:46 pm

Of course, not all Palestinians voted for Hamas. Many of them didn’t vote at all, and others voted for Fatah or some minor parties. Aren’t they innocent? Should the Israelis refrain from wiping them out along with the Hamas voters? Isn’t this sounding a lot like Abraham’s argument with G-d about Sodom?

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posted June 16, 2006 at 6:05 am

As someone who has observed the Israeli/Palestinian situation for quite some time I find it odd that the good Rabbi actually believes that Israel ever intended to let the Palestinians have a state of their own. For decades the Israelis have stolen Palestinian land, brutalized the Palestinians and have treated them like animals. Settlements are being built and expanded at an alarming rate, water resources are being diverted from Palestinian communities to Israeli communities. I could go on and on. If Israel wants peace it must pull its settlers & army out of the West Bank. It’s just that simple. And please don’t say that will endanger Israel. Israel has the 4th most powerful army in the world. No country in the Middle East can defeat it. But until the Palestinians see some real change coming from Israel the bloodshed will never stop.

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posted June 16, 2006 at 6:33 pm

I only wish the issue was as clear to the world as it would seem to be to many posters, bloggers, and the author of this column. Why does the world not recognize that Israel has not held down the Palestinians since being given the UN mandate in 1948 to live in Israel and establish a state? Why does the world not see that the so-called Palestinian people (no such state prior to 1948) were poor, starved, and unemployed then? Why does the world not demand that the obscenely wealthy Arab world neighboring Israel give aid to the Palestinian people instead of blaming Israel for all existing problems? Why do people who call themselves people of G-d, like many churches, feel they’re doing the right thing by divesting in Israel?

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posted June 21, 2006 at 1:24 pm

BS”D There is no obligation to assist a “brother” who comes to kill you. Torah commands us to kill that one first. For all the rest of the cases in humanity, kindness and charity are comanded by Torah. The average Palestinian merits all possible support by command of Torah, including ownership private land as per lawful inhereitance. Hamas members merit death by Torah for killing others (of all nationalities and faiths). All people cannot be judged by the actions of one. The Torah commands pertain to individuals and their actions, not groups. I know lawful and just Palestinians. Those do not merit grouping together with Hamas murderers. Hatred is acceptable – even when it is based upon a collective insanity. Everybody has a right to hold to their own beliefs, no matter how odious. Murdering is not acceptable. Murder merits judgement either by the hand of our legally appointed authorities or in the world to come. When your own blood hates you, do you then withhold your assistance? Some do and some don’t. Torah does NOT make a distinction between the rendering of human assistance in either case. Those who act based upon feelings spit in the face of Torah. Feelings follow right actions, not the other way around.

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Rosa-Shoshana Urquhart

posted June 22, 2006 at 4:13 pm

I believe (and I’m 53, female, a mother, wife and a believer in the tenets of unadulterated Kabbalah) that what Kabbalah says is the truth. However, the wealthy Arabs need to support their Palestinian brothers and sisters more and not in ways that just makes them more hateful to Israel, but in ways that really helps the infrastructure of Palestine. Israel should be able to eternally keep the borders mentioned in the Torah, even it means generously compensating those who are occupying an area that is really Israel.

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Shlomo Chizkiyahu

posted June 22, 2006 at 4:39 pm

Stop calling yourself a rabbi, you are a clown. quit your job, find a frum husband, live a jewish life. Stop playing preacher in jewish drag.

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David Price

posted June 22, 2006 at 5:07 pm

We do hold the people responsible for the actions of their elected government. The Palestinian people elected Hamas with full knowledge of the perception it would lead to in the world and the potential outcome that the election might have on their global aid and support. In spite of this, or even to spite it, they chose to elect leaders who are terrorists, vindictive and focused on the destruction of the Jewish people. I would liken this situation to ours in the US. A very considerable number of Americans did not vote for President Bush and his actions have done more to turn public opinion agaist our nation then any President in history. We are in a war that many say the majority of our citizens do not want us fighting and, for this, we, as citizens, will face the consequences of our country’s actions. These negative results may be loss of life, economic, certainly a damaged reputation on the world stage, even spiritual as we take responsibility for more deaths every day, and, G-d forbid, we may face terrorist retaliation. Yet the results we face are ours because we elected and re-elected a President with limited experience, a poor track record, and a focus on issues that don’t reflect the needs of the people he represents (growth of corporations and oil). Similarly, the Palestinians must now face the results of their choice. No more money, no more aid, no more respect, no more legitimacy. It is shameful of them when so many people had worked so hard to try to find peaceful solutions to thier self-promogated issue.

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posted June 23, 2006 at 4:03 pm

of course the jews should help out the palestinians. lead by example. there are plenty of jews within in israel who are opposed to their government’s policies towards palestinians.

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