Agudath Israel's spokesman Rabbi Avi Shafran has again lied about PETA. In his new column, Rabbi Shafran writes:
Although the headline of Ms. Newkirk's 1151-word press release describes it as an "apology," the actual expression of regret consists of only parts of two sentences, each regretting the "pain" caused by the campaign. The remaining thousand-plus words consist of a justification of Ms. Newkirk's decision to launch the campaign, and a recounting of how startled she was by the reaction. She had "truly believed," she writes "that a large segment of the Jewish community would support" the exhibit, and was "bowled over by the negative reception" it received. Disturbingly, she lays responsibility for the ill-advised campaign on "PETA staff [who] were Jewish." Shoulda guessed: It was the Jews.
Rabbi Shafran, who has himself misused the Holocaust by equating PETA with the Nazis, distorts Ms. Newkirk's position. She actually wrote:
When "Holocaust on Your Plate" was originally launched, we knew that it would be emotionally charged and intellectually provocative. Even if we had used more conventional tactics, people don't like to have it pointed out to them that they¹re causing unnecessary pain and suffering by eating meat. We did aim to be provocative. We did not, however, aim simply to provoke.
Hard as it may be to understand for those who were deeply upset by this campaign, I was bowled over by the negative reception by many in the Jewish community. It was both unintended and unexpected. The PETA staff who proposed that we do it were Jewish, and the patronage for the entire endeavor was Jewish. We were careful to use Jewish authors and scholars and quotes from Holocaust victims and survivors. And since Judaism has some of the strongest teachings regarding compassion for animals among the monotheistic faiths, I truly believed, as did the Jewish staff members who proposed the exhibit, that a large segment of the Jewish community would support it.
We had also seen the positive response to Holocaust scholar Charles Patterson's book, 'Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust,' and felt that our exhibit was very much in keeping both with the spirit and goals of his book, as well as the history that he documents, which finds more and more Jews opting for vegetarian diets as a part of their response to the Holocaust applied to humans and other animals.
The Orthodox Jewish Press wrote, "Charles Patterson's book gives us pause for thought, and if killing and consuming our animal protein is a societal cause of homicide and genocide then we must stop to give some consideration. After all, foods of animal origin are especially prone for causing most of our major illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease."
A member of the editorial staff at the daily Israeli paper, Ha'aretz wrote, "this is a thorough and thought-provoking book. If the linkage of animal rights and the Holocaust seems startling at first, it begins to make perfect sense as one reads on. Some might see this as trivialization of the Holocaust; it isn't. Instead, the chilling parallels Patterson exposes seem to offer even more reason to despair of the human race."
Another daily paper from Israel, Maariv opined, "the moral challenge posed by 'Eternal Treblinka' turns it into a must for anyone who seeks to delve into the universal lesson of the Holocaust... ."
The Jerusalem Post stated, "Even if you are not persuaded to give up meat meals for moral reasons, at least you will never be able to say of the suffering behind them: "I didn't know... ."
Similar responses have been published in Jewish papers all over the world.…
In other words, PETA used accepted Holocaust scholarship, along with the works of Nobel Laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer and other prominent Jews, as the basis for that campaign. This is the "justification" Rabbi Shafran mentions – but does not detail.
The omission is key. A reader knowing the background Ms. Newkirk provides in her apology may still disagree with PETA's overall philosophy and its "Holocaust On Your Plate" campaign. Or the reader may not. Either way, the reader has access to information that allows an informed choice.
But Rabbi Shafran's omission removes that access; choices made after reading his work will necessarily be skewed.
When one reads nomative rabbinic discourse – shailot and teshuvot – one is immediately struck by the author's the presentation of all opinions. Only after that is done does the author adopt one (or more) and reject the others. The premise is that the reader is intitled to all the facts.
So let's add more omitted facts back into the mix:
- Agudath Israel has been actively involved in defending Rubashkin misbehavior from throat-ripping to cattle running away after slaughter.
- Rabbi Shafran and Agudath Israel have repeatedly compared PETA to the Nazis.
- Agudath Israel has yet to say that throat-ripping is wrong.
- Agudath Israel led the Washington lobbying effort to change ritual slaughter regulations. As soon as those regulations were modified, Rubashkin throat-ripping began.
- PETA's video exposed Rubashkin's misdeeds and has also opened up Agudath Israel to federal investigation for its role in enabling them.
Agudath Israel is led by a council of Torah sages. The leader of that council is the Novominsker Rebbe, Yakov Perlow.
The council is meant to act as a governing board. When Agudath Israel's role in the Rubashkin affair is fully investigated, Agudath Israel and its council of Torah sages will certainly be scrutinized.
Agudah is counting on its ties to the Bush Administration to protect it – and by extension, Rubashkin – from penalty. The haredi world often votes in blocks, doing the bidding of its rabbinic leaders – like Yakov Perlow – at the polls. And let us not forgot bundling of campaign contributions by Rubashkin's brother-in-law, Rabbi Milton Balkany.
Will this be enough to protect Rubashkin and his rabbis?
Only time will tell.