Thursday, February 12, 2004


Rabbi Berel Wein

Date: Feb 13 2004
Topic: Jerusalem Post


The State of Israel and not so indirectly the Jewish people and Judaism itself are on trial again in front of a self-appointed non-Jewish court of justice that chooses its defendants very selectively.

Fifty-six Islamic nations have signed up to speak against the defensive fence that Israel is building to attempt to keep the murderous Islamists out of our busses, restaurants and lives.

But the not so subtle sub theme of the trial is the right of the State of Israel to exist at all.

For what other country in the world has been hauled before the court in The Hague for daring to protect its citizens against murder and violence?

The trial is so bizarre that it defies logic but when it comes to dealing with Jews much of the world loses any sense of logic, justice or fairness. We in Jewish history have vast experience with such trials. Judaism and the Jewish people have been on trial for thousands of years in the courts of the non-Jewish world. We rarely win the trial but we somehow survive to be put on trial another time and in another place. This will probably be the outcome in The Hague as well where our chances for technical success are minimal, but the court will have suffered such a mortal blow in terms of history for even countenancing the acceptance of such a case for trial. But just as Jews tragically learn little from history, so do our non-Jewish opponents as well.

Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (Ramban) and the Talmud were put on trial by the Catholic Church in front of King James I of Aragon in 1263.

The leading prosecutor was an apostate Jew, Friar Paul (Pablo Christiani) and the indictment stated that it was only the obstinacy of the Jews that kept them from converting to Christianity, since the Talmud itself admitted that Christianity was the true religion! The Ramban naturally demolished this preposterous theory during the trial. Ramban was allowed freedom of speech by the king in defending Judaism from the charge and thus was able to show clearly the ignorance, malice and lack of Biblical and Talmudic scholarship of Christiani. Even the Catholic king had to admit that the charges brought were ludicrous. His rueful comment was, "Never have I heard such a wrong cause defended so ably." Though Ramban won that trial, he eventually had to flee Spain because of Church persecution and settled in Jerusalem where he founded a synagogue that exists on his name till this very day. Not many people still remember James I of Aragon or Pablo Christiani.

In the 1400's, Judaism was again put on trial by the Church in Tortossa, Spain.

This time the Church did not repeat the mistake of allowing freedom of speech to the rabbis defending Judaism. The Jews were found guilty and within half a century they were either forcibly baptized or expelled from Spain. This shameful deed helped Spain, within a century, fall into the backwater of European history and life. The results of sham trials do not in the long run affect Judaism's eternity or vitality. But they eventually do great harm to those who produce these twisted declarations of seeming justice.

In the 1890's the Dreyfus trial rocked France and the Western world.

Poor Alfred Dreyfus, framed by the French General Staff and the army that he served so loyally, was found guilty of treason. He was publicly humiliated and sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil's Island, a certain form of slow death. When the frame-up was finally exposed and the issue split the French society into Dreyfusards and anti-Dryefusards, Dreyfus was returned to France to stand trial again. Naturally, he was again found guilty but eventually the French president pardoned him and he was restored to his army post and rank. He fought in the French army in World War I. The public anti-Semitism that accompanied the Dreyfus trial shocked a Vienna based journalist, Theodore Herzl, and started him on the way to Zionism. He saw it correctly as being not a trial of a Jew but of Judaism and the Jewish people as a whole. It is fair to say that French society has not gotten over the effects of the Dreyfus trial - even until today, more than a century later.

The Beilis blood libel trial in Russia just before World War I is another example of Judaism on trial.

Again, the prosecutors working for the Czar were aware that the case had no substance. But they persisted in pursuing it even against the outcry of much of the Western world of those times. Beilis was eventually acquitted but the Jews and Judaism were never innocent in Russian eyes. The Czar fell soon thereafter, just as his bloody successors fell in our recent time as well. Russia is still searching for its soul. The false trials against the Russian Jewish dissidents of the 1970's only hastened the demise of the evil empire.

Trials against the Jewish people and Judaism usually end up finding the trial court discredited and guilty, at least in the scales of justice that history wields.

Berel Wein

This article comes from RabbiWein.com
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